Thursday 22 August 2013

Ex-Gay - Not the Way (Part 3) The Human Being

This is the third and final part of this treatment of the ex-gay issue. It is my story. If you have read my book, you will know just a little about my personal journey from its pages. This will spell out a little more of what happened to me and what I did.

Early Years

From my earliest memories, I know that I was interested in God and spirituality. As a young Catholic boy attending the local Holy Family church school run by the Josephite nuns of Lochinvar with its enormous church standing majestically adjacent the school playground, I was always going to be hooked. I loved asking the nuns questions about God, “Do you think God could create a tree right here in the playground”? Do you think God loves murderers too? Do you think when we go to heaven we’ll be able to fly”? I was insatiable. Every recess period, every lunch-time, and after school every day, I would go into the church, walk down the front, kneel down in a pew and pray. In those days, the 1960s, Catholics called it ‘making a visit.’ My long-suffering mother who was out in the non-air-conditioned car in coastal summer weather waiting to pick me up after school would have to sit there until I had ‘made my visit.’

My spirituality developed over the years and you can read about my time living in a monastery with a view to joining the priesthood in the book. They were powerful days for me and they remain palpable in my memory. I was thirteen years old when I first went there and I stayed for three years. But just like everybody else around the time of puberty, my sexuality began to assert itself and I knew straight away that I was attracted to guys. This was just an absolute no no. It simply wasn’t done in those days, so I did what everyone else did in that predicament, I denied it and tried to talk myself into liking girls and being straight.

I never got off square one. I would take girls out, feel very awkward, try to kiss them, feel very awkward, start to get upset, feel confused and run back to the shelter of denial and suppression. It wasn’t much of an early adolescence. In my final year of High School, I had hooked up again with my Christian friends from the local Methodist fellowship and at the end of the year made a grand announcement to my father that I was leaving the Catholic Church and was joining the other mob. It was here that I immersed myself in the ‘things of God,’ first through the prism of the Methodist Church (which amalgamated with the Presbyterians and Congregationalists) and became the Uniting Church in Australia, and then through charismatic renewal and the whole wave-breaking pentecostal movement.

Long hair, moustache, preaching at a church camp 1980s
I was a talented musician, so easily fell into the praise and worship ministries of the church. I was a gifted and developing public speaker and with my proclivity to studying, it was not long before I was preaching regularly from the Sunday pulpit in my own church and in many others around. I was also doing dedicated teaching sessions on all manner of topics for the Christian life. I devoured my Bible, read everything by Watchman Nee and threw myself into life in the Spirit. The whole time, I had same sex attraction and knew that I was gay, but I was never going to let that happen one way or another, so I suppressed it. Rigorously.

Although I never joined an ex-gay ministry per se, I did the closest thing to it; an informal but consistent bid through spiritual effort, holiness and support from church leaders in an ineradicable resolve to rid myself of my gay sexuality. It became my mission. I believed everything about gay sexuality that I wrote in Part 2; that it was not God’s will for my life and that God would heal me and change me. In the late 1970s, the whole of the 1980s and the early part of the 1990s, there was no greater believer than me in the power of God to transform lives, and even to change me from being gay into being straight. I put in more spiritual effort to encourage change than I have heard of in anyone since. I tell you the truth, if anyone on planet earth were going to be changed, it would have been me. No-one could have done more.

These were the heady days of the faith message, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and a belief we were in the Last Days. Believe it and you can have it. It was all Fred Price, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Gloria Copeland, Oral Roberts, David Du Plessis, Merlin Carothers and hundreds of others too many to mention. In Australia, it was all Frank Houston, Alan Langstaff, Charles Widdowson, Harry Westcott and Clarke Taylor. I devoured these people. I read everything they wrote. If they were in town, I was there. I travelled to listen to them. I was up the front ready for prayer at the end of the meetings faster than you could say Holy Bible. I lived the faith message and took it to heart. I remember suffering terrible headaches at one point in my life, but would not even take some simple paracetamol because I believed that I would be healed by faith. I wasn’t. I just suffered and when it finally went, I would give thanks to God for his healing power.

My Spiritual Efforts

I was convinced that God would change me. I was even ‘believing’ for a wife. When I was preaching and doing music in the United States, I took myself to a Christian jeweller just outside of San Antonio in Texas and as an act of faith, bought myself a gold ring to be my future wedding ring. I still wear it to this day, but for different reasons. I was convinced that I would change. All I had to do was get in there and give it my best shot, believe in the power of God and his grace and leave the rest to Him.

So here is what I did.

1.       I would read the Scriptures for hours on end
2.       I would pray the Scriptures out loud
3.       I would use verses in the Bible to set my mind “on the things of God”
4.       I would pray for hours
5.       I would praise for hours
6.       I would walk the length of our beach multiple times (several kilometres), crying out to God, beseeching him to change me
7.       I would fast regularly – I would sometimes fast for an entire week as I had read that fasting was a way to ‘break into the glory of God’ and presumably break down God’s reluctance to answer my prayers
8.       I went to every church meeting imaginable. I immersed myself in church. I was at church or some kind of church affiliated evening most nights of the week and all weekend.
9.       I would regularly present myself to visiting speakers – apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, healers, for prayer ministry
10.   I presented myself on at least two occasions for deliverance ministry, the pentecostal equivalent of exorcism. I would writhe on the floor like I was supposed to and fulfil the role of delivered supplicant like I had seen others do, as I understand now from my use of clinical hypnosis in the treatment setting.
11.   I would pray ‘in the Spirit’ for hours on end walking around my home in a circle praying in tongues
12.   I was open to visions and dreams like all good pentecostals and expected God to speak to me directly
13.   I would receive ‘words’ – word of knowledge, word of wisdom, tongues and interpretation
14.   I would place myself on intercessory prayer lists
15.   I would get the elders and leaders to lay hands on me
16.   I would spend hours working on ‘sermons’ messages for others in my teaching ministry
17.   I would put on the armour of God every day and remind myself of it regularly during the course of the day
18.   I had the healing of the memories
19.   I had the healing of the past
20.   I had healing to do with my relationship with my father (which was fine by the way)
21.   I had healing of my manhood
22.   I took on the manhood of Christ
23.   I had Christian counselling – lots of it
24.   I asked the Spirit to prepare my wife for our meeting
25.   I remained in faith that God was moving, that God would move more and that it would all come to pass
26.   I entered spiritual warfare. I took on the devil and took authority over all the demons in my vicinity
27.   I covered myself in the Blood of Christ
28.   I relied on resurrection power to set me free

In short, there was nothing I could have done that I did not do. And I did all of the above meticulously for years and years and years. The entire time I remained celibate. I denied every aspect of my sexuality. I suppressed it, repressed it, pushed it down, pushed it back, pushed it to the side. I would not allow it entry in my life.


But if you know anything about suppression or repression, you will know already that it does not work. I often tell clients that repression is a bit like trying to hold down a bunch of balloons in a filled bathtub. You just think you’ve got them all under when one pops up over here, so you move and get it covered and another pops up over there. So it was with me. I could never ever really suppress my sexuality completely. Just when I thought maybe I was doing okay, it would reassert itself. My desire was unrelenting. All the more so, because I was denying it.

Weight of Sin artist Waffles McCoy
During this whole time, I took on a sin consciousness that became very destructive and harmful for me. I was constantly asking God for forgiveness. For thinking a guy was good looking. For wanting to hold a guy. For wanting to be held by a guy. For wanting to admire men. For wanting to have a sex life with a guy. My sin consciousness was ever present because my desire, a normal part of me, was being negated on a daily basis. This meant that I lived my life being torn in two. I was so conflicted it is hard to imagine now. But it was powerful, it was indefatigable and it was sending me mad.

My mental health deteriorated, as you would expect it would in such a circumstance. I was teaching at Christian School at the time. I was so ashamed of myself yet not wanting to let the team down. I constantly felt dirty, filthy, sinful and that my sexuality was a base and animalistic part of my nature, something that needed taming.

In the end after about twenty-two years of celibacy and inner turmoil, I could take it no more. My loneliness knew no bounds. I was clinically depressed and had had suicidal thoughts. Once already at the age of twenty, I had a small attempt at doing away with myself, but now after all this time, I was so lonely, so skin hungry, so conflicted, so damn tired, that I felt that it might have been better had I not been around. One day I went to the top of a hill in my suburb, a hill that looks out over the whole city. I was coming apart, I wept and in final desperation, I shook my fist at God and called him a fucking bastard. I had tried so hard for him and he remained silent. I had turned my life inside out to become straight as I thought that that was what he wanted of me, but nothing changed. Jesus never did speak the final words of healing over my life. God never came to me and set me free.


In that moment of desperation, I had an epiphany. I would shelve God. I would get some help because I didn’t want to die. I felt my heart break because I felt I had so much love to give someone and I had wasted so 
many years in fruitless, useless religious labour. I would get help from someone who knew what they were talking about. I would go and see a Psychologist or a Counsellor who was not part of the Church. And I decided then and there that if I turned out to be straight, I would be straight, but if I turned out to be gay, I would be gay. What I could not countenance one day longer was the in-between world I inhabited where I was torn in two. My epiphany told me that it was that life that was not worth living.

So I did go and see a Psychologist. She was one of Australia’s foremost sex therapists and an author. We would become good friends much later on. She took me through everything. I talked and talked and talked. I went to therapy for the best part of a year, weekly at first and then fortnightly and then monthly. I grew in myself and got to know myself. There was no doubt in the end; I was gay and I needed to accept myself and I needed to love myself. That was a heck of a journey. I look back now and think how I almost didn’t make it. I also look back now and realise that it was God who gave me the epiphany. All he wanted was for me to stop. To become honest. And to love myself. That was it. The earth-shattering message that changed my life was the message of love. First, self-love and then later the love of another. For those of you who don’t know, I did find love. I met my partner in the year of the Sydney Olympics, 2000. We love each other profoundly and our love has healed us both of many hurts. It is so good to know that someone here on earth, other than God, is there for you through it all.

I would not want any person of any age to have to go through what I did. That is the reason I wrote Being Gay Being Christian. It is doing well, so I am told, which gladdens my heart enormously. I just want it to get out there and help. I want it to be there at the right time for the right person, so that others won’t have to go through years of futility and self-hatred, self-disgust, sin consciousness and feeling inadequate. If my story and this blog can help you avoid that, I will be extremely happy.

However, so as not to forget that things don't always turn out for the best, I want to tell you about someone who didn’t make it. We had his funeral in Melbourne Australia just a few months ago so you know already where this goes. I will call him D, his initial, out of respect for his family. My Australian readers will know of whom I speak. He was in his forties, a devout and beautiful man who loved the Lord, was gay and got involved in a local ex-gay ministry. He had tried so hard to do what they asked. He did the spiritual exercises, he did the praying, he did all the stuff you do in one of these groups. And in return, his mental health suffered. I do not know for sure, but he probably had a Major Depressive Disorder, a psychological state that can be very dangerous for some people as suicidal ideation can increase markedly. After leaving the ex-gay group finally, many of his friends thought that D was getting on top of things. But alas, we can only guess what was going on inside his mind. He was wounded by the things he had been told. He was not able to rid himself of their teaching ultimately and he took his own life.

When I found out about D’s death, I was with my partner in Sydney for the weekend. We had spent a very amiable walk after breakfast together and were in the grounds behind Sydney Eye Hospital just ambling along and my partner Chris was photographing the lovely fountain. It was at this moment that I received a call from a Sydney friend telling me about D. Unbeknown to Chris as to what I was hearing, he began to photograph me while I took the call. You can see the pain and the incredulity etched on my face in this moment of death. It was so sad, and it felt like my heart broke all over again. D’s family and friends gave him a beautiful ceremony, but it is so profoundly sorrowful that we have to have yet another person fall victim to the cruelty and ignorance of Christian people who hold themselves and their views exempt from science and who perpetrate unspeakable pain upon the lives of vulnerable gay people and do it in the name of God. They’re the ex-gays groups.

I never found peace until I got honest with myself. I never found God until I accepted myself. I never found love until I liked my sexuality. I never had a life until I was okay with the guy God wanted me to be.

How about you? What are you going to do? Is accepting yourself and loving yourself and leaving the rest to God so hard to do? I hope not. Don’t get involved with ex-gay groups or reparative therapy or anything like them. Do your life a favour and let the love of God make you into the great gay person you are.

Pax et Amor - Stuart

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