Leaving the homosexual lifestyle, becoming ex-gay, overcoming same-sex attractions – whatever you call it – seems to be the only unacceptable behaviour on the sexuality spectrum these days. MercatorNet asked Christopher Doyle, a Washington based professional counsellor and former homosexual, about belonging to an oppressed minority group in an era of sexual liberation.
Q: Could we first be clear about the term “ex-gay”: does it refer to people (men and women) who no longer feel attracted to people of the same sex? Or does it mean people who have given up homosexual relationships but who might still feel same-sex attraction?
A: “Ex-gay” is a sexual identity, just like “straight” or “gay” or “lesbian” or “transgender”. Sexual identity is completely subjective and self-chosen, meaning, people can label themselves how they want, while sexual orientation or preference is typically not chosen. Some people who experience unwanted same-sex attractions do not feel the “gay” label fits them, so they may prefer to call themselves “former homosexuals” or “ex-gays” as a way to identify themselves.
However, because of the huge stigma and shame involved in publicly declaring that one has left homosexuality, there are tens of thousands of ex-gays that simply don’t declare themselves as such. These individuals may fall all along a continuum or spectrum of same-sex attractions, or may have completely resolved their unwanted homosexual feelings. It’s hard to generalize because each person is unique.
Q: In September the third annual Ex-Gay Awareness Month Conference will be held in Washington, D.C. How important are such events for people wanting to leave a homosexual lifestyle and those who already have left?
A: It’s very important to set aside times of recognition and celebration, because that’s how you get your message out into the public and gain recognition. The more acceptable it becomes to leave homosexuality, the more people will feel comfortable in identifying themselves “ex-gays” and attend such events.
Q: How would you describe the level of awareness of ex-gays in the US? Are such people ever featured in the media?
A: Unfortunately, the mainstream media is hostile to our experiences and the public is regularly indoctrinated by gay activists, who typically malign us and use stereotypes to paint a bleak picture of anyone who chooses to leave homosexuality. Ironically, this was the pitfall of the LGBT movement 20-30 years ago, and now, the tables are turned and they are using the same tactics they once fought against to oppress the ex-LGBT community.
For many of us, leaving homosexuality is not easy and it comes with an array of intimidation tactics when we go public. It kind of feels like the line in the Eagles’ song “Hotel California”: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”
Q: What is the attitude of the LGBT movement to ex-gays? What about the wider community – how do others react to someone they know was homosexual?
A: Generally, I have very civil and good conversations when I speak with members of the LGBT community about my experiences and work. Not only do I work with clients who seek to resolve unwanted same-sex attractions, but I have many clients that are gay or transgender-identified and seek help with other issues.
I don’t moralize in dealing with those who experience sexual issues, and work with the client’s goals. That’s why I call my counselling “Sexual Identity Affirming Therapy”. Clients bring both internal and external issues that are getting in the way of them being their true, authentic self, and I work with them to achieve those goals – whether it’s to resolve unwanted sexual feelings, or in the case of a gay or transgender person — to resolve conflicts with family or issues that are difficult to deal with, both within themselves and with others.
However, when it comes to talking with gay activists, that’s a completely different story. They are completely intolerant of my work and experience, and regularly write vicious articles or tweets about me and my work, usually without even talking to me. It’s an “us vs. them” mentality, so they have no interest in real dialogue. I am their enemy, so they attack me so they can raise money and advocate for their political interests.
Q: Are the families of these people typically happy, or confused when one of their own leaves the homosexual lifestyle?
A: That’s an interesting question. In my experience, most families want the best for their children and desire for them to be happy and healthy. If their values are against homosexuality and their child or family member experiences those feelings, there will be a struggle in the family.
Some of the most satisfying work I do is through family healing sessions, where I help families identify issues within the family that are causing pain and hurt and help them heal. Usually the family will come to me with a gay or lesbian-identified child, but after consultation, they realize there are many unresolved issues within themselves and others in the family, so they will come to me for a two-day intensive, or fly me out to work with them.
These sessions are worth years of psychotherapy and are really powerful! It’s amazing – when you work with families who experience similar dynamics, it’s not hard to diagnose the problems and help them get on a road to healing rather quickly. This is a real passion of mine.
Q: Could you tell us something about your personal journey?
A: Absolutely! I grew up in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My father worked in the steel mills until they closed in the late 70’s and my mother was a home maker. Both of them grew up in abusive, alcoholic homes and never healed from the hurts from their families of origin. That had a profound impact on me.
My mother was a deeply devoted Christian woman, but was extremely wounded and always relied on me to care for her emotional needs, and my father was a good upstanding man in the community, but due to the physical abuse in his home, he learned to survive by shutting off his feelings. That made it extremely difficult for me to bond with him, and as a sensitive boy, I was over attached to the needs of my mother.
Then at eight years old, I was sexually abused by an older female cousin, which totally threw me into a state of confusion. Add in the fact that my older brother was the star baseball player I could never live up to, and the recipe for same-sex attraction was there. I spent about 15 years taking part in dangerous sexual encounters with guys, in most of which I never wore a condom. However, God was gracious and spared me the physical consequences of those choices.
When I was 23, I moved down to Washington, DC and for the first time, formed healthy relationships with the men at my church. Counselling to heal the wounds of sexual abuse, and years of 12-step support groups helped me in my journey. Then about nine years ago, I met my wife in our church’s choir (she is a professional music teacher and opera singer) and within eight months, we were married. Today, we have three beautiful biological children and this summer we are adopting two children from China. I am truly living my dream.
Q: Aren’t some people born gay?
A: While there has been 25 years of research and hundreds of millions spent to study this issue, scientists have failed to discover a credible biological link for the development of same-sex attractions (SSA). I personally believe that a person’s sensitive temperament, which is biological, will make them susceptible to developing SSA, but this is a pre-inclination, not a pre-determination.
Our biology and genetics have little to do with our sexual behaviour. We are all created male or female. No one is born gay or straight, it’s a combination of temperament + environment + family + bonding/attachment that determine our sexual feelings, which are largely unconscious.
Q: Professional help for people with unwanted same-sex attraction is typically referred to in the media as “conversion therapy”. Does this describe what you offer?
A: “Conversion therapy” is a term coined by gay activists to plant the idea in the public’s mind that we are “converting” gay people. Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of my clients come to me and say, “My sexual identity is heterosexual, but I have unwanted SSA that I believe is caused by such and such issues…” and when we help the clients resolve those issues, homosexual feelings decrease and sometimes completely go away.
The reason is that same-sex attractions have meaning. They will remain until the individual discovers the meaning of them and fulfils them in legitimate, non-sexual ways. You cannot “pray away” or “deliver” a wound or unresolved issue — that’s why simply acts of deliverance or prayer do not work, and that’s primarily why certain religious programs have failed. They were trying to solve an emotional issue with a spiritual solution only. In my personal and professional experience, this does not work.
Q: The Southern Poverty Law Center has a legal suit against the Jewish group JONAH, which offers therapy to those unhappy with their homosexuality. Is this just another attempt to discredit any therapy geared to overcoming homosexuality, or are there some legitimate concerns about the way things were done in particular cases?
A: I just wrote an op-ed in The Christian Post. It would take me 1,000 words to answer this question, which I do in the Christian Post op-ed.
Q: Is the trend towards legalising same-sex marriage making it easier or harder for people to leave a homosexual lifestyle they no longer feel comfortable with?
A: That’s hard to say, and depends on the person. People who seek counselling to resolve unwanted same-sex attractions typically do not identify as “gay” so the idea of “gay marriage” is not something that is attractive to them. If anything, I have seen a sharp increase in youth who want to resolve these feelings because the political aspects of homosexuality are so “in your face” in that they suggest that the only option is to embrace and live a gay life. Young and informed Christians are not as naive as we would think, and are seeking the truth. There is something about the modern gay rights movement that smells phony to them, and for those who truly see behind the lies of gay activists will find the help they need.
The challenge, of course, is the power of the gay activists and their attempt shut down therapy for minors. This is why it’s so important we oppose these laws. Hitler and Nazi Germany knew that to win the revolution, they had to indoctrinate their youth. We are seeing the same type of campaign by the modern day gay rights movement: “Believe what we tell you blindly, and if you disagree, you are homophobic, ignorant and stupid, and must be eliminated.”
Q: Do ex-gays want or need official recognition of their status – for example, inclusion in official information and education programmes about sexual orientation?
A: Of course, but with the current level of intolerance in our society, this is not happening. Gay activists love to talk about sexual fluidity, but only if it suits their political agenda. If someone experiences change from homosexual to heterosexual, it’s intolerable. If you try to debate the science, they will dismiss or downplay one hundred years and hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles that shows people experience change. They usually resort to character assassination and insults. But if you really know what the science says, there’s nothing they can do to dispute the facts.
No one is born gay, people don’t simply choose to be gay, and change is possible. For more information on the science, Google “My Genes Made Me Do It!” by New Zealand researcher Neil Whitehead and visit our website at:www.ComingOutLoved.com
Christopher Doyle, MA, LCPC is a licensed clinical professional counsellor based in Washington, DC. He counsels men and women with sexual orientation issues, as well as the parents and families of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning persons, and children with unwanted same-sex attractions (LGBTQU). He is the Director of the International Healing Foundation through which he co-facilitates groups and seminars. He is a published author and expert in adolescent sexual health, and his work has featured in a wide range of media.