The September issue of D Magazine features the story of Amanda Barbour, a woman who went through Exodus international and their ex-gay conversion therapy, but later came out for a second (and last) time and ended up (finally) marrying another woman with the support of her family.
“I am a lesbian,” Amanda told the pastor. “This is who I am.”
“I understand that you think that,” the pastor said. “But let’s just talk. Let’s talk about how you got into the situation. Let me get to know you.”
Amanda went back to school and told [girlfriend] Shannon that she couldn’t see her anymore. It was agonizing. Shannon cried so violently that she began to retch. Still, Amanda was firm.
“If I want my family,” she said, “if I want my dad, then I can’t have you.”
Amanda felt empty. Without Shannon, she felt like she’d never be strong again. For weeks, she subsisted on coffee and cigarettes. And when the semester was over, she left school and moved back in with her parents.
To them, this wasn’t too different from her brother’s addiction. They encouraged Amanda to meet with their church’s pastor again. The pastor introduced her to a local Exodus group, which taught that homosexuality is a sin and preached that with conversion therapy — also called “reparative therapy” — God can change your sexual orientation.
This story is important as the Christian community is slowly coming to a general consensus that conversion therapy (to “pray away the gay”) is counterproductive and useless. To date, the current modern Christian evangelical responses to LGBTQ identity issues have been one of three schools of thought:
- Same-sex attraction (which is an imperfect phrase, but the only understanding of LGBTQ identity in most church communities) is a psychological disorder that can be cured with enough discipline, therapy, and focused self-control.
- Same-sex attraction is something natural that can’t be helped, but acting on the attraction is clearly condemned by Scripture and so LGBTQ individuals must remain celibate or express themselves sexually only in heteronormative ways.
- Same-sex attraction is something natural that can’t be helped, and the Bible isn’t clear about condemning it because of certain contextual facts about the worship rites in the communities to whom the apostles wrote the epistles. Therefore, while pedophilia and prostitution are obviously condemned, non-heternonormative sexual expression may not be. So it’s fine as long as it’s practiced ethically.
Position #1 is quickly fading from the modern church due to criticism from the medical and psychiatric communities and better public awareness of the issue, even though it has been the historical norm in recent centuries. (The debate about the early church’s position on LGBTQ identity and sexual expression is heated and involved.)
Position #2 was the more “liberal” position in recent decades, but it’s quickly becoming the default conservative stance. And position #3 is the current liberal stance and is becoming quickly more popular.
The D Magazine piece is an excellent #longread piece if you’re curious about what it might be like to come out to a family operating under the assumptions of position #1.
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