Although the December posts by Peterson Toscano caused me to pause on the subject and that it's never to far from the back of my head when the topic of the religious right comes up, the subject of ex-gay ministries is a particular topic of interest to me because of the amount of harm I believe they cause. They are also at the heart of the religious right political movement; the existence of these programs helps justify the legal and civic discrimination religious righters seek to and have been successful in perpetuating on gays and lesbians. If they can demonstrate (and I use the term very loosely) that sexual orientation is a choice, and worse, is something wrong that needs to be changed, they can more easily justify their bigotry.
I fortunately never had any experience with ex-gay ministries except for very, very briefly considering one. I had never really heard of them until I came out and stumbled upon a television minister proclaiming that my homosexuality could be changed. I wrote down the toll-free number, kept it for a few days, and discarded it. I decided I didn't need to change; I was who I was supposed to be.
Although I grew up in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist Church, I cannot ever recall the subject of homosexuality being discussed in church. Our church, while conservative and literalist, was much more of a community interested in being together and doing the right things. Our ministers were about serving the congregation and were very people-focused. No real hellfire and brimestone sermons except for the occasional visiting minister maybe, but that was very atypical. So, I was blessed or lucky or both, depending on your perspective.
My family, both immediate and extended, have done nothing but demonstrate support and love for me and I have some very fundamentalist family members. I think that my family members are true Christians and understand that love is at the heart of the faith, regardless of where we stand of a theological standpoint of sexual orientation. Frankly, I've discussed the dogmatic side of homosexuality very rarely with any family member. It hasn't been important; all of their first reactions have been to demonstrate love.
So, how then, can I come to an understanding of what other families, parents, spouses, siblings, and alleged friends put their gay and lesbian children, spouses, brothers and sisters through? I can't. I still am amazed at the amount of harm that has been and continues to be perpetuated by ex-gay programs and churches trying to convert their gay/lesbian members. It's a true horror story and one that I am committed to help in my own small way stamp out by spreading truth.
The truth that science has demonstrated that sexual orientation is largely if not entirely inherent: genetic or hormonal possibly. Regardless of how it is formed, it's not changeable. People can change their behavior, yes, but the impulses and desires will remain. Further, there is no reason the people need to change even their behavior; to do so is more likely to cause harm than not. There is no Biblical basis for needing to change; being homosexual or committing homosexual acts is no sin.
Right Wing Watch: "I-35 0, Homosexuality 1" - this story reports the follow-up to an individual featured on a recent broadcast of the 700 Club (that's Pat Robertson's show) who claimed that evangelicals rescued him from homosexuality during a night of carousing at gay bars. (He was carousing, not the evangelicals. Well, okay, I don't know that. The evangelicals may have been carousing as well, I don't know.) This story is just one, current example of how ex-gay therapy does not work.
Former Ex-Gay Minister Speaks Out
"Anything But Straight": Ex-Gay Movement History
APA Help Center on Sexual Orientation
UC Davis Article on Reparative Therapy