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.
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.
I 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.
Gail 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.