I Was Taught To Be Ashamed Of My Sexuality
For many years I desired and tried to change my sexual orientation. I was ashamed of my attractions and I was told that if I worked hard enough I could change my sexuality. So I spent the first 27 years of my life working as hard as possible to try and make this happen.
Shame is something I had learned. It seemed clear to me even as a young kid that my attractions were not something I was supposed to talk about. I was surrounded by the evangelical Christian community as a teenager which endorsed the idea that there was something wrong with my sexuality, that my attractions were a result of my childhood experiences, and that I needed to change.
With these messages filling my head I wanted the change that so many people promised me was possible. The whole experience of trying to change my sexuality only seemed to add to my shame.
My Experience With Ex-Gay Ministry
I joined an ex-gay support group at a local church where the secrecy and approach to helping people with my “same sex attractions” only added to my sense of shame. We met in a small room upstairs so that no one would know what we were talking about. We were instructed that members of the group were not allowed to talk to one another outside of the group. We were not to exchange phone numbers, and we were not to talk to one another in the parking lot after the group ended.
I was told that these strict rules were in place so that members of the group would not engage in inappropriate relationships with each other. We were not to communicate with each other in any way outside of our structured group meetings.
The message I received was that there was something so wrong with people like me that we weren’t even supposed to communicate with each other because we were bound to do something “inappropriate.”
This summarized my experience of attempting to become an ex-gay. While there may not have been a direct message of hate, I was being taught that there was something broken and very shameful about who I was. I wasn’t supposed to talk about it, and I was supposed to change it.
Losing Hope In The Ex-Gay Promises
The reason I finally broke ties with the idea of becoming an ex-gay is because I was given promises that I began to realize were really false hope.
I read stories of men and women who had changed their sexual attractions. While I read a couple of these stories I had never met one single person who had experienced this type of change. After all the years of attending support groups, and attending ex-gay conferences I never met someone who could honestly say they had changed their orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.
There were stories of people who had married people of the opposite sex, and people who left unhealthy lifestyles such as prostitution, but I don’t recall one person ever stating they had actually managed to change their attractions or orientation. To this day I’m not sure I know anyone that claims to have made this change.
I began to be disillusioned with false hope. I lost hope that I really could change, and that I could achieve the idea of being married to a woman and raising kids. It has taken me some time to realize this was a cultural pressure that I felt obligated to fulfill.
I felt like it was all smoke and mirrors. No one seemed to be able to achieve this goal, and so many people around me seemed unhappy with their inability to accept their sexual attractions. It was time for me to let go of my unhappiness and my shame.
Letting My Faith and My Sexuality Co-Exist
Perhaps the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was my struggle between my evangelical faith and my sexuality. It has taken me many years to come to terms with my faith and my sexuality. I had to let go of a lot of bad theology, and allow myself to think outside the box that so many people wanted to keep me locked inside.
I now realize why so many men and women have left their faith. When I was a devoted young Christian I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that some people could just walk away from their faith. The church made it seem like these types of people were weak, or simply lacked faith. I now realize many of these people were tired of living under oppression and wanted to live with freedom
As I allowed myself to be who I was, I was told at times that I couldn’t be a part of the evangelical community. I was told by fellow students that I shouldn’t attend an evangelical seminary. The church often made it clear that I needed to find another place if I wanted to be able to be involved in any way.
I have begun to realize that much of the ex-gay movement was simply focused on one thing: my “same sex attractions.” I was taught that my sexuality was a separate part of my identity, as though it was something I could dissect like a biology project, and change this one undesirable thing about myself. Regardless of the gifts or good things I may have had to offer, this one aspect of my life disqualified me from the faith community. I think that could be the definition of spiritual abuse.
Life After Being An Ex-Gay
I can’t pretend that it was an easy or quick decision to move beyond the idea that I could, or that I needed to change my sexuality. It has been a process that I am still working out. I have to continually choose things that bring me peace and honor my life as a human, and my faith.
It has been a difficult but life-changing process of learning to like myself. Learning that I don’t have to change who I am to be acceptable. Realizing that my sexuality is not broken, or something that needs to be fixed. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of life is learning to be content with who I am what I have been given.