By Patrick McAlvey
Prior to August 2009 I had probably told the story of my experience with ex-gay therapy to a total of 50 people. When it came up with friends I would share some of the details of how Mike Jones, an ex-gay “therapist” in Lansing, MI had robbed me of years of self-esteem and confidence with his lies and predatory practices. It wasn’t something I was overly eager to bring up — it’ not necessarily polite, feel-good conversation and I felt more than a bit embarrassed I had fallen for the ex-gay lies in the first place.
Since going public with my story last summer with the help of Truth Wins Out, things have changed. Thousands of people have now seen the video in which I tell my story and the man who performed my “therapy” has seen his Board of Directors dissolve and Exodus International remove their affiliation.
In early February I had the opportunity to travel to Des Moines, Iowa and share my story with over 100 strangers — including a State Senator sitting front-and-center. A group called First Friday Breakfast Club invited me to Des Moines to speak at their monthly meeting. As part of the trip I also spoke with 25 students at Iowa State University at an event hosted by the LGBTA Alliance and the Office of LGBT Student Services.
I was overwhelmed with the support and kindness with which I was received at both events. But I was also shocked at the number of people who were unaware the ex-gay industry is still alive and actively victimizing the most vulnerable members of the LGBT community. Since sharing my story publicly it has become evident that many people, including many LGBT folks, aren’t aware of the activity and dangers of the ex-gay industry.
It is more important than ever the LGBT community at-large understands the real threat the ex-gay industry represents to all of us. The US ex-gay industry’ connection to the Ugandan “Kill the Gays Bill” is a stark example of the danger these groups represent. They use the “fact” that sexual orientation can and should be changed to deny basic rights and to actively discriminate against LGBT folks.
In addition the ex-gay industry spreads false and defamatory lies that all gay men are addicted to drugs, alcohol and random sex and that it is impossible to be gay and happy and/or gay and religious. This is what I was led to believe and these false characterizations certainly perpetuate homophobia and discrimination experienced by gay men in particular.
And most obviously, the ex-gay industry continues to rob vulnerable and scared people of their dignity, self-esteem and identity. While in Iowa I got to meet several other survivors of ex-gay therapy and was touched to hear their stories. It was inspiring to meet other survivors who are also finding healing and strength by sharing their experiences and fighting to prevent others from similar abuses. I’m glad to be healing and fighting beside them.