Controversy Breaks Out Over the Right Way to Be Ex-Gay

In a strange land, the land of “conversion therapy” and “cures,” a civil war is brewing. As Amanda Marcotte reported yesterday in Slate, several groups within the ex-gay movement have officially backed away from curative therapy, and are now promoting quiet, shameful returns to the closet — in order to, apparently, stay relevant in today’s rapidly evolving attitudes towards the queer community.

this is where they’d like us to be

This shift in strategy is predominantly led by Exodus International, the country’s most well-known ex-gay Christian ministry. So that their mission — “Mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality” — can be carried out in the most politically expedient way possible, Exodus is re-branding. Exodus president Alan Chambers announced back in June that claiming to be able to cure homosexuality is “as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth.” Chambers has allegedly gotten rid of ex-gay books from the Exodus online bookstore, and is working to discourage others from promoting it.

Instead, Chambers is officially promoting alternative solutions, like celibacy, or “finding an understanding opposite-sex partner,” which is what he has chosen to do, telling the Associated Press that his marriage is the best one he knows of. He says, “It’s an amazing thing, yet I do have same-sex attractions. Those things don’t overwhelm me or my marriage; they are something that informs me like any other struggle I might bring to the table.” It sounds like a lose/lose situation to me, but anyway. This is apparently a progressive twist on the philosophy that homosexuality can and should be cured, because it acknowledges that same-sex attraction can’t be prayed away.

Mormons within the ex-gay movement are following suit, suggesting that instead of telling young people not to be gay, supportive family members should instead tell their kids to simply not act on their gay identity.

Not everyone in the right is getting behind the “closet-not-cure” route. Its flaws — like the fact that to re-enter the closet means a life of emotional suffering with no hope for fulfilling sexual experiences — are surprisingly obvious to Team Gay Cure. In response to Exodus’s re-branding, members of Team Cure launched the ironically titled Restored Hope Network, which held a conference this past weekend to get the show on the road. The core of the Restored Hope Network’s position is that though queers are “sexually and relationally broken,” we can actually be fully cured of our sinful desires, restored to the fulfilling heterosexual lifestyle that these people have deemed appropriate, normal and good. It’s a counterargument to Team Closet, though both sides are promoting an emotional death sentence.

This is all very infuriating and depressing, but sometimes it’s important to check in with people who actively oppose equal, healthy relationships for queer people, and understand what the people who want to set us back are thinking. The important thing is that even though Team Closet understands itself to be progressive and compassionate in mission, its goals are based on the same fundamental understandings of its predecessor, Team Cure. Both teams think that they have the right to define how other people should exist, and each one thinks that they have a superior way to attain a queer-free world – or at least one where all queers get to go to Heaven despite their shameful, dirty feelings. Hopefully the public will recognize the absurdity of both these ideas and view this schism as a last ditch effort of a sad, dying movement.

In the end, the semantics of the argument are relatively inconsequential. What matters is that we, as a community, continue to promote messages of equality, and offer support and hope to those people who are being told by the people around them that they are broken.

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Gabrielle writes facts and feelings from an old brick house in an outer borough of New York City. When she's not writing about lesbians, she's editing/writing/producing things at her day job in the beauty department of a well-known online style magazine. In her spare time, she helps organize the New York City Dyke March and makes up songs about her dog.

Gabrielle has written 96 articles for us.

16 Comments

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    I disapprove of their use of the verb “to impact,” and therefore their argument is invalid. Not that it wasn’t invalid to begin, but… no. There is actually nothing valid about these “teams” other than their absolute idiocy.

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    “sometimes it’s important to check in with people who actively oppose equal, healthy relationships for queer people, and understand what the people who want to set us back are thinking.”

    What a privilege to only have to hear this stuff when you choose to. I need to get to there. Where I live now I hear this stuff from family,class mates, public figures, etc…

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    Any time I hear about Exodus or groups of that ilk, I thank the powers that be that I was never made to attend any of that “conversion therapy” nonsense. My mother is extremely religious and has always been a Focus on the Family devotee, but responded rather well when I came out to her, all things considered. Her POV on homosexuality has certainly changed over time, particularly due to exposure to real, live, flesh and blood queermos like me and her eldest sister (my aunt, who is one of my heroes).

    I hope that the damaging attitudes and ideologies espoused by these organizations are eliminated from the conversation very soon. And +1 to offering support and furthering the message of equality for everyone.

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    all they do re fixing gay people is drive them further into the closet – threaten them will hell, buring, gods wrath etc

    its called brainwashing. The commies are great at the same kind of trick, eg when the Korean war ended in 53, despite horrific treatment, some of our returned POWs thought that communism was the wave fo the future

    BTW the mulsims of 9-11 thought they were gods hands in those plains

    Religion – the conservative kind is all about brainwashing. Toss in guilt and youve got mind control

    Some o the actual doings of these fix fakers are

    Making one listen to sermons for 30 hours in a row – breaking down human resistance

    thowing one in a bath tub filled with Ice cubes etc

    electric shock treatments

    these peopel who do that kind of BS belong in jail for torturing other people

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    I’m bisexual and many of “ex-gay” stories make me think we’re dealing with people like myself who are trying to shut down one part of their sexuality.

    Back when I was a member of a religious group that’ll go unnamed, I believed people decided to be gay, and I believed this because I was attracted to both women and men but forced myself to resist same-sex attraction.

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      That’s the biggest issue to me in these cases. The bisexual erasure muddies the issue. When “ex-gay” supporters talk of success rates it is always assumed that everyone is well… gay. But the reality of course is some of them will be bisexual, and therefore it will be a more realistic possibility for a bisexual person to have a satisfying relationship with someone of the opposite sex than someone who is a 6 on the Kinsey Scale. Yet I see this issue ignored by both sides, everything is very binary gay/straight, and it is not allowing the full story to be examined.

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    When I came out my parents took me to one of these “cure the gay christian” groups, I sat there for a while listening and then one of them asked me about liking men and how I was going to pray myself straight or something. I looked him in the eye and said “I’m trans, I’m a lesbian, and I have my shit figured out. There is no way I’m going to pray myself straight; if I prayed for anything it’d be for you guys to get a clue!” then I walked out and sat in the parking lot until my parents came out. Luckily I was in college at the time so I just went back to school and after many emails and phone calls with my parents they stopped going. Aside from that little hiccup my parents and extended family have all be really great with my direction in life :)

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    My family’s priest was the first adult that I came out to, and he helped me tell my mom. I was shocked when he told her it didn’t mean I was automatically going to hell- but he immediately followed that up with a lifelong celibacy clause. Progressive for a Catholic, neh? :|
    My mother still thinks it’s a phase.
    This conversation happened eleven years ago.

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