Friday 25 October 2013

Stephen Fry Meets Ex-Gay Therapist

You've maybe read what I have had to say about reparative therapy in the book or you may have read what I have had to say in the the three posts Ex-Gay - Not The Way. If you haven't, I urge you to do so. In the video below, take a look at the wonderful British actor, comedian, quiz-master and all round polymath Stephen Fry who travels to the United States to visit Dr Joseph Nicolosi, one of the founders of NARTH and who purports to offer cures to gay people for their sexual orientation. It's a fascinating 10 minutes, compelling and illuminating.

Stephen Fry Meets An Ex-Gay Therapist

Pax et Amor - Stuart

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

Ex-Gay - Not the Way (Part 2) The Christian

The second part of this treatment of ex-gay ministries is focused on some of the Christian thinking behind these ministries. You have probably worked this out by now, but Christians come in all shapes and sizes. There are Christians and there are Christians. With some, it feels like they just radiate love and God’s grace, while others sound more like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, full of sound and fury and telling everyone who is prepared to listen exactly how it is. The former we want to be around. We enjoy their company, we admire their spiritual walk. The latter, we just feel like running a country mile in the opposite direction. They feel a bit like God’s military police. So let’s dive straight in and take a look at where the ex-gay people fit into all this and why they think the way they do.

Conservative / Traditional Christian Beliefs about Gay Sexuality

Before we commence an examination of what ex-gay ministries believe and do, it’s important to know first what they believe about gay sexuality in general. Here’s a basic list.

Cardinal Timothy Doaln New York
outspoken anti-gay cleric
1.       They call it homosexuality, not gay sexuality
2.       They deem it unnatural because it goes against what they believe is a God-given order in creation, male and female, found throughout nature and which potentiates the creative act of generating new life
3.       Anything that doesn’t potentiate life therefore cannot be natural
4.       Because it is unnatural, they consider it to be sin
5.       If it is sin, then by definition, it goes against God and is viewed as a rejection of God and his ways
6.       If it is sin, it is never to be entered into willingly and must be repented of, like other sins
7.       In order to maintain a good conscience, a person must determine not to repeat this sin ever again
8.       If it is repeated, there is forgiveness, but a good conscience demands a resolve not to do it again
9.       They believe that like other behavioural sins it is entirely possible not to do it
10.   They declare also that the Bible condemns homosexuality as sin in a number of places and describes it as an abomination
11.   They interpret the Bible as saying that homosexuals will be judged and found wanting, and in one place in the New testament, they interpret its inclusion in a list of sins as declaring that it is wrong enough to keep individuals from inheriting the Kingdom of God, which they interpret as being heaven
12.   Some conservative Christians treat this issue as being the absolute deal breaker (like no other) as to whether you are acceptable to God, whether you are an authentic Christian, whether you should be accepted in the Church, and whether you will go to heaven.

Who Are These Christians?

1.       They are predominantly Protestant, although there are some who are Catholic and Orthodox
2.       They are predominantly evangelical and / or pentecostal
3.       They base their faith on the reformation precept of sola scriptura, ie., scripture alone, and will not countenance any other authority in their life
4.       They view the Bible as being divinely inspired, ie., God is the ultimate author of all the texts
5.       They state therefore that the Bible is no less than the Word of God and must be obeyed and followed as the Word of God, not a man-made artefact
6.       They strenuously argue for a face-value approach to scripture, ie., a literalist approach to the Bible, where the scripture says what it means and means what it says
7.       They believe in a penal substitutionary atonement, ie., their belief about salvation is that humanity should be judged by God, so God comes to earth himself and allows himself to be murdered by the colluding Roman authorities and Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem, thus miraculously taking upon himself his own judgement, thereby removing the necessity for humanity to be judged by God. In other words, Jesus died for our sins and in our place so that we don’t have to die for our sins or get judged by God
Pat Robertson outspoken anti-gay evangelical leader
8.       They believe that this salvation can only be obtained by personal appropriation, ie., you have to pray a sinner’s prayer and ask Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour
9.       They believe that after your salvation, you have to allow God’s Holy Spirit to sanctify you over the duration of your life, which occurs by spiritual practice, ie., going to church and praying, and by eschewing sin
10.   They believe that God will personally intervene in your life to perform miracles sometimes and at least bless you in all your ways
11.   They believe in a literal second coming of Christ physically to the earth – many of them believe that humanity is already in the time when Christ will return soon

Their Style

Some of them are gentle and humble and very loving. They will welcome you, smile at you, you will feel the warmth of their bodies as they lay hands on you, you will feel the caress of their voice as they pray over you or for you. You will feel the solace of having like-minded people around you who all want the same thing for you as you do. Others, not so much. Some are assertive and even acerbic. They can be strident in their opinions and pass them off as God’s word to you. Some will want to bring you in for ‘deliverance’ from demons, others will want to prophesy over you and tell you that God has great things in store for you ‘as you leave off and come out of this lifestyle’. Some will even be passive-aggressive with you, countenancing no other position but their own.

Their Worldview

When you believe the things I have just written, it sets you up with a certain worldview. A worldview is what it sounds like, the way you view the world, other people, nature, money, work, sex, relationships, illness, death, justice and every other thing you could possibly think of that goes to make up what we call human existence on this planet. A worldview is an all-encompassing prism or filter through which we look at the whole of life. It skews our vision to the nature of the prism or filter. Needless to say, evangelicals and / or fundamentalists have a very strict and rigorous worldview that narrows their aspect and opinions down to a set of very fundamental attitudes that need to be entirely congruent with the above statements, the general ones and the ones about gay sexuality. This worldview must be in agreement with those precepts otherwise an individual’s Christian faith is brought under uncertainty and in some cases, even their salvation.

Thus, this worldview focuses almost entirely on the certainty of what is right and wrong. Right and wrong belief. Right and wrong theology. Right and wrong behaviour. Right and wrong spirituality. Right and wrong living. It places a monolithic dichotomy on what it considers to be acceptable and what it considers to be unacceptable. In other words, this worldview is about orthodoxy.

Are you the right kind of person, or not? Are you the right kind of Christian, or not? Do you believe the right kind of things, or not? It is an appeal to orthodoxy. But it is also a declaration that there exists this animal orthodoxy. There is a right way to think. There is a right way to act. There is a right way to believe. There is a right way to be Christian. There is a right way to have authentic spirituality. And you know already who they claim to have this right way, don’t you? Of course, it is them. And if there is a right way, which is theirs, then it follows logically that there is a wrong way, which subsumes pretty much everyone else.

Us and Them 

This means that everyone who does not agree with their worldview is wrong. There is set up an ‘us and them’ dichotomy that sees some people as being in and everyone else out, some acceptable, the rest not, some righteous before God, the rest not. They are not at all reticent about declaring who is in and who is out, who is doing the right thing and who is not, who is sinning and who is not. There appears to be no reluctance whatsoever in such minded Christians to pass judgment on other people and to evaluate where they are located according to their worldview.

Some Commentary

But here’s the thing. Not all of Christianity thinks this way. Not all of Christian discourse uses this kind of language or holds these precepts. Why? For a start, not all Christians around the world hold the concept of orthodoxy quite so knuckle-white tightly. This attitude to certainty, or the addiction to certainty as I call it in another BGBC Blog post, has only been around in the format with which we are familiar for just over one hundred years. It is strident fundamentalism - a faith without heart. For many Christians the world over, such an attitude feels a little juvenile. It feels like it does not correspond to what we know of human life and the level of uncertainty there is in the world and in our existence. It feels like it flies in the face of the reality of human suffering, pain, loneliness, grief and anguish which we all must face to one degree or another eventually. It feels like it is antithetical to the notion that we don’t know it all, that there is so much that we do not understand.

We do not understand God despite the wonderful teachings and example of Jesus (and even he said that he had not told us everything because we would not be able to bear it all). We do not understand the full meaning of life and how it all fits together, for us as individuals and as a human race. We do not understand the place of suffering. We do not understand the existence of injustice. We do not understand our own mortality and often stand against it to the bitter end. In the face of such a reality, such certainty feels like it is juvenile and immature.

Further to this, Christians themselves can’t agree on everything. Not even in the first century in the time of the first Christians was there a homogeneous orthodoxy that overarched all belief and discourse in matters of the new faith. As a matter of fact, for the first three centuries, there was significant to-ing and fro-ing as various Christian groups vied and jockeyed to declare that they had the real thing.

And today, we have the same situation. Put simply, there are literally thousands and thousands of different Christian groupings around the world all with a different teaching, a different focus, a different view of certain so-called orthodox precepts. They all love God and they all follow Christ as his disciples yet there is disagreement on issues and certain beliefs. Take for example, the ‘real presence.’ This is a sine qua non (indispensable element) precept for Catholic people and some Anglicans that holds that the bread and wine in the communion service literally becomes the body and blood of Christ. This is a deal-breaker for Catholics such that a Mass without a Eucharist is not really viewed as a full or proper Mass. Yet many non-Catholic denominations do not hold this teaching at all. In Australia, the Baptists, the Uniting Church, the Church of Christ and the pentecostal churches would not hold to such a view. They have a very different theology of what communion means, yet both theologies are based on exactly the same words that Jesus used at the Last Supper. The same can be said of many different issues within Christian discourse including even different theologies about the atonement, ie., what it is, how it occurred, what Jesus’ role was, exactly what happened when Jesus died on the cross, and the like. The penal substitutionary model that we saw above is not the only model of redemption despite it being the one everyone knows and has been taught.

This notion leads us into the idea that there is uncertainty. Uncertainty is the enemy of fundamentalism. It cannot cope with uncertainty. It needs certainty and orthodoxy to survive and flourish and it enforces that orthodoxy rigorously. People get terribly upset if you’re not orthodox. There is no room for the grey. There is no room for question. There is no room for doubt. There is no room for nuance, the development of ideas, growth, change, the search, the journey or the quest. Orthodoxy is a done deal. It is most comfortable with dogma, with the past and with received authoritative wisdom.

Ex-Gay Ministry Modus Operandi

The ex-gay ministry takes this fundamentalist worldview and mixes it with a bit of out-dated, pop Freudian psychology and comes up with the notion that:

1.       You’re gay
2.       That’s not acceptable to us or to God
3.       You need to change
4.       Because you don’t fit our worldview of orthodoxy
5.       You can change
6.       With God’s help
7.       And with our help in teaching and leading and guiding you
8.       And your continuation in this group
9.       And your life-long obligation to mandated celibacy
10.   And your denial of your emotional life
11.   And your immersion in Biblical scriptures that perpetuate you in sin consciousness and in verses that speak of overcoming
12.   And your resolve to act like a straight person for the rest of your life
13.   And marry an opposite sex partner when you’re ready

Now different groups run different programs and there is not enough space here to describe them all in their intricate detail. I do give some description in BGBC which you will find helpful and there are copious personal stories on the on internet including YouTube.

Some More Commentary

It is important to know that where the Bible says one thing, eg., the earth is about 6000 years old, and science says another, in this age of enlightenment, we can let go the Bible story as literal fact without losing our faith and treat it as a different kind of truth, in this case, a creation myth designed to speak to us of the vast creative act of God. We’ve done this in all sorts of areas, eg., sickness, mental health, disability, war, cosmology, menstruation, marriage, revenge and slavery to name a few. We have abandoned the strict Biblical view and values surrounding these issues and adopted a modern world approach where despite our change in attitude, we can still believe in God, follow Christ and call ourselves Christians, yet take a different view to these issues because of the discrepancy between the ancient world and our modern one, between their understanding and our knowledge based in post-enlightenment modernity. I argue strongly in my book that if we can do this in other areas of life, we should be able to do the same thing with human sexuality and treat it from a more sophisticated approach than would see all gay people the moral equivalent of temple prostitutes, sexual idol worshippers, cruel partners and exploitative sex slave traders or pimps; the focus of the Bible texts around homogenital activity. Surely we know better than that in the twenty-first century.

One of the great modern reformational movements in the Church today is that which encourages a more nuanced reading of Scripture, one that takes into account the ancient world, its ancient languages, ancient cultures, human agendas and competing voices. But our Christian thinking is also informed by modern scholarship from the disciplines of the sciences such as biology, genetics and psychology, the social sciences such as sociology and anthropology, and the humanities such as history, the antiquities and archaeology.  Our understanding of Jesus and his time and the birth of the Christian church is now so much better than it ever has been before. So it’s not about discarding the Bible, but using the Bible in a more a careful way, a more sophisticated way and yes, a more loving way, a way that brings people together not separates them apart, that focuses on the voices in the scripture that are in keeping with the Jesus message and recognising that the other voices are something else altogether.

Gay Christians

Thus, there is now a very large and ever-growing group of gay people throughout the world, who have reclaimed their Christian faith, have returned to church and who participate in the life of their local church and who have integrated their sexuality and their faith.

Gay Christians are here to stay. Why? Because:

1.       Gay Christians understand that God really is love, that God’s  essential nature is love and that God only acts from a place of love
2.       Gay Christians know that they were different when they were children, just like other gay people knew, and that this became eroticised around the time of puberty so that their natural sexual inclination emerged by itself in early adolescence and that they did not choose it
3.       Gay Christians understand that given their essential nature, they are the handiwork of a loving creator God as much as any straight person is
4.       Gay Christians know that a loving God would never judge or condemn an individual over his or her sexual orientation, a component within their identity over which they had no choice in allowing or no choice in changing
5.       Gay Christians know that such a condemnatory God would be unjust and unfeeling and understand that any hint of God being this way is the machinations of man not God
6.       Gay Christians know that such a Father is not in keeping with the teachings of Jesus about the Father
7.       Gay Christians know that their sexuality is as natural as their straight siblings’ sexuality is natural
8.       Gay Christians know of the very plentiful literature and good scholarship about what the Bible says and doesn’t say about gay sexuality
9.       Gay Christians know that unlike the focus of the Biblical passages, their sexuality is not about idolatry, temple prostitution or cruel or exploitative sexual acts

10.   Gay Christians know that they love their partners in as profound a way as straight people love their partners
11.   Gay Christians want to walk a life of spirituality, follow Jesus as their exemplar in all things and treat other people with the kind of behaviour that Jesus himself taught in his most important teachings, ie., loving, compassionate, forgiving and self-sacrificing
12.   Gay Christians know that there is no changing a person’s sexuality because it is part of human identity, ie., you can’t change your sexual orientation any more than you can change your personality
13.   Gay Christians know God would never ask such an impossible change of anyone
14.   Gay Christians know that God is not into torturing his children, casting them into a life of meaningless striving for an impossible goal and drowning in inner turmoil
15.   Gay Christians know that God wants humanity to flourish not wither, to have ‘abundant life’ as Jesus put it, which for all of us, means entering fully into our total humanity
Me speaking to
Sydney Freedom2b group 2012
16.   Gay Christians understand that humanity is created with sexuality and that it is not unclean, filthy, sinful, depraved or evidence of a rejection of God
17.   Gay Christians know that according to Jesus, the first and greatest of all commandments is love and that the second greatest commandment is also love
18.   Gay Christians understand sin as estrangement: from God, from each other, from the self, and that this sin is the cause of human suffering
19.   Gay Christians have accepted themselves and try to love themselves because they know that God loves them
20.   Gay Christians understand that their sexuality is a gift of a wonderful creative loving God who is not diminished by anything any human can do.

So, don’t fall for the prayer meetings that try to change your orientation. They won’t. Don’t fall for the kind words or the offered grace. These will not make you straight. Don’t fall for the myriad Bible verses you are supposed to live. These will not change you from being gay. Don’t fall for the laying on of hands or the prophesying or any other spiritual phenomenon.  For many, these things have their place. But they will not change a gay person into a straight person or make an easy life for someone who denies their natural self. Make no mistake, any claims that spiritual effort will turn you straight are false and will only serve to diminish your life by taking you down a path of false spirituality linked to mental illness. And this is a dark path. YouTube it if you don’t believe me. There are plenty of personal stories published that you can see for yourself.

This is not what God had in mind for you when you were created and brought into this incredible world. You were meant for thriving. You were meant for flourishing. You were meant to grow and become all that you are capable of. A life of becoming. And in your case, and mine too, a gay life of becoming.

What Kind of God?

I walk with a God of love, whose very nature is love. A God of compassion. A God of flourishing. A God of the cosmos, both within and outside our universe. Any other kind of God doesn’t really make sense to me and frankly, I don’t think I’d bother. When we love, we use the power of God. When I love my partner, that love comes from God, because all love is ultimately of God. When I kiss him good-bye and feel a little pang when I see him go off to work and I will not see him until we both get home later that evening, that little pang is love. It is from God. That is why so many say that love is the strongest force in the universe. Love is unquenchable. 

I marvel at what retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu said. "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this." He has caught something here in this statement. It is about the kind of God who would create someone gay, and science has shown us that we do not choose our sexuality but that it is developed mostly in the womb, and then condemn them for it. What kind of a God would do that? What kind of a God do we believe in? Is that kind of God really worth all the trouble? I don’t think so. And I don’t think it fits with the relational God whom Jesus talked about. It flies in the face of everything that Jesus taught us about a loving Father.


Your walk with God I know is important to you, otherwise you would not be here. You want to do the right thing. You want God to be pleased with you and to accept you. You do not want to feel rejected. And you certainly don’t want to lose your faith. My friend, you are not alone. Thousands upon thousands of people all over the world have been here before, have tramped this wilderness and arrived at the same conclusion.

“I am gay. I have always been this way. I didn’t choose it. I feel like I’m not a bad person. I want to live out my faith and be true to myself. I want to live an authentic happy life and find love. I want God to be part of my life. I want to feel comfortable in knowing that God loves me as a gay person.”  

If you are gay, you are gay because you were meant to be gay, just like the rest of us. You are an awesome creation full of so much beauty, full of so much love, full of so much potential. If you have not read my book, I would urge you to do so. Borrow one or get your own copy and read it. BGBC canvasses all the questions that gay people of faith have. I know, because I had them and so I wrote about them and did so in some detail. Being Gay Being Christian took me four years to write. It has a wealth of information in it that will help you ask some reality questions and help you get some reality answers.

And the greatest answer of all is that if you are gay, you were meant to be that way. God fashioned you in your mother’s womb just as much as any straight person. I reckon God knows a thing or two about human beings. We are the pinnacle of his creation and have been set in the wonder of this blue planet sitting in the darkness of space to flourish and become all that we can. Don’t waste that opportunity on living a life-lie. Don’t waste that opportunity by living an inauthentic life. Don’t put some poor opposite-sex partner through years of turmoil only to break up and separate or offer a life of second-best for you both. 

Be honest. Be yourself. Have a faith in a God who loves you and intended you for growth. It can mean the difference between hitting the mark and missing out why you’re here.

In Part 3, I tell my own personal story. Click below for the link.

Ex-Gay - Not the Way (Part 3)

Pax et Amor - Stuart

Ex-Gay - Not the Way (Part 1) The Psychologist

There has been widespread publicity recently over the shutting-down of the world’s largest and most influential ex-gay ministry Exodus International. Of course, it is now the stuff of ex-gay legend that its commander-in-chief Alan Chambers delivered a stirring speech at the Exodus Conference where he disclosed that the ministry had failed to do what it set out to do, that much harm had been caused the LGBT community as a result, that he felt that the Gospel would be better presented in other ways and that he and the Board were shutting the show down completely. He didn’t resile from any of his beliefs about gay sexuality, but the shut-down and apology were heartfelt and a fairly slick affair, given as they were from a very public stage (literally, a conference stage) and in the light of public scrutiny in the world of the internet and social media.

But this Blog post is not about Exodus. It is about you. I had always intended on writing a short essay here dedicated to the ex-gay phenomenon and to flesh out just a little of what I wrote in my book in Chapter 8 Sound People, Sick Therapy. Its time has now come, so this is for those of you either in or contemplating ex-gay ministry.

I am writing this blog post from three points of view. The first is that of Psychologist, the second is that of Christian thinker and the third is from personal experience as a gay Christian man who went through similar experiences to those of the ex-gay ministries. I will publish them in three parts so as not to burden you with a huge and unwieldy post.

I want you to stop right now if you are in an ex-gay group or if you are contemplating trying one and read what I have to say here (all three parts). There has been a seismic shift in attitudes in the Church towards these ministries - not toward them, but away from them. And for very good reason. I am not going to pull my punches in this essay. I will be very forthright and I will state what I know as assertively as I can. I do so because I know ex-gay ministry groups are harmful and dangerous to vulnerable people of any age but especially to the young and I do not want one more person to have to experience the false claims, the lies, the social pressure and the emotional turmoil that are part of the territory of ex-gay ministries.

This first part is from the point of view as a trained and practising specialist Counselling Psychologist.

The Psychologist

Gay Sexuality

Let’s start out with the most elementary place to commence, gay sexuality itself. Modern psychology does not view gay sexuality as a sickness, a disease, an illness, a psychopathology, a mental disorder, any other kind of disorder or a predisposition to future mental illness. But interestingly, in the immediate post-war period, these descriptors were exactly the words used to describe gay sexuality by the medical profession. The legal profession backed them up with their ‘pervert’ laws and using lexis such as ‘deviancy.’ So what changed? How did we get from that world to this one?

Psychologist Dr Evelyn Hooker
In a word, the answer is research. From the time that Dr Evelyn Hooker published her seminal work in 1957 showing that no difference could be found between paired gay and straight men in their psychological health in a blind study that matched age, intelligence and social economic status such that world renowned experts could not identify the gay or straight man in each pair, the gay world and the medical establishment were revolutionised. This breakthrough ushered in a further twenty or more years of dedicated research that confirmed over and over again that being gay was no indication of present or future psychopathology. The studies were overwhelming in their conclusions and it was the sheer number of them plus the personal clinical evidence of psychiatrists that led in 1973 to the the American Psychiatric Association’s removing homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In 2013, we celebrate 40 years of the world’s scientists not thinking of gay sexuality as being a sickness, that gay people are not deviated straight people.


So how does the scientific world and more broadly the academy view gay sexuality at the dawn of the twenty first century? Biologists, geneticists and psychologists from the behavioural sciences, sociologists and anthropologists from the social sciences, and historians and antiquarians from the humanities, have brought an enormous amount of knowledge to our understanding of human sexuality so that we know much more than even just fifty years ago. Behavioural scientists view gay sexuality as being a normal and consistent variation in human sexuality for around about 5% of the population. Such people are not viewed as being sick, as we have seen, but psychologically healthy and stable. Their sexuality is seen as being significantly genetically influenced so that most researchers are now comfortable with statements like ‘you are born gay,’ although room for non-shared [with siblings] environmental factors is also considered possibly to play a small role. Such scientists see gay sexuality as being predominantly formed in the womb as various interacting genes cause brain development in the foetus to shunt down a particular orientation path. Thus sexuality emerges around the time of puberty when it begins to be more conscious to the young person. It is viewed as being stable across the lifespan. It is therefore seen as being neither wilfully chosen nor wilfully changed, ie., gay people do not choose to be gay nor can they choose not to be gay if they are gay.

Two African American men dancing Harlem 1920s
Other research has brought to light that gay people have been identified throughout recorded history and in every culture - without exception. Social scientists have identified that most gay people report that they felt different when children, although this difference did not begin to become eroticised until puberty. Psychologists have shown that despite there being a number of different ways to determine someone’s sexual orientation (see BGBC pp60-62), the best way, because it is the most reliable way, is an individual’s sense of attraction, ie., their erotic thinking, fantasy life and perving behaviour. These three factors cover cognitions, emotions and behaviours, and will in the ordinary situation, give a powerful indication as to where home base is for an individual regarding orientation. Given that we know that sexual orientation is stable across the lifespan, ie., it does not change, modern science would now say very confidently that home base is elemental, integral to the identity or self, and is there for life. It is not an added-on extra take it or leave it that I can decide on a whim. Nor is it an subtracted-off extra that I can delete on a whim or a decision or a prayer or from some kind of external pressure.

Sexual Orientation as Integral to the Identity

This point cannot be overestimated. Psychology sees sexual orientation as being a constituent part of the overall human identity, and a very important one at that. It is right up there with personality and intelligence, as they also give boundaries to the perception of the individual’s world. Sexual orientation is never described in science solely as a behaviour. Thus the expression of a person’s sexual orientation, either gay or straight, is only a part or component of that person’s sexuality along with thoughts, feelings, relational styles, desire, attraction and personal history. In definitional terms, the orientation of a person directs their sexual drive down a same or opposite sex attraction so that they can love and bond with another person both physically and emotionally. This impetus springs from within, from their very self and is part of who they are. So science does not see sexuality as about what we do, but about who we are. And that goes for both gay and straight people. Thus gay people are gay as part of their identity, part of who they are as human beings and that identity will obviously be expressed through attraction, desire and love with a same-sex partner.

Finally, zoological research demonstrates that same-sex pair bondings in the animal kingdom, the closest thing to compare to human gay sexual orientation that we have, are many and plentiful. I quote in BGBC that over 1500 species have been identified as exhibiting this phenomenon. To say that it is not found in nature is simply wrong. To say that it is not part of nature or the natural world is patently false. Same-sex bonding is most definitely found in the natural world and is not uncommon. If it is so prevalent in the animal kingdom, why on earth would we think that it is not part of the human species? Of course, it is. We call ourselves gay and lesbian people.

Psychology and Ex-Gay Discourse

There is a huge disjunction between what mainstream science now says about gay sexuality as just read above and what people are being told by ex-gay ministries. Let me be blunt. The list of errors that are told to vulnerable gay people at the hands of ex-gay groups is long and destabilising. The following are the main ones that describe the ex-gay groups themselves.

1.     Ex-gay groups declare that being gay goes against the fabric of nature. Yet we have seen that the fabric of nature can envelop such sexual diversity easily and plentifully. To say that being gay is not natural or is unnatural is plain nonsense in today’s world of zoological and anthropological understanding. Elemental biologic forces are at work to form and predispose gay people to their orientation in their mother’s wombs. It does not come more natural than that.
2.       Ex-gay groups tell gay people that they are gay due to a love deficit or a parenting deficit.
a.       Some groups say your mother didn’t love you enough, so this made you turn out gay. Wrong! There is no reputable research that demonstrates this at all. And think about how many people there are in the world whose mother’s love was in fact dysfunctional who turn out to be straight; many more than the gay ones.
b.       Some groups say your mother was overbearing which made you turn out to be gay. This seems to go in the opposite direction of the first belief. In fact, both are wrong! Again, there is no creditable evidence that shows an overactive mother will make you gay. Look at the phenomenon of so-called helicopter parents these days who hover over their children’s every move. You would certainly expect there to be a massive increase in the number of kids turning out to be gay over and above the typical population figure of about 5% if this were true. But no, there is no increase. This is a furphy.
c.       Some groups say your father was emotionally absent and you never bonded with him properly and thus you had no masculine role model. Once again, wrong! There is no reputable research that shows this effect. Again, how many straight people are there whose fathers were emotionally absent? How many straight guys grow up in single mother homes? The evidence is just not there to support this.

These ‘rules’ are based on an out-dated and discredited Freudian theory of human sexuality. Not even Freud himself would believe the conclusions that these groups have come to, based upon his general theories. The problem is that they cannot be tested empirically and the counter-observations, as I have suggested above, are so numerous as to make these statements look ludicrous.

3.       Ex-gay groups tell gay people that they choose to be gay. This is in direct contravention of mainstream science. It is not true, it never has been, and it never will be. Gay people do not choose to be gay. Our sexuality emerges around the time of puberty for most of us, at the same time it does for young straight people, who also don’t choose their sexual orientation. I know of no gay individual who chose to be gay, that he or she just woke up one day and decided, "you know what, I think I'll be gay." This is a major lie that is told by ex-gay groups and it needs to be called out. Sexual orientation emerges, it is not chosen.

4.       Ex-gay groups tell gay people that their orientation is not an identity but that it is a behaviour (that God can help them change – but I will come to that in Part 2). This behaviour language is infused in all their materials, all their services, all their pronouncements, all their declarations and indoctriantion. It is patently wrong as any gay person will attest. To reduce a gay sexuality (in fact the same goes for heterosexuality too just as erroneously), to a behaviour and not an intrinsic part of the self is to invite ridicule and scorn because it is so obviously wrong. It reduces being gay to a sexual act alone and completely ignores the emotional aspect of a person’s sexuality.

5.       Ex-gay groups have been declaring loud and clear to gay people that they can change. This statement does need a little qualification now as there is a move among these groups more recently away from saying that gay people can become straight. There is a historical aspect here. The two principle messages in different time periods are as follows:

a.       Originally when these groups began to spring up, the statement was, ‘you can change – do our programme – and you can “put off” or “come out” of homosexuality – God will change you – you can live an entirely straight life.’ Now this was a huge call, a gargantuan claim that goes against everything we know from science about human sexuality. It was a very plain fallacy, and people found out the hard way. In other words, it was a lie. Gay people cannot turn themselves into straight people. Being gay is fundamental to your existence as a human being navigating a human life. You cannot just turn your sexuality on or off on a mere caprice. It is stable across the lifespan.

b.       More recently, ex-gay groups have been saying, ‘well, you may be homosexual (they eschew the word gay), but we’re going to show you how not to act on it – do our programme and you will never have to live this sinful lifestyle and you will be acceptable to God – you will be set free, even if you are not attracted to the opposite sex’. Notice how they focus in on behaviour. They call it a lifestyle rather than a life, in the same camp as boating, playing cards or being involved in politics. Their theory reduces human sexuality to a behaviour when we know that this is patently wrong. "Stop the behaviour," they say, "don’t act on your same sex attraction either physically or emotionally and everything will be okay, everything will be alright. Never mind the consequences, it’s the actions that count and we can help you stop acting on your orientation. Sure you’ll probably have to keep coming to meetings for the rest of your life but hey, you won’t be acting on what is your natural, hard–wired self and that is the main thing". They seem to think that the expression of identity can be somehow amputated or excised from the rest of your identity. And what's more is there will be no consequences. Wrong and dangerous! 

6.       Some ex-gay groups will tell vulnerable young people that they are disordered, that their gay sexuality is a sign that they need to be cured or healed. But this is a patent lie. You do not need curing if you are not sick. You do not need healing if you are not ill. This is one of the most pernicious falsehoods that is told to gay people. A cure is only warranted when there is a disease. Thus in order to justify their existence, ex-gay groups perpetuate the lie that gay people are sick or ill or disordered or mentally unbalanced or emotionally unwell. We have seen above that such declarations run totally counter to what mainstream science says.

7.       Ex-gay groups appeal to science to make themselves sound authoritative. The problem is that they are completely out of kilter with mainstream science. So, they use an old ruse to trick people into believing that their teachings and declarations are scientific. 

Question: what do you do if mainstream science journals will not publish your contra currenti theories because they are scientifically unsound? 
Answer: create your own journals, give them fancy scientific names, publish your rubbishy theories in them and then tell the world that your ‘research’ is published in scientific journals. 

NARTH (The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality), an American organisation is a fringe group of disaffected psychiatrists and others that publishes its own journals, disseminates untruths about gay sexuality and does so under the guise of being a scientific organisation. NARTH peddles untruths about gay sexuality that is in contradistinction and contradiction to mainstream biology, genetics, psychology and sociology. They teach that SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts) can be effective. Ex-gay groups use NARTH material regularly and some fundamentalist church groups use their information also.

Here is NARTH’s mission statement as it appears on their website.

“We respect the right of all individuals to choose their own destiny. NARTH is a professional, scientific organization that offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted homosexuality. As an organization, we disseminate educational information, conduct and collect scientific research, promote effective therapeutic treatment, and provide referrals to those who seek our assistance. NARTH upholds the rights of individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care and the right of professionals to offer that care”.

Now this sounds okay doesn’t it? It sounds caring and compassionate and like it’s trying to be helpful? Look deeper. Its opening sentence is designed to speak to anyone who might be in confusion over their sexual orientation and who either lives in a society that is markedly homophobic or goes to a church (synagogue or mosque) that is unaccepting and condemnatory of gay sexuality. So the first sentence is suggesting indirectly that you can make a choice for your own destiny. This implies sexual orientation. 

The next thing to note is the careful choice of the words “unwanted homosexuality.” I defy any gay person growing up in an unyielding, harsh, critical and condemnatory society or church to NOT have ‘unwanted homosexuality.’ Well of course you’re not going to want it. You’ve been indoctrinated, trained, educated and conditioned to not want it; your whole life, sometimes overtly and directly, and at other times, covertly and indirectly. The problem does not lay with you. The problem lays with the society or the church. It’s not your problem, it’s their problem. And they put it on you. Such a society will tell you that you’re a faggot or a poof or pillow biter or some such, while such a church will tell you that you’re deviant, disordered, sick, rejecting of God, sinful and need redemption. Wow, it’s powerful stuff. But it’s all wrong. ‘Unwanted homosexuality’ is the way that NARTH and ex-gay groups prey upon young gay people who are feeling vulnerable and who want to be accepted by their families and friends especially in church.

But they don’t leave it there. They claim they offer “effective therapeutic treatment” in the next sentence. However, we know philosophically that there is no such thing as treatment for a non-existing illness. This mission statement is selling snake-oil pure and simple. And if you're desperate then you're likely to fall for it.

Ex-gay groups use NARTH studies and other like research to bolster their false claims and to make them sound authentic and authoritative. But make no mistake. They are not sound science and are rejected by the mainstream scientists in major universities the world over who research human sexuality, and sadly, thousands of people have been hood-winked into believing that their discomfort with being gay is a disorder from which they need curing or healing and that they can change, so they put in incalculable effort, time and money to try to do the impossible.

The Spitzer Study 2001

Dr Robert Spitzer
A highly controversial study was conducted by Dr Robert Spitzer to test the theory that reparative therapy group participants were able to change their orientation. Spitzer concluded that some "highly motivated" participants were able to. However, the study haunted him for years. 

"The study had serious problems. It was based on what people remembered feeling years before — an often fuzzy record. It included some ex-gay advocates, who were politically active. And it did not test any particular therapy; only half of the participants engaged with a therapist at all, while the others worked with pastoral counselors, or in independent Bible study" (Benedict Carey, New York Times article).

This would not pass a 1st year Psychology report. However, ex-gay ministry groups, conversion therapy advocates, as well as Christian fundamentalists and social conservatives jumped on the study waving it around with abandon declaring that the evidence was in, 'gay people can change their sexual orientation.' 

However, Spitzer himself knew otherwise. He had always been doubtful about how the results were obtained and was even more concerned about how they were being interpreted. Ailing with Parkinson's Disease and aged 80, Robert Spitzer, a hero in the LGBT story, the main driver who in getting homosexuality removed from the DSM back in the 1970s, publicly apologised and wrote to Dr Ken Zucker, the editor of The Archives of Sexual Behavior, the Journal which published his paper, resiling from its conclusions, admitting they were unfounded due to gross methodological errors and offering an unqualified apology to the gay community.

"Several months ago I told you that because of my revised view of my 2001 study of reparative therapy changing sexual orientation, I was considering writing something that would acknowledge that I now judged the major critiques of the study as largely correct. After discussing my revised view of the study with Gabriel Arana, a reporter for American Prospect, and with Malcolm Ritter, an Associated Press science writer, I decided that I had to make public my current thinking about the study. Here it is.
Basic Research Question. From the beginning it was: “can some version of reparative therapy enable individuals to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual?” Realizing that the study design made it impossible to answer this question, I suggested that the study could be viewed as answering the question, “how do individuals undergoing reparative therapy describe changes in sexual orientation?” – a not very interesting question.
The Fatal Flaw in the Study – There was no way to judge the credibility of subject reports of change in sexual orientation. I offered several (unconvincing) reasons why it was reasonable to assume that the subject’s reports of change were credible and not self-deception or outright lying. But the simple fact is that there was no way to determine if the subject’s accounts of change were valid.
I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some “highly motivated” individuals.
Robert Spitzer. M.D.
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry,
Columbia University

On May 18, 2012, Benedict Carey wrote a major article on the Spitzer reversal in the Health section of the New York Times. You can read it on the link provided below.

Psychiatry Giant Sorry for Backing Gay ‘Cure’

What Do The World’s Professional Psychological Associations Say about Sexual Orientation Change?

Every developed country in the world has its own well-regulated psychological association. Below, you will find just a few excerpts on this issue from three well-known associations.

The Australian Psychological Society (APS)

“The validity, efficacy and ethics of clinical attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation have been challenged. To date, there are no scientifically rigorous outcome studies to determine either the actual efficacy or harm of therapies or treatments that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation. There are sparse scientific data about selection criteria, risks versus benefits of the treatment, and long-term outcomes of such therapies. The literature consists of anecdotal reports of individuals who have claimed to change, people who claim that attempts to change were harmful to them, and others
who claimed to have changed and then later recanted those claims. - - - - The theories of ‘reparative’ therapists define homosexuality as either a developmental arrest, a severe form of psychopathology, or some combination of both. In recent years, noted practitioners of ‘reparative therapy’ have openly integrated older psychoanalytic theories that pathologise homosexuality with traditional religious beliefs condemning homosexuality. The earliest scientific criticisms of the early theories and religious beliefs informing ‘reparative’ or conversion therapies came primarily from sexology
researchers. Later, criticisms emerged from psychoanalytic sources as well. - - - The ‘reparative’ therapy literature uses theories that make it difficult to formulate scientific selection criteria for their treatment modality. This literature not only ignores the impact of social stigma in motivating efforts to cure homosexuality, it is a literature that actively stigmatises homosexuality as well. ‘Reparative’ therapy literature also tends to overstate the treatment’s accomplishments while neglecting any potential risks to patients”.

The American Psychological Association (APA)

Report of the APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation

“The task force conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates. Even though the research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, regardless of sexual orientation identity, the task force concluded that the population that undergoes SOCE tends to have strongly conservative religious views that lead them to seek to change their sexual orientation. Thus, the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who seek SOCE involves therapist acceptance, support and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients’ active coping, social support and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome”.

The British Psychological Society (BPS)

“We assert that:

1. As set out in the ICD-10 and DSM-IV, homosexuality per se is not a diagnosable mental disorder (American Psychological Association,1975). Recent publicised efforts to repathologise homosexuality by claiming that it can be ‘cured’ are rarely guided by rigorous scientific or psychological research, but often by religious and political forces opposed to full civil rights for people of same-sex sexual orientations. In recent years, noted proponents of ‘reparative’ therapy have integrated older psychoanalytic theories
that pathologise homosexuality with traditional religious beliefs condemning homosexuality (Moberly, 1983; Harvey, 1987; Nicolosi, 1991). As a professional and scientific organisation, the BPS will challenge claims made by political, religious or other groups which claim homosexuality is an illness.

2. As same-sex sexual orientations per se are not diagnosable illnesses, they do not require any therapeutic interventions to change them. Therapeutic modalities to convert or repair same-sex sexual orientations are largely based on theories of questionable scientific validity (Haldeman, 1991, 1994; Brown, 1996; Drescher, 1997) and anecdotal reports. These reports of ‘cures’ (Nicolosi, 1991; Duberman, 1991; White, 1994; Isay, 1996) are counterbalanced by reports of psychological harm caused by such
‘treatments’ (Beckstead, 2004; Shidlo & Schroeder, 2002; Glassgold et al., 2009). The reparative therapy literature also overstates the treatments’ accomplishments whilst neglecting the potential risks.

3. It is acknowledged that some people may experience psychological distress because of the impact of social stigma and prejudice (e.g. homophobia and biphobia) against same-sex sexual orientations. Advocates of ‘reparative’ therapies not only ignore these impacts but misconstrue the resultant presenting psychological issues as pathology inherent to same-sex sexual orientations (Freud, 1905; Rado, 1940; Bieber et al., 1962; Socarides, 1968; Ovesey, 1969; Hatterer, 1970).”

These professional associations are among many in the world who have position statements on gay sexuality and so-called reparative therapy found in ex-gay groups. Apart from psychological associations, there are position statements from psychiatric, paediatric and social work professional associations as well, all readily found by a basic internet search.

Requirements of Ex-gay Ministry Groups

There are several serious consequences to participating in ex-gay ministry that are deleterious to your mental health. These consequences flow from what these groups ask of their participants.

Essentially, ex-gay ministries require gay people to:
1.       Deny their sexuality
        a.       its ontology or beingness - if you like, its existence
        b.       its expression - either physically and/or emotionally
2.       Remain celibate at all times and for the rest of their lives (unless they marry an opposite sex partner)
3.       Confess to the group the number of times that same sex attraction thoughts and emotions occur or if a gay sexual encounter is experienced
4.       Ascribe these occurrences in every instance as sin, ie., sin to be repented of
5.       Treat this sin just like any other, one that God will help them overcome as they are sanctified by his grace
6.       Describe love by gay people as being disordered, unnatural and lust
7.       Describe their sexuality as a behaviour not an identity
8.       Believe that their sexual orientation can be changed through effort, discipline, group participation and spiritual practice
9.       Immerse themselves in scripture that they are told purports to gay sexuality and verses that encourage belief in being a conqueror and in God's miraculous power and grace
10.   Remain within the group in order to be fully indoctrinated by its teachings, its ethos, its ethics, its methods and its sanctions
11.   Attend group meetings regularly, much in the way an alcoholic does with a regular AA meeting, whether things are going easier for them that week or if they are having a particularly difficult time of it
12.   No longer think of themselves as gay
13.   Withdraw from gay friendships and remove themselves from anything to do with the gay world
14.   Dress in a ‘straight’ way
15.   Act like straight people by adopting stereotyped gender behaviours, eg., guys attending or playing rougher sport, and girls using makeup and focusing on clothes selection
16.   Forever be on the alert lest they fall back into old ‘sinful’ ways
17.   Be open to falling in love with an opposite sex person and marrying them

Let me put that into some prose for you. First of all comes the denial of your natural existence where you must act as though you do not have same sex attraction. You must behave, walk, dress, sing, talk, eat, drink, emote in a way that is not you. You will have to change the very essence of who you are. Why? Because our sexuality, as described above, is not an added-on extra, but an integral part of your identity, of who you actually are, which has a substantial influence on how you behave and do all of these things. Your natural self will reject this harsh regime of self-denial and it will kick back. It will never stop. The kick-back will be relentless and indefatigable. It will be permanent. As we understand now, human sexual orientation is stable across the lifespan.

But in the ex-gay group, you must not be attracted to anyone. You must not have desire. You must not ever want to reach out and touch someone’s hand or hold them close. You are forbidden to do this. While everything within you feels like that would be normal and a powerful inward impetus, the words and teachings of your ex-gay group will sound loudly in your ears and you will be torn as to whether to listen to them or to follow your heart or your desire. You will live in a world where you are not straight. You know you’re not straight, so you never call yourself that. But you cannot feel right to call yourself gay because of the group. So you call yourself ex-gay. An in-between world, a world of shades and shadow. A limbo. A no-man’s land. Neither straight nor gay. It is a torturous existence. Forever at war. Forever torn. Never at peace. Never comfortable. Never yourself, you lock yourself into a nether world of not being you and not feeling straight. Sounds like hell? It is. And many people do not come through it.

The Psychological Consequences of Participating in Ex-Gay Ministry

What does this lead to? The answer is easy. It leads to the deterioration of your mental health. It leads to depression (major depressive disorder – MDD), anxiety (generalised anxiety disorder – GAD), and other forms of anxiety as well, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). For some, it can lead to substance abuse with either drugs or alcohol or both. And worst of all, it can lead to suicide. We do not know the devastating statistics of how many vulnerable gay people have killed themselves because of going though reparative therapies or ex-gay ministries. When you read Part 2 and hear the kind of thing people have been told about themselves, it is no wonder that the more depressed, lonely and isolated of them have contemplated suicide or worse, carried it out. 

None of us are immune to these consequences. It has nothing to do with having a strong or a weak mind. You cannot deny the self without harm. It cannot be done. And if you attempt to do it over a significant period of time, like I did (see Part 3), the wounds can be deeper. No matter how much you are told that God will provide for your needs, this does not happen in the way you hope. I repeat, an ex-gay identity is an essentially closeted state where a person is stuck or trapped in a Phase 1 Sexual Identity Confusion (see the Cass Model of Gay Sexual Identity Formation BGBC pp66-70) which will harm you and lead to a life of misery and turmoil. 

I invite you to view a recent Australian current affairs news story on the consequences of ex-gay therapy. Australia's highly respected national broadcaster, the ABC, aired this short program on 19 August 2013, highlighting the experiences of two young men Chris and Evan. This brings the issue out of theory, discourse or propaganda and offers some real life for you to watch. It runs for just over 6 minutes.

Further to this, if you do attempt to sublimate your desire and natural attraction and longing for a same sex partner in relentless religious and church activity, you will lead a myopic life. If you do marry an opposite e sex partner, you will place an unfair burden upon your partner who really deserves someone straight who is totally into them. I see many men every year who are in this predicament. They come, gay men who are married and often with children, depressed, confused and stuck. Some of them end up leaving their wives to live life more authentically and of course the harm done to themselves, their wives and the children is incalculable with such a tear in the fabric of their shared lives. They find authenticity but at what cost? It is always a very sad state of affairs. Some of the saddest I ever have to work with are those men in this category who really do love their wives but cannot go on living the life-lie so they decide to leave the marriage. I support them the best way I can, but it is never easy for such. Conversely, there are gay married men who opt to stay with their wives despite the lack of emotional or sexual connection. Again, very sad for everyone concerned. A resigned life, an empty life of pretence and making do, a spouse who is secretly treated as second-best.

Ex-gay people who marry opposite sex partners are now more honest these days about their sexuality. In times past, they would smile and quote scripture and say that Jesus takes care of their needs. These days, I hear a lot more people being honest. They say openly that they still have same sex attraction, that it has not gone away, that they are still ‘troubled’ by it, but they set their face to the wind and onward they go. A sad and unfulfilling way to live life, in my view.


Dr Stuart Edser PhD. MAPS. MASCH.
Counselling Psychologist and gay Christian man
As a Psychologist who has experienced this kind of thing myself, a Christian man my entire life and as someone who has studied what mainstream peer-reviewed science has to say, I can confidently tell you that there is no real change of sexual orientation for anybody. It has been settled for some time now that human sexual orientation is stable across the lifespan. I have never yet seen someone change to the point where they are miraculously transmogrified from gay to straight, no matter how much therapy, how much prayer or how much resolve. No matter how many footy matches he watches, how many car engines he strips down, how many girls he dates or has sex with, a gay man is a gay man is a gay man. And he needs to accept himself and discover the wonder of his life. No matter how many clothes shopping sprees she goes on, no matter how many make-up classes or jewellery shows she attends, no matter how much she reads and learns about what makes a man happy, a lesbian is a lesbian is a lesbian and she needs to accept herself and discover the wonder of her life.

We know that a gay sexuality is a perfectly normal sexual orientation for human beings to have. It is neither a sickness nor a disorder. It is not a deviation. It is not a deficit from childhood. It is not a terrible parenting mistake. It is a consistent variation of sexuality that is part of the human race. And always has been. Where individuals find it difficult to accept, that is not the fault of their being gay in and of itself, but the fault of the society, the church or the ex-gay program to which they belong which has negative attitudes to gay people. The fault lies not in them, but in the world that they are part of.

Time to change your world. Time to accept and love yourself. Time to discover the wonderful gay person you are and the incredible life you can lead as you navigate life’s waters with the eyes of a gay person. Take it from a Psychologist who knows personally the impact of what I am saying, do yourself a huge favour and don’t get involved in an ex-gay group and if you are involved with one, I strongly encourage you to leave and get some help with a trained therapist who will help you through your confusion.

Click on the link below to Part 2 for a discussion of the Christian aspects of ex-gay programmes.

Ex-Gay - Not the Way - Part 2

Pax et Amor - Stuart