Onward Christian Ex-Gays

Infiltrator looks in on a few Christian groups that help misguided souls pray their way out of the gay lifestyle. Right here in the Bay Area.

"When you encounter a homosexual when you are walking on the streets, try to see them through the eyes of Jesus, and be prayerful," Debbie says, neatly wrapping up the double standard of Christian tolerance: Do not judge, but banish people to hell, nonetheless. "Just try to be open, because there might be nobody praying for them."

"And we'll be praying," expresses Carol. "Tobias is now on our prayer list!"

"Cool!" I say.

"And you're invited back any time to share all your learnings."

"Now's when the work really begins," I announce with a nervous chuckle. "You know what? For Christmas I'm going to get little Tobias a baseball mitt, boxing gloves, a football, a hockey stick ...."

Carol bursts my bubble. "Well, even sports athletes can be homosexuals," she notes.

"You're kidding!" I exclaim, shocked. "Who? Don't tell me Shaquille O'Neal."

"My son dated a cop, a Marine, a construction worker," Debbie proclaims, almost proudly.

My face drops.

"What do we tell the kids?!"

Infiltration No. 2: A Counseling Service

Persona:A gay man who needs a hearty dose of the Jesus.

Pretext:I seek an initial consultation about becoming ex-gay.

Approximate distance from San Francisco: 58 minutes.


Here's the irony: As far as homoerotic images go, Jesus on the cross is probably one of the most alluring known to humanity. Think about it: an almost-naked guy, draped in a skimpy cloth, with long hair and ripped washboard abs, apparently into blood sports.

On the other hand, what Christian anti-gay groups stress as the reason for falling into a gay lifestyle is a lack of Jesus in one's life.

But what if Jesus was the source of the problem? Let the phone consultation begin!

"Are you professional counselors?" I ask a man named Jose.

To my surprise, Jose acknowledges his lack of credentials. "No, we are not professional counselors. We're people who have dealt with same-sex attractions ourselves. Or we are people who have a desire to help people that do."

I tell Jose that I started in the gay lifestyle when I was in the military. "It happened with my commanding officer during the Gulf War," I explain. "That was the first time, when I was in the U.S. Army!"

In response, Jose explains the cure: "Recovery is not something that happens overnight. Yes, there have been people who have said yes, it's happened for them overnight. Some people think if the sexual side of things is gone, then they are cured more or less.

"[But] we call it 'The Process,' because it is a process of recovery."

"Do you think it's like envy?" I ask, interrupting him and referencing the Exodus Web site, which says that male homosexuality can start because of envy of the size of someone else's Johnson.

"You know, just from reading up," Jose explains, "I think it could be envy of other guys, like if they are more well-endowed ... that could be an envy trait."

"For me, it's the complete opposite," I say. "I was much laaaaaaarger than all the other kids in that department, and it was kind of a bragging, showing-off type of thing. You know, to show how large I am."

"Uh-huh. Uh-huh."

"I mean, I've always been huuuuuuuge!" I say. "I'd always be whipping it out and waving it around when I got a chance, like a 'Look at me! Look at me!' type of scenario."

"Uh-huh," Jose says, then quickly changes the subject.

"Heterosexuality is not our overall goal, because we have a lot of married people come to us. And they've been married for many years, and they still come to us," Jose says. "They would pretty much confirm that heterosexuality is not the goal because they would say, 'I'm pretty much full heterosexual.' Our main goal is to help them with their relationship with Christ, and from there, sexuality will change them into the person that God created us to be."

Now it's time to turn the religious tables.

"It's kind of weirdly religious based for me," I say, bringing the focus back to my problem.

"Uh-huh," Jose responds.

"It's kind of a messed-up sort of scenario. It's really complicated."

"There's actually different roots and different causes," Jose says, elaborating to the point that I think he's reading from a script. "Some people stem from a sense of envy. Some stem from a sense of anger and rejection. Some stem from other areas. It would really depend on each individual person. Though the roots are somewhat similar, those roots can tap different branches of the same root and splinter off into different areas."

"Well, I became aware of my present condition when I was a kid."

"Go ahead."

"OK. Has this case ever come up?" I ask. "The first time I ever felt attracted to a man -- this sounds kind of weird -- but it was from seeing pictures of Jesus when I was little. I would have this picture of Jesus hanging in my room and it would get me really, REALLY aroused!"

Long silence.

"Uh-huh," Jose says.

"Has that scenario ever happened to others? How do I deal with that?" I ask. "Every time I go to church, I get really turned on!"

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