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Ex-Ex-Gays: The Makeover Myth

Clearly, going "straight" is not so easy. Apostates of the ex-gay movement, so-called "ex-ex gays," are coming forward to call the ex-gay movement a dangerous fraud. John-David Schramm, a gay playwright, spent several years in ex-gay ministries and is now highly critical of the movement. Schramm maintains that the few people who have been able to sustain an "ex-gay" lifestyle are people who are in leadership positions in ex-gay ministries.68

In the late 80's, Schramm's sister, a born-again Christian, sent him literature about Exodus. Schramm had been open about his sexual orientation to his immediate family, but he was closeted in other parts of his life. Tired of living this dual existence, Schramm started attending an Exodus support group. Three years later, he joined Love in Action, a live-in ministry where he stayed for six months. Schramm describes an environment in which Christian counselors told him he must immerse himself in a full-time regimen of Christian activities-Bible study, church services, praise and worship-to push the "sin" out of his life. When he had sex with another man, the ministry demanded he ask God's forgiveness. Had he done so, says Schramm, he could have remained in Love in Action, but he realized that his homosexuality was not a sin. And he now insists that homosexuality is not something that can be changed. "They try to teach you how to manage your behavior. But it's not a behavior that needs to be changed," says Schramm. "I don't believe that ex-gay organizations support God's plan and vision for us."69

Schramm and other former ex-gays paint a disturbing picture of ex-gay groups as filled with paranoia, and controlling their members through indoctrination and fear. Many of these stories have been compiled on a website called Ex.Ex. operated by former ex-gay Doug Upchurch, who assails the movement's "emotionally damaging and unsuccessful process of `sexual reorientation.'"70

Upchurch desperately wanted to be a heterosexual and, to that end, tried everything from exorcism and fasting to ex-gay ministries. In his home state of Texas, he became involved with the Christian Coalition for Reconciliation, an affiliate of Exodus International. Finally, after 12 years of trying to change, Upchurch, in 1993, embraced his sexual identity and became critical of the ex-gay movement. "They teach that it's all dependent on the individual-how much you pray, read the Bible, go to counseling. It's all directed at you actively trying to change the way God made you, and when that doesn't happen, it leaves you depressed and vulnerable. There were several times I strongly contemplated suicide."71

Upchurch and Schramm insist that homosexuality cannot be changed. And even ex-gay leaders admit they can't guarantee a complete change in homosexual desires. On the surface, ex-gay leaders claim they can "convert" people to heterosexuality. But a review of ex-gay literature reveals that by "conversion," ex-gay leaders do not mean that same-sex attractions will not occur, only that they should not be acted on. Perhaps it is best stated in their own words. In his book Desires in Conflict: Answering the Struggle for Sexual Identity, author and ex-gay leader Joe Dallas plainly states, "So let me emphasize from the outset that I don't pretend to know a universal `cure' for homosexuality. Nobody does."72

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