Love in Action (LIA) is one of the largest and oldest ex-gay ministries in existence, founded in 1973, the same year the American Psychiatric Association decided that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness. John Smid resigned as the group’s executive director in 2008, and since then has slowly been rethinking his understandings of sexuality and his beliefs about homosexuality. In a new blog post last week, Smid has shown just how far he has come, acknowledging his own homosexuality (despite his loving marriage to his wife) and the fact that sexual orientation cannot be changed. Here are some of the key confessions Smid makes:
- NO ONE CHANGES: “One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable… I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.”
- NOT JUST BEHAVIOR: “I used to define homosexuality or heterosexuality in terms describing one’s behavior. I thought it made sense and through the years often wrote articles and talked from that perspective. Today, I understand why the gay community had such an issue with my writings. My perspective denied so many facets of the homosexual experience. I minimized a person’s life to just their sexuality but homosexuality is much more than sex.”
- GAYS CAN BE CHRISTIAN: “I hear story after story of men and women who accept themselves as being gay, in Christ, and finally find that life makes sense to them. Many are able to then nurture an authentic relationship with Christ because they are being honest and authentic with themselves and finally are able to accept His love unconditionally which changes the dynamic of their understanding of Him. Far too many homosexuals who are seeking Christ perceive that they cannot come close to Him if they remain a homosexual. In this mindset they search feverishly for change that will not come to them.”
- I AM HOMOSEXUAL: “I would consider myself homosexual and yet in a marriage with a woman. My sexual desires, attractions and lifelong struggle with common factors relating to homosexuality are pretty much all in the classification of homosexual. I tried my hardest to create heterosexuality in my life but this also created a lot of shame, a sense of failure, and discouragement. Nothing I did seemed to change me into a heterosexual even though I was in a marriage that included heterosexual behavior. Very often when I am in situations with heterosexual men I clearly see that there are facets of our lives that are distinctively different as it relates to our sexuality, and other things as well.”
Smid is on his own journey, and will likely continue to work things out for himself. As Ex-Gay Watch points out, “There is a certain haziness to Smid’s new statements, and rather than taking an unambiguously pro-gay stance, he errs on the side of caution.” Nevertheless, his words are revelatory and speak to the harms of ex-gay therapy and how little evidence there is supporting their effectiveness. He joins a chorus of other former ex-gay leaders who have apologized for trying to shame gays and lesbians into rejecting their sexual orientations.
But Smid’s apology also helps connect the dots between the mythology of ex-gay therapy and anti-gay political positions. When individuals like Rick Santorum or Herman Cain (or anyone from this weekend’s Values Voter Summit) defend their opposition to LGBT equality by suggesting that sexuality is all about behavior or that it’s a choice, they are endorsing ex-gay therapy as the foundation of those positions. Cain said, “Show me the science,” but as Smid points out, people with anti-gay positions often aren’t willing or able to understand any of the facts that contradict their discriminatory positions:
I was completely unwilling to hear anything that didn’t fit my paradigm. I blocked out anyone’s life story or biblical teaching that didn’t match up with what I believed… Now that I am not submerged into one sided perspectives, I am open to studying and reading the scriptures for myself, I am finding so many rich truths that I wasn’t ever made aware of before.
Hopefully, testimonies like Smid’s will help others open their eyes to the experience of LGBT people beyond what they’ve convinced themselves is “moral” or “best for society.”