Many of you may have read the article 'Straight and Narrow' in Friday's Sydney Morning Herald by Katrina Fox. This article was prompted by 'The Hope Alliance' media release which was seen in SX News and Joshua Bates only a few weeks ago and shed light on the expanding works of the Living Waters ex-gay ministry.
While it was a good article, much was missing that really needed to be said. Katrina interviewed me and incorporated my comments in the article, however during the editing process my part was cut out. My good friend and Freedom 2 b[e] leader, Anthony Venn-Brown, was able to get a few sentences in which was better than nothing.
Questions asked by Katrina Fox & my written responses:
The Living Waters ministry are adamant that you can't be gay and Christian, that the two are mutually exclusive. What is your response to this?
- I am gay and I am Christian. The two are NOT mutually exclusive. I am living proof of that and there are many others just like me. Just because I happen to be attracted to the same sex does not mean that I cannot live a life for Jesus. I still attend the same Pentecostal church many times a week, as many straight believers do, and I still read the bible and pray. I never chose to be attracted to the same sex and I know in my heart that Jesus loves me and accepts me just as I am.
- I have a good knowledge of the Bible and the message that Jesus preached is one of love, truth, justice, hope and inclusiveness. Christianity is based on the message of Jesus and Jesus never mentioned anything about homosexuality. I believe, if Christ had said something that it would have been a message of affirmation and love for gays and lesbians.
I believe you went through some 'ex gay' therapies and treatments. Can you describe briefly what it entailed and some of the emotions you experienced?
At 16 years old, I entered my first ex-gay program called 'Door of Hope', similar in many ways to Living Waters. This was a 60 day mostly-online course where you were 'cured' from homosexuality. I was given a mentor at my local church to guide me and help me in my battle against homosexuality, he was an ex-gay himself and was married with 2 kids. 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. 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.
At 17, I started attending a new Pentecostal church and soon after began 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. After months and months of therapy, 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. However even after all that time, I could never gain feelings for the opposite-sex or get rid of my feelings for other men.
Going through the ex-gay programs was like riding an emotional roller coaster. Having hope for change at the beginning of each program only to find out that nothing had really changed at all. It was exciting to think about the prospect of becoming straight, that I could be accepted and embraced like all of the other people in my church, that one-day I could have a wife and family, a life that God would be happy with. Realising after each program that nothing had changed at all, that I still had feelings for men, I became very depressed and felt like a failure, like I needed to be punished because I couldn't be who I needed to be. It was in those moments that I would continually self harm myself, punishing myself for being gay. Facing the reality that I couldn't change was terrifying, because it meant that I would be resigned to living a life away from God's love and that I would be going to hell and forced to live out the rest of my days as a 'poor, sick' homosexual.
Through all of these programs, I was never truly happy. I hated myself and saw myself as a failure in the eyes of God. Every day was a constant struggle to try and be the young man the church said I needed to be, a straight man. Most nights I would cry myself to sleep, only to wake up in the morning knowing I was still gay.
I only became happy and free when I accepted myself and loved myself as the gay man that I am. When I stopped trying to change, and realised that this is me, I no longer 'struggled' and I found myself welcomed and embraced with love by the gay community. Suddenly I was no longer a mistake, but somebody that mattered.
There are people in Living Waters who argue that they have been able to 'recover' from homosexuality, in the same way people recover from drug and alcohol addiction, even though they still 'struggle' with the process. What are your thoughts on these people?
- Drug and alcohol addiction are very serious issues and can be treated over time with much hard work. Homosexuality, however is orientation and because you do not choose to be gay, it cannot be treated in the same way that you can treat alcoholism or drug abuse.
- So often, these ex-gay programs mix up homosexuality with sexual addiction, labelling all gay people as sex addicts. I believe that sexual addiction is a serious issue and if the ex-gay programs help people deal with their sexual addiction, then that is a good thing. BUT this must not be mixed up with sexual orientation. People still 'struggle' with the process because underneath it all, their feelings for the same sex will never go away because it an orientation. Something without choice.
- When I was in the ex-gay programs I was struggling, every day and the feelings for other men never went away. When I accepted myself after years of torment, pain and sadness, I was no longer struggling. I knew that I was gay and it was ok....there was nothing that needed to be healed. And in that moment, I was living in freedom.
Why, in your opinion, do ex-gay reparative therapies not work?
- Simple answer, because there is nothing to fix. Homosexuality is natural and beautiful and trying to change your sexual orientation is almost as bizarre as trying to change your race and skin colour.
- Sexual addiction, drugs and alcohol can all be treated, but homosexuality is not like that. It’s not a choice. I have never been attracted to the opposite sex and I never chose to be gay. It’s just who I am. You can’t change that.
- There is no scientific or psychological evidence supporting change in sexual orientation. Biblically, there is nothing in the bible saying that gay people have to change or even speaking about change. I believe that Gods loves all people including gays just as they are.
Any other comments?
- Unfortunately many ex-gay leaders only see the gay stereotype and assume we are all sex-craved perverts that need to be saved. If they could see the gay community as I see it now, then they would understand that homosexuality is not a curse or a sickness, but rather a unique gift from God, a blessing into a greater compassion and understanding of human potential and what it means to love unconditionally.
- It is sad that it had to take three years of ex-gay programs and reparative therapy including several suicide attempts, years of self loathing, self harm and depression to make me come to the point where I had to question myself as to whether or not being gay is really a sin. If only the church had shown the love to me that I really needed before I had to go through so much pain. If only someone had told us that we were not sick or failures to God. That being gay was ok. Things would have been different...
- The ex-gay programs are a breeding ground for intolerance, homophobia and self hate and are not consistent with the main Christian message of love.