Ex-gay ministries -- a letter from Chuck Tarver


Chuck Tarver

Ex-gay ministries -- a letter from Chuck Tarver


Introduction from Bill Weintraub

recently, an ex-gay ministry aimed at the African-American LGBT/same gender loving community sent around an "open letter"

i'm not going to post the entire letter here because it's verrrrrrrrrrry long and on the whole typical

however, two of the paragraphs are interesting

in them, the group acknowledges, in a mealy-mouthed way, that there is no such thing as an "ex-gay" -- that is, that one cannot change sexual orientation:

We have to let you know that getting home [no longer being gay] won't be easy. Despite what you may have heard about "instant deliverance" and "miraculous breakthroughs" we've discovered that God is a Father who purposely teaches His children through process. Coming back to Him regardless of how many years you have been "in the wilderness" of homosexual living will require committment and endurance. Coming out of homosexuality may be one of the most difficult things you have ever done, but difficult is not synonymous with impossible. God specializes in things which man thinks are impossible...

We also understand and acknowledge that the term "exgay" may be misleading. It's not our intention to pretend that we are completely healed or that all of our past dysfunctions have evaporated into thin air. Yet, while the term "exgay" does not adequately convey the process of change that we are going through, our living, thinking and desires have undergone drastic transformation.

etc etc

Chuck Tarver, author of Musings of a Black Gay Man into Frot, wrote the following very trenchant response, which I'm posting because it's exceptionally relevant not just to our argument with the extreme religious right, but with the analists as well:


I have several problems with the open letter. The first is the claim that it is sent in love. The letter is anything but loving and it's unlikely that those to whom it is directed, will feel love. More than likely, they will experience still more pain. This time caused by the so-called good intentions of the letter writers.

The second problem I have with the letter, rests in the core belief of the letter writers. There is deliberate confusion between "orientation" and "lifestyle." The assumption is that if you are of a certain orientation, that you live a particular lifestyle. The letter writers are not the only ones who make this assumption. It is made by the religious and political right as well as the gay and progressive left.

The basic assumption is that based on orientation, one must live according to a particular set of rules. Thus if one has an orientation which predisposes him/her to be attracted to members of the same sex, he she will live by one set of rules. If someone is oriented toward members of the opposite sex, he/she will live by another set of rules.

The letter writers and unfortunately some members of the lgbt community conclude that if one has a homosexual orientation, the "lifestyle" or "set of rules" that one "must" live by includes: multiple sex partners, late hours at the clubs, substance abuse, addictions, sexual fetishes, HIV/AIDS and an out-of-control life. No doubt some of the letter writers and those prominent in the ex-gay movement led such out-of-control lives. To say that they are now ex-homosexuals causes further confusion in an area already fraught with confusion. Wrapping themselves in pious garments is outright deceitful.

Orientation does not equal behavior.

Orientation is a predisposition to a particular mode of expression. It does not translate into a predetermined set of behaviors. For example, I am left handed. My natural mode for performing everyday common tasks such as writing, eating, picking up objects is to use my left hand. Most times, I cut with my right hand, unless someone hands me a pair of left-handed scissors. On such occasions, I marvel at how natural they feel and vow to get a pair for myself. I have yet to do so. I can write, eat and pick up objects with my right hand. I do so on occasion, for example seated next to a large right hander on a plane or at a banquet. It is just one of the many adaptations that those of us who are "differently predisposed" learn to make. The fact that I do things with my right hand, does not change my left-handed orientation. That orientation is innate.

At one time in this country, left handers were forced to use their right hands. In some societies if you dip your left hand into the communal bowl, you will draw back a nub. The left hand is for bathing and scratching one's "naughty bits." Those with left-handed orientations in such societies learn to use their right hands. Behavior changes, orientation does not.

Because I believe one has the right to chose his/her behavior regardless of orientation, I accept that those who call themselves ex-gay or ex-homosexual have chosen how they want to lead their lives. I do however challenge them to be honest about their decisions. It would be far more honest for them to admit that their orientation remains the same but they have chosen to change their behavior. They come close to admitting such with their statement, "We also understand and acknowledge that the term "ex-gay" may be misleading. It's not our intention to pretend that we are completely healed or that all of our past dysfunctions have evaporated into thin air." Yet they still deliberately maintain the confusion between orientation and behavior.

To answer Linda Carter of Mobile Alabama's question, "Who could walk away from such a letter of love and support?" I can and I do. I do not see the letter as supportive. It is definitely not "loving." For it to be "loving" those to whom it is addressed would have to feel that love. I do not feel love from this letter.

There are countless members of the black lgbt/same gender loving community, who have strong faith in God and who do not lead the kinds of destructive, out-of-control lives that the letter writers define as "gay." I count myself among them.


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