Ask Me I Dare You: Part 1

In a recent post I asked you to ask me anything you were wondering. You can see it here. So far there are 12 questions, with a few others I’ve complied from previous posts. From here on out I am going to start chipping away at them once a week. The first question was asked by Dave Foreman:

How you approach the hatred of “ex-gays” by many in the GLBT community? I certainly don’t buy into much of what those kind of ministries sell, but I DO buy into the right of the individual to investigate whatever avenues of help they so choose. I went through such counseling. Understand, I no longer consider myself gay, or ex-gay. Certainly not “straight.” I ran across the term “Spouseosexual” which seems to most fit me. Problem is, everyone (both sides) want clear-cut labels. Life’s not that simple. Anyway, your comments would be greatly appreciated.
Again, much love to you.

Thanks for your question Dave. Here you go:

When it comes to “change”, that could take on many forms: from the traditional understanding of behavior modification all the way to emotional or relational or spiritual or psycho-social means of general mental health. The problem with this back-and-forth surrounding gay Christians/GLBT community vs. ex-gay occurs because of the human need for clear-cut labeling—such is the life of living here on earth. Socially constructed boxes by majority cultures placing them upon minority cultures got us here in the first place. And that is the bulk of what I am trying to do through my work, deconstruct those labels and replace them with a biblical context of a validated faith, life and journey.

There is a very real, and very clear hatred of ex-gays by many in the GLBT community. And yes, I do believe that hatred is the right word! I have experienced a distain like few other things in this life than the hatred of ex-gay people and its movement coming from gays and lesbians. From a socio-political standpoint, and even from a wide variety of GLBT individuals that I know, they look at ex-gay people as fakes, sell-outs, liars, and as weak people who just want to conform to cultural norms. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from gay folks that “there is no such thing as an ex-gay!” My approach then, is to understand and work off of their paradigm of engagement, and then try to work towards a more wholistic understanding of free will and change to diffuse a lot of the name-calling and invalidation; which I see as the root of the problem, and therefore, your question.

I was told once by an ex-gay person: “It’s not free will unless you have the ability to go in the other direction.” So true! This person was coming from a traditional understanding of a sexual ethic, and used this sentence to argue for the right to be an ex-gay (or to even pursue that as a valid option) despite what many in the gay community think and feel. But what I said back to this person was: “I totally agree, it’s not free will unless you have the ability to go in the other direction. But wouldn’t that, then, also apply for a gay Christian? It’s free will, and gay Christians also have the right to be gay Christians. Therefore just as you don’t want to be invalidated in your ability to move in another direction; don’t invalidate someone else’s journey just the same. And the more you do, the more this argument and personally hurt feelings will never cease.

There is a HUGE invalidation pandemic running rapid in the culture war between the Church and the gay community. Each side is trying their darndest to prove their way is the overarching generalizable means of living; and they advocate for their way by saying the other group is an impossibility. But that is not a true statement, no matter how you look at it. If there is even one person, in any direction, that claims to be a certain way, than that is truth to their belief and journey no matter how many on the “other side” want to disprove it.

The root of truth in this situation says, If only one says they have overcome their same-sex attractions and are straight, or that only one says they believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior and have a same-sex attraction and are GLBT, or that only one says I’m not gay, but I’m sure not straight, or only one says they have a same-sex attraction but choose to be married to a person of the opposite sex; than that is not only their truth, but also the true existence that such a person does exist and should be validated for that existence whether you/someone agrees or disagrees.

I have found that explanation, one that consists of a logical argument of change and free will, has worked quite well in helping folks have a broader understanding of knowing their own journey in relation to others—and how that effects not only their place in the culture war, but individual relationships as well.

What do you all think of this argument and my explanation?

Much love.

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  • “…they look at ex-gay people as fakes, sell-outs, liars, and as weak people who just want to conform to cultural norms.”

    It seems like what you’re getting at is that we all have the right to go on our individual journey while having our humanity remain intact. It’s interesting how both of the fringes see a person as “giving up” if they make one decision or another. Conservatives see Christians who are struggling as “giving in” or “giving up” should they decide to live as a gay Christian. Likewise, as you mentioned, the GLBT community can see those who want to be ex-gay as sellouts and weak people. The fringes only want to grant others their personhood if they make a decision that agrees with their beliefs…

    That kind of talk treats people’s lives as part of a game, or the culture war that you talk about. It fails to acknowledge that we each deserve to be treated as humans, not as pawns or points in a larger battle.

  • Thanks for your thoughts on this subject Andrew.

    I totally agree with you that the GLBT community hates those of us who are “ex-gay” … even though I personally hate that label. It seems that while the gay community wants to be recognized as people and not statistics, they don’t necessarily want to give these same “rights” to people who no longer consider themselves gay.

    I also agree that people are free to choose which direction to go in life: if a person wants to be gay, they have the free will to do so; and if a person wants to be “ex-gay”, they have the free will to do that as well. Likewise, I agree that neither side can negate the existence of the other.

    Though, in reading what you wrote and in trying to grasp a firm understanding, I have to ask: does our experiences override Biblical truth, or does Biblical truth override our experiences?

    I am not necessarily talking about the Big Six passages that refer to homosexuality, but I am talking about passages that call us to deny ourselves and follow after Christ, to live a transformed life, to pursue God’s Identity over our own; foundational principles that all Christians are called to adhere to.

    Just because we live life to our liking and free will, doesn’t mean that we are living in accordance to God’s Word. Just because it “feels” right doesn’t mean that it is right. I am I wrong in this thinking?

  • Seth

    Uh-oh, I’ve gotten lost in the argument and the explanation!

    I do agree that we must end the name-calling, and recognize how much damage we cause by our need to deploy labels. We need to recognize each other as created in the image of God, and as such, highly valuable. Sometimes I think we forget this (early and often for me, I’m afraid–especially when I’m behind the wheel!) and get off on the wrong foot as we approach our disagreements.
    I also think it’s a good idea to validate each other’s experiences whenever we can. The practice of validating–and it takes some discipline to do it well–makes room for a wide range of experiences as we tell our respective stories. But I don’t think this process lends itself to any kind of logical argument that can be proven or disproven. It’s just how we experience it.
    Let me think some more on this and post again shortly!

  • Kristy

    Well the term ex-gay is partly to blame. To be honest I have no problem with gay people who have chosen to live a straight lifestyle and identify as straight because that is of course their choice. The idea of ex-gay though gives the impression that all the gay people out there who haven’t changed just haven’t tried hard enough. If someone can choose to be ex-gay then surely the other side of that is that people choose to be gay or at least to stop being gay? I think a more accurate description is that someone may choose to stop identifying as gay and living a gay lifestyle just as they may have originally chose to come out and embrace the opposite.

    The other problem I have is the idea of same sex attraction as opposed to gay or lesbian. When I walk into a church and start hearing about overcoming SSA it feels as if I am being told that I don’t really exist. The complexities of my sexuality and feelings as a lesbian is reduced to a little bit of uncontrolled lust or leftover issues from childhood which is really what the idea of SSA is. Ex-gay often gives the impression that people who are still gay are somehow broken or messed up and to be honest that is just disrespectful as well as ignorant of research which has said again and again that homosexuality is not an illness than can be cured.

    I think that may have a lot more to do with why so many people hate ex-gays. It’s not the fact that they are living a straight lifestyle. It’s more the attitude of superiority and “I have overcome my issues and chosen the right path unlike you”. All ex-gays may not be like this but those are the negative connotations associated with the idea.

  • Sonnie Swenston

    I have layers and layers of reaction to this but I’ll just share a few points. My perspective is that of one Christian lesbian.

    While I don’t completely deny that someone can experience sexual fluidity, I do think that just the identification with the term “ex-gay” has meaning. If I were to become a vegetarian, I would call myself such, and not an ex-meat eater. By using “ex-gay,” there is a focus on (and therefore an empowering of) gayness; most of the people identifying as such with whom I have spoken cannot honestly call themselves straight or heterosexual. Thus, it is a kind of self-denial of their transformation.

    My other point is that I do not hate individuals who are going through or who have gone through this process, even while I doubt it’s legitimacy. I do, however, strongly object to – yes, hate – the evangelical fervor that is part of Exodus and other such “ministries.” Their denial is that I have problems and factors to be “overcome,” and by doing so I, too, can become part of their “ex-gay” club. I am firmly convinced by both my life experiences and my faith journey that God created me just as I am: and I am a healthy, whole same-gender-loving person, a lesbian. Without one plea.

  • Kara

    I guess, Andrew, for me it comes down to a definition of terms. I fully support everyone’s right to live in the manner that makes them feel most at peace with God. I support everyone’s right to not identify with labels that make them feel uncomfortable. In theory, I don’t even have a problem with someone claiming that they are personally no longer attracted to the same gender. (That would be extremely surprising, but not offensive, to me.)

    However, as a lesbian who spent years praying and working futilely for change because I believed God required that of me, I do have a problem with the ex-gay movement. “Change is possible.” At least for me, it really isn’t. The implication that God requires this of gay people is prevalent. I have no hate or dislike of individual ex-gays, and don’t want to invalidate anyone’s life experience. But so often the idea is used to club gays who believe God made them gay, wants them gay, over the head. It’s presented as the ideal. And that does bother me.

    I don’t really believe we have free will regarding our sexual orientation, any more than we do height or handedness or skin tone. We have free will over our behavior, and I respect the behavioral choices made by self-identified ex-gays and happily-still-gays. But when anyone claims or suggests that I could change “if I really wanted to,” I get ticked.

    I guess in summary, I don’t care what anybody does or doesn’t do in their own lives, it’s when they use that to make claims about the reality of mine that we have a problem. And unfortunately, the ex-gay movement makes those kinds of claims a lot.

  • WackyWilliams

    I personaly don’t dislike either position being presented but I do admit I have some issues with the term “ex gay” like many people have already pointed out it seems like it’s something you just stop doing, but the way I look at it & please correct me if you dissagree is like I am a recovering alcaholic & drug addict, I’m not a ex drinker & drugger, I still have cravings but I choose to or not to act on those on a daily bases, I still have a addictive personality whether I act on it or not & have to deside dayly what I will do. so the way I understand it it’s not whether your “reformed” but wether you feel compelled at that moment to act on those desires & weather you see a reson not to or not. thanks for letting me put in my two cents if it’s worth that much.

  • Andrew: I don’t think that most gay people really hate ex-gay people. Some might see the effort as a form of delusion based on past experiences, but hatred? Most of the anger that I’ve seen is really directed towards churches and politicians and professional ex-gays who use the examples of certain people who’ve graduated from these programs as political ammunition against gay people’s political rights, as well as own place in the church. That’s concerns and mistrust against religious industry, not individuals.

    I don’t doubt that there are some people who were in same-sex relationships or who have same-sex attractions who are now in opposite-sex relationships. I know people like this and I don’t have a problem with them. The one woman that I’m currently thinking of off the top of my head who’s like this, I have no clue how she self-identifies (ex-gay? bisexual? straight? ???), but she’s respectful of my life journey and my family and I’m respectful of hers and I like her husband. I also like her ex-partner and her wife, and all of their kids. Their relationship didn’t work out and this is the reality of their lives. What’s to hate about that?

    I do have a problem with ex-gay individuals who share their story with me and then repeatedly attempt to initiate faux psycho-analysis on me. I have a problem with local churches that push mentally ill/chemically addicted/spiritually seeking gay men into marriages with the expectation that everything will be better for them (real life experience involving two separate female clients of mine). I have problems with gay parents who create children with other women and then suddenly become ex-gay and access Christian legal services to cut out the non-biological parents of the family.

    I also really dislike it when ex-gay spokespeople go on television and talk about how they slept around a lot and how they abused drugs and how they were sexually abused or abusive and then turn around and claim that *I* do those things because that’s what gay people are like.

  • Great thoughts! Here are some of mine regarding what you’ve all said:

    Josh – We all deserve better than we’re given in most cases. I feel that things such as these injustices in a journey can be so easily fixed without much effort, that is pains me when I see folks from both ends doing the same stuff to each other while calling foul.

    Shawn – The Bible makes clear that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:5-13). I agree with you fully, that just because something feels right (emotionally, physically, etc) doesn’t mean it’s biblical. My understanding of formulating a belief is Bible, then some other stuff, then experiences. You can see a post I wrote on that here:

    With that said, I believe that in working towards “trying to understand worldview”, the denying yourself (especially when talking about sexuality) to Christ means one thing to one group of folks, and a totally different to another. This is seen in statements by Kara and a few others. So through Kara or Sonnie’s comments, since it doesn’t look like any conservative person is going to convince them to ‘overcome’ SSA, my question is, what do conservative believing folks do, then, in regards to the medium of engagement with the Kara’s and Sonnie’s of the world? That is the big question, and one that is very closely tied to Dave’s original question. What do we do? Not push them further away, as we have in the past, and learn to peacefully and productively engage in relationship is a good starting point from my perspective. God doesn’t only work when we know what the outcome is going to be.

    Kristy – I absolutely love your comment, and think the Church needs to read this because in this case, perception is reality. That doesn’t mean that all conservative folks think one way (just as it doesn’t mean all GLBT do either), but sometimes we can get lost in the generalizations that both the majority left and majority right love to propagate. I appreciate your talking about the ‘complexities of your sexuality.’

    Sonnie – It’s that darn term! I couldn’t agree more with what you had to say. I 100% believe people have every right to their belief system to seek out living in such a way that aligns with a traditional interpretation of Scripture. I think the biggest problem is that some Christians seem to be compiling ex-gay folks to politically use them as a pawn for behavior modification instead of a valid child of God on a journey…that’s what really gets to me.

    So here’s my question (not to be snotty, but just because I REALLY want to help change this problem), if not “ex-gay” what would be a better name for people who see themselves in such a way? Thanks!

    Kara – I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your delineation of terms and its impact. Thank you so much! I will be referring to your comment often in future discussions.

    Jon – Wow. Yes, this is true. The hatred doesn’t come for the people, but for the “churches and politicians and professional ex-gays who use the examples of certain people who’ve graduated from these programs as political ammunition against gay people’s political rights, as well as own place in the church. That’s concerns and mistrust against religious industry, not individuals.” As to your other thoughts – it’s like I was told quite often by my gay friends about Christians: “We’re not your project.”

  • Kara

    Andrew – Regarding the idea of looking for a new term, other than “ex-gay”: how about “straight”? Or, if that’s inaccurate for an individual, “non-practicing/celibate gay”. Or just celibate, if there’s an aversion to any use of the word gay, even in reference to non-behavioral matters.

    It is a difficult question, but I think it’s important to take the emphasis off of what they aren’t identifying with, and find a way to put it on what they are identifying with. Then the term would only be speaking to their personal experiences, and not playing them against mine and my LGBT friends’.

  • Kara,

    How about “post-gay”? 🙂

    But seriously, two reflections on the comments so far (as Andrew’s asked me to chip in). Firstly, one of the key issues is to validate each others stories, and that goes both ways. Some GLBT need to recognise and affirm that some people do see orientation change, and that orientation change does happen through processes like reparative therapy. Equally though, some conservatives need to recognise that individuals’ sexualities are unique complex things and what might work for one person will not for another; the advocating of a particular developmental paradigm which fits all gay people is just ridiculous and is demeaning to the individuals involved.

    Secondly, I’ve done a lot of writing and thinking on how the current bi-polar model of sexuality and romanticism has permeated even the church and distorted our view of what healthy godly Biblical sexuality is really about. Many Christians have an unhealthy fear of the idea of two men loving each other, but we just need to read the story of David and Jonathan to see what Biblical friendship is about. The issue of course is about sexual practice, but we have so enmeshed the two (love and sex) that we cannot distinguish them in many cases.

    Here’s something I wrote a while back to get you thinking:

    We enter relationships far less on the basis of whether, on consideration, they will be socially, intellectually and emotionally beneficial to us; we enter relationships often because we are hot for the person we are now connected to. Sex has been moved from that thing which seals the contract of marriage to that thing which has no relationship whatsoever with the contract of marriage. It is the mainstay of consideration around relationships, the one factor that is always present and assumed to be so. The moment one begins going out with someone, one is making judgements as to when sex will happen. The first night? After a few weeks? A few months? And why not make such considerations, because the reason you went out with them in the first place was because they were attractive.

    And this way of thinking has become predominant in the church as well. Even in solidly conservative churches, the single men and women discuss who they fancy and why. We glorify heterosexual attraction and we celebrate it’s consummation in marriage. Boy meets girl, boy and girl are Christian so they heroically keep their pants on till the wedding night when boy and girl, finally married, now get to have it off and undertake the activity whose desire has been present in their relationship from the beginning, because he asked her out as he thought she was hot.

    And while that may be a caricature, it’s a good caricature. We use the language of heterosexuality to describe our relationships says Mills, and then we justify eventual sexual union on the basis of “well I’m a boy who fancies her and she’s a girl who fancies me”. And this seems all very well, but then say Mills, then we meet our gay friend who says “well I’m a boy who fancies him and he’s a boy who fancies me”, and all of a sudden we declare that sexual desire isn’t the be all and end all of relationships, that while heterosexual desire is a justification for entering into a life-long union, homosexual desire can never be. And our gay friends look at us as though we’re bigotted homophobes who want the sauce for the goose but not for the gander.

    And they’re right aren’t they?

  • Kara

    Peter – It’s still focusing on what they don’t see themselves as. And, IMO, it still carries this connotation that if someone were given a choice, choosing to be straight would be better. I may be a little bit sensitive on this one, for fair warning. But the “‘whatever’-gay” terminology, to me, conveys a “Thank goodness that’s over with, cause, y’know, it’s bad,” feel to it.

    And, uh, I don’t really plan to recognize or affirm a thing about “reparative” therapy. I know too many people who’ve been deeply and permanently scarred by it. I’ll happily note that I am not the arbiter of anyone’s sexuality, and if someone identifies as straight, I won’t question that. But the therapy itself, from a scientific standpoint, doesn’t work. There’s not a single sign that it does a thing, other than make a lot of people miserable.

    This post sums up my personal stance; I fully understand and respect that there are others walking different path. But arguments about what’s possible aside, I think it’s important to look at the messages being sent through our word choices about what’s desirable. (I’m not saying my path as expressed in Anita’s post is more desirable, but I do think it should be equally respected as not undesirable.)

  • Mark Russell

    As a gay Christian, I TOTALLY understand the hatred the LGBT community has towards the whole “ex gay” moviement. As you mentioned in your amazing book, Andrew, the CORE essense of the “ex gay” moviement is that ANYONE that is gay is “damaged goods” or “something is TERRIBLY wrong with them emotionally & sexually”. And the “ex gay” groups push the stupid propaganda that ALL gay people are gay because of emontionally-absent fathers & overbearing mothers.

    Let’s just examine that ludicrous thought. As many fathers are “emotionally-absent” and many mothers are “overbearing”, the statistics of people turning out gay would be MUCH higher than the 2%-5% of the population that is considered gay. The statistic would more likely be at around 70% of the world population would be GAY.

    Let’s examine this stupid thought even MORE further. Let’s say that that asserion IS true (that people turn gay because of absent fathers & smothering mothers), then it is NOT the gay person’s fault that they’re gay. But….according to the “ex gay” groups, these poor souls have to spend the REST OF THEIR LIVES trying to “go straight” and/or stay celibate until the day they die. It’s all so haertbreraking & damaing.

    Having spent 3 years in an “ex gay” ministry myself, I can say with enar certainty that hardly anyone EVER becomes “ex gay”. Yes, they can get married to members of the opposite sex. Yes, they can deny or denouce their their same-sex attraction. But…hardly anyone is “healed” of being gay. I know of a former leader of an “ex gay” group who’s been married to someone of the opposite sex for a few years. This particular person said (after getting married) that they have to think of men when they’re having sex with their wife. Now, I SURELY would NOT call that healing. That’s living an INauthentic life. That’s living a life in complete denail. It’s a total shame what “ex gay” groups are doing….by offering “false hope” to such vulnerable people (who are SO desperately .looking for answers).

    I heard it said recently that “ex gay” groups should be sued for consumer fraud. I tend to agree with that comment……

  • Bryan

    Kara said: “Regarding the idea of looking for a new term, other than “ex-gay”: how about “straight”?”
    That was my first thought also.

    My anti-identity would be ex-straight,texan, doesn’t say anything about who I am.

    Through the my Exodus experience, I learned that one can suppress sexuality all you want but it will not change at will. I’m not saying that sexuality can’t be fluid as stated previously. I chose to be straight in order not to be ostracized by my mother and the church 23 years ago. A 20 year marriage ended 2 1/2 years ago when I finally realized my sexuality is the same as it was the day I married. It was foundational in the disintegration of that relationship. Try to imagine having sex with your spouse while wishing they were the opposite sex.

    For me, identifying oneself as who you “are” instead of who you “were” would be best for everyone. However, no labels would be best. Just love them and who they are as they are.

  • Thanks Andrew. I think your thoughts are right on. I pray for you. Sometimes, those who are the peacemakers get hated by all sides. All groups like a common enemy. I know I’ve lived on both sides of the gay/ex-gay issue, and felt hatred from both. Labels are so reductionistic. Even my own thoughts and approach to the subject are in flux. So, why not cut each other some slack.
    It’s like I always say, “Love is an orientation.” Oh, wait…that’s you.

  • I agree with some other comments here, particularly Kristy and Jon. And I agree with Kara regarding Peter’s post (but my disagreeing with Peter is pretty common, including his use of a term which already has another meaning, "post-gay," for a replacement to ex-gay).
    That said, I can’t see any of this as a factor of free will. I suppose one has free will to act heterosexual or homosexual, and one certainly has free will to try to become one or the other through one of the many (albeit unapproved) programs available.  But free will has nothing to do with what can or can’t be done.  The argument over "does this work" or even "should this be attempted" has been diverted by ex-gay organizations and individuals to "it’s my life and I have free will, I should be allowed…"  This was basically the defense of laetrile in the 70s.  In fact, the entire laetrile episode is a good analog to this one if you excuse the disease comparison.
    Unscientific theories of causation get weaved into the life narrative of many ex-gays.  Their history is gradually re-imaged to conform to a often repeated, pseudo-Freudian theory that is almost theology to some.  Marking the milestones in their lives and correlating them with this master template is an achievement well praised.  And if one’s life does not fit, and one doesn’t allow it to be re-interpreted to fit, then fitting in could be difficult over the long run.  Just a few days ago, this was posted on the Exodus blog:

    We also fully understand (from our own experience and other’s experience) that people do not choose to have same-sex attraction – that same-sex attraction, in the vast majority of cases, is an involuntary byproduct of a legitimate same-sex emotional need that has been left unmet (for whatever reason) and therefore has been sexualized. Healing comes when we recognize what has contributed to these unmet emotions and needs and when we find legitimate healthy relationships with those of the same-sex and with God, who is our perfect parent and Heavenly Father. [NARTH is an excellent professional, scientific, and therapeutic organization (again, not "megalithic" at all) that provides much research and many articles helping the lay person to understand some of the root contributing factors of same-sex attraction.]

    I am being candid here, not mean — this is generally just so much hogwash.  Yet, from Alan Chambers on down they have a story to fit this basic version of the the template.  This causes a lot of anger, because first it is wrong.  And there is little if any valid data that will shake this.  It has gone beyond that, from bad psychology to belief, and you know how hard it is to challenge beliefs.
    I know some pretty harsh ex-gay critics and gay activists.  For those who have discussed this issue with me, none are against the idea that a person has the free will to conduct their lives as they see fit while not infringing on the same rights of others.  If someone has heterosexual feelings which they can emphasize and thereby live their lives honestly as a heterosexual, more power to them (though many would lament the reasons they feel they need to do this).  If they decide their faith requires them to remain celibate and they are comfortable with that decision, that is their life.  I know such people and they are doing fine.  And there appears to be some evidence that some gay men can find a particular woman with whom they can have a sexually intimate relationship.  This does not seem to carry over to other women in general, just one, so it can’t really be called a change in orientation.  I look forward to more actual science on that.
    More anger comes in when people use the idea that one can change as a tool against gay rights in general.  It’s hard not to be angry with someone who is constantly coming up on the other side of legislation designed to give people the right to not be fired for being who they are, serve in the military, marry the love of their life, etc.  And that anger turns to hatred when lawmakers like Rep. Nancy Elliot of NH make vile statements like this and justify it by pointing out that they know people who have changed. PFOX, a particularly vicious ex-gay organization, is now claiming that "ex-gay" is a sexual orientation all it’s own so they can take advantage of gay rights victories to fight gay rights.  Figure that one out.
    So Andrew, when you say hatred is the right word for what you have seen, my experience suggests that they are probably commenting on this other stuff more so than individuals without a larger mandate.  But as for anger, there is plenty here to make anyone who values the truth angry.  It is also possible for someone to be using their own free will, but still be exploited. 

  • Mathew

    I guess I’m a little confused about why people care about whether the GLBT community hates ex-gays.

    I don’t know if I am ex-gay or not. I realized I was attracted to other boys when I was 13 or 14. My attractions have not changed in 35 years nor do I see any real reason to try to change those attractions.

    I immediately turned to the Bible when I realized my attractions and I saw that it said I should not have sex with other guys. I have heard all the arguments about what this person or that person believes the Bible really says or should say but, frankly, in 35 years no argument has been anywhere near solid enough to make me change my mind that God said not to have sex with other guys. So, with the exception of some mild experimentation in early college, I haven’t.

    I also know I would probably be happier and more fulfilled if i abandoned that stand and found a lover. But God never promised me happiness or fulfillment this side of the grave. He just promised forgiveness.

    So if the GLBT community chooses to hate me for the decision I made on how to live my life, who cares?

    I certainly do not hate them. Yeah, i think the choice they made on how to live was the wrong one. But then I also think that my friends who chose to have sex before marriage, or cheat on their spouses, or get divorced also made the wrong choices. Yet I have many friends who have done those things. You don’t have to agree with every choice a person makes about their lives in order to be friends or to like one another.

    Can a person have sex with someone of their own gender and be Christian? Well, I’m not going to say it’s right but I’m not going to say its impossible either. If we all have to be perfect to have faith then heaven is going to be pretty empty. That doesn’t mean it’s OK to be imperfect – it just means we are all sinners who need forgiveness.

    As far as “gay rights” goes, I don’t really have an opinion. The gay rights debate doesn’t scare me like it seems to scare a lot of Christians. But at the same time, if someone wants to fire me because I’m attracted to guys, well, it’s his place of business and his money. I’m a perfectionist and usually do a very good job at whatever I do. If someone doesn’t want me working for him and decides he wants to hire someone who won’t do the job as well just because they are attracted to girls, that’s his choice. I’m not going to argue about it. Although, I will say I agree with PFoX on this one. If society is going to pass gay rights legislation then it should protect ex-gays too. It seems only fair that if I can’t be fired for being gay then I should not be fired for being ex-gay either.

    So basically, if a Christian wants to hate me for being attracted to guys (and there are many who do) so what? I didn’t become Christian in order to make other Christians like me. And if a person from the GLBT community wants to hate me for believing it is wrong to have sex with other guys, so what? I didn’t ask anybody’s opinion when I was 14. I have not cared about their opinion for 35 years. And I can’t really be bothered to start caring now.

  • Wow, Andrew. Looks like a lot of reaction to my question. It does seem like many still want nice little boxes for everyone to fit in. I was not “cured” of homosexuality. But, I do believe in committed, monogamous relationships. The person I love, am sexually attracted to, and in that committed monogamous relationship with happens to be one of the opposite sex. That does not deny other attractions. Neither do those attractions invalidate my opposite sex love. I don’t need to be labeled. I don’t need to be called a liar or a freak. You don’t hear me say others have to have the same experience that I have. I need to be allowed to live and love before the Lord, and answer to Him.
    Thank you very much. And thanks again, Andrew, for your interaction.

  • Kara

    I’m taking a quick aside to give David a major high-five. Congrats on finding someone you love whom you want to spend your life with, and for doing what makes you happy and brings you peace. It’s a blessing I would never begrudge anyone. May we all find that, and may all of us, gay, straight, or label-less, strive to love like Christ: doing to others as we would have them do to us.

  • David Foreman, while I can understand a desire not to be pigeon-holed, I’ve never quite gotten the aversion to labels in general.  Labels are part of how we think and communicate.  A lot of nouns would have to be sacrificed to get rid of them 😉

    Matthew said:

    Although, I will say I agree with PFoX on this one. If society is going to pass gay rights legislation then it should protect ex-gays too. It seems only fair that if I can’t be fired for being gay then I should not be fired for being ex-gay either.

    Having watched their actions for over 5 years now, I can’t really take PFOX seriously on these issues.  The response you had is probably what they are going for, however.  The truth is, ex-gays would be covered under one or the other anyway.  If the law was to interpret ex-gay as literally that, they would be protected just like any heterosexual.  If instead it was interpreted to mean "gay but don’t like being that way," then they would be covered under the GLBT rights laws (where they exist).  Even if a senile judge with a drinking problem determined ex-gay to be a separate sexual orientation, that is covered under GLBT equality laws as well (sexual orientation is in general, even perceived).  So one might ask, what is the benefit.  When you figure that out, you will better understand how PFOX works.
    Andrew, I may make an open thread with a similar theme at XGW.  I think the results may be interesting.  Let’s compare notes.

  • sandradee

    I wish this was a facebook status so I could like it a bunch of times. Andrew Marin you speak TRUTH. Keep on preaching.

  • Mathew

    David Roberts, when you said

    “If instead it was interpreted to mean “gay but don’t like being that way,” then they would be covered under the GLBT rights laws (where they exist). Even if a senile judge with a drinking problem determined ex-gay to be a separate sexual orientation, that is covered under GLBT equality laws as well (sexual orientation is in general, even perceived). So one might ask, what is the benefit. ”

    With exception of criticizing the judge, you were almost quoting the PFoX stand on the issue. I assume you, therefore, agree with them that gay rights legislation should indeed be applied to ex-gays as well.

  • Hi Andrew and all,

    I like that you start by thinking about social construction Andrew. In my experience, the whole ‘ex-gay’ identity is primarily North American. I live in the UK, we don’t have any ex-gay organisations over here, sometimes some extreme-conservatives want to run an ex-gay event so bring over a speaker from the US. So I don’t know if UK gay people hate ex-gays, I’m not sure we often come across them!

    I’d also like to suggest a term instead of ex-gay. I suggest ‘queer’. It’s a term that I think can be used by anyone who doens’t define themselves as heteronormative, which I guess ex-gay people and spousosexual people like you Dave fit into (hence not calling themselves/yourself straight).

  • Mathew

    You know, never having been in the GLBT community, although I am absolutely attracted to guys, I never realize there was such hatred there. The responses on this issue are showing me that I am really glad I decided not to join that community. I just could not live with such shrill vitriol. It just doesn’t look like much fun. I was all for building birges before. I don’t think I really care much about doing that anymore.

  • Matthew: I’m not sure that what I’ve read in pretty much any of these responses could be defined as “shrill vitriol”. Maybe my perspective is skewed, but…

    Regarding gay rights legislation being effective for ex-gays too, well… isn’t it already? Anti-discriminatory laws address sexual orientation, not homosexuality. Ex-gays presumably have a sexual orientation. You could also look at religious expression if you were in a pinch. Marital benefits/domestic partnership benefits presumably affect ex-gays in marital/committed relationships the same as anyone else. Is there something else I’m missing?

  • Thanks Kara!
    I’m in complete agreement with “strive to love like Christ: doing to others as we would have them do to us.”
    There’s a guy named Timothy Kincaid over at a website called Box Turtle Bulletin ( who is very much against “ex-gay ministries.” Yet, you can tell from his writings that he is not filled with hatred against those who choose to pursue that. Rather, his hatred is against socio-political religious institutions that demand everyone else follow that path. We have had some good “conversations.” His voice, like Andrew Marin, is a much needed voice of reason in an emotion filled arena.
    Many, maybe most, of the complaints here about the “ex-gay” movement are totally valid. That doesn’t negate everyone in that movement. (As a Christian, I [and my wife] came out of institutionalized religion. We still love and respect many friends and family members who still attend a brick and mortar “church.” Our decision does not invalidate theirs.)
    Anyway, thanks again, thanks Kara, for the high-five. May you find, (if you haven’t already) that special someone to share your life with.
    In Christ’s love,

  • Bryan

    IMHO, We as Christ followers created the chasm by not loving others who don’t fit into the hetro box in the first place. We as Christ followers are the only ones who can build the bridge to those who hate Christ because of Christians. Bringing the love of Christ with us to show them the love that He has for them just as they are. Not as we think they should be. Not in the boxes we think they need to be in. Without the labels that we require. He never said it was all going to be comfy, cozy, and organized the way we prefer.

    As we all can see, thats much more challenging to actually do than to blog about.

    Keep on Loving Folks

  • Matthew said:

    With exception of criticizing the judge, you were almost quoting the PFoX stand on the issue. I assume you, therefore, agree with them that gay rights legislation should indeed be applied to ex-gays as well.

    There is no "should" in my statement.  I was simply stating a fact, that equality laws written to include GLBTs cover actual or perceived sexual orientation.  One way or another, ex-gays do have a sexual orientation and are therefore covered already — no changes are necessary.  PFOX’s strategic move of claiming ex-gay to be a distinct and separate sexual orientation is ludicrous and not shared by any other ex-gay organization that I know of — and certainly no scientific body that matters.  In fact, I’m pretty sure PFOX is all alone on that one.

  • Wow, Andrew and all,
    I am in a very precarious position on all of these discussions. I was the leader of a prominant Ex-gay organization, (Love In Action) for 22 years. I was on the board of Exodus for 11 years. Now, before you all dis me, hear my heart.

    I was involved in homosexuality with physical relationships for four years. I was celibate for five years and then married my wife in 1988. We have been married for over 21 years now.

    Many years ago, under Love In Action, I put up a billboard here in Memphis with my picture on it with the words “I used to be gay”. I was pretty proud of what I had pronounced and thought surely this would bring a big response. I heard virtually nothing for the year it was in place in a prominant place in Memphis.

    In retrospect, I believe it didn’t bring much reaction is because it was a lie. Oh, I haven’t lived in homosexual relations with others for over 25 years but did I really “used” to be gay?

    Through the years of committees and discussions with other leaders we have never found a way to describe our life experiences effectively. I think this is because we are all experiencing life in unique ways the defy words that are appropriate.

    Today I can say clearly that while I still experience erotic attractions to those of the same gender (male) I have chosen not to engage these attractions because I am a faithful husband to my wife. But to say I am “ex-gay” doesn’t give justice to my life experience nor does it effectively describe to others what I have experienced and can actually communicate a lie if someone doesn’t hear my heart correctly.

    Words are the way we communicate with each other but I have to be very cautious with what I say. My understanding of homosexuality has changed dramatically over the years and even more so since I left a position of leadership within Love In Action.

    I am gaining a deeper understanding of God’s word and how I live that out daily. I am feeling freer than I have ever been in my lifetime! I am understanding that freedom is not so narrow as to be just free from behaviors. Because when I think of it that way I have to be honest in knowing that I could do many things today that I would be sorry for tomorrow. Freedom today encompasses freedom in Christ that is truly free and not based on what I do. I desire more than anything for people to find that God unconditionally loves them without any strings attached.

    Gay, Straight, Ex-gay, Post Gay, however we want to say it, Jesus loves us equally. Once we get that straight, we will find a path that is close to His heart, each one of us may be at a different place at a different time. I am not the judge and jury for people’s lives, rather I want to be a minister of grace for all. That is not sloppy grace either. But I want to give up my ego and let Jesus be in charge.

    I am basically saying I am with you all on this. We have to quit placing labels on people that either put them outside the circle, draw them inside a circle for the purposes of making my life choices “better” than yours. When I am tempted to place my life as being more significant than yours I enter into pride, which is destructive. This goes for pro-gays, Christian gays, Ex-gays, straights, transgendered or whom ever.

    Our Father wants us to be of one accord, unified, respectful of each other and to know that respect doesn’t have to agree, it is just to allow each of us to be where we are and love each other at that point.

    I hope this rambling makes sense.

  • Good stuff, John!

  • Karen

    Since I work for Exodus – on staff since July of 2009 – I find this discussion really illuminating. Thank you for all your personal insights.
    David R, I find myself somewhat in agreement with you over this statement …

    This does seem to describe the lives of many of the men I know personally who claim an “ex-gay” or “post-gay” identity. I’ve been really intrigued by their stories, and look forward not only to more science, but to more theological engagement.

    I wonder if this – what some folk are calling “spouseosexual” – is what God had in mind from the beginning, minus the same or opposite-sex temptations, of course. Sometimes I think these men are closer to God’s perfect will than any of us.

    And as far as science goes, why wouldn’t that be “called a change in orientation” if it was from primary or exclusive desire for the same sex to desire for one person of the opposite sex? Just because we don’t have an agreed upon label or designation for it? Sorry, but I don’t get your reasoning here.

  • Karen

    Somehow I managed to delete David’s statement from post. It was …

    And there appears to be some evidence that some gay men can find a particular woman with whom they can have a sexually intimate relationship. This does not seem to carry over to other women in general, just one, so it can’t really be called a change in orientation. I look forward to more actual science on that.

  • Thanks for your post, Andrew. I look forward to reading more answers to more questions.

    I have, very uncharacteristically, read each and every reply with great interest and have come to the same conclusion I had come to regarding this topic before I read them — I am sad. I am sad for ‘our faith’. I am sad for our society. I am sad for our race — that would be the human one.
    I am sad because we have and do boil our entire existence as living beings down to what is largely nothing more than a chemical reaction. We have and do validate ourselves and others based on which gender “gets our engine going!” How sad, indeed that we are so over-sexualized that this discussion would even be necessary. Alas, we do, it is, and I think God weeps over this!!

    The pendulum that is my life experience and/or journey has swung wildly back and forth from one extreme of self-loathing, to another and back again. For many years, I was a self-loathing gay man trapped in the evangelical world and held to a standard of perfection I could never attain. For years after that I was a self-loathing Christian trapped in the GLBT world and held to yet another standard of perfection I could never attain. I could never be the person I was “supposed to be” in either of these worlds, and because of this, I sank into a pit of depression, anguish and anxiety that was not easily overcome.

    Finally, for me, the pendulum has come to rest in a centered, albeit awkward, place somewhere between being the Grand Marshall of a Pride Parade and the Dean of Religion at Bob Jones University! (Talk about opposing paradigms!) I am still sexually attracted to men. I have been as long as I can remember and I doubt that will ever change. I have no desire to enter a relationship, physical or otherwise, with a woman because I feel it would be disingenuous and unfair. I have chosen to live a celibate life. After all of my experiences in both worlds I described above, this choice is the best choice for me. It is the best choice for me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

    My choice, however, is just that – MY choice! I am not naïve enough to believe it could ever be the right choice for everyone in my position. I am not delusional enough to believe there is anything I could ever say or do to convince others it is the right choice for them. I do not try to force my beliefs or choices on anyone. Why is it, then, that I still feel it necessary to hide my choice from friends on BOTH SIDES of the discussion? Why do I still feel shame for a decision I am absolutely convinced is right for me?
    The answer to this question is, regrettably, simple. I still feel the need to hide my choice and straddle the fence because the extremes on both sides of the question have been allowed to dictate the response. To my GLBT friends I am either a “sell out” or I am “in denial” about my true self. They cannot begin to understand the why’s and wherefore’s of the choice I’ve made, and to some of them, I would be considered a traitor who is now on the side of the “Christian right” trying to deny them the rights they are deserved.

    To my evangelical/conservative/Christian friends I am a “fence-rider” or, once again, I am “in denial” about my true self. They also cannot understand the choice I’ve made, nor can they understand the experiences that led me to the process of making my choice. To them, I am one step away from tumbling into a den of iniquity because I won’t just give in and get married.

    If you look carefully, you will realize that we are talking about two sides of the same coin…mirror images…whatever cliché you want to attach to it. But, obstinateness by any other name is still a “perverse adherence to an opinion or belief in spite of reason, arguments or persuasion.” Both the evangelical and GLBT communities are guilty of this adherence. Both communities refuse to accept that neither of them have the answer for everyone! Why? Because, like it or not, they share the common ground of defining individuals by their sexuality and not their humanity! I don’t recall reading where Jesus identified people he ministered to according to whom they were sexually attracted.

    I have used a lot of generalities here. Please understand I realize not everyone on either side of this issue can be tagged with the monikers I’ve attached to both sides. I used them, however, to illustrate a point – generalization, “pigeon-holing” and stereotyping is hurtful, not helpful. It is unfair and unwise. We must get out of the mode we’re in that seeks to label everyone! And, we must especially stop defining people by their sexuality and start seeing them as God sees them – divinely created in His image!

  • What I find sad about so much of this is that so many of us have homosexuality in common. How we deal with it may be very diverse but in the end we have so much we can relat on. What is it like to feel same sex attractions and be in this world, experience our faith, relate to others who do not understand or experience this. What is it like to relate to the opposite gender? What is it like to be married with these issues that we face every day. What is it like to have these desires and be celibate? What about disengenuous relationships that we have gotten into in a search for fulfillment? I could go on.

    I would love to have opportunities to have discussions without the anger, the my side / your side, the dividing lines. I think we can all learn so much from each other if we could just join forces without all of the disagreement.

    Many of us have a sincere desire for others to know Jesus! I think there is an incredible army being formed that has the strength to make some major inroads into the lives of those who hunger for the real answer for life, Jesus.

    Once He is in our lives, He will work it out. I certainly can’t.

  • Jason: Don’t let others dictate their opinions on you. If you’re celibate, you’re celibate. There’s no reason for you to date others if you’d prefer not to. Peace. 🙂

  • Kara – I was also thinking along the lines of celibate gay…but then comes into play people who do have a same-sex attraction in some-way-shape-or-form. But then I guess we are in that situation reverting back to what Dave originally said about Spousosexual. It’s almost like the word ‘fundamental’ when referring to conservative Christian…it used to be a normal term, but now it’s the worst ever. Maybe ‘ex-gay’ has run its course?

    Peter – Your words on sexuality and romanticism are profound. Loved reading them. Thanks.

    Also, Kara, I didn’t see in what Peter wrote that it was referring to what someone is not. I read the post you linked, and I just appreciate your heart so much in where you’ve come from and where you are. Thanks so much for sharing your life with us here. The one thing I would say too, is that there are people who are convinced their same-sex attractions are undesirable; and thus, their journey must be respected as well, as you have already communicated, which I also really appreciate. Just thought I’d throw it out there.

    Mark – I think you bring up the huge elephant in the middle of the room when it comes to ex-gay ministries. I think in many cases there is a wrong expectation of what is change and what is healing! I have found so many people thought they would be straight; that was the expectation. Unfortunately the ‘success vs. fail’ model and expectations have caused more harm than good.

    David Roberts – I was not saying homosexuality is a choice having to do with free will. I was trying to say that free will can be a choice to move in one direction or another when it comes to belief vs. behavior modification. Doesn’t mean someone chooses to be gay or straight, I was thinking along the lines of choosing to be Christian and then choosing to align one’s life as a monogamous partnered gay Christian or a celibate/Spousosexual Christian. I also very much agree with you in that a same-sex attraction in the overwhelming majority of situations has absolutely nothing to do with an emotional deficiency surrounding people of the same sex. And I had not heard of the recent statement regarding ‘ex-gay as an orientation.’ That is crazy talk to me. How can someone be inherently ex- to anything as an orientation?

    Mathew – Thank you so much for your candidness. I really appreciate how you’re living your life in regards to what others think. It reminds me a lot about how I strive to live me life (try to being the key word!).

    Dave Foreman – “Neither do those [same-sex] attractions invalidate my opposite sex love.” That was beautiful, thank you. This doesn’t mean you’re straight, but it does mean you love you wife…2 totally different things.

    David Roberts – I’d love to compare comments, seriously! That would be sooo educational. Let me know if you do that because I’d love to link over to it on a post.

    Rachel – Thank you so much for giving the UK context. And seriously, if you could please email me I would LOVE to talk to you before I speak at Spring Harvest and throughout the UK for the whole month of April. (

    Mathew – That hurts my heart to hear you say you’re not caring to build bridges now. It’s such a vital need from both sides, and we can’t just give up because it’s too hard or too political or too divisive! Keep the faith brother!

    John – Wow. Wow. Thank you so much for the grace in which you just communicated that post and thank you for putting yourself and your journey out there. Who would have ever thought…the details of your story are powerful from billboard to your comment. Thank you so much – and the peaceful and productive dialogue is just so ridiculously important! I would encourage the folks commenting to honestly take you up on this.

    Jason – The transparency in allowing us to hear your story is a blessing. And I LOVE your analogy: I’m somewhere between the grand marshal at the gay pride parade and a dean at Bob Jones University! Sooo funny. 🙂 Your 4th paragraph is very poignant. Thank you for writing it.

  • David Foreman,

    Thanks for the nice words.


    I don’t “recognise and affirm that some people do see orientation change” because I know of no instances of it happening. I’ve heard of a number of kinda, almost, somewhat, if you redefine a bunch of words, partial change (and all the best to those who experience it), but after looking at the results of the Jones and Yarhouse study, I’ve lost faith in the idea of “orientation change”.


    I would advise that you not give PFOX much credibility.

    They don’t want to see that “gay rights legislation should indeed be applied to ex-gays as well” (it already is). Rather, they want to remove this body of legislation altogether.

    Many ex-gay individuals and ministries are sincere and honest. Sadly, I don’t think that PFOX is among them.

    John Smid,

    Thank you for weighing in on this. I appreciate your honesty.


    To answer why, as far as science goes, wouldn’t it be “called a change in orientation” if it was from primary or exclusive desire for the same sex to desire for one person of the opposite sex:

    I think you misstate the situation. It did not go to “desire for one person of the opposite sex”. Had it done so, it would be an orientation change.

    Instead it went to “primary attraction or desire for the same sex plus one person of the opposite sex”. For practical purposes and for David’s personal life, this has the same consequence. But it’s not the same thing.


    Congratulations on finding what works for you right now. It may not be anyone else’s journey, but it doesn’t need to be. And if God takes you somewhere else in the future… well, blessings on that as well.

    As for your gay friends, I have a suggestion. Don’t try to convince them that your decision is best, just that it’s your decision. Rather than, “I think God doesn’t want…” or “I could never…”, try “For now I believe that this is best for me.” I suspect you’ll find most folks are perfectly fine with decisions for you that don’t impact them. And don’t expect them to get it, they don’t really have to like it to be your friend, they just have to like you.

    It’s worth a try, don’t you think?

  • Andrew,

    Thanks for hosting this discussion. It has been, I believe, mostly beneficial and definitely a step towards reconciliation.

    As for nomenclature, I have a few suggestions that I doubt anyone will like 🙂

    I think that “ex-gay homosexual” is perhaps accurate for most. As best I can see, the majority of ex-gays remain homosexual in orientation but have rejected being “gay”, i.e. they have rejected the idea that same-sex sexual behavior is acceptable, that gay people should be entitled to equal treatment under the law, or that gay people should be accepted into the body of faith, and they have renounced gay culture, community, and sensibility. While they are homosexual in attraction, they are most definitely no longer “gay”.

    In addition, there could be “celibate gay” for those who have not rejected being gay but do not believe in sexual engagement, and “gay, married heterosexually” for those who are gay folk married to the opposite sex. I also like the “spousosexual” term.

  • Kara

    Andrew – I was referring to the term “post-gay” in my response to Peter. Post-, to me, brings up connotations of having overcome something inherently bad, or having left something horrible. It’s wrapped up in what one was. If someone once ID’ed as gay and now identifies as something other than gay, I think they should say they’re whatever it is they are now. Spousosexual, celibate gay, straight, it doesn’t really matter. But for those who are now-gay, the term ex-gay and the term post-gay both imply things that I don’t think are helpful or constructive.

    I also hope no one took my link as something that I think everyone with SSA should believe. I fully understand that there are people who believe otherwise, and think that it’s imperative that they follow what’s right for them, not what’s right for anyone else. I just don’t think that means anyone has to comment on what’s right or possible or desirable for me. That’s all I meant. They’re free to believe their SSA is undesirable, and I’d never try to deny them that. I just so often get the feeling that the implication is that all SSA is inherently undesirable, which I don’t believe at all.

  • Timothy…I think you have a good point, and perhaps the fault lies with me to some extent here. Perhaps I am projecting my distrust on people who have yet to do anything to earn it. On the other hand, I’ve been in the room when conversations have taken place about this subject or similar ones and I’ve heard the words they use to describe people like me. I just don’t know that it would be any different because it is me.

    John T…thanks for the encouragement. I do try. 🙂

    Andrew…I’m glad you like the analogy. I laughed when I wrote it and that’s usually a good sign. 🙂 And, you’re welcome. I try to be as transparent as possible in these things. Otherwise, I don’t think I learn anything.

  • Since I work for Exodus – on staff since July of 2009 – I find this discussion really illuminating. Thank you for all your personal insights.

    Just to clarify, is this not Karen Booth?  If so, you should probably acknowledge that, though your ministry Transforming Congregations was recently absorbed by Exodus, you have worked with them as a member ministry for many years.  Reading your statement above confused me as I thought you may be someone else who was new to ex-gay issues in general.  If you are not Karen Booth, then please disregard. 

    And as far as science goes, why wouldn’t that be “called a change in orientation” if it was from primary or exclusive desire for the same sex to desire for one person of the opposite sex? Just because we don’t have an agreed upon label or designation for it? Sorry, but I don’t get your reasoning here.

    Timothy has responded to this quite accurately I think.  I would only add that the entire idea of "spousosexual" is little more than a notion right now.  I understand that some data is being prepared and, as I said, I look forward to reviewing it.  But at best this would appear to be an anomaly which may explain something for which there is some anecdotal evidence.  If I may be so bold, jumping ahead on issues like this, turning vague notions into psychological doctrine — this is exactly what I mentioned above concerning Exodus, NARTH, et al.  There is no indication this is going to be something one can make happen, or which can (heaven forbid) be turned into a program.  But it may lead to some interesting explanations of what a sliver of people seem to experience.
    If we could somehow get past the idea that one can effect change in one’s orientation to any significant degree (at all?) then we could probably move forward yards instead of inches on the bridge building effort.  And as long as organizations such as Exodus insist on re-imaging and rewriting their history instead of owning up to their past deeds, there will likely be a gaping open wound that overshadows their efforts.  And as for Karen’s comment about looking forward to more theology — I am a believer and I love God, but I don’t know if this particular topic can handle any more theology without imploding.
    Andrew — I think I misunderstood your comments concerning free will, but hopefully I still said something useful.  I sincerely appreciate you and the space you provide for discussions like this.

  • David Roberts: “I would only add that the entire idea of “spousosexual” is little more than a notion right now.”
    It may be a notion, but I don’t need data. I’ve lived it. I AM living it. I’m not saying anyone else has to; but I have.

    Timothy, thanks so much for joining in here. The more I read your writings, the more I appreciate you.

    Andrew, you may have enough here for another book! 😉
    I can’t believe all the response. Hey, you come to Fort Wayne some time.

  • David Foreman Said:

    It may be a notion, but I don’t need data. I’ve lived it. I AM living it. I’m not saying anyone else has to; but I have.

    That’s the point.  You have described the definition of anecdotal evidence perfectly:
    anecdotal evidence is based on individual accounts, rather than on reliable research or statistics, and so may not be valid.
    While it certainly means something to your life, using your experience and assigning some reason or process to it that is not supported by the facts would be irresponsible.  Even worse is when we use that as a template for others.  Just this kind of practice is what has given us reparative drive theory and "healing of old daddy wounds" as a way to "cure" homosexuality.  This doesn’t invalidate your own experience in the slightest. 

  • David Roberts: You said it “doesn’t invalidate your experience,” and yet your use of “anecdotal” says my evidence “may not be valid.” If my information is not valid, then my experience has been invalidated.
    I do understand your concerns, and have seen the abuse. But if I’m living the “idea of ‘spousosexual'” it’s already more than “a notion.”

    I’m not using the term as a theory of therapy, or a requirement for others. I’m saying it defines where I’m at, and that’s all the ‘data’ I need. I know there is room and need for scientific data, but life is in the living of it. In a very real way, “anecdotal evidence” as defined above, is more pertinent that scientific data.

    I totally agree that “There is no indication this is going to be something one can make happen, or which can (heaven forbid) be turned into a program.” I’m not really big on programs, anyway. I do think we may be more in agreement than our written words here would indicate. Anyway, thanks for your comments.

  • I wasn’t going to respond because I seem to be unclear in my communication tonight, but I don’t want to leave this were it is. When I said that the idea of “spousosexual” is barely a notion right now, I’m describing a different level of study than any individual’s experience.

    I said that in response to Karen’s comment where she seemed to already be jumping to the idea that we had a brand new avenue of orientation change, when in reality with know next to nothing about this relatively new idea. I’ve learned to be very careful in discussions with certain people lest we introduce fallacy as fact. Those things have a habit of growing and replicating and before long we are using one spitball discussion to validate something as fact in another.

    I referred to your experience as anecdotal, not in an attempt to invalidate that part of your life, but because that is what it is — anecdotal. That means something when one needs to go further than “this happened to me.” How often it happens, how durable it is, how does it happen (if that can even be ascertained), is it connected to any other issues — these are all things which can’t be determined, if they can at all, until it moves from the anecdotal to the statistical, the studied, the quantified.

    So in a discussion where we are referring to one group who believes ex-gay is a separate sexual orientation, and where another participant is claiming orientation change based on “spousosexuals,” I felt it was important to emphasize where things stand on this idea, for other readers that come along if no one else,

    I think you already get my other points, as you indicated you agreed, i.e. that we can’t use this as a template for others, etc. But I was in no way trying to invalidate your relationship or your feelings. On the contrary, all caveats in place, I suspect this type of relationship could explain a few people’s lives. It seems to fit Alan Chambers, for one. And at first blush, it makes much more sense than the idea of orientation change.

    The truth is important and it takes us where it takes us. If you have a solid, intimate relationship with (I assume) your wife and you are happy together, I am truly happy for you as well. I hope you have a long and wonderful life together.

    I’m dog tired so I hope I didn’t just make things worse 😉

  • Seth

    I said yesterday that I would think more and post later. Wow! The postings here have been so inspiring and informative, that I’m not sure how much I can add. But I’m gonna try.

    Andrew, I was concerned most in your original posting about what seems to be apples-to-oranges comparisons, i.e. experiences vs. logical arguments. Later on this page we have discussed labels and “boxes,” free will and change (perhaps about being able to move from one box to another), then on to movements and organizations. Across all of these levels there seems to be a desire or drive for congruence, the ability to think, speak, and act in a consistent and authentic manner.

    The backside of congruence is hypocrisy, which is where I think the hatred you mention originates. Faced with our own inability to behave as we would like, we detest people who say one thing and act otherwise. Ted Haggard comes to mind; so do Bob Moorehead and Jim Bakker. And Jesus had a particularly low tolerance for it, referring to the Pharisees as “whitewashed sepulchres.” Ouch! We typically don’t cut ourselves any slack along these lines, and we certainly don’t offer any slack to others. We just clam up and hope we don’t get exposed.

    The hatred you describe reminds me of a minority relations class years ago where we had a harsh, candid discussion about “oreos,” a derogatory reference that some black people made toward others who were “black on the outside but white on the inside.” Tribune columnist Dawn Turner Trice has a blog on race relations that has mentioned this issue, as well. Back then, Heaven help you if you were perceived to have abandoned your minority culture in your pursuit of your own success within the majority’s framework. Maybe things have improved since then–I hope so!–but the rhetoric was pretty caustic. My guess is that ex-gay folk run into something like this when they’re in the GLBT community.

    Much of the debate on this page has boiled down to the question, “Can I be who I really am?” Even if it doesn’t fit in the usual boxes? Even if it doesn’t comport with a traditional understanding of Scripture? Even if I wish I were otherwise? Even if *you* wish I were otherwise? Even if I have made peace with my path thus far? Even if I like who I am and can’t imagine changing? Even if I am a work in progress? Even if don’t fully know who I am yet? I think God wants us to be ourselves. I would go as far as to say we have to know ourselves very well in order to offer ourselves to God. We have to have the same understanding of ourselves that Jesus had before he washed the disciples’ feet in John 19.

    We know from the Sermon on the Mount that we really can’t parse our thoughts from our deeds, and let ourselves off the hook if we only behave properly. Yet we go to great lengths to segregate what we are (e.g., orientation) from what we do (make love or practice celibacy), and open ourselves to all kinds of trouble whenever there’s a discrepancy between them. It’s insane!

    I think grace is the only effective antidote. My definition of everyday grace is the ability to deal with the difference between the way things are and the way I would like them to be, without giving up the effort to close that gap. We have the promise that God’s grace is sufficient for this purpose (among others), are we willing to offer that grace to one another as we appropriate it for ourselves? To me, that’s where bridge-building begins. ‘Nuf said.

  • David Roberts.
    No, you didn’t make anything worse. I’m glad we’ve been able to do this.

    We agree on much. I don’t even agree with my wife on everything. Complete agreement is not my goal. How boring would that be?!?!

    Be greatly blessed in your journey.

  • Seth:
    Thanks. God’s grace is key; in every aspect of our lives. Contrary to some belief, you can’t over-emphasize grace. Much of my personal blog is geared towards helping people out of religious legalism, and into deeper relationship with God. Blessings, Seth.

  • Just a quick warning to us all:
    On the printed page, there are no voice inflections. There are no facial cues. There is no body language. It’s VERY easy to misunderstand attitude and intent. Just though I’d mention that.

  • Karen Booth

    Yes, David, this is Karen Booth. I wasn’t trying to hide anything, as you imply. If you we’re confused by that, I’m sorry.

    In the interest of full disclosure, my original post was also going to forewarn readers about the negative history between you and me, and more broadly between my ministry and Ex-Gay Watch. I was hoping that wouldn’t be necessary and the “baggage” woudn’t carry over here, but I think any unbiased observer can see that your personal opinion of me strongly colors your response.

    For example, in one of the posts you make the statement … “where another participant is claiming orientation change based on ‘spousosexuals’ …” Following the logic of your previous posts, I assume you are referring to me.

    I made no such claim, David. In fact, I haven’t made any claims at all on this thread (“fallacy” or otherwise, as you were also implying about me.) I’ve made note of anecdotal evidence that intrigues me and I’ve asked questions. And I really do appreciate your less-biased anwers.

    That being said, I really don’t want to engage in personal back-and-forth with either you or Timothy (with whom I also have history.) I will try to treat both of you with respect here, and I invite other readers/posters to call me on it when I don’t. I ask you to try to treat me with the same respect.

  • Karen Booth

    And David, I’m sorry you’re unwilling to explore the theological aspects of “spousosexual-ism” (for lack of a better term at this time.) I’d hoped we could since this is actually more a theological than scientific site.

  • When you think about it all labels of sexuality other than straight are a choice. Labels exists because someone realises that they are not straight.

    While I identify as a lesbian I actually do feel that I can only say that at this point in my life. I am open to the idea of being with a man if it ever felt right but right now I

  • Jean Paul-Sartre once said “We become who we are by the deep seated refusal of that which others have made of us.”

    Andy, I can’t tell you how many times I have been told by people that I simply do not exist. That I’m either bi and ignoring my homosexual side, that I’m still gay and closeted, that I am just straight and was confused for a while but have come back to my true nature. Most people try to just explain my existence as a former homosexual away and when I insist, they deny my existence outright.

    The truth is I do exist. My story is real and there are more people like me out there. Our journey is not one of weakness but of strength. Our story is one of fighting for the life that we want and seeking not to simply be victims of fate’s roll of the dice. Choosing to leave homosexuality has been by far the hardest thing I have ever done and the most rewarding. Thank you for validating that.

  • Kristy – Thank you so much for your boldness in letting us into your inner being….your words are powerful.

    Frank – LOVE the quote brother! And yes, you do exist. Claim it, no matter who else from either side doesn’t want to. I’m just so tired of the huge invalidation problem that continues to grow. But honestly, most of this discussion on the post has once again given me hope for a wide array of validating where I didn’t see much before. Maybe we might be moving in the right (but very slow) direction?

  • Thanks for such a thoughtful post!

    I don’t have time to read all the comments, so I hope that what I’m going to write has not already been said!

    I think my biggest observation concerning the hatred of the gay community for ex-gays is that they have seen or experienced some of the negative consequences that accompany many attempts at orientation change. I spent six years trying to change, and it nearly destroyed my faith and my life. I was doing everything right, but I still solely fancied other blokes. The way I understood it was that I was doing something wrong. If it was God’s will for me to be straight, the only reason I was not becoming straight was because I was somehow a failure. I had given everything I had to give until all that was left was despair. I even hated reading the Bible, because all I saw was condemnation for my failure, and God’s disgust at my feelings for other men.

    I sometimes find it helpful to share segments from an email correspondence that took place between myself and a close friend during the time where I was on the verge of wholly rejecting my faith. They’re pretty raw thoughts and emotions, and I hope it somewhat illustrates what attempts at orientation change were doing to my faith.

    these were some of my thoughts during that time:
    “i keep finding myself teetering on this line where i can’t decide
    whether to pursue this painful ideal of holiness or follow my heart’s desire
    and seek a meaningful, romantic relationship with another man. i have been giving in more to my doubts about God and Christianity. is it worth it? we face so much pain as homosexuals in the Christian world. what’s the point? God doesn’t seem to care that much. he just leaves us in this position where we hunger after meaningful relationships, but can never go as deep as we wish. we live in a world of secrecy and shame that we can never be free of.

    what freedom does Christianity offer? it only dooms us to hate ourselves and to exist as second class citizens in the church. is religion a prison – or is there some real freedom that can be found? are the men that have somehow achieved heterosexuality truly heterosexual – or are they fooling themselves and simply trying to mask and repress the desires that surge inside of them?….

    i so wish i could give myself fully over to homosexuality, but i still believe in God and the Bible, and of course i don’t want to go to hell. but there comes a point where i begin to question things. i look at my life and the life of all my gay friends and wonder if God is truly loving, or if he is just a liar. perhaps the bible is fallible, and God is more inclusive than we think.

    what is our ultimate goal in life? what is there for us to hope in? should we just be content with a life that is total s***? is there happiness for us? if
    there is no happiness in Christianity, then what’s the point? jesus said
    that he came to that we might have life, and life to the fullest. what kind
    of life is this? aren’t you tired of the closet sometimes? aren’t you
    tired of the hopelessness and meaninglessness of this “struggle?” why does God have to be such a f****** liar, or are there any truth in his words? i hate this life! It’s anything but life to the fullest!

    what is a more fulfilling life – to be a fifty year old closeted gay christian, alone, the subject of rumors and whispers, a nothing in the church, still fighting the urges that have always been there; or being a fifty year old gay man, living with your partner of twenty or so years, comfortable with who you are, with the group of friends around you who love and accept the whole you, and comfortable with the the man you love lying next to you. nothing brings me more joy than the thought of lying next to this man every night, and being able to turn over and look at him and think, “god, i love him so much.” i’m sure the gay life is not nearly as idealized as i want to paint it, but it’s so easy to believe that it has to be better than this life.

    I still don’t have the whole “gay thing” nearly figured out yet, but what I do know is that I am not a failure because I am not straight, and God does not require me to be straight in order to use me for the glory of his name.

    I do believe that some people genuinely experience some sort of change to the point that they can have successful and happy marriages. I do not want to invalidate those experiences at all. But I wish they could validate my experience as someone who was deeply wounded through attempts at change. One close friend of mine even came to the point where his entire existence as a sexual being completely disgusted him, and he lost his faith and made a couple of attempts on his life. I feel that these experiences are ignored by the ex-gay movement, and we are seen as bitter people who simply did not try hard enough. But it was by far the opposite – we perhaps tried too hard.

    Though I feel no hatred towards ex-gays, I do feel a certain amount of cynicism. I feel like they are not being as honest as they should, and they whitewash they greyer areas of their life. Having been in a leadership position of a group that discussed homosexuality in a conservative context, I know that there is alot of pressure to come off like you’ve got it all together, and I really think that needs to change. Leaders are human too, and we still struggle and have questions, and we are doing our communities a disservice by wearing these masks of perfection.

    I do feel a tremendous amount of anger at times to the ex-gay MOVEMENT. As I said, there is this understanding that heterosexuality is God’s will for the live of every homosexual person, and one can only assume that failure to become straight is to a certain extent to be a failure as a Christian. I feel that they emphasize the law over grace.

    It was the realization of the true depths of God’s love and grace that saved me during that time of being immersed in doubt and anger. I saw the wholeness of the human nature I shared with all mankind, trembled in humility, and rejoiced in God’s mercy. I saw what I deserved in full color, and saw the mercy I received in equal vividness. All the sudden these feelings for men did not seem so huge, overwhelming, and isolating when compared to the vast depths of sin we all are born into.

    I was a sinful human being who was loved and forgiven by my merciful heavenly Father. That mattered more than anything.

    Okay, I’ll stop my preaching and get back on target!

    I think the problem is not so much labels of orientation, but the idealized lifestyle molds we are expected to fit inside, and the way one mold seeks to invalidate the experience of another. The problem is not gay, ex-gay, bi, transgendered, or queer, but all of the ways we make one experience more valid than another.

    To put it simply: “I did not change, so you could not have!”

    or conversely,

    “I changed, so you must also!”

    We need to seek to see life through the eyes of others, and not get so caught up with our own sense of ideals that we fail to validate the vast array of perspectives and experiences that exist all around us.

    But I’m still cautious of orientation change, and never recommend that path to people who come to me with questions. As I said, I do not deny the experiences of others who have changed, but I do not recommend that path for the confused and struggling. I think it’s more important that they be at peace with God in the fullness of their humanity before they can even begin to think about how they should respond to their sexual orientation. And if they are going to seek heterosexual relationships, it needs to be of their own accord and not because they feel pressured into it. In addition, I think there are alot of ethical issues involved in ex-gay ministry that ex-gay leaders are ignoring, and even worse, sometimes hiding.

    So, to sum everything up, there is alot of hurt among gay people that the ex-gay movement is to some level responsible for, and anger, resentment, and hatred has built up and festered within the gay community. With that anger has come a complete inability to validate experiences that have been different from theirs. To do so would be to say that their enemy is correct to a certain extent. It is easier to demonize or canonize others, living in a world of black-and-white, rather than the shades of grey that exist in reality.

    Well, as always, another epically long post (is it longer than the original?)! thanks for sticking it out!


  • Caleb:
    You said you haven’t read the other posts. There are post from gays, “ex-gays,” straight, and “undeclared.” I think you would be wise to read through all the posts. Even though some contradict the others, looking at all the lives shared here would be a great start at answering many of the questions you’ve expressed. Oh, and God doesn’t hate you. He loves you right where you are, and right who you are.