2 Survivors of Christian ’Ex-Gay’ Therapy Tell Their Stories
With his eyes closed and fingers interlaced, Taylor bowed his head and started to pray. "God, please change me," he prayed. "Take this away from me, I don’t want this. Please. I’d rather live the rest of my life without arms and legs than be like this."
At 21, Taylor, a devoutly Christian student at Whatcom, a community college in Bellingham, Wash., had just realized he was gay. "I felt destroyed inside," he says. "I’d grown up believing that homosexuality was a sin, so it was incredibly hard."
The very next day, Taylor met with a Christian counselor. After hearing about the incident at the park, he suggested Taylor quit his job at a local daycare and enroll in Living Waters, a 20-week therapy program in Bellingham that promotes itself as helping "those struggling with homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and the effects of sexual abuse," according to the organization’s Living Waters website.
Thus began a two-year journey through the twilight world of "reparative therapy."
Sometimes referred to as "ex-gay therapy" or "conversion therapy," reparative therapy is a now-widely discredited type of psychiatric treatment "aimed at changing sexual orientation," according to the American Psychiatric Association (which recently condemned the theory behind such treatments). Many Christian-based programs like Living Waters recommend reparative therapy, not because of any scientific reasoning or research, but because they believe homosexuality is a sin, unnatural or a form of sexual brokenness.
Efforts to change sexual orientation are not only unlikely to prove successful, they put the participant at even more harm for psychological trauma, according to a 2010 APA study. These risks include feelings of emotional distress, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, self-blame and guilt.