Courage founder: "Gay cure" not possible

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
The Guardian:


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.

Comments (6)

There's an RC group with a similar name, but they're still in the "ex-gay" business.

That's quite a story. I don't understand why folks still put their hopes in a 'gay cure'.

June Butler

This makes me so sad for the writer and his wife. I'm grateful to live in a time and place where I have many gay friends in committed relationships. They are the average couple in the neighborhood, or at church. The finest "good Samaritan" who ever came into my life is a gay man. Thanks be to God that things are changing.

Remember all the awful stories about nuns attempting to punish kids for using their left hands to write? Remember the damage that did? When will we learn? Wouldn't it just be simpler and more efficient to develop a program to help fearful and angry people to cease being that way?

"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.' 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.

". . . It's been difficult for my wife, 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."

Thanks to Jeremy Marks for putting this experience in a few clear words, for I share much of it. I finally realized that the tradition simply is silent on sexuality, and all the confident counsel I got from pastors, therapists, and confessors was unconsciously designed to keep me invisible -- my non-standard desires were seen as my individual aberration, not a variety of the human condition. (And not a word about what I was facing from the people who'd taken their temptations behind monastery walls. One therapist told me that if I'd keep my thoughts and my wrists straight, I could ignore my desires and learn to love a woman.) Yes, finding the gay community provided a burst of freedom and joy such as church promised while delivering only shame and guilt. (And forgiveness and tolerance, over and over, for my unfortunate condition.)

I'd only say to Mr. Marks that his married life is not to be regretted. To forge an enduring partnership through the difficulties of life is an achievement. Not all gay people find enduring relationships. A college gay friend of mine married and he and his wife went through decades of hell in the process of becoming life and business partners; they are now supporting one another in the frailties of old age. They might have had an easier road, but they traveled the one they saw before them. I'm fortunate that my wife opted for life on her own, freeing me to find the companion who turned my life from negative to positive. The gay community is fading, as gay persons become just parts of the social order. I hope that the sense of freedom and discovery remain.

Readers of this story may also be interested in the following

http://thechronicleherald.ca/editorials/89143-raymond-taavel-blessed-is-the-peacemaker

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