My Ex-Gay Experience: Confess, Obsess, Possess
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles about writer Apryl Prentiss’s experience in an ex-gay ministry. Read the first article here.
My sexuality was the blockage between me, God and a happy life as a hetero Christian woman. Dating men had always been a part of my life. Yet, none of those relationships could be deemed a success. Performing an awkward dance of intimacy and coldness, I drove each of them away.
I threw myself into ministry three and four nights a week, teaching at a Christian school, writing a Christian retreat curriculum, every activity in my life was modified by the word “Christian.” Bible studies, fasting, extreme methods of prayer, counseling, I tried everything to quiet the storm within me. All I wanted was to be at peace with God and I didn’t care how much of myself I had to give up in order to achieve that peace.
That’s why I sought out help in the form of an ex-gay ministry. In my mind, I was submitting myself to God. My replaying of the memories of the women I’d been with were evil corruptors of my soul. I was denying God and his healing ability. I needed help to change, so that I could be what I wanted (and what I thought God wanted me) to be.
I dove in. Twenty weeks of unbelievably hard introspection, confession, accountability and counseling. We started by examining possible causes of our homosexuality or sexual brokenness. A basic premise of the program was that no one is born gay so there must be a cause…a root of our same sex attraction. The first step in healing was to seek out the cause and address it with God’s love.
Overbearing Mother? That’s why you’re gay. Sexual abuse? That’s absolutely why you’re gay. Only child and you grew up lonely? That’s why you’re gay. Though it sounds trite, it wasn’t. It was a goal of the program to help us all understand why we were broken and the causes (big or small) were integral in that goal.
We did things like write down wrong ways we had been labeled on sheets of paper and burned them. Very cathartic and very meaningful. We wrote down things we believed about ourselves that contributed to our brokenness on mirrors then smashed them. We confessed our sins (mental and physical) both publicly to the entire group and privately to our small group leaders, wrote them down on special paper, immersed them in water (meant to be a picture of God’s forgiveness) and watched them dissolve.
In the moment, these exercises granted feelings of release. Today, I still think about the positivity of calling out ways we’ve been mislabeled and confronting those things with truth. The lessons about proper mental and physical boundaries and how to implement them in order to make all of our relationships healthy (platonic and otherwise) radically changed the ways I thought about all relationships. I still implement these concepts and in this way, the program was helpful.
However it was hurtful in that a healthy homosexual relationship was never mentioned as an option. Homosexuality = Unhealthy and Unhappy. Period. End of story.
All homosexual relationships are born out of brokenness and cause nothing but pain and unhappiness. This was drilled into us and because I didn’t have any experience to counteract the concept, I fully believed it.
In fact, most of us who sat in that room every Monday night had never met a happy homosexual couple. We equated that to a factual characterization of ALL gay couples—not to the fact that in the Christian circles we lived in there would naturally not be ANY healthy homo couples.
I literally nailed my areas of brokenness, their causes, and my own sexual behavior to a cross then bowed below them begging for forgiveness and for restoration. I lay on the floor of a church weeping, begging to be delivered. This was a nightly experience.
Caught up in the emotion, the corporate worship, the pain of others around me that mirrored my own, I genuinely felt like the barriers I thought I had up against God’s will for my life were dissipating. I cut off or drastically reduced contact with the women I’d been involved with and in my head, it was no longer an option to think about unhealthy intimacy (sexual or emotional). When those thoughts rose to the top of my consciousness, I rebuked them as tools of Satan and told them I hated them. I admonished myself for giving them so much power–never realizing that what I was rebuking was a part of me and my natural desire for love.
The hatred started as indignation and gave me the fuel I thought I needed to be straight. My mentality towards my sexuality shifted. Where I used to think about it with confusion or sorry, I now raged against it. Hating every part of it. Every part of me.
I obsessed over ridding myself of my homosexuality. I literally thought about myself, my emotions, and my sexuality all the time. I began fighting my thoughts or urges like a woman possessed. I became impassioned to starve the part of me screaming to be heard. With that mentality in place, I graduated from the program with a tentative sense of hope. I wasn’t aware of how deeply the self-hatred had taken root during my months at the program. But I became aware very quickly….
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.
Good people come in all sorts of packages and associations. We must reach out to all.April 4, 2016
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