Friday, June 17, 2011

Ex-gays and Mental Health

This article was written by a friend of mine, Benoit Denizet-Lewis. We play on the softball team together. (And by play, I usually mean, I sit on the bench and watch Neil, Benoit, and the rest of the team play). I read it yesterday, and wanted some time to think about it. I didn't think I would blog about it at all. To be honest, the whole 'ex-gay' mess is something I just don't want to touch. The psyche is a delicate, yet powerful thing. It has always been my philosophy that if you are attracted to men, there's really nothing you can do to change that. If you're attracted to women, there's nothing you can do to change that. The only choice involved in sexual orientation is whether or not one 'chooses' to live a happy life going with their orientation, or a not-so-happy and potentially miserable life going against it.

Anyway, with people like Michael Glatze, I don't know what to think. When I hear about ex-gays now, it is usually someone who 'struggled' with their same sex attractions and because of their religious convictions, cannot reconcile their natural inclinations with their faith. They then claim the label of 'ex-gay,' to prove to the world they have overcome their 'struggle,' though privately it never truly goes away.

Michael didn’t begin to question his life path, he told me, until a health scare in 2004 that led to what he calls his “spiritual awakening.” That year, when Michael was 29, he experienced a series of heart palpitations and became convinced that he suffered from the same congenital heart defect that killed his father when Michael was 13. (Michael lost both his parents young; his mother died of breast cancer when he was 19.) After tests eventually ruled out his father’s illness, Michael felt that he had escaped death and found himself staring “into the face of God.”
If I had to come to any conclusion, I think the health 'scare' really freaked him out. He was so confident in his 'gayness' before, I wonder if that flash of mortality made him want to find something more lasting, more secure. Eventually that led him to fundamental Christianity, the kind whose adherents can live nothing but their own interpretation, with no space for an outside view.

I'm too young to remember, but didn't the first crop of ex-gays come out (or should I say go back in) during the first HIV/AIDS scare? Nothing can make you re-think your life, like a close touch with death, and fear can be a very powerful motivator.

P.S. Another thought I had about this piece has to go with the mental health of those who feel they must struggle with their sexuality. I feel like counseling is an important part of the coming out processes, or just even understanding yourself better. This counseling has been hijacked by those who claim to be counseling those with same-sex attractions, and can actually help people out of them. (See for a lot more about this myth). I actually had a counselor whose creed entailed not encouraging any positive feelings toward affirmation in a gay identity, but encouraging any opposing feeling, either straighthood or anti-gay feelings (American Association of Christian Counselors). Those seeking counsel, including religious counsel, should know that God loves them, no matter who they are, who they love, or how they feel, and should be free to come to any conclusion they so desire without any influence of religious bias (one way or another). Mental health is more important. Here's a good follow up article by the New York Times.

1 comment:

  1. As a funny side note.. Christian counseling came up in the ads presented on the page.. more than one ad.
    I think that a number of things from this story. He seemed to be on the dogmatic fringe before just on the other spectrum. There is more to gender and sexuality than a cultural construct, believing such nonsense is a dogmatic refusal to believe mountains of opposing evidence.
    In his search for Truth he has lived a very confusing life. He seems opposed to living with his situation, in his situation. He was gay, so he had to be the fiercest advocate, to work and create queer publications. He couldn't simply be gay, and have that as a piece to the whole. He is living the same life now as a Christian. It has completely consumed his life, again unable to find any kind of balance in his existence. It has replaced gay in becoming his entire identity.
    I don't believe he knew who he is, or what kind of person he wants to be. To fill this void he immerses himself in a type of identity, completely.
    Perhaps one day he will find something new to embrace, engulfing himself in a new persona and a new life.