Happy Mardi Gras!
Anthony forwarded me this questionnaire a few weeks ago and encouraged me to post my response in this forum.
1. What kind of ex-gay program/s were you are part of?
2. Why did you submit yourself to ex-gay style counselling/therapy?
I was desperate. I needed to try everything possible to try and get me ‘healed’. I really believed that if I keep trying, if I have a much better understanding, that my attraction to women will go away or that maybe I can at least learn to manage it. I had been on my knees, in tears trying to ‘pray it away’ and nothing had happened. I didn’t want to cave in and end up in hell and I didn’t want to disappoint my family and friends.
3. How long were you trying to turn from gay to straight?
I’ve been aware of this since I was 11 years old, but as early as age 6 I remember watching TV with my uncles and wanting to say how great the female performers were on TV but somehow aware that it wasn’t an appropriate thing to say.
4. What was your experience like going through ex-gay programs/therapy?
It was initially quite freeing to be in a place where everyone had ‘issues’. I learned a lot but I think I also learned to attribute a lot of it to my upbringing and my relationship to my parents (mother issues, infidelity of a parent, etc). A year later I became a co-leader. It was quite a tight knit group because you have this understanding that you have all been through some intense internal battles and it was great to have access to a support group on a weekly basis during the programme. I remember a friend asking me once (after having been through the programme for a couple of years) if I have been healed, my response was ‘yes, I am healed’. I truly believed it. I guess I must have also believed that the more I claim it the stronger I will be only to find myself battling with same-sex attraction all over again. It never truly went away.
5. Why did you not continue?
I was asked to be a leader again, in fact I was asked to consider being a leader for the region. I knew I could only say yes if I felt that I could truly say that I have been healed. I also felt tired of constantly being emotionally on edge, wondering what other issues will come up as I go through the programme or even as I lead a group through the programme. As much as there were moments of revelation, it was also quite an emotionally draining experience. Towards the end it felt like I was using the group as a crutch and I was constantly limping my way through life because of this fear that one day I will cave in, one day I will no longer have the strength to control or manage my internal struggle. I was worried that as a leader I will fail and that would be an epic fail in my part.
6. What was your experience like after leaving ex-gay program/therapy?
It was quite unsettling initially. I felt like I was letting myself out in the open for attack and I no longer had the support or the protection of the group. Around this time I also stopped going to church regularly. I felt quite suffocated by all the expectations that I had put on myself and what I felt others had put on me. Being a good girl, a pastor’s kid and a role model took its toll and I just wanted to break free from it all. It took another 2-3 years before I finally came out. I moved to Sydney to have a bit of space and to get away from my usual environment. Coming out wasn’t something I had planned when I moved to Sydney but within a month of being there, I realised that it wasn’t something I could run away from anymore. I didn’t want to be 50 years old and still be wondering what it would be like to live my life freely. I was 35 at that time and I knew I couldn’t possibly spend another 15 years of my life wondering.
7. How do you feel now about your sexuality?
Having lived in the Christian world since I was in my mother’s womb, where the first song I learned was ‘Jesus Loves me This I know’ and I knew John 3.16 off by heart by the time I was 5, living my life outside what I had known all my life took awhile to get used to. The first year I came out all I could think of was ‘I am going to hell, I am going to hell, I am sooo going to hell’. The following year I lost my best friend of 20 years when I finally came out to her and poured my heart out and shared my journey. Three years on I now wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. Every day is like a ‘coming out day’ but I would never trade a life in the closet to the authentic life I am living now.
8. What would you say to anyone considering attempting to go from gay to straight?
Talk to someone about it. Get a few different perspectives (not just the church’s perspective). Surround yourself with people who really care about you. Take courage in the fact that others have gone before you, have survived and are now living a life they never thought possible. You too can have that life.