So I mentioned in the Wrong Side that I was involved with an Ex-gay ministry called Sought Out. I feel that I should elaborate on that just a little bit. It’s an important chapter of my life after all, so it deserves a little light.
The world’s not necessarily evil but sometimes it feels that way
I didn’t want to be gay. I never asked for it. I never wanted to be anything but a normal. Turns out I’m really fucking far from normal. I like the things that most men like. I am masculin in most of my pursuits and interests. While it’s not such a big deal now, when I was growing up it was very frowned upon. Decades of cultural and emotional programing with a heavy dollop of religious indoctrination in my sexually formative teen years meant that I had a large heaping helping of homophobia to deal with. I had also been raised to be loving and inclusive. That meant that while I was accepting of others who were gay it wasn’t OK for ME to be gay. Believe me the cognitive dissonance was brutal.
Besides I couldn’t’ possibly BE gay, I liked guys. I even had a boyfriend or four. Well I repressed my homosexuality good and it led to all sorts of weird behaviors that I then had to hide also. I think I might have made myself a little crazy. I was definitely depressed. Mostly I tried to just ignore my feelings and carry on as if I wasn’t gay. I dated, had a boyfriend, then got engaged, then married. My family was delighted. I think I figured that if I did all the normal things that you are supposed to do if you are straight I would be “fixed”.
Turns out not so much.
Once I was married I had to face that I still had homosexual desires. Being a good Christian and wanting to Obey the Word of God, I turned more and more to religion to try and “Heal” my “Brokenness” I knew there were other gays out there. I figured Some of them must be Christian, some of them must have figured this shit out. Maybe they could help me.
Enter Kathrine Allen and Sought Out Ministries of Virginia Beach, VA.
Sought Out was a ministry that offered “sexual healing through the teachings of Christ for those that wanted to leave the homosexual lifestyle and get right with God”. No joke! That’s what it said right in the newspaper ad in the Christian newspaper that I had picked up from the Christian bookstore in the mall. I made contact with Katherine and she set me up with a counselor in the Christian counseling practice she rented office space from.
I want to be very clear here. Everyone I came in contact with at Sought Out seemed to be wonderful, loving human beings. I do not think they were Trying to harm me in anyway. It’s taken me awhile to get to the point where I can be understanding and forgiving of some of the fucked up shit they said and did but I do not now nor did I think then that anyone was acting with malice or the intent to cause harm. As far as I can tell they passionately believed they were acting at the Lord’s urging according to His will. It doesn’t mean they were right, just that I Thought they were at the time.
So I started seeing a counselor (LCSW) at the office and also started attending a Living Waters group, which is basically a 12 step program along the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous but for gay people who don’t want to be gay anymore. All this cost money which I paid because I thought this would fix me. It wasn’t A Lot of money but it was enough that it basically ate up my discretionary spending. Now I was broke, had homosexual feelings I didn’t want, and a whole new social group of people that I began interacting with. And that was the hook.
You see I had felt so alone and suddenly here I was in a group of 20 people who were going through the exact same things I was. They accepted me right where I was. I didn’t have to lie and say I was fine. I could say that I felt attraction for a woman. I could express the Shame that made me feel. I was free! And the promise of freedom is a very powerful drug. Every week we all spilled our guts to each other about our Struggles. We cried together. We prayed together. And then we even started to attend the same churches together. We went to Ex-gay conferences together and met more people like ourselves. Not only were we Trauma bonded by our Brokenness but we became each others social network. The group dynamic and peer pressure that occured along with our being starved for the kind of acceptance and affection the group seemed to provide made us all ripe for the collective delusion that most of us adopted.
We were told that if we believed God would heal our brokenness and if we claimed exactly that then our Abba Father would grant us healthy desires! We would be healed in Jesus name! These emotionally intense sessions left all of us with emotional highs. We wanted that healing! We wanted to be accepted by our heavenly Father and Made Whole! We were primed to believe what we were told. We Needed to believe it. So while we are doing these exercises which were pretty good at getting us to speak openly and honestly some of us did find our relationships with our spouses improved (who would have thought that speaking openly with your spouse about something so deeply felt could be helpful???) We took that as a Sign of God Working in us and HEALING us from our Brokenness.
And once we started reporting some improvements that fed on itself. No one wants to be left out in a group like that. I know I may have just simply ignored some of my feelings about being attracted to this or that woman saying to myself that God was giving me the strength to stand against Satan’s temptation and my own Brokenness. Eventually the program ended when we came to the end of the course book. And so too that group ended. We were fewer now. Those that hadn’t felt God moving in their hearts had gone back to their “sinful” ways. Reducing the group size by about ⅓. The rest of us hung around Sought Out and the church we had started attending trying to keep that emotional flame alive. There were more Ex-gay conferences to pay for and attend. Thousands of dollars spent in the pursuit of the emotional high that meant Healing.
Thankfully it was around that time that the cognitive dissonance really blew me out of the water. There were so many contradictory messages in the pseudo science that passed for teachings from the conversion therapy crowd that I came very close to a nervous breakdown. I didn’t realized the mental balancing act I was trying to maintain was about to come crashing down when I finally told my counselor that I had developed feelings for her.
I had been struggling with a perfectly normal thing called transference that many therapist and clients encounter when in the safety of therapy a closed off/repressed person finally has a safe outlet for emotions they have been denying. The therapist can become the target of those emotions just like mine did. I know that Now. But at that point I was feeling a metric shit ton of shame for it so when I told her and she reacted by threatening to have me committed I freaked out. My Worst fears were realized. I was an evil/bad person and God hated me. He was never going to heal me and I would die and go to Hell.
Yeah that’s some fucked up shit right there. Luckily I had a good friend in my husband. He stood by me through the following months. I didn’t end up getting committed but the threat was real. I was banned from seeing my counselor again and told that if I didn’t go see someone else they would have me forcibly committed. (Ya know because I was crazy for having homosexual feelings in 1994)
So there I was. I lost my counselor, the person I thought I might love abruptly. I still had Homoseuxaul feelings so I had failed Living Waters. That group was very chilly towards failures. So my social network was gone. No one wanted to hang out with a gay person at church so that was a non-starter. And I owed money for this New more expensive Counselor I was being forced to go to or end up in the hospital so I was broke. I was getting paid under the table working construction in the bible belt just to make ends meet.
Those were dark months no doubt about it. My husband and I managed to figure out we needed to get out of there. We left Virginia and headed back to his hometown. We stayed with his parents for a little bit before getting real jobs and a apartment of our own. Frankly with all the emotional upset, that time is a little bit fuzzy for me. I do know that once we moved we stopped going to church almost completely. I stopped caring about being gay and started working on just being married and having friends again. It probably took me about a year to really come totally out of it and start living for reals again instead of just going through the motions. It took me a lot longer than that to process all the shit that happened and figure out what I really felt and what was heaped on me by the expectations of others.
Obviously my husband and I divorced and I eventually married my incredible wonderful wife. But that’s another story.