Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Ex-Gay Experience (PART THREE)

After almost three years of these programs and the intense reparative therapy and reading almost every book from well known ex-gay authors like Sy Rogers, Joe Dallas and Alan Chambers, something finally hit me and I realised that even though I had given my all that nothing had actually changed. All that praying, all of the counselling and all that effort, and those ‘curing’ exercises could not make me straight. It couldn’t even take away my desire to be with another man. Nothing had changed and I had to confront the harsh reality.....Could I really change......Will I ever be straight?

The trials and temptations only continued as I started to go deeper, past the Christian book stores and church walls and into the world, looking for research that was stronger than the programs and trying to find out if anyone had really changed. I looked closer at my bible and took into account for the first time, the context and culture behind the word of God.

Around that time, Sy Rogers was coming to speak at church and I was excited as this gave me hope for change once more and I knew Sy through his books and resources. Attending the Sense & Sexuality seminar, I was surprised that Sy did not preach a message of change. He didn’t really bring it up. This is because; as I later discovered that Sy Rogers no longer believes in re-orientation of homosexuals and that his problem was not homosexuality but rather transgenderism. In an interview with Sy Rogers he exclaims “I no longer preach a re-orientation message”.

The many Joe Dallas books that I was given to read took you through many aspects of the ‘healing’ process and the book ‘Desires in Conflict’ even has a chapter on how to date and court the opposite sex and how marriage is the final cure for homosexuality. Books and resources like these are available in abundant supply at many churches across the nation and also at Christian mega-stores like Koorong. When most Christians need advice then they head to Koorong to grab a book on the issue. If young gay Christians or parents of homosexuals were to buy a book on homosexuality from Koorong then they would get a book promoting change as the only option. This is a danger as these books cause much harm to the person trying to change.

Researching the issue more I realised that maybe change was not possible and the thought of living in this pain the rest of my life terrified me. Alicia Salzar, a psychiatrist and producer of the film ‘Abomination’ says “only 4% of people in the ex-gay programs are able to make a lasting change”.

Salzar then goes on to say “They don’t tell you about the depression, the suicides, the self-loathing, the shaming that goes on and how messed up you can really be by going through these ex-gay programs” (Salzar, 2007).

If I was going to hell anyway and I would not be accepted here then what is the point of going on, I thought. And so self- hatred ended up in self harm and I would often grab the razor blade and slowly start cutting my arms. The realisation that I was doing this gave me a shock but I felt like I was a mistake, like I needed to be punished for being gay.

One day I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I couldn’t sleep and at 3am, I got in my car and started driving....speeding as fast as I could....went down the motorways of Sydney and I made the decision that night would be my final night. So I sped down the M2 and put my foot full-throttle on the accelerate and turned my wheel toward the big concrete edges of the motorway...I went from the far right lane, drifting over to the left, and straight towards the concrete walls of the motorway. At the last moment something pressed my left foot firmly on the brake and I missed the wall by only a few centimetres. I sat there crying, realising what I had almost done and knowing that this time, by some miracle that God had spared my life.

Later that week I made an appointment with my doctor and summoned up the courage to speak about what was going on in my life. She diagnosed me with severe clinical depression which was a shock to me because even though things were hard I would never have seen myself as the kind of person who battles depression. In order to diagnose me she performed all these tests and treatments to get an accurate idea of my mental state. After diagnosis, she referred me to a Christian psychologist and prescribed doses of anti-depressants.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Ex-Gay Experience (PART TWO) - Being Gay at Hillsong

Note: Please take into account that most names have been taken out in respect of the leaders involved. It should also be noted that there is much inconsistency amongst Hillsong church leaders and not all leaders are anti-gay. Most people at the church are well intentioned and compassionate and only act out of love...

At 17, some of my friends which invited me to this church called Hillsong. I declined as I wasn’t interested in church but after a couple weeks when they asked again for some reason I said yes. I went along to a church I had never experienced before. There were hundreds of youth my age and the people seemed genuine and truly in love with God. The whole style of worship fascinated me as many people spoke of a God of miracles, of love, compassion and hope. Suddenly the whole God idea became ever more real and I saw a people for once that practiced what they preached. Christians that loved God and a God that seemed to love and bless them. I didn’t become a Christian that night but it was the start of something new and I just couldn’t forget about it.

I went again, many times in fact and I started to learn about the real God. The God that no-one had ever shown me before. I had no idea what they thought of gay people but it didn’t seem to matter. Hillsong was a house of miracles. If you could change, it would certainly happen there.

In July of 2005, I went along with my friends to the Hillsong Conference. I had never imagined what a great week it would be and while hesitant at first, I started to really see who God was and how he loved me. On Friday, the last night of conference I entered into a relationship with Jesus and became a Christian.

I started going along to Hillsong more regularly. It was my home church and I loved it but after a while I started to hear similar anti-gay messages of change and deliverance. However Hillsong did things well and always made the impossible seem possible. I believed once more that I could change and I was told once more that I had to for Jesus. My hope once more began to rise and I believed that now that I was actually a Christian, through the power of the Holy Spirit that I will be free from homosexuality.

I gathered up the courage to admit my struggle with homosexuality and tell some of the church leaders. One leader was a very friendly, happy young man that had grown up in the church. He would always offer support and encouragement. However when I told him about my sexuality, he looked at me with sympathy and said “Well...Sy Rogers did it...I will pray for you”. I guess it was hard for him to understand because unless your sexuality is challenged then you come to take it for granted. This leader would often ignore the situation but one day he told me to ring the church and told me “these demons that are in you are fighting..... don’t let them win”. I was also told that I have a lack of faith and that God doesn’t let this happen to someone who trusts in Him. These constant comments brought tears to my eyes. I believed I was a failure to God and that he could never really love me. I wanted God’s love so much, I wanted Him to be glorified, to make me whole. I remember asking another church leader about my sexuality and being told firmly that “God does not want you to be gay...do not listen to the world, do not accept yourself”.

I started attending one-on-one ex-gay counselling sessions or reparative therapy as it is commonly known. The program was not as strict as the other ones and offered more hope and compassion to me and my situation. However I was taught a few different things like how to act more male and was given relationship advice on how to date. It all seems funny now but they supposedly had a reason behind it. I was also constantly prayed for and one leader even performed an exorcism and told me that being gay is the work of the devil and that I had demons in me. After a few sessions, that was it and I was meant to be healed. I was told that God wanted me to have a happy fulfilling life as a straight man and he wanted me to get married and have a family.

I believed that I was healed for a while and that any attraction to other men was just the devil trying to tempt me. I even went on a few dates to prove to myself that I was healed. However there was no connection and things never worked out. In the church I was a success story and those few people that knew had praised God for my deliverance out of homosexuality. Sadly the delusion could only last so long...
Part 3 CLICK HERE

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Ex-Gay Experience (PART ONE)

The realisation that I was gay came to me when I was about 12, early compared to most people. It’s not that I didn’t like girls; it was just that I was not attracted to them physically. This worried and confused me and at age 12 in a society where being gay was considered a sin and a problem, I started my journey of self hate. As soon as I knew who God was I started desperately praying for God to change me from homosexual to heterosexual. I didn’t know if God was real or not but I knew that if he was he didn’t want me to be gay. That’s what I was told.....

I hated myself and didn’t think that being gay was part of God’s plan. Only ever going to a small Anglican church on major holidays, I gained a basic, shallow knowledge of the God of the Christian bible. Love was preached but something else was practiced. This unconditional love shown by Jesus in the bible was not found in the church that I was at I would call myself a Christian but in reality that was far from the truth.

After all the church never told you that “gay is ok”. Instead I remember a message about those that are going to hell. According to the pastor, it included prostitutes, drunkards, greedy, the sinful and of course....gays. I constantly lied to myself and to others pretending to be straight. I would continually put on a facade as if everything was ok but underneath it wasn’t. I don’t know if there is anything harder than trying to deal with your sexuality in a church and a society that condemns you. No one would choose to be gay after all. It was like receiving the ‘death card’ within the church and society. As far as I know I was born gay. Scientific and Psychological evidence has proven this recently and yet still there are so many people in the world today that would rather stay ignorant and judgmental.

With all of this in my past and with confusion, pain and hopelessness continually filling my life, I started looking for answers. Could I change, Is it possible?

At the age of 11 my parents started going to church more regularly and the same views on homosexuality did not change. If you were gay then you went to hell. I was told that homosexuals were an abomination and that is what I believed about myself. I had to change but how..?

After searching and searching, at 16 years old, I entered my first ex-gay program called ‘Door of Hope’. This was a 60 day mostly-online course where you were ‘cured’ from homosexuality. I didn’t tell anyone except some church leaders and when my parents asked where I was going I responded by saying ‘a friends place’. They honestly thought that’s where I was.

I was given a mentor. He was 42 years old and married with a family. He always sounded so sure of himself as if He knew 100% that he was no longer gay. His marriage he said was testament to this. But even at 16, I had my doubts but because I so badly wanted to change I was willing to go ahead and do the course. Each day it would take about 2-3 hours and I would sit through the constant lessons about how being gay is a sin and that only God can heal you from this terrible affliction. I had to confess everything, whether I had thoughts about men, if I had had sex or masturbated, whether I had looked at pornography. We had to tell the truth and admit those things every day. If we failed in one area we were told that we had to put more effort into this and try harder. During the early sessions I would give in to masturbation. Only about once a week but still I was a failure. I wasn’t trying enough. I was told to pray and ask for forgiveness and told that this demonstrated my lack of faith. I was only 16 after all, with hormones racing and a limited knowledge of the bible but they didn’t even take this into consideration. I just wanted to change because I didn’t want to go to hell and I believed that God wouldn’t love me otherwise.

I persevered and I finished 45 out of the 60 days before I couldn’t take it anymore. My school marks were failing and I could no longer deal with the immense pain I went through every day. Although the fact that I didn’t finish made me a failure, I just couldn’t handle it.

After about three months, the quest for change continued and I entered into another ex-gay program. The same one with the same rules and same hardships. Except this time they were harder on me because I had failed the first. I needed to have more faith or so they told me. The theology used and lessons taught are very debatable now but to a naive 16 year old they seemed so right. After 53 days (better than last time) I gave up once more. I just stopped going. I didn’t believe anymore in changing or in God but still the shame, confusion and damage remained.

Later that year I took off for an exchange trip to Germany and came back more relaxed, with a different outlook on life and a greater independence. I rarely attended church with my family and I became bitter and resented about the church as a whole and God for making me gay. It was still a problem in my eyes but I just refused to deal with it......

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Together..

Rob has been the light in this darkness. A real blessing and gift from God. When I am with him, the weight of this world just passes away.

Rob and I have been together now for 5 weeks. He is not just my boyfriend but also my brother in Christ and one of my best mates.

Having met at a gay Christian organisation, we instantly fell for each other. I’m not sure I believe in love at first sight but if it is true then that is what happened with Rob and I.

He taught me that love between two people can bring about the best in each other. That love is about trust, forgiveness, grace and companionship.

Currently in Australia, same-sex marriage is not legal. I am hoping this will change as people start to see how gay men and women can truly love each other.

"In Love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear implies punishment and no one who is afraid has come to perfection in love" (1 John 4:18).

There is a strong possibility that Rob may have to go to Melbourne for work and if so where does that leave me?

I am not sure...Who knows?

Monday, August 18, 2008

NEW BLOGS - COMING SOON

Hey readers??

I will be posting up a whole heap of blogs soon including:

Hillsong & the Homosexual


Ex-Gay Programs: The Dangers


Living as a Gay Christian


Those 6 bible verses


A radically, inclusive Christianity


Celibacy Vs. Relationships

Jesus loves me for who I am

I am still the same person today as I was yesterday. I haven’t changed except I am finally being honest. I am gay and I am alright about it for once in my life. Over the past few months through my depression I have struggled with accepting myself but I have come to accept me for who I am. I know that God still loves me and my relationship with Him will never change. Jesus is still my Saviour and while I probably have more questions than answers I just have to have faith in His saving grace.

This has been so difficult for me and when you know you’re gay and you are a Christian it almost seems like they are two worlds in conflict. But there are others, Gay Christians that is. The church as a whole is changing, motivated by the love and compassion of Jesus Christ and with the knowledge that gay people can still live a life devoted to God. Like Anthony Venn-Brown (2007) often says “Homosexuality is not a choice but morality is”.

For all my life I’ve been praying for God to take the gay away but He would not make me straight or ‘cure’ me. He seems so present in so many circumstances but it’s almost like he just leaves me alone to deal with my sexuality. I have studied the bible many times and have probably come to take a more liberal approach than before but my faith stands strong if not stronger because of this. I have a deeper connection with God and a greater understanding of human frailty and potential and what it means to love unconditionally.

I love that people can be themselves. As honest individuals we provide hope, truth and freedom to many persecuted Individuals in the world. We only have this one life here on Earth and we need to live true, authentic lives. By being ourselves we are a greater benefit to the world. I love people for who they are and I forgive those in the church that knew not what they did. They honestly believed that you can ‘cure’ homosexuality and were doing what they thought was best.

The truth set me free and finally I know who I am. I am unashamed and unshakable in my identity and I have finally found the true God. The God who created this universe, breathed life into my soul, and died for me on a cross to save my life.

Jesus loves me for who I am.

For the bible says that all of us “are fearfully and wonderfully made” and, I believe that.