Exodus from Ex-Gay Therapy

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Crucifix, La Plata, Argentina, by Marcelo Cesar Augusto Romero

I recently posted about the tragic death of Damien Christie, and his treatment at the hands of so-called ‘reparative therapy’.  The story was picked up by Jill Stark at The Age. I will be returning to the issue on The Rainbow Report, with Michael Lallo of the Age, who has investigated the issue, Michael Glover, the priest who lost his parish for supporting gay marriage  (and who conducted Damien’s funeral), on Thursday 25th April. Meanwhile, Steve wrote to me of his experiences, and has kindly given me permission to share his story with you. Doug.

Hi there, Doug,

I’m glad you’re taking action against these groups. They need to be banned like they have been in California. I’m surprised no one has sued any of them.. that’s the quickest way to close them down.

I had similar experiences with Exodus in New Zealand when I was 24. They claimed to be able to convert gays to straights with a 50% success rate. More than anything I wanted to be free of gay sexual feelings and feeling so damaged. The course was 10 or 12 weeks, I think. Like most of these reparative therapy groups, they taught that being gay was the result of inadequate bonding with a loving father (true for me but not for most of the other guys) and that the love of God could replace the missing childhood love and…. voila!! you would be straight!

It didn’t work for me and, as the weeks went by, I became more depressed. I was already in a traumatised state from the chronic and severe childhood abuse I had suffered and this trauma was being retriggered by talking about it each week. These people had no counselling training whatsoever and were not equipped to be having these types of conversations. By not feeling the love of God or seeing any change, it seemed like God the Father was also rejecting me. Implicit within all this other talk about being straight is the message that simply being gay is so unacceptable.

I had been thinking about suicide for a long time. When the course ended, it was the last hope I had had. I decided to take my own life. Not as a cry for help but as a well-thought out plan. I made all the necessary preparations and wrote good-bye letters, asking for my friends and family forgiveness. I took my car out to the beach and put a length of swimming pool hose from the exhaust to the window and sat inside. I remember the awful smell and eventually being paralysed. I threw up at one point and couldn’t turn my head, I was unable to move. The exhaust chemicals that I had breathed in were burning my skin and it felt like it was on fire.

That was the last thing I remember. After that I woke up in the middle of the night with the engine stopped. I tried restarting it but it didn’t and I passed out again. It seems that after I passed out the first time my foot must have pressed the accelerator down to the point that the engine redlined, overheated and siezed.

Recovery took a long time. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed and thinking of the words of Jesus, “I come to bring life and life abundant” Well, I wasn’t sure what exactly an abundant life was but I’m pretty sure that its opposite was having been so self-loathing and alone that you would take your own life. I decided to do exactly the opposite of what i had done before! Instead of trying to eliminate these feelings, I would accept them; and I would let go of the faith that had done me so much harm.

That was the start of my healing. A year later I went back to the folks at Exodus and I asked them about that 50% success rate. I asked how many guys they had treated. They said 2,000. So, I asked does that mean that 1,000 guys are straight with girlfriends or married.

They said no, that their definition of success was that a guy wasn’t having sex with men. But, at the point I had met them, I hadn’t had sex with a guy, so I met their definition of success before even starting!? They squirmed a bit and admitted that, using a definition of successfully converted being, has sexual feeling for women and not for men, no one had actually converted. They had lied to me and their immoral teaching led to all the suffering that saw me try to take my own life.

The damage these groups do is enormous and anything you can do to expose them is a good thing. I’m so sorry to hear about Damien and the awful things he went through.

Cheers

Steve

More info on reparative therapy groups here. Freedom2b is a group for Christians on the journey to reconciling their faith and sexuality. Founder Anthony Venn-Brown, a former evangelical pastor and out gay man, runs Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International, providing training for pastors and churches leaders, seminars and workshops for local churches, lectures in Bible colleges and  tertiary institutions and more.

If you need to speak to someone now, call Lifeline 13 11 14, 24hrs a day.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)