When Alan Chambers, the ex-gay ex-president of the now defunct Exodus International, closed the doors to that organization’s controversial ex-gay “reparative therapy,” he made a public statement apologizing for the damage the ex-gay program had done to the homosexual community. He said:
I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.
What Chambers was apologizing for was the assurance that Exodus gave to homosexuals that they could be completely freed from all same-sex attraction—that they could be rewired heterosexual. He said this was especially damaging to the young people and their parents who came to the organization “looking for a cure” for homosexuality.
The ex-gay controversy is a strange, twisting puzzle. On one hand, homosexuals believe that an ex-gay “must never have been really gay at all” or is “just deluding himself.” Recently, Michael Glatze, a high-profile ex-gay, got married (to a woman). On the pro-homosexual website “Truth Wins Out,” the announcement of Glatze’s marriage was met with derision, disbelief, and fake sympathy for the poor, nice girl who was soon to be the ex-wife of a “relapsed” ex-gay. Because you can’t change your nature, can you?
On the other hand, Michael Glatze’s view is that no one is actually gay. In an interview with a homosexual former close friend, Glatze said: “I don’t see people as gay anymore. I don’t see you as gay. I don’t see him [Glatze’s ex-boyfriend] as gay. God creates us heterosexual. We may get other ideas in our head about what we are, and I certainly did, but that doesn’t mean they’re the truth.”
This highlights the major ideological breach between those who view homosexuality as an identity and those who view it as a malfunction. The ex-gay controversy sits squarely between both worlds. Homosexuals want to believe that an ex-gay was either never truly gay or never remaining heterosexual. Many ex-gay leaders believe that attractions and inclinations are individuating elements of human nature, but our impulses and desires do not compose our identity.
In a consumer society, we so often view ourselves in terms of what we desire or what we possess. Homosexuals desire same-sex relationships. Vegetarians don’t want to eat meat. Chevy drivers have bumper stickers of bad boys peeing on Ford logos. Apple users poo-poo on PCs. PC users think Apple users are pretentious. Everything is a brand. Even the ichthus on your car or the stick figures of your huge family have all become part of a commercial identity—a brand. In this morasse, it is easy to lose sight of the value of individuals and the importance of personal integrity. It is easier to belong to a group that defines the protocols of your behavior than it is to figure out what you should be doing for yourself. It is easier to define yourself according to what you own than to hold your own actions accountable to internalized principles.
Ex-gay men are not necessarily repressing their true selves—because our true selves are an externalization of internal realities. Not the other way around, as our society sees it. You can’t change yourself with a change of behavior. That’s why Exodus International didn’t really work much of the time. But that doesn’t mean change isn’t possible. Even a change of nature.
That is the scariest reality of the ex-gay movement in the eyes of homosexuals. If ex-gay men were truly and legitimately homosexual at one time, and are now truly and legitimately ex-gay, that proves homosexuality cannot be an incontrovertible necessity of nature. Homosexuals hate this possibility. It strikes at the very heart of their self-identity. If someone can really be ex-gay, then homosexuality is merely a behavior, not an identity.