I recently finished reading a remarkable book, Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement. Ethnographer Tanya Erzen spent a year with the men at New Hope, a residential ex-gay ministry program, researching the material for her doctoral dissertation (which eventually became the subject of this book).
Erzen describes how New Hope and other ex-gay ministries attempt to integrate spiritual and sexual identity through a process that resembles an ongoing (and often never completed) conversion experience — what she tantalizingly refers to as the ‘queer conversion experience’. The ex-gay movement is queer, according to Erzen, because it commonly accepts the queerness of its followers in the sense of knowing that many or most of them, while following Jesus, will not necessarily ‘become’ heterosexual. While a convert may ‘backslide’ or go into relapse, what matters most is public repentance and reaffirmation of commitment to Jesus.
The book is written with balance, compassion and a fair amount of humor, but also with a critical eye to the conversion claims made by ex-gay movement leaders and participants. She also traces the history of the movement anbd the various controversies that have surrounded it. This material is highly relevant in light of recent attempts by Exodus and NARTH to force the APA to reconsider its position on so-called 'reparative' or reorientation therapies.
I found this book very thought provoking. Tim Kincaid over at Ex-Gay Watch has also written a review. Highly recommended if you would like a non-polemical take on the ex-gay movement, or if you're interested in GLBT religious experience in general.