Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Reasons for Going Ex-Gay

As I am keeping up with blogs and posts about Bryce Faulkner and how his parents coerced him into an ex-gay program, I am beginning to reflect back on the reasons I had when I chose to enter into reparative therapy.

I am certainly around the same age as Bryce, except I in no way think that our stories are the same. But I do understand the pressures of being a dependent college student and being faced with difficult decisions.

I came to recognize my same-sex attractions during my first year of college at Azusa Pacific University. It was very confusing, and at times frightening, to recognize my same-sex attractions will being a student at Christian university. I remember having a lot of fear. Fear of being "figured out" and then kicked out of school for being gay. Fear of my parents finding out and disowning me. Fear that I would some how end up with AIDS, die, and be eternally damned to hell.

I made the decision myself to go through reparative therapy because I thought it was the best choice to make at that time; yet it was a choice nonetheless. I also made the choice to not tell my parents that I was receiving "help" for my sexual orientation. My choice lead me down a path of even more confusion, spiritual abuse, and shame. My choice to get"help" did me more harm than good.

Several years later, I am "out" and live my life as an openly gay person. But I am still asked all the time, "Why would you choose to go ex-gay?" Back then, my answer would have been something like, "Well, because I'm a Christian." Soon after that answer became, "I believed that it was sinful." After spending a lot of time processing my life experiences I have come to realize that that answer is a really "bad" answer; I might even go as far to say that it's the "wrong" answer.

Peterson Toscano wrote a blog last year titled, "The MANY reasons I went Ex-Gay." After reading his blog I began to start listing why I truly let myself make the choice to go through reparative therapy:

- I thought I would be kicked out school.
- I feared that my parents would disown me and cut me off from the rest of the family.
- Negative portrayals of LGBT people in the media and in the church.
- Fear of getting AIDS and other STDs I would get if I came out as gay.
- Wanted to get married and have a family.
- Fear of becoming promiscuous, yet lonely.
- Fear of physical violence against LGBT people.

Choices come with consequences. I've faced the consequences of making both decisions: to be ex-gay and to be ex-ex-gay. Both were not easy decisions to make. Ultimately though, I realized that my decision to go ex-gay was not because I thought it was sinful to be gay. Instead it was because of fear of the outcomes that would arise had I not chosen to do something about it. Alas, several years later I have come to realize the outcomes.

My heart does go out to Bryce and those supporting him. His decision to listen to his parents clearly was not an easy one, but a choice he did in theory make. It is unfortunate the levels of manipulation people will use to control and affect the lives of people.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Young man forced into ex-gay program

By now, many have begun to hear the story of Bryce Faulker, a college-aged young adult that was forced into an ex-gay program by his parents.

Since there is already a lot of coverage of this story, I am reposting from other blogs that have already begun discussions around this topic.

According to Waymon Hudson over at the Bilerico Project,

The request to join a new group came through my Facebook page. The group was called “Friends of Bryce“, which could have been anything, but had a note attached that said “Please Help.”

When I clicked over to the group, an all too familiar tale unfolded. Bryce Faulkner, a young gay man from Arkansas, had gone missing after his parents had discovered he was gay. They had gotten into their college-aged son’s email account and discovered messages between Bryce and his boyfriend.

The parents then gave Bryce an ultimatum- enter an extensive and severe “therapy” program or lose all their support for college and living expenses. For a young man from a conservative small town whose entire life, including his job, was tied to his parents, who had nowhere to go and no one to turn to, there really was no choice.

Bryce was sent to 14 week long conversion therapy camp and has not been heard from again.

Peterson Toscano wrote a blog post soon after that compares and contrasts Bryce's story with the similar story of Zach Stark, the young man that was forced into the Love In Action program when he was 16 years old. Zach's story caught national attention and will be shared in the upcoming documentary, "This Is What Love in Action Looks Like."

Peterson hit hard on something that I think is very important

In these cases of ex-gay coercion once someone is no longer a minor, they no longer become pure victims. Although it is difficult and terrifying to resist, if someone is over 18, they can legally say “NO! you cannot make me do this!” and as an adult, they can then live with the consequences. I understand that the financial impact of this can be huge, but not impossible to overcome, especially with the assistance of a boyfriend’s affirming parents and a community committed to taking care of each other (which I know doesn’t always happen.)

I encourage everyone to read Peterson's post, because I think he raises some great points regarding the decisions parents make and the decisions we make regarding the well-being of our lives.