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Exgays and Mental Illness

After 25 years in the exgay movement and having just completed my MSW (Masters in Social Work) I have come to a conclusion.  Long-term exgays are kinda weird.  Looking back at my peers in the exgay movement I can say that those that make a long-term commitment to this “lifestyle” tend to be a little off.  Part of the reason may be internalized homophobia or as the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) puts it many exgays may suffer with an Identity Problem (313.82 in the DSM pg. 741).  But I am convinced there is more to it than this.  The percentage of people with personality disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, etc. were far higher in the exgay movement than in the gay population or the straight population.  And when you think about it this makes sense.  Why would someone make a commitment to this sub-culture of the gay population?  (Yes, it is my opinion that exgays should be viewed as a sub-set of the GLBTQ community.)  The vast majority of people that start attending exgay groups leave within three years, but what is the motivation for those of us that stay?

Sincerely held religious beliefs are one answer to be sure.  But the idea that many people that commit to the exgay movement have deep-seated and probably undiagnosed mental disorders that are unrelated to there sexual identity makes sense to me based on my experiences.  When you have a difficult time relating to the world around you, and you have an undiagnosed mental disorder it makes sense that you would blame your struggles in life on homosexuality. The reason you are agoraphobic?  Homosexuality.  The reason you isolate?  Homosexuality.  The reason you hoard?  Homosexuality.  The reason you have obsessive thoughts?  Homosexuality.

The evangelical and fundamentalist Christian communities help contribute to this problem.  Many evangelical and most fundamentalist churches are wary of secular mental health providers.  When you don’t trust the mental health profession and you are dealing with mental illness you have few options, pastoral counseling at church is one option.  This is problematic because most evangelical pastors view homosexuality as an extremely depraved sin so they will view any symptoms of mental illness as a part of the homosexuals depraved condition.  The other option is to attend an exgay group.  This is very problematic because most exgay leaders have even less training in counseling than evangelical pastors.  Most exgays are lay people with little or no training in mental health issues.

Now, there is another category of exgay as well.  I call these the mentally odd.  Not people that have a diagnosable mental disorder but people that are just outside the mainstream.  These folks may have some autistic traits, or deal with issues such as non-verbal learning disorder, or simply be very introverted.  Many of the exgay leaders I can think of would fit this category.

Timothy Fuller who led a support group associated with Andy Comiskey’s Desert Streams ministry in the early 90’s was a wonderful, thoughtful, spiritual man and he was kind of odd.  Sonia Balcer who is an exgay superstar is a highly intelligent, spiritual woman, and a scientist who should do a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory.  She screams Asperger’s to me.  The same with new up and coming exgay superstar Eve Tushnet.  I find her writings profound, deep, and insightful into the human condition in unique ways.  But she does seem to fit somewhere on the autism spectrum.*  Ron Belgau is another engineer/scientist who seems to be all brain, struggling with the issues of life, philosophy, and theology.  There is nothing “wrong” with these people, all societies have their Philosophers, Absent-Minded Professors, Monks, and Eunuchs who seem called to a deep, spiritual place.  For these few the physical is a distraction, the need that most in society have for romantic coupling or sexual intimacy is a distraction from there quest to discover hidden Spiritual and Philosophical truths.  Society needs these people as we need all kinds of people.  Some who are called to a celibate life are a part of the LGBTQ community, but that is a very different thing than being an exgay……or is it?

*I am in no way diagnosing or assessing people in this blog.

White Supremacy, Exgays, and Me

White Supremacy, Exgays, and Me.

White Supremacy, Exgays, and Me

white_pride_worldwide Photo Credit:Digitaljournal.com

I stumbled into White Supremacy, and I found it to be quite familiar.  The tone, the attitude, the ambience was something I was quite familiar with.  Fundamentalist Christianity (not necessarily Evangelicals) has many of the same structural traits that White Supremacists have. An authoritarian patriarchal structure, a belief system that demands absolute obedience, a belief in power and control over all members, a paranoid sense that members may leave or betray the group, an unfounded belief in persecution, hope in a utopian future when all undesirables will be eliminated or removed, and finally a contempt for anything feminine-femininity being equated with weakness. 

I stumbled into White Supremacy through the internet.  I was looking for an article Pat Buchanan had written on homosexuality and through my search stumbled across a website called V-Dare.  I started exploring and one site led to another which led to another which led to my fascination with White Supremacist beliefs.  What I found was the same pattern of argument through out there reasoning that Fundamentalists have.  The pattern was the same: in Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Homophobia.  Find a Scripture, interpret that Scripture to dehumanize a group, turn peoples faith into a religion based on power, and find disenfranchised people to follow a charismatic Alpha male leader.

A couple of quotes from Jerry Falwell “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.” (Retrieved from D. Kurtzman About.com) “If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s Word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision (Brown vs.Board of Education which ended public school segregation) would never have been made.”  “The facilities should be separate.  When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.”  Both previous quotes were retrieved from Max Blumenthal’s article Jerry Falwell’s Racist Roots. Now those opposed to gay rights will say that there is no correlation between gay rights and racial equality.  The problem with that is that those who today oppose gay rights are the same churches, organizations, and populations whose parents opposed desegregation.  There is a seamless and uncanny continuity between the groups that today oppose gay rights and those that in the past opposed desegregation.

 

 

What I found very interesting was that those that opposed gay rights in the White Supremacist community would privately treat me with respect since I was celibate and an exgay, but would not support me publically, the same reaction I got in Christian circles. In closing I would like to point out how exgays in my view give the lie to the belief that Christians view homosexuality just like any other sin and simply oppose equal rights for those that engage in homosexual behavior. I was discharged from the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell even though I was a virgin and actively involved in the exgay movement. The military said I was a threat to America’s defense not because I had engaged in homosexual behavior or even that I was likely to, but because I simply had a propensity to engage in homosexual behavior-by the way I only “came out” because rumors about my sexuality had started in my unit. The fact that I struggle with a socially unacceptable sin was the only reason I was discharged with the full blessing of this Judeo-Christian government, a Democratic government mind you-the people of this country through their representatives said that the fact that I exist was a threat to the nation—unbelievable. I also attended Crossroads Church of Denver where Pastor Tom Stipe explained in an emotional and intense sermon one day that a man who had been married for over twenty years with several children had been denied the opportunity to volunteer for ministry because he had engaged in homosexual behavior prior to his marriage, even though he had been faithful for over twenty years he was denied the privilege of serving in ministry because he was a threat to the children of the church. The crowd roared like they were at a Nuremberg rally. This was not sincerely held opposition to homosexuality due to sincerely held religious beliefs, it was bigotry cloaked in religion-just like the segregationists of a generation ago.

Dealing With My Heterosexual Side

Tea Leoni

Tea Leoni

I remember the exact moment I began to be sexually attracted to women.  I was 32 years old working my job as a ramper for an airline helping move bags in the baggage service area.  All of a sudden I realized I was checking out a couple of women that were bent over picking up their bags.  And the thoughts going through my head were not Christian by any means-suffice it to say I wasn’t thinking “Wow those jeans fit her real nice”-At that moment time stopped for me, I was instantly gripped by a profound sense of panic and confusion, my entire identity was under attack.  I knew in that instant that this was not a one time thing that would pass and I knew that this had profound effects on my identity as an exgay Christian moving forward.

 

People think that the exgay movement is about turning people that have exclusively homosexual desires into people that have exclusively heterosexual desires, it isn’t.  The exgay movement has always tried to help people get involved in a loving and caring heterosexual marriage with unique challenges (i.e. getting turned on by your brother-in-law more than your wife).  Being “turned on” by women has not been an easy thing for me-I would define my sexual identity as 85% homosexual and 15% heterosexual.  I don’t feel straight or bi-sexual I would identify more as a celibate gay Christian.

I did think that I would possibly get involved in a relationship with a woman and maybe get married, but I am 42 now and that never happened.  I have been celibate for over 10 years and will probably be so the rest of my life.  As A Christian this is tough to take.  I do not want to be alone, but as A Conservative Christian this is my only option.

 

The Interesting thing about this is that these desires developed a few years after my brief foray into a “gay lifestyle”, what is even more interesting is that after 25 years in the exgay movement I have never met another male that this has happened to.  I have never met an exgay married or single that has developed sexual lust for women, especially at 32 years of age!  I have met a very few men who honestly identified as bi-sexual and I have met many women whose sexual identity has changed over the years, but no one like me.

I am unique, I wish I weren’t.

…..Oh yeah, and Tea Leoni is hot.

Coming Out as an Exgay

For the past three years I have been “in the closet” as an exgay in my Masters in Social Work program.  I am out as an exgay/celibate gay Christian in every other aspect of my life.  But I was told by several people to stay in the closet as an exgay graduate student in Social Work. Everyone in my program thought I was a liberal gay rights activist, which is true; but misrepresenting my faith made me feel like a hypocrite.  I regret the decision now, looking back I see that I would have contributed far more to my fellow students had I been open about my choice to be celibate and yet support full civil equality for gays and lesbians.

Exgay Guilt

As someone who is openly exgay/celibate gay I must admit I feel a great deal of guilt.  Every time I hear about a kid kicked out of his house for being gay, every time I hear about a gay bashing on a college campus, every time I hear about the suicide of a lesbian who could not take the rejection of her family any more I feel a little pang of guilt.  Am I responsible in some small way?  Is my belief in Christ and a conservative sexual ethic some how contributing to this hatred in the world?  Tough questions without easy answers.

Bad F%*king Dreams

I am so damn sick of this.  I am so sick of societies hate, I am so sick of turning on the TV to see some young kids been stoned to death in Africa for being a fag, I am sick of the hope Christ brings and then you look back on a broken life of hated and lost dreams, I am sick of the military and the VA-I am sick of being told I was raped by the .stop. experiment in non-smoking over off to buy a pack of cigarettes at 3AM…God Bless all you