Last month, “Ex-gay” activists held an “ex-gay” pride rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Somewhere between seven and 15 people attended, which sounds more like a dinner party than a rally.
In any case, Queerty had a chance to chat with the event’s organizer, Christopher Doyle, via cell, after the rally, and then ask him some follow up questions via email.
Doyle is director of Voice of the Voiceless, an organization that claims to assist people who have unwanted same-sex attractions.
You held an “Ex-Gay” pride event in Washington, D.C. that a total of seven people turned out for.
Actually, we had about 15 people that came.
Okay, so my number was wrong.
By my count, we had about nine former homosexuals, including an ex-transgender, and then we had half a dozen allies that were straight that came out to support us.
Were you disappointed by the turn out?
Somewhat. The numbers were lower than I had expected. I really do believe there are tens of thousands of [“ex-gay”] persons like myself out there. The problem is there really is a lot of intimidation and harassment, unfortunately, by LGBT activists. A good percentage of them don’t give us a fair shake. They really do write some nasty stuff about us. They assume we’re all out there trying to take down LGBT rights.
You’ve said that your plans to host an “ex-gay” pride month were scrapped after receiving violent threats. What were some of these threats and how were they made?
They were over phone and e-mail. Basically after this all was announced in early July, that we were going to hold an event at the Family Research Council (FRC), some people interpreted that to mean that FRC was launching our organization. FRC has made a lot of anti-gay statements. There’s no doubt about it. People who support LGBT rights do not like FRC.
Do you know who made the threats?
The threats that we received over the phone weren’t identifiable. They came from unlisted numbers. Most likely they were people who are sort of unstable.
What did they say?
They would call and say: “You guys are jokes!” “Don’t even try to hold an event in D.C.!” “We’re going to disrupt it!” I can’t quote you word-for-word.
Those hardly sounds like threats.
We take all threats serious, whether explicit or implicit. We thought it best to postpone and move the event to ensure safety and security. Unfortunately, I deleted the voicemails because they were so nasty and I didn’t think about keeping them to save as evidence. I do have some e-mails.
“Fuck you!” “Your beliefs mean shit!” “I hope you all rot in hell!” “You are nothing but an evil hate group!”
This guy photoshopped a photo of my bald head into bowling ball. I replied and told him it’s sad that he’s harassing me because I have alopecia.
How many e-mails did you receive?
I have dozens.
I have trouble seeing how these constitute as “threats,” especially when you compare them to the literally thousands of attacks on LGBT people, including hundreds of murders. I’ve never once heard of any ex-gay bashings.
Attacks towards LGBT persons are a tragedy. It grieves my heart to see such violence. I don’t think you can compare the persecution that gays have faced to ex-gays. This is like comparing apples to oranges. Although, I do know of some instances where my [“ex-gay”] colleagues have been physically assaulted by some angry activists. Ex-gays do face marginalization and discrimination in very similar ways that gays have faced, and I think both are equally wrong.
Did any of the people who threatened you actually show up at your event last week?
We had one activist show up and heckle us. It’s pretty typical. Yeah, we had one activist. This happens all the time, though. One time [after an event] I went out to my car and I had this activist follow me and start taking photos of me and then saying terrible things about me online. I had never even met the guy. And then they started saying things like I’m a “cock sucker” and I’m “still gay.” I’ve never even met these people. They have no idea who I am.
How does it make you feel when people say these things to you?
When I first came public with my story of change, these types of attacks really hurt me. I was shocked that people would say such disrespectful, vile things about another person who they do not even know.
Do you think people get upset with you because of the organizations that you affiliate yourself with? Organizations like the FRC, for instance, that preach a message of intolerance.
Um… I can imagine so. Let me just tell you this: I have tried to reach out to LGBT organizations for support and none of them would offer support. If you think it’s us who are intolerant, I think you need to think a little more about that. We’ve tried to work with HRC and GLSEN. I’ve supported GLSEN’s work, despite the fact that they say negative things about me. I think they do good work around bullying prevention, and wish they were more inclusive and tolerant towards youth who may not identify as gay but have same-sex attraction and may seek change.
But why would an organization like GLSEN ally with people who strive to eviscerate their very existence?
GLSEN has references material that talks about the fluidity of sexuality, but yet when it comes to ex-gays or therapy to help those who want to change, they condemn it. They also have materials and get involved in sexuality education. Should they not be thorough in the information they present to youth who are gay or have same-sex attraction and present all the information? What are they afraid of? Also, does their bullying prevention only cover kids who have wanted same-sex orientation, or also kids who have unwanted same-sex attractions and may desire to change? It seems that there are some political elements going on with their work.
Politics aside, though, these are organizations specifically dedicated to supporting LGBT people, and you say you’re not gay.
We need allies. “Ex-gay” organizations need allies to help support us and our work. If we’re not going to get allies with LGBT organizations who say they’re so tolerant and say they’re so accepting, then who are we to go to? The only places we can go to are pro-family organizations that don’t accept homosexuality.
We are on the fringe. Any time you’re an organization on the fringe, you need to have friendly media outlets and so forth. Can I get onto a mainstream talk show? No. They shut us out. They shut our views out. So where am I to go? American Family Association, Michael Brown, people have taken anti-gay positions.
Do you think they shut you out because they don’t agree with what you have to say…
Maybe with your website. But not the mainstream. Look at every single major television network. Is there a lack of gay voices? You have Anderson Cooper, Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell. There’s no problem with them getting media and airtime, and with that comes influence and power, and they can get their message across. We’re not given that opportunity. We’ve been pummelled by the mainstream media.
So what does it mean to be “ex-gay”?
I think it ultimately comes down to self-identification. I identify myself as an “ex-gay” simply because I want to share my story with other people. People like myself aren’t discriminated against because we’re straight. We’re discriminated against because we’re former homosexuals, meaning we chose a different path, we have a different story than people in the LGBT community. I don’t personally know any ex-gays out there who are really trying to cause hurt among members of the LGBT community. I don’t see that as their motivation. I think they genuinely want to help people.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
I’m not out there protesting in front of HRC and saying: “Gays need to change or go to hell.” Although I know some people who do, and they’ve invited me to do those things. And I say “no.” I don’t participate in that stuff. I don’t think it’s my mission as an “ex-gay” to tell people they need to change or they’re going to hell. As a psychotherapist I believe it is my ethical duty to take a neutral stance when it comes to political issues.
That was the other question I had: Do you take issue with LGBT people and LGBT rights? For instance, do you support marriage equality?
I have no issues with gay people, per se. I do have issues with homosexuality and the homosexual activists’ agenda. I don’t personally take a stance on marriage equality, but I am very suspicious of the motives of the organizations that are seeking marriage equality, because in my experience of working with gay men, I don’t see marriage as something they’re interested in.
From what I’ve seen, and I’ve worked with 150 plus clients and have been in the life myself as a former person that acted out on same sex attractions, what I saw was a lot of promiscuity, a lot of multiple partnerships and, really, a lot of sex that didn’t happen in committed relationships. So for me it’s a little puzzling as to why marriage is so important to gay men.
Couldn’t the same argument be made about heterosexual couples, though? I’ve met plenty of heterosexual couples who like to have a lot of sex, who have trouble with commitment, and who fit all the same descriptions that you’re applying to gay men.
For me, it ultimately comes down to an issue of commitment. And I feel the male gay community has a lot of work to do when it comes to commitment. Lesbians are a different issue. I could see them wanting to form marriages because they tend to form longer-term partnerships.
You don’t think that might be a generalization?
That’s what the science says.
I will say this: I’ve come out in public favor of civil unions. I don’t think that gays and lesbians should be denied the right to be in a union.
I guess to me, just listening to that, it seems contradictory to say gay people aren’t interested in commitment and yet they should be allowed to have civil unions. I’m having a difficult time understanding the logic.
From my experience working with and also having gay friends, I don’t see marriage as something that most of them are interested in.
How do you explain people like Alan Chambers, who say they no longer engage in same-sex relationships, but that their sexual orientation never actually changed. In other words, they still have same-sex attractions, they just don’t act upon them.
Alan Chambers would not identify himself as gay. He would say he’s attracted and oriented towards his wife, Leslie. That being said, Alan is not a psychotherapist, nor does he understand the complex nature of sexuality and sexual orientation. As an outside observer of Alan, I would venture to say that Alan has great intimacy with his wife, has attached to her, and they have bonded, which is why he is oriented towards her.
He’s admitted that he’s still sexually attracted to men, though.
Sexual attractions are not about desires, behavior, and arousal. It’s about attachment, intimacy, and bonding. When couples achieve intellectual, emotional, and spiritual intimacy, romantic, or sexual feelings result for one another. That is not to say you can’t be sexually aroused by other people. But successful, committed relationships that are monogamous, which I believe is the ideal, contain those forms of intimacy, which aid and increase sexual intimacy. Unsuccessful and unhealthy relationships tend to focus on sexual pleasure and lust for one another and neglect these other aspects of intimacy.
To clarify: By “unsuccessful and unhealthy relationships” are you talking about “gay relationships”?
Gay or straight.
And you really believe all this?
I firmly believe that if a man who has same-sex attractions can achieve this type of deep intimacy with the opposite sex, when it comes the sexual aspect of their relationship, the “parts”, so to speak, will work. I’ve seen this in some of my clients who were primarily attracted to the same-sex, got married to an opposite sex partner, and because they had great intimacy, had a good sex life.
I read an article you wrote in which you say you’re now married with three kids and haven’t “relapsed” in eight and a half years.
In eight and a half years I have not had a strong desire to act out sexually or really even look at a man and think: “Wow, I’m really sexually attracted to him.” I never really went to therapy to try and eliminate same-sex attraction, it just happened automatically.
There is no data to say that sexual orientation can be changed. In fact, the data says exactly the opposite. So at one point you were sexually attracted to men and then one day it just… stopped?
Yeah! I never bonded with men growing up. I had a hard time with my dad. And I always felt like I was on the outside looking in with men growing up. When I was 23 I moved down to Washington D.C. and started forming friendships with straight men that I felt accepted by and loved by. When I got all those emotional needs met, my same-sex desires and attractions completely went away. I mean, I remember waking up one morning and thinking: “Wow! I’m not attracted to guys anymore.”
How would you respond if one of your children came to you and said: “Dad, I’m gay.”
I would love them unconditionally. Absolutely I would love my child. I would help them discover their truth for their life. I would never kick a kid out because he was gay.
You would never impose heterosexuality on your child or any child if it wasn’t what he naturally felt?
I don’t know. That’s a tough one. I think as parents we impose lots of values on our children. I would say to my child: “I will always love you whether you’re gay or straight, but let me share with you some of the wisdom I’ve learned about sexuality.” I would want them to have all the information. I’m of the belief that the truth will set you free. If being gay is who you believe God wants you to be, then you go and live your life, and you’ll be judged by the Maker. That’s what I believe.