Tuesday, May 08, 2007
In one eye and out the other
I understand people have a need to discount my story. For those currently pursuing or living an ex-gay life, I may bring their fears and doubts to the surface. For those who are everstraight (i.e, not ex-gay) Christians, it may challenge their faith and what they've been told by leaders, and what they believe the Bible says. Maybe it puts a little nagging question in their head about why many Church leaders think it is a "choice" that one can abandon, or why God would outlaw something that seems inherent and utterly unchangeable for almost all of us.
I have gotten some correspondence from those who consider themselves ex-gay, and there have only been one or two that have not criticized my journey or told me something they thought I should do, or what I didn't do. One organization even wrote that I was just a "disappointed lesbian." (Which, incidentally, I might use as a job description from now on: Homosexual Activist and Disappointed Avowed Lesbian.) And when they run out of those criticisms, then they'll often decide that while I did all the right things, I must not have had enough faith, or I didn't trust God fully with my healing.
I know all about this because this is exactly what I did while I was ex-gay. Before I moved to Denver to start my journey toward wholeness (funny how I thought wholeness would come hand-in-hand with straightness), I met an ex-gay online who had been in this process for something like two decades.
She admitted she hadn't experienced any real change, even though she was unwaveringly committed to the process and to being celibate. I read what she wrote, but partly it went in one eye and out the other (well, it was online) because I had so much hope and belief that I'd change, and partly because I found many creative ways to discount her story. Or perhaps not discount it, as much as find (or make up) what I perceived to be holes or gaps in her effort. I was determined to find out everything she'd not done, and wanted to be sure to do those things as well as anything else that was suggested to me.
Failure is not anything I've considered as an option in my life (well, maybe in a few things, and there is that one history class I withdrew from), but generally speaking, I will work hard if I have a particular goal. Even as I write that, though, I know when I used to hear people say this I would think, "ah, well, that's the problem. You didn't just let go and let God." I always managed to find a way to put the blame squarely back on the shoulders of ex-gay survivors. It certainly couldn't be a problem with God, or with the traditional teachings—it had to be a problem with them.
This reminds me of people who have cancer or a progressive disease and are told that with enough faith, positive thinking and creative visualization, they can be cured. And when they aren't, they will often lose some of their friends in the process. I saw this with my friend who has a debilitating disease. Folks were there for her in the beginning, when everyone thought that she would be healed (herself included), and then have a great testimony. But soon they all started pulling away.
Why? I think her illness and the progression of it caused some to question their faith, or God's healing power. They had trouble with belief in a God who could do anything, and then seeing her suffer. In the end, it was easier not to face the pain and the questions. It was easier to ignore the reality that very bad things happen to the best of people, and there is nothing one can do to change or prevent that. Perhaps it made them feel vulnerable or scared.
And that's exactly how I felt whenever I'd encounter the story of a former ex-gay. Sometimes I didn't even stick around long enough to hear or read it, much less really sit with it. I knew to stay away from Mel White, Ex-Gay Watch, Bridges Across the Divide, and anything with "Gay" and "Christian" in the same title. I could not go near anything that might threaten my carefully stacked house of cards (to be clear, I'm not saying that every ex-gay's life is a fragile house of cards, but I think many are).
I am trying to realize there is no way I can convince anyone that I didn't undertake the change process lightly. I had faith that I would change, and a commitment to do all the spiritual, emotional and psychological work. Even though some of the more bizarre things about my story have gotten some press, most of it was the usual, fairly boring ex-gay story of a lot of struggle. Trusting in God, therapy (and lots of it), exploring every inch of my past, having demonic influences cast out, theophostics, and the list just goes on. I don't think anyone who knew me during this time of my life believes I gave anything but my all to God and to this process.
But I can talk about this until the cats come home (which, as you know, is whenever they damn well please), and for some people, it will just go in one eye and out the other. And honestly? I can't blame them, because I had a lot of in and out traffic myself during those years. Now I'm working on letting the criticism go in and out just as quickly.