This article first appeared on Serendipitydodah, a space for “for LGBTQ people and friends and family members of the LGBTQ community attempting to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships.”
Growing up, I could tell that my attractions were different than those of other boys. I didn’t have a word for it, but the kids at school quickly filled in the blanks—queer, faggot, sissy. Shame was born. And a desire to conceal my feelings.
I became a Christian in college and was taught these “desires” were unacceptable. I was serious about pleasing God, and had decided to enter the ministry, so getting rid of them was a priority.
I got married, and things were fine for while. But the attractions were always there, under the surface. Then I heard about those who declared they had changed. So I read books, attended workshops, went to counseling, and engaged in concentrated religious disciplines.
As a husband, father and a successful Pastor, I was committed to achieving this change. In time, my story gained prominence. I was featured in the media, and asked to speak at churches and conferences. National ministries and local therapists consulted me as a resource. People began to seek me out for counseling. Or they were sent to me by their parents or church leaders. From this grew a ministry to help those who also wanted to change their sexual attractions.
But in spite of my outer facade, I knew the inner truth. After years of unrelenting effort, I admitted to myself that the attractions were still there. I had not changed.
I was emotionally crushed with guilt of my perceived failure. I resigned my church rather than live a lie. Eventually I filed for divorce after 19 years of marriage to a woman who did not deserve any of this.
My family, my ministry, my reputation…the life I’d built…crumbled.
That was three decades ago. It took years to restore a relationship with my children and to repair the damage inflicted on my self-image and my faith.
Today I work with those who’ve been wounded by these programs. I see the damage inflicted by their deceptive promises using exaggerated stories of “success” and their discredited methodology.
I stand with many other former “ex-gay” leaders and survivors to expose these snake-oil practitioners and their spurious practices who prey on uninformed, anxious parents and vulnerable young people. I speak out against their lies, half-truths outdated, disproven research.
I also stand with mental health organizations who’ve concluded sexual orientation cannot be changed, and shown these programs can cause lasting psychological harm. I personally lost a dear friend, who chose to put a shotgun to his head and pull the trigger when it was clear he could not change.
I want to see these groups discredited and “Conversion” Therapy outlawed. It’s time to acknowledge the truth. A history of human wreckage makes it evident—these programs are emotional, mental and spiritual abuse.
End the abuse now.
Too much time, money and energy has already been spent trying to change what is unchangeable, fix what is not broken or cure what is not a sickness.
Bill Prickett is a writer, blogger, cultural observer, gay Christian, advocate for equality, former ex-gay leader exposing the fraud of reparative therapy, long-time Bible teacher and author of 3 books. Check out Bill’s site for more info.