by Cole Wakefield
Have you noticed the unusual amount of attention the ex-gay community has been getting lately? Some of it has been good, some of it has been bad, but the fact that they have gotten any is somewhat disturbing. When I was a younger, more radical activist, there was nothing that upset me more than the thought of someone being ex-gay. The mere existence of an ex-gay person was an insult to everything that I stood for. The hate-filled, misleading literature of their organizations attacked me at my core. This was how most of the gay community looked at ex-gays. This is how most still do.
The problem of dealing with ex-gays in this manor is that it plays into the very perceptions that drove them into the ex-gay lifestyle. They are told that the gay community is cold, selfish, and that it does not care about them. Ex-gays are often seen as some sort of loudspeaker for right-wing propaganda. Still, they are first and foremost victims. They have been victimized by a misinterpreted religion and abused by a misguided society. Their internalized hate combined with heretical judgment of the conservative church has created a powerful force. If the ex-gay problem is going to be solved, we must adjust how we are dealing with it.
The good news is that there is a simple answer, love. Yep, you heard me. We need a love like Jesus’, a love that is unconditional. It is this love that we must show our ex-gay brothers and sisters. We must let them know that we will still be here for them and that we still love them no matter how much they insult us, forsake us, curse us, or ignore us. We must show them how wrong their “ministries” are about us.
It can be extremely difficult for someone to come out of the ex-gay lifestyle. Many times he has already given up his friends once before, to enter ex-gay treatment. The idea of starting over again can be very daunting. Many long-term ex-gays may be married with children or derive some part of their income from an ex-gay ministry. The ex-gay programs can fight hard and nasty to keep recruits. This is why we must treat these victims with love and compassion. We need to provide support for those ready to leave. We need to let them know that there is a safe place for them to go.
We must also reach-out to those in the programs. Whether or not they are ready to leave, they must know we are their friends. I encourage you to write friendly e-mails to the staff of ex-gay programs. Get to know them and start a dialog. Most of them are good people, with good hearts; they have just been misled. We can help illuminate the true path with love and understanding.
This is my challenge to the gay community. In addition to dialog with ex-gay leaders, I urge our established activist and religious groups to form a coalition for ex-gay outreach. This group would not only speak-out against ex-gay practices, but it would also serve as a liaison between their community and ours. We need people to attend their groups and events not as protesters but as participants, to provide love, understanding, and an alternate perspective. This is how we start healing the wounds of ex-gay manipulation.
Cole Wakefield is a Nashville resident and can be reached at [email protected].