A Brave New World Of “Ex-Gay” Therapy: It’s Complicated

Once upon a time, it was generally accepted as true in America that homosexuality was at best an unfortunate vice and at worst a serious mental illness, and that it needed to be treated as one. But in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. In 1997, the APA said that “the potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great and include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior…” In 2005, the APA endorsed same-sex civil marriage in a position paper.

In other words, over the past 30 years, the psychiatric and mental health communities have completely reversed their position on this issue, and recognized that “ex-gay” therapy or the idea that you need to “fix” your sexual orientation at all is a result of growing up in a religious community that tells you being gay is unacceptable – a consequence of bigotry.

Except maybe a total reversal of an extreme position is also a little extreme. Or at least that’s the takeaway from the two New York Times pieces this week detailing some of the more complicated corners of what it means to be “ex-gay” in 2011.

In recent years, therapists on both sides of the divide concerning “reparative therapy” have begun to have second thoughts about their previously staunch stances. For instance, Denis Flanigan is an out gay man and self-described “militant homosexual” who was in fact voted “Mr. Prime Choice Texas.” But he’s started to move away from a therapeutic approach in which all closeted gay clients are encouraged to progress towards coming out after some of his closeted and religious clients “suffered mightily” after revealing the truth.

On the other hand, there’s Warren Throckmorton and Mark Yarhouse, who were longtime proponents of ‘reparative’ therapy but whom have reconsidered their support of it after realizing how tortured and unhappy many of their “cured” clients really are:

“A pensive, soft-spoken man, Throckmorton still reveals anguish when he speaks of those who proclaimed their conversion worldwide… but later recanted. “What I came to find out was those people felt the pressure of the social contract and said they had completely changed when they had not.”

Both Flanigan and the team of Throckmorton and Yarhouse began to look for ways that they could pursue a more “client-centered” approach that took into account the way the individual client felt about their sexual orientation as opposed to how the therapist felt they would be better off viewing it.

What all the therapists involved agree on is that when it comes to the internal conflict between sexual orientation and religious identity, the position that one can be easily adjusted while the other one is inherent or “right” can be damaging to the client. In the earlier  years of the century, it was assumed that sexual orientation was the mutable characteristic; in more recent years, the prevailing opinion has been that harmful religious attitudes are what needs to be given up. But there seems to be a growing consensus that neither can be discarded easily, and assuming that they can is dangerous and unproductive. As Throckmorton explains:

“Many theorists in the gay-affirming world have taken a view that religion is a changeable aspect of personality… But people don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’ll be a Baptist instead of a Buddhist.’ Religion is the way the world makes sense to them, and for them that seems like a pretty stable attribute.”

But Throckmorton also says he now accepts that homosexuality is unchangeable. It’s just that helping clients accept that may not mean helping them come out.

This isn’t the first time that question has come up, and for conflicted gay clients it’s going to come up every single day of their lives. So Flanigan, Throckmorton, and Yarhouse are moving towards a model that’s based not on helping a client to leave either the church or their sexual orientation behind, but on learning how to live with both. For some that means celibacy; for some that means trying to live straight even if they know they’ll never be straight, and for some that means being honest with their opposite-sex partner about their orientation, and trying to find a way to make straight family life work.

In 2007, the APA began a task force to examine whether there might be some gray area in the field of “sexual-orientation-change efforts” in psychotherapy and counseling – the same questions that these therapists were dealing with. Its final conclusions are a far cry from the staunch absolutes of either its 1950s or late 1990s positions.

In the final document, the A.P.A. clearly stated its opposition to conversion therapy and unequivocally described homosexuality as normal. But it also offered a nuanced view of religious gay people who did not want to come out. The A.P.A. considered the kind of identity therapy proposed by Throckmorton and Yarhouse to be a viable option. No effort needed to be expended trying to change a client’s religion or sexual orientation. Therapy, in fact, was to have no particular outcome either way, other than to guide the client closer to self-acceptance, whatever the client believed that to be. The difference between sexual orientation and sexual identity was microscopically parsed. “Acceptance of same-sex sexual attractions and sexual orientation may not mean the formation of an L.G.B. sexual-orientation identity,” the report stated. “Alternate identities may develop instead.”



And when you look at the fascinating story of Michael Glatze, you realize how complex these alternate identities can be. Glatze is ex-gay, but not because he was raised in a religious community that couldn’t tolerate homosexuality. In fact, he was an editor of XY, a national magazine for young gay men, and had a stable, healthy and fulfilling ten-year relationship with a man; he’s described by those who knew him as incredibly well-adjusted, and a role model for younger and less sure men who were just beginning to come out. And then in 2007 – the same year, coincidentally, that the APA declared that sexual orientation and sexual identity didn’t have to be one and the same – Glatze announced he wasn’t gay.

His story is, again, riveting, and it really has to be read in its entirety. But the bare-bones summary is that after a major health scare that turned out to be harmless, Glatze felt a renewed sense of spirituality that led him to a developing Christian identity. As he grew closer to God, Glatze felt less at ease with his sexual orientation, and things only intensified from there.

Sitting in his Y.G.A. office toward the end of that year, Michael wrote three words on his computer screen: “I am straight.” They felt true, so he typed a few more: “Homosexuality = Death. I choose Life.”

Then he stood up and left the building.

If we decide to take anything away from Glatze’s story – which may itself be a mistake, as it’s so undeniably and completely singular and problematic in other areas – maybe it should be this: it’s not only the formative years of growing up with a religion that teaches being gay is wrong that makes you want to live differently, to be different. It’s not the free-floating culture of self-denial and disapproval that outsiders like to associate with evangelical Christianity seeping into your brain.

But is it ever psychologically advisable to design your life around what is essentially a particular religion’s over-emphasis on a misinterpretation of the bible — especially with so many unfortunate possibilities as to why, exactly, certain churches are so particularly obsessed with this one issue? Is it ever psychologically advisable to hate who you are and choose otherwise because you believe your desires = DEATH?

It seems like if the stories of these myriad closeted clients and Michael Glatze are any indication, there really is no way for a rational person to simultaneously support an identity as an out gay person and a lifestyle as a practicing conservative evangelical Christian. While there are plenty of Christian denominations that welcome queers with open arms, if leaving your church to join one of them isn’t an option based on your faith, reconciliation of the two may not be a possibility. Unless that reconciliation comes in the form of a compromise like the one the APA outlines, an “alternate identity” – something like a marriage with a person of the opposite sex who may or may not know that you’re gay, something that many of us would be tempted to term “living a lie.”

If that’s the case, then the question – and this is something that likely cannot be answered in a New York Times piece – is why that’s the case. If it’s time, at least for now, to stop playing either/or with religious and sexual identity, is it at least time to start asking why they have to be in conflict? Michael Glatze’s ex-boyfriend Ben is quoted as saying “To me, Michael is a victim of this insane society we live in, where we grow up with all these conflicting messages and pressures around sexuality and religion, and where we divide into these camps where we’re always right and the other side is always wrong.”

If anything is going to be different, do all of us need to start giving up some of our territory when it comes to us being right and “them” being wrong? If so, who’s going to go first?

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. I am a Christian, a transsexual, and a lesbian and they are not in conflict within me.

    I love God and accept who he made me.

    I will debate with Christians about an inclusive church and debate with LGBT’s our loving God.

    There is right and wrong. Gay people *CAN* be living a life of sin but I do not for a minute think God expects them not to marry the person they love.

    Marriage is Gods standard and I support it for all.

    1 Timothy 4


  2. “Many theorists in the gay-affirming world have taken a view that religion is a changeable aspect of personality… But people don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’ll be a Baptist instead of a Buddhist.’ Religion is the way the world makes sense to them, and for them that seems like a pretty stable attribute.”

    Actually, it’s astonishing how many people switch around their allegiances, for instance when they marry. People go from Lutheran to Catholic to Baptist and back again. It’s denominational musical chairs.

    I resent the comparison. Religion isn’t innate. We’re pattern seeking animals and we prefer bad theories to no theories at all, which is why we have religion but we’re not innately religious. What religion a person professes -does- depend largely on where that person is born and as such, claiming that a person is innately Catholic or Methodist or Buddhist is very jarring. While it is not the case for Glatze, his death scare conversion isn’t an unusual concept either. Him jumping immediately to the far right of Christian theology is a bit mind blowing though.

    But then, everything about this article is just fundamentally frustrating for someone who is atheist. Bottom line really, whatever makes you sleep at night. Just give me my rights and don’t knock on my door on Sundays.

    • I agree.

      Religion isn’t innate! People change their religion all the time, people have never successfully changed their sexual orientation.

      I can’t believe that any therapist would think that denying one’s true self due to unjust religious persecution and judgment is psychologically healthy to any degree. It might be a band-aid, but ultimately abiding by a hateful doctrine is going to lead to a lifetime of self-hatred.

      I also think it’s letting the bad guys win.

      • I think it’s really privileged to just wave people off saying “You can change your religion!” You guys are talking about Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists like they’re different religions. They’re all Christian, and American culture is saturated with Christianity.

        If a moderate Christian (not evangelical) becomes atheist, what really changes? They still have all of their holidays. They still have their language. They still have their culture – it’s all around them. There’s a good chance they still have their community.

        It frustrates me when people talk like secularism in the US is value-neutral. It’s really, really not. For people like me, people like my friends, who were raised in non-Christian religions with non-WASPy cultures, “Change your religion! :D” isn’t an answer to religious homophobia. It’s just inane.

        • I’m not saying that people -should- change religion (I’d personally advocate for giving it up all together), I’m saying they can, that it’s possible for people to do so and that people do it all the time. People have gone from Buddhist to Catholic, from Protestant to Muslim. It happens and it happens frequently.

          The point is that I resent the comparison between religion and sexuality. One is innate and unchangeable, one is, clearly, not. Whether it is hard or not to change religion, whether some groups have bigger difficulties in doing so than others, while an interesting discussion, isn’t the point. You can change religion. You can’t change your sexuality.

        • Exactly. The focus of this article is so Christian, which is irritating. Asking someone to change a religion that may be so much more central to their life than the one aspect of sexual behavior seems really ignorant, dismissive, and rude.

          While I agree with Riese that denying – let’s say “one’s gay self” instead of “one’s true self,” because that’s a whole other discussion (conveniently linked to in Rachel’s article) – isn’t “psychologically healthy to any degree,” I also think denying one’s religious self isn’t psychologically healthy to any degree, either.

          Also, maybe the reason Christianity is so central to all these discussions about religious persecution based on gender and sexual identity is that it seems like the only “commandment” or whatever you want to call it of their Bible they keep, besides believing in God/Jesus. Can someone clarify this for me? It’s not like there are reparative solutions for not going to church every time you’re supposed to, or not giving enough charity, or whatever.

          I’m not a rabbi – aka I don’t know every single aspect of Jewish law – but the Biblical-given punishment for male gay sex is the same as the punishment for breaking the Sabbath. And I’ve heard a lot of prominent rabbis and leaders of many communities talk about how engaging in prohibited sexual behavior, one of which is homosexuality, is a sin just like doing anything else against the Torah is a sin, and nobody keeps every single commandment perfectly.

          If someone could explain the Christian stance behind persecution of homosexuality, I am really interested.

          • You really CANNOT generalize “Christianity”. There are so so many different types of Christianity and so many different ways that people live and express their faith within Christianity. Even within Lutheranism, which is ONE branch of Christianity, there are Evangelical Lutherans, Missouri Sinod Lutherans, etc. etc. Evangelical Lutheran churches tend to be much more liberal (although you might guess otherwise) than Missouri Sinod Lutheran churches, but even then it depends on the specific church you go to and even the individuals in that church. And that’s just within Lutheranism. There are so many other branches of Christianity and there is just SO much variation. I’m sure that’s true with every religion but I feel like people especially forget that what is portrayed as “Christian” by the American media is not representative of ALL actual real Christians.

            For these reasons, there really is no unified Christian stance on non-heterosexuality. There are churches who embrace gay people openly and lovingly and allow them to become pastors. There are also churches that use the same argument you described: sex that is not “heterosexual” (whatever that means) is a sin but it’s just as much a sin as lying or cheating or stealing, etc. And then there are churches that teach that gay people go to hell. period. no questions.

            /end rant.

            Oh wait, to “anon!” I actually really found your comment insulting. I don’t even want to respond to it but I feel like I have to. Religious faith is about so much more than holidays and language. And there are so many differences between people who identify as Christian. Ugh.

          • Yes, there are a million types of Christianity, with a million different views on queerness. There are a million different types of Islam. There are a million different types of Judaism. However, that doesn’t change that Christianity infuses basically all American cultures – even the secular ones – which gives “People should just give up their religion” a different meaning.

            No, religion is more than holidays and language. I mentioned holidays because they’re about traditions, and about family, and about history, and for me they’re at least partly about getting people to remember I exist. I mean “language” as “the way you talk” in addition to the linguistic stuff, because I don’t talk to my religious friends the same way I talk to my queer friends, both because the words are different and because the ways the ideas are expressed is different. I mentioned culture and community because – culture and community.

            For what it’s worth, I liked your comments downthread.

        • I’m an agnostic and I also think that “change your religion!” is something that us secular types wave around too easily. I was only eight when I started questioning my religion, so it was never that important to me. But for people who grew up very involved with that faith – Christian or otherwise – it’s not easy to just throw it off. It also ignores the fact that some parents and communities can be just as vicious to “out” atheists and agnostics as they are to out LGBT kids. My bio dad’s reaction when I first told him I wasn’t a Christian was a big part of the reason I gradually saw him less and less. And this list: http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2011/06/10-scariest-states-to-be-an-atheist-1.html shows just how angry people in religious communities can get when non-Christian students simply want the *separation of church and state* respected in a public school.

          • These reactions to atheist and agnostic teens are the reason why suicide rates for straight teens also go up in areas that are homophobic. Being LGBT is usually not the only type of “difference” that they don’t tolerate.

          • When I was “outed” at work by a fellow co-worker as an atheist, it was honestly worse than ever being outed as a lesbian… I had people looking at me like I had suddenly grown another head and was repeatedly asked what traumatic thing had happened to me to turn me away from god…

          • When people say that it always amuses me, because I actually feel like I enjoyed church most of the time as a kid. I’m a pastor’s kid and I still like going to my dad’s church to hear his sermons, as he is the liberal, pro-choice, pro-gay-rights, more Christlike kind of Christian. It really is just the lack of belief thing with me, not any sort of “bad experience” with or hatred toward religion (at least, toward certain religions).

        • THANK YOU. I grew up Muslim (by default) in Malaysia, where your religion is stated in your ID card and if you’re Muslim you go through compulsory Islamic Studies classes and whatnot. It didn’t matter what I believed personally; when I’m in Malaysia I’m assumed to be Muslim and have to act personally. There’s a whole other cultural dimension to religion (esp the non-WASPy ones anon talks about) that is separate from the spiritual, that you still comply with for your family or your community.

          Indeed, it’s people who come from these cultures and religions – often marginalised minorities – that find themselves screwed over by every side if they happen to be non-normative sexually. I was at a discussion group about multiculturalism and sexuality in Adelaide and the moderator was talking about a Sudanese lesbian couple that met in Australia, having come as refugees, and asked a counselor for help. The counselor said they should come out. BIG MISTAKE. The gay community never accepted them, and their refugee community shunned them too.

          Coming out and/or putting your sexuality first and foremost is not an option for many folk, and for some it’s not even a concern. “Yeah I’m queer, so what if I am, there are other things in my life that are important.” It’s happenstance. Marriage isn’t always about who you romantically love, so you could have marriages that give you support and stability but don’t necessarily reflect your sexual orientation. Or you channel the energy towards some other goal. It’s not a death sentence to not have sex; for many of us we were raised to not have it as a priority, and while not all of us are necessarily comfortable with the idea, there are many that go on with life as usual.

          As for sexual orientations changing: I beg to differ, being one of those people. Asexual to pansexual to queer-lesbian (though my main partner is male). I wasn’t in denial or anything; it was just a progression of what felt right for my body, my beliefs, my values, my priorities. Who knows what I’ll end up being in 10 years. There are many things that are mutable, many that are not, and many that defy definition so you work with what words you have even if they aren’t very good.

      • Religion may not be innate, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not an important part of who a person is and how they see the world. Yeah, some people change their religion–from Lutheran to Baptist, that’s not such a big change. And I’d suggest that for most people who are willing to change their religion just to make their marriage easier, or whatever, they were never really all that heavily identified with their religion in the first place. And I want to agree with what anon! said–for many people, religion is intimately tied up with culture and heritage, and for non-Christian people, leaving religion can also mean leaving behind a culture.
        Also, just because something isn’t innate doesn’t mean it’s easily changeable. My political views aren’t innate, but there’s no way I could just decide today that I’m a Republican, and start thinking like one. There’s a reason I’ve never been a Republican, and that’s because I think their political philosophy is bullshit! Similarly, seriously religious people can’t just give up their religion because people tell them it will make their life easier and happier. The reason those people are so seriously religious is because they believe it.

        • Never said that it wasn’t an important part of that person, it clearly is. The whole argument is that it’s -not- innate. It is not unchangeable.

          Whether it is hard or not, isn’t really the point. Of course it is hard. Completely breaking with one’s previous religion, as in the case of plenty of atheists I know, is very hard. Doubly and/or triply so if your religion completely infuses your entire culture (and I would think that for evangelical Christians, this applies too). But the problem is, something’s got to give, right? Either you conform reality with your religion or your sexuality.

          As such, my point was that it’s not about what’s harder to change but what is actually -possible- to change.

          • Maybe the important consideration here isn’t whether or not your religious outlook is changeable (which, obviously, it is), but whether it’s something that you can change voluntarily. Sure, lots of people change their religious beliefs over time, but I would argue that, for a person who seriously and thoughtfully believes in a particular religion, that it is IMPOSSIBLE to just decide one day that you’re not going to believe in the tenants of your religion. I don’t think people can just decide to change the whole way they see the world.
            So you’re an atheist–but religious belief is changeable, right? So what if I asked you to become a Catholic tomorrow? You could convert to Catholicism, but would you suddenly believe in God and in all the tenants of the Catholic faith? I didn’t think so.

          • People do change it voluntarily. Obviously, a conversion of any sort is different from person to person and of course, nobody wakes up one day and decides they’re not going to believe in a religion which they have previously thought held all the answers to life.

            Of course it is gradual (it doesn’t have to be slow, but gradual) but the point is, which I fear has been lost during the course of this debate, that it is possible. You -can’t- change your sexuality. While changing your religion is hard, it is entirely possible. For instance, the President of the Atheist Community of Austin, Matt Dillahunty, became an atheist after starting his education as a baptist minister. Giving up that sort of fundamentalist faith is obviously hard, but it’s all down to argument, right? The facts and the way they are presented.

            You can’t change the way your body reacts (or doesn’t react) to specific sexual input. You can’t. That’s my whole argument.

            And also, if you could present me with compelling and conclusive evidence that Catholicism is true, I’d convert. I am entirely open to where the scientific method may lead. Good luck with that though.

          • You can convert voluntarily. But you’re converting in name only unless you change your core beliefs, and that’s what I’m saying you can’t do voluntarily.
            Imagine I’m trying to convert you to Catholicism. I’d tell you all the reasons that I’ve been convinced that Catholicism is true– the world is so complex that there must be a higher power, whatever (I’m not actually a Catholic, obviously…). Since you can voluntarily change your religion, I ask you to start believing in what I believe in. But you probably find my arguments just as non-compelling as you did the first time you heard them and rejected them as wrong. THAT is what I think you have no voluntary control over–you can’t voluntarily decide to find some argument compelling if you don’t find it compelling. You’re either convinced by the argument, or you’re not.
            I’m sure that there are a lot of religious people who have never given much thought to why they’re religious, and for those people, changing religions, or becoming atheists, may be as easy as tarting to read and think about their religious beliefs. But, believe it or not, many religious people have put a lot of thought in to their religious beliefs, and the reason they are religious is that they find the arguments for religion compelling. They can’t voluntarily decide that they’re going to stop finding those arguments convincing.
            Obviously, people’s views do evolve over time, and an argument that you once thought was total bullshit you may start to find convincing over time. But that’s not a voluntary decision that you make–it’s a gradual evolution that you don’t have much conscious control over.

          • thinksmall, for some reason there’s no reply button on your entry, so I’m just going to reply to you this way.

            I would be changing my core beliefs if you could produce conclusive and compelling evidence that Catholicism was true. Stating that the universe is too complex for there not to be a higher power isn’t evidence, it’s an opinion, for which there is no evidence. And that’s what I’m talking about, scientific evidence. There’s no scientific evidence that supports any religious faith. Faith, by definition, is to believe something without evidence.

            And there’s no need to be condescending, I do understand how important religion is to a vast number of people. Many of them have died for it. A lot of people have thought very hard and very carefully about their religious beliefs, yes. But there’s no denying that they are still taking something to be true on faith, something for which they have no scientific evidence for. Francis Collins is an excellent example and he admits to this himself.

            I have stated again and again, it’s not about whether it’s hard or not, it’s about whether it’s possible. Ideas can be very compelling and it takes compelling evidence for people to change their beliefs and yes, some people won’t even accept compelling, scientific evidence because it messes with their entire world view. That doesn’t change the fact that there is evidence, that you can change religion, politics, etc and that you are responsible for what ideas you accept and what ideas you refuse.

            If for example, an idea with compelling evidence makes you uncomfortable, then that’s your problem to deal with. It doesn’t make it any less true that there’s compelling evidence. A person might reject the evidence which shows that trickle-down economics don’t work because it’s going to have a negative effect on their wallet/makes them uncomfortable, but that doesn’t make the evidence any less real.

            And that’s why I think you’re wrong in saying that we can’t voluntarily decide what arguments (when supported by scientific evidence) are compelling or not. We are responsible for what beliefs we hold, if we ignore compelling evidence then that’s due to our own short comings and it is more than possible to change your views, even if it’s slow (or not) and as I said, gradual. Changing your sexuality -isn’t possible-. And therefore, I resent to comparison.

          • right exactly, i don’t mean it’s “easy” or “hard” or anything, but that it is literally HUMANLY POSSIBLE.

          • Right, it’s possible, just like it’s possible to want to be with people of the same sex and not act on it. In that way, sexuality is not “innate” either. Which is what I understood the people in this blog to be talking about. It’s not like they denied the feelings and desires of these folks, they just also recognized that they were torn between other feelings and desires they had — like towards their family, their community, perhaps a god they believed in — which maybe meant that coming out as LGBT was humanly possible, of course, it just caused them a lot of pain and, possibly, in the end did not improve their lives, but made it worse. Sadly.

          • This. The queer/GLBT communities aren’t always very welcoming, and sometimes it’s just easier to put that part of yourself aside and get on with life.

            I’m reminded of this Tumblr video I saw about a Thai trans man who decided, after plenty of consideration, to stop taking T and relive life as a woman because it was the only way he felt could reconnect with his family and his culture fairly, especially since they were all in a foreign country and were already starting to feel disconnected. He wasn’t forced into the decision by anybody; he just felt that it was worth it to him to reconnect with his cultural heritage and family even if it means giving up his gender transition.

            Many of us make compromises and sacrifices to get by. The world is not ideal.

        • THIS. Also, I have to say I deeply resent hateful comments toward religion that equal it with ignorance or just “a bad explanation” of the world. To some people, religious values and spirituality can be a fundamental part of who you are, just like in the example you gave, your politics, and therefore it isn’t easy to change. I understand the point about it being different from sexuality, but I also can’t help but think it’s a very important part of someone (for some people at least).

          • of course! i think religion is important, i’m jewish, i believe in g-d, i’m spiritual — but we’re only talking here about churches which literally tell you that you’re going to hell if you’re gay and being gay is terrible and the biggest sin and homosexuals molest children, and i have a lot of unpleasant feelings regarding why this dogma is delivered in the first place, soooo to me, the choice of a church to push that one law over all the other fantastic parts of religion is, to me, a bad sign w/r/t the overall benefit that religion provides a gay person.

            i mean, that’s the only situation in which this would be an issue, isn’t it? i mean i didn’t clarify that in my comment, but i thought it was implied.

          • I see where you are coming from. I have pretty unpleasant feelings about this aspect of religion also, and I understand the article and a lot of the comments are talking about these churches who have this shitty attitude towards LGBT individuals.

            I guess I was more making a point to say that we shouldn’t generalize and dismiss religion as something easier to deal with just because it isn’t innate, since it can be pretty fundamental to so many people. Someone up there said religion was a “bad theory”, so I felt like this needed to be said.

          • I do think that people should be able to leave churches that are anti-gay and become other types of Christian – or whatever their religion is. The problem, though, is that at least among Christians, there’s often a strong family connection with a particular denomination. This is why I’ve known quite liberal people who go to the staunchly conservative, misogynistic, homophobic Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in which I was originally raised. This is also why there are ultra-conservatives haters at my stepdad’s liberal Presbyterian Church. And to some fundamentalist Christians, becoming a more liberal Christian is almost as bad as leaving the religion entirely, since those people are seen as “not believing the Bible enough.”

          • Not to point fingers, Riese, but there are also Jewish groups which preach this sort of doctrine about LGBT people– if you watch “Trembling Before G-d” I bet you’ll cry as much as I did. The only reason why I point this out is because I think that Christianity as a majority group (esp. in the US) gets a lot of fingers pointed at it because of various hyper-visible groups that make everyone else look bad. However, what we need to remember is that this sort of fear and hatred preached towards those who are different is something seen in ALL sorts of groups and religions and therefore something that should be dealt with on a systemic level and not on an individual basis.

            In other words, oppressed people need to consider their freedoms threatened not just by specific religious groups, but by any group that preaches totalitarian viewpoints or unwavering “moral” judgments.

          • Man, don’t get near any conservative Muslims anytime soon if you want to retain your composure…

    • My mother was in some Hindu syncretist group when I was a kid but when I was eleven she converted to Catholicism, for personal reasons. I have watched her worldview change mightily over the past fifteen years. So yeah, what religion you are isn’t innate.

      I suspect this is giving too much credence to ex-gay therapy, though. No longer forcing people to embrace a certain view of their sexual preferences and desires is not the same thing as forcing them to be straight. I think it’s more a question of not having therapists attempt to set their own goals for a patient’s therapy, which seems reasonable to me.

      I don’t like this idea: “there really is no way for a rational person to simultaneously support an identity as an out gay person and a lifestyle as a practicing conservative evangelical Christian” . I’m sure someone has managed to do it.

    • While I agree with you somewhat, I think the distinction here is not what is or isn’t “innate,” but what is most important to the individual. If your religion (one that does not accept homosexuality) is the most important/valuable part of your life maybe it will make you happier to deny or suppress your sexuality in order to keep that religion a part of your life. I think this is what they were getting at. However, whether it is actually possible to ever be happy living like this is questionable, imo.

      Also, some people who were raised very religious may consider/believe it to be as innate as their sexuality. Unlike me, who despite being raised by a pastor, considers herself an atheist.

    • I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to go with the “You just don’t understand” approach. I’m sure religion seems like the silliest thing in the world to you as an atheist, but to me religion is the most natural thing in the world. It’s what I’ve grown up with and it influences how I think about the world. I agree that religion isn’t necessarily innate, but wondering about the universe and whether there’s a higher power is.

      Although reading an article like this might be frustrating to you as an atheist, your response frustrates me because it demonstrates a lack of understanding for those who do value their faith and see it as central to their being. Yes, people switch, but the vast majority of people don’t, and describing it as “musical chairs” is not only inaccurate but insensitive. Honestly, my life would be a lot easier if I were an atheist, and I have definitely had times of doubt, but I couldn’t give up my faith even if I wanted to. I’m sorry to sound snippy, but I resent the “tolerance for everybody….except religious people!” attitude that a lot of atheists harbor.

      • Yes, it does frustrate me when people believe something without evidence. And no, it does not demonstrate a lack of understanding. I understand the desire for meaning, for purpose, as you say, those feelings are innate, I have them myself.

        And it is not inaccurate, since it is true and it happens all the time, everywhere, demonstrably so. Whether the truth is insensitive or not, is another discussion.

        Also this? “I’m sorry to sound snippy, but I resent the “tolerance for everybody….except religious people!” attitude that a lot of atheists harbor.” Check your religious privilege.

        • When I realized I was gay, I believed it without evidence. And I asked people to accept I was gay without evidence.

          • I feel that’s different though. After all, you know you’re gay since you’re attracted to the same sex, right? Wouldn’t that technically be a form of evidence (to yourself at the very least)? That’s sort of like saying no one has a sexual orientation until you’ve had a sexual act. Idk.

          • I knew I was gay because I had faith that my feelings were true. I didn’t take a test. I had not yet had sex. I didn’t see a psychologist. I didn’t even have to know what “gay” meant exactly.

            And when telling people I’m gay, all I have is my word. How is that different?

          • Completely unrelated to anything but Weston V.’s comment:

            In high school I had a group of friends tell me that because I’d never had sex with a girl, I was not bisexual, I was bicurious. 10 years later this still irks me.

          • If you’re gay and you’re attracted to the same sex, there are ways to scientifically measure that. I.e measure increased brain activity when exposed to visual media. It has been done.

        • I do not feel that we have anything to argue about and don’t intend to make this one of those vicious Internet showdowns. Clearly we see the world in different ways. However, the concept of “religious privilege” is just obnoxious. I’m sorry, but I deserve to be discriminated against and dissed because I am in the majority? That is absurd, and I completely repudiate the mentality that “I’m in the minority, so I get to be a dick to everyone who isn’t.” It’s not too much for me to hope for the same respect and tolerance you’d give to someone who wasn’t religious.

          • Where did I ever say that you deserve to be discriminated against? And where have I discriminated against you? You came into this debate because I used the term ‘muscial chairs’ in describing the way in which some people switch religion, when making the argument that it is demonstrably impossible for people to change their sexuality.

            In reply to your straw-man portrayal of atheism, “I resent the “tolerance for everybody…except religious people!” attitude that a lot of atheists harbor.”. First of all, if you’re an atheist, then “tolerance for everybody, except religious people” is redundant to a staggering degree since the opposite of not having faith would be to have faith, thus making -everybody- else religious (some people might call themselves spiritual, fine, and agnosticism refers to what we know, so I would say it still applies).

            Second, this portrayal is so ironic it’s almost hard to look at. Religious people are not only in majority worldwide but hold immense privilege in the countries in which their religion is practised (and have done so historically). If you’re part of a religious minority you’re being discriminated against by the religious majority, not by the small number of atheists, about whom invariably the religions always have the least pleasant things to say. Can you tell me what atheists are trying to force religion doctrine into schools, into biology classrooms, into Planned Parenthood? (And I know that’s U.S and Christian centric. Plenty of examples across the board).

            It’s religious people who want tolerance for everyone except the people who don’t agree with them. Ask any atheist, and they will say they couldn’t care less about you having faith, as long as you’re not trying to impose that faith on them. Ever had an atheist come knocking on your door on Sunday? See where I’m going with this?

            And also, I like the way you present yourself as reasonable and then stick a ‘dick’ ad hominem in the middle of your argument. Mutual respect was it?

          • “Ask any atheist, and they will say they couldn’t care less about you having faith, as long as you’re not trying to impose that faith on them. ”

            Clearly you haven’t met the militant atheists then, the ones who insist that ANY religious action is wrong and superstitious and la de da. I run into them a lot mostly on male-heavy places like Metafilter, and Tim Minchin has a tendency to do this too. URGH frustrating.

        • Can you please explain to me where privilege enters into this argument? I’m not seeing it, but I might be missing something.

        • I’m gonna be the annoying Logic 101 teacher for a moment. The lack of evidence used as justification for a negative or positive declarative statement is a logical fallacy called “ad Ignorantium” or the “Appeal to Ignorance” fallacy. Logically invalid statements include, then: “There is no (conclusive?scientifically testable?)evidence that proves God’s existence, therefore God does not exist” AND “There is no (conclusive?scientifically testable?)evidence that proves that God DOESN’T exist, therefore God exists.” These statements are logically problematic because supporting evidence/statements that can be pointed at with *certainty* metaphysically (HA), epistemically, or in the “actual world” are necessary in order to have conclusive knowledge. (Knowledge is different than information or data, etc.) At BEST the lack of evidence one way or the other allows one to express doubt or faith (as faith seems to be at least the belief in that which there is no concrete certainty, or despite uncertainty) in which there is no evidence. This, incidentally, carries over into science as well. GOOD science – much of stuff that’s written in scientific research journals that end up being co-opted by textbooks, etc – can not make a declarative positive or negative claim on something based on lack of evidence, and scientific claims change as more information/data is found. (Note that there are plenty of examples where science tries to make claims that it cannot… science isn’t “perfect” either. Sigh.)

          I’m not saying that one cannot think that God exists or think that God doesn’t exist. Just sayin’ whether one knows with 100% certainty and without doubt, in such a way that is NOT based on personal, internalized, metaphysical, socialized experiences or inclinations (testable and widely reproducible is what we like for “certainty”, if we go with science), whether or not what they think is to be the case is actually TRUE or not is highly problematic. Furthermore, this also applies to descriptions OF God, or arguments of who’s God or representation of a higher power is the “correct” definition or representation.

          Anyways, this is coming from a highly confused philosophy Grad Student who relishes in uncertainty, and is ok with not knowing whether or not what philosophers and theologians call “Absolute Truths” (ironically, these are all things that are considered to be outside the physical world, and are problematic because of their lack of supporting evidence) are the case…. mostly because she thinks that the uncertainty doesn’t prevent one from living a life or behaving as if something is/is not the case, nor does it prevent any sense of personal meaning, fulfillment, etc.

          TL;DR — Having no testable and reproducible evidence for/against the existence of a higher entity does not mean that one can conclude with certainty whether or not that entity “truly exists,” and as such makes such blanket statements as “God exists”/”God does not exist” highly problematic. This does not prevent a sense of meaning, community, etc. from developing or demean the faith (and I would argue that as there is very little, stone-cold certainty, we all have more faith than we like to think we do…even the atheists). It’s also this uncertainty that ought to allow for the separation of civil rights and religious law. -offers cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles-

          • Your problem here is with gnosticism/agnosticism and perfect knowledge. And I am more than aware of the fact that because there is no scientific evidence of the existence of a God/s, that in turn doesn’t mean there is no God/s at all. That there is no scientific evidence of the existence of a God/s means exactly that, that there is no scientific evidence. The fact that you can’t disprove the existence of a deity this way doesn’t make the proposition even the slightest bit likely however. The Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Pink Unicorn and the Celestial Teapot have all been invented to illustrate this point. Perfect knowledge isn’t possible and I am not, nor have I ever asserted that anyone can obtain perfect knowledge. As such, I am an agnostic atheist, but I don’t call myself that as I feel it is redundant. Gnosticism/agnosticism pertains to what we think we can know and atheism/theism to what we believe. Please note however that atheism isn’t a religion, or a religious belief in much the same way that an empty parking space isn’t a type of car.

            I am not at all troubled with uncertainty. I do however care passionately about truth, about science and about reality. People who are deist, who believe that there is some form of higher power but that this power doesn’t interfere with human affairs are not the problem and it is them, I believe, that benefit most from the argument that you just presented. Theist however have little to gain from your argument, as they claim to know, not only that there is a God/s but that they know what the God/s want us to do and behave. Something that you have stated yourself, it is impossible to know.

            TL;DR – *nibbles cupcake* I like rainbows.

      • Why would you assume that people who are atheist weren’t raised with religious influences or didn’t grow up with religion? Most of us were raised with religious influences. I was raised in a very religious home, and it was wondering about the universe that helped bring me to atheism. Saying it was just something you were raised with isn’t really all that persuasive, we’re raised with lots of ideas that we don’t necessarily carry into adulthood. I actually do understand, I just don’t agree with the conclusions you’ve come to.

  3. In my university there’s this professor that swears he can “cure” homosexuality. He’s always telling us how some ex-gays he’s cured are happily married and have children. And I always think: “Well, congrats for sending people to live a lie in the name of God.”

    I really don’t think there’s another term for that. An “alternate identity” means that you create another life, a life that wasn’t yours in the first place, a life you wouldn’t have had if you had kept being yourself. And what’s that, if not a lie?

    About religion and stuff, it’s so sad… Glatze’s story is really, really sad. And the saddest thing is that, when he’s old, he will look back and realize he’s lost his life pretending to be someone he isn’t.

    Religion shouldn’t be something damaging to our psyches, but in this case, conservative evangelical beliefs harm people’s minds. When something damages the core of our identities as human beings, how can it be good?

    I hate that I’m Spanish and I can’t really explain myself properly. u_u I don’t think I’m getting my point across…

    I always debate with religious fanatics about God’s view of the LGBT people. More often than not, I win. I hope I’m making a difference, even if it’s small.

  4. however i appreciate any article which mentions XY Magazine, the Unsung Hero of the Gay 90s

  5. I have so many complicated, mixed feelings about these stories/ideas. I’m going to try to work through them, but before complete processing I just want to say:

    1. “Therapy, in fact, was to have no particular outcome either way, other than to guide the client closer to self-acceptance, whatever the client believed that to be.”

    As somebody who is finishing an undergrad in psychology (I’m clearly not an expert) I think this should ALWAYS be the goal. I mean, isn’t the point of therapy to help people find solutions to their problems that help them to become more whole and happy human beings? SO since sexual orientation is so very complex, it makes sense to me that this can mean different things for different people. Especially right now when many churches are on-the-fence about gay people and/or do not accept gayness as being okay in the eyes of God. Perhaps in the future when (I hope) most if not all churches will be completely accepting it won’t be necessary for people to deny homosexuality in order to continue living within their religion. Right now, for some people it might be. What this means for LGB’s as a community, I’m not so sure. That’s where I have mixed feelings.

    2. That second picture makes me sick to my stomach. I really really don’t like it.

    • Okay, still processing, but I had another thought. I think this would be a really hard situation to deal with as a therapist (I’m not a therapist but just hypothetical) because you never want to force a person to do something that’s harmful to her/him. So you wouldn’t want to say “you must embrace your sexual orientation”, especially if this is something that would cause a lot of pain/anxiety/depression/possibility of suicide. Because you would be pressuring that person to do something they did not feel was right. BUT if your client is part of a church that denies gayness as natural/completely okay, then this person would be denying her/his sexual orientation because of pressure from the church. Which doesn’t seem right either.

      This is a “difficult difficult lemon difficult” situation.

      • I think the solution would be to get that patient in touch with some gay-friendly churches at the same time that you work in his/her self-acceptance.

        Yes, it would be very difficult. But he/she wouldn’t need to give up who they are, nor would they need to give up their faith. And that’s kinda the goal, isn’t it?

        But yes, it would be a very, very tricky situation indeed.

        • Yeah, I think it would be wonderful to say “look here, lots of churches accept gay people!” but for some people their specific church is really the center of their lives. These people have family and friends who all attend the same church and spend hours upon hours not only attending church but helping out, volunteering, organizing events, and spending time with church folks. For them, it becomes so much more complicated and difficult.

          But I do think you’re right, suggesting spending time around religious people who are accepting would be a great idea.

        • Yes! I am reminded of the story in the HU queer zine that had that wonderful line about faith being when you are bleeding on your knees, consumed with self-doubt. The young man in question went to Israel and met some very gay-accepting very spiritual Christians who were very kind to him, and discovered the personal strength to be both intensely religious and evangelically Christian.

          Perhaps more outreach programs from very accepting churches would be helpful–though of course not anything like a full solution. But it would help reduce the degree to which being gay and evangelically Christian looks like an either/or situation.

      • I was thinking about that too. It feels like a “lesser of 387486794 evils” situation – where no path is perfect but some will be less damaging than others – when in reality, people shouldn’t feel like their faith and their sexuality are mutually exclusive.

      • I can’t speak for those who practise in the field of ‘converting’ and now the Beta version, but in therapy regardless of the issue therapists don’t force anything on patients or pressure them. Motivational therapy is not motivating the patient to follow the therapists’ agenda, it is a nonjudgmental, dynamic, person centered type of approach.

        In this context both religious and sexual conflicts would be explored with the goal being what the client wants and how to achieve that as best they can. As much processing that might go on, actually it comes down to a lot of pros vs. cons in terms of making decisions in a nonjudgmental setting. Ambivalence and uncertainty is normalized, as is that the goals and objectives may change over the course of therapy.

  6. I’m an athiest, no bones about it. I suppose if people really do have a problem with religion and their own sexual identity, they should consider if God would really want them to be unhappy with who they are. Any God worth their salt should love people unconditionally.

    There’s something of an issue about this in the UK right now – there’s a big deal over gay bishops in the Church of England (the main Christian denomination). Gay vicars are generally accepted as long as they are cellibate, but there’s a big kerfuffle going on. The Dean of my local abbey is openly gay, but cellibate, and has spoken out on the issue. Though gay bishops would be a good step, I feel conflicted over their need to live as cellibate. Apparently homosexual desires are okay, but acting on them isn’t. oh, and the Catholic church really isn’t happy about it…

  7. Having been through a permutation of ex-gay therapy, I can tell you that even though I don’t believe in God and I am still gay, it is an incredibly damaging invention. Its not wrong to not want to be alone. Its not wrong to love someone and its not an expression of being broken. If there is a God, there is no way he would want a creature he made and loves to be alone, and deciding to be straight is a recipe for a life lived with no real relationships.

    • I was quite religious growing up and when I was in junior high I very quietly and discreetly, behind my parents backs read up on Exodus International because I wanted to be “cured.” I’m glad I don’t feel that way anymore.

  8. A lot of you are confusing denomination with religion. Switiching from Methodist to Lutheran, etc. is changing denominations, not changing religions. The religion is still the same.

    • yerp, seconded. The differences are minor; a lot of them just have to do with nitpicky theology, styles of worship, etc.

    • I don’t care for the sweeping belittling of the distinctions between denominations. Millions and millions of people have died, indeed people still do fight and die over the distinctions between Catholic and Protestant, between Shia and Sunni. Belittling the distinction means belittling the conviction of the people who died for it. So I wouldn’t.

      • Look up Christian privilege.

        A Catholic telling a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu to give up their religion is a much bigger deal than a Catholic telling a Protestant to.

        • Never said it wasn’t. But belittling the distinction isn’t the way to go. Especially since people still kill because of it. Also, Christian privilege is also dependent on you living in a “Christian nation”. Which, for instance, China or Saudi Arabia isn’t.

      • I agree.

        And it’s not just “nitpicky theology,” Krissy, when a Christian who isn’t Catholic isn’t allowed to receive Holy Communion, one of the most important tenants of the Christian faith, in a Catholic church because they are not deemed Christian-enough. That’s a straight-up denial of religious legitimacy.

        • Sorry, that wasn’t clear– Evidux, I was agreeing with your point about the trouble with waving off the distinctions between denominations.

  9. The Catholic Church is never happy about anything.
    (Sorry, ex-Catholic, bitter about the stupidity of the Pope)

    I don’t have a *ton* to say that hasn’t been said already, but I wanted to affirm that introducing someone to gay-friendly churches and even gay-friendly people can be a huge step forward. In my personal experience, I grew up with a church, most of my friends went to that church etc, so I was totally indoctrinated to their point of view.

    But as I grew older, meeting people who were gay and happy about it, finding out people I respected and teachers I loved were gay… well it rocked my world. (At this point, I had no idea I was gay because I knew absolutely nothing about myself or my desires.) Of course I ended up doing the radical thing and abandoning religious beliefs altogether, but I’ve actually found my life to be much more fulfilling now that I’m living it like it’s my only one. Anyways, I grew up, I made different friends at school, and I even occasionally tried to argue politics with my friends at church.

    I can totally understand about not wanting to leave a church behind as a community, but I think it becomes inevitable once you realize the inherent flaws. You can ignore the fact for a while, but in a church that is vehemently or even moderately against homosexuality, the issue is going to come up. It’s a slow process, but I am a firm believer that accepting yourself is a much better idea than trying to constantly change just because you’re comfortable with something.

    About therapy though: in the end I would definitely support what the patient wants/is most comfortable with.

  10. I’m not religious, so it’s easy for me to say that religion is clearly not innate the way sexuality, hair color or personal nature is. Yet, I can imagine how hard it must be to struggle with a rift between beliefs and feelings.
    Think about anger. We might feel really angry inside. We might want to scream, hit, thrash, punch etc. but instead we often take a deep breath and resist these urges because we believe it’s wrong to hurt other people/ourselves. But it’s really hard if we’re really angry (other animals certainly don’t). If we resist/ignore our anger for a long time it sometimes bubbles out all crazy like.
    And it takes a lot of time/therapy to reconcile that feeling angry is okay and that we have to determine what behaviors are okay ways of dealing with anger. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for people who deal with this sort of belief system/feelings struggle about their sexuality.

  11. If someone identifies as straight, shouldn’t we consider them as such? Who is in the position to know if someone is “living a lie”? For instance, It doesnt matter that I slept with men a long time ago, because I identify as gay and I fall in love with women now. Lots of ignorant people have said to me “see, if you did it once, you could again….maybe you havent met the right guy”. Sexual identity is not completely tied up with sexual/romantic behavior. Good (emphasis on good) doctors and psychiatrists know this, and LGBT people should really understand it best.

    • I don’t think anyone here is talking about how people view their sexuality in that sense, particularly because the subject of the different ways to identify ourselves has been touched lots of times in this site and no one has ever said that gays can’t fall for women or the other way around. There’s bisexuality. There are tons of other people that simply define themselves as queers because they don’t fit anywhere else. There’s pansexuality. Etc.

      What’s being debated here is how some so-called doctors or professionals convince their patients that homosexuality is wrong and an unnatural disease that must be cured. Those are the people than commonly end up living a lie. If you identify as gay and you suddenly fall in love with a woman, that’s not a lie at all. It happens. But if you identify as gay, if you have no sexual or romantic desire whatsoever for women, and yet you marry a woman just because that’s the right thing to do according to a doctor or a religious belief… then you’re most likely living a lie. You’re lying to yourself, to your wife and to the world.

      • if you have no sexual or romantic desire whatsoever for women, and yet you marry a woman just because that’s the right thing to do according to a doctor or a religious belief… then you’re most likely living a lie.

        I agree. (Although given the site, I was a bit confused about the “if you identify as gay and then fall in love with a woman” – like, isn’t that what being gay is about? And then I remembered we were talking about men.)

        However, it looks like the doctors in this article are less telling the patients that homosexuality is an unnatural disease that has to be cured than trying to help them reconcile their sexuality with their religion. (Probably. If we’re trusting them.) The question is, though, how much can you compromise one thing to the other – upsetting as it is that people feel they need to do that – and still be living true to yourself?

        • I’ve seen things written in italics in the comments before, but I don’t know how to do it. :-S

          Sorry, I should have specified that I was talking about men. ;-)

          I know that doctors in this article are talking about reconcilation between sexuality and religion, but I was answering to ADSHY, who was complaining about the “living a lie” expression. And since I had used that same expression in my first comment (where I had talked about someone I know saying he can cure gays), I thought I should explain that I hadn’t used it like that. ;-)

  12. Oh also, not to confuse things further, but can we throw bisexuality into this? Some people may have the ability to still live a “straight life” but still be queer and not acting on it.

    • Bisexuality is the same thing. If you’re not attracted to a person and you pretend that you are, then there’s a problem. Being bisexual does not suppose that you will be attracted to every person of both genders/any gender.

  13. Sexual fluidity.

    Religious fluidity.

    The constant is faith. Most people accept their sexuality on faith. If someone is obsessed with queer theory and *needing* to find proof that their sexuality is real and innate, then I would say they are having a crisis of faith. You could also call it an existential crisis.

    I actually don’t understand sexual fluidity. I mean, I get the concept of it, but I mostly take it on faith that it’s real in the people who experience it.

    The particular religion a person subscribes to might be mutable, but having faith may not. I moved from Catholic to atheist very gradually. Mostly, I just shuffled my faith. It involves rejecting what you’ve known as real. That’s not a thing that can happen overnight unless you’ve been questioning what’s real for some time subconsciously.

    • But I don’t accept my sexuality on faith. That would mean I say I am gay without having any evidence of it. I say I am gay because of actual attractions and experiences I have actually had.

      Thank fucking god. :D

  14. I don’t think this article is at any point saying that religion is innate in the way that sexual orientation is innate.

    The article makes the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual identity, with sexual orientation consisting of your inner attractions, and sexual identity being how you choose to present yourself — whether a gay person chooses to remain celibate or live a straight life, or live in a way that is consistent with his or her sexual orientation.

    I think we have to also pay attention to the distinction between belief and religion. Religion is the identity — what you choose to practice and present. The underyling beliefs, while they may change over time or due to external factors, aren’t simply chosen, but developed — perhaps similar to the concept of fluidity in sexual orientation, for those to whom that applies. While many people choose to adopt a different religious identity for, say, a marriage partner, I would expect their core beliefs to remain the same for the most part, just as the gay man who ignores his orientation and enters into a heterosexual marriage still retains his sexual orientation, although he chooses a different sexual identity.

    I can’t tell myself “I’m going to believe in a higher power now” just because I might want to, in the same way that I can’t tell myself “I’m going to love boys now.” I think that’s the point the article is making — for someone to whom their core, religious beliefs are extremely important, it’s not so simple as just “changing one’s religion,” in a similar way that they can’t just “change their orientation”

    • This.


      I am not, myself, a practitioner of any particular religion, though I am married to an Episcopalian. I think the distinction between orientation and identity is a really really important one. Yes, sexuality is a huge part of who you are. But it isn’t actually everything. While I can’t personally imagine something being more important to me than my ability to live openly with the woman I love, I can imagine that this could be the case for someone else.

      I am blessed with a family who is liberal and somewhat radical, and so I never even for a moment had to consider the choice between my family and my sexual identity. However, family is really really important to me – I have made a lot of choices over the years to stay closer to my parents, and to knit family with my in-laws, when other people my age move around the country and the world. I can easily imagine that, if my family had not been accepting of my sexual identity, I would have seriously considered giving up that identity in order to have my family around me. Would I have been as happy as I am? No. But if I had had to give up my family in order to live out my sexual identity, I would be pretty darn miserable, as well.

      I think the discussion of “innate” somewhat clouds the issue. In this particular case, for this particular article, it is more about the issue of identity – which identity is more important to the client? Sure, it would be great if they could have both. But for some, that is clearly not a choice right now. In a choice between my cultural/familial identity and my sexual identity, I honestly can say I don’t know which I would choose. I am grateful to That Which Is that I never had to make that choice.

  15. I never used to agree with the Dawkins/Hitchens branch of the atheist movement, but it’s shit like this that makes me think more and more “religion poisons everything”

  16. For what it’s worth, there’s more than one kind of atheism. I’m an Absurdist, which is a thing that can drive both theists and atheists mad.

    I accept that the nature of the universe is beyond human comprehension. Neither theologians nor scientists can prove everything, and I can live with that.

    • This is pretty much what I am, too. I consider myself an agnostic; I don’t think that we’ll ever be able to prove conclusively that deities either do or do not exist. I think there are limits to human comprehension like there are with any other animal.

      I’m also an apatheist, and that I really do not care. I’m way more interested in the role of religion in society, politics, the arts, etc. than debating things we’ll never be able to answer.

    • THIS. I just made a reply up-thread pertaining to knowledge and uncertainty(we behave as if we have certain knowledge on issues, things, entities that we have, at best, is a good guess). I tend to anger theists and atheists alike. It’s a good way to get verbal rotten tomatoes thrown at one’s head. :) I mean, I believe whatever I believe… I just realize that I don’t know for certain that what I believe is true or not, but that doesn’t matter to me more than, say, what I personally get out of having such a belief (how it affects my life, etc.)

      • As an agnostic bisexual I’ve often felt like agnosticism is the bisexuality of religion – we’re misunderstood by both sides and don’t fit in in either group. And the ways people dismiss us are similar: biphobic heteros tend to see bis as just straight people going through a phase, like how theists tend to see agnostics as believers “going through a period of doubt” (to use an obnoxious phrase I’ve had thrown at me many times). Likewise, biphobic gays tend to see bisexuals as just gay people who are afraid to admit it; atheists often see agnostics as just atheists who are afraid to admit it.

        As far as sexuality goes, I do feel like I fit in more with queer communities (like Autostraddle!) better than straight ones – and I used to feel like I fit in more on skeptic sites than religious ones. New Atheism has made the skeptic community a lot less welcoming to non-atheists, though, especially if you don’t have a particularly negative attitude toward religious people (as opposed to the specific bigoted kinds of religious people). I used to find myself defending nontheism to religious people more than the other way around, but now I find myself defending liberal religious people to hardline New Atheists just as much if not more.

  17. While I don’t have a problem with people not coming out or with living a straight life, I do have massive problems with someone getting married to a member of the opposite sex and not telling them they are gay. The article says “for some that means being honest with their opposite sex partner”, so I’m assuming that they don’t necessarily advocate that for everyone. I know this is more about religion but I think it’s really unfair to know you’re gay and let your partner think you’re straight.

  18. Can’t believe these articles are still being written. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a damn fine article! Very well penned, well done you.
    But seriously, if you’re a heterosexual christian, be one of them. If you’re gay AND christian, then “God” made you like that, if you’ve got him or her or it or whatever in your heart, you’re supposed to feel PEACEFUL. Not like God’s come in had a poke around and gone “well this is all wrong!” Like some horrific elderly aunty come to stay at your student flat!
    I’m an atheist, but I always thought that’s what it’d be like to be christian, NICE and like God had done a good job and he’s the reason for all your quirks and there’s thought behind everything or whatever…trying to cure it is like “Yeah cheers for that God, but I’m going to just sit uncomfortably here and then try and change things that can’t be changed K ta.”
    Am I being an ignorant atheist? I don’t even know where to start with the stuff about people being ex-gay with no religious reasons….so i wont :]

    • “I’m an atheist, but I always thought that’s what it’d be like to be christian, NICE and like God had done a good job and he’s the reason for all your quirks and there’s thought behind everything or whatever…”

      What ever made you think that? Not trying to be a wise ass here, I actually want to know what the impetus was for you thinking that. For me, it would be horrid, though as I say below, I’m an atheist. Just the amount of mental real estate that maintaining the fairytale requires, good grief. It might be nice to convince yourself that there’s a nice little reason for everything, but it’s more of an ignorance-is-bliss-type nice, which is actually a nightmarish hell. That’s my take, anyway.. which is why I am asking you, another atheist with a different point of view, about it.

      • wow…
        I think it’s about interpretation. I’ve read the bible, and the qu’ran, and people pick and choose how they view it. I guess because I live in England (not sure where you are from) the people I know who are religious just use the bible as a kind of solice. For example, if someone is being a wanker, like a real, real arsehole to you, then the whole “jesus lives in everyone” thing comes into it and…i don’t know, it’s hard to explain.
        The people who use the bible as a reason to hate are picking and choosing things to focus on. You can do that the other way, and take the peaceful, nice, floaty happy parts, and i think it makes people feel less alone. I can understand that. Just because I don’t believe in it, I have alot of respect for people who have that in their life and think of religion as very personal, not just a big rule book of do’s and DEFINETLY DONT’s.

        • I’m from the states, so just reading “wanker” in totally normal context just made me double extra happy.

          • pip pip tally ho knees up mother brooown. (this is definetly how we communicate in England. The queen insists upon it)

  19. I am seriously so grateful that I concluded that I don’t believe in any gods or religions. It has been as freeing and clarity-inducing as coming out of the closet.

    • Amen! (is “amen” appropriate?) I spent my formative years in churches and Jesus camps trying to force the square peg of faith into a round hole. Halfway through high school I just decided “fuck it. I can’t believe something I have no evidence for.”

      • It saddens me when I see people continuing to be tortured by the effects of theism and religion, but at the end of the day, it’s their choice.

        • Or, I should say, it’s their choice most of the time if they live in a country where there’s some amount of religious freedom.

  20. What I resent about these types of therapies are the assumption that homophobic religion and homosexual desire are in any way comparable and the assumption that it’s an “either-or” matter.

    First of all, having homosexual desire or even full on accepting yourself as a full fledged Gay Homosexual Queermo does not inherently mean that you disapprove of, discourage, and even flat out hate religious feeling. Accepting a homophobic religious viewpoint, however, does automatically mean that at the very least you view some people’s natural desires as sinful and/or evil. These two things are not comparable and they’re not equally valid. If the point of therapy is to resolve unhappiness or dysfuncion in a person, they should really be exploring why the patient needs to cling to closely to something that creates so much unhappiness and division between people.

    Second, these kinds of therapies seem to see it as a “gay or religious” question. Sure, they may not be trying to make you an “ex-gay” or the poster child for coming out anymore, but this “new” approach is really just a softer version of that. Either you accept your gayness or you accept your religion and construct an “alternate identity” and refuse to incorporate that part of you. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can still believe everything you already believe right now, just ditch the “gay is evil” bit. I can’t help but think of all the comments there have been on this site about when people realized/accepted that they were gay and a lot of them were like “I didn’t realize this was an option for me.” Well, the same holds true for religion. I’m sure TONS of people don’t realize that just not hating gayness (for valid theoligical/biblical scholarly reasons, not just “Oh, I’m ignoring that part” reasons) is an option. And it doesn’t even mean giving up conservative religion and community just to drop that one little bit, which has been challenged frequently by Biblical scholars and theologians anyway. In America, at least, there’s one thing you can be sure of: There is a Christian church out there that fits your beliefs. For reals. People of other faiths will probably have a tougher time of it in America, truly, but that doesn’t mean they’re without options either.

    And that’s not even getting into the whole “sometimes people don’t realize there’s other options in religion” thing. I just ran across someone three days ago who didn’t realize that Pagans existed. She really, honestly believed that people were Christian, Jewish, Muslim or nothing and that all other religions had died out centuries ago. I think therapists would be remiss if they didn’t at least try to have the client seriously consider that as an option. It’s not going to hurt a patient any to read up on or even talk to people of other religions, even if they don’t believe a word of it or end up deciding that it’s not a valid path for them.

    I totally agree that it’s important to have the patient set the goals, but at the same time it’s up to the therapist to show the patient that there are many and varied options to resolving the gayness/faith issue even if it doesn’t seem so to them immediately, since clearly being in therapy means that what the person had been wanting/trying to do up to that point hasn’t been working for them.

    • Oh, and another thing about the “gayness and homophobic religion not being equal” thing: My acceptance of my queerness has never once led me to even contemplate enacting laws or creating constitutional amendments to limit the rights of religious people or to dictate that they must live their lives according to my queerness, while the opposite is certainly not true.

      • This! Because if I hear one more christian/religious person talk about being oppressed by LBGT/atheists I am going to scream.

        LBGT people are not oppressing you, they are being assholes BIG DIFFERENCE!
        As an atheist I do not have Religious/Christian privilege, at all in this conversation/cultural context of the US. If I am say something that makes you cry or upset, I am not oppressing you, I am being an asshole, BIG DIFFERENCE!

        So this throwing around the word “privilege” like it’s going out of style needs to stop kthanxbi!


        I will try not to be an asshole when expressing my opinions on such matters however dismissing my opinion on having “privilege”…huh?

        My opinions, my beliefs do not stop one from expressing their religion just the b.s. of homophobia in such religion. It is sad that this is happening and I will support in whatever way I can as an atheist to help. I hope in a change that homophobia does not exist in religion and create safe spaces where LBGT people can express their faith.


  21. What has caused a lot of problems for me has never been the fact that I am both Christian and gay. It is the idea that I can/should give up one or the other that makes me shake. Both religion and sexuality are obviously very charged topics, and that’s fine. What I resent is that each side resorts to the same tactic of “well change it” in these conversations.

    I can’t not be gay. It’s a part of who I am, as much as breathing and eating and sleeping. It’s a part of how I understand the world and myself. So, “pray away the gay” is not really the right way for someone to approach the topic with me.

    Just as much, though, is my faith a part of me. As the article states, it’s also a part of how I understand the world and myself. “Change your religion”, or the ever-popular “Just give it up altogether”, is just as offensive to me as telling me to change who I’m attracted to. If someone understands the world better from an atheist perspective, that’s great. I promise to never throw my bible at you.

    I’ve spent time in Catholic, Presbyterian and Baptist churches. I’m now a member of a Lutheran church, filled with lots of other homogays who are just as invested in their homogayness and their Christianity as I am. Some have degrees from theological colleges and seminaries, some are just plain ol’ faithful. Imagining someone trying to tell my gay pastor that he should probably give up G-d so he can really embrace the gay would be hilarious if it weren’t so inherently offensive.

    I’m not Catholic or Baptist or Lutheran. I’m not “religious”. I believe in G-d and I’m Gay. I can’t change either. What would really be great would be for both sides to practice what they preach. I don’t care what you think about my sexuality to the exact same extent that I don’t care about what you think of my religion. Basically, if you want me to tolerate your religious ideology, tolerate my gayness. And if you want me to tolerate your gayness, tolerate my faith.

    • And I want to make it very clear that this is not directed at anyone in particular, just both attitudes in general. It’s been a very touchy time for me lately and I may or may not be coming off a weekend in which too much vodka led to a massive anxiety attack. Also it’s near midnight and I am way past my old-man bedtime. I’m sorry in advance if anyone is offended by this, I think you’re all great and have valid opinions. Just…let me be a G-d loving gay, please. That’s all.

        • http://www.soulforce.org/resources/what-the-bible-says-and-doesnt-say-about-homosexuality/

          Two things: when the Bible was written, the concept of homosexuality wasn’t even a thing. A lot of cultures didn’t give two hoots about who you had sex with as long as at the end of the day you were a productive member of society, but “homosexuality” as we know it wasn’t a recognized concept until about 150 years ago. Also, the word homosexuality didn’t appear in the bible until the 50s, when someone decided to put it there. Before that, there was no translation to “homo”, because again, it wasn’t a thing.
          The article says all of these things better than me.

          In terms of this video in particular, it’s kind of condescending, but nothing I haven’t heard before. I understand the aversion some people have towards religion, I just don’t understand why my being religious actively bothers people.

    • Rock on. I do not like the attitude that religious people should have to give up their religion to be good gays or that gay people should have to give up their gayness to be good religious people. They do not have to be mutually exclusive and the argument is equally obnoxious regardless of which side it comes from. I’m a Buddhist not a Christian, but it still frustrates me when these arguments come up.

  22. This is really really interesting. I have too many feelings & not enough distance to really give this a lot of thought though. I think “it’s complicated” covers it perfectly.

  23. this thread made me sit and weep.

    so many painful memories from my involvement with P4CM–a tshirt campaign church.

    i cant even….

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