‘Ex-Gays’ Beginning to Acknowledge Reality

‘Ex-Gays’ Beginning to Acknowledge Reality July 2, 2012

The largest “ex-gay” group in the world seems to be moving away from the claim that anyone is ever “cured” of being gay and is acknowledging that the best that can be done is that someone can force themselves, with great difficulty, to suppress who they really are for religious reasons.

The president of the country’s best-known Christian ministry dedicated to helping people repress same-sex attraction through prayer is trying to distance the group from the idea that gay people’s sexual orientation can be permanently changed or “cured.” That’s a significant shift for Exodus International, the 36-year-old Orlando-based group that boasts 260 member ministries around the U.S. and world. For decades, it has offered to help conflicted Christians rid themselves of unwanted homosexual inclinations through counseling and prayer, infuriating gay rights activists in the process.

This week, 600 Exodus ministers and followers are gathering for the group’s annual conference, held this year in a Minneapolis suburb. The group’s president, Alan Chambers, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the conference would highlight his efforts to dissociate the group from the controversial practice usually called ex-gay, reparative or conversion therapy.

“I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included,” said Chambers, who is married to a woman and has children, but speaks openly about his own sexual attraction to men. “For someone to put out a shingle and say, ‘I can cure homosexuality’ — that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth.”

Chambers has cleared books endorsing ex-gay therapy from the Exodus online bookstore in recent months. He said he’s also worked to stop member ministries from espousing it.

Chambers said the ministry’s emphasis should be simply helping Christians who want to reconcile their own particular religious beliefs with sexual feelings they consider an affront to scripture. For some that might mean celibacy; for others, like Chambers, it meant finding an understanding opposite-sex partner.

That’s progress, but still not enough:

“We appreciate any step toward open, transparent honesty that will do less harm to people,” said Wayne Besen, a Vermont-based activist who has worked to discredit ex-gay therapy. “But the underlying belief is still that homosexuals are sexually broken, that something underlying is broken and needs to be fixed. That’s incredibly harmful, it scars people.” …

“I guess I’d like to see some sort of apology from leaders of Exodus for all the people they misled,” said Jeffry Ford, a St. Paul psychologist who worked for an Exodus-linked group in the 1970s and ’80s before splitting with his wife, coming out and strongly disavowing his past work.

Ford and other gay activists have planned a Thursday news conference to criticize Exodus for holding its conference in Minnesota just months before a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage.

“These kinds of conferences help put fears in the world about what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” said Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, the state’s chief gay rights group. “For people who are questioning or LGBT, it sends them a message that there’s something wrong with them.”

And that’s exactly the wrong message. Be who you are, for crying out loud.

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  • conway

    What happened to the 6/26 episode of Culture Wars Radio?

  • Who Knows?

    It is a difficult reality to face.

  • hitchens2965

    Marcus Bachmann has his panties in a bunch right about now.

  • MikeMa

    When your religion says you cannot be who you are, the right move is to question the religion, not who you are.

  • DaveL

    for others, like Chambers, it meant finding an understanding opposite-sex partner.

    When your spouse marries you knowing you’re just not into them, never were, and never will be, I don’t know that “understanding” is the right term.

  • oranje

    Oh no… they’re going to equivocate with alcoholism now. (That’s assuming they haven’t already… I probably missed it.)

  • matty1

    What they could say to be less offensive while remaining theologically conservative Christians.

    I personally am attracted to my own gender but I believe God doesn’t want me as an individual to act on that so I choose to be celibate, the same God wants me not to judge other people’s choices so I have nothing to say about your sexuality

  • So, essentially, they’re now taking the official Catholic position: homosexuality is [objectively] disordered, but we must be sympathetic and understanding because homosexuals can’t change. The church can only help them to see that they have an inclination to commit this grave sin and they must be helped to resist it. They’re even picking up on the Catholic church’s encouragement of self-tormenting celibacy rather than marrying and emotionally tormenting a spouse.

    It hasn’t worked in the Catholic church and it isn’t going to work for those who turn to Exodus. They are still encouraging emotionally troubled and vulnerable people to further entrench their needless pain.

  • d cwilson

    For some that might mean celibacy; for others, like Chambers, it meant finding an understanding opposite-sex partner.

    One who’s willing to never ask why the pages of your muscle magazines are stuck together?

  • Michael Heath

    To pile onto Dr. X’s point. I saw an Episcopalian bishop on cable news who opposed gay marriage while conceding science was right regarding sexual identification and orientation. He instead opposed gay rights within his denomination by claiming it was still a sin just like alcoholism is a disease some people are predisposed to suffer from; and that being gay was a particular cross the gay person had to carry, where all of us have some cross(es) to bear.

  • Cal

    I grew up in a time when gay Mormon men were taught to get married and things would work out. Needless to say, that didn’t work too well for me. I believe the Mormon church now encourages celibacy and remaining single but since I left years ago I cannot confirm that. Sadly, for myself, my ex-wife and many other couples, that particular teaching probably led to many unhappy and failed marriages.

  • F

    Yes, being gay is a “temptation”, or an addiction. Like I am both tempted by and addicted to occupying space, breathing, eating, and being straight.

    Dude/organization is not quite there yet. Still too much ignorance, denial, and bad programming.