Saturday, April 28, 2007

Christine's Q&A

I've been getting really good feedback from people who have read the Glamour article or seen the Good Morning America piece (and by good I don't always mean agreeing with me, but much of it is still good). I'm also getting a lot of questions. So I thought I'd take a minute (er, OK, an hour; I know it's long) to address some questions or misconceptions about me.

1. Are you a Christian?
I don't think most people of Evangelical or Fundamentalist backgrounds would consider me a Christian at this point. However, I am a spiritual person and I do follow many things in the Bible.

Really though, I am one of the countless former ex-gays who no longer identify primarily as Christian. (I guess you could maybe say I am an ex-ex-ex-Christian, because that's not a confusing tongue-twister or anything.)

While I have been hesitant to speak of my own personal faith, and what it looks like now, maybe it is good that I do. I want people to see what often happens when someone goes through ex-gay therapy and finds that they didn't see any kind of change after investing so much emotionally, financially, and spiritually, and they feel misled. It causes you to rethink everything you have been told or have believed in the past. It is unbelievably common that those in my situation end up losing their faith. I think it should give ex-gay leaders, pastors, and concerned Christians pause. At what cost are they advocating change? Who pays the highest price?

I think glbtqi folks should no longer have to pay such a price in order to be accepted in faith communities. It's sad to see people who feel rejected unless they see themselves as broken and seeking a change. (Many Christians proclaim their love and support for the ex-gay struggler, but if that person decides that they do not need to be changed to be accepted by God, the same Christians will often reject them.) They then internalize that and feel rejected by God, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Some who were raised as Christian never even get to the point of trying to be ex-gay, because they walk away from all of it and some live a life disconnected from their spirituality. They think that's the only choice they have.

This is why I'm such a long-time and active participant at gaychristian.net, and while beyondexgay.com is not specifically a Christian site, it is very pro-spirituality and pro-faith. Many of our members come from a Christian background, and some still identify as such. I am all for gay folks finding their way back to a spiritual life; yes, including Christianity. And besides, some of the best friends I have are Christian. No, really. And, yes, even after everything I've been through. There are good things Christians are doing throughout the world, and probably good works programs in your area are being sponsored by Christians. So I am definitely not anti-Christian in general.

2. Someone came to my church and said they have been delivered of homosexuality and are now married. Do you know that people do change?
When people sit in church (or, for that matter, in congress) and hear someone's ex-gay testimony, they do not know whether that person is really faithful to their spouse. They do not follow up and find out if the cure "lasted." They do not find out how many other people are out there who have not experienced change; who have left the church over the struggle, and about those who have committed suicide because they could not change. If all of our U.S. news was only approved news coming out of the White House, would we feel confident we were getting the whole truth?

I think people should research this issue before they think they know the whole truth because of a person claiming change. I am not saying that person is lying; they may very well be telling the truth. But you cannot take one person's experience and say it is true for everyone without doing some research.

3. Have you read the Bible? Perhaps you should read x, y, or z scripture.
I have actually read the Bible many times, and memorized whole portions and chapters. I'd imagine that I've studied the Bible more than most Christians. I have also spent years reading commentaries and books about the Bible, about homosexuality, about ex-gay therapy and reparative therapy. I have attended and been involved with several denominations, including Lutheran, Pentecostal, non-denominational, Baptist (regular and Conservative), Nazarene, Assembly of God, Evangelical Free, Foursquare, and Metropolitan Community Church (and I may be missing something in this list). I'm not saying I know everything, by any means. But my current views are not due to lack of Bible knowledge.

4. Will you go look at the website of (an ex-gay)?
I went to the website of the ex-gay that you recommended and I do not have a problem with people sharing their personal stories. This is mine, and it is different than other people's stories, even other former ex-gays.

What I do take offense at is those who would say what one ex-gay says on his site:
'I have come to realize that though the gay life may be "gay" at times, it promises no lasting, genuine love, joy, or peace. On the contrary, it is fraught with much anxiety, fear, confusion, frustration, suspicion, depression, and despair.'

That is just simply not true. I am not sure what kind of "gay life" he is talking about. All gay people do not have one kind of life. That would be similar to me saying that people at Mardi Gras are an example of the traditional "heterosexual life" or that "the straight lifestyle" is this or that. It just doesn't make any sense. (Well, it does if you want to put people in boxes, but it doesn't work much outside of that.)

The time in my life when I was fraught with the most anxiety, fear, confusion, frustration, depression, suspicion and despair was when I was trying to change my sexual orientation. It did not change and yet I am the most happy, settled, fulfilled and peaceful that I ever have been in my life. And my gay life is probably not that different than most. I get up, go to work, read e-mail, play with my cats, talk on the phone, and go to bed. That's my gay life.

5. I am ex-gay and have changed. How come you don't believe me? How come you don't like ex-gays?
In telling my story I want to make it clear that I am not trying to invalidate anyone else's story. I do feel it is very rare that people experience a significant change in orientation, but I would also not say it couldn't happen. I also believe that the majority of people experience more harm than good (some do experience some good things, me included; I just feel like it wasn't necessary for me to go through all the horrible things in order to acquire those good things).

But I wish you and all others who identify as ex-gay the best. Truly. Please keep in mind that while I'm talking about the ex-gay movement, ex-gay writing and advertising, and ex-gay leaders, I know that most ex-gays in programs aren't at all involved politically, and I do feel a certain affinity to those who are pursuing what I once did.

6. A man and woman being together is how God designed it. That's the way it should be.
I don't agree with you that it's how God designed things (people have been using the Bible and that argument for everything from a ban on interracial marriage to support of slavery or a reason to deny women the vote). People have also said for years "you don't see animals of the same sex mating; it's not how God designed it" and yet now we're finding out that animals of the same sex, across many species, do mate and have sex with those of the same sex (besides, I don't really think we should base our standards of behavior on animals; I don't think anyone should take parenting tips from species that eat their own young, for instance).

7. It sounds like you have just had bad experiences in the church and with Christians, and perhaps this is why (things didn't work for you; you didn't experience change, etc).
I have run into very judgmental Christians, but I have also come across many caring and wonderful Christians. I am not telling my story because I am bitter at the church. I recognize that all people are human and some do things that wound others.

Many of the Christians in my life cared (and do still care) deeply about me. I do not doubt that. I also think they believe what they are saying. I just no longer agree with them, but it doesn't mean that the things they did weren't out of a caring heart and wanting what they thought was the best for me.

I find that people either want to pigeonhole me as an anti-Christian ex-ex-gay, someone bitter and angry at the church, or someone who has no faith. Neither of these are true.

Some have commented to me that it sounds like I am trying to mock Christians. I'm not. Those who know me beyond the pages of Glamour and the five minutes on ABC will know this. The one thing that's gotten a bit of exposure is my recollection of the women who prayed that I would learn how to accessorize and for God to let me know I could mix and match my wardrobe. This really did happen, and an older woman whom I really liked and recall fondly prayed that for me in a home church meeting. She absolutely wanted the best for me. I find amusement whenever people turn conversation with someone else into a prayer in order to get the message across, but the moment was just beyond amusing, and absurd even then (I had such a hard time keeping a...straight...(poker?) face). I remember going to my ex-gay group the next night and telling about it and we all had a very good laugh.

The other thing to keep in mind is this: I can tell my story, but the only control I have over what is published/aired is what I write unedited (like on my blog). So there are people who think all I'm doing is mocking Christians, or that I'm anti-Christian (surprisingly, even people who read the Glamour article, where I'm pictured with my friend Scott, a local ex-gay leader), but that is not true. It might be what gets the most attention (hey, tv print, and radio folks are always looking for something funny or controversial...it's how they stay in business), but it's not always the whole truth about my life. Because, seriously, I have lived so much in 35 years and I haven't published the book yet.

Thanks all for your comments, and keep them (and any questions) coming. I'll always answer as truthfully and fully as I can.

4 comments:

  1. Excellent post. You bring up subjects that are important for people to understand. And though the media does tend to focus on the more sensational points, I think your story is getting through. Keep up the good work.

    And as I often say to Peterson: I'm cheering you on from the sidelines.

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  2. Megan in CaliforniaApril 30, 2007 12:55 AM

    Christine, I just read your interview in Glamour and logged on to your site. Keep up the great work, you beautiful, brave soul! May you find the peace and joy you have definitely earned.

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  3. Even though I am Jewish, I am a bisexual woman who is deeply in love with a Presbyterian woman and your article touched a chord in me. It took my girlfriend a long time to accept herself, her sect of Presbyterianism is one where joy or pleasure are sinful and even though they're suspicious about how a woman in her mid twenties has never really dated men, they don't know about her feelings. I was married for 17 years, I did the whole het thing. When I came out to my folks, my mom took a while to come around. My father still loves me but he won't accept this part of me. You have a lot of courage to share your experiences and I admire you.

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  4. Wow. What a lot to think about. I am not sure where I stand on the whole gay thing. I used to go with what Church told me. Here is a twist though. I led my cousin to the Lord many years ago. She is still a practicing Christian, but is a lesbian. It doesnt seem to affect her faith at all. in fact her and her partner seem like more decent people than most Christians. I went back home and told my pastor and he said too bad they gonna burn. Inside I felt horrified and wanted to slap him. I consider myself spiritual too and didnt discern anything evil about them. They are a good couple.

    I am struggling with a lot of the legalism and hypocrisy of Chrisitianity. I am a Christian but I believe the real Jesus would have a real problem with most Churchie types these days.

    I guess I am a heretic too.

    I like your blog. Take care

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