My Ex-Gay Experience: Only Two Options Remained
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles about writer Apryl Prentiss’s experience in an ex-gay ministry.
It’s the same with everybody. Our parents teach us what they believe and as children we devour and assimilate all of it. Until, of course, an event or a person comes along that breaks our perception that our parents’ truth is the ultimate truth.
Can you imagine the impact on the thinking of young children if along with the familial belief system, parents would say “I’m teaching you what I believe to be the Truth—it may NOT be the ultimate Truth but just the Truth as I see it and have been taught. Find your own Truth (I hope it’s the same as mine).” There would probably be fewer suicides by gay Christian teens—I can tell you that.
I do believe that there are parents who parent this way. But it’s been my experience that most Christian parents do not and you can’t blame them. Christian ideology is predicated on the tenet that the Truth in the Bible is the ONLY Truth—the only way to heaven and a righteous life on Earth. If you immerse yourself into the teaching of the church of your family, as a young child that is all there is to believe in. If you attend a Christian school, which I did for 13 years and loved it, those beliefs are sharpened and absorbed on a much deeper level. You eat, breathe, and sleep your religion. The Christian world becomes enmeshed with your world to the point that there is no difference between the two.
It’s a powerful thing and I loved my life—until, of course, I started thinking that I might be gay.
One of my best college friends used to joke that she grew up believing that only Baptists were going to heaven because only they understood the “real Truth” about the Bible and followed it to the letter.
When I was growing up, denominations took different stands on issues such as moderate drinking, baptism, women in the pulpit, etc. But there were two things that ALL the denominations agreed on (aided greatly by Jerry Falwell’s rabid campaign against both): Abortion and Homosexuality. Both were heinous sins of such magnitude that they trumped other more “acceptable sins” and threatened salvation.
It’s no joke, obviously. And while eternal life certainly lingered as a concern when I began pondering my “difference,” I feared what I would be losing on Earth so much more if I acknowledged that I was not heterosexual. I knew I would lose the community of the church, the acceptance of my family, the ability to fully participate in the Christian activities that I had saturated my life with—I would lose everything because I had made the choice to let my Christian life define everything about me. I loved being a part of it!
That’s what made my potential loss all the more harrowing. I didn’t want to be gay. I denied it. I prayed about it. I tried to fast it out of me. I had others praying for me, over me. I spent years of my life anguishing—begging God to free me; being angry at Him for creating me with a defect and then expecting me to live with it.
I had all the tools, all the support, all the desire to be free and be obedient. I followed the rules, denied myself, laid prostrate before God begging to be healed and God did not answer. I concluded that it must be my fault.
I hated myself for failing to obey enough to be free. I hated myself for the difference within me that threatened to destroy my relationships with my Christian friends and families. I hated that because I could not get it together and get control of my “fleshly desires” that I had only two options.
One: Find a good man and try to have a decent life as a hetero. Christian community and friends remain intact and my Christian world could remain my world.
Two: Spend my life in total service to the Lord—immerse myself so thoroughly with Christian accountability, that I would have the strength to abstain from physical intimacy and avoid emotional intimacy—thereby depriving myself of any hope of experiencing a loving, lifelong partnership here on Earth.
These only options were viable because they ensured that my Christian world remained secure and my relationship with God would not be clouded by my sexuality. Choosing to live otherwise meant the loss of my faith—totally and completely. I could not live with that. Being gay was never an option.
This was the ONLY Truth allowed by my belief system. I had never encountered a Gay Christian or a Gay Person of Faith. It was the most agonizing either/or situation for me. Deep down, I knew I wouldn’t /couldn’t survive the suppressed life of obedience that seemed to be destiny. I knew I needed help to reframe my expectations of life and happiness so that I could obey.
My desperation for peace and freedom lead me to an ex-gay ministry.
Apryl Prentiss is a right wing dropout. Born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA and heavily involved in the evangelical Christian community for her entire life. She lives in Richmond, VA with her partner, Adrian, and enjoys trying to dialogue with those in the evangelical community about sexuality.
When I came out years ago, coming from the fundamental Christian community, I watched in horror as people who had spent years loving and mentoring me felt free to launch into dehumanizing rants about my sexuality. These were compassionate, loving, intelligent people!June 26, 2012