Wednesday, June 13, 2018

WEDNESDAY TIP: WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIPS SHOULD EX-GAY MEN HAVE WITH EACH OTHER?

[MAKE SURE TO READ THIS LINK FIRST IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME VISITING ENGLISH MANIF.]

I tackle today a difficult question, which you will likely confront in Phases 2-5. Should ex-gays be close friends with each other? What kind of relationships do they owe to each other?

I run English Manif the way I do, in part, because I find safety and comfort in the distance between myself and other men who struggle with this unusual life experience. Like many other men I have met, I did not feel called to join a fellowship specifically for ex-gay men. While I find common cause with ex-gays and want to help them, I do not enjoy a lot of social interaction with them in groups. In the video message below, I explain why.

The Ex-Gay Landscape Has Changed

Your proclivities will depend on your personal experience, of course. Here I share my views knowing you may see things differently. I can say, however, that the ex-gay landscape feels much better than it used to feel. The collapse of Exodus International looked tragic as the organization fell apart, but now I see its demise served many good purposes. Without a centralized network dictating to the whole world what ex-gay experience was, people like me had freedom to put forward our own solutions and share the insider tips we kept secret before, for fear of breaking with the seeming consensus projected by Exodus. 

Until the point of Exodus's collapse, I did not use the term ex-gay. In reality I fought the term, which is why I left behind many essays calling myself "bisexual," a term I foolishly believed would spare me having to associate with the life history encapsulated by "ex-gay." But with Exodus gone, and with many of its former leaders exposed as people who had grossly exaggerated their own virtue and not flourished under the methods they sold to others, I found freedom. I realized my experience and knowledge was not only legitimate, but better. And I felt more confident to come forward with what I knew.

Back in the 1990s, when I left the gay scene, "ex-gay" was a rare and new term. Exodus International was the only major organization that talked about the lives of ex-gays. This organization fell prey to very poor management and collapsed as gay activists exposed some of its leaders and infiltrated its boards. Exodus was heavily Christian and due to its prominence, the only acceptable ex-gay narrative for a long time was a story of finding salvation from homosexuality through Jesus Christ. Conversion to Christ was synonymous and simultaneous with being "saved" from homosexual desires.

To summarize it honestly, I must say that I did not find salvation from homosexuality. I found an exit, or escape from it. I escaped it not by praying but by changing my physical habits and eventually gaining the confidence to pursue women. The key moment for me was my first experience engaging in sexual relations with a woman. I converted to Christianity later, as a heterosexual man.

For many years I did not know how many men got out of the gay scene the way I did. I felt shame when I was in groups of ex-gays because I could not share the same story and did not fit their mold. Sometimes when I felt judged, whether or not other ex-gays judged me, I responded by getting judgmental to them.

It has been 20 years since I left the gay scene, and now I must say that I have healthy friendships with a lot of other ex-gay men. Mostly I feel called by God to share my own blessings with others and help other men get out of homosexuality, so I feel this common purpose with activist ex-gays keeps us generally upbeat and positive toward one another. Certainly I have luckily felt none of the infighting or mutual bitterness that I hear happened, behind the scenes at Exodus.

But my friendships with other ex-gays now are not intensive. We know each other through common media contacts and I do not depend on them for emotional support, particularly since I have a family of my own. In my view my course has been healthy. I broke from the gay scene and found a deep freedom from it because I developed strong friendships with other people who shared things other than my gay past as common grounds. Getting away from all things gay, including ex-gays, helped me redefine myself along lines that had nothing to do with that difficult past.

Some of you may decide to build fellowship with other ex-gays so you can be each other's support as things grow difficult. That may work for you. I have found what worked for me--breaking away decisively, and reaching out to ex-gays as a fully developed heterosexual man with a wife and children, decades away from the roller-coaster ride of the gay scene. 

The video embedded below offers more thoughts.