Home Forums Ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy survivor stories Conversion, prayer, faith, exorcisms, a program and 16 yrs married – still gay

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  • ABBIchatavb
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    Conversion, prayer, faith, exorcisms, a program and 16 yrs married – still gay

    Being one of the first in the world to experience gay conversion therapy, I guess it is only fitting that I write the first post.

    I am an ex-gay or conversion therapy survivor. I call myself that, as I know that not everyone comes out of these experiences unscathed. Many have been traumatised, developed mental health problems, and the most horrific result of all…….some have committed suicide. I’ve survived, I’m a totally out and very fulfilled gay man.

    Growing up as a teen in the 1960s and realising I was a homosexual was horrifying. Deviate and pervert were the words I found in the dictionary to describe what I was ‘becoming’. I could be sent to gaol or a mental institution should I ever be discovered. I learnt shame, guilt, and secrecy at an early age. My repeated attempts to stop having sex with men failed and in my final year at High School I attempted suicide and was seeing a psychiatrist. Even though it was 1968 and forms of aversion therapy were being used to ‘cure’ homosexuals, my psychiatrist didn’t use these methods and maybe would not have, considering I was only 17 at the time. My psychiatrist, parents and I felt that because I’d sort help so young, we had nipped the ‘condition’ in the bud. We were wrong.

    I turned to God believing He would help me. I became a zealous ‘born again’ Christian at 18 and soon after this discovered the charismatic movement and Pentecostalism. Surely now I had all the resources of heaven at my disposal to overcome my ‘sin’ and become ‘normal’. After all, that is what both God and I wanted. Lots of prayer, faith, believing, confessing, quoting scripture, reading scripture, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat……but could never really get free completely. My Christian life was a roller coaster.

    I went to Bible College in New Zealand in 1971 and on one of my downward spirals confessed to the principal I had a ‘homosexual problem’. He insisted that the reason I hadn’t been able to overcome was because I had demons controlling me. Over the next few weeks I travelled to Auckland for hours of exorcisms with Neville Johnson and Geoff Lloyd at Queen Street Assemblies of God. I honestly thought after all this that now I would be free. After all that is what everyone told me. The bible told me. Preachers told me.

    Then why, when I returned to Australia, did I find myself back in the same situation? The battle was constant, and I wasn’t winning. What would I do? It felt like I’d exhausted God’s patience with me and the longer I had this problem the harder it was going to be to rid myself of it. Obviously, the problem was with me, not God. I must be really evil, I must love my sin, I must have more doubt in the life than faith and trust in God.

    Before Exodus, before Love in Action, before the term ‘ex-gay’ was being used there was Christian residential program and church in Sydney Australia in the late 60s called Moombara and Bundeena Christian Fellowship. It was run by two female pastors, Shirley and Enid. The ministry specialised in working with drug addicts, prostitutes and homosexuals. It was my last….my only hope.

    I booked myself into the residential program in 1972. I was told it would take 2 years at least to turn straight. If you’ve seen Boy Erased, then Moombara was very much like Love in Action. Whereas Garrard Conley was in the trial preparation program living outside, I’d dived in boots and all after the initial screening interview.

    Like Love in Action, there were lots of rules. Firstly, articles of clothing were removed from my suitcase that were classed as ‘camp’ including bikini underwear. The leaders told me the reason I was gay was because of my family upbringing and that I needed to transform myself by dressing in a particular way and only doing only masculine tasks like manual maintenance work. A minder was assigned to look after me who would be a strong male role model and watch over me to ensure I didn’t masturbate. Exorcisms were also a part of the treatment but essentially the program was about renewing of the mind through several hours of bible reading every day, not placing myself in vulnerable places of temptation and then eventually I would develop heterosexual habits and thoughts that would come to the fore. Moombara believed that everyone was born naturally heterosexual and that homosexuality was a dysfunctional development that only God could heal you of.

    The program was oppressive and abusive which was intended to be a part of transforming me by dealing with my rebellion. I left the program after 6 months knowing there was still much work to do. I really believed that the only way I would ever be happy or acceptable to God and others was to be married and have children. This of course would also demonstrate that God had done a miracle and that I was now genuinely heterosexual. In 1974, I married believing this was the final step in me being an ex-gay. I had 16 wonderful years of marriage, two beautiful daughters and became a high-profile preacher in the megachurches of Australia as a popular evangelist and youth speaker.

    After 22 years of trying everything to change my sexual orientation, I was forced to face the fact that nothing had really changed when I fell in love with a man. It was like I’d been peddling on a stationary bike for 22 years and when I stopped peddling I was still in the same place. GAY. Denial, justification, and excuses had fed my false reality for way too long. My coming out at 40 was not pretty and it took me about another 8 years to get my life back on track.

    At 67, having lived through the ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy saga for decades both as a participant, observer, activist and worked with many survivors since 2000, I know a few things.
    1. No-one turns from gay to straight.
    2. Trying to change your orientation based on shame and desire to be accepted will harm you.
    3. Self-love is healthier than self-hatred, and self-rejection
    4. The longer you try to change from gay to straight the more damage you do to yourself.
    5. Ignorance, your own and others, about sexual orientation is your prison. Knowledge, love and support are your keys out.

    If you want to read about the exorcisms in Bible College you can do so here https://goo.gl/6jByBy
    If you want to read about the residential conversion therapy program I was in you can do so here https://goo.gl/x15ErB

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