Pulse nightclub survivor, Luis Javier Ruiz, the latest ex-gay poster boy, brought new attention to the ex-gay movement. Ruiz claims homosexuals can cease being homosexual by embracing Christ. He believes his innate lust for men can be prayed away. Ruiz claims he's not undergone conversion therapy, a quack science embraced by the Christian right to undo evolution.
Exodus International, the defunct leader in ex-gay conversions, closed its doors in 2013. The cold war against ex-gay factions ended. Until 2012, the organization claimed homosexuality could be overcome by therapy and prayer. The group's president, Alan Chambers, issued an apology for the harm his organization had caused the gay community over the 37 years of its existence. The days of telling gay men and women they don't belong had ended.
As a teenager, I watched news stories about men who'd declared themselves ex-gay. Their loyal wives stood behind them, smiling as if it were true. Such denial of their natural inclinations disturbed me. I'd researched homosexuality at local libraries, reading every book under "G" for gay and "H" homosexuality in the card catalog. How some men could become straight by way of Christ was incomprehensible. My fledgling self-acceptance was shaken.
My bookish teens and early twenties gave way to a social life. I met other gay men when I first visited gay bars. We weren't on the same page either politically or intellectually. Politics was a non-starter. Discussions were about music, clothes, other people, sex. I wanted to discuss the news and gay issues. Dating wasn't easy. Gay men have a reputation of being difficult with each other. If you're not self-confident, you'd better fake it. Men dating other men could be harsh. I understood why some would try to forget the gay world.
My own experience of finding and losing love almost broke me. While I'd grown up attending church, spiritually I needed development. I didn't understand how God could work in my everyday life. My first introduction to that development was self-help books with a spiritual twist. The writings of Wayne Dyer for example.
While gay social life could be difficult, there were alternatives to bars and nightclubs. I lived in Dallas, home to one of the largest gay-affirming churches in the country, Cathedral of Hope. I attended services every Sunday and Wednesday. It was both a respite from work and the gay social scene. Sermons were inspirational and relevant. It was a weekly tent revival and affirmation of my values.
Cathedral of Hope and other gay-affirming churches offered volunteer opportunities to help the less fortunate. I considered joining a prayer group they offered. I soon felt less attached to the bar scene. I could be gay and meet other like-minded people who shared my faith in God. I felt complete and happy as a single man, overcoming the idea that I must have a boyfriend. Being free of this need was a tremendous weight lifted off of me.
Like all good things, my church attendance dwindled. I remained socially awkward and the bars and drinking came easy. I was single until almost 30 and regularly hunting for sex. That made me vulnerable. My spiritual and social weakness attracted broken individuals. Sitting in a bar by yourself, even the most broken person can approach you. One night, a young man started talking about not wanting to be gay anymore.
He boasted he'd been with women in the past, as if he were a real man. It was irritating but I felt obligated to talk to him out of politeness and shared hardship. I had no bisexual inclinations and found it difficult to find common ground. I shared my experiences in the hopes that he'd learn by example. I'd made a few friends and while life wasn't perfect, happiness was my choice. Self-help books had taught me to maintain a positive outlook. The gay population in Dallas was large enough that you could get lost. Because some gay men were unfriendly didn't mean others couldn't enjoy their lives.
The man continued talking about his unhappy existence. His experiences led him to believe that his fellow gays were snotty liars and unreliable. I'd gone out to meet someone and listening to someone's twisted life story was exhausting. I had difficulties of my own but dealt with them: balancing work, social, and family life wore on me. I didn't understand that I was being put upon. Bumps in the road like this caused me to lose faith in my own abilities to enjoy myself.
I later met other gay men with similar stories, indifferent that they'd chosen a gay bar to vomit their confessions. Common sense said that if you met someone and wanted to make a new friend or love interest, you should start by making a good first impression. These individuals seemed both clueless and completely self- absorbed. My impression of these young men, who now wanted to not be gay, was that they didn't want to help themselves. That they were only looking for affirmation of their negative outlook and could drag you down with them.
While most stories present individuals who pursue prominent ex-gay paths, such as Ruiz's, as victims, my experience hasn't lead me to that conclusion. Refusing to accept other viable options (such as gay-friendly churches) demonstrates spite and stubbornness. That's not something to be celebrated. For gay organizations, these occurrences should be viewed as an opportunity to educate the public and gays about bisexuality. A topic that's largely ignored when gay conversions show up in the news. For Christians, you need to distance yourselves from these groups and shouldn't be praising these so-called ex-gay conversions when you know they don't work.
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