Friday, March 10, 2006

Interesting speculation on the causes of *ex*-gayness:

At A Musing: How Sexual Abuse Made Me Ex-Gay.

Lots of "ex-gay" proponents claim that one of the causes of same-sex attraction is childhood sexual abuse. I don't think they are lying; they truly believe it. In fact, I imagine that the majority of people who attend their programs have been sexually abused, so in their logic they have concluded that sexual abuse + other factors (family, gender confusion, etc) = GAY.

Instead of searching for the elusive root causes of same-sex attraction, I wish they would ask themselves, "Why do our programs attract same-gender loving people who have also been sexually abused?"

I think of my own story. I was sexually abused as a young boy. Age seven. That abuse filled me with shame and guilt, partly because it was a much older boy who perpetrated it, and I actually enjoyed some of it. I was already gay before I was abused--I felt an attraction towards other boys.

Filled with shame and guilt, I grew up in a decidedly homophobic society that proclaimed that being gay was a sickness, an aberration, a sin, an abomination. Because of the abuse I suffered as a child, I felt dirty, evil, shame-filled and unloveable. (These feelings are common for many who have experienced sexual abuse.)

These negative feelings made me a target for the Evangelical church which promised that I could be a child of the King, a holy servant of God and a new creation with robes washed clean in the blood of the Lamb...

(more at link)


I think he's really onto something. I also think that there's a fair argument for calling homophobic shaming (or any sort of sexual shaming, for that matter; the "slut" labelling thing, for instance) a form of sexual abuse in itself.

But certainly I could understand how a history of abuse would make any ideology which boils down to follow these rules, and you will be purified attractive. First of all, your own boundaries, your internal radar, your ability to distinguish what you want and need from what someone else tells you you want and need, are already shot all to hell; that's the fundamental mechanism on which abuse turns in the first place, after all. All you probably consciously know for sure (if that) is that you feel really, really awful. Shameful, unworthy, dirty, as the man says. Bad.

Then, along comes a strong voice that affirms at least some part of you, possibly for the first time ever. Of course you're going to be all over that. And if the voice has some conditions for your continued presence in the circle of light? Well, that feels...familiar. Of course, there have to be conditions; there's no such thing as unconditional acceptance in this world, right? Certainly you've never experienced such a thing. And your world has been so out of control; of course you need rules. The stricter, the better, in fact. Just so you know where you are.

And then, too, there are rewards in this set-up: it feels old, but there's also something new: now you can be one of the good guys! The bad guys, they're over there. And what better way to spend the rest of your life than fighting the bad guys, now that they have a name, a face, and an identity that isn't you (anymore)?


Jean said...

Oh, it makes total sense. Complete and total. I got born again about ten years ago (though not with the whole ex-gayness thing, because I wasn't even out to myself by then) and that's what it was all about, an insight I of course only have with hindsight. But it was definitely about taking a lot of pain from a lot of sources and saying Jebus'll fix, just do A, B and C, rinse, lather, repeat. And it felt really good because of the whole sense of finally being able to reign in these things that I'd never dealt with.

Rey said...

Argh...I'm totally creeped out.

I just wish that ex-gay people would call themselves straight. If they did that, I might believe them more. Instead negating gayness (and their former gayness) is what is so important about their new identity. Isn't that telling in and of itself?

belledame222 said...

Well, you see, (I believe this is the reasoning), like alcoholics, they'll never be entirely "cured," they're acknowledging. Also, they have to do something with their time now that the anonymous degrading encounters with rough trade/speedball-banging drag queens/rabid ferrets are no longer on the menu; and hey, being a poster child for your newfound saviour (or rather their earthbound representatives) fits that bill nicely.

Jean said...

Oh, fucking AA. It's the exact same thing. Admit your powerless. Turn it over to your Higher Power. Even if it's a fucking light bulb. Surrendering autonomy is the key to everything.

belledame222 said...

I think there's a way in which to appeal to the...not higher necessarily, deeper?...power which makes sense and also doesn't let go of the idea of autonomy: I guess the closest I can come to putting my finger on it is the Jungian notion of "Self." In which the "still, small voice" really *isn't* coming from outside.

but yeah, anyway, I know a lot of people have trouble with AA and its Christian overtones.

Rey said...

And I know many people who have been helped by AA without giving into the Christian overtones or the victimology. We all do what we can.

I, for example, will continue my anonymous degrading encounters with rough trade and speedball-banging drag queens. Though I much prefer rabid wallaby'sm because ferrets are just too stinky.

Jean said...

AA has it's benefits, to be sure. As a support system, primarily. But it never stopped pissing me off to hear people say that a higher power was a must even if it was a light bulb. And people constantly saying, 'oh, I'll turn it over to my higher power,' translation='I'll pray on it.' Then again, my favorite things about AA were the free coffee and cookies. And I'll admit to being completely biased, because where years of AA yielded exactly jack for me, a few months in a knowledge-based recovery program---that, come to think of it, did tend to use shame as a tool of discipline, albeit subtley---that emphasized 'your liver, it dies!' over 'the light bulb, it cries!' helped me get a firmer handle on things.