Sara Whitman

"Pray away the gay"

Filed By Sara Whitman | September 13, 2007 9:39 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: ex-gay, God, lesbian, love, Love Won Out, prayer, queer, religion, science, sex, spirituality

Now I know where my mother failed. She didn’t want me to be a lesbian and asked me if I could simply be asexual. Not involved with anyone. Worked for her, so why not?

prayingguy.jpg

What she really needed to do was have me pray. Read the bible. Study scripture. Find God and embrace him.

He’s a man, after all.

Stanton L. Jones of Wheaton College and Mark A. Yarhouse of Pat Robertson University are releasing today study results, if that’s what you call it, at the regional conference of Christian Counselors in Nashville. (The full study results will be released on Oct. 10, in the form of a book by Christian publisher InterVarsity Press.)

Too bad my mother was an atheist.

“It comes as no shock that anti-gay ‘researchers’ at Wheaton College and Pat Robertson University would release a study that claims you can pray away the gay,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “I suppose their next study will provide support for Pat Robertson’s theory that homosexuality causes meteors and hurricanes.”

I wonder if that has worked for Ted Haggard? I mean, it didn’t help him being the head of a ministry, but maybe all those men on their knees at the alter was too much pressure?

On one hand, if a bunch of Christian Fundamentalists want to believe that you can deny sexual feelings by immersing yourself in prayer, then I applaud them. Personally, I don’t see the point. As I told my mother at the tender age of 20, you mean, you want me to NEVER have sex?

Yes, was her very firm answer. What’s the big deal about sex?

That’s when I dropped the conversation because I was not going to explain to my mother that sex actually kinda rocked in my young, earnest opinion and there was no way in hell I was going to give it up. You just don’t go there with your mother who was raised wearing white gloves and thought nothing of piling books on your head to teach you how to walk the right way.

It breaks my heart when I read about young adults being pulled into the belief that if they pray, be good to God, and really really really try, they won’t be gay anymore.

The problem is, they are still going to be gay. And then what? Do those Christian Counselors think about what kind of shame they are filling these young people with? Do they take responsibility for the attempted suicides and successful suicides of young LGBT youth?

Anyone out there think they “doth protest too much?” Are they just trying to scrub out their own ‘spots?’

I’m 44 years old. It took my mother ten years to come around and finally not only accept me for who I am, but to read garbage put out by the likes of Jones and Yarhouse and understand how dangerous it is for young, impressionable minds. She never admitted to being wrong, but years later, in a quiet moment on a porch looking out over the ocean, she asked me how I made it through whole.

Who helped you? She wanted to know. I thought all homosexuals were unhappy, lonely people.

I shared with her the books by Ann Landers I read, the few friends I confided in who still loved me, the panicked hang up calls to a gay and lesbian group listed in the phone book and the ultimate experience of going to a college LGBT group meeting.

I didn’t mention the part of about kissing a girl for the first time and knowing, in my heart, that I finally knew who I was.

I told her I was lucky.

I remember how quiet she was after I told my story. She knew I was lucky, too. There were so many other, incredibly destructive, ways I could have ended up.

I’m old enough now to laugh off ridiculous, illegitimate studies done by people trying to prove their own point. I read the fine print, see the methodology used as beyond hokey and roll my eyes. I have my family, my friends, and my community who supports me for all of who I am, every day. I am ashamed when I don’t recycle everything I can but never about marrying a woman.

There was, however, a time when I was ashamed. I am so grateful there was no Christian Counselor telling me to “pray away the gay.” I cannot imagine how I would have recovered.

And every time I read one of these studies, I vow to be as out, as available and as open a role model as I can possibly be.


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great post, Sara. I think it's important to mention that religion doesn't have a monopoly on homophobia. My parents are pretty non-religious, not atheists, just non-religious, and they still have issues with it.

This is the same theory that we heard last night from George Bush.. They are all of the same mental fabric. It doesnt matter if it works or not.. "working" is not the point. just like he knows as well as anyone that the Surge is not working.. What matters is that if your busy trying to not be gay, and praying... they assume you will be too guilt ridden to actually be yourself...
The facts of the matter are incidental. they do not matter.. They also believe that abstinence only sex education really works.. And that distributing condoms to high school kids will encourage them to have sex..
These people are so screwed up themselves, they wont be happy until everyone is as maladjusted and self-hating as they are....

This post illustrates why you are one of my favorite bloggers here on the site, Sarah. Your writing is stupendous. The part on the front page is bound to have everyone making the jump to read more.

I noticed that you had taken the picture yourself, btw. Great shot.

WOW! You have managed to describe my difficulty in dealing with my mother. My partner is in her 50's, and I'm in my mid 20's. Mother can't seem to accept that we love each other, and that we are more than friends. We're both having a hard time dealing with it. And to top it all off, she was married (to her wonderful husband) for over 25 years. When he died and we got together, no one was more shocked than either of us. It just kind of happened one day. We were sleeping in her bed, and she leaned over and kissed me and said, "I LOVE YOU! And I don't mean in some platonic sort of way, I mean I REALLY love you!" I couldn't tell her at the time that I had been falling in love with her for the last several years. I eventually did, and now we're very happy together. We haven't actually made lifetime commitments to each other yet, but we're going on a cruise for Christmas this year. I think we'll do it then.