What's the Ex-Gay Movement?

The Christian Century has published an excellent review of two books that wrestle with this very question. Thanks to Jesus Politics for the link, by the way. Written by Amy Johnson Frykholm, the review focuses on Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement by Tanya Erzen (University of California Press, 293 pp., $19.95 paperback) and Be Not Deceived: The Sacred and Sexual Struggles of Gay and Ex-Gay Christian Men
by Michelle Wolkomir (Rutgers University Press, 225 pp., $23.95).
According to these books, even ex-gay folk admit that there is not "cure" and that fall and redemption will be a life long process. Interesting review of books dealing with an issue we'd probably rather not deal with!


Greg said…
I have both books, and I especially like Wolkomir's, BE NOT DECEIVED. From a sociological standpoint, it is an objective look at both the gay-affirming Christian side and the ex-gay/ reparative Christian side. Regarding the gay-affirming side, however, the book focuses only on the Metropolitan Community Churches, and does not deal with other types of churches that are open and affirming while not making the "gay issue" the primary "issue." I would have enjoyed reading interviews with gay men in other types of churches besides only the MCC.

Regarding claims of complete sexual identity/orientation change - Joseph Nicolosi, PhD, a pioneer on the forefront in the reparative therapy movement, and long-time member of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (www.narth.com), is a psychotherapist who works with men who experience unwanted homosexual desires. He says complete conversion occurs only in a third of his clients, and even then, it takes a minimum of one session of psychotherapy per week for two years. Nicolosi says that after all that, complete eradication of homosexual longings for the homosexual individual is not a realistic goal (his book, “Reparative Therapy of Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach”).

Honestly, if "complete conversion" means that romantic desires and feelings of intimate affection for those of the same gender are completely replaced with romantic desires and feelings of intimate affection for those of the opposite gender, then, according to researchers on both sides of the LGBTQ debate, “complete conversion” never really occurs.

It appears to me that the phrase, “complete conversion” is equivalent to the phrase, “behavior modification.” I am left to think that the ex-gay and reparative therapy movements use the phrase “complete conversion” to mean an individual finally stops holding hands with someone of the same gender and begins holding hands with someone of the opposite gender. It is when a formerly self-avowed homosexual one day marries someone of the opposite sex. It is when, by all outward appearances, a homosexual male stops dating his boyfriend, or splits up with his partner, and pursues a romantic relationship with a female. In other words, the only evidence of conversion is outward displays and personal conversion claims.

As a gay man, I cannot understand how LGBTQ individuals who, for whatever reasons, refuse to embrace themselves as anything other than heterosexual, can live without tons of baggage and issues resulting in low self-worth and self-esteem.

Nonetheless, as a supporter of individual liberty and freedom of choice, I am inclined to refrain from belittling so-called ex-gays on the basis of their choice to suppress their innate longings and align themselves with the ex-gay movement. I respect their right to make such a choice, but I worry that this choice may not really be their own. I feel that many adopt the term “ex-gay” out of a desire to conform to social and/or religious expectations, out of fear of discrimination and ostricization, and/or out of fear of somehow losing favor with God (and burning in hell).

On the other hand, I do not respect audacious and misleading “complete conversion” claims that are made by individuals who have little to no understanding about what it actually means to be homosexual – claims that are made to selfishly boost personal acceptance of an individual within a homophobic and heterosexist society and/or religious institution.


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