Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and recovery from religious abuse
Jallen Rix has come a long way from his Southern Baptist Roots to be a Sexologist. In his new book he tells of his journey through the ex-gay movement, the research he amassed, and what he did to accept, liberate and integrate his gay sexuality and spirituality. Bottomline talked with Dr. Rix about his new book…
Bottomline: This is not the first time your presence has graced the pages of our magazines.
Jallen Rix: That’s right. I wrote a few articles for Bottomline, and a regular column in Pulp for about four years called “Sex Ed in Bed.” I took a break from it to write “Ex-Gay No Way.”
BM: Let’s start with the basics, what is the ex-gay movement?
JR: It is a 35 year old, cult-like organization of extreme religious people who believe that not only is homosexuality a sickness and a sin, but they also believe they have it’s cure. Over the past couple of decades, they have gotten a lot of attention because right wing fundamentalists and political groups have used the ex-gay movement as leverage to not grant equality to LGBT people, saying (in a nutshell), “Why give LGBT people civil rights when they can just choose to be straight.” Over the years, when “praying the gay away” failed to work, they took on a more pseudo-psychological persona. Yet, dozens of medical, educational and psychological organizations have come out with warnings against the harm “reparative therapies” cause.
BM: What does the subtitle to your book mean, “Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse?”
JR: As I wrote out my journey through the ex-gay experience and what I did to recovery from it, I discovered in the research that the ex-gay movement is an outgrowth of a larger, damaging phenomenon, called “religious abuse.” This is not to say that all religion is bad. However, there is a significant part of christian religion today that might espouse to spread the all-inclusive love of God, but sadly, their tactics are an abuse of power that harms people who put their trust in them. In this light, I am finding a lot of people relating to the book that didn’t go through an ex-gay ministry, but have religious abuse in their past — straight people, too.
BM: How long did it take you to write the book, and was it easy to do?
JR: Easy? What’s that? No, it was not easy. It took about three years to write the book, but it reviews my life over the past two decades. I dug through piles of journals and letters. To try and write from the heart of what I was feeling, it was like I relived the whole arduous experience again. Coming to grips with my sexuality, letting go of all the pain and hurt, coming out to my conservative family and friends, letting go of a ministry I had developed – it was hell! But the outcome of the book is that it appears a lot of people can relate to what I went through, and therefore I hope what I did to recover will be helpful to them as well.
BL: For people who do not grow up in a religious environment, the ex-gay experience often seems foreign. Why do some people – usually religious people – get so sucked in and trapped by these groups?
JR: There are a lot of different reasons people turn to reparative therapy. Mostly, when it comes to sexuality, our society uses subtle but strong conformity and peer pressure to keep people within a narrow line, and that goes double in most religious cultures. In general, we still function from the belief that “one man and one woman together, monogamously forever” is really the only way it should be. I’m all for marriage equality, but we know that some of that fight comes from our desire to feel acceptable. So when gay or lesbian christians are told that their sexuality will supposedly cause them to be rejected by all they hold dear — including the lie that they would be utterly rejected by God — they end up doing everything they can to avoid it. The ex-gay movement is systematic repression — one big organized closet so everyone involved can avoid and deny who these people authentically are.
BM: If someone who was struggling as an ex-gay asked for your advice, what would you tell them?
JR: First off I would say that wherever you are in the process, whatever you decide to do with your life, I will unconditionally accept and support you because I firmly believe that each of us is fully capable of managing and finding what’s best for your own life. This is something that ex-gay leadership can not do. They will kick you out the first sign of you attempting to love yourself as you are. Secondly, I would suggest that possibly, the reason you are struggling, and the reason reparative therapy at large is such a failure is that what they are trying to “fixed,” isn’t broken in the first place. Your sexuality is exactly what it should be just as it is, and you are not rejected by God for it. I believe God has created an incredibly amazing and multi-facetted world, and our sexuality is just one aspect of our colorful lives that reflects that beautiful diversity. It’s not something to be squelched and squeezed into a tiny, narrow box. It’s a gift, like any blessing that can be celebrated and responsibly enjoyed!
BL: Lastly, do people still ask you if the ex-gay ministry made you straight?
JR:Har! You know, even with the title of the book I am amazed at how many people will ask, “Well, did it work?” Duh?! Shall I dawn my favorite skirt, bend my wrist and call you “Grrrlfriend?” Of course it didn’t work. Now, with my life so rich and interesting, I’m glad it didn’t.
Learn more about the book and Jallen’s work at: www.ExGayNoWay.com