“My improper sexual passions were gone” A post by K.Z. Snow

Thus writes a man in a personal testimonial on the website of Exodus Global Alliance, an avowedly Christian gateway to freedom from homosexuality. According to EGA, “155 million homosexuals [worldwide] need to be reached.” Of course, there are two words missing from this assertion: “… and changed.”
I can’t recall exactly when I became aware of the ex-gay movement, but its existence has galled me for years. Delving into it further led me to write Jude in Chains.  Published by Dreamspinner Press, the novella is first and foremost a romance, and one with touches of humor, but it does examine the ex-gay movement via a fictitious, nonsectarian ministry. So … soapbox, meet love story. :-) The combination proved to be a delicate balancing act.
The notion of sexual reorientation likely seems ludicrous to you. Sad to say, it doesn’t to many organizations whose sole and determined purpose is to unqueer queers. Their methods range from prayer to “reparative therapy” to, in the most extreme cases, relentless browbeating and brainwashing. I couldn’t find any statistical breakdown of how many people have successfully — at least in their eyes — adopted straightness, how many considered themselves emotionally damaged by an ex-gay group, and how many were “healed” (yes, that term is used frequently) but subsequently “relapsed.” Even more difficult to determine is how many ex-gays are struggling with ongoing repression and denial even as they strive to appear happily hetero.
Exodus is the granddaddy of the ex-gay movement. According to Wikipedia, it’s “an umbrella organization that has grown to include over 120 local ministries in the United States and Canada and over 150 ministries in 17 other countries. Although Exodus is formally an interdenominational Christian entity, it is most closely associated with Protestant and evangelical denominations.” But don’t assume Protestant fundamentalists are the only crusaders for this cause. The Jews have JONAH, Roman Catholics have the Courage Apostolate, Mormons have Evergreen International, and Muslims have the UK-based StraightWay Foundation. Homophobia has gone ecumenical.
Viewing same-sex attraction and gender fluidity as aberrant behavior did not begin with the formation of Exodus International in 1976. For decades, mental health professionals also considered non-hetero sexuality a sign of dysfunction. It wasn’t until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association saw the error of its ways and declassified homosexuality as a psychological disorder.
But the ex-gay movement marches on. At one Internet site, I found a roster of 23 ministries and organizations devoted specifically to queer reformation. There are undoubtedly many more. They spread their word via websites and blogs, conferences, seminars, retreats, and countless publications. One of the most insidious that isn’t specifically church-related is PFOX (Parents and Friends of ExGays and Gays), an alleged advocacy group. What’s so perplexing about their particular mission is that ex-gays — who are, at least theoretically, straight — shouldn’t require advocacy any more than any other heterosexuals. What person has ever been discriminated against, persecuted, or attacked specifically because s/he is straight?
On the bright side, some progress toward reason has been made, as this article http://www.advocate.com/article.aspx?id=22549 seems to indicate. Unfortunately, for every high-profile organization that modifies its stance, a slew of other, usually smaller and even more conservative groups and churches continue to decry trans, bi, and homosexuality.  These are lifestyle choices born of moral corruption and mental confusion, insist the judges, and they must be rejected. You gotta beat the Devil, damn it.
There’s no doubt many GLBT men and women, particularly young people and individuals with strong religious convictions, do indeed agonize over their orientation. But there are many affirmative roads to self-understanding and -acceptance. Following are some links if you’d like to begin exploring positive alternatives to the ex-gay message:
Peace and love,


  • Lots of interesting info there KZ. I have heard of this stuff happening but never really looked into it. It just seems so whack to me that I didn’t see it as a legitimate thing. But I forget that so many people will push family members to participate. I can’t imagine someone convincing me that I am gay, to “force” me to accept a woman lover so doing the reverse just seems so out there and unrealistic.

    I’d like to believe that the people they are targetting (families and gay people themselves) is a very smal percentage of the world. I’m not sure if they are growing or shrinking, I’d like to think the latter as I HOPE acceptance of GLBT people becomes more mainstream, but perhaps I live in my little bubble of bliss in Canada.

    Thanks for the education hon. :-)

    • Tam

      >>I’d like to think the latter as I HOPE acceptance of GLBT people becomes more mainstream, but perhaps I live in my little bubble of bliss in Canada. << When I read this piece the first time I thought “this can’t be happening today” but I did some research on the links provided and to my surprise we really live in a little bubble in some parts of the world e.g. Canada. For a more realistic (and horrific) assessment of this “movement” that will open your eyes as it did mine, see the comment below from George Allwynn.

    • Hiya, Tam. Believe it or not, Canada isn’t totally immune from this insanity, although it’s likely far more progressive than the US. I’m not a historian, so I can’t explain why the ugliest forms of conservatism have sunk so deeply into our social consciousness. Perhaps our Puritan roots are to blame.

  • Nice piece, KZ.

    This topic has been an issue with me as well. Over 15 years ago, I became heavily involved with a church. It was a period in my life where I was very vulnerable and convinced myself all would be right in the world if I confessed and started life all over.

    In order to ‘atone’ for my sins, I had to give up my natural inclinations, as well as my writing and drawing (as it was heavily homeric influenced.) I never went through the hell that I’ve heard/read other GLBTs have gone through, but years after I allowed myself to be sucked into the church, I started to realize things weren’t right.

    Yet I continued to go with the plan, fighting myself, because I didn’t want to disappoint those around me or fail once again in my life. It was like being in the closet all over again, but this time, more was at stake. I was a licensed Chaplain and I enjoyed helping people.

    Needless to say, I found the courage (through anger) to shake the dust off my sandals and turn my back on the man-made institution. I still have a spiritual life, but it does not reflect the way modern Christianity has perverted things. I may not be a Chaplain anymore, but I still help people in the time of need.

    Gay Camp deprogramming is a terrible thing.

    Not only do the authorities in charge resort to the horrible things you mentioned, add to the list other atrocities such as starvation, sleep depravation, electric shock therapy, drugs (including sal peter) and in some cases, sexual assault/rape.

    All these prisoner of war tactics are performed ‘In the name of God’. When released from such conditions (which usually takes anywhere from 6 to 9 months) the ‘convert’ is so shell shocked and weary, they’ll ‘go with the program’ to avoid further trauma.

    Later, as the true biological feelings return, such symptoms as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, depression, suicide and even personality disorders come to the surface because of the brutality suffered at the hands of ‘soul savers.’

    The ‘convert’ is afraid to ask for help (even in secular circles,) because in their mind, there is always the possibility of being sent ‘back’ to be ‘cleansed’ again.

    Around the turn of 2003, Focus on the Family had a shake up at their headquarters. The man (an ex-gay himself) in charge of their homosexual clean-up program, ‘fell from grace’ and was caught acting out with teen boys (I don’t think they were underage though.)

    Sorry I became long-winded. I loved this piece – I love your writing, KZ – and I adore this blog. Keep up the great work!

    • George
      I had to respond even though I know that K.Z. will do so when she reads your comment.

      I can’t believe that you went through all that you did and are still sane today. These deprogramming camps are horrific, and as you said, some of the people who get sucked in, especially by Churches, end up with PTSD and other mental illnesses because they either believed these godless monsters or were too tired to fight any more.

      These organizations really give a new name to man’s inhumanity to man and I still can’t believe how many parents willingly force their children into the clutches of these perverts.

      I’m so glad that you are now a different person, are well, and that you accept yourself for who you are. Take care.

    • Thank you *so* much for sharing your experiences and knowledge, George, and showing both the most horrific and most hopeful ends of the spectrum. The only way to combat the destructive ignorance of these “reformative” organizations is through enlightenment.

      I’m thrilled you were ultimately able to tap your reserve of courage. Kudos for helping others do the same.

  • Excellent – and scary – post, KZ. I don’t live in Canada, so I have to create my own little bubble of bliss. I am always appalled by people who do harm in God’s name.

    • Wren
      We have our own problems here – I found a group in Western Canada a few days ago and I’m sure there are others, so we’re by no means immune. You’re right, this is really scary

  • Very interesting article, KZ (plus comment by George). Makes you wonder what Jesus would have had to say about all this if he came back today. I mean, imagine if these “godly” people chose to channel all this energy into something that would actually do some good such as combating world hunger, doing fund-raising to get scholarship money for inner city kids, or meditating on their own imperfections.

  • Very interesting post KZ and a touchy subject. It never seizes to amaze me what is done in the name of the Lord. Especially when they think they are right. Don’t they know God can make up his own mind? (no offense to Christians)

    I can’t begin to imagine what gays go through who go to such a camp, no matter if they go voluntarily or are forced. It mostly comes down to not being accepted. The world would be such a better place if we can just accept people for who and what they are and not force them to be something they are not.

    George: *hugs* thank you for telling us your story!

  • Sadly, I know people who believe that gays can have “the sin prayed out of them.” Funny, they claim not to know any gays personally. Hmm….nice blinders they’ve got there. Okay, giving benefit of doubt, say they really don’t know any. Would I listen to someone claiming to be an expert on, say cars, if they also claim they’ve never actuallly seen one? Same applies here.

    These people believe that unless you are like them you’re going to Hell. Down to the last one of them, I can tell you, that I think they need to sweep around their own doorstep before they look at anyone’s else. And I, too, have scriptures to back that up.

    I am blessed to know gay believers, who have no trouble reconciling the word with their lives. Theirs is a message of hope, love, and acceptance. They are balm to the soul.

    Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no biblical scholar (or appliance repairman), but the way I see it, if you open your refrigerator, cold should come out; your oven, warmth. So if you say you’re filled with the divine spirit who is the epitome of love and acceptance, and you open your mouth and out comes hate and persecution, well, like a frig that spews heat, you may need to have that looked at.

    You’ll find me in the south, fighting the good fight – one kind word at a time.

    • Beautiful post, Winn. It gently cut right to the heart of the issue.

      I hope your kind words don’t continually fall on deaf ears. But, alas, bigotry seems so ingrained in human nature (and particularly in religious belief), many struggles for acceptance will be neverending. We can only do what we can do.

  • First, let me suggest a video:
    “Doin’ Time at the Homo No Mo’ Halfway House” is a one-man show by Peterson Toscano, who spent 30 years trying to de-gay himself.
    The basic premise of these programs is that people aren’t gay. They simply do gay things. You can’t repent and be saved of your identity. You can only be saved from your actions. So no, in their world, there are no gay people.
    We used to have one of these places here in town. Our earliest intro to the local GLBT community was the summer our oldest and Zach Stark came out. Zach’s parents packed him off to this place. We protested on the sidewalk with our daughter.

    Ex-gay is often pushed by relatives, because they are ashamed and horrified.
    My Mudd, protesting outside an Exodus conference.

    My Bun, protesting at the Love in Action ex-gay program, during the Summer of Zach.

  • George: Thanks for sharing your story. It boggles my mind and makes me wonder how to go about getting such places shut down for human rights violations…

  • Great post, KZ, and thank you so much for sharing your story, George.

    I’m horrified and saddened by what people can do to others in the name of faith. I feel that way even more so when it comes to such issues as homosexuality, which is NOT a lifestyle choice but a fundamental part of the make-up a person.

    The ex-gay movement is a heartbreaking one in my opinion. Why some believers are unwilling to accept that God has created all kinds in this world is something that I’ll never understand.

  • Great post, KZ. Disturbing in many ways, but great. And George, thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m sure it wasn’t as easy as it might seem when one is reading it. *nods*

    I’m baffled by the concept of what some people will do and excuse themselves for doing “in God’s name.” I am. I’m also incredibly angry that people of various religious groups (not just Christians) either don’t know the bible or don’t care that they’re picking and choosing which of “God’s words” are valid.

    “Homosexuality is an abomination.” Yes, the bible says this in Leviticus. It also says that eating shrimp is an Abomination. Shaving one’s face is an Abomination. Vegetable gardens. Wearing linen and wool at the same time. Pork. Bunnies. Ground meat. The list goes on — all in Leviticus and ALL named Abominations, without any sort of classification system. According to God, they’re all equally abominable.

    I guess what I’m saying is… when someone comes along who has never eaten shellfish or bacon, never grown a single plant, never shaved their face, never worn a cotton shirt with a wool jacket and never had a burger tells me that homosexuality is a law of God that shouldn’t be broken, I’ll at least listen to them. I’ll still think they’re nuts, though.

    So when any group decides what God does and doesn’t mean, then forces people — through family pressure or just plain threats of Hell or something — into trying to change what is a fundamental part of themself, I find it offensive. And wrong. And evil… and NOT something that should be allowed. Ever.

    Sorry, I think I went off on a tangent or twelve. Didn’t mean to, but this whole idea just pisses me off. The fact that it’s actually happening makes me ill.

    Good post, though, and thanks for putting up those links! :)


  • Huh…looks like the internetz ate my original comment.

    I don’t care what religious convictions or good intentions these people believe they have, their actions are evil. That might sound strong, but I know it’s true – it’s the same insidious and awful evil that has allowed man to perpetrate genocide and torture and all the atrocities that we abhor since the beginning of time. This evil is so simple and yet so terrible: the belief that it’s all right to treat another person as less than human because they’re different.

    This is never acceptable. Never, never, ever. There can be no justification for it. No Bible scripture strong enough to make it okay. If you believe in God, then you ought to believe that the decisions are his. He created us all and he will either forgive or condemn us. It’s not for humans to do.

    This ‘reparative therapy’ strikes me as very similar to the sickening operations that doctors perpetrated on epileptics or women who left their husbands in the last century: lobotomies, electro-shock, even ‘ducking’. They believed that it was better to destroy someone completely than to allow them to live a life that was outside the ‘normal’.

    It makes me very sad and tired to think that despite the passage of time, we’ve changed so little.

    Thanks for making me aware, K. Z.

  • Ya’ll make some excellent points. I once read the whole chapter that the “abomination” passage is in, and by the time I got to that specific verse I’d already found myself guilty of several abominations of my own, plus two stoning offenses. And let’s be honest, some of those offenses will be repeated in the future. So you’ll understand why I feel very strongly about the “not judging” thing.

    My heart goes out to anyone who’s been harmed by someone else’s misguided intentions.

  • Thanks KZ for this informative (and very disturbing) post. I feel like I’ve been living in my own little bubble: I was quite stunned when reading your post although I’m aware that such “camps/institutions” exist. It just always seems to be so very unreal because it’s so terribly wrong and inhumane and absurd. So seeing evidence presented left me speechless.

    Yeah, I can’t really express my feelings about this, but every time I start thinking about “institutionalized religion” I tend to loose my countenance and start ranting.

    So let me just say thank you to everybody who shared their experiences and feelings. You all made some excellent points, there’s nothing much to add, I guess.

  • Yesterday was Exodus’s “Day of Truth” a counter protest to the GLSEN Day of Silence today.

    Your dose of irony: the male founders of Exodus left the movement and married each other.

    I have my own thoughts on Christianity and GLBT folks. They aren’t positive, so I’m not sharing.

    Looks like the pictures got eaten.
    Mudd here, protesting on a bitter day:

    Bun, age 13, outside of Love In Action/Refuge, rather than inside it, being brainwashed.

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