An Evaluation of the Evangelical Ex-Gay Movement in America based on
Is There Really Such A Thing As Ex-Gay?
the author's own experiences as an "ex-gay," and
upon the writings of the leaders of the ex-gay movement.
by Stephen Parelli, ThB, MDiv
Executive Director, Other Sheep
Tears coursed down my check as I drove toward my destination. For the first time in my life I
believed I had found someone who could help me with my same-sex attractions. .
. . In addition to the regular ex-gay group meetings, I began weekly private phone
sessions with therapist Joseph Nicolosi which continued for nine months. Nicolosi is
co-founder of the controversial National Association for Research & Therapy of
Homosexuality (NARTH). . . .
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What follows is my personal evaluation of the evangelical ex-gay movement as I experienced
it and have come to understand it. In all, I make eight observations.
First, the ex-gay movement's origin is rooted in traditional cultural norms rather than
good Bible exegesis and the social sciences.
Evangelical ex-gay ministries began in the mid 70's as a faith-based knee-jerk Go to the Paper
reaction to the exploding gay-culture on the American scene. The movement
entered upon a rescue mission to save homosexuals without first doing it's
homework in two essential and practical areas: (a) sound exegesis and (b) the
social and psychological sciences related to homosexuality. . . .
Second, their use of psychology is selective and appears overly dominant for a religious
movement that otherwise rejects most of modern psychology's findings on homosexuality.
. . . Their selective use of psychology upon the heels of their inadequate exegesis Go to the Paper
of Bible texts is indicative of the movement's culturally-based bias. . . .
Third, while the movement promises "change" and "healing" on the surface, its leaders
readily admit that these changes are external and behavioral only.
From the footnote: How ex-gay leaders speak of "change:" Tim Wilkins, in his
article "Why I Won't See Brokeback Mountain," says "[I'm] still tempted with same-sex
attractions! I do not deny it." Bob Davies, in his book Coming Our of Homosexuality,
says, "A strong, even passionate, lust when looking at an attractive member of the
opposite sex on the beach . . . this certainly is not our goal in being healed," page 27.
William Consiglio, in his book Homosexual No More, says "What do I mean by
recovery? . . . Recovery is able to go on . . . with minimally bothersome homosexual
feelings . . . avoiding all homosexual behavior . . . recovery means the ability to
manage . . . " page 34. Consiglio also says, "My experience as a Christian therapist
. . . is that overcomers . . . .
. . . [and more]
Written ex-gay testimonies of "change" by in large fall into one of two categories. Go to the Paper
Fourth, the movement maintains a strong stereotypical male/female view of gender
roles and sees the cause of homosexuality, in part, as the individual's failure to embrace his
or her gender.
The ex-gay movement's emphasis on reparative therapy and traditional, stereotypical Go to the Paper
male/female gender roles fails to allow for the question "Which came first, the chicken
or the egg?" . . . This theoretical process of boy-rejects-masculinity-and-male-
society fails to ask the obvious. Is the boy rejecting society's culturally-"correct"
definition of masculinity, or has society rejected the boy for his culturally-
"incorrect" style of masculinity?
Fifth, honesty from group members is often the missing factor in the dynamics of ex-gay
While attending the weekly meetings of an ex-gay group in New Jersey, I
remember how surprised I was the first time it dawned on me that members were not
being totally honest about their setbacks. . . . I realized that evening that the ex-gay
movement's "religious" expectation of "healing" was encroaching upon the realities
and honesty of the various individuals present in that room so that to share
setbacks was to admit spiritual defeat or spiritual failure.
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Sixth, the evangelical ex-gay movement makes claims of success that go unsub-
"Over the years, we have seen many lives turned around and have been greatly Go to the Paper
encouraged by so many individuals who have won the victory and gained a new
freedom. We do believe that Jesus Christ is the healer and worker of miracles and we
have seen many of those miracles of change among us." Quite a claim!
HOPE, the ex-gay support group of Calvary Baptist Church, Manhattan, New
York, makes the foregoing claim on their website. Yet nothing on the website
substantiates their claim. My now-domestic partner José and I attended this group for
. . .
Seventh, a "realignment of the will" and the regulation of prayer, Bible reading, church
attendance, accountability and more are all essential tasks to be observed religiously in
the unending process of overcoming.
. . . For three years, with a broken spirit, I rose daily from my bed and immediately left
the house unnoticed to enter upon my prayer walk. Whatever else my thoughts and
meditations, this one prayer, with unceasing tears, was repeatedly uttered: "Lord,
send me loving male arms to hold me; I cannot wait 'til I see Jesus." I needed
non-sexual male physical touch which not even the sense of Jesus' spiritual presence
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Eighth, the ex-gay movement views non-sexual close male relationships as essential for
"healing" (for male homosexuals).
. . . By my mid-forties, I was experiencing a chronic need for appropriately
affectionate male touch. It was so acute I could think of nothing else. Every cell of my
body seemed relationally isolated and emotionally starved. . . . I desperately needed
to be held by loving, human, male arms. . . . to have every cell of my body
merged with every cell of his body, whoever he may be. To be infused with
male life-giving touch, face to face, body along the body of the other, foot over foot,
palm against palm. Two bodies, yet one healing holding intertwining. That was my
need and I told my therapist, Joseph Nicolosi.
From the footnote: Steven Farmer quotes Robert Bly, author of Iron John, in "A
Gathering of Men," a PBS program in which Robert Bly is interviewed by Bill Moyers:
"When we stand physically close to our father, something -- something moves
over that can't be described in material terms, . . . of receiving a food from him . . .
Now, when the father went out of the house in the Industrial Revolution, that food
ended . . . " [emphasis mine]. The Wounded Male, p. 29-30.
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Conclusion to Is There Really Such A Thing As Ex-Gay?
When all is said and done . . . no one turns my head like José (except for other
great looking guys; oops!). And by that I mean, wow! isn't José hot! I've not read
one ex-gay testimony where the so-called ex-gay male refers to sex with women with . .
From the footnote: [According to ex-gay leader Bob Davies] Ex-gay men may find that
this common pattern [that men are sexually stimulated by what they see] is untrue for
their marital relationship. Even if the ex-gay man continues to be vulnerable to
sexual stimulation toward other men through sight, he may find that the
principle turn-on in marriage is touch. . . . He may never have the same level
of raw sensuality in looking at his fiancée/wife that he had with stimulation
toward other men . . .
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