Dear Susan: Are Ex-Gay Camps a Good Idea?


Have you heard of “reparative therapy?”  Ex-gay camps?  Where they “cure” the gay out of kids and young adults?  Do they work – are they a good idea?

When a Christian parent of a gay child does a Google search or talks to their pastor, this is often the prescribed remedy to “fix” their child.

I welcome the chance to address this question.

I write Dear Susan posts every Friday. Sometimes they will be poignant, sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes tender, sometimes funny… but hopefully always worth the read.  🙂  If you have a question you would like me to answer, please email me at – and please put ‘Dear Susan’ in the subject line.

Here we go…

Dear Susan,

We have been a happy family. Now our son says he is gay. He has always liked church, VBS, camp, family game nights, etc. Our older son has no issues. I don’t know how to reconcile this, and we have thought about those ex-gay camps. Is that a good idea? Please, Please, Please, help us. We are scared and just don’t know what to do. Thank you, I really hope to hear from you.

Perplexed Mom

Dear Perplexed,

Please, please, please don’t subject your son to those ex-gay camps. They are a terror. If he goes, he will suffer untold abuse, learn to hate himself, and possibly to hate you. And he will come back still gay. 10988693_gal(Sometimes people pretend they’re straight, because it’s easier than fighting that system, but they come out again sooner or later. Sexuality just doesn’t work like that.) One young man said, “I can’t change what I didn’t choose.” That’s exactly right. If you ask your son if he chose to be gay, he will say, “No, Mom! Why would I choose this?” He’s prayed for it to go away, guaranteed. Please do not punish him for something he didn’t even choose.

Exodus International tried for 37 years to make people not gay anymore. Last year, Exodus closed its doors the Exodus president admitted “reparative therapy” does not work, and he apologized for having hurt so many people in the process. I implore you not to trust someone who says they can change or fix or heal your son; they are just preying on your fears about your son being gay.

Remember that God wants you completely dependent on him. Parents tell me time and again that when they ask God about their God child, God tells them just to love them, accept them, embrace them.

Remember that we live in a religious, behavior-focused culture that does not accept homosexuality, but God has shifted culture many times throughout history. We want to be open to that shift, lest we miss God.

Boldly approach the throne of grace as Jesus said, and ask God to guide you. If something deep inside of you is afraid to pray boldly and confidently, then perhaps you do not yet understand how much God loves you, and that God uses kindness to motivate us to think differently, not fear.

Err on the side of love and remember, you can never love too much or too fully.

7 thoughts on “Dear Susan: Are Ex-Gay Camps a Good Idea?

  1. I have learned a lot more about the bible after stepping away from it for a while to take a long look at what we are doing as Christians and what is going on around us. I have never seen anything positive about these camps. At some point, we just have to stop and listen. It is not our gay children that are in need of fixing. It is us (and I’m including myself) Christians. Your son is exactly what God made him to be and is perfect just the way he was born. I pray for all parents of gay children to come out of the closet, accept and love truly from their hearts and help to change the minds around them. God is working through us. Blessings to you and your family.

  2. Dear Perplexed Mom,

    I know exactly how you feel because I have been there. I wanted my son to be “fixed” as well when I first learned that he was gay four years ago. From the description of your son, he sounds exactly like mine. 🙂 After learning about all of the cruelty that takes place in ex-gay programs, I am so thankful that my son didn’t have any interest in participating in these, and am also glad that my husband and I did not force the issue. After 3 plus years of reading books, blogs, listening to testimonies, etc., I finally have peace in knowing that my son is exactly the person that God made him to be. The most important thing you and your family can do right now is LOVE HIM!!!! Don’t treat him any differently than you did before because HE IS STILL THE SAME PERSON! Ask God to help you through this transition, and He will do it. He has been so faithful to me, and has given me many opportunities to minister to other moms who are going through the same thing. Believe me when I say that your son will be so grateful to have you in his corner, especially if he receives condemnation from others. We need to be Jesus to others, especially to our children. May our heavenly Father bless you and give you peace during the coming days. 🙂

  3. Your comment Susan saying” God has shifted culture many times throughout history.” Can give me specifics? I am gathering information to share with a couple close friends and want all the backing I can get!

    • Only 50 years ago, Christians used the same arguments used today against gay marriage (against God’s natural order, abomination, destroying marriage) to prevent interracial marriages. The church (Southern Baptist Church) was part of building segregated schools for blacks and whites. Not quite 100 years ago, women got the right to vote. Many christians helped spearhead women’s vote; many tried to prevent it. From 1840s to 1920s, the US suffered Prohibition, which increased alcohol consumption, and ushered in organized crime. [Read my post on that here.] In the Old Testament, men had multiple wives, and concubines, while God said nary a word against it. These are just random examples off the top of my head, but there are countless more. The common consensus for Downs Syndrome or other special needs babies used to be institutionalization; now we shudder at the thought. Dresses for women even 100 years ago? Mandatory! Today? Not at all. What’s unacceptable in some generations are laughable in others. Good luck with your friends!

      • Love your answers Susan. Don’t forget also that Jesus started changing culture with His ministry too. He didn’t stone the woman caught in adultery, He ate with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors, He healed on a Sabbath. He called a tax collector to follow Him.
        Salvation was said to be for Jews, at first the Jews didn’t believe gentiles could be saved, and when they saw that God was indeed also working with Gentiles and giving them the baptism of the Holy Spirit they stilll wanted for the gentiles to be circumcised. The thing is God can only work with what we can understand as He reveals Christ more and more in us and as our understanding of technology and complex concepts grow beliefs and culture changes. The sun was said to revolve around the earth and that the earth was at the centre of the universe, to believe otherwise was heresy, people lost their freedom and lives for a belief that we now take for granted. For me the best place to start is with what Jesus changed. Even if Jesus Himself came now and walked around amongst us teaching as He taught the Pharisees, we too like the Pharisees would proberbly find ourselves being offended.

        Sorry so long, I got carried away a bit. 🙂

        • I love all this – so true! We look back on Jesus and already know the stories, but they looked at Jesus in person, and couldn’t sort out his mind-boggling statements. We need to be more willing to have our minds boggled by Jesus instead of ho-hum, we already know this. Thank you, Ayanda!

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