GCN 2012 Conference“People have been badly wounded by the false hope that if they would just pray, study, and counsel, then change can occur. But it doesn’t.”

True Story is the theme of next week’s Exodus conference in CA. I’m holding out hope that this will mean less theory and more lived experience, the only thing for healing damage caused by false hope to the LGBTQ community.

If “ex-gay therapy” were pain relief medicine, it would be off the shelves with the company defending against a class-action suit. Well-meaning people  sometimes suggest “ex-gay” ministries because homosexuality makes them uncomfortable, and this lets them feel as though they’ve contributed a “positive solution.” But we must recognize that it doesn’t work. Exodus President Alan Chambers has admitted, “99.9% of people that come to Exodus do not experience change in their sexual orientation.” Same-sex attraction never leaves, he said. The original founders of Exodus are perfect examples of this. If he hasn’t seen it work, why is it even still on the table?

But like a defective pain med, it not only fails to help, it is deadly. People have been badly wounded by the false hope that if they would just pray, study, and counsel, then change can occur. But the damage that comes from that – through self-hatred and shame, through broken marriage vows made “in faith,” to kids of those marriages – is incalculable. To require such change is not loving because it leaves the LGBTQ person holding the bag, expected to change, even believing in faith that they have changed even if they don’t feel it, because they know the shame is coming if they don’t change.

Just this morning a woman emailed me about her daughter who came out to her. Their pastor said to pray because God can do anything. I have a suggestion. Ask God to change people so they are okay with LGBTQ, and to stop pushing for change. In fact, I have not seen much evidence that He is changing gay people into straight people. But I’ve seen Him change those who are not okay with it into those who become accepting allies of their LGBTQ loved ones. As a person who loves God and loves others, I think that makes a lot more sense. Perhaps, if people would just pray, study and counsel, maybe God will change them into being happy with their gay loved ones.

What should we hope for our gay loved ones? We hope for them to have a wonderful and satisfying life full of love and to know how much God loves them.

CLICK HERE to read “To Christian Parents of Gay Children.”

Why Hoping for Change Can Hurt

18 thoughts on “Why Hoping for Change Can Hurt

  1. I feel for you, Dan, and I hear you regarding the disconnect between LG and BTQ.

    My 15 year old internationally adopted cisgender female has been dressing male for five years (though she did both ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ things throughout her childhood) and now thinks she may be trans, and has watched many female-to-male youtubes on the subject. I have zero difficulty accepting her as an LGB person; to me that would’ve been the easy part. We attend a UCC church which is a place where she has seen welcome modeled, and seen gay clergy, and seen a welcoming Christian community from her early childhood. If she ends up identifying as L, that is cool with me.

    However, the T concept brings me a host of more complicated concerns. My difficulty with the trans culture as I observe it unfolding, both among trans children/adolescents and in the medical/psych world, is the lack of research and understanding regarding what causes this scenario, as well as the long term effects of medical intervention. Unlike sexual orientation, rejection of one’s own birth gender often involves a great deal of loathing of the body, and sometimes irreversible efforts to conform the body to a mental notion about gender (hormones, surgeries). Because I know my child also has prior mental health issues, far predating any gender-variant expression, I’m quite confused about how to go forward. Definitely we would want to find a counselor who would be willing to explore more deeply the genesis of this feeling with all of us, before irreversible medical steps were made. I see a lot of steps being made out there, especially with hormonal intervention in minors who really are not capable of giving informed consent, that don’t seem research-based to me in terms of long-term medical and psych health.

    Sexual orientation is inborn, I believe. Trans expression…. there’s not good research supporting why it happens. Likely some intersection of biology and environment. Definitely my child has been told that we will love her whatever unfolds, that God loves her (though she does not currently believe in God), and that however her sexual orientation (currently murky) interacts with her gender expression will not cause us to ever reject her. (She has not asked us to use a male name for her at this point, thus my use of ‘her.’)

    We would not inhibit her choice of dressing how she likes, having short hair, rejecting makeup, playing the games she likes to play, etc. We’re not trying to turn her into a girly girl; that’s not who she is. I feel, however, like a large part of my job as a parent right now is offering support while also counseling some delay until her brain has had some more time to mature and really consider what she is seeking. As long as she is doing OK in school, has friends, is not being bullied, is not begging for immediate transition, and seems safe (if not always happy–I don’t know any teens who are), this seems like the most moderate and loving course of action.

    It’s very difficult for us to know the most Christlike, loving, responsible path with this beloved child, whom God has entrusted us to raise. We welcome your prayers.

  2. Pingback: A Love Letter to the LGBTQ from a Christian Mom | FreedHearts | PFLAG Atlanta

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  4. I am a member of a liberal Protestant denomination (which I don’t think is important to name) and am bisexual. I deeply appreciate your message of reconciliation and hope. I didn’t realize “all that I was” until I was in my thirities. I realize now that I was very, very lucky. My church constantly emphasized that “all are one in Christ” — and that included people of all sexual orientations and gender identiities. I fully expected — and got — a supportive response from my family (my late Mom, God bless her, said “Oh is that all, I was afraid it was going to be something bad. I’m so glad you know that about yourself and thank you for telling me. I’m very proud of you.”).

    In visiting with my pastor, he told me “People in our church are pretty accepting of ‘L’ and ‘G,” but some have a problem with ‘B’ and ‘T’.” I reflected on his words and concluded, no, I wasn’t really surprised. For many in the “LGBT community” also had a problem with “us.” People incorrectly assume that bisexuality is either a sham or a choice. But I know it is neither. It is an orientation and the one which God blessed me with. The only actual choice was whether I lived a life of authenticity and truth or one of omission and self-negation. I don’t believe the latter would be pleasing to God.

    So I hope Christians will not forget about “us.” Recent statistics suggest that the suicide rate among bisexual youth is significantly greater than among lesbian and gay kids — which, as you know, is already alarmingly high. Please don’t assume we can just “turn off the switch,” or that we’re just “going through a phase” or could just “stop all of that” or must be “promiscuous and immoral.” For none of these are true. It also hurts to have people say they “don’t believe you” or that “you don’t exist,” or that you’re a mere “hopeless closet case,” as so many in the collective gay community have communicated to me.

    “Everybody hates US!” a bisexual acquaintance said to me. I laughed momentarily, but then realized it was not meant as a joke. As I say, I’m very lucky: I never doubted that God loved all of me. It just took me a while to realize what all that encompassed! I suspect God knew it all along. So, please, fellow Christians, open your hearts and minds to your bisexual family, neighbors, and friends. And please be mindful that many struggle to endure the stifling pain of yet “another closet.” You might not think you know “us,” but I guarantee you do — and we’re likely closer to you than you would ever imagine. Please hold us in your prayers and don’t forget to consider our unique challenges and perspectives as you come to compassionate new understandings. For we do exist. We’re children of God: just like you…

    • Fellow Christians, I’m a little surprised that there has, thus far, been no response to my post on bisexuality. Maybe folks have been out of town, busy, or just not seen it. Then again, maybe my pastor was right: “we” make people uncomfortable and they just don’t understand. Please read my post if you have a chance, prayerfully consider it, then let me know your thoughts. For it is only in communicating that we come to new understandings…

  5. There is a lot written about the pain that having parents who cannot accept their gay child causes but the fracturing of the extended family can be enormous. I have essentially lost my mother and a brother due to their inability to cope with my son being gay. My mother was my best friend and this particular son was the one she was closest to. Her inability to get past this has shaken not only my belief in her but in everything she ever taught me. While I do still occasionally see my mother and brother the relationships are severely damaged.and after 5 years of discussion I see no change in their thinking. I am profoundly grateful that my husband and my son’s two brothers and the majority of our family remain loving and supportive. I appreciate the information that you provide and the support. Perhaps in time I will be able to work my way back into a relationship with Jesus that has been so fractured by what has been such a betrayal by a women who first taught me to love him.

    • Oh, I’m so sorry for the pain you are going through. It sounds very tough. I read this, and it’s so clear that it’s about her difficulty, not the wrongness or rightness of your son being gay. That’s the heartbreaking part — to act as though we’re taking a strong moral stand when, in fact, we are simply not loving. My heart goes out to you, and I hope with that things will mend. Meanwhile, bless the rest of your loving and supportive family. Thank you for sharing.

    • I can only conclude that nobody cares about bisexual kids — or are profoundly uncomfortable with them. Well, that’s a shame. For “they” have a significantly higher depression, substance abuse, and suicide rate than even their lesbian and gay peers. Well, fellow Christians, do you really not care about “them.”? “Oh, lesbian and gay kids, well ‘they’ can’t help it. But bisexual kids — that’s another story…” I call this the “birth defect paradigm of sexual orientation.” Of course sexual orientation is never a choice. But what if it was? Would it be any more ‘sinful’ than some would purport? Please prayerfully think about this. For your silence speaks volumes,,,

      • Dan, I understand your heart here. I have heard that same thing from people I’ve talked to. But I encourage you to re-look at the posts – where it says LGBTQ, and know that B means it applies to bis. I’m sorry it’s been such a difficult journey. Please take heart that Jesus loves every single one.

        • Thank you, Susan, for your compassionate response. But while people use “the acronym” freely (LGBTQ), Christians are often particularly flummoxed by ‘B’ — let alone ‘T’. I would be interested in hearing from Christian parents with bisexual kids. Too often, I think in the back of the minds of Christians who have come to a place of acceptance of lesbian and gay kids is an attitude of, “Well, they can’t help it…” tacitly assuming bisexuals (if they know of us…) can. Well, we can’t. The only choice is to live a life of authenticity before God who knows all that we are — or one of deceit and self-negation.

          Thanks for your concern about me, Susan. I deeply appreciate it. Happily, I was one of the very lucky ones. For I was raised by understanding parents who emphasized one must be true to oneself before God and in a genuinely accepting (not just “tolerant”) religious denomination. I never doubted Jesus loved me just as I was and that He was encouraging me onward in my journey. In fact, I prayed to Him to give me a “sign” if this was who I was called to be. Sure enough, I soon entered an LGBT bookstore and the first thing I saw was a row of books with the logo of my denominational press. “I’ll take it that’s my sign,” I mused, casting my gaze heavenwards.

          I do hope that parents and friends of bisexual kids come forth and share their stories and that this community will pray for bisexual kids: who often have the most difficult struggle of all…

          Yours n Christ,

          Dan

          • Thank you so much for your post, Dan. My oldest daughter is bi and despite her having told me this at 13, (she is 19 now) and her having had long term dating relationships with both genders I often expressed private doubt to other family members. I felt that maybe she was confused or that she thought it seemed more cool than her embracing whichever her “true gender” was.
            Our family is a mix of agnostic, Pagan, Unitarian, and Christian. Even as open, loving and accepting as we are this still gave us pause. We have Trans friends and I really think I would have accepted one of my three wonderful children needing to transform their outer shell to reflect the truth inside without question.
            As a culture, I believe it is easier for most people to accept someone who is helpless to change their sexual orientation to reflect what is seen as normal to their gender. Some see bisexuals in a different way. They say, well if you are attracted to both then why not just only pursue others of the opposite gender so that you can fit in. Many who are homosexual envy that a bisexual person could “choose” to function on the outside as hetero where they could not.
            In the end this judgement is wrong. Why should others require you to only be accepted as half the person you are? No one should give up who they are just because others deem it to be possible.

            Your orientation is a blessing, my eldest daughter’s is a blessing. God saw that I had become complacent in thinking I was loving unconditionally. God sees the need in this world for bisexuals. It must be a blessing truly to find a being beautiful in spirit who you can love and grow with and not be limited at all by their physical gender.
            Thank you Dan for helping me in my journey. Never doubt that you are worthy of all love and joy. It is your birthright. It is everyone’s birthright.

          • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. Please remember we no more “chose” to be bisexual than lesbian, gays, and heterosexuals chose their sexual orientation. Our behavior is always a choice. And despite rumors to the contrary, we are just as capable of monogamy as anyone else. After all, it you saw a man you found attractive walking down the street, while’d you likely notice and enjoy (a gift from God). I doubt you would forsake your wedding vows (I assume you are married), We, too, are capable of fidelity and commitment..

            As for gays being envious of us: that really hasn’t been my experience. Some — but by no means all — gays don’t believe we exist or that we’re merely desperate closet cases. I think they’d quickly push the button back to “become gay” again. I suspect it’s likely easier, but perhaps less interesting….And playing “what if,” ultimately negates the gifts God has bestowed upon us.

            I wish you and your daughter well in your journey. But, remember, even if she enters into a monogamous marriage with a man (which is by no means unlikely), she’ll still be bisexual — as God meant her to be. I hope that other parents of bisexual kids, or bisexual Christians themselves, will share their story as you so graciously have. For it is only in sharing that we overcome the needless fears that separate us.

            Best,

            Dan

  6. Thanks so much for your blog. Your message Resonates so deeply with me. I re-share everything you write on fb page. And have received some amazing responses. Keep the info coming. Thanks again from a conservative, gay, Christian in SC.

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