10 Things to Know about Ex-Gay Survivors

freedom_meme

I step back often, from my role as an advocate for survivors, because no matter how much time has passed, I am still a survivor myself, which means I need time to simply “be” and not be enmeshed in the gross social and religious assumptions and obsessions that are tied to my experience.

Survivors of most hate crimes can relate.

Plus, I’m getting married in 23 days! Who has time to reflect on their drama when there is so much joy and celebration ahead? (Update: Married Nov 2015. #RebrandMarriage 😉 )

When I came across the quote, “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom,” this post began to form. It is because of the freedom that I have – to love, and be loved, that I am able to recognize the old weight of putting myself and my own needs second to an institution, a relationship, a career – a faith. I will delve into my story again soon, after I enjoy some wedding bliss and my wife may also share her perspectives with my story, as we write together… but until then, I offer you…

10 Things to Know about Ex-Gay Survivors

When you hear about conversion therapy or “ex-gay survivors,” please consider this list as a means of relating to our stories and perhaps removing the stigma associated with our former efforts to divorce ourselves from our sexuality.

1. The ex-gay survivor is a person who stepped into a place of sacred trust with people who projected and idolized profane theology and psychology… but lived to tell about it.

2. The ex-gay survivor is a person who may not want to discuss the obstacles that he still faces when it comes to sexuality because the cult-like logic used to shame him still travels sensitive neuropathways in his brain. Be aware what you can trigger for him.

3. The ex-gay survivor is a person who may not be able to form any kind of positive belief system around religion and should not be pressured to do so… ever. If there is a God, that God will understand. You should too.

4. The ex-gay survivor may not be outspoken about her experience. She may feel that the best path to recovery is showing her freedom by quietly living a life out of the limelight.bxg_Losing_Religion

5. The ex-gay survivor may not have been abused by anyone or anything in their homes, but instead, be a victim of the societal and religious rhetoric and homophobia.

6. The ex-gay survivor may not have known that he had choices to walk away from what an outsider may call a “crazy” or “clearly impossible” goal of changing his sexuality. He didn’t know he had choices because even the word “choice” was a weapon.

7. The ex-gay survivor is a person who knows more about her own identity development that the average person because she has been placing it under a microscope since a very young age. Self-awareness and self-deception are sometimes intertwined and require patience from anyone who would seek to unravel it with her.

8. The ex-gay survivor may not hate the leaders involved in conversion therapy. On the contrary, we may have compassion for leaders or people we went to groups with because we learned so much about them… they were our friends. We may have complicated grief about losing them… even though it was toxic.

9. The ex-gay survivor is a person who spends most of her day learning how to be comfortable in her own skin. She is not “introverted” or “extroverted,” easily compartmentalized into words/phrases you can understand. She is a survivor of emotional/religious/psychological and sometimes physical trauma. She needs space to be.

10. The ex-gay survivor was born perfect… and is learning that… every day.

jung_choose_jpgI look forward to sharing the next evolution of my recovery, as the wife of an amazing woman, who has learned more about me in a day than anyone has ever known. In short, like any other survivor, any other HUMAN, what truly heals and changes us is the ability to find intimacy in a world that has often closed us down… and then… choose to become loved!

The ex-gay survivor is not any different than anyone who has been betrayed – genuine, consistent, and no-nonsense affection and companionship is the recipe for healing.

Much love, my dear readers, friends, and survivors… you are loved, just as you are.

Namaste, yo.

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose latest book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

6 thoughts on “10 Things to Know about Ex-Gay Survivors

  1. Thanks again for sharing your story and the insight and wisdom that you have gained.

    I’m excited about your upcoming wedding! So happy for you! Congratulations!

    I’m going to share this post with the moms in the Serendipitydodah for Moms group. We have over 230 moms with lgbt kids in the group now and In one way or another all of our lgbt kids are ex gay survivors because, like you said, even if they are affirmed and supported in their homes and even if they never were part of a formal ex gay group, they still are living in a world where they are exposed to societal and religious rhetoric that sends the toxic message that they are broken. I believe the things you have written will help us moms become better at developing healthy, authentic, whole relationships with our lgbt kids and that is why our group exists.

    Love and light to you and your wife to be. ❤

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    • Thanks for the congrats, Liz! Always great to see you swinging by the blog. I think it’s a great piece to share with any group who is connected to the struggle that families and young people face when coming out. I’m so glad you shared it! There are so many stories left to tell and perspectives from which we will learn… I’m so glad you are facilitating the conversation for others. We need more of this!

      I’ll share the love and light with Yanina for sure! Hugs!

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    • I’m so glad I took the time to work out the list, Bill. You know me – I think about these things, but don’t always know if it comes together in a way that truly represents all of us and our stories. It warms my heart to know it was worth revisiting – thanks for passing it on, so that all may be able to relate to one another in a more mindful and honest way! Hugs!

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  2. Thanks for this, Gail! I’m a mom who is crazy about my gay son (no reparative therapy, but a conservative Christian upbringing–saw your post via Liz Dyer). My son has a lot to “unravel,” and sometimes it’s a challenge to know how to best support him. Can you say a little more about this bit: “Self-awareness and self-deception are sometimes intertwined and require patience from anyone who would seek to unravel it with her.” I see both self-awareness and self-deception in my son, and I’m wondering what you meant when you wrote that.

    Best wishes on your upcoming wedding!

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    • Hi Mama Bear! I’m glad you had a chance to read the piece. It’s important to me that there are so many parents are learning to ask questions and consult with one another on how to be there for their kids. I know my own mom wishes she had that kind of community when I was coming out so it’s really special that you are so open to learning from others as you ultimately reach back in love to your son.

      What he is unraveling will certainly be his own process, but with you at his side, I’m sure it will come apart and then back together, so much easier! What I mean by this “self-deception” vs. “self-awareness” piece is a very underrated element to the damage done by group think and homophobia. For example, when you hear a gay person with internalized homophobia speak, you can hear how they say things like, “Well I wish I wasn’t this way… but…” So there is a little self-deception in there, that says, “I can’t control this and I’m less than.” What is healthier, of course, is to KNOW that some things are natural and there’s nothing to CONTROL here. When we hate ourselves or try to deform ourselves, we then deceive ourselves into belief systems that perpetuate that hate… if you follow blogs of ex-gays, you will hear their struggle with being less than, having deceived themselves into martyrdom or some kind of “holy” struggle. Eventually they notice that the AWARENESS within them is that they ARE NOT happy with this struggle and they have forced themselves into a martyrdom on behalf of others. (I.e. “I’m not supposed to be happy because Jesus suffered so I should suffer…”) So, what you are often dealing with in these circles are wounded people who are incredibly self-aware except to that point that their faith or societal wound crosses… then there is deception.

      That is just my assessment of my own experience, then tied to all of the survivors I’ve met through the network of those who are able to discuss their experiences too. We lied to ourselves… we got really good at lying about our “courage” to “change” or our “faith” and eventually, self-awareness wins out and the deception fades into an honest relationship with one’s sexuality… AND honest relationship with OTHERS…

      For some, that process is lifelong…

      So… in short, I wish you transparency with your journey and with your son – tear down the walls of self-hate or deprecation so that the awareness wins out for you all 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m so glad there are parents out there asking these sorts of questions. It refreshes me to know this!

      Much love and light ~ g

      Like

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