Opinion: Real Lives, ‘ex-gays’ does it matter?

OPINION: David Kernohan

We are seeing an increasing number of churches hosting talks by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and the ‘ex-gay’ organisation True Identity.

Does this matter?  For the majority of us, who have scant interest in what churches do or do not do, we may read of these events and roll our eyes, thinking they have little impact on our lives as members of the LGBTIQ+ community.  We may reason, the credibility of churches has taken a hammering in light of the sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed many churches in the past years, so we do not need to bother.

I argue we do need to be concerned and think through how we will deal with the increasing rise of the religious right as epitomized by the ACL and right-wing, fundamentalist churches who have in many ways escaped the sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed hierarchical based churches.  In an article on June 11, 2021, in OUTinPerth, Justice Kirby expressed concern at the excessive religious freedoms that are being pushed by the ACL and other fundamentalist churches.

As an LGBTIQ+ community we need to be careful the freedoms we have fought for over the years are not slowly rolled back and infringed on by groups such as ACL and True Identity.

There is another reason we need to be concerned.  As members of the LGBTIQ+ community we have a responsibility to support and protect other members of our community who may be struggling with mental health issues, loneliness, and isolation.  We know the incidence of mental health issues is higher amongst members of the LGBTIQ+ community, not because people are unhappy with their sexual orientation but because of the lack of acceptance and prejudice that they still experience.

We have a responsibility to support members of the community who may be influenced by “Real Lives” and “True Identity” who promise what they cannot deliver.

The subtle implication of “Real Lives” and “True Identity” is your life is neither real nor that the identity you have struggled to express is still not real.  This is a dangerous fallacy.  Your current life is a real life, your current identity is a true identity.  As we grow older our identities may change, that does not make your current identity or your previous identities any less true. Your true identity is not achieved by somehow choosing to be heterosexual or celibate.

“Real Lives” and “True Identity” pander to the concept of the unhappy LGBTIQ+ person.  It is a reductive theory that reduces unhappiness to sexual orientation.  Again, this is a fallacy.  There are many reasons a person may be unhappy that have nothing to do with their sexuality.

While the ACL is keen to concentrate on members of the LGBTIQ+ community who they claim are unhappy, the question needs to be asked, what are the churches doing about the many heterosexual couples and individuals who have found God and remain unhappy and miserable with their lives?  As a former minister, my life as a pastor was taken up with heterosexual Christians who were miserable in their lives and for whom God had not provided the joy and happiness ACL and True Lives promise.

ACL and True Lives promise that God will heal you and you can be either heterosexual or celibate.  If God is all-knowing and as all-powerful as Christians claim, then they cannot state with any certainty that God will or will not heal a person.  That is in the realm of the Divine, not the ACL or True Identity.  What happens if God chooses not to heal of person of their LGBTIQ+ orientation?  This is a topic covered in the book Straight to Jesus by Tanya Erzen.  She, in her excellent book, points out that most people in the “ex-gay” movement still identity as gay, not as heterosexual.

As a person who was married for 33 years, marriage is not a sign of healing from homosexuality. It is possible to be married and still as gay as they come.

We need to be clear, if ACL and True Identity were peddling their discussions in the commercial area they would be done for false advertising, it is only because they are sharing their stories in churches and the grey area of faith they do not come under the umbrella of false and misleading advertising.

Does it matter?

Yes, I believe it does.  For members of the LGBTIQ+ community for whom faith is important, they have the right to enjoy their faith knowing God as they perceive the Divine to be loves and accepts them as they are. For members of the LGBTIQ+ community who choose not to believe in God but still feel alone and isolated, we need to protect them against the false advertising of ACL and True Identity.

David Kernohan 

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