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.