Thought Catalog

5 Things You Do After Surviving Gay To Straight Conversion Therapy

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It’s been six years since I left conversion therapy and I’ve made some observations that have been true in my own life and in the lives of other conversion therapy survivors.

1. Get more therapy.

The first thing you’ll do after going through conversion therapy is go back to therapy to undo all the damage done by your misguided therapists. Only this time, you’ll go to a therapist that doesn’t think your homosexuality is unnatural, sinful and should be treated like alcoholism or pedophilia. You’ll go to a gay-positive therapist this time, even if you’re religious, because you tried so hard in conversion therapy and it didn’t work and you are on the brink of a total meltdown.

2. Sue your old therapist.

This should be happening more often and I regret that I didn’t take this approach after I got out of conversion therapy (it’s been six years, so the statute of limitations has run out on me). Conversion therapy should be considered malpractice and therapists and institutions that support it should be held accountable, particularly when the victims are young and vulnerable. I applaud Max Hirsh, a 22-year-old gay student at the University of Oregon, who with the backing of the Southern Poverty Law Center recently filed an ethics complaint with the American Psychiatric Association against a therapist who allegedly subjected him to conversion therapy.

3. Marry the gay lover you met in your therapy group.

My conversion therapy experience not only included one-on-one sessions with counselors but also group therapy sessions that were part of a local “ex-gay” ministry. I attended these sessions for three hours every week and they consisted of worship, teaching and small group time where we learned about the “roots of homosexuality” and confessed our struggles with same-sex attraction (and any mess-ups we had, like watching gay pornography). I didn’t fall in love with anyone in my ex-gay ministry, but others have, most notably, Michal Bussee and Gary Cooper, leaders within Exodus International, the largest ex-gay organization in the country, who publicly renounced the organization, left their wives, and committed to each other.

4. Renounce conversion therapy and advocate against it.

After you leave conversion therapy, the haze begins to wear off, the untruths begin to manifest themselves and you realize that the last few years you spent in therapy were really destructive. You get comfortable enough to start telling your friends and family what it was like. Some of them respond shocked and appalled that conversion therapy is still practiced in this day and age. Others want you to go back and try harder. But you are done with it and you start telling people that it was a harmful experience and that people shouldn’t have to be subjected to it. You begin to support efforts to end the practice, like the legislative efforts in California to prohibit therapists from practicing conversion therapy on teens.

5. Forgive the people who hurt you.

This one takes longer. Sometimes there are a lot of people to forgive: your parents (for sending you or supporting it), your church (same), people like Dr. Robert Spitzer, who provided scholarly backing to conversion therapy and recently renounced the practice, your therapists and the ex-gay groups you attended. And yourself: for deciding to go (if you had the choice), trying so hard and wasting so much time and energy you could have spent on making yourself a healthy, fabulous person ready to meet the love of your life. TC mark

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  • http://www.itmakesmestronger.com/2012/06/5-things-you-do-after-surviving-gay-to-straight-conversion-therapy/ Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

    […] Thought Catalog » Life Add a comment […]

  • Eli

    Well done for getting out of there, and thank you for the article. I hope someday these so-called “therapies” will only be a shameful memory.

  • ACW

    Wow… I didn’t even think that this kind of thing still happened. It scares me that there are still large groups who think (so backwardly) the exact opposite to me. And practice it. Thanks for putting this out there. It was touching and really opened my eyes.

  • H

    I’m horrified that this type of ‘therapy’ actually exists.

  • http://gaysexpert.wordpress.com gaysexpert

    Hey Paul! Good work. Let me say as an ex-gay survivor myself, a sexologist who studies the ex-gay and reparative therapy movement, and the author of “Ex-Gay No Way,” YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Yet, there’s still a lot of work to be done. One thing that ex-gay survivors can do is fill out a survey on BeyondExGay.com so that their story can be heard, and the harm can be documented. Thanks again for the great suggestions!

  • Garima

    Lovely article

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrea.lynema Andrea Lynema

    Great article to get some awareness out there. I still find it appalling that these practices exist in the US. So wrong… Should be illegal.

  • http://lgbttraining.blogspot.com gayambassador

    another thumbs up for a great article Paul. Thoroughly recommend the things you have said. I noted that it is 6 years since you were in the ‘ex-gay’ scene. It takes time to get to the place where you are……I think you made good progress. Some have taken much longer or are not even there yet from my experience.

    From all the emails I’ve received and people I’ve met, I think it’s obvious why only now people are finding the courage to speak up.

    There are several reasons
    1. When people leave ex-gay programs they are not empowered but defeated and often live with a sense of failure and shame. It takes time to feel good about yourself again.

    2. The experience of spending years trying unsuccessfully to become heterosexual can leave a person traumatised. That takes time to heal.

    3. Resolving the issue of the perceived conflict between your sexual orientation and your faith can also take years to sort out. Some never do. The conditioning is deep and subconscious.

    4. It’s only been the last decade that mental health professions have taken time to research and see if there is any scientific evidence to back up ex-gay claims. None has been found.
    Australian Psychology Association , American Psychiatric Association.

    5. Claims have been made by Exodus and other groups that 1,000’s of people had become heterosexual and got married to prove it. History tells us that this is only a change in behaviour and not orientation and that’s why these marriages have not stood the test of time. I have a folder full of stories like mine. 12, 16, 20 even over 30 years married. Then having to admit, in essence, nothing really changed, leaving wives feeling betrayed and children hurt.

    6. In Australia, ex-gay survivors and former leaders were all in isolation thinking we were the only ones, but ‘A Life of Unlearning’ has not only changed individual lives it’s brought people together. There is now a growing network of people who are committed to ensuring that the others don’t waste years trying to do the impossible. I.e. Change from being gay to straight.

    http://gayambassador.blogspot.com.au/2007/08/five-of-australias-ex-gay-leaders.html

  • Donna

    You are an intellegent pro-active person. You were raised in the church and tried your best to do what your were taught. It did not work, you are bitter but getting better and healthier. Renounce what is not good, be an advocate against conversion therapy if it impowers yourself and you want to make a difference for gay teens. Continue the therapy that makes you whole, happy, is positive and helps you live an honest congruent life. I am sorry for your pain, you deserve the best that life has to offer. I am glad you wrote the article.

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