Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Homosexual but No Longer Gay

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Homosexual but No Longer Gay

Article excerpt

There continues to be a lively, and sometimes ugly, controversy over ministries to gays such as Exodus International. Gay activists subscribe to the motto "once gay, always gay"-frequently suggesting that also those who were never gay are living in denial. Now along comes a book that throws considerable light on the subject: Tanya Erzen's Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement, published by the University of California Press.

Erzen is a social scientist at Ohio State University, and she reports on her year spent with participants in a California ministry called New Hope. Her study convinced her that change is an extraordinarily complex process in the ex-gay movement.

Change is a conversion process that incorporates religious and sexual identity, desire, and behavior. Sexual identity is malleable and changeable because it is completely entwined with religious conversion. A person becomes ex-gay as he accepts Jesus into his life and commits to him. Much has been written about the widely publicized sexual scandals of prominent exgays, but in the ex-gay movement it is far more scandalous to abandon Jesus than to yield to same-sex desire.

It is commonly accepted that a person will continue to experience desire and even occasionally lapse into same-sex behavior as part of the overall conversion process. Recovery and relapse are built into the creation of an ex-gay identity, and sexual falls are expected. Rather than becoming heterosexual, men and women become part of a new identity group in which it is almost the norm to succumb to temptation and return to ex-gay ministry over and over again. As long as the offender publicly repents and reaffirms her commitment to Jesus, all is forgiven.

Organizations such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign are adamantly opposed to ministries such as New Hope. They are heavily invested in the claim that sexual identity is fixed, unchangeable, and perhaps biological. Gay activists and writers promote the view that sexual orientation is innate, that people are born that way. Erzen writes that "studies such as those of Simon LeVay and Dean Hamer, which argue that a gay brain or gay genes exist, are revered as the basis for a minority identity and entrance into U. …

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