Biting Bad Apples: The Truth About the “Ex-Gay” Movement

The conversion therapy business may be more about making money than setting you straight.

“But what is a bias towards fairness?” Maggie looked on beleaguered.

“Bias toward fairness means that if the entire Congressional Republican Caucus were to walk into the House and propose a resolution stating that the Earth was flat, the Times would lead with, ‘Democrats and Republicans Can’t Agree on Shape of Earth.’”

This is the message of HBO’s Newsroom created by Aaron Sorkin. Mackenzie and Will explained that there are not always two sides to every story, sometimes there are five sides or five hundred sides, and to position a one-two argument sometimes leaves the Crazy with way too much legitimacy.

Oh how art imitates reality.


The other day I heard about Dr. Oz’s now infamous episode in which he gave the ex gay cohort the best Christmas present ever: a platformDr. Oz argued that although people may be upset about his show presenting this conversation, it is one that has to be had in light of California’s ban on minors entering into such therapy.

Reality is not so sweet.

The media slapped this story to the front page, and Dr. Oz got the ratings spike he sought. And as a consequence, ex gay looked legitimate. Shortly after tuning into the program, a nerve struck and a tide of terrible feelings came over me.

There she was.

Julie Hamilton is an endearing lady. She speaks with the softness of that favorite grandma that lives over the river and through the woods. There is a warmth to her that sets the frame for whatever comes out of her lovely face. Her charming voice is disarming. Her tone is not without sympathy. And the angry voices of GLAAD and GLSEN, the Harvard psychologist and the audience, made you want to rescue her. She looked like a mouse cornered by a cat.

When I wrote my post “Forgive Them, Father“, the video that tormented my dad was the creation of none other than Ms. Hamilton. Her deficient father-talk that bears no resemblance of my own life, or the children of single parents, or ones of actual bad dads, one that has been routinely refuted by leading psychologists, is still a sufficient explanation in her mind. And even though the consequences of such a theory leads to torturous tales of blame and shame, her conscience still insists that she’s right.

She has to be. What else would ex gay groups do?

Bringing me to my point.

Ex gay is not a ministry. It’s an industry.

People are throwing thousands of dollars away towards years of therapy that proves to be about as successful as your local palm reader.

…Okay, fine. That was unfair… to the occult.

See, séances with dead spouses and love potion recipes don’t typically lead to addiction, depression, and suicide. Yet, that is exactly what the fruit of the ex gay industry has been. High rates of addiction, depression, and suicide.

The leading psychologist from Harvard put it as “so simplistic, and operating under an agenda.” Personally, I’d put it as an agenda operating under the guise of empathy. It’s exploitation of the emotionally broken’s desire for acceptance in a culture that calls them abnormal. For sexual minorities within the conservative Christian community, this therapy is charming and convenient. It is seductive. It is colored with compassion. It says it will strip the societal target off their back. Enticing words are used, like “freedom”, “truth”, and “healing”—the ultimate escape from the threat of hell.

Courageously, the CEO of the leading Ex Gay organization, Alan Chambers of Exodus, recently said in an interview that “99.9% of people that walk through their doors don’t leave changed.

“But we have thousands of success stories!” Hamilton exclaimed.

It seems someone forgot to tell Chambers.

And then, when confronted with the heartbreaking stories of near suicide from those surviving conversion therapy, Hamilton seemed sincerely sympathetic … for a moment:

“Well, I am very sorry to hear that… But ya know, sadly there is a high rate of suicide within the homosexual community.”

…Because homosexuality is innately depressing, completely unrelated to society’s shaming attitude. And even though the medical community has uniformly rejected reparative therapy as unethical and harmful, some Christians still argue that medicine is no substitute for faith. The Bible speaks in only negative tones about gay behavior, so it makes sense to switch out the gay with the straight. As Dr. Hamilton says, You can’t change the thousand year old texts.


In a famous exhortation, Jesus warns his followers against false prophets. He explains explicitly how to discern who is of God and who is not.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15-20, NIV)

The Message has an interesting translation of this passage:

15-20 “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.” (Matthew 7:15-20, MSG, bold emphasis mine)

“A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook.” Mmhm.

This is a bad apple. It is a predatory practice. It is emotional exploitation and it is spiritual abuse. And it is so antithetical to the gospel message that I start to wonder how inept our leaders of the Church truly are when it comes to faith and sexuality.

I mean, seriously, Are we still HERE?

The legitimate and valuable conversation to be had within the Christian community is what life means for LGBT Christians. That is the one that has the potential for real freedom, truth, and healing. There are good and Godly people who see things differently. Not all saints share the same side of the table. A position against same sex relationships does NOT make someone a bigot. A position in the affirmative does NOT make someone a secularist.

But the line must be drawn between good and poisoned fruit. And like lobotomies, leeches, and cocaine medicine, Ex Gay’s shelf life has expired.



Read more on Ethics & Values.

—Photo Guillaume Paumier/Flickr

About Registered Runaway

The anonymous blogger behind Registered Runaways: his battle cry is for community. For keepers. For safe people to show up. He calls on his readers to roll up their sleeves, trade tales of their bruises, and deny the lie that we’re alone. You can follow him on Twitter at @registeredruna1.


  1. BTW, I apologize and will use “gay identity” instead of “gayness”. (I don’t like “ex-gay” used with quotation marks, either, because I see it as demeaning as well…I apologize for seeming so earlier with the word gayness.)

    Gay identity = sexual attraction + emotional attraction + identity

  2. Registered Runaway says:


    Hello again! Thank you for those stories. I can tell you have a deep interest in this issue, and I can appreciate that. It’s also clear you share the same faith as I, which is also encouraging.

    That being said, I have some issues with your past comments that for the sake of civility, I wasn’t ready to comment on.

    First, what do you mean by “gayness”? I don’t know how you are defining that, but the word sounds incredibly derogatory. Every time I read it, I cringe, so you either have to explain that one to me or refrain from using it in any follow up comments

    Secondly, when it comes to Alan Chambers, his story and the stories of many like him, they describe their attractions to the same sex as “temptations
    or “struggles”, what that means is that they are still attracted to the same sex. There hasn’t been an orientation change. So the question you have to face is, why did God not answer any of their prayers to become straight? Many of them do the hard work of chastising themselves every time they notice a cute guy, yet nothing seems to come of it. It’s a dead end road that they keep hitting, and all the while they are being told that God is in the process of “healing” them. I spoke to one guy who left the faith altogether after years of reparative therapy, because God clearly didn’t love him since he wasn’t showing any progress. These are the questions that are unavoidable. To every story of someone who has “turned” in their sexual orientation, there are ten more stories of people who said they “turned” but in reality were so ashamed that they chose to walk back into the closet and tell everyone that they no longer were gay. It’s happening quite frequently, to the point that some ex gay organizations are, to their credit, calling their therapy a way for gay people to leave the “gay lifestyle” (lifestyle is another word that offends me, if you wonder why, I can explain in another comment) instead of “healing” their orientation.

    Thirdly, when I said I was a fan of Josh Weed, I am not sure if you have heard of him, it was because he is unbelievably honest about his relationship to his wife. He writes on his blog that he has never fought his attractions, they are not a “struggle” for him, and he doesn’t believe that homosexuality is inherently wrong. He just happened to fall in love with a woman. That’s just the way it went. He never tried to change or anything, and he fights all the misinformation out there that having same sex attractions is sinful.


    When you draw lines between other commenters and yourself, as one being on the side of truth and the other not, you’re slicing and dicing the Christian community which is antithetical to the gospel message. The debate occurring on this blog is not a Christian vs everyone else. SO don’t cast aside Jeff, Laura, myself and whoever else, as being defined by the world. At least, I can say for me, I am incredibly spiritual person with a deep belief in Jesus Christ. My faith informs my life.

    There are a huge number of Christians who believe that same-sex couples are blessed by God. There are a huge number of Christians who are unsure whether they are blessed by God. There are a huge number of Christians who feel, as you do, that they are not blessed by God. People read 2,000 year old texts differently! Neither are godless and neither holds the trump card on the truth. We are, after all, seeing through a glass darkly.

    What’s important is that we never make the gospel a matter of preconditions. Gay couples are no more and no less Christian than you or I. They should not have to let go of their love in order to be accepted by their church. It’s a difference in theology.

    The real problem is that you, I, or anyone, have no right to cross people off the guest lists, because this isn’t our party. This isn’t our table. This isn’t our church. This is God’s.

    It’s like, let’s imagine you and I are in the same room and Jesus happens to appear. You will see him from one angle and I will see him from another. We don’t discount one another’s perspectives because we are looking at the same Christ. One that does not fit into legalistic doctrines or favors one denomination or people group. There is a need for humility in your perspective KJW.

    Whenever people claim “truth” based on disputed texts that are over 2,000 years old, written in dozens of different cultures, under a vast variety of circumstances, in thousands of translations, by mere humans, I have a reaaaaalllly hard time taking their word for it. And you have to understand that we all approach the holy text with our own junk, our pasts, hopes, dreams, love, those are the ways in which God speaks to us.

    And we have to consider Church history. Galileo was called a heretic by every major historical Christian leader we revere today. His crime? Claiming the earth wasn’t the center of the universe, rather, the sun was. He was punished for life in imprisonment. Slavery was also supported by the church. So was polygamy. So was making interracial marriage illegal. So was the oppression of women. So was “manifest destiny”, the imprisonment of native Americans. The crusades.. I could go on and on.

    The church makes mistakes. I want the church to avoid making mistakes. Until we stop saying that someone is a bigot for believing in traditional marriage and calling others heretic for believing God blesses all marriages, we are going to destroy every good and productive thing that could happen.

    “if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another” –Mother Teresa

    Novel. Done.

    • Registered Runaways, how about this?

      Let’s let all people be welcomed and have their stories told, both in and out of the Christian church*. Let’s let gay Christians (and non-Christians) be welcome to tell their stories across the world. Let’s let ex-gays (who have experienced a genuine change in orientation, were once quite gay and now are quite heterosexual with their spouse (and as I told Jeff above, not in the world’s filthy definition of “heterosexuality” which isn’t good for any human being)) be welcome to tell their stories across the world. Why can’t both these groups be accepted? People are smart enough on their own to determine which path they want to follow, aren’t they?

      (*I hope, as much as the Islamic church is trying to advance on the now post-modern, post-Christian west, that both gays and ex-gays could tell their stories there as well. I have a horrible feeling that neither would be welcome.)

      “I HATE war. No military man I know loves war. Who could? But…I love freedom more than I hate war.” – Dave Roever

  3. Jeff Coulter says:

    You refer to the statement by Mr.Chambers and you give a reference that indicates that he was misunderstood. However, examination of that reference indicates that Mr. Chambers did not say he was misunderstood. Rather an religious organization is reinterpreting what he said to meet their own agenda. The quote from your resource includes this, “The Cafe have taken that to mean that Chambers is saying that no-one ever sees a shift in their orientation, but that is not what Chambers actually means.” Episcopal Cafe is NOT quoting Mr. Chambers.

    I am sure Mr. Jernigan is a wonderful man. Like others I know he may have experimented with his sexuality when he was young, and finally settled on what was right for him. I did the opposite. I was engaged to a wonderful woman, and sexually happy with our relationship. But before we married I realized I was not being fufilled and we called it off. Does this make me an ex-heterosexual? Should I be working some circuit somewhere preaching you can change if you really want to?

    • Jeff, thanks again for clarifying more where you’re coming from. I very much appreciate it. BTW, here is Mr. Jernigan’s story. He recalls having same-sex attraction from a very young age, although he takes pains to explain it. Unlike you (and I’m not saying this as an insult, rather as a statement of fact) I’m not sure he ever had sexual relations with a girl or woman before he was married. It does sound like he had multiple male partners, though. Apart from having nine kids, I’m not seeing much different in other ex-gay men’s stories than his, and I don’t mean that as an insult to Mr. Jernigan. (BTW, like Registered Runaways, the author of this article, Mr. Jernigan liked sports. Fascinating that he felt safest on the basketball court where he was the only white kid and every other Boynton High teammate was african-American.)

      If you or another man in your position would like to make a case to be ex-heterosexual I doubt there would be many who would stop you as long as you were truthful about it. I work extensively with an anti-pornography/prostitution/sex trafficking/sex tourism international ministry (it’s how I heard of the Good men project). There’s ample evidence out there that repeated pornography use and the hormones it releases alters brain chemistry. I’ve no doubt this is true for every repeated sexual act, including gay ones (though this isn’t the only part of gayness as there’s also an emotional and identity component as well). Those who quit porn (and it can be an immense struggle) can be tempted at times, just as those who leave homosexuality and even become heterosexual can have temptations. But that doesn’t mean they’re homosexual (just as a gay man who unwisely (and we both know this has happened) tries to marry a woman to “cure” his gayness will find he’s not yet “heterosexual”.)

      I still think the problem is that those on my side know true ex-gay people exist, regardless if they occasionally have temptations. I’ve known them, including the Director of Worship of my church in Georgia before I moved. (It’s one thing to be tempted. It’s another to give into them. And it’s still another when you have a temptation from the past but can honestly look at it and say: “Uh, wait a minute. I know what this is, and it isn’t what it used to be to me”…and then you walk away for good.) I think you, Registered Runaways and some others here don’t believe they do (and in Registered’s case, I don’t believe it’s for lack of trying as he clearly did. Many ex-gays were unsuccessful as well in their first efforts and for a time just gave up and gave in).

      That’s the divide we’re on two sides of. I’ll say this, and I’ve said it for over a decade…if all gay leaders would acknowledge that true ex-gay people exist and let them be, I’d have a very tough time being against GLBT marriage. Let everyone have the freedom to pursue what they want (between consenting adults) in that case.

      But Jeff, I think many GLBT leaders (not necessarily in the “rank and file”) would have a lot to lose by doing that. A lot. (BTW, if they ever did “stand down” on ex-gays I doubt you’d see true evangelicals suddenly get behind mandatory ex-gay counseling. You cannot force someone to change their sexuality any more than you can force them to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The old saying: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still” is in force.)

      • Jeff Coulter says:

        The issue is not those people who choose to live their lives a certain way. They have the right to do so. The issue at hand is reparative therapy. An unsubstantiated, unapproved, damaging process that tries to change something that can’t be changed.

        • Jeff, it’s not just about living lives in a certain way. I (and many others who are living it) believe fully that one can leave their gayness (which is not in any way like eye color, though it can become part of our identity in ways mere physical characteristics often cannot do) behind, and even become heterosexual…monogamously so within the boundaries that God sets, and not as the world defines heterosexuality which is more akin to animal behavior in certain species mixed in with a great dose of human lust, sin and idolatry.

          Very respectfully said, it’s clear that you and others do not. I understand and respect your beliefs. And the lines are drawn.

  4. Registered Runaway,

    Thank you for responding to my post. I’m very, very, very sorry that you were told you were “a freak”, and rejected, or at least felt that way.* I wouldn’t wish that on any child, anywhere.

    As for Mr. Chambers’ statement, I’m glad you called my attention to it. However, it appears that what he was meaning was that 99.9% of people who’ve come through Exodus will still, at times, find themselves with unwanted sexual attractions…(the linked synopsis is from an on-line acquaintance, Peter Ould, who identifies as “post-gay” – a very kind man who DID have a childhood filled with pain). I’d honestly like to elaborate more on Mr. Chambers’ comments, but I’m afraid right now I might not find the right words (I’m preparing for a move and packing by myself).

    (*Let me instead say a bit more on your comments growing up in a “conservative” church. I’ve been blessed to be at a service 9 years ago where Dennis Jernigan (formerly gay, now married with 9 children) gave his testimony. After singing several of his beautiful songs, Mr. Jernigan gave the audience (probably 250-400 people) a slideshow of his life while talking about his story. (His Dad loved him, too, and he played sports all the way through high school, being the only white kid on his Boynton, Oklahoma high school team that went to state all four years he attended – in this day of racial polarization it was most touching to hear Mr. Jernigan (who was a starting guard or forward, I believe) tell how whenever some opposing player tried to give him a hard time off the court after a game, said player would be SURROUNDED by Mr. Jernigan’s teammates, defending him…I wish I could hear more stories like that today, frankly.

    Anyway, Mr. Jernigan got to a slide showing his Baptist church in Boynton, on slightly raised ground with steps going down to the parking lot. He talked of how the boys used to play on those steps after church as the men of the congregation would talk outside after services. He then said: “Parents, be careful what you say around your kids.” He recalled playing on those steps as a boy, inwardly questioning his sexuality, as those men would say things like “I wish all gays could be shipped off to Europe”, or “If I knew there was a gay man nearby, I’d…” Mr. Jernigan didn’t finish that last sentence…it was clear that it deeply hurt him.

    One of the most memorable moments I’ve ever seen in decades of attending church services. The crowd had been joyous and celebratory. At the minute he discussed things heard playing on those steps as a boy, you could have heard a pin drop.

    Again, thank you for posting here, sir, and for your clarification on ex-gays.)

  5. Registered Runaway says:

    KJW- I didn’t want to comment on here because to be honest, I’m a little battle fatigued.

    But just to be clear. Because I know my post wasn’t crystal. I was comparing the therapy not the ex gay individuals. I figured it was implied, since a person should never be “expired” and the content of the post, including the text above it made that clear. Or so I thought. In any case, sorry for the confusion

    I want you to know that good and Godly people can and do disagree on this. And, I guess, that’s okay, But the facts, stats, stories, and so on, do not bid well to your position, as many have already pointed out. And you never responded to Alan Chambers statement.

    I never spoke of intolerance towards couples in mixed orientation marriages. I’m a fan of Josh Weed and his wife, expressing how love sometimes knows no gender.

    Furthermore, I hope you read my post “Forgive them, Father” and realize the implications of such a message. My dad sobbed for a week after watching that video. I have never seen anyone so broken. It was because up until that point, he believed our relationship was stronger than ever. Like it had always been. But when the ex gay crowd said, “no, it actually wasn’t, you were a bad parent, you made your kid gay” he took a hit harder than any person I know.

    You’ll never know the pain of trying to convince your own dad that you always knew he loved you. He himself has had to go into therapy because of how traumatic that moment was for him. And it sickens me that such a simplified theory, that has no basis, has been so pervasive in the Christian Community. I never perceived that my dad didn’t love me and I do not know why the ex gay industry would say that in fact I did.

    I grew with older brothers and enjoyed playing sports. I wasn’t feminine, I wasn’t different than any typical boy, but as I got older I realized I was attracted to guys. That was that. Still love sports and have a more masculine personality. No one is a caricature.

    Therapy that is harmful shouldn’t be encouraged to the emotionally vulnerable. When I first found out I was gay, I would’ve given anything to free from myself from the status of Freak. From the shame that I knew right off the bat from growing up in a conservative church. I was told that gay people were disgusting. I was told that I was a mistake. It was only a year ago that I attempted suicide.

    I hated that no one wanted me. That’s what I wanted freedom from. But now I have seen too much- oh, I would never go back in. The love I have received has been unreal. But my brief experience with the ex gay movement left me feeling just like I did when I sat in the closet. And the stories from others have been horrendous. I can’t support something that has been so so so harmful to so many that I know and love.


  6. BTW, Jeff, I’ll stay at my first rejoinder of the original article.

    The writer compared ex-gays (who are PEOPLE, currently alive today, as well as in the past and future) to a surgical procedure, an animal and a drug.

    No comparison. One is human, the other three are not. (And if you are saying you believe in reality “ex-gay people don’t exist”, I will respect your being honest about what you feel to be true even while my own life experience has demonstrated otherwise.)

    • Jeff Coulter says:

      As the author has clarified he was comparing reparative therapy to outdated medical procedures, not people. Something I understood contextually, but can see where the confusion came from. I’m not saying there are not people who live happy, productive lives in mixed orientation relationships. I have a couple of friends who have been married for over 20 years, and I celebrate their union. I grant those unions the same respect I would opposite sex, and same sex marriages.

      My argument is with a reparative therapy is an outdated and dangerous process that does more harm than it ever does good. I notice you don’t refute the evidence of that from the APA, the WHO and even the CEO of an ex-gay organization. I am well aware that there are people out there with unwanted same sex attraction. My argument isn’t that they don’t exist, my argument is that instead of referring them to therapist practicing what amounts to voodoo, we should try to understand why they are so uncomfortable with something that “99.9 of people are unable to change” according to Exodus International. Quite often that discomfort is based on being involved in a congregation, or faith system, that does not accept them as they are. The problem isn’t that they are gay. The problem is that they are getting the message from somewhere else that being gay makes them “less than”.

  7. wellokaythen says:

    There are a couple of l distinct issues here.

    One issue is fraud. Promising things that are impossible or virtually impossible, lying about the success rate, selling something on false pretenses, no matter what, is a form of fraud. It’s predatory and generally illegal. Whether the client wants something noble or repugnant, this industry is based on a lot of lies and half-truths. You can think gay people are going to hell and still recognize a(nother) lie when you see one. You don’t get to sell lies just because you’re coming from a religious viewpoint.

    Another issue is individual agency. An adult of sound mind should have the freedom to try to change anything about himself or herself he wants to, including orientation. I think it’s completely unnecessary and depressing and tragic for someone who is gay to try to make himself/herself straight. I think the people who do so are often suckered into it, pressured into it, or manipulated into doing it. And, if the “client” is not an adult, there is no consent, so what the industry is doing is psychological torture without the client’s consent, or, essentially, child sexual abuse.

    But, theoretically, an adult individual has the right to attempt it, assuming he has all the facts he needs to make an informed decision. Deluded people are obsessed with all sorts of impossible things, things that we shake our heads about but let them try anyway. (For example, meditation enthusiasts who spend decades trying to levitate. Totally bonkers, as far as I’m concerned, but it’s their bodies, they can try all they want.) If I had a gay friend or family member who wanted to try to become straight, I would try to talk him out of it. But, he still gets to make his own decision.

  8. Sir,

    This site is called “The Good Men Project”. And it was once said, “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing”. I’m trying to be a good man, flawed as I am, and I feel compelled to do something.

    The comparison you made is evil.

    Lobotomies are a surgical procedure. Leeches are animals once thought to help healing through bleeding. Cocaine is a drug, always has been.

    Ex-gays are PEOPLE.

    Let’s leave aside the fact that there’s been no scientifically replicated genetic or inborn cause found for same-sex romantic attraction. None. Let’s leave out the endless studies of identical twins, one of whom is gay, where the other twin isn’t. (One study of identical twins separated at birth, raised apart, found that not one set of female twins had both who were lesbian. Striking, isn’t it?) Let’s not even talk about all the ex-gay people that are out there who have left their GLBT identities behind, for good.

    Instead, let’s examine four stories of people who likely wouldn’t have sought counseling help if you paid them:

    – The singer Boy George (who during his halcyon “Culture Club days was carrying on an affair with his band’s drummer, the latter of whom is now married with children) said in an interview during the 2000s that “I can’t even call myself ‘gay’ any more”, but more powerfully, he added: “I’ve come to realize that it (his gay identity) was all in my mind.”

    – Russel Davies, the man who introduced the program “Queer as folk” in the UK, is a gay man who ought to recognize a fellow traveler when he sees one. Nonetheless, he also produced an award-winning “programme” around 2001 called “Bob and Rose” based on a real-life friend of his, whom he called the most “out, loud and proud gay man one could meet”, but was also happily married to a woman! (With whom he fathered a little girl.) An interview with Mr. Davies is out there on the web…he said that maybe technically his friend was “bisexual’ but that his friend also said, with his loving bride by his side, “I was born gay, I’ll die gay, I’ll have a gay tombstone”. (Interestingly, Mr. Davies also said that gay men sent the most vicious mail against the female lead in “Bob and Rose”, wishing all kinds of harm to come to her. Why? Can’t we celebrate “true love”, even this kind of love?)

    – Around that time, the web editor of the Advocate magazine (the ADVOCATE!) published an article about going to his high school reunion as an “all-new, all-gay” man. In an astonishing piece of self-evaluation, the editor almost seemed to be his own therapist, seeing men who as boys would put gum in his hair but couldn’t remember doing so now. (How many kids either can’t remember, don’t want to, or didn’t really know how much they hurt other kids growing up, in retrospect.) Seeing former girlfriends, this “all-gay” man reminisced how great is was “making out” with them (the most fun he had in high school, he said) but as he started to forgive the tormentors he’d long held a grudge against, he felt himself “loosening up” inside, and was astonished to feel how great a woman high school friends breasts felt against his chest when he hugged her. Most powerfully, afterward, he “tightened up” inside, saying there was some psychological “gum” he didn’t WANT to remove from his hair. Instructive.

    – Finally, in Instinct magazine (not a conservative publication, that) there was an article written (with great but not condescending humor, I might add) on gay men who found themselves being attracted to women. Some just noticed their beautiful smiles. Others consummated a relationship, and LIKED it. Yet there seemed to be a common response: “Don’t tell anyone I told you this.” One man elaborated further: “My parents rejected me when they found out I was gay. Now I’m afraid that if my gay friends find out I think a girl is pretty, they’ll reject me, too. How (bleeped) up is that?”


    Registered Runaway, we’re in a time when we’re running away from truth. (And remember, Jesus told Pontius Pilate: “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me”. (John 18:37) There is ample evidence out there that “gayness” far too often, perhaps almost exclusively, results from deep past emotional wounds either real or perceived (and to a child, perception is everything). There’s also evidence that a lot of people have left a gay identity they did not want, frequently with help of counseling. As an evangelical Christian, I would fight against mandatory ex-gay counseling for adults, and would advise parents of minor children to pray very carefully about children they suspect might become gay.

    But denying people the freedom to become ex-gay if they wish?

    I cannot find anything good in that, especially if we cannot honestly discuss gayness itself, what it is, and what it isn’t.

    • Jeff Coulter says:

      This response is both well-crafted and well-written, which goes to show that’s possible to say something so well that people don’t really know that nothing has been said. Let’s break down KJW’s argument into addressable pieces and see what remains.

      First, he insinuates that it is evil to compare reparative therapy to outdated therapies such as leeches, lobotomies and the use of cocaine to treat mood disorders. Why is this evil? All of these were at one time acceptable medical practices which were also used to treat mental disorders. In hindsight we shudder at such practices, but at one time someone defended them as justifiable, much as KJW defends reparative therapy now. Does that make him evil? No; it makes his argument outdated.
      KJW’s argues the gene that causes same-sex attraction has not been identified and equates that with non-existence. Negative proof is not a scientific example of proof. We haven’t discovered which gene causes right or left hand dominance either, but we don’t suppose that it doesn’t exist. We no longer call left-handedness abnormal and force the minority of “lefties” to convert to using their right hand; a process which may appear to work, but does not change their true nature.

      Never mind that the American Psychological Association has categorized reparative therapy as ineffective and outdated (much like they did with lobotomies and cocaine use) or that much of the work of reparative therapists is based on a 2001 study by Dr. Robert Spitzer. In May 2012, Spitzer himself repudiated the work he had published and that the same article includes the information that the World Health Organization calls the therapy “a serious threat to the health and well-being — even the lives — of affected people.”

      KJW repeated refers to “all the ex-gay people out there”, but offers no rebuttal that “the CEO of the leading Ex Gay organization, Alan Chambers of Exodus, recently said in an interview that “99.9%” of people that walk through their doors don’t leave changed.” That information can be found on several websites, including, Instead he offers four anecdotal examples which don’t provide an example of reparative therapy at work. Where are these staggering numbers? And how do you know they have really changed what they think or feel?

      Where this response slips from being out of touch into being dangerous is when KJW asserts “There is ample evidence out there that “gayness” far too often, perhaps almost exclusively, results from deep past emotional wounds either real or perceived (and to a child, perception is everything).” Really? Where is this monumental evidence? I challenge you to provide evidence of that claim from an unbiased organization. You certainly won’t find it coming from organizations such as the APA. This is tantamount to trying to turn back the clock and classify same-sex attraction as a mental disorder. That ship sailed in 1973 when the APA removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

      I will agree that there are people out there with unwanted same-sex attraction, who need supportive therapy. Not to change who they are, but to learn why they are uncomfortable with who they are, and come to terms with that. I would love to be 6’2” with blue eyes. But at 5’9” with green eyes I have to accept that is never going to happen and figure out why I think what I have is not good enough. I offer opinion here when I say that what seems to drive most of the people into reparative therapy is a discontinuity between who they are and the teachings of their church. To those people I would say that you don’t need a therapist, you need a church that accepts who you are, and there are plenty of them out there.

      The biggest argument I have with reparative therapy is that it suggests that an individual can change his or her sexual and affectional preferences. If this is so, with the right therapist we should be able to change straight people into happy and productive gay people. If a therapist advertised that he would be shut down almost immediately. So why is the reverse acceptable? Homophobia perhaps?

    • I wish I wasn’t on break on my phone so I could answer more thoroughly, but I think the author is not implying that those who wish to be ex-gay should not be able to, but rather the industry that is profiting off of people in a culture and society that still pushes the idea of “heterosexual is normal, homosexual is abnormal, people should not be -allowed- to be abnormal”. It doesn’t make sense to laud a self-professed mostly failing industry for “giving people freedom of choice to not be gay” while currently benefitting of a society that says people shouldn’t have the choice to be gay (without surrendering their basic rights as a citizen).

    • Dear anonymous commenter:
      1. When the author said “ex-gay” he meant this industry, not the person. He was referring to the industry that subjects the (useless) abomination that is conversion therapy on individuals who, as a result of the ignorant, homophobic circles they run in, are desperate to try anything, no matter if it kills them, pushes them to suicide, or deepens their depression. Which it usually, and almost exclusively (to quote your words) does.
      2. Quoting individual experiences does not make something so. These examples do not prove that being gay is something that can be changed. They only prove that those individuals you mentioned have a fluid sexuality. Not everyone is either “all gay” or “all straight”.
      3. No one “wants” conversion therapy. They want love, and acceptance, and understanding. They want to be able to fit in with the people who are shunning them because of who they are. They have been told God hates them and they want God to love them, using the requirements these people give them. And they have been told, by society, that they will get all of this if they “become straight”. It’s not that they don’t want to be gay, it’s that they don’t want the experience thrust on them by society when they ARE gay. No one wants to be in fear of their safety, shunned by their own family, ridiculed in Church, have their civil rights legislated away. Who would “want” that?
      4. You are terribly misguided in your idea that being gay results from some terrible experience in someone’s past. It’s almost laughable to me that people still believe this. This would mean that all children who had terrible experiences would “turn out” gay. That a woman, after being brutally raped by a man, is going to “become gay”. That the thousands of young children that are molested every year, sometimes for years at a time, will all “become gay”. This also is just bad math. Correlation (if it even exists, and I think you don’t understand the meaning of “ample”) is not causation.

      • Dear Laura,

        1. I don’t see an “industry”. Rather, there are counselors across the US that will (if someone wants) counsel people who don’t want to be gay any more, or perhaps merely counsel them to help attendant conditions such as sexual addiction (which not every GLBT person has) and in process one’s gay sexual, emotional and identity attractions (the three main components to a gay identity) change, though maybe not at the same time…these counselors also work with other issues, though there are ex-gay ministries. Nonetheless, it’s clear there’s a push to outlaw ALL counseling of this sort. Why? (See #3 and #4 below).

        2. Ah, but what was interesting about these experiences I quoted were the subjects involved. Boy George was almost iconic back in the 80s when so many of his contemporaries were still in the closet. Russel Davies described his “Bob and Rose”-inspiring friend the way one might describe the gayest man on the planet (and again, Davies, a gay man himself and creator of “Queer as folk” would know a gay man if he saw one…and he himself said that “Bob and Rose” became a vehicle to fight prejudice even withing the gay community, ostensibly against GLBT people who fall in love with someone of the opposite sex). The Advocate’s web editor (the article was called “High school reunion confidential”, by the way) described himself as “all-gay”. And the many men interviewed by Instinct magazine all seemed to think they were quite gay…even the interviewer himself said (with an apparent wink in his eye) that he might try it sometime. It was actually a refreshing article given the publication.

        (BTW, Laura, why do you think a gay man who found himself falling in love with a woman might be afraid for his friends to learn that fact? Shouldn’t GLBT people be among the most tolerant of all, given the prejudice they’ve endured (although clearly our culture is going overboard to reverse that trend). I hope the article on “Bob and Rose” I’ve linked here gets posted, as Mr. “Queer as Folk” Davies talks about the reaction of the Manchester gay community to his friend’s marriage. Interesting. Mr. Davies was later asked in an interview regarding this program a question like: “But wasn’t that what the (1960s) ‘sexual revolution’ was all about…the freedom to love whomever (ostensibly a consenting adult) you wanted?”, to which Mr. Davie replied from his “Bob and Rose” experience with gay men wanting to see vile things happen to the “Rose” character: “Hardly”.)

        3. Face it, though…some people just don’t want to be gay. They don’t want the attractions. They don’t want the identity. They want to leave it.

        And with all the research 12 years past the unveiling of the original Human Genome Project results, there’s still no verifiable genetic or inborn link to same-sex romantic attraction. If there was, it would be broadcast every third commercial or PSA in whatever medium you chose. Instead, the best we have is Lady Gaga singing to us of having been “Born that way”.

        My fear is that the treatment options for those who don’t want to be gay (and there are plenty of stories of people who’ve left they’re gay identity, all three components of it) are under assault. My fear is that a select few don’t want any ex-gay counseling or ministry available for GLBT people who want it, period. Only “gay-affirmation” counseling. For some, the latter is not going to be enough.

        4. It’s not laughable at all. Remember, I said “real or perceived”. Not every child that’s abused grows up to be gay, but to a person it’s fascinating when to hear the retrospective stories of GLBT people in their childhood, and how they came to their views on basic yet intimate questions such as “what is a ‘man’?”, “what is a ‘woman’?”, “what is ‘love'”?, etc.

        Here’s another article I recall reading from Frontiers web, another very pro-gay magazine. It was about a man who had unsuccessfully went through conversion therapy. He didn’t feel it was successful in conversion, but he genuinely enjoyed it. He said the members of the group he met were some of the best friends he’d ever had, and said that the gay community in general could have learn from his ex-gay group how to relate to one another in ways of genuine friendship.

        In my personal experience, I was part of a group that attempted to dialogue between both sides of the “divide” on this issue. It was fascinating…I’ve seen gay activists, living with AIDS or with kids they loved who had ssa, who were able to dialogue and become friends with genuine ex-gay people and not only respect them for their choices but believe them. I know this issue is a difficult one for many people because its dealt with purely on emotion. (BTW, Jeff Coulter, I’ve known several ex-gay people. To a person, leaving their identity was a struggle in one way or another. But it was their choice. They did not want to be gay, and no amount of “feel-good-with-who-you-are” was going to change that. Jeff, since “The Good Men Project” seems to be marginally Christian I’ll quote Proverbs 27:7 – “He who is full loathes honey, but to him who is starving even that which is bitter tastes sweet.” Wish I had a dollar right now for all the GLBT people whose stories I’ve read indicated they were starving (though not necessarily abused) growing up emotionally.)

        Right now, this anti-ex-gay ministry trend seems to be mirroring that of liberal politics in general. Forget dialogue. Forget compromise. It’s “our way or NO way”, and (as many have predicted for various reasons) I fear that “our way” means NO ex-gay therapy and/or ministry options if the anti-ex-gay side gets their way. That is no less evil than if the evangelical Christian community ever got the wrong-headed idea to try and make ex-gay counseling mandatory for GLBT people.


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