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.


  1. Taking a break from my oh-so-wonderful studying for exams, I noticed that you had another post up in my RSS feed. Discretion now being gone (with thanks to my friend Mr. Frappucino), I thought I'd comment.

    You have an incredibly powerful story, Christine, and I'm sad to hear there are some trying to discount you. But hearing your story is both an encouragement and a challenge, as I'm sure you've been told many times over. Why is it so much easier to cut down than build up? I find it sad that I've heard so many stories of people falling away from the label "Christian" after such experiences, including yourself; I can see that it is not from a lack of devotion or will. And while I would call myself Christian, and hold to the fundamental tenets of Christianity (at least so I think), I certainly understand. But your story is particularly strong, especially since you are still unfolding and disentangling yourself along the way.

    I feel like I've rambled, but what I mean to say is this: your honesty and reflection on your experiences is refreshing. And thanks for letting the weird-dom of the blogosphere in on this a little; I've found it to be a blessing of sorts, and am grateful that you continue to share it with us.

  2. I'm grateful too, Christine.

    I think there is something of a misapprehension of grace at work in all of this, and I say that only because my experience mirrors your own so closely. For the longest time, I believed that if I just dotted every i and crossed every t, God would heal me of my need to feel/be feminine and I could get on with my life. It was that old "God-as-machine" thinking...I know I can get this thing to work if I just push the right buttons and pull the right levers. It took exhausting all the combinations for me to come to terms with the one T I hadn't crossed.

    I really love what you write...it blesses me!

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you.... I can relate.

  4. Is anyone else getting freaked out by my large eyes on the top of the post? I am. On the other hand, if there's any of those folks who read irises and can tell me about my health, that's cool too.

    David, thank you for your comment. It means a lot to me. Sometimes I do question how much I write, in a confessional sort of way, but I'd rather just be real and say perhaps a bit much, than to try to blog so carefully and skip around so many things.

    Actually, the last year and a half, while I was waiting for the Glamour article to be published was enough for me to know that I just need to be able to say whatever.

    Ally, I'm so glad you can relate. I love this line, "It took exhausting all the combinations for me to come to terms with the one T I hadn't crossed." yup. You especially with the T. Thank you for your encouraging comments. They really mean a lot to me.

    Just me, thanks for your thanks. I just checked out your blog and I can say the same back to you (although I've only read a few posts so far). Courage to you on your journey.

    A thought I had - I need to watch even more how I look at the stories of ex-gays (those who identify as ex-gay now, not former ex-gays).

    We all have our individual journeys, and I don't want to find myself trying to poke holes in their stories so it affirms my life and journey.

    For those who are ex-gay survivors, I can comment and go through their stories as they let me, finding themes and commonality, but I want to watch that I am not doing what has been done to me.

  5. I like 'em -- they're purdy.

    Keep your chin up. Let others discount and blame the victim. Sadly it will be their turn some day (and more power to 'em if it never arrives!)

    Stand in your truth.

  6. Hey girl,

    Thanks so much for adding me to your blog roll. I check in with your blog frequently, and I'm glad to see your still doing your thing. Keep on keepin on!

  7. Christine - keep writing. People listen, and some will hear. For example, I did. :-) Your words will help others, whether they are straight or gay, as long as they will really listen to the stories. You are doing a great job to bring LOTS of stories out into the blog-world. Carol

  8. You know, I admire how you can look at your past and gain patience for those who would try to discount your experiences and offer you lines about how things would've been different "if only you'd (insert action here)." I myself have struggled with people who like to do that myself. Like you, however, there was a time when I took a similar approach. Thank you for reminding me of this and inspiring me to find my own patience.

  9. Christine,

    This is a great post....so transparent, honest....even though I haven't been through the same sorts of things, I can relate to your story at different levels. I have pictures of my new baby up!!! :)

    love ya muchly,

  10. Hey Christine,

    Keep your chin up girl. It takes guts to say what you have said. The truth is always disconcerting to someone trying to keep their “house-of-cards” intact. I know. I’ve been there. Your job isn’t to change anyone’s mind. That’s God’s job. As an ex-ex-lesbian myself, no one could have changed my mind when I decided to try the ex-gay path. And it bothered the heck out of me to even be aware of the existence of ex-ex-gays. It was only after many internal struggles, many personal soul-searching moments, that I could finally allow myself to be loved by God no matter what, and no matter what others said.

    Just keep telling your story, girl. If anything, it helps me going in mine. And I think that alone is enough.

  11. Cristine,

    I just want to thank you so much for everything you are doing.

    You are so brave.

  12. you are simply amazing. to think of the courage it must take to decide to not only be 'ex-ex-gay' but broadcast to MILLIONS of people and living life with a smile... it gives hope to many who have until now struggled to be themselves.

    Thank you. God Bless.
    You are an Angel of God.