Ex-gays are everywhere, yet too often this community is excluded from the conversation about same-sex attraction in pop culture and the public square. Ex-gays are mocked, excluded from public forums, or simply told they don’t exist!
People deserve to know the truth about the many men, women, and children who have made a decision to change their lives. And PFOX offers a place for help, a place for truth and a voice in the conversation.
Respecting the lives of real people who have made a decision to change – and including them in the conversation – is part of building a tolerant society. As we build that kind of society together, here are some of the questions we commonly receive about ex-gays.
Each year thousands of men and women with unwanted same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave behind their former gay identity. And through gender affirming programs, including counseling, support groups, faith based ministries, and other non-judgmental environments, they are largely successful. Their decision is one only they can make.
There are simply too many reasons to name all of the factors that contribute to why ex-gays are not heard from more commonly in our culture. However, there are two answers which seem to standout most commonly among ex-gays: safety and shame.
Safety: It is simply not safe to be ex-gay in the culture. Ex-gays who speak up in the public square are constantly belittled, ridiculed, and face relentless harassment from activists and public servants alike – simply for daring to exist and share their story. Their story is maligned, their character attacked, and sometimes their very livelihood jeopardized. Why would anyone want to attract such unwanted attention after overcoming one of the greatest challenges of their entire life?
Shame: The other common reason is that ex-gays feel a great deal of shame. We frequently hear, “Same-sex attraction and living the gay lifestyle is a part of my past – I’ve moved on.” Some have families, children; and they just want to leave the past behind them. Others are fearful of what people would think about them upon hearing their story: will they be looked upon with suspicion for their past sexual behavior? Will they be viewed as “icky” and an “abomination”? Will they lose friendships, respect, or trust at church? Additionally, for a significant number of ex-gays there is a story of sexual abuse in their childhood that is quite painful to acknowledge on its own, much less discuss it publicly.
Each year thousands of men and women with unwanted same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave behind their former gay identity by participating in gender affirming programs, including counseling, support groups, faith based ministries, and other non-judgmental environments. Their decision is one only they can make. However, there are those who narrow-mindedly refuse to respect individual self-determination. Consequently, formerly gay men and women are reviled simply because they dare to exist. Without PFOX, former homosexuals would have no voice in an increasingly hostile environment.
This question is occasionally posed to ex-gay men or women who speak or appear with personality quirks, vocal tone, or gestures typically associated with the opposite sex. In answering this question, it’s important to remember that sexual orientation is a matter of self-affirmation and public declaration, not by identified or defined by mannerisms, voice inflection, or by cultural stereotypes like whether or not a male is good at sports or a female acts like a “tom-boy.”
Many ex-gay men, for example, will tell you that for one reason or another they were closer to their mother during childhood and picked up various feminine mannerisms and characteristics. In much the same way that a person picks up a different dialect when moving to another part of the country, those mannerisms can stay with you over many years – or even a lifetime. Expressing certain mannerisms or behaviors typically associated with the opposite sex often led them to hear different negative labels from adults, bullying from peers, and a poor sense of self that then felt exonerated when they found temporary acceptance in a gay identity. For some these mannerisms, tone, and other traits can simply stay with them long after overcoming homosexuality.
While the question is understandable given most people’s lack of exposure to more ex-gays, it’s truly unfair that ex-gays are often automatically held to a standard of thinking uncommon with any other type of human addiction or behavior. Is a reformed porn addict still vulnerable to temptation to pornography? Does a recovering alcoholic ever feel the pull to take a drink? Like other addictions, the process of overcoming a sometimes lifelong struggle is unique to each person. Sexuality can be complicated, and can manifest itself differently in men and women.
The reality is that ex-gays make a decision to change their lives, but the journey is different for each person. Some have spent 20 years in the gay lifestyle, overcame their same-sex attraction, and never ever had the feelings or sexual attractions return. Others spend the rest of their lives occasionally feeling attractions to the same-sex, but unlike earlier points in their life they now have an understanding and control of those attractions.
Ex-gays are subject to an increasingly hostile environment simply because they prove that it is possible to have had same-sex attractions, yet live out a different view of homosexuality.
The irony is that the feelings of shame and rejection that played a large role in the development of same-sex attraction for many ex-gays, is now felt all over again, but in a whole new way.
Consider the Saturday Night Live skit below, which makes no attempt to hide its outright mockery of the thousands of men and women who have been on an extremely painful, but ultimately successful journey to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions.
Sadly, for too many in society this kind of humorously camouflaged disdain is the only exposure some have ever had to ex-gays and their stories.
Due to lack of media coverage, many Americans are unaware of the widespread intolerance practiced against those who decide to leave homosexuality:
- While gays, lesbians, transgenders and cross-dressers are affirmed for changing their gender identity, ex-gays are ridiculed for making the decision to change their feelings and sexual orientation.
- Ex-gay conferences and seminars across the country are frequently picketed by anti-ex-gay protestors like PFLAG, an organization run by a gay activist, and Soulforce, a homosexual religious organization.
- Unlike gay groups, ex-gay groups like PFOX are routinely denied equal access to participate in public school events, donate books to public school libraries, and present speakers on diversity day.
- Presidential candidate Barack Obama was criticized by gay activists for allowing ex-gay gospel singer Donnie McClurkin to sing at a fundraiser. They insisted that Obama drop the African-American singer from the program. Gay singers did not receive this treatment.
- Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty was forced to apologize for issuing a certificate of appreciation to an ex-gay civil rights leader after receiving complaints from the gay lobby. In signing gay marriage legislation for the nation’s capital, Fenty promised equality for all DC residents. http://pfox.org/Mayor_Fenty_wrongful_apology.html
- An ex-gay volunteer staffing PFOX’s exhibit booth at the Arlington County, Virginia Fair, was physically assaulted because he refused to recant his ex-gay testimony. Wayne Besen, a former spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, falsely reported that the assault never occurred.
- Wayne Besen (leader of an organization that bases its sole existence on discrediting and intimidating ex-gays) and other anti-ex-gay activists can be seen in this video screaming and chanting against an ex-gay meeting held at a Boston church.
The list of abuses against ex-gays is endless because every day new hostile acts are committed against the ex-gay community and their supporters. This blatant hostility toward those who have overcome same-sex attraction demonstrates a disregard for diversity and a refusal to respect the basic human right of self-determination that all people have.