Monday, February 20, 2006

Stop Helping

So I see Alan Chambers is in the news again. What, you don't know him? Yeah, I'd never heard of him either, but he's the head of an organization called Exodus International. This is one of those places that 'helps cure' gay people by bringing them to Jesus. I have never availed myself of their services, Jesus and I are just fine thank you, but I first became aware of them about sixteen years ago. I was living in Seattle at the time, and one day in late Fall/early Winter of 1989 (?) I got a letter. There was no return address, the postmark was from somewhere out west, don't quite recall. The message it contained was short and simple:
"Dear Patrick,
There is freedom from homosexuality.
Call (206) Seattle Number
A Friend"
The number was for the offices of Exodus in Seattle. Initially I was furious. Apparently this 'friend' had anticipated such a reaction, because he or she was too cowardly to sign a name. Then I thought, hmm, maybe this would be a great way to meet guys. I wonder what sorts of things they do to 'cure' you? Maybe whipped cream and paddles would be involved. My college doesn't have fraternities, so I had missed out on the whole sadomasochistic/homoerotic hazing rituals that seem to characterize college for some. Maybe this was my chance.
Then I got over it, tried to believe the person meant well, and I threw the letter away. A few months later over Christmas in Indiana, I happened to see my sort-of-former boyfriend from college. For some reason I started telling him this story when he stopped me, saying he got the same note, with an Indianopolis phone number. The only link he and I had was college, so it seemed pretty likely that was where the anonymous friend had met both of us. That sent my brain to racing, considering some possible candidates. Everyone and her pet monkey at school knew I was gay, but my ex- was more or less closeted, whatever that means at a school of 1100. So the letter writer knew both of us, knew my ex- was bi, and had managed to get our present mailing addresses. Did he or she get them from the alumni office? I wonder how many more schoolmates got this note, or if my ex-and I were singled out for some reason as more promising. That possibility really makes me snort. I never pursued it, never heard if others were similarly ministered to.
So, seeing Alan Chambers (oh, he's an ex-gay, by the way, and very well groomed) and Exodus in the news has reminded me of this incident. It long since ceased bothering me, now it just intrigues me. I do wonder where that person is now, and if he or she still a member of Exodus. I suppose it's possible this 'benefactor' was just a straight person with high octane homophobia, but I've always assumed he or she was queer, and had found 'freedom' at Exodus. The success rate of those places is typically around 30%, 'success' is often only achieved by living in chastity, so the rate of people returning to their sinful ways is quite high. Chances are good this person has backslid or recanted, but whatever the case, I hope he or she is happy, and living a fulfilling and honorable life.
I know I am. Though I really need to date more.
I sure put a lot of words in quotes in this.


Brian said...

Aurin once did research on an ex-gay group in Florida, and when he gets back home he still hangs out with the guys from it. Apparently, they go out and cruise men together. They don't seem bothered by the contradiction.

Patrick said...

So it is a sort of "look but don't touch" thing? Even so, I'm with you, how do you participate that much, if you think it's behavior you need to be 'cured of'? The whole situation perplexes and fascinates me.