American style ex-gay programs seeking to find a market in Australia are in for a fight says Anthony Venn-Brown; his goal is to close the existing ones down. Anthony Venn-Brown was a leader in the Assemblies of God and a regular preacher in the mega churches of Australia (Hillsong). Believing it was wrong to be gay, he tried for 22 years to change through Christian counselling, exorcisms, 40-day fasts; all suggested methods of transformation in ex-gay groups.
“I actually spent 6 months in Australia’s first live-in ex-gay program back in 1972, going through what is known as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life that took me years to get over.” Venn-Brown said. “Although happily married for 16 years with two daughters, eventually I had to admit that nothing had changed.“
“Since the release of my autobiography ‘A Life of Unlearning’, I have received hundreds of emails from people telling me their own horror stories in these programs. Whilst in the Living Waters ex-gay program here in Sydney, one person told me he attempted suicide three times, after his failed efforts to change kept him in depression. Since 2000, I’ve also moderated an international support group for survivors of ex-gay programs. One of the major dangers is that the majority of these groups are operating totally out of their depth with unqualified people.”
“Ex-gay programs have been operating for three decades now and have an horrific history of failure. Whilst some claim to no longer homosexual but heterosexual, there is not scientific evidence to support this. The only evidence for their new found heterosexuality is that they are married and have children or that they no longer engage in same sex activity. In reality, they have not changed their orientation only their behaviour. Some live a secret life, having occasional encounters with people of the same sex but do not come out, as they have too much to lose. I.e. marriage, respect of family members, rejection by the children they love, position in the church etc. They continue to live a lie with a façade of heterosexuality”
‘Ex-gay programs exist because some Christian churches persist in placing same-sex-attraction in the category of a sin and perversion. This is ludicrous in this day and age.” Venn-Brown said. “Any intelligent person today knows that sexual orientation can’t be changed. In the early 70’s mental health professionals acknowledged that same-sex-attraction was not an illness. As usual it is taking some Christians and denominations decades to catch up.” Venn-Brown concluded.
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