Jeremy Marks who founded Courage in the UK to help gays and lesbians overcome homosexuality writes ‘I began to think that perhaps we’d got it really wrong.’ in
In the 1980s, I started a group called Courage, to “cure” homosexuality. Although today the “ex-gay” ministry seems offensive, back then it was cutting edge, in that we were reaching out to the gay community. The rest of the church just said, “You’re wasting your time, they’re going to go to hell.” We didn’t have a “deliverance” approach, but there were some ministries that regarded homosexuals as being possessed by a demonic spirit that could be cast out. We adopted the psychoanalytic idea of an unfortunate family background: distant father, overbearing mother – and this was just a boy looking for a father’s love. The idea was that if placed in an affirming male environment, you’d grow out of your desires.
I’d known I was gay from about the age of 13. I got on well with girls, but I didn’t feel the sexual chemistry I felt when I watched Richard Chamberlain in Dr Kildare. In those days you could never talk about it. It was a lonely, frightening world.
By the end of the 1990s, the only ones doing well were those who’d accepted they were gay and found a partner. It was as if a great burden had been shifted, that they thought, “Now at last I know who I am. I know I’m in love with somebody and they love me.” I thought, this is the kind of result we hoped they’d achieve living an upright Christian life, but they’re finding that contentment just being themselves. I began to think that perhaps we’d got it really wrong.
I still run Courage, but now it’s with a belief that you can be gay and Christian. We offer a chance to meet other gay Christians and support committed same-sex relationships. It’s been difficult for my wife, because she’s naturally very concerned that I might therefore decide, “That’s it, I want to go and find a man.” But we’re coming up to retirement age and I wouldn’t feel happy just to leave her – feeling abandoned after all we’ve been through together. Ours may not be the traditional heterosexual romance, but the care for one another’s wellbeing is just as real. I try not to look back, but I know I’ve missed out in a big way – and so has she. She should have been with some heterosexual guy who adored her, as she should be adored.