Am I toooooo extreme???????????

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Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
February 20, 2010, 15:10

I just received this email. You’ll read my response below.


Sent: Thursday, 18 February 2010 3:02 AM

To: [email protected]

Subject: Re: Join me and help end ex-gay programs in Australia – ABC Hungry Beast Wed 24th Feb

Dear Anthony,

I have been involved in several ex-gay programs in Australia for a number of years..

I am a 50 year old man who has had to face his ‘bi-sexual/gay’ issues during the past few years. I have been married for many years, have three wonderful children and am now living on my own. I have struggled a lot with my situation (as have so many millions of others) and am slowly progressing towards a place of peace within myself.

While I understand very much where you are coming from in relation to the ex-gay ministries and therapies, it concerns me when I read sentences like “Do you want to see the end of all ex-gay therapies … etc in Australia”. Is this not rather extreme and denying people their own freedom to deal with a situation in the way they see fit?

My experience in the groups mentioned above was a very positive one although, let me hasten to add, not an experience that helped me deal with my ‘problem’ at all. As mentioned above, I am moving more and more towards the position of accepting my ‘gay-ness’ and feeling okay about that for myself and in God’s sight. Not easy but I think that’s where I’m going!

But, the ex-gay group experience was still a very positive one which is why I feel your stance is too extreme. I guess you are aware of many situations where the ex-gay ‘movement’, for want of a better word, has done a lot of harm. My own experience (albeit very short and, I suppose, superficial) was not like that. Essentially, I found myself part of a group of very caring and concerned guys who were just trying to understand and come to terms with their issues (particularly in relation to their faith) in as constructive a manner as possible.

I suppose what I’m saying is ‘is there not space for everybody?’. Why do we have to eradicate those who think and operate differently? No doubt that if they’re doing harm they should be stopped but I’m not convinced that all of them are.

In the You Tube excerpt on this newsletter, it is obvious that the man involved running the ex-gay therapy was simply incapable of dealing with his very obvious attraction to the young man and was quite dangerously playing around the edges with his so-called ‘therapy’ – how sad that he couldn’t just face reality and own up to his attraction!

But, I don’t think he is a fair representation of the ex-gay brigade! I don’t think we should tar everybody with the same brush. Some of them are really very sincerely trying to resolve an issue in the way they think can work. I’m not sure that it can but there seem to be some ex-gay cases that have been successful?!

Just some rather random thoughts.

Kind regards,

(name withheld and personal information removed for privacy reasons)

On Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 12:13 PM, Anthony Venn-Brown wrote:

Dear………’s really nice to hear from and thanks for sharing your concerns. I understand totally where you are coming from.

I am aware that for some people being involved with an ex-gay style ministry is not all negative. For the first time people such as yourself have a space to speak honestly about their struggles …share with others and feel supported. This is an enormous relief for many after years of secrecy and internal shame.

And also know that people who run these groups are not evil but are well intentioned.

I however see a side to this that even the ex-gay leaders don’t see. What happens to people after they leave, when their attempts to change their sexuality are unsuccessful. My inbox has received hundreds of emails from former ex-gay’ers who speak about their mental health issues, the self destructive behaviours, depression ….thoughts of and attempted suicides. All these are a direct result of being in an unhealthy ex-gay ministry or support group. One gentleman attempted suicide three times whilst going through the living waters program here in Sydney. Some of the actual suicides I know of are people who at one stage attended ex-gay type ministries. …..which contributed to them having depression and a sense of hopelessness. We will never actually be able to specifically count the cost of human life as many just slipped away into the shadows and killed themselves. It would be criminal of me to ignore these emails or wipe off the people reaching out for help…..sit back and do nothing. Hence my passion to see these groups close down.

I’ve been studying this area now for 10 years. The negatives far outweigh the positives.

I’ve been working with a man who was involved in the same group in …………. you were. He recently said to me that after 20 years involved in a number of these groups “I was sold a very cruel lie”. They were a wasted 20 years. He is now living as an openly gay man and in a loving committed monogamous relationship. He wished someone would have told him this was possible years ago. His wife and children would not be dealing with the trauma they are today. It has hurt them all deeply.

Ex-gay type organisations are based on an unscientific premise and outdated beliefs. Firstly, that the relationship with mother and father or sexual abuse causes homosexuality. In ex-gay type groups no one is ever told that you can live a moral, happy and fulfilled life as a gay person and be a person of faith. The many 10,000’s now of gay Christians around the world can testify to this.

There is also great confusion in these ministries about the difference between sexual abuse, sexual addiction and sexual orientation. Whilst the first two need assistance and healing the latter doesn’t.

All the men who are married are not heterosexual but have only achieved a level of ‘heterosexual functionality’. They are what I call ‘situational heterosexuals’……as I was during my 16 years of marriage to a woman. This is not a change in orientation however. Constantly people like …….. and ………and ………… will speak of their marriages and children as evidences of change. This is probably a form of denial that deep down inside they are still and will always be gay. I know, I did it for many years myself. Their presentation of changed men sets up a false hope for seekers….who so desperately want the gay to go away and to be ‘normal’.

I see ex-gay programs as the symptom not the cause. Ex-gay ministries in Australia don’t so much create this nonsense of change…..they just reinforce it by misinformation and half truths. People are referred to them or they are sort out by people who are ignorant and troubled about their homosexuality. This ignorance about sexuality is reinforced by ex-gay ministries and increases self hatred and loathing. Most people who attend these programs are very vulnerable, needy people who will be locked into years of even more intense struggle.

You are right when you say my goal is to see all ex-gay ministries in Australia cease to exist ……not so much because I have attacked them (which I don’t)…..but because the church finally understands that same sex orientation is amoral just as a heterosexual orientation is. Ex-gay ministries will naturally die at this point because they have no more referrals or people seeing their sexuality as a struggle. I don’t see the ministries as the enemy (although I’m sure they perceive it that way) but ignorance is the enemy. And that is why I keep speaking up.

I’m glad to hear you are on the journey to acceptance. I’ve just been working with a man who is coming out at the age of 60. He has never actually physically acted on his same sex orientation. This obviously demonstrates that what we are talking about is not actually sex. Its far more profound and fundamental than that. Something ex-gay ministries can’t comprehend as yet.

This model I created might help.

1. Denial (I’m not gay, I was drunk, I’m bisexual, I was just horny, it’s just a stage, I was just experimenting, its just a phase).

2. Rejection (I can change it, I can overcome it)

3. Suppression (I can control it, monitor it, it’s my secret, no one need know)

4. Hatred (this thing is too strong for me, I hate my gayness, therefore I hate myself)

5. Acceptance (Healthy & unhealthy). It’s wonderful that so many young people today are coming out and accepting their homosexuality. There is also a group, like I was for years, who have accepted their sexuality but only reluctantly. They would prefer to be heterosexual and as long as that remains in their thinking, they can never fully embrace their true selves and enjoy the sense of freedom that brings. They exist with a subconscious belief that life is unfair, they still live with a sense of shame and some believe they will inevitably go to hell because they gave in to their homosexuality.

6. Celebration (I love being gay). This is the beginning of living a life of authenticity and congruence. The person who celebrates and embraces their sexuality lives a powerful life that transforms those around them because no one can deny what you have………a wholesome and profound love of self.

I trust this information is helpful and you now have a clearer idea of where I’m coming from and what motivates me.

Happy to talk further about this if you like

Anthony Venn-Brown

An Ambassador for the GLBT Community

Award winning author of ‘A Life of Unlearning – A Journey to Find the Truth’

Co-convenor of Freedom 2 b[e]

Honoured to be on the 2007 & 2009 list of the 25 Most Influential Gay & Lesbian Australians

“The enemy is ignorance”

“My morality is a choice, my sexual orientation however isn’t’

‘When we choose to live authentically, we chip away at others’ prisons of pretend’


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Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
February 20, 2010, 20:15

Hi avb

It’s great that this person’s experience of ex gay programs was not negative… maybe he’s objecting to your stance because they were his only form of support, and without which, who knows where he would have been?

Is he referring to the bizarre clip with the therapist holding the other guy that we saw on this forum a few weeks ago?

I don’t think your view to get rid of abusive so-called therapies is extreme. Abuse and untruths, even when carried out with the best of intentions in a positive language, remain as abuse and untruths. And they still create far-reaching damage. This man might also object to my statement here because he has not experienced the damage you and others have.

Joined in 2009
February 20, 2010, 22:24

In Matt 19:12 Jesus said “Some are eunuchs because they were born that way…The one who can accept it should accept it.”

(I have studied a lot about eunuchs in scripture and it refers to anyone who does not have an attraction to the opposite sex. eg Esther 2:3ff etc)

So I accepted myself as being gay. That was like finding the light switch for me. After years of denial and trying to change to please others at church and be accepted by them, I accepted myself as being gay. It was a journey that took many years.

While I haven’t been involved with ex-gay, I did undergo aversion therapy using electronic “punishments”. Those tests proved I was gay. There isn’t anything anyone can do to influence the outcome of those tests. The doctors who conducted the aversion therapy told me that while some had changed their behaviour, NOT ONE had changed their sexual orientation.

I have been married for 40 years this year and still haven’t come out. I don’t practice my homosexuality to preserve my marriage. There are particular reasons for this in my case.

But I have accepted myself as being gay, just as Jesus said. That has been just SO important for me. I really feel for those in ex-gay programs. Yes, I too enjoy being gay.

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
February 21, 2010, 07:07

Hi David

I can’t imagine how horrifying those experiences would have been for you and am so sorry they happened. It’s beyond my comprehension how aversion therapy with shock treatments has been acceptable at any time in history. I mean, you said the doctors who administered it knew your orientation wouldn’t change so apart from being a cruel punishment, what other reasons did they have for using it? Were they just hoping you’d change your behaviours?

This sort of electronic aversion therapy is as extreme as it gets in terms of labelling homosexuality as a problem and attempting to stop it, at least outwardly. And then there are those abusive ex gay programs that humiliate gay people and their families and expect to cure the gayness from the inside out. Their methods are cultish and made worse by the unrealistic expectations that sexual orientation will be changed, whereas research indicates otherwise. So, this is another approach that is extremely damaging on so many levels and groundless. And then from what I’ve heard from a few people, including the man who wrote the above letter, there are ex gay groups who show compassion about homosexuality, such as with some of the Catholic programs, encouraging celibacy because any sexual expression of the orientation is considered sinful. Whichever approach however, they all have one thing in common: homosexuality is regarded as a problem. And gay people are shamed into or encouraged to restrict themselves and not be all they can be. Compared to my view that being gay is to be celebrated and fully expressed (including celibacy for those who are called to that), I find even the gentlest of the ex gay programs to be damaging. And so again, I don’t think it’s extreme to want to banish such programs. It would be wrong however to do so before ensuring there are sufficient supports readily available in their place.

Joined in 2009
February 21, 2010, 07:41

Hi Anne Marie

Thanks for the post. They stopped doing the aversion therapy in the 70s as the published findings of it showed it didn’t work. The official position of the Austrlian Psychologists Association now is that homosexuality is not an illness and does not need to be cured. So that is good. However, those body temperature tests did prove I was born gay.

Many people who dispute this (and most do) claim they have not found a gay gene. True, but they haven’t found a heterosexual gene either.

In my case, my wife is disabled and I am her carer. I am sure this is what the Lord wants me to do right now. However I am a strong supporter of gay marriage, but believe gay sex should be confined to within gay marriage.

There is a HUGE part of me that would love to be free to march in the parade under the ex-gay survivors banner. You have my TOTAL support.

Joined in 2008
February 21, 2010, 13:11

Sometimes we have to adopt a stance that is perceived by people as being too confontational, bizarre, over the top, or any other similar phrase you can think of – it’s all relative anyway – to achieve our goals and for the sake of truth. Consider most of the early astronomers – they said the world wasn’t flat and that the earth revolved around the sun. Look what happened to them! The church of the day forced many to recant their “heretical” theories and were subsequently excommunicated.

I’m probably considered toooooo extreme in some of my views by those people who know me well 😉

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
February 21, 2010, 13:42

Hi mobileguy

Good point about the astronomers. Visionaries often get it in the neck don’t they? New ideas definitely take a while to be accepted by communities, that’s for sure.

I wouldn’t have thought of you as extreme, but quite moderate in fact, but then I don’t know you well…I like your ideas anyway. 🙂


Ann Maree

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
February 21, 2010, 13:48

Hi everyone

For anyone who’s interested, forwardtherapy posted about the SCOTT Belfast protest in the ‘News Around the World’ section. The facebook link to the group is there too. I’ve just joined and urge those who are interested to add their support by signing up as well.


Ann Maree

Joined in 2007
February 22, 2010, 12:58

Anthony, as a person who has already said that my own ex-gay experience was positive I feel especially qualified to talk about this. 😉

And no, I don’t think your position is too extreme. Not at all.

All of the POSITIVE things I experienced through ex-gay ministry, I could just as well experience through a ministry that enabled me to integrate my sexuality with my faith, rather than telling me that they were incompatible.

The affirmation, the safe space to talk about my feelings, the sense of love and support… I got all those. But I got them in the context of an underlying belief that the ‘problem’ was my sexuality. It would have been even better if I’d got them in a context where I was being helped to move to the later stages of your model.

Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
February 22, 2010, 13:51

thanks Orfeo…..I had a very disturbing experience yesterday. I met a young man at Fair Day who had gone through an ex-gay program here in sydney. After he left he went through a very dark period and nearly lost his life. Then he proceeded to tell me about 7 of his friends who are no longer with us. All from christian homes and backgrounds and some also gone through ex-gay programs.

I’ve always said we will never be able to count the cost………..but possibly this thing is bigger than even I imagined…..and I’m closer to this thing than anybody.

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