Much has been written about the socially conservative employment of “conversion therapy” — a generally Christian approach to homosexuality, whereby one attempts to change their…ways? Nature? Preference? Choices? Lifestyle? Fill in the blank with the most accurate term.
Well, the movement’s in the news this week, thanks to a revolutionary decision by a prominent conversion therapist.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you HuffPost:
According to a 2007 New York Times article, (David) Matheson ran a full-time therapy practice in New Jersey with an active roster of about 50 clients. At the time, he was a co-organizer of a weekend program called People Can Change and ran an organization called the Center for Gender Affirming Processes.
On Monday, Matheson made an announcement on Facebook:
A year ago I realized I had to make substantial changes in my life. I realized I couldn’t stay in my marriage any longer. And I realized that it was time for me to affirm myself as gay.
Well; that certainly doesn’t speak well for the transforming power of People Can Change.
David, by the way, was — until recently — married.
I enjoyed a happy and fulfilling marriage with my wife for many years. Overall, it was a beautiful relationship and being “straight” became a core part of my identity. But I also experienced attractions to men. Much of the time these were in the background. But sometimes they were very intense and led to pain and struggle in my marriage.
The confession came shortly after LGBTQ nonprofit Truth Wins Out obtained a private Facebook post made by Rich Wyler, a fellow conversion therapist, which addressed Matheson’s sexuality, NBC News reports.
Wyler, the director of Journey into Manhood, an agency that is “designed especially for men to address incongruous same-sex attractions,” had allegedly written on Facebook that Matheson was “seeking a male partner” following his divorce, as “living a single, celibate life ‘just isn’t feasible for him.'”
David renounced his old, “homophobic” life:
I used to be caught in an ideological prison of my own. I know my work helped many, many people because they’ve told me so. But I’m sure I’ve hurt some people too. Not that I would excuse myself, but any shortcomings I had as a therapist came from too narrow a view of what “emotionally healthy” can look like. They came from my own homophobia and narrow mindedness. I am truly sorry for those flaws and the harm they have surely caused some people. And I’m sorry for the confusion and pain my choice may be causing others.
In his view, he’s still homophobic:
Even today, as a newly-out gay man, I still find too much homophobia in myself. But I’m a much more accepting person now than I was 6 years ago before I started dialoging in a mixed-ideology group that included several gay-affirming therapists. We spent literally hundreds of hours learning about each other and solving problems together. I love them, and their gracious acceptance of me—arrogant as I was—more than I can describe.
What of David’s past?
So, what can you take from my course change? Not that I was faking it all those years or that the choice I’m making now was inevitable. Not that I’m renouncing my faith or my past work—even if I wish I could go back and change some things. Not that I condemn marriages between same-sex attracted and a straight person. And not that I’m giving up or jumping ship.
What you can take from this is that my time in a straight marriage and in the “ex-gay” world was genuine and sincere and a rich blessing to me. I remember most of it with fondness and gratitude for the joy and growth it caused in me and many others. But I had stopped growing and I had to change. So I’ve embarked on a new life-giving path that has already started a whole new growth process.
He has a new message for the world:
If my coming out could change one thing, other than my own life, it would be to encourage people to really own and feel confident about their life path and to pursue it without fear or shame—regardless of what others might think.
The (former) Mormon’s uncloseting — a conversion from a conversion — is being covered by HuffPost, NBC News, The Guardian, UK’s The Times, and elsewhere. It surely serves as a further blow to (what’s left of) the conversion movement.
What are your thoughts — on the story, as well as conversion therapy? I’d like to know.
And I guess his organization’s title really was apt: People Can — and do — Change.
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