Updated: Apr 29, 2020
On the first Wednesday of the month, we publish blog posts written by members of our Generous Space Community. This piece was written by an anonymous member of the community.
We share this difficult story to continue to emphasize the need to put an end to conversion therapy (sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts – SOGICE). For more information, see our Pastors Stopping the Harm campaign page.
I cannot imagine how anyone not a victim of conversion therapy (SOGICE) could relate to the havoc it wreaks.
How terrible it must be for those who suffered under electroshocks, aversion therapies, and many other repulsive invasions! What a horrible thought.
Torture comes to mind.
The conversion therapy I paid for rooted me over a decade and a half in a daily routine of intense scripture study and fervent prayers, twenty-four-hour fasting breaks foregoing both food and liquid every two weeks, monetary offerings, ten percent of my gross annual income, clothing, volunteering at meetings, teaching, helping people in their homes, visiting the sick and elderly, organizing and attending activities, attending organizational development sessions, building hobbies around church teachings — all this and more with a prize in mind.
The church I belonged to facilitated the therapy, and reinforced its teachings with a full circle of activities that extended exclusive promises to married heterosexuals. Everything around me pointed to the ideal, the heterosexual family as the only goal worth striving towards, the ultimate expression of one’s conversion, while banishment a priori came to those who perverted the exclusivity of heterosexual love. My motivation was twofold.
My daily routine, commitments, the content I read, everyone I saw outside of the office, and everything else around me reinforced the therapy’s lessons. So lingers my fear of divine retribution.
Nothing like the church has consumed so much of my time, focus, money, energy, and effort. The stakes were high. Nobody should ever have to hear that their LGTBQ2+ life, any laudable accomplishment notwithstanding, results in their banishment from heaven in what ultimately amounts to an arbitrary exile. Yet despite this injustice, through it all I had no greater desire than being all I had been asked to be, and becoming what I had been promised.
The church social worker who treated me for three years taught me that healing would be the reward of my obedience. Other men and women had experienced this miracle themselves. They stopped questioning their sexuality and never again believed that there was something inherently wrong with them.
This was exactly what I had been looking for all along. I had issues being gay and had been promised healing. I too desired to never again feel that my sexuality did not belong in the world around me. “You will learn to love a woman as you have never loved anyone before.” That was it! Finally I would be like everyone else and qualify for heaven’s embrace.
Of course the therapy did not produce the promised results — not to say that it had no impact, quite the opposite. Its sequelae are disastrous. Though I am physically healthy, try to work, exercise, spend time with my kids, try to live a balanced life — nothing I do or have done, and regardless of the help I receive, nothing displaces my chronic state of depression. I struggle under the crushing weight of a world of doubts, fears, and self-hatred. Hoping for time to heal these wounds is no consolation.
I am paralyzed between the bipolarity of two competing worlds. On the one hand, though I want nothing more than being in God’s favor, I have been conditioned to take my heavenly exile as fact. On the other, a beautiful, progressive world of equality and love, perhaps one of the most liberal epochs in history, stretches forth its arms in vain because I fear getting closer, conditioned to refuse its embrace.
As barbarians we disqualified others from heaven for any sort of arbitrary reasons. Today I suppose religions need a space to compete for the best souls. That so many still advocate homosexuality as a universal disqualification from heaven, protected to perpetuate this arbitrary exile, is disheartening and shameful.
It is hard to discredit efforts to ban conversion therapy through changes to the Criminal Code. A third of patients in Canada, estimated at 20,000, have attempted suicide (more on the proposal for changes and detailed stats here).
Yet banning the practice is not enough. Whatever changes legislators make to the law, there remain risks that organizations acting in the best interest of citizens and society continue setting response protocols in motion to guide those questioning their sexuality away from their natural orientation — as if non-heterosexuality were an alarm requiring anything more than acceptance.
One hopes that changes to the law will look into the system and the false alarms it has been programmed to detect. At its core, conversion therapy is the product of a system rooted in the condemnation of LGTBQ2+ lives as inherently disqualifying.
In my experience, church meetings between decision makers were designed to prioritize some afflictions over many, and those afflicted with questions about their sexual orientation made the cut. The system is programmed to interpret non-heterosexuality as an affliction. Otherwise conversion strategies, some of which I imagine require significant investments to develop, would never have been put in place.
To protect its definition of what constitutes an affliction, the system I was part of went as far as setting protocols in motion to change me. Failure to troubleshoot the system to eliminate these false alarms will legitimize the protocols that led to conversion strategies in the first place.
However far an organization might be willing to go to enforce the arbitrary LGTBQ2+ exile, people’s lives are at stake.