10 Reasons People Go to Ex-Gay Therapy

ByKatie Halper

Beyond Ex-Gay describes itself as "an online community for those who have survived ex gay experiences" like ex-gay therapy or “sexual orientation change efforts.” They recently conducted a survey of 400 survivors of ex-gay therapy, who no longer participate in any conversion efforts.

Perhaps the saddest part of the survey were the responses to the question "[w]hat were the reasons (the motivations) you tried to follow an ex-gay path?" As you'll see, the primary reasons for doing so were religious. The other reasons relate to societal pressures to fit in. All of this goes to show that a LGBT identity in itself doesn't cause unhappiness. Homophobia does.

1. To Be a Better Christian

One participant was "was forced by my parents, counselor and church members to participate in ex-gay activities." Another participant seemed to still believe that homosexuality is wrong and incompatible with Christianity: "Scripture is CLEAR that homosexuals and other kinds of unrighteous people will not inherit the kingdom of God." Another said, "My pastor at the time implored me to deal with this. I had no desire to change my sexual orientation. This was upon his insistence."

2. I Believed It Was What God Wanted Me to Do

One participant described a "fear of ruining God's plan for my life." Another participant wrote, "Mostly it was because I wanted to please God and I didn't think being gay was an option."

3. I Feared I Would Be Condemned By God

One participant wrote, "I was told to be gay was sinful." Another was told they had "demons."

4. The Desire to Fit in With Everyone, to Feel 'Normal'

One participant wrote, "I so wanted to be "normal." I didn't believe that God could possibly accept me the way I was, given that I myself couldn't.

5. Cultural Pressure to Conform to Heterosexuality

One participant wrote, "I wanted the privilege awarded to me by society as long as I passed as a gender-normative, heterosexual." Another wrote that they were "Tempted by seemingly happy ex-gay success stories about getting married." Another participant remembered, "growing up in the church and seeking to be a denominational minister does not provide an option for anything other than to be heterosexually married. The only thing possible in order to proceed forward was to pretend to be straight."

6. Desire to Please Family and Friends

One participant wrote, "I am the kind of person who wants to please others. I care about their happiness and unhappiness more than mine and usually will go to great lengths to satisfy the needs of others before my own. This was my biggest fault as a young lesbian, I allowed others to change me for their own happiness rather than insisting on living a life I would be happy and fulfilled leading."

7. I Feared I Would Go to Hell for Being Gay

One participant wrote, "I was told being gay was from Satan and I would go to hell for being gay, told this from my earliest youth, I was told it was the worst thing a man could be, that it was an abomination and evil and must repent and that Jesus would change me if I tried hard enough."

8. Fear Of Losing Family and Friends

One participant wrote, "My family suggested counseling and put intense pressure on me to participate. I consented partially because I was 16 and totally dependent on my parents at the time."

9. Misinformation Of What It Meant to Be Gay

One participant wrote, "I was told to view homosexuality as being akin to alcoholism. I had to repent of the sin, have the spirit of homosexuality cast out of me, avoid any future temptation and live a new life." Another participant reflected, "I believed that I was gay due to the lack of emotional connection with my father during my childhood (which I genuinely did need healing from.) I was just incorrect in my assumption that this was the cause of my sexual orientation."

10. Self-Hatred and Internalized Homophobia

One participant said "because I believed sexual deviance was wrong." Another one described "negative portrayals of LGBT people in the church and Christian media."