Today at Box Turtle Bulletin, Dan Gonzales posted video of Jeff Williamson talking about being sent by his parents to see a reparative therapist. He didn't want to go because he was OK with being gay, sure of his sense of self and theology and knew he didn't want anything to do with the ex-gay movement, but went to the appointment his mother had made for him.
[From Dan Gonzales — Update 03/26/08: After realizing the ramifications of having certain aspects of his story in the public domain Jeff has requested I pull his video with the intent of re-shoot a more focused version of his story this weekend. My editorial concerns with pulling content are far outweighed by my desire to respect Jeff’s right to control the way in which his own story is told.]
[The video briefly told of Jeff going to a reparative therapist here in Denver who initially tried to fish for any problems with Jeff's family, then had the tables turned a bit while Jeff and he discussed the Bible and homosexuality, and what Jeff thought about it his feeling that reparative therapy didn't work - my synopsis from memory - 3/26/08, Christine]
While watching the video, my mind wandered (as it will do) to how Jeff's story illustrates just why the ex-gay movement gets it so wrong about queer folks and the people who make up the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community. They don't ever ask themselves, who are the people who don't go into ex-gay ministries?
They're people like Jeff Williamson. They're the many LGBT folks who do not have unresolved sexual abuse/trauma. They're folks who have (or had, before coming out), for the most part, good relationships with their parents. They are those that aren't running from a wounding and broken relationship or a bad experience. They're the ones who don't dull some sort of pain with alcohol, drugs, or sex and call it all "gay." And they too exist.
But they don't spend time in the ex-gay movement. They don't fit the theories, the theories don't fit them, and they don't waste any time there. So the ex-gay leaders don't see them.
I've long maintained that ex-gay ministries think the gay community is made up primarily of abuse survivors (I've heard from some ex-gay leaders that they think 90% of all gays have been sexually abused; Melissa Fryrear claims 100%) because that's what they're seeing inside their programs.
I think those of us who have survived childhood abuse are particularly drawn to ex-gay ministries (Peterson writes about this very eloquently in his article "How Sexual Abuse Made Me Ex-Gay.") We already feel broken, ashamed and often dirty. We, maybe more than most people, seek out the promise of wholeness and healing.
We see a "what caused you to be gay" checklist and nod as we mentally correlate the unfortunate events of our lives to our "unwanted same sex attractions" today. We sign on the dotted line.
The ex-gay leaders see all the abuse victims who flood their groups and extrapolate that out to the gay community and proclaim that almost all of us have been sexually abused, had bad relationships with our parents, or same-gender relatives, and label all the troubles in our lives as having to do with being gay. Alcoholic? "Gay." Drug addiction? "Because you're Gay." Sexually compulsive? "Super Gay!" Unhealthy relationship? You guessed it! "Gay, gay, gay!"
It's refreshing to see someone like Jeff Williamson tell his story. He's obviously got a strong sense of self—strong ego strength—to reject a therapy he knows won't work. But this video is more than refreshing. It also is a witness to the many who don't last long enough in the ex-gay movement to even get counted or factor into an estimate from a ministry, a therapist or a pseudo-scientific study.
Because I spent so much time in the ex-gay world, rarely did I have the privilege of meeting someone as well-adjusted and sure of himself as Jeff. Which makes me think that at our next ex-gay survivor gathering, in addition to those who have been negatively affected by their ex-gay experiences, we will benefit from the presence of people like Jeff who never felt compelled to pursue them.