Praying the gay away
If you want to read something depressing, check out ex-gay testimonies.
Many Christian ministries love to publish them as a smug response to the LGBT community’s assertion that they were born this way. See, they argue, you don’t have to be gay. You can stop being gay right now. You just have to try harder. Pray harder. Be straighter.
The irony here is that church testimonies are supposed to be tales of victory. This is how I got over. This is how I was brought through. But there’s nothing victorious about ex-gay testimonies. Instead there’s something profoundly devastating—at least to me, as a Christian, as a feminist, as a human being.
In “My Path to Lesbianism”, Diane Mattingly lays out a rather dizzying argument about how her misogynistic attitudes, which stemmed from her resentment toward her mother, somehow turned her gay. She first noticed her attraction to women when she was in the sixth grade but she didn’t act on her feelings util long after high school and a series of “very promiscuous” stints with boys.
My first encounter with a woman gave me the most intense sense of belonging and connection I have ever felt. It is hard to explain just how enveloped I felt during that first encounter. I felt a sense of relief I had never felt before. I felt like I had finally found that sense of home within my soul I had been missing.
Wait, is this the article where you’re telling me that being a lesbian is bad? Because what you just described sounds awesome. Who doesn’t want that type of intimacy with someone else? But then Mattingly drops the hammer: she later dismisses this encounter as “an emotionally dependent relationship that had nothing at all to do with love.” (Nothing to do with love? Did you read what you just wrote? It sounded like a page ripped out a Harlequin novel!) Mattingly is sparse with the details of her ‘recovery’, but after a few confusing paragraphs about reclaiming her “aborted femininity”, she pronounces herself cured.
Somewhat surprisingly, in “No Easy Victory”, the anonymous author, unlike in the other articles, still identifies as a gay man. He describes his growing awareness of his sexuality, from early childhood to secret high school crushes, an “almost overwhelming” attraction that resulted in depression and suicidal thoughts. But still, even after he became a Christian during college and began a relationship with a woman, his “sexual orientation did not change.”
And that’s what I wish I could be: normal. I’ve tried to change, tried to become heterosexual, tried just about everything to do so! Counseling, therapy, prayer, healing—you name it. But for all my trying, all I’ve managed to do is control the behavioral manifestations of my sexual orientation. God has given me the power to live a fulfilling heterosexual life, together with the grace to live with the fact that I’m still homosexual. It hasn’t been an easy victory. There are times when maintaining this dichotomous life is nearly overwhelming.
Now this article just made me want to cry. It’s not the fact that it’s so heartfelt and sincere. It’s also the idea that this is someone who has come to terms with his sexuality but continues to grit his teeth and try to remold himself into something that he’s not. Despite the title, this article isn’t victorious: it’s profoundly sad.
So, brief re-cap. Gay Christians, these seem to be your options.
- Stay in the closet.
- Renounce gayness, live heterosexual life
- Accept gayness, live heterosexual life in spite of it
Each of these options is more depressing than the last. It’s just beyond me how anyone can think that a loving God would prefer you to live a life of secrecy and shame rather than a happy and fulfilling life loving another and loving who He created you to be.
Christian magazines proudly publish these ex-gay testimonies and use them as evidence that you can ‘pray the gay away.’ But do you know what they actually prove? How desperate we are. The lengths to which we will go to be found acceptable. The crushing weight of our shame.
This is so fucking damaging. Let me tell you, every single day I encounter something that reinforces that dark secret voice in my head that tells me that if only I tried harder I wouldn’t be queer. If only I cared enough and worked hard enough, I could be normal. THIS IS SO POISONOUS.
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