The Personal Reality of the Demise of Exodus

One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers provides a powerful testimony to the dangers of anti-gay “reversion therapy” in the wake of the disbanding of Exodus International, the world’s largest and best known organization promoting “ex-gay” reparative therapies to turn people from gay to straight.

Allow me a small victory dance. Thirty years ago this month I attempted suicide. I was 23 and had just finished a year of horrendous reparative therapy (including aversion therapy). Five years before that my first love killed himself because he couldn’t bear to have people know who he was. I went to my church leader, who subscribed to Exodus views, and he sent me to the hell that was reparative therapy. After a year of that, I was sure my church hated me my and family hated me, but most importantly, God hated me. The only solution was to end a life that was even despised by a loving God. I will not go into details of that attempt, but obviously I made it through. Many more have not.

In fact, I spent the ensuing three decades battling the demons forced on my by reparative therapy – and I won.

I then went on to battle for my rights and my liberty. I am now married to my loving husband of 17 years and have two amazingly beautiful and sweet daughters whom we adopted. My extended family is unconditionally accepting, as are my Mormon in-laws. I have an amazing career as a scientist and lead a fulfilling and joyous life. In spite of Exodus-inspired reparative therapy, I was able to live and find love and a meaningful life. There are thousands of men and women who never had that chance. The demons of self-loathing that reparative therapy instilled in them destroyed their lives…

But please, allow me a small victory cheer. It was a decades-long battle, both personally and as a community, one that saw many lives destroyed. I am giving a victory cheer today for all my compatriots who didn’t make it to see this day.

I’ll not only allow you that cheer, I’ll join you. I’ve known people who have gone through this. After being told relentlessly that there’s something horribly wrong with them, that they are an abomination to God and an affront to decency, they’re sent to “therapy” and anti-gay camps where they’re told that God wants to fix them. And when they can’t be fixed — and they can’t, because there’s nothing wrong with them — it must be their fault because God wants them to change. It’s like pouring gasoline on the fire of shame that already burns within them. And the result is often disastrous. But Exodus International was only one organization. The idea isn’t dead, only one group advocating it is.

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  • otrame

    There is an unspoken implication in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and that is, if you try to fix something that isn’t broken, you will almost certainly break it. I’m so glad that the guy in the OP managed to get unbroken, and grieve for those who couldn’t. For him I should think simply being happy In his life is the best revenge. Watching the collapse of Exodus Is just a really rich dessert.

  • cptdoom

    I spent 20 years of my life – from 13 to 33 – trying to change, or at least trying to hide what I was when I couldn’t change. I thankfully never got caught up in any of the fringe religious groups like Exodus, although I did avail myself of the self-help books written by the “therapists” who engaged with those groups, but even then the damage is pretty horrific. When you spend that much of your life fervently believing there is something fundamentally wrong with you and that you are unlovable damaged goods, it colors everything you do, feel and say. I join the victory dance that the largest and best known of the “reparative therapy” pushers is out of business and that the entire movement to “fix” us is dying, but it can’t breathe its last breath quickly enough for me.

  • The idea isn’t dead, only one group advocating it is.

    Then I guess decent, civilized people have to get to work finishing the job.

  • magistramarla

    When I was teaching, one of my GSA “babies” got caught up in one of these “therapies”.

    He had known that he was gay from a very young age, and had two female besties that he had known since kindergarten..

    The three of them came to GSA meetings together and were a sweet, happy group of friends.

    During the summer before his senior year, this boy’s parents sent him to one of those religious camps.

    He came back to school “cured of being gay”. He was hanging out with only the xtian crowd and was preparing to go to a Texas xtian college. He was no longer allowed to associate with his two best friends.

    They came to me and literally cried on my shoulder.

    I often wonder what happened to that poor boy. I’m sure that the “cure” will eventually fail. I hope that he was strong enough to survive and find love.