I’m a fanatical supporter of choice. At least that’s what I like to think, but sometimes life challenges that idea, like when I first heard about Exodus International. Exodus is an organization that purports to turn gay men and lesbians back into heterosexuals, or at least provide a “support” to those wanting a “way out” of the homosexual lifestyle, whatever that means. To be consistent with my pro-choice philosophy, I reluctantly thought, “If a lesbian or gay man wants to be straight, why shouldn’t they have a support group to help them?”
I was uneasy with this attitude, however, because I feared and suspected that the organizers of Exodus and other so-called “ex-gay ministries” might not have the best interests of the individual in mind, but I didn’t know, so my opinion remained in limbo.
Then I heard of Wayne Besen.
Wayne’s book, Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth, records how the Ex-Gay movement exploits the trauma experienced by people struggling to reconcile their sexual identity with their religious pasts.
To call an Ex-Gay group “Exodus” is a perversion. People are born into religiously oppressive homes and communities and their struggle is to overcome the mental and emotional shackles of fundamentalist tyranny and accept their sexual orientation. The bondage they’re fleeing – their “Exodus” – is the dogma they’ve been force-fed. Their goal – the “promised land” – is self-acceptance. Exodus, by its very name, gets it backwards and, rather than help people escape their torment, plunges them right back into its source.
Ex-Gay group members claim that they turned to the Ex-Gay group because they were tired of living the stereotypical gay lifestyle filled with promiscuity, drugs, alcohol abuse and loneliness. These problems, however, are not symptomatic of being gay; rather, they are the tragic results of growing up gay in a religiously intolerant society. Some therapists equate growing up gay in the more homophobic parts of America to suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. Exodus and other Ex-Gay groups take advantage of these people – instead of telling them it’s okay to be gay – that a person can be gay AND life a healthy life, they claim to “cure” their homosexuality.
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