Sex Ed in Bed

What “ex-gay” groups can’t promise you
By Jallen Rix, Ed.D. (c).

When I began to deal with my sexuality in the ‘80’s, the only kind of organization that I knew to help me was an “ex-gay” ministry. These groups are on the fringes of Christian fundamentalism that promise to “heal” a person of homosexuality through prayer, bible study and faith in God. Long story short — it doesn’t work. Quite to the contrary, these organizations end up doing a lot of damage to the people who put their trust in them. As a result, I have often spoken against ex-gay groups and their ill effects. I have taught recovery workshops and debated the topic in public forums. I’ve been interviewed for various documentaries and news programs, most notably, ABC’s 20/20. In fact, part of why I am getting my doctorate in sexology is to help ex-ex-gays more fully recover from their experiences (we like to call ourselves Dos Equis).

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is how does one effectively talk with ex-gays? This kind of question usually implies, “How do I talk to my loved one who is trying to be ex-gay and convince them not to be, or when I’m talking with them how do I win the argument?” My initial answer to most of these questions is don’t even try. If you’re arguing with someone about this subject you have already set aside the strongest tool you have to win her/him over. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First you have to realize that ex-gays have placed the obsession of changing their sexuality on a pedestal higher than anything else in their lives — higher than even truth or reality. Therefore, everything in their world sort of warps toward that over-riding priority, much like when an anorexic person looks in the mirror they only see an obese image of themselves. So debating any number of perfectly logical and healthy perspectives about sexuality makes no difference. It’s pretty much outside their sphere of comprehension.

Some people who are very well versed in Christian theology can usually maneuver around ex-gays’ misuse of scripture. Being raised Southern Baptist, and with a minor in theology I can perform biblical gymnastics around ex-gays’ selective approach to Christianity (believe it or not, these groups have little to do with the unconditional love of Jesus Christ). However, in the end, it really doesn’t make that much difference. They have decided to believe what they believe and no one — least of all “the enemy” — is going to change their way of thinking.

In Tom Murray’s documentary, Fish can’t fly, about people who have left the ex-gay movement, psychotherapist and author, Joe Kort brings up an important perspective to the topic. He believes that “change” groups are covertly abusive because their overall message is much like the message of a sex abuser, as if to say, “Your sexual desires and needs are unimportant and for you to be acceptable or to survive, I will impose my sexual needs and desires on you.” Though there is no sexual activity taking place, these subtle messages are a form of abuse.

Christians are to exemplify the unconditional love of God. Yet, ex-gay leaders can’t but be in conflict with this love because their overriding goal is to change people. Oddly enough they will deny this up and down, “Oh! No, God does the changing.” They would probably even say that they love you unconditionally. More often than not, after they say this there will be a “but…” attached to the sentence, and unconditional love doesn’t have a “but.”

Therefore, the most important thing is not to debate them till your blue in the face or argue with them until everyone is yelling and angry. The most powerful influence we can have is the one thing “ex-gays” cannot do, and that is to accept them as they are

I know it’s not easy to watch someone struggle and find their way through those difficult times in their journey that lead them through such a group. But I have said time and again to people who are hoping for success in an “ex-gay” ministry, “Don’t ever forget that I will do my best to accept you as you are, no strings attached. So when you’re ready to accept yourself as well, my door will always be open.” Some never darken my door, but many have, and it’s been worth it all.

To read more about this, go to my ex-gay page.

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