Ex-gay and an Ex-ex-gay
Anthony Venn Brown and Ron Brookman are two men who at first glance seem to have a lot in common.
They are almost the same age, living in the same city, both are fathers and both of them are active in the church.
The one major difference between the two is that one is a proud gay man, and the other one used to be.
The 11th of October marked the 23rd International Coming Out Day. An event that celebrates members of the lesbian, bisexual, transgender and gay communities and their decision to live open and honest lives.
But not everyone wants to celebrate their homosexual identity, in fact some people are seeking to change it.
Reverend Ron Brookman is one of many Australians who have gone through reparative, or “ex-gay” therapy to change his sexual orientation.
Reparative therapy is based on the idea that through counselling and retraining you can remove a person’s homosexual urges. These programs are usually Christian based.
Reverend Brookman is the director of the Living Waters Ministry, a church that uses a process of group therapy and one on one mentor-ship to “rid people of unwanted same-sex attractions”. Ron is a “success story” of the program. Once a man who frequented local gay beats in the hopes of finding men for sexual activity, he is now married and a father to five children.
Although he now identifies as a heterosexual, Ron says he must always be aware of certain triggers that may awaken dormant urges in him: “I still notice sometimes that a man is handsome. My eye might occasionally be drawn to something like a strong male thigh, images like this can temporarily reignite my old wiring.”
The Reverend is confident that as long as he remains aware of these urges and remains accountable to his wife and family, he will not stray back to his old habits.
Anthony Venn Brown is no stranger to reparative therapy. After ongoing struggles to accept his homosexual orientation in his youth led to depression and a suicide attempt, he turned to the church for help.
There he was subjected to several exorcisms in an attempt to remove the homosexual urges from him. When these failed Anthony signed up to one of Australia’s first live-in reparative therapy program for a six month stint.
Anthony was married shortly after and began a career as a successful evangelical preacher for “The Assemblies of God.”
Anthony describes that time in his life, saying: “I was in denial, I was suppressing my true feelings which led to hatred and ultimately a sexual addiction.”
The former preacher came out in 1991 and resigned from his position in the church.
The publication of his autobiography in 2004, A Life of Unlearning, his life took another dramatic direction. He is now involved in a number of groups that provide support and guidance for people who have been through ex-gay therapy and his current goal is to see an end to every ex-gay program in Australia as well as globally.
Anthony doesn’t believe that it is possible to change your sexual orientation. He believes that a gay man may be able to temporarily get married and even maintain some form of sex life with a woman because of what he describes as “situational heterosexuality”.
The concept of situational heterosexuality is similar to the idea of a prison environment causing heterosexual men to adapt however briefly to situational homosexuality.
Anthony does not, however believe that situational heterosexuality means that you are no longer gay: “saying you’re straight because you got married is like sleeping in a garage and calling yourself a car!”
Ron disagrees, saying he is living proof of the possibility of change:
“I am now a heterosexual man in a loving and healthy marriage, it is possible, but some people just don’t put in the effort to change, it makes me sad.”
The Living Waters program was once offered as a referral service for the Hillsong church, this ceased when the church changed its official position on reparative therapy.
Despite this, Ron Brookman claims that the Church continues to have a good relationship with his program and still makes referrals.
Hillsong denies this and said in a statement: “Neither Pastor Brian Houston nor Hillsong Church have ever supported Living Waters. Under Pastor Brian’s leadership, it has been made clear to all the pastoral team that they are not to refer people to such programs. We are unaware of what Mr Brookman is referring to”.
The Australian Psychological Society’s official position on reparative therapy is that it is unlikely to cause a permanent change in sexual orientation and can cause psychological and emotional damage to those being treated.