When it comes to homosexuality, and gender dysmorphia we often hear about the dangers of therapy and forcing people to repress their attractions and gender identity. We often hear it is better to express same-sex attraction and to identify as the gender one wishes. These things are felt and decided by the individual and we should not change them. We hear that conversion therapy does not work, and is actually harmful. However, there are cases of those who have had a positive experience through such counseling and support. Recently I had been learning about an activist group known as Changed which shares testimonies of former LGBTQ individuals. They organized the Orlando Freedom March, and conducted a book distribution at the Capitol. I will try to succinctly summarize the stories I’ve read through.
Their website is filled with stories of individuals dealing with gender identity, past sexually active lifestyles, and homosexual attractions. They experienced bullying in school and were often friendless They felt profound confusion with their gender and/or their same-sex attractions. They felt misunderstood by others and by themselves. They also realized their previously immoral lifestyle was not giving them the happiness and love they were searching for. A support group and therapy sessions helped them understand and deal with their homosexual attractions. Afterwards they found themselves with heterosexual attraction, or with embracing their biological sex and gender. Some have even gotten married and started their own families.
Ken Williams, one of the leaders of this group said in his story that as a kid his effeminate mannerisms invited peers to call him “faggot” “homo” or shrimp”. He felt alone and dreaded and social interactions. He later began to experience same-sex attraction. He wrote that he was starving for masculinity, because he wasn’t around much of it. In his early teens, that need for masculinity became sexualized. At 17 he became suicidal and finally told his parents about his pain. He went through christian counseling and began to better understand his gender and same-sex attraction confusion. He eventually found himself no longer sexually attracted to men. He would later meet his future wife and now has 4 children.
A common thread seen in these is that many of the individuals were confused and frustrated with their attractions and identity. But they felt alone, and misunderstood in dealing with their inner struggles. On one hand, these individuals were often bullied for their homosexual lifestyles and their gender dysmporphia. On the other hand, they were encouraged to indulge in their gender confusion and/or homosexual lifestyles by LGBTQ+ friends. But this indulgence did not provide them genuine love and they still felt something was lacking. Neither fear tactics, nor indulgence granted them the peace they had been seeking their whole lives. In essence, they felt isolated, and misunderstood.
Another common mention is that many of these stories tell of the individuals having a deeper bond with their church community and a conversion towards Jesus Christ. Their website states that “all of us at CHANGED have experienced Jesus Christ’s unfailing love.” One could easily state that these stories are Christian propaganda promulgated to further a homophobic agenda. However, should we discredit one’s story because of their explicitly stated connection with Christianity? Would not silencing the voices and stories of these men and women create more misunderstanding, perpetuate more ignorance and thus repeat the issues they experienced in their childhood?
Many of Changed’s stories expressed a relief in reading stories about former gay/lesbian and ex-gender dismorphic persons struggling similarly to them. It made them realize there is hope. It made them realize change is possible. It also made them feel understood, and they are not alone. Perhaps right now, others with a similar struggle are feeling alone. Perhaps these people need to hear the stories shared by Changed too. Silencing ex-LGBTQ groups such as Changed will only perpetuate this loneliness and fear.
Now, therapy should not be forced on any individual struggling with same-sex attraction, or gender dysphoria. There is a great danger in coercing those we love. Additionally, it cannot be assumed that counseling will always help a person’s homosexual attractions or gender confusion. It is often the case that individual’s sexual orientation/ gender preference remains unchanged. But, above all, we need to listen deeply with those who have these types of struggles. We need to realize our common need for support and sympathy. The stories of these men and women need to be shared to the greater public. Their voices should not be silenced. Rather they should be included to further the discussion and research on human sexuality and gender. I encourage you to explore their website and share it with others, especially to those who may feel alone in dealing with these issues.
CHANGED Movement. Changed #Oncegay stories. Available at: <https://changedmovement.com> (Accessed 7 November 2019)