My life is over. Somehow I’m born this way. I cannot change. I’m totally unacceptable to God and the “church” and destined for hell because of who I am.

Before 1990, I was a youth leader in a few different NSW church youth groups. I asked the senior leadership about homosexuality. They made it VERY clear they believed it an unacceptable “choice” and told me to pray, deny any sexual thoughts and just be celibate. As an impressionable 18-year-old who wanted to do the right thing, this drove me to deny my sexuality and hide it for the next two years. This laid the foundation for many years of shame.

When I was 21, I joined a youth missions organisation. When I confessed the struggles about my sexuality, the leadership gathered around laying hands on me, forcefully praying and telling me to cough to help expel the “demon of homosexuality”. I went along, believing  they knew best. Nothing changed, and I became increasingly depressed.

With a strong desire to serve God, I moved to a Bible College and community in rural NSW, where, once again, I continued to hide my sexuality and really struggled internally with who I am. Eventually I came out to the leadership that I was struggling with same-sex-attraction. As a result, for the next two years, I had a lot of one-on-one counselling to control my thoughts and change my sexuality to become straight.

Early in 1995, I started travelling to Adelaide fortnightly for a group therapy program specifically to make me straight. Feeling I needed to work on this harder, I moved to Adelaide to focus completely on doing everything possible to change. There were 15 gay guys in our group, doing Bible study and learning how we might control our thoughts and change our character to be “godlier”. Godlier meant that eventually we’d become heterosexual, as promised. The group sessions were a mix of psychology, the Living Waters program from the USA, created by Andy Comisky (an “ex-gay”) and  the 12 steps for Alcoholics Anonymous. Many people dropped out as time went on, but I stuck with it until 2001. When the group fell apart, I gave up. Near the end, the group leader said to me privately, while the original intent was to change my sexuality, it’s probably too late or difficult for me now and I should just aim to be celibate for the rest of my life. The thought of having to be alone all my life made me even more depressed.

My life is over. Somehow I’m born this way. I cannot change. I’m totally unacceptable to God and the “church” and destined for hell because of who I am.

Despite my desperate prayers for God to change me, and struggling for more than a decade, my sexual orientation was still gay, and I became extremely depressed again. My depression lasted a decade and resulted in days of not being able to get out of bed and sometimes crying for hours. Many times, I was just giving up on life, as there was no reason to live anymore. My life is over. Somehow I’m born this way. I cannot change. I’m totally unacceptable to God and the “church” and destined for hell because of who I am, I thought.

Eventually, I found a church that was welcoming and affirming of all LGBTQ people. It was such a relief to find a community of Christians where I could thrive and live authentically.

This has not washed away the trauma, however. I still lack confidence and question many things I think and do, as I had been told for many years, the very core of who I am is wrong. For me, this is now a long process to recover from the mental hurt and abuse. I also still experience some anxiety and am triggered easily in some situations.

People in churches can believe whatever they like, but when they force that belief on other young and impressionable LGBTQ people, making them fit into a cultural view which doesn’t accept them, it’s harmful and dangerous. Because they can’t change their biological makeup, the “church” cuts them off or demoralises them, driving them to depression and sometimes suicide as their hopes are dashed repeatedly. LGBTQ people need to be protected from these harmful practices.

Considering the years of struggle and trauma, and the dark places I often went to; I consider myself fortunate to still be around. The outcome could have been very different. And even more  importantly, I wouldn’t have wasted all those years if I’d been told in my late teens, “You’re okay. God loves you just as you are”.

Russell…..a survivor

More information about so called “conversion therapy’ HERE

More conversion “therapy” survivor stories HERE

Anthony Venn-Brown says: “I’ve been hearing stories like this for 23 years now. I want these to stop. We can’t legislate to change an outdated, ill-informed religious belief about sexuality and gender identity, but we can create awareness and pass laws that protect vulnerable LGBTQ people from harm. You can help create awareness by sharing this story and also signing the Equality Australia’s petition in support of Alex Greenwich’s Equality Bill.”

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