Home Forums Ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy survivor stories The Exclusive Brethren tried – and failed – to turn me straight

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  • Author
  • Craig
    Post count: 1

    They told me to never accept myself for who I was.

    That was 10 years ago. As a frightened teenager I had confessed my sexuality to the local priests in my Exclusive Brethren church, believing they could help turn me straight. I knew I was gay, and also knew that was wrong – or so I thought at the time.

    The Brethren leaders spent more than a year trying to change my sexuality. The priests prayed with me and encouraged me to write down all my sinful thoughts and actions. But even though I followed their instructions my sexuality did not change, and it felt like things were actually getting worse.

    When I was 18 I was sent to live for a few months in Sydney. The world leader of the church is based there, and he recommended I see a local Brethren doctor. That doctor, Mark Craddock, told me homosexuality was one of the emptiest lives possible. He then prescribed a hormonal suppressant drug to eliminate any sexual feelings. The church reasoning seemed to be that if my sexuality had not yet been changed, it could be suppressed altogether, at least temporarily. (The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission later investigated Dr Craddock and found him guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct.)

    Taking the drugs felt wrong, although at the time I also believed I should follow the instructions of the church leaders. After a few weeks I wrote a letter to Bruce Hales, the world leader, telling him I had stopped taking the drugs because I thought I’d be ok now that I’d received help. Secretly, I began to admit to myself that it was unlikely my sexuality would ever change.

    The next year, at the age of 19, I decided to leave the Exclusive Brethren church. I knew that if I stayed in their community I would end up being pressured to marry a woman and raise a family of my own. That would have meant living a lie, and I realised the longer I stayed in the church the more people I’d risk hurting when I decided to leave.

    Leaving the church was the worst experience of my life. My parents threw me out of their home, and every single Brethren person I knew cut me off as though I had died. My friends, family, job – all gone. I walked past my grandma in town not long afterwards and she ignored me. We had been very close, and it hurt like crazy to realise that was over.

    But I was lucky. The Brethren may have abandoned me but the gay community welcomed me with open arms. A couple I barely knew invited me to stay with them for a month and helped me get back on my feet. There was an outpouring of support from people who stepped up to replace the friends and family I’d left behind.

    Not long after leaving the church my story was featured in a 60 Minutes documentary. The producer and reporter took a strong interest in my life, and suggested I become a journalist. 60 Minutes supported my application to study journalism and gave me work as a first-year student. Since then I’ve worked as a journalist across radio and television, and also as a senior reporter for Fairfax. I’ve interviewed prime ministers and celebrities and travelled the world. My life is light-years away from my previous experience growing up in the Exclusive Brethren. I’m thankful every day that I took that leap of faith and left the church.

    Over the years I’ve heard from a number of people who are still Exclusive Brethren. Most feel trapped, and are desperate for a better life. They don’t believe the church’s teachings but fear the consequences of walking away. I avoid telling them to leave – that’s their decision, and it’s one they need to make for themselves. But I tell them how much happier I’ve been since leaving the Brethren behind.

    You can’t put a price on being true to yourself.

    Post count: 21

    Hi Craig. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I went through all kinds of emotions while reading it. I felt so angry with how the church treated you and controlled you. I’m angry that this sort of treatment still exists.
    It must have been devastating to be shunned and rejected by your family. I can’t even imagine how this must feel.
    You knew who you were, the whole time, and stuck to that truth. You are living true to yourself.
    Well done.

    Post count: 18

    Hi Craig,
    Welcome to our family forum.
    I read your story this morning while having brekkie
    And still trying to filter what you have experienced in your life.

    While living in London I was involved in a religious cult for 5 yrs and the spiritual and emotional abuse was horrific.
    Returning home in the early 90s I was 8 stone my ribs were showing I looked like something out of a horror film.

    I have never felt so accepted as a person within the LGBTIQ Family and as we all let go of our past, which is not easy but embrace our true identity.
    And show love and compassion to others the foundations of false teaching will crumble.

    I thankyou Craig for the man that you are and your openess and honesty.

    Welcome home

    Anthony Venn-Brown OAM
    Post count: 26

    Hi Craig….thanks so much for sharing your story here. I will never forget the first time we met and you and the TV camera crew were being chased by the Exclusive Brethren and we finally got to meet up at the Police Station in the city. It is challenging for all of us from faith backgrounds. …..even more so if you’ve been part of a cult like the Exclusive Brethren. Lets hope that any other young gay, lesbian or trans youth find hope reading your story here. Thanks again my friend……you’ve done well.

    Sue G
    Post count: 14

    Wow, amazing story, Craig. You must have great internal fortitude to be able to leave at such a young age. It’s criminal, the way such cults brainwash young people and make them feel terrible. It happened to me, too.Thanks for sharing.

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