Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I thought I put this behind me...

(Hello, blog, long time since I've been here, but some things just don't work on Facebook.)

About a month ago, Basic Rights Oregon solicited testimonies from survivors of conversion therapy. BRO is hoping to make Oregon the third state to ban conversion therapy for minors with HB 2307.

I was a little hesitant about contacting BRO because I'm not comfortable speaking publicly (or privately really); however, I figured I've done enough gossiping online about the demise of the ex-gay industry and this was a worthwhile opportunity to actually have an impact and protect LGBT youth. So, I wrote a one-paragraph description of my ex-gay experience and sent it to BRO.

BRO quickly replied and helped me fine tune the testimony that I read to the legislative committee in Salem. I was more concerned about speaking publicly and keeping the testimony factual, concise, and specific to the bill that I didn't let myself ponder my feelings. After all, I left the ex-gay drama eighteen years ago. I am now out to my friends, family, and coworkers. I have left religious fundamentalism. I now have a loving partner who I will be celebrating our tenth anniversary with this year. And I even aired my complaints to Portland Fellowship's leader back in 2004 in a two-hour talk. I've obviously put all of this ex-gay stuff behind me.

As I spent Monday of last week with other ex-gay survivors, I recalled some of those old feelings that I assumed I had overcome. As I started to read my testimony, I heard my own voice amplified in the hearing room. I realized that the last time I nervously shared my personal story into a microphone to a room full of people was in 1995 when I confessed my 'struggle with sexuality' to a Campus Crusade For Christ revival meeting at Oregon State University. As I listened to my wavering voice, I realized that the story it told was sad.

All of the pain and self-doubt came flooding back. I remembered:
--the 19-year-old young guy with optimistic plans about his future and his religious commitment to fix this little problem;
--the nervous joy of meeting other Christians with "same-sex attractions" and knowing I wasn't alone;
--the many hours sitting in one-on-one counseling sessions throughout the Portland Fellowship house and the therapist's office in Milwaukie discovering that I was "sexually broken", "lacking masculinity", "developmentally stunted", etc.;
--the humiliation of sitting in small group sessions in Portland Fellowship's basement confessing whether I masturbated or lusted that week;
--the constant struggle to reconcile the numerous conflicting messages (e.g. 'the goal is holiness not heterosexuality, but you should remain open to (hetero) marriage'; etc.);
--the empty feeling I had after each Portland Fellowship meeting or therapist session that nothing had really changed;
--the embarrassment of failing my courses as I was too distracted to concentrate on non-sexuality/Christian issues; and
--the devastating realization when I 'graduated' from the ex-gay program and left the Portland Fellowship that I was basically a spiritual, academic, and psychological failure who was no longer in the Christian club and without a sense of direction.

How dramatic. I patted myself on the back for emotionally recovering enough to read my testimony and was encouraged by the many supporters and fellow survivors I met at the capitol. However, in the days that followed, I realize that I am still carrying these feelings and doubts. It was enormously helpful to meet and listen to a couple of other ex-gay survivors who know the experience on Friday and Monday. I'm starting to feel less distracted and nervous, but I'm still surprised that occasionally I feel like I'm on the verge of tears or too agitated to sleep or concentrate. Wow, I had no idea all this stuff was still lurking under the surface.