Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ex-gays to ex-ex-gays: it's your fault you didn't change

I recently found myself at the first official recognition that I've seen of the existence of ex-ex-gays from a supporter of an ex-gay ministry. The piece is written by one Sue Bohlin of Probe Ministries and is available here. It's also notable in distinguishing between the "reparative therapy" used by psychoanalysts trying to "cure" homosexuality and what Bohlin calls the "redemptive approach", in which homosexuality is "healed" through cultivating a relationship with Jesus Christ. She describes the latter as the superior method of the two.

The specific reference to ex-ex-gays is an attempt to explain their existence. Ater all, if a relationship with Christ is all that is needed to heal homosexuality, then why do ex-ex-gays even exist? Unsurprisingly, the answer is to blame the victim: Bohlin outright states that it is because ex-ex-gays failed to really do what is necessary to change that they didn't change. Notably, she didn't talk to a single ex-ex-gay before leaping to this conclusion, merely assuming it to be true based on her own assumptions about religious belief. This is understandable given the ex-gay ideology: after all, in the Fundamentalist worldview God cannot fail, therefore He can only be failed, therefore it must be the ex-ex-gays and not the "Godly" ex-gay ministration that failed.

But it's also quite destructive. Unlike Miss Bohlin, I have spoken one-on-one with ex-ex-gays (the undergraduate assignment for which I did this has been publicly posted about halfway down this forum page), and I understand just what the accusation that "they're not trying hard enough to change" did to them when they were in ex-gay ministries. It laid a whole new heaping of undeserved shame onto them, over and above the shame they experienced in the first place for "experiencing unwanted same-sex attractions", as the ex-gay movement puts it. Having given their all in the effort to change, these people were then told by the ex-gay ministries that their all wasn't good enough. Is it any wonder that Shidlo and Schroeder's 2002 ex-gay study found that the many individuals in ex-gay institutions who experienced no change at all reported that they found the ex-gay experience harmful? The ex-gay ministries make it abundantly clear to them that they will never be able to change, and that this is their own fault.

This is why the demands by the ex-gay movement for "tolerance" fall flat. They do not merely want tolerance for how they live their own lives, they want people to be "tolerant" of the way they dictate how much or how little faith other people must allegedly have, without any regard for the actual feelings of those other people about the matter. They can also be dangerous to a same-sex-attracted person's mental well-being: their harmful imposition of shame onto those who they fail, demanding that their failure be treated as the failure of their victims, is not something that deserves any tolerance at all.

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