Her letter: “My boyfriend, ex-gay ministries, and the church: FAIL”

Anyone still clinging to the idea that “ex-gay” ministries are anything but cruel absurdities would do very well to read this letter sent to me last week.

Hi John,

I have been carrying around my story for a long time. It broke my spirit and certainly altered my life, but seemed of little significance to anyone else. But now I think it might be a useful testimony in the big debate happening around us. I would like to add it to the tales on your site.

I was a keen early 20-something in a happening fundamentalist church: lots of love, fellowship, good people and good vibes. I met, had great chemistry with, and fell deeply in love with an up-and-coming member of that church. We talked, shared, connected. He told me what any girl is waiting to hear: “I’ve never felt this way about any other girl … never had this connection … never felt so understood …”.

My nice young man also had a secret that he shared with me. He “had been” attracted to men, and had experienced physical contact with them. He had also been to every possible kind of Christian ministry to rid himself of this “problem.” He would n.e.v.e.r. at that time refer to himself as gay or homosexual. He viewed himself as person with a sexual inclination that needed to be cured/retrained.

The drive to “cure” him came from himself and the pulpit, not his parents. He was taught by the church to find causes, and to lay blame.

I accompanied him to some of his “You Can Overcome Your Gayness” meetings and counseling sessions. At that time I accepted some of the theories such ministries pedal that I have since come to reject, such as:

His mother had been too protective. Big big yawn: she was a lovely lady who loved each of her children just right.

• His father too distant. Not! The man was always there, physically and emotionally.

• His parents’ marriage was not a good example. Give me a break. They are one of those inseparable and affectionate couples, even after decades. But those so-called counselors found stones to throw at them anyway.

• His parents rejected him. They most certainly did not. Not over this, and not over anything else. They accepted him before he accepted himself.

• Girls at school had been mean to him and turned him off women. Well what comes first: the boy living a lie, or the girls who can see that?

• He had been introduced/seduced into ‘the lifestyle.’ Or he had known what he wanted since he was six years old, and he was ready when the opportunity came along.

So despite that he had excellent, loving parents, had always felt toward guys the way he did, and that no one had ever “turned him,” he still believed that his sexual inclination was “learned,” and that the right system for “unlearning” them was out there somewhere. I believed in miracles too, so I was also confident that such a system or influence would come along.

Meanwhile, the spark he felt for me never quite grew into a flame. But it was more than he had ever felt for any other female, so he believed that I was part of his answer. He pulled me close emotionally, and then shut me out—and then pulled me back again. What I didn’t know the whole time was that he was also falling off the wagon on a regular basis: gay porn, physical encounters, and even long-term relationships with men.

Throughout it all he continued seeking help from ex-gay ministries, and from the leadership of our own church. He told them everything—and told me nothing. Everyone but I knew what was happening with him. But they wanted him to “succeed,” and they viewed me as one of the routes to that success. So they joined with him in deceiving me. So what if my physical health was at risk from a partner having a string of affairs? So what if they were telling me to stay in a situation that they knew was not what I thought it was? I did not matter to them: they had an ex-gay to save; and I was “just a girl.”

Was I willfully blind with what was happening to him, plain stupid, or a victim of circumstance? I had a good degree from a top university, but it didn’t include courses on detecting a man’s double life. Belonging to a hellfire and brimstone church with organized activities on every holiday limited my opportunities to grow in worldly knowledge at all, much less develop any sort of effective gaydar. And being in a church that was really strict on chastity kept one litmus test out of our lives.

Am I or was I angry with him? Not so much with him. I see us both as victims. But that does bring me to the people with whom I am angry. Every authority figure told me to stay in the relationship. All the books and tracts I was reading (many since discredited) told me to put up with it and stay. I loved him. He told me to go; then he asked me to stay. My conscious mind and emotions were on board; I signed up for staying. My subconscious was stressed but had a hard time getting itself heard.

Eventually he cracked, and told me all that was really happening with him. As I sadly pulled myself out of our relationship, I found no one within my own church who was at all interested in being there for me. There was a general stampede of support for him, while I was clearly considered some sort of failure.

I tried another church for a while, but I was very wounded. This was not the only issue in my life, but eventually I lost my faith and drifted away.

Over time I maintained contact and friendship with my gay ex-boyfriend. For years he was stuck in the pattern of denying his sexuality to himself and others, while indulging it in secret physical binges. Dropped from the ministry, eventually cast out of at least one more church, he persisted in believing about himself that most poisonous of mantras: “Hate the sin but love the sinner.”

Really?

• Hate your blue eyes, but love you.

• Hate your love of classical music, but love you.

• Hate the way you eat, but love you.

• Hate your short legs, but love you.

• Hate your skin tone, but love you.

•Hate your laugh, but love you.

Really?

It took him longer than me to figure out that he was born that way and that there was no changing it. His tragedy was indeed greater than mine. Emotionally, he was stuck in late adolescence/early twenties—the time at which his friends had either accepted themselves and come out, or discovered girls and gotten involved. He could do neither, so he was stuck, stuck, stuck, with both paths into emotional maturity closed to him.

Over the years I revisited and saw in a different light the scriptures that I had been told were so absolute. I added new ones to my understanding. I get it when President Obama says his views evolved; it took a good twenty years for mine to do so. Part of it was questioning which verses mattered in which contexts, and part of it was just observing over time those people that I had met in the ex-gay meetings with my ex-boyfriend. Not one of them was able to keep living the lie for twenty-five years. They wanted to—they really wanted to. But they just could not. Anyone can deny, control and contain their sexuality for a few days, weeks or a couple of months. Some people can keep a lid on it for many months or a few years. But no one can deny the truth about themselves for decades. No one.

Over the years I also watched the man with whom I’d initially been involved. It took him a long time, but as we entered our forties he finally allowed himself to accept the welcome and teachings of a church that accepted him as he is. I was delighted when he finally allowed love into his life—when he declared himself to be in a true partnership, when he came out to everyone. His coming out was hardly news to any of us, of course. We’d all known and accepted him long before he accepted himself.

Ex-girlfriends, boyfriends, and spouses are collateral damage of the “ex-gay” self-appointed counselors and ministries. But that group occupies a poor third place on that podium of misery. At least we “partners” get to pick ourselves up, limp away and put our lives back together.

Second place goes to all the regular fathers and normal mothers who get blamed for their children’s sexual orientation. A double twist of that knife is that many of them are taught to reject their own children. Parents whose children are alienated from them through these bag-of-accusatory-lies ministries do not get to start over with another child.

And the gold medal of pain, of course, goes to the “ex-gays” themselves.

The question I would like to ask pastors and counselors who work in ex-gay ministries is: How would you feel if your own heterosexual child was about to marry someone deemed “ex-gay”?

Would you really believe in that marriage? Would you really be confident that your child was heading into a partnership of honesty, truth, passion and happiness? Would you really feel good about that marriage?

Really?

Speaking of ex-gay ministries: As Exodus’s Alan “Pray Away the Gay” Chambers ties his tongue in a knot …

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Tennessee.Walking.Horse Charley Hall via Facebook

    how many healthy gay couples are born in these?

    • It’s me

      You mean in the ex-gay groups? Well I did see couples starting but they were a long way from mentally healthy. Maybe they could have been good for each other in different circumstances, but while voluntarily attending such groups people are still too messed in their heads to be emotionally available for a real relationship.

  • Susan

    I have a different perspective from hers because my dad was the gay one who went through reparative therapy, and my mom stuck with him all the way, through his anonymous encounters with men in park bathrooms and with men they both knew. If my daughter came to me and said she was going to marry an ex-gay, I’d have one thought: Over my dead body. I saw the pain and uncertainty my mother had for the last 20 years of my dad’s life.

    My feelings about homosexuality have evolved too. Now I think people are born gay. Who would choose to go through that? I remember asking my sister, who is a Christian and a lesbian, how she got around the no-premarital-sex thing, and she said, “Well, I would be married if I could.” Last year she got married in Iowa. I didn’t have any bullets left after that, so I gave up the fight…and it’s a lot easier now:0)

    • Gretchen

      Isn’t it great how much better you feel? I know it is for me and what I know.

      • Susan

        Yes:0)

  • Wesley Wes Thomas via Facebook

    Excellent!

  • Jana Harrison Currier via Facebook

    I’m so glad to see people speaking out about these experiences. Has anyone read the blog “Ashley’s Tiny Crumbs?” She was a member of LDS and she married a man who is gay – they are now happily divorced and best friends.

    • It’s me the letter writer

      THANK YOU so much for the mention of Ashley’s blog. I went there and read it last night. If anyone is interested in hearing more about the misery of a MOM (Mixed Orientation Marriage – a term I learned on her blog) from the spouse’s point of view, it is well worth visiting: http://ashleystinycrumbs.blogspot.com/2012/06/in-which-i-feel-compelled-to-start-blog.html.

      I also learned on her blog that there are straight spouses groups and websites. http://straightspouses.org/ I doubt that I will join – I am very healed and over everything that happened to me but it is really nice to know they are out there for people still going through all this. Guess I was before my time!

  • Brooke

    Absolutely beautifully written, honest without being vindictive (and you could argue she has reason to be so) — this is awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/linnea.sommer Linnea Sommer via Facebook

    There’s a reason these “ex-gay” ministries have been categorized as hate groups.

  • Melody

    Beautiful. I am so glad this man finally came to accept himself as he is–not what fundamentalist churches say he should be. I pray that more young gay men will continue to accept themselves for who they are, and that the lies of homophobes and the ex-gay movement will continue to crumble as they are exposed. God bless you and your friend.

    • Melody

      And gay women, for that matter. People of all ages and sexual orientations, wherever they are in life.

  • http://shadsie.deviantart.com/ Shadsie

    “Hate the sin but love the sinner.”

    Really?

    • Hate your blue eyes, but love you.

    • Hate your love of classical music, but love you.

    • Hate the way you eat, but love you.

    • Hate your short legs, but love you.

    • Hate your skin tone, but love you.

    •Hate your laugh, but love you.

    Really?

    I just wanted to point out that as ridiculous as this sounds (thus used as an example), loads of people *do.* Or, more appropriately, hate themselves becuase of these various things that are an indellible part of them.

    There’s a show I like to watch on NatGeo whenever I get the chance – “Taboo.” It covers topics and ways in various cultures that most people of a modern American/British/Australian mindset would find extreme or, as the title says “taboo”, INCLUDING things present in various subcultures in the West. (A show on religious extremes and self-sacrifice showed an island where people pierce themselves – they also showed snake handlers in Appalachia). One of the recent shows I caught was on “Beauty.” One woman was an American (I think) who kept going in for one breast-enlargement surgery after another and had to have some implants taken out due to a botched surgery and massive infection. She said as soon as she healed, she was going in again – and it clearly wasn’t anything anyone was telling her, it was entirely her own perception of herself. She looked like a cartoon character and still wanted to be bigger. Another person (South American, I think), hated her short legs and so was having systematic surgical breaking of her legs to force the bone to regrow an inch of height.

    Sometimes I hate or at least wonder about indellible parts of me that aren’t as physical just because I get into such depression and insecurity that I sometimes think that “anything that comes from me is shit because it comes from me.” Like I’m this stain on humanity – something that’s made the world worse for being born and existing. Thankfully, I know the source of this is a mental illness/brain chemistry and wiring, so I have the tools to tell those inner voices to shut up at least every once in a while, or at least the gumption to saddle that beast and ride it into the making of creative works. It’s one of those “Knowing is half the battle!” things.

    Human psychology is interseting – we can hate ourselves and try to change each other over a variety of stupid, arbitrary things.

    • Don Rappe

      Saddle that beast and ride it!

  • dan(Chicago)

    Powerful. The straight partner is almost never heard from.

    • vj

      My thoughts exactly… So.Much.Pain.

  • Allie

    Oh, come now, Michelle Bachman has a GREAT MARRIAGE. She’s proof that it’s possible to be married to a closeted gay man and not at all interested in savaging the lives of others to make sure the rest of the world is as miserable as you are yourself!

    Good letter. The telling thing is that to these people, your happiness didn’t matter at all. You were just there to be sacrificed on the altar of normalcy.

    • It’s me

      Thanks Allie,

      That was one of the strongest issues I wanted to share and I was not sure whether it came across or not.

    • W

      Allie, it’s proof that in many fundamentalist churches, we women just don’t matter.

      • vj

        Right? The whole time I was reading her letter, I was thinking “How could decent people treat *her* like this? How is any of this *her* ‘fault’?” The answer, of course, is that her happiness and well-being were less important, simply because she’s a she!!! The blatancy of it just boggles my mind…

      • Jill

        *shaking my head in disbelieving agreement*

        Leaving my fundy church behind @ age 22, and horror of horrors! still single, I can only imagine the narrow scope of opportunities and church privileges that awaited me if I’d stayed. Being raised by a single mom in that church, I think my leaving saved them massive liability! (The feeling is quite mutual.)

  • Jill

    This lovely person’s story–> VERY significant, especially to those not made to fit the cookie-cutter lifestyle of the church. Kinda funny sometimes to think how we’re made in his image at the same time as different as snowflakes.

    A boldly brave and succinct story of the ‘collateral damage’ from the anti-gay wars. But really let’s face it: everyone is a victim when hate and discrimination are still on the menu. But stories shared like this one are what keep moving the conversation toward the realm of compassion and understanding, which is where it all belongs anyway. Consider me gratefully moved by your letter.

  • Kathleen

    Very powerful. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I’m sorry that you and your ex were put through this. You both deserve far, far better.

  • W

    Not long ago, John published an email I wrote him [here] about my newly out child. I mentioned my pride at my child coming out and being authentic , but also fear for him when the religious bigots, including his father, find out.

    One thing I did not mention however, was my belief (and many others belief as well) that my ex-husband is gay. There have been many overwhelming factors that have brought us to this conclusion, and it saddens me that he will never, ever admit who he is. He is so enmeshed in fundamentalism, and being a “macho” man of Christ, that to be anything else would be, in his mind, worse than death.

    He’s never been part of the “ex-gay” movement, but after reading the letter above, I’m struck by so many similarities in behavior.

    I was so angry at him for so many years for the way he treated me and our kids, but lately I’ve been able to step back and see it for what it was – he was, and is, so filled with self-hatred and anger that he lashed out at those he was closest to.

    It angers me that because of the bullshit we were fed in our church about homosexuality being a “sin” and and “abomination”, our whole family suffered.

  • Diana Avery via Facebook

    Self-hate groups–no fun at all.

  • Mindy

    What a poignant story of the reality of this nonsense of hate. Thank you for sharing, and bless you for your strength and resilience. Wow.

  • Kristyn

    This is a wonderful letter. Thanks for sharing. I’m tired of living among Christians who are just keeping up superficial appearances–and demanding that everyone else play their silly little pretend games, too. It’s time we prioritize authenticity and love. Without those, there can be no happiness in life. It’s time we question any religion that obstructs our journey toward them.

    • Diana A.

      Amen!

  • http://www.facebook.com/hannah.givens.9 Hannah Givens via Facebook

    John, have you seen this? The evidence is that orientation can’t be changed, but now apparently they’re not claiming to change it anymore. Response/thoughts? http://alanchambers.org/defining-exodus-letter-from-alan-chambers-for-june-2012/

    • It’s me

      Too funny! Exodus was one of the ministries he/we went through. Twenty five years later it’s the same-old, same-old.

    • http://ingridspeak.com Ingrid Moore

      Ok, so I read the statement and got pissed off! REALLY? So, the response to not being able to change “SSA” is to relegate LBGT folks to loveless lives because the expression of SSA love is a sin? So where are the classes for the liars, fornicators, adulterers, murderers, fat people (gluttony), etc… Because last I checked all of those result from either learned behaviors or personality disorders that could be unlearned, retrained, or medicated, but in thier infinite wisdom they choose the 1 physiological trait that is permanent and try to retrain it. These people are as a box of rocks…

      • Allie

        You have a very good point.

        Unfortunately I can tell you the answer to your question: there aren’t classes teaching us to resist the “sins” that the majority of human beings are faced with, because that might make those people uncomfortable and they might stop donating money. It’s much safer to focus on attacking the behavior of a minority.

    • Lymis

      I may be completely wrong here, and I won’t claim my reading outweighs someone else’s actual experience of any of these groups.

      I don’t know about Exodus specifically, but my understanding was that at the beginning of the movement, a lot of what turned into ex-gay groups weren’t claiming to change orientation – they were using the Alcoholics Anonymous model that same-sex behavior was wrong for them and that they needed to come together as a support community to help afflicted people find ways of living their lives without giving into it.

      It really wasn’t until they sold their souls to the political Right Wing movement and got co-opted by the Moral Majority and Religious Right that any claims of a cure started coming from the larger ex-gay groups, and the public claims shifted from no longer engaging in same-sex behavior to “becoming heterosexual.” Even though that’s what a lot of people, even at the beginning, joined it for, that wasn’t really what some of them were claiming. I’m sure some of them did, right from the start, and any later groups pretty much formed around that idea.

      Either approach is sad and reprehensible, because either approach results in convincing people that who they are is inherently evil and holds out a hope that isn’t realistic.

      But this isn’t really new – it’s just “new again” – and was pretty much inevitable one the political machine decided that it didn’t serve them any more.

      • http://Www.unnameablecuriosity.wordpress.com Christine

        I think part of it is that many of the ex-gay groups have had to face-up to an enormous failure rate. They now need to admit what maybe they always knew – that sexual orientation doesn’t change (some are born with a range, some aren’t, but either way you keep what you came into the world with). In the face of that, “praying away the gay” is just no longer a viable recruitment model. So, many of them have moved to acknowledging that and taking this “new” approach.

        The real insidiousness of this is twofold: they are subtly keeping the “gay is choice mantra” by separataring “SSA” from “gay identified” and they are using “personal choice” (i.e. that of their clients) as a defense for their homophobic views (“it’s not ME that wants this, I’m just helping this poor person with THEIR preferences”). Either of these has the potential to seriously set back the debate on gay rights – you know, for anyone who doesn’t make that particular “choice”.

        • It’s me the letter writer

          I checked the Exodus site – it says that they started in 1976. My contact with them was in the mid 80′s, about 10 years after that. So back then they were brand new in most towns and they did not have a 35 year backlog and history of sexual orientation not actually changing (oops – failure!) like they do today. John’s rebuttal in the next post highlights the same-old, same-old of it all very well.

          To be fair to the unfair, I heard it all but I can’t remember exactly which group was where in their own particular message of pray it away / cast it out / live with it / relearn behaviors / forgive your parents for what they never did in the first place / claim your heterosexual life / whatever…

  • http://www.unchainedfaith.com Amy

    I’ve never been in a relationship with an ex-gay, but I have had friends who went through ex-gay therapy. My first church had an ex-gay ministry. I’m with Susan below, my daughter will marry an “ex-gay” over my dead body. My husband is not yet in the affirming camp (though I believe he is on his way there, he just doesn’t realize it!). Even he has said that he does not believe that people can be “fixed” so they aren’t gay.

    Letter writer, I am so sorry for both you and your former boyfriend. I’m sorry that you both went through so much pain. And I’m sorry that you, as his girlfriend, didn’t receive proper support. There are so many ways that the church manages to marginalize anyone who isn’t a white, “manly,” hetero male. So sad.

  • http://ingridspeak.com Ingrid Moore

    To the letter writer… A resounding AMEN! It appears we are the same-ish age and I know that these ex-gay ministries do not but create men and women on the down low. They create shame where there should be acceptance and hate where there should be love. They make sexual orientation the definition rather than a word in a story, and you are correct they leave the ex-boy/girlfriends, ex-wives/husbands, and the ex-lovers of these “cured” folks to pick up the pieces with no help. Bless you for sharing your story.

  • Liz Dyer via Facebook

    Hannah – I read the letter from Chambers and my perspective is that he is evolving. I hope that he will one day evolve to the point where he realizes that being gay is not wrong and is not a mistake. I imagine that he lives with a lot of shame, fear and pain. Other than that I would just say that no matter how nice his letter sounds Exodus is an organization that I believe is harmful to lgbt people and those who desire and seek justice for them.

    • David S

      I hope you’re right, but I’m sceptical. I think this new position is being forced by proposed legislation in CA that disallows reparative therapy for minors. Are they trying to get ahead of (or evade) limits on their efforts? The language in Chambers’ recent response to that law says something like: we don’t endorse any program with a primary focus of changing orientation…I guess that means that a secondary focus on harming people is OK….

      This latest letter sets out a position that tries to be ambiguous in their beliefs (to not offend any side)…wait, where have I heard that before? Is Andrew Marin now aligned with Alan Chambers?

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=524217229 CDR Charles Franklin, US Navy (retired)

    When I came out to my wife of over 10 years and asked for a divorce, she and the counselor we were seeing wanted me to go to Exodus. By then however, I was over 40 and had tried just about every conceivable way to “become” straight. Nothing had worked, and I could not foresee anything Exodus had to offer making a difference. So I said no and that was that. My story is much more complicated, as I’m sure this one is also. But what I kept waiting for while reading the letter was suicide. I was so relieved to find that the gay man lived . Too many men try reparative therapy and, when it fails, they choose to end their own lives. Thank god, this was not one of them. I uttered a sigh of relief and thought, what a lucky man…even though it took him over 40 years, as it did me, at least he finally got there. Our job now is to find ways to encourage young Christian gay men to feel safe about coming out so that it does not take so horribly long, and with way too many emotional train wrecks along the way.

    • Diana A.

      Yes. This. Exactly. Thank you CDR Franklin.

    • It’s me the letter writer

      Some of the emotional train wrecks and collateral damage can also be undermined and pushed so far that suicide seems like a very logical and reasonable option.

      • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=524217229 CDR Charles Franklin, US Navy (retired)

        Yes, indeed. And I neglected to include you, as well as other straight people in a relationship with someone who is gay. You and they are as likely to feel the crush of lost love which might lead to suicide.

  • Soulmentor

    OMG!!! It choked me up. I relate to her ex so well I was in tears. It could have been MY story. It touched all the bases…….except one. I married at 23. And stayed that way for 23 more, all the while playing the same game her ex did. It was all so wrong and I hurt some very undeserving people, including myself.

    I can’t regret it. That would be to deny the legitimacy of my two fine military officer sons who have been so supportive since high school (now in their 40′s). For them I can’t even say “if I had it to do over…..” How could I do it differently knowing that they would not have happened?! The writer’s comment, “Parents whose children are alienated from them through these bag-of-accusatory-lies ministries do not get to start over with another child”, struck me like a thunderbolt!! What a profound insight.

    I’ve been unsuccessful in life (afraid of success?), crippled emotionally, unable to break the sense of unworthiness drilled into me by the conservative religious liturgy that told me every Sunday, “O Lord, tho I am unworthy……” and re-enforced by the bombardment of social messages we are all too familiar with still. The constant hiding, struggling, resistance to self loathing, relentless confusion mixed with relentless desire….the need for love…..and looking for it in all the wrong places; the unforgiving knowledge of living a lie every waking moment and every moment of sex with my wife……..

    It all crashed, like the letter writer’s ex-boyfriend, in my early 40′s. Divorce, bitterness and resentments on both sides, her alcoholism and violence and public, nasty, humiliating verbal slurs in her futile attempts to cope and finally (got so my sons couldn’t invite friends to our home), the knife to my gut that a son had to come between. “It’s time to go, dad”, one of them said. Not in anger toward me, just a recognition of reality.

    Since then I’ve had three partners. Lost the first after a year to his alcoholism and inability to commit, the second after 8 years to the dark hole of fundie Orthodox Catholicism and the joys of suffering and self-denial (he was raised Catholic and never could resolve his conflicts), and the third after 3 years to a richer younger man, which I encouraged because he was, at the time, “Marilyn Manson” to my “Andrea Bocelli”!! (he remains a dear friend).

    And that’s all I have now. Alone, retired on a minimal SS I can’t live on without pt work, and that one friend (because I never learned how to have friends without sex, except with him now who is more like a son to me).

    Oh, and the equivalent of a Masters Degree in my head on the subject of gays and religion and society and politics because all that self-study was my survival mechanism. My bookshelf is impressive.

    And Jesus, from that nite by the river when, alone in tears after bar time, I looked up and said, “Just you and me now. If I’m wrong, stop me.” He never did. And it has since occurred to me that if I was/am indeed “unworthy” (of what, Love?) then Jesus was a deluded fool to die for it.

    I haven’t been to a church in maybe 10 years. The impulse is just gone. Almost didn’t even go to my mother’s funeral. She died thinking I’m going to hell. Dad’s gone too , since. I never knew what he thought. We never talked…….about anything. Staid old German upbringing. By the time I was in my 40′s and decided it was up to me to break the barriers, I discovered I didn’t care anymore. I never knew an expression of love or affection from him until I showed up at my mother’s funeral. He cried and hugged me for the first time in my life (I was early 50′s) because they all knew I might not. I DID change all that with my sons. In that, I was successful.

    Yeah, I know, sounds like a suicide candidate, but not to worry. I’ve adjusted to my reality. I still dream of love. I refuse to give up on that. To give up on Love is to start dying.

    Now I need to get some lunch.

    • Jaz

      Soulmentor,

      Your realness is sobering. I can see Jesus all over your walk. No doubt He is with you.

    • DR

      You are such a lovely, interesting and powerful presence. You’ve touched me with your comments more than once, but this one has staying power. Thank you.

    • Michael Stuber

      Keep sharing your story.

      Your sons sound amazing.

  • Erin D.

    This testimony spoke to me on such an elemental level. The idea that people who are trying to escape their gay ‘tendencies’ are stuck in suspended adolescence while everyone else grows up, learns and marches on with their lives—what a fascinating perspective. The challenge question at the end is one that should not be overlooked—we need to keep asking this question. Because it matters. And people’s reaction to it matters. They will blink, flinch, stammer—and we will know the truth. And they will know we know the truth. And it will be done in such an inoffensive way, just by asking a simple question. Brilliant.

  • otter

    This letter writer makes the point I have made in many letters to the editor , when responding to those written by the rump-chapeaux who claim we should just go straight.

    The idiocy ! If they vote so that we can’t marry each other, who else WOULD we marry? Sometimes I think common sense is getting so rare it will soon be a super power…….

    • Diana A.

      You’re right. About the common sense thing in particular, but the rest is true as well.

  • Matt Eagleton

    Great courage. Awesome letter.

    Not sure if you have heard what’s going on in Australia but it all sounds very similar. Currently, there is a film circulating Australia called “The Cure”.

    “The Cure” is an independent hour length documentary on faith and sexuality, specifically exploring Australian ex-gay ministries that claim to ‘heal’ homosexuality – fascinating movie!

    Details here http://exgayaustralia.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/cure-documentary-trailer.html

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Yeah, Hannah, thanks for showing me this. I answered it a bit via my latest post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hannah.givens.9 Hannah Givens via Facebook

    Yep, I saw the post. Thanks! My mom likes to post anti-gay things at me on FB and I like to have things to post back.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Yikes. Sorry to hear about your mom.

  • Gordon

    Thank you for honoring us with your story, Soul.

    • Gordon

      Sorry…this was supposed to be a reply to Soulmentor’s post below. Darn tablet!

      This profound letter has really touched me very deeply. I sent it to my ex-wife. She called me and we talked and cried. I never got involved in a formal ex-gay ministry because my fundie Baptist church took care of that for me. I lived in a tiny little coastal town in Oregon and was taught from a very early age by the other kids that being a sissy or a homo was just about the most despicable thing you could ever be. Because of that peer pressure and the teaching I got at church, I hid my sexuality from myself and everyone else until I was in my early 30′s. Part of that hiding included marrying a wonderful girl. We were only 19 years old! Everything about our relationship was great except for one thing: I am gay. I’m not bisexual. I’m gay.

      When I couldn’t stand the guilt and torment of this double life anymore I started thinking about suicide. It honestly seemed like the best thing for me and my wife. And, right about this time my wife put her foot down about starting a family. We had been married for over ten years and she didn’t want to wait anymore. What saved me was going to a psychotherapist and finally opening up and talking to another person about who I really was and I what I was doing. It took me several months, but I finally sat down with my wife and told her I was gay. I hope to God that is the hardest thing I ever have to do. It broke her heart.

      The wreckage that is left behind this ridiculous obsession most Christian churches and their followers have about sexuality is incalculable. My wife and I were able to navigate our way through it and we remain very close friends more than 20 years later. She is the most loving and forgiving person I have ever known. She also believes that all things work together for our good and that we met, married and divorced for a reason. One of those reasons is that she left the fundie Christian world and began her own spiritual journey. She went to seminary is now the minister of a Unity church. Me? I still struggle with the guilt around what happened. She never remarried and never had any children.

      Anyway, this letter was one of the best descriptions of the absurdity of ex-gay teaching and the damage they do to gays and the people who love them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hannah.givens.9 Hannah Givens via Facebook

    Yeah, me too. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/gordon.herzog Gordon Herzog via Facebook

    John, where do you find these cool pictures? This one is great.

  • Jeff

    Didn’t go through ex-gay stuff, but I relate very strongly to this since I was in such powerful denial for a long time and then suffered brutal rejection by my family when I stopped (we speak and visit, but that whole part of me is never discussed or acknowledged; in some ways it’s worse than being in the closet). Particularly being emotionally “caught” in the past. I’m starting to slowly break away, but from time to time the cost of what I’ve lost catches up to me, and it’s all I can do to put one foot in front of the other. Those times are growing fewer, but no less painful. I spent a long time nursing rage and bitterness over it, until that nearly killed me in other ways.

    I wish them both all the love, healing and joy their lives can withstand.

  • Aristomedes

    As a gay man, my heart goes out for you and all the others who have suffered so much. Do not blame yourself for what happened, you did the best you could with a level of knowledge insufficient to comprehend what was being done to you. The church leaders treated you as a whore, essentially, as a disposable person to be discarded after use. You are right to feel great anger towards them; but for your own sake do not let it ruin your life. You seem to have a lot more going for yourself, especially in that you are willing to do the hard work to educate yourself way beyond what was originally given you. If it is your desire, I hope you find (or better, have found) someone suitable for you and go on to a wonderful life.

    I was fortunate to have wonderful parents who adopted me as an infant. I was born in the way-way-back of 1948. I can’t say that I had any attraction sexually to others before I was 10; I was an introspective, bookish child. But at puberty, it was pretty quickly clear to me that what I wanted as my “special friend, with whom I could share all of my delights”, was a boy. Later, in High School, I dated a beautiful, bright young lady, and really hoped my same-sex attraction was just a (lengthy by then) phase, as I could well imagine her as a life-mate “if only” sexual attraction would just happen. But it didn’t, and finally in college I met other gay men furtively peeking out of the woodwork, and had people I could talk with and explore my feelings.

    As soon as I was clear that it wasn’t a phase, I came out to my parents, and told my girlfriend (and her parents, who were wonderful people, too). She did get married later, and is the mom of two sons. I am just so thankful I didn’t do her any harm, because she certainly didn’t deserve to be ill-treated. In fact, I just might have saved her from some harm if she had dated other boys who might have tried to take advantage of her before she was ready to cope with such. I was a date who respected her, and we had nice times together.

    In any case, sorry to go on so long, but I do feel some resonances in our lives and wanted to share them. The very best to you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Wow. Thanks for this powerful testimony, Arist. beautiful.

  • Sheilaugh

    I’m confused. How was your health at risk?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      If the person you’re sleeping with is sleeping with others, your health is at risk.

      • John

        That’s obvious, but it should also be obvious that pre-marital sex is a no-no in fundamentalist churches, so it seems like there was more going on than the writer of this letter is willing to admit.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Yes, she’s obviously hiding something. How dare she.

          Sheesh, buddy.

          Man, people can find stuff to complain about.

          • Libby

            You don’t have to have sex to catch an STD orally (hello, sex ed). And, at least in my fundamentalist upbringing, kissing wasn’t off-limits (as long as it didn’t go any further than that). So, whether they were or were not having sex, her health was at risk.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            exactly.

          • Diana A.

            And even if all they were doing during their courtship was holding hands, it’s still clear that the church was encouraging them in marriage while knowing full well that he had engaged in sex outside of their relationship–and some of those STDs have a long shelf life.

        • Gordon

          The letter writer is not required to give us a full accounting of her physical relationship with her boyfriend. It’s none of our business. And to speculate about it is sort of creepy.

          She loved the guy and was put through hell and treated pretty awful as a result. That’s the point of her extremely eloquent letter to John.

          • Diana A.

            You’re absolutely right. The point you’ve just made is extremely apt.

        • It’s me the letter writer

          I needed to condense it down an essay here; could not write a detailed multi chapter biography. I loved him and wanted to get married. The church leaders wanted to be able to stamp a big old ‘Success!’ all over his situation, so they were pushing marriage (can we say ‘chattel’?) and he wanted to be ‘normal’, with marriage as the ultimate goal. So, we were all talking about ‘aiming towards’ a marriage which would have put me in bed with a man with multiple partners. That is why I say they were unconcerned about my physical health. And my emotional health. And my spiritual health.

          • Gordon

            The lack of concern anyone had for you, your well being and your safety is really staggering. All I can say is that I’m really sorry this happened and I am SO glad you didn’t marry that tortured soul of a man. I know him well. xoxo

  • http://laughingpastor.blogspot.com blake spencer

    Beautifully and powerfully written. Thank you so much for sharing this letter. In my coming out process I discovered the abuse I’ve encountered in the church….though it is not nearly as destructive as this letter shares….it was and is still a source of pain. And yet I not only remain in the church….I continue to be a minister. My calling is to remain is to remain in the chruch….but to be honest with myself and others how dreadful the church has been to the LGBTQ community. So I share my story, I offer unconditional hospitality and grace and I stand in the face of continued judgement and condemnation.

    The church has a lot of forgiving to do. The church has a lot of hospitality to offer.

    Thank you again….

    for the courage to write these words.

  • dan(chicago)

    This letter keeps coming to the front of my mind. I could so easily have been that guy, though my church was likely too homophobic for some of this to play out as it did for the writer and her friend. I do remember the constant pressure to marry that single men faced in the church. I also remember the pastor preaching from the pulpit that as far as he was concerned, the only reason for a man to remain single was if he was physically deformed(war injury to the groin), or he had decided to become a eunoch(castration anyone?). The crowd always loved it when the pastor got sassy, and they were all over this one.

    It wasn’t all about sexuality, though there was always speculation about the sexuality of long time single people. Marriage is a very efficient way to tie people to the church. It’s pretty hard to leave or change your mind once you are married to the daughter of a deacon.

  • SheaSheaSharee

    I find that this letter sheds a lot of light on a great many truths about the church. I have always found it interesting how people love to focus on another’s sins and try to “cure” them of these sins when having a closet full themselves. I personally do not agree with the lifestyles of those who are gay; however, I would never force my views or beliefs on another individual. Nor would I judge them, try to alienate them, steal away rights, or treat them any less than any other human being deserves. Personally I find that I have too many of my own sins to deal and contend with than to worry about another’s. Would I be available to listen and be a friend, yes…absolutely! I find it even sadder than the church felt that it was their mission to “cure” this man and failed to see all the harm and sins they were committing with their behavior in the matter. I will personally be so happy when Jesus walks the earth again and puts a lot of people in their rightful places.

    • Gordon

      Being gay is not a sin. Period. Dot. It is a random genetic trait. It is not a “lifestyle”.

      Once you figure that out, you won’t have to hurt your arm patting yourself on the back for being so tolerant. I know you and some others here will probably think I’m being too harsh, but as a garden-variety gay man I am offended when somebody boasts about how open-minded they are at the same time they say they don’t approve of me and that they are too focused on their own “sins” to focus on my “sins”. My sexuality is not a sin.

      Period. Dot.

      • SheaSheaSharee

        First of all Gordon to apologize that you confused my meaning of sin to automatically assume I was speaking about being gay; however, that was not at all the case. I was referencing the lying which to me is a great sin and just destructive to people and our lives in general. Second I am not going to back down by saying that I don’t agree or have the same views regarding being gay that you have, but this is true about a number of things. In fact you will find in life people do not always agree or see eye to eye. Period. Dot. However my point in my post was to show that despite me not agreeing does not mean I have a hatred or want to condemn anyone and I do not understand anyone who feels the need to do so. We can all disagree and still should be able to live in harmony, peace, and love. I am sorry that you are offended, but if you spend your life being offended by people with differences of opinions than yours then you will be offended just about every second of everyday because people disagree all the time about various of things not just about being gay. I am too focused on my own sins as well as my own life to try to spend my time hating and destroying others. Also I do not pat myself on the back for being human, I just try to love and consider my friends and family I meet through this love as my reward. Perhaps you should not be so quick to be harsh because someone has a difference of opinion.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          But your “opinion,” Shea, is a long, long way from benign. You believe that being gay is, in and of itself, a sinful affront to God. That ignorant, hateful lie destroys thousands of lives every single goddamn day.

        • Gordon

          This isn’t a difference of opinion. Facts are not opinions. Is a racist misogynistic man who believes black women are inferior to him expressing an opinion? Of course not. Is someone who “disagrees” with black people marrying white people just expressing their right to their own opinion? No. Once a person accepts the FACT that being gay is genetic and not some “lifestyle choice” all of the justification for your “not agreeing with the lifestyles of those who are gay” simply dissolves. Your position no longer makes any sense. It never did, actually. Just like when one realizes no race and no gender is superior to another illuminates the vile, hateful and murderous evil of racism and misogyny.

          You have inadvertently exposed something in yourself that is most certainly a lifestyle choice: You have chosen to not approve of gay people being gay. You’ve covered that ugly thing with creepy candy-coating in what you call “not judging,” trying not to alienate us, not stealing away our rights or treating us any less than any human deserves. Well, thanks a lot. We sure do appreciate that.

          • SheaSheaSharee

            Again when the hell have I stated why I do not agree with begin gay. iIt has nothing to do with my religious beliefs because I don’t presume to speak for God as everyone eLse does, I speak for me. And there are millions of gotdamn mistruths with religious people that ruin livrs gayes are not the only ones suffering because of this. Now if you would prefer I lie or become hateful towards people I don’t agree with I can work on that but I refuse to change me or my thoughts simply because you want it your way or no way. Sorry that is bullshut and if what I sad hurt someone then that is pretty sad and they need to develop a thicker skin and better understanding.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Wow.

          • Gordon

            Yeah…I think I’ll stop here. I don’t think our decks have the same number of cards. Peace be unto you.

  • janeann

    My opinion is that sexual orientation is largely genetic, although I have one Christian friend who believes it can be “cured” or “arrested.” After reading this article, the takeaway I leave with is whether she’d want her own daughter to marry a “cured” gay male. If she were honest, she’d say, ‘no’ and we’d all know why.

    JA

  • Guy Norred

    just wow–


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