Monday, September 13, 2004

The Ex-gay Yellow Brick Road

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. I've been sick. I'm feeling better and have been checking in on my favorite clouds in the blogosphere. One website I hit frequently is Ex-gay Watch. This group monitors the activities of "ex-gay" ministries. I think the work EW does is important since right-wing religious/political organizations like James Dobson's Focus on the Family supports, ex-gay groups such as Exodus International and uses ex-gay ministries to fan the flames of homophobia and general misunderstanding of gay people. And sadly, ex-gay folk themselves are often exploited to fan these flames, as was the case with ex-gay pastor Donnie McClurkin at the Republican National Convention.

I was a participant in an Exodus affiliated ministry for a few years in the mid-1990s when I lived in Texas. I have a pretty good understanding of the kinds of tools such groups use to help participants diminish same-sex attraction and to convince them that same-sex relationships are not compatible with the Christian faith. Obviously, they weren't effective for me as I'm pretty crazy about John and I'm probably more help to God than I've ever been now that I'm not constantly chasing my tail trying to figure out how not to be gay.

While I find the religious right wing's use of ex-gay people as a sword for beating back equal rights for gay people tiresome, I have a different feeling toward the ex-gay people themselves. I actually benefitted from my time in that Texas ministry. How? Well, I feel the best way for me to articulate my experience with my ex-gay pals is by allegorically putting to use one of the most enduring of the gay icons (they exist for a reason)--Kansas's own Dorothy Gale. Let me lay it down for you.

Okay. I'm Dorothy. So, as a boy, I wandered the oak-lined streets of my hometown in Arkansas with a nagging suspicion that I was meant for something different than what I saw. I had been told by my church (and countless other media outlets) that a little boy will grow up to marry a beloved woman and that this is a crowning achievement of humankind. But a little voice (and the raging hormones of my teen years) kept whispering that my destiny lay elsewhere, and I wistfully wished to be where these dreams would come true.

Cue the cyclone (aka shame spiral) of my high school and college years. After years of turmoil caused by doing my best to make myself fit into the mold of a dateable hetero-boy, I found myself tossed up and out of the place I'd known. I eventually landed with a profound thud in a place called Ex-gay Land. I wandered out of my house and found that Ex-gay Land was a remarkable place, unlike any I'd seen. For the first time in my 23 years of life I could discuss my attraction to guys without having to feel hated or judged--with other Christian people no less!

As I took my first steps in Ex-gay Land I discovered that my landing had squashed the Wicked Witch of Self-Hate. The citizens of Ex-gay Land were ecstatic--happy for me and to see her gone. Glenda the Good Witch of Nurturing Kindness popped in and joined the party. But as we celebrated I began to realize that as wonderful as this place was, I needed to get home to continue my work of fitting myself into a hetero-mold. I shared all of this with my new friends, who agreed completely. While they thought my plan to leave a good one, they could not tell me how to return. But they did know that the only person who could help me was the mighty Wizard of Heterosexual Identity.

So they sent me on my way. Before I left, Glenda placed the Ruby Slippers of Self-Respect on my feet and told me that no one or nothing could take them from me (for those who are wondering, not even writing this story). She also said they were the only thing that stood between me and the Wicked Witch of Self-Doubt who showed up and made a scene about wanting my shoes.

On the way to Heterosexual Identity I met many other citizens of Ex-gay land who also wanted to see the Wizard. There was a scarecrow who wanted to learn to think, a lion who needed courage, and a tin woodsman who wanted to learn to love. The Witch of Self-doubt wouldn't make this journey easy for any of us. She and her Flying Fear Monkeys kept holing us up in places we didn't want to be until my Ex-gay Land traveling companions put her in her place, with of all things, the plain water of clarity.

When we finally were able to see the Mighty and Powerful Wizard of Heterosexual Identity we were very impressed. He was strong-jawed and masculine just as we'd imagined. But soon an equipment malfunction revealed that he was no wizard at all, but just another person trapped in Ex-Gay Land, like me. He said that he normally didn't even let people see him, but he liked my Slippers of Self-respect. He kept eyeing my slippers and repeating that last part.

Eventually Glenda showed up and clued me in that the Slippers of Self-Respect had given me the ability to get home all along (note to self--touch base with Glenda when I see her about holding out on me). It was up to me to use them, and I did. I woke up in the same world I'd left, but without the feeling that I needed to escape. The place had not changed, but thanks to my experiences in Ex-gay Land, I had! I finally realized that all of my dreams of loving the person I truly hoped for could come true--not somewhere else, but right here where I belonged.

The End. Yeah, I know, no Toto, horse of another color or poppy fields, but you get the point (you probably got it when the house landed).

And after this story, I shouldn't have to spell out the benefits of ex-gay ministry for a former Southern Baptist boy and others like me. And I imagine that there are hundreds of other Dorothy's, who needed to travel through Ex-gay Land to get to where we are, which in my estimation is a pretty good place. Could we have gotten there without all of the drama? Maybe, but I don't really mind that I went through it. The answer to the question has a more sinister answer for people who aren't up to dealing with the less wholesome characters in my version of the story and move into self-destructive behavior as a result. And another real problem is that the Ex-gay citizens are now over the rainbow and looking for the Wizard of Heterosexual Identity here in the real world, which might not be such a bad thing except that lots of wicked witches and an army of flying fear monkeys followed them.

All I can say is hold on to those Slippers, Dorothy! You're gonna need them.


Blogger potterdad said...

Wow Troy! Could you run that by me again...I'm not sure I caught it all. On second thought, I never understood the wizard of oz very much either. I guess I'll have to go back and sort it out again.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Trevor said...

I don't get it. Are you gay? Not that there's anything wrong with that.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Troy said...

I am gay.

9:40 AM  

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