Questions for Ex-gay Ministry (Conversion therapy) Leaders

//Questions for Ex-gay Ministry (Conversion therapy) Leaders

Questions for Ex-gay Ministry (Conversion therapy) Leaders

1. Do you know of anyone who was completely gay (not a bisexual) who has become completely heterosexual?2. Considering that scientific research demonstrates that homosexuality is not caused by sexual abuse or by poor parenting what do you think made you gay?

3. Would you honestly say that you are a ‘normal’ heterosexual person at every level of your being?

4. Can you guarantee me that if I go through your program that I will be completely heterosexual? Would I be completely heterosexual without being married or would I have to become married to prove it?

5. What accountability mechanisms do you have in place to ensure that you don’t ‘fall’. If you were truly healed, would this be necessary?

6. Do you have the same accountability in place to stop you having sex with a person of the opposite sex? Why not?

7. If you were to be unfaithful to your spouse, would it be more likely to be with someone of the same sex or the opposite sex?

8. Even though it may not have been your experience, do you think it is possible to be gay and live in a long term, monogamous relationship?

9. Do you think that long term same-sex relationships are built on sex or love, support and respect? So what is the difference then between gay and straight couples?

10. There seems to be many former “ex-gay” leaders here in Australia, the UK and the US who are now coming out and apologising for the negative impact they previously had on people they’d taken through their programs, saying they acted in ignorance. How do you respond to that?

11. We now know that people have suicided, self-harmed or attempted suicide because of the enormous pressure they were under whilst going through “ex-gay” programs. How do you feel about that and how do you personally deal with the knowledge that you have contributed to this?

12. It seems that almost everyone who is supposedly “ex-gay” lived a tormented life of sexual addiction and self destructive behaviours. Heterosexuals have the same experience but don’t blame their sexual orientation for this. It seems to me that you get sexual addiction and abuse mixed up with sexual orientation. Shouldn’t you be working on helping people with their sexual addiction and not concentrating on the sexual orientation?

13. Are you a qualified and registered psychologist or counsellor? (usually the answer is no ). So if I find your program has a negative impact on my mental health, can I sue you for damages?

14. In some situations, like prison and other all male environments, men have sex with men but after leaving prison they return to living as heterosexuals. It’s called ‘situational homosexuality’. How different is that to you now being married and having sex with your wife?

15. How frequently are you tempted to have sex with someone of the opposite sex like any ‘normal’ heterosexual man would?

16. When Exodus commenced three decades ago everyone believed that you had to change your sexual orientation in order to be a Christian. Considering that there are now 100,000’s of gay Christians who have come out, live moral lives, have a strong faith and believe that God loves them just as they are, hasn’t your “ex-gay” message become redundant and obsolete?

17. Do you agree with all the directions that the American organisation Exodus has taken? In what areas do you differ from them?

18. If success is classed as changing from homosexual to heterosexual, what substantiated figures, not just anecdotal, do you have on the percentage of successful outcomes from your program?

19. Considering the majority of “ex-gay” ministries reject the growing scientific evidence that same-sex-orientation happens prenatally through both genetic and hormonal influences, how do you respond to those who are born with gender or genital ambiguities which is obviously biological?

20. If I can respect your right to get married and live as a pseudo heterosexual can you respect my right to live as a non-closeted gay man?

By | 2017-04-24T12:06:34+00:00 August 28th, 2008|Categories: Conversion therapy|Tags: , |12 Comments

About the Author:

Anthony Venn-Brown

Anthony Venn-Brown is one of Australia’s foremost commentators on faith and sexuality. His best-selling autobiography ‘A Life of Unlearning – a preacher’s struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith‘, detailing his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man, has impacted 1,000’s globally. Anthony was the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International and has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009).


  1. wendy September 3, 2008 at 1:36 am - Reply

    Hi Anthony,

    Peterson’s blog pointed me to this post … and I’ve connected it in a post I’ve just written.

    I didn’t respond to all 20 questions – but trust in my few responses you get the gist of where I’m coming from.

    grace to you,

  2. Anthony Venn-Brown September 4, 2008 at 6:00 am - Reply

    thanks WEndy for your comments. I realise that within those questions there are some certain assumptions based on the majority and not taking into account some exceptions.

  3. Anonymous September 4, 2008 at 8:48 am - Reply

    Hello Anthony,

    This is in response to Wendy’s post about the 20 Questions.

    Two quick things

    1. ‘New Directions’ supports those who believe it is not God’s will to express same-gender attraction in a sexual relationship. Wendy’s blog acknowledges the compelling scientific evidence that supports the natual homo phenomena. (Forgive the vernacular – I’m in a hurry.) Yet, they still bother with holding on to this ancient beleif system. In psychology class they refered to this as ‘escalation of commitment’ – that is, the individual (or group) become so committed to their belief that they escalate their commitment to the belief despite more updated information.

    I would’ve thought there were other more vital ‘support programs’ that New Directions could be involved in – like AA, or weight watchers for obese people, or teenage boredom programs. ‘New Directions’ sounds like nothing more than a run-away band-wagon if you ask me.

    And 2.
    How would ‘New Directions’ feel if I wrote, I seek to take a “humble approach to the science around causation” of New Directions followers?

    Self-righteously, they might think, ‘Great – a seeker!’

    Others like me (a hetro who believes anti-homoism is completely archaic), might think, “Oh Lord – I seek to listen, love and (slap-around-the-ears) the individuals where they’re at.”

    Jen x

  4. Anonymous September 4, 2008 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Dear Anthony:

    The following is an honest attempt to answer your first 5 of 20 sincere Q’s from an ex-gay minister’s perspective. I would be glad to respond to the other 15 questions in future posts if you’d like.

    Question 1: “Do you know of anyone who was completely gay (not a bisexual) who has become completely heterosexual? ”

    Response 1: Yes, (e.g., Alan Meninger, the first ex-gay director of Regeneration Ministry from Baltimore, MD) but it has been my experience, having witnessed this phenomenon for past 30 years of ministry, to be a rarity, rather than the norm for those who undergo any shift or change in their sexual orientation. Most folks who experience any change at all, which research (e.g., the mega study from New Directions Ministry of Toronto, CANADA from earlier in this decade; and a past president of the APA’s study in 2002, Dr. Robert Spitzer) indicates to be about one-third of those who attempt it, come to experience a dimunition in some measure of their same sex attractions, and at least a satisfactory sexually active life heterosexually, if not significant change or even the complete eradication from their history of same sex attractions.

    There is also from the research about a third of the population of folks who attempt to undergo change, but don’t experience any in the direction of their sexual attractions, but do experience the dimunitive affects of their SSA’s from such attempts, as well as reporting great personal resolution and benefit from all areas of life functioning.

    Then, there is approximately a third who report no change, resolution, or benefit, who also usually drop out of treatment early on.

    What is very significant here is that these results are quite similar, maybe even slightly better, than those depressed patients who seek treatment from a combination of cognitive and psychopharmaceutical therapies, which is widely known to be the most effective form of treatment for such a common clinical disorder.

    Question 2: “Considering that scientific research demonstrates that homosexuality is not caused by sexual abuse or by poor parenting, what do you think made you gay?”

    Response 2: Although just exactly what factors are causal or influential in nature regarding same sex attractions is still being debated among researchers, it is quite clear that environmental factors are in fact predominant; and not biological, which appears to be implied in this question. Monozygote twin studies from the 90’s up to the present indicate concordance rate outcomes that range from 24% (Bailey and Pillard who are two gay male researchers) to 0%. 100% indicates the likelihood of overwhelmingly predominant, if not complete, biological factors. Thus, the lower the concordance rate, the more environmental factors are influential, if not totally so. Therefore, the outcome range of concordance rate results here indicate at least predominantly environmental factors being influential. Through a plethora of anecdotal clinical evidence (e.g., Toronto, CANADA’s New Directions Ministries mega-study, NARTH study from 1996), a biopsychosocial model seems to be the most comprehensive approach concerning the etiology of one’s ssa development, such as one’s temperment type, and sexual, religious, family, and socialization histories in childhood and adolescence. Therefore, to the contrary, sexual abuse and particular family dynamics are known to be very commonly influential factors in the development of one’s ssas.

    Question 3 and 4: “Would you honestly say that you are a ‘normal’ heterosexual person at every level of your being?”, and, “Can you guarantee me that if I go through your program that I will be completely heterosexual? Would I be completely heterosexual without being married, or would I have to become married to prove it?”

    Response to 3 and 4: No; and no. But then being like ever-straights should not even be a desirable objective, nor a goal of treatment. Why do I say this? Why should anyone consider being completely opposite sex attracted (OSA), a “0” on the Kinsey scale, thereby attaining one’s own full potential for erotic desires towards the opposite sex, to be the apex of mental health or normalcy, or even a moral standard for that matter, when there are clearly many sexually addicted folks, even pedophiles, ephebophiles, and rapists serving long to life sentences for their crimes, who are fully OSA. To me, that’s like going from the frying pan to the fire! For example, some of those who did experience significant change in their sexual orientation complained about being hooked on heterosexual pornography! Therefore, our goal or standard should be sexual and relational wholeness, or as the Bible puts it, holiness, as Jesus was. ALL human beings are relationally and sexually broken in some manner. All fully OSAd are in similar need of healing as us who are SSAd. Contrary to the old medical model which diagnosed homosexuality to be a mental disorder, yet heterosexual fornication to be included within the bounds of normal human development, we are all equally “disordered”, and in need of sexual redemption at the cross of Jesus our Lord.

    Anthony, your question appears to reveal the very obstacle of your past attempt to experience change, that being an unrealistic, and therefore, an unattainable objective or goal. It appears to me that a myopic focus on an objective or goal to experience full heterosexual inclinations, with the corresponding eradication of all that is homosexual, as being tantamount to normalcy, health, and even that which is moral, that you apparently had tried to experience in your attempts toward change, appears to be a major reason why you report in your book to have failed so miserably. (And, I say thank God you did. Because, there’s still hope, just as with anybody else, with a readjustment toward realistic, and therefore attainable, objectives and goals!) It is apparently why I see you also projecting on to ex-gay ministries in upcoming questions, whether those of the past or those presently, as having possessed, or presently possessing, this same past errant objective and goal. Mind you, I am aware that earlier on many ministry leaders in Exodus may have encouraged you to believe in such worldly nonsense, but remember that was out of their zeal for those they served, yet with ignorance and immaturity. You don’t find ANY Exodus ministry today advocating such spurious views. I do apologize to you for them if this indeed was a stumbling block in your attempts back then to resolve your sexual identity crisis.

    Question 5: “What accountability mechanisms do you have in place to ensure that you don’t “fall”? If you were truly healed, would this be necessary?”

    Response 5: Many; and yes, they still would be essential. Anthony, you appear to be holding, at least regarding SSA issues, to the errant, commonly Western, view that healing, and being healed, involves a phenomenon that occurs only in an individual, in isolated form from one’s own resources and supports. No, growth and healing ALWAYS take place corporately, interdependently and organistically, and that being FOR LIFE. Even nature makes this law quite clear to us, as in Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches in the book of John, chapter 15. When does a branch come to a place of growth that it stops relying on the vine?

    Humanly speaking, let’s use the example of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is the individual alcoholic who tries to go it on his own in order to experience control over his desire to drink that finds himself NEVER experiencing the very thing he seeks: sobriety, peace of mind, healing and growth. It is when he decides to abdicate this tendency towards going it alone, that he begins to find the very power to overcome, and that being for the rest of his life! So it is with any other compulsion, including SSAs. God made us to be social beings just like Him. When we don’t reflect this aspect of His likeness in our lives, then we ALL will begin to experience behavioral symptoms that are not in accordance to His will.

    I do hope that this does clarify for you what a typical (i.e., me)ex-gay minister believes and personally experiences.

    Blessings in abundance,

    Tom Morey

  5. Anthony Venn-Brown September 5, 2008 at 12:57 am - Reply

    Hi Wendy

    I read your comment on your blog.

    “Anthony’s questions do seem to presuppose that an ex-gay leader is male and same-gender attracted and likely now married to a woman. I suppose it is apt then, as New Direction tries to move beyond the ex-gay descriptor and be effective and useful in bridging the gap, that as its leader I am not male, not same-gender attracted ….. and not married to a woman :)”

    I remember writing and thinking it was important to be inclusive in the language so attempted to do that. After your comment I went back to check and see if i needed to re-word anything.

    it seems that I mostly speak of spouse ie male/female except for a couple of questions. I have particularly mentioned ex-gay men married to heterosexual women in a couple of questions though as it refers more to the sexual make up/behaviours of men as opposed to women.

    Men are generally more physically/visually driven where as generally speaking women are more emotionally/relationally driven. (I’m probably getting myself in more hot water here but generally speaking it is true).

    Do you think this helps a bit.

  6. Anthony Venn-Brown September 5, 2008 at 1:36 am - Reply

    Hi Tom…..that is quite a bit to respond to. Thanks for taking the time share your responces. I won’t be able to give the amount of time though ATM….but I’ll briefly mention some things.

    Response 1:
    I think from the research I’ve read, including the Spitzer study…that there is no conclusive evidence that a person has changed from gay to straight. The studies are anectodal. Lots of factors to consider that might bias the responces etc. It could be more conclusive if a penile Polysomnograph was used or brain activity tracked.

    I know I had cessations of same sex attraction myself but this was not so much about transformation as about monitoring, suppression, reduction of opportunities etc etc. as I mention in my book…it was like riding a stationary bike. after 22 years of peddling, when I got off….I was still in the same place. I was a ‘situational heterosexual’ not a genuine heterosexual. Knowing now today that my homosexuality is not evil or a dysfunction I believe that the 22 years of behaviour changing and monitoring was a waste of time.

    Response 2:
    I think that the evidence is mounting. The only thing that is holding it back is the developments in scientific technologies. So many of us know that that we are gay not because of sexual abuse or environmental factors such as parenting because these were not our experience. The other thing to consider is that sexual abuse and poor parenting happens to heterosexuals as well and it doesn’t change their sexual orientation.

    Response 4:
    It was an unrealistic goal to become completely heterosexual and I guess i’d have to add an unnecessary goal to even need to try and change.

    What I have found it that my morality is choice, my sexual orientation however isn’t. I live an entirely moral life as an openly gay man….and have a faith. These things are not mutually exclusive.

    Response 5:
    I guess I’m addressing that question to those leaders particularly who have made such bold statements of change that we know are not completely honest. There have been many examples of that during the last three decades.

  7. wendy September 5, 2008 at 2:30 am - Reply

    Anthony I think your questions are fair enough – the majority of ex-gay leaders are male with some level of personal experience with same-gender attraction…. i just don’t happen to fit that profile…. and as we discussed over in the comments on my blog, i probably don’t fit the profile of ‘ex-gay leader’ at all… at least not what might be typically understood by that label.

    if i had my druthers (do they say that in Australia?)…. we would move beyond the whole ‘ex-gay’ construct …. but it really isn’t up to me. what i can do is try to articulate a mission, vision, values and distinctives for the organization i serve that embodies a missional, relational focus – and maybe hope that what we’re doing might have some small drop of influence in the larger ocean.

  8. Anthony Venn-Brown September 5, 2008 at 2:44 am - Reply

    The fact that you exist Wendy and that there are now ‘ex-gay’ style ministries who clearly state heterosexuality is not the goal indicates a shift. The trends show that it is a steady process of change….slow…but steady re homosexuality and Christianity.

    I have no doubt that within another 30 years the term ‘ex-gay’ will be obsolete…..something we read about in history books as an error……as demonstrated by many former leaders speaking out now.

    BTW…..never hear the term druthers….its all yours it seems.

  9. Queers United September 6, 2008 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    just out of curiosity when you were in the “ex-gay” programs, did you call yourself “ex-gay.” I am fascinated by people who call themselves ex-gay or having been cured from homosexuality who later come out and come to terms with being gay.

  10. Anthony Venn-Brown September 7, 2008 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Queers United…that is a great question and I don’t think anyone has ever asked that before. Back in the 70’s when I went through the program it was not called ex-gay or I personally never used the term then. It was considered rehabilitation in the group that I was in….along with prositutes and drug addicts.

    Don’t quote me on this….but I have a feeling that the mainstream media may have come up with the term and it has somehow stuck. This probably would have happened around the time certain Christian organisations were putting a lot of money in to promoting the ‘change is possible’ message to counteract the push for equal rights and to end discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation.

    Even Alan Chambers, President of Exodus has been quoted as saying he doesn’t particularly like the term ‘ex-gay’ or wonders if he has actually met one.

    I’d be interested to know if anyone else can shed light on the origin of the term. I may be wrong and it was initially a christian ministry term and hence the umbrella organisation of Ex-odus.

  11. Anonymous September 8, 2008 at 5:32 am - Reply

    Per Anthony’s Request this is a re-post from another blog

    Okay – this is a long one.

    My answers to Anthony who has very valid concerns.

    Answers are from an ex lesbian, christian who is not in leadership in any ex gay ministry.

    #1 I can speak for myself only. At one time, I would have sworn to you that I had no attraction for men. Then I changed. I cannot say that I will never have sexual feelings towards another woman again because I do not know what the future holds. In addition, I do not deny that I had fun as a lesbian.

    #2 Women are different from men and I have two sisters who were brought up in the same environment although they met some growth milestones before certain events occurred. My opinion about myself is that sexuality is both born in and nurtured in. I believe for myself that I might have had lesbian expressions but not to the extent I had – had my brother not sexually abused me and had my mother and father stepped in to address that issue. In addition, my family is very liberal, being gay was not a big deal, and so it was very easy to move in that direction.

    #3 Yes. People have a variety of sexual backgrounds.

    #4 I do not like any of the “programs” out there and I think they contribute even more to self-sexual hostility, which cannot be good for anyone in my book. Becoming heterosexual should not be the goal of any ministry. There are NO GUARANTEES in any kind of therapy or ministry.

    #5 I would not use the word healed. Accountability exists for all people working or having worked on a particular issue. I also have accountability partners for sexuality in other areas – not just homosexuality.

    #6 Yes. In my religion, sex outside of the covenant of heterosexual marriage is not allowed. With all the media images out there – there is a lot of temptation and ways to go in another direction.

    #7. Speaking for myself – I do not know. Circumstances that would lead to infidelity are complicated – it would not be just a question of sexual dissatisfaction but there would have to be some very wrong things in our relationship. What those would be – I do not know.

    #8 Absolutely yes.

    #9 I think that long term relationships have many things in common – respect, communication, etc….

    The difference between gay and straight relationships is that one is gay and one is straight.

    #10. They did act in ignorance by telling people that they were less than others were when they engaged in homosexuality. I support their efforts to apologize. No one is less than anyone else is. Their work harmed many people.

    #11. I have not contributed to this. I do not endorse many of the methods used in ex gay ministries. As a person who has had suicide in her family, and as an ex gay, I am very interested in how this is handled. Suicide is an epidemic in this country – America. It is not just a gay issue but when someone suicides because of being gay, it upsets me very much.

    #12 I agree. Why all the fanfare about about drugs and dissatisfaction with life? A person can live a wholesome life as a gay man or lesbian. And since many straight people go through the whole promiscuous, drug phase – what is the difference? None.
    However, I suppose some people do feel that their guilt about their sexuality drove them to use drugs. I also get tired of those stories being sensationalized by ministry groups.

    #13 I am not qualified to give advice on which cat food to buy. However, my shrink comes from an Ivy League school, is licensed, teaches and supervises other counselors. She is Christian and I am certain would support me if my decision was to be with a woman.

    #14 In prison – a person does not have a choice or huge selection to choose from – so that makes a difference. If I were in prison, I probably would have a girlfriend. In the free world, a person can choose a wife, husband, or lover of the same sex.

    #15 Cannot answer since I am a woman. However, I am not as guy crazy as some of my friends.

    #16 Gay Christians have not changed the religion of people who believe that homosexuality is a sin. In my opinion, it is sort of like the Protestants and the Catholics. There has been a split in the church and that is the way it is. The groups will view religion, the bible, God etc… differently. Nevertheless, my view is that a person can be gay and Christian.

    #17 I do not agree with Exodus or Love Won Out.

    #18 Success from the religious perspective is not changing from gay to straight. Success from the gay perspective will never exist because the two groups of ex gays and gays will continue to define change, success, gay, ex gay differently. No one ever changes so far that he or she will never ever have a homosexual thought again. In other words, we never forget what it was like to be gay. Therefore, we will never be like the man or woman who has never had a homosexual experience. We will always be a little different from other people.

    #19. Sexuality, gender and genital ambiguities are natural. A person may deal with them in anyway they choose.

    #20 Absolutely, yes.

  12. Anonymous September 8, 2008 at 6:05 am - Reply

    Hmmmm…. the term ex gay. I never used it until I discovered that is what people who used to be gay called themselves. And then I found out that ex gay doesn’t fit anyone of us. I am and will always be Mary first. And I change. I change my attitudes, my beliefs, my behaviors, my being. But first, I will always identify as Mary. I am not Mary who used to be gay, Mary who had lesbian affairs, Mary who denies her lesbianism, Mary who is attracted to men etc… I will always be me. And I’d like to trademark and copyright my genetic code because it is unique. Having said that – wouldn’t we all like to forego that identification of ourselves through sexuality? Aren’t we more than that?

    I do think people change in how they approach sexuality mostly – but that same sex feelings can and do arise. It does not mean that someone has failed or that they must act on those feelings. It does not mean they are “really” gay and repressing their sexuality. Not allowing someone to say – “Hey, sometimes I have same sex feelings,” is repressing someone’s sexuality. This has been a huge error of the ex gay ministries. It has been a huge disgrace from the gay community to impose on an individual the way others have so done to them. It’s a major double standard from both parties.

    And when a person who has sought some sort of change proces feels same sex urges or feelings, it does not mean that person is any more gay than the gay guy who when he sleeps with his best lesbian friend now must identify himself as straight. Sexuality is not so simple. That gays or ex gays or ex gay ministries try to box people into nice little “in the line” colored pictures. And that perfect picture just isn’t realisitic.

    The out gay man or lesbian who sees their sexuality as inborn will always be at the opposite end of the person who does not see their sexuality as completely inborn. When we discuss the contributions of nature to the mix, again many see this contribution from different angles. Some see it as purely genetic (as in sexuality encoded) Some see it as temperment that is encoded in personality that inturn reacts with the right environmental mix (my view) and some will see it only as environmental. Some will see it as wrong always regardless of the nature/nurture evidence. Others will see homosexuality as the only right way to respond to a person’s sexual urgings.

    That a person must choose an extreme does not feel comfortable to me. We have to be able to freely express that we have changed in a way that fits our beliefs, or that we have accepted or sexuality and that fits our beliefs. The extremists who get upset with us are just that – extremist who really have no understanding of the ambiguity of sexuality and what we all must come to terms with – whether you are straight, gay, hyper sexualized, low libido etc…

    There is no one who can call the shots for another person (unless of course someone is acting criminally against another human being)

    I think it is safe to say that there is truth in all and that we are a long ways from understanding the entirety of the sexual development issue.

    Okay. Off the sopabox and onto other interests.

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