Thursday, March 8, 2007

contrasting ex-gay / ex-exgay stories

Last month after the Ted Haggard gay cure proclamation, the Canadian current affairs show, The Hour, compared the stories of an ex-gay and ex-exgay who were both involved in the Toronto ex-gay ministry New Direction. The video was heavily edited to sharply contrast the ex-gay's and ex-exgay's stories:

The ex-gay, Brian Pengelly, is New Direction's youth specialist (his ex-gay story). Pengelly was frank and honest enough to admit that he still has same-sex attractions:

Since I made my decision to follow God, I have not been sexually active with another guy. Um, that doesn't mean I haven't been really attracted -- that doesn't mean I haven't really, really wanted to."

What I found a little surprising is that a Toronto Baptist church hired Pengelly as its youth pastor. I have to believe that such open mindedness is part of Canadian progressism -- even amoung conservative Christian churches. How many conservative American Christian church would hire an ex-gay pastor who admits to still have same-sex attractions?

The ex-exgay, Darin, (his ex-exgay story) went through ex-gay ministry and counseling, became depressed, disillussioned, and suicidal. Like Pengelly, Darin attended a Christian college. However, unlike Pengelly, Darin says that he was told that he would never be ordained because of his 'gay past'. He eventually found MCC Toronto, progressive Christianity, and has started an ex-ex-gay support group, Soul Survivors.

The stories are so interesting and I relate to both. I remember having Pengelly's optimism about becoming 'sexually whole' while I was in the ex-gay movement. I also didn't think it was a conflict to admit that I had still had same-sex attractions because my focus was on God -- heterosexuality was merely a hopeful side effect. Of course, the fact that my sexual orientation wasn't really changing was a nagging thought in the back of my mind. It often seemed that being ex-gay seemed to be more about attitude and acting.

Of course, I really relate to Darin's story more -- especially the story on his website:

. . . I dove even deeper into the ex-gay world and started attending an extreme charismatic church . . .

. . . In the years that followed, I became what the ex-gay movement taught me was the life of a homosexual – a promiscuous lost soul who was unable to love or be loved – someone outside of God’s love. . . .

. . . In an attempt to find some peace, I tried different churches, and different religions, but nothing fit, and nothing destroyed those teachings of the ex-gay movement that haunted me. Deep in my soul, I knew what I was and I knew that God would never love me. I hated myself … and my sexuality.

Yup, I also dove into pentacostal Christianity because it seemed more extreme, authentic, and action-orientated. I also remember being haunted by the ex-gay and fundamentalist Christian messages when I started to consider other theology and accepting my sexual orientation.

Good times . . ., but really it was so long ago (ten years) that much of that experience feels like a distant memory. And yet, I also have to admit that leaving the ex-gay experience was a defining part of my life, so it's hard not to think about it.

(Hat tip: Warren Throckmorton)

03/09/2007 REVISION: I re-worded and cleaned up my original posting.

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