Sunday, October 23, 2011

The "ex-gay" cab driver's ring finger

Our New Haven “ex-gay” cab driver:  I’m “ex-gay” but I struggle still with my same-sex attractions; and that’s the way it will be for the rest of my life – and Exodus admits now that that is what they mean by change, i.e., a life-long struggle.

By Rev. Stephen Parelli
Written October 22, 2011
Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connectitcut

Chapel at Yale Divinity school
where I wrote the
text to this blog immediately
following my conversation with
the "ex-gay" cab driver. 
I didn't want to forget a word he
spoke telling his story
October 22, 2011, Yale
New Haven, CT
Today, Jose and I, together with two friends – one from Uganda and the other from the Bronx – travelled together by train from New York to New Haven to attend a day conference at Yale Divinity School on Same-sex Marriage and the Catholic Church.” 

In a friendly, low-key manner, the cab driver who conducted us from the train station to Yale, engaged us in conversation around the topic of our conference (but also, in passing, took interest in pointing out to us the house to which George W. Bush came home as a new born baby). 

Before pulling away from the train station, I had leaned over to Jose and whispered, “The cab driver is family.”  Jose gave a look that said, “I don’t think so.”  “Yes,” I said, “you can hear it in his voice.”  Before our transfer was completed, Jose would see that, this time, my gay-dar (for gay radar) picked up the signal correctly.

Our driver was somewhere in his mid-fifties or older. He asked if we were clergy. Our Bronx friend said, “Yes, two are.”  After his commenting some on different denominations and their controversies over same-sex marriage, our cab driver asked directly, “What do you think of Exodus and 'ex-gay'?”


Above:  Darlene Bogle, a former ministry leader in Exodus International issued a public apology to all former patients hurt in their attempts to change their sexual orientation. Current Exodus president Alan Chambers responded to her heartfelt sentiment with snark and sarcasm.

I told him that Jose and I travel the world speaking on the "ex-gay" movement (among other things); that our last seminar on “ex-gay” was in Singapore a couple months ago.  I told him I give eight points in my evaluation of the “ex-gay” movement and that he could find the paper on our website. Jose, who is my legal husband, told him we had met at an "ex-gay" support group.

Then I asked him if he had personally been involved with Exodus (I sensed he had).  He said yes and he said it changed him.  Our time was short so I asked him directly if he was changed in terms of his same-sex attraction because it was my experience with “ex-gays” that they do not change in that sense.

Here’s what he told me.  “Being 'ex-gay' is a life-long struggle.  Exodus has changed its position on what they mean by 'change' which is good.  They used to say you will change (in your same-sex attractions), but now they say you will struggle with same-sex attractions for the rest of your life.”

“I haven’t made it yet,” he said pointing to his ring-less ring finger, “and I guess I won’t, but that’s OK.  Some 'ex-gays' do make it that far,” pointing again at his bare ring figure as if marriage with the opposite sex was the ultimate achievement for the “ex-gay” Christian.

“But,” I said, keeping the focus on his comment that “ex-gays” do not change, “even in marriage the ‘ex-gay’ husband still struggles with same-sex attraction.”

[I made the above statement that "ex-gay" husbands struggle even in a heterosexual marriage based on my own personal experience and based on Bob Davies writings from his book Coming Out of Homosexuality in which he says:

page 158
Coming Out of
"A[n ex-gay] husband can just as easily experience a same-sex temptation one hour after making love to his wife as he can five days later.

"In [ex-gay married] men, homosexual temptations can be prompted by such emotions as anger, loneliness, frustration and boredom. ... If pressures of being a spouse or parent push these emotional "buttons,"
homosexual temptations may actually increase in the married ex-gay . . . "

page 162
Bob Davies, co-author
of Coming Out
of Homosexuality
"Ex-gay men may not feel an overwhelming physical attraction to their future spouse . . .

"Ex-gay [married] men . . ., the majority do not experience sexual arousal solely by looking at their wife's body. [Instead] . . . sexual arousal [must come by] touch and emotional feelings.

"Most ex-gay men do not struggle with sexual temptation for women . . . not the strong visual attraction experienced by most straight men. ... So a lack of sole dependence on visual stimulation can actually be a blessing."]

Then the cab driver said this, showing his agreement.  “When an ‘ex-gay’ husband and his wife walk down the beach together, his eyes follow her eyes just like this,” and putting his two forefingers together he moved them in sync towards an imaginary object of interest.  Jose immediately verbalized what his illustration was effectively demonstrating.  “So,” said Jose, “the wife is looking at good-looking men and the ‘ex-gay’ husband is looking along with her at the same.”

Paul Martin was a lead counsellor
with Exodus Asia Pacific,
but has since turned his back on
the organisation.
Read more
Click over photo for video news report
“Right,” said the ex-gay cab driver.  He was being consistent.  He had said he himself still struggles with same-sex attractions (even though his life, as he claimed, was changed; obviously his life-style was changed, not his sexual orientation).  He said he was glad that Exodus has officially gone on record as saying by change they mean a life-long struggle with same-sex attractions.  And he gave a candid description of how "ex-gay" husbands while walking down a beach are not attracted to women in skimpy bathing suits but to hunks that would turn the head of any woman.

Dropping us off at our destination, he was still engaging us in this "ex-gay" conversation.  We exchanged contact information.  He threw in the cliche “love the sinner, hate the sin,” and he compared the “ex-gay” process with alcoholics, something I hear again and again and which is, of course, just an incredible, inaccurate parallel.  In all of his talking with us, I did not feel judged by him.  I felt it was a fair, good give-and-take conversation.  I especially liked that he was on the same track with me:  he did know that Exodus does not anymore (and, if you read the fine print in the “ex-gay” books going back to the 1990s, the “ex-gay” movement never really did) claim that homosexuals can change.  I was talking with someone -this cab driver- who had an honest take on what change is in the "ex-gay" movement. 

Yale Divinity School Chapel,
Conference on "Same-Sex Marriage and
the Catholic church"
Oct. 22, 2011
As we left, still keeping a very friendly manner, he said, “See you in heaven and we’ll continue the [‘ex-gay’] conversation there.”  “OK,” I said as I pulled away from the cab to make my way towards the earthwhile conversation at hand – “Same-sex Marriage and the Catholic Church,” a day-long conference at Yale Divinity School.

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