You are different.
For years, you’ve been told you have a sickness that needs to be cured. It’s not fatal, but the manifestations are considered socially questionable by those you care about—your family, your friends and your faith community. The effects are personally wearisome.
You’ve envisioned what life would be like without this chronic burden. You’ve wished and prayed for it to go away. You are convinced it’s a serious detriment to the fulfillment and happiness you were taught to expect.
Yet, it remains, like an unrelenting infection, threatening to spread beyond control.
To compound the situation, those who love you are shamed by your condition and have been insistent that you seek professional help to eliminate “the problem.” It was one of them who sent you the brochure, promoting the incredible success of this doctor’s treatment.
“I’m only giving this to you out love and concern,” the loved one assured on the attached sticky note.
The pamphlet was vibrant and visually engaging, replete with the faces of attractive, happy people—male and female of various skin hues. The guys were looking adoringly at the girls, and vice versa. There was an abundance of positive, powerful words promising success: cure, victory, transformation, healing, and miracle. There were references to the “thousands” who had achieved the “freedom” of this “New Life” by “overcoming” this disorder.
A glimmer of hope is created by reading the printed assurances and testimonies, so you make an appointment.
“I don’t want this to be part of my life,” you confess to the doctor. “I want to be...normal!”
The doctor listens and nods sympathetically as you describe the years of turmoil and disruption this illness has caused—the embarrassment at the ridicule of others, the shame of lying about having the problem and the negative impact on your loved ones. You outline all the things you’ve done to try and hide the infirmity, or at least mask the visible indicators.
When you’re finished with your painful revelation, the doctor hands you a prescription. “We can cure this,” he promises. “We’ve seen thousands like you who are now living in freedom from this condition.”
When you press about what it means to be “cured” and what’s involved with “living in freedom,” the doctor explains:
“You will need to take this medicine...for the rest of your life. The symptoms might diminish over time, but they will probably never go away entirely. Don’t be discouraged. In the meantime, we find it’s best to pretend they’re gone. And even though you still have this disease, we recommend that you tell everyone that you don’t; they will just be disappointed in your lack of progress. Tout the medicine, not the malady. That way, you give the impression of being positive and hopeful, not a failure. People like knowing that you are giving this your best effort. Insist that the treatment has cured you, or is curing you…despite the obvious, enduring symptoms that you will know are still there. That makes those around you more comfortable, and it encourages other people with this problem to seek out our help.
“If you skip taking your medication, there might be occasions when visible symptoms of your illness will manifest. Your disease could be visible to others again. At that point, you will have a choice to give into the sickness completely, or get back on the medication immediately. In those times, it’s best to tell yourself…and others…it was a minor lapse in judgment and not a reflection on the treatment protocol. Continue to insist that you are cured, in spite of sporadic flare-ups of old symptoms.
“You will probably want to consider attending our support group, made up of others with this same condition who are also on this medicine. None of them have been completely relieved of symptoms either…but they will be understanding and empathetic of the difficult process. They can teach you how to talk about the wonderful remedy and deflect any discussion on specific details about the cure. They will also help you in the logistics of how to live a successful life denying you even have the disease.”
~ * ~
For those who’ve never been to “ex-gay” programs (Count your blessings!), and don’t know understand what’s involved, I’ve offer this tongue-on-cheek analogy. Unfortunately, this illustration does not take into account the great harm that many have endured who did choose to enroll in the programs.
That is why I write about “Conversion Therapy”(though I see the term “therapy” as a misnomer in this context); I’m committed to exposing the deception and the dangers of these programs. And hopefully save someone from the damage they can cause.
I welcome your personal story, as well as your comments, insights, and questions.
A Bonus Analogy
A young man is having significant pain in his shoulder, so his mother encourages him to visit a local pain management clinic.
When he arrives for his appointment, she opts to wait in the car for him. He walks to the front desk, and the receptionist gives him a thick stack of paperwork to be completed. Once he hands the myriads of filled-out forms back to the young lady, she smiles and points him toward a door that reads “Treatment.”
When walks through the door, he sees a sign that points MEN to the left and WOMEN to the right, so he walks down of the hallway. He finds dual doors at the end of the hall, one for BLEEDING, the other for NON-BLEEDING. He shudders and gives a prayer of thanks that he doesn’t have to enter the door for bleeding patients, and walks through the other door.
A sign on the wall instructs, PAIN BELOW THE WAIST to the right, and PAIN ABOVE THE WAIST to the left.
He follows the correct hall and comes to two more doors, one marked STABBING PAIN and the other for THROBBING PAIN.
He determines his pain is fairly constant, so he enters the correct door. There’s a sign directing him to the left if the pain is PERIODIC or to the right if the PERSISTENT.
Since the pain comes and goes, he takes the hallway and walks until he encounters two additional marked doors, one for PAIN ABOVE THE NECK and another for PAIN BELOW THE NECK.
Since the pain is in his shoulder, he walks through the door...and finds himself in the parking lot. He looks back at the outside of the door, and the sign reads THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING US TO SERVE YOU.
He walks over to his mother’s car.
“Well,” she asks. “Did they help you?”
He shrugged his aching shoulder. “No...but they are really organized!”