“I’m not gay, I just have SSA.”

If you’ve never read any of the ‘ex-gay’ religious literature, it might surprise you to learn that they don’t actually talk about homosexuality all that often. Instead, they’ve done away with the concept of sexual orientation altogether and turned homosexuality into SSA, or ‘Same Sex Attraction’. SSA, they argue, is not something you are (is not part of your identity), but is something you have, and something that you can stop having if you try hard enough.

This is an almost Orwellian linguistic trick, and I have to applaud the more underhanded of these groups for employing such a devious and subtle bit of social engineering. One of the primary goals of the gay rights movement has been to convince people that homosexuality isabout  more than just sexual behaviour or even about who one is attracted to; it has a profound effect on a person’s identity and is not something that you can simply ‘give up’, regardless of how much you might want to. According to the ex-gay crowd, they know better.

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I sympathise with those who are unhappy with their sexuality, especially young people who have to deal with religious stupidity. My advice to them might be ‘toss the damn Bible out the window and do what makes you happy’, but I can understand why a lot of them don’t want to do that. But these ex-gay organisations are inevitably motivated by the desire to ‘save’ gay people, and thus can’t be expected to be even remotely impartial in the information they dispense. Don’t believe me? Then take a look at this rather frightening website.

‘Living Hope Ministries’ was apparently set up to help young people who are gay who suffer from SSA to recover (and yes, they actually call it ‘recovery’). Having read many of the resourced on their website, I rather suspect that they’re more interested in ensuring that fence-sitting gay Christians don’t go over to the wrong side. But regardless of how good or bad their aims are, the advice they give is atrocious, insulting and potentially dangerous. The following is from this article:

1. Where does homosexuality come from?

People end up with SSA (same sex attraction) because of a number of contributing factors:
• parental relationships
• gender identity confusion
• sexual and/or emotional abuse
• peer rejection

Nice. If they have any scientific research to back this assertion up, I can’t find it. Which is actually beside the point, since very few scientists would claim that they know for sure what causes homosexuality. Living Hope has already shot their credibility to pieces by pretending to be certain about something where certainty is currently impossible.

God intends for us to go through a series of stages in our emotional development, and those who experience same-sex attractions are stuck at an earlier stage. First, we are supposed to have a close bond with our mothers, then our fathers, then our same-sex peers, then finally opposite-sex peers. Those who are romantically or erotically drawn to their same sex need to grow and mature emotionally.

I’ll have to go and tell all of the straight people in my forme high school who are currently getting stoned and drunk on a nightly basis while having unprotected sex that they’re more more emotionally mature than me. I’m sure they’ll be just as surprised to learn this as I was.

The rest of the article goes on to play off of painfully old-fashioned gender stereotypes that sound like’ve come straight from a Saturday-morning cartoon. ‘Masculinity’ is apparently a spectrum with ‘sterotypical jock’ on one end and ‘sterotypical nerd’ on the other, while women don’t even have that much room to diversify into. The entire argument is a travesty, and does not cite any secondary source at all (it rarely even directly cites the Bible, despite invoking it endlessly). As a final slap in the face, ‘recovery’ from homosexualiy is equated with recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction.

Having turned what is for many people a very real and even positive aspect of their identity into a psychological malformity, Living Hope finally tips its hand and informs the reader that the only way to ‘recover’ is through God. In other words, ‘Join our cult or you’ll never get better’. And in case you need me to qualify that ‘cult’ label:

17. Why am I so deeply ashamed and dirty?

The reason you feel shame is because you already know conviction of the Holy Spirit in your life, and you have resisted true repentance, and the devil has come in and made you feel bad about who are you are. You may be experiencing guilt as well as shame. Guilt is feeling bad for what we’ve done. Shame is feeling bad who for we are. Guilt says, “I acted out with a person of the same sex.” Shame says, “I’m a miserable loser and unworthy of love because of what I did.”

Satan is a liar. First he entices us by convincing us that something sinful will be so good and fulfilling, and then when we give into temptation, he beats us up with shame and guilt messages.

And so on. Who the hell is actually helped by this bullshit?

Perhaps that’s what irritates me most about the SSA phenomenon; it doesn’t help people. Go to Exodus International, go to any blog on WordPress owned by a ‘recovering’ gay Christian, and you’ll repeatedly see the same story over and over again: “It’s a daily struggle,”; “I still feel attracted to the same sex, but…”; “I’ll continue to pray and hope.” I’m not saying that nobody ever goes from gay to straight (or from straight to gay), but for the great majority of people, this road to change simply does not work. If you’ve tried for years to change who you’re attracted to and failed, don’t you think it might be time to admit that maybe it’s all right to call yourself ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’? Groups like Exodus or Living Hope are selling a phantom product; what they call ‘change’, I call self-enforced celibacy and repression.

All of this might sound very vitriolic, and it’s meant to, but I want to reiterate what I said earlier: I do not care if somebody wants to change their sexual orientation. If it’s something they want and if they can manage to do it, then more power to them. What I do care about is religious organisations preying on vulnerable teenagers using unscientific nonsense, and nonsense is exactly what most of this is – for more proof of that, just read virtually any article on the Living Hope resources page. Rarely do I get genuinely angry at anything I read, but the sheer amount of unqualified statements and bizarre generalisations on that site infuriates me. It pains me to think that some desperate young people will go there seeking guidance and help.

The motivation behind reformulating homosexuality as ‘Same Sex Attraction’ is obvious. Whether they admit it or not, organisations like Living Hope want to characterise homosexuality as an illness that must be fought – and the only way to do that, they want you to believe, is by joining their religion.


5 Responses to ““I’m not gay, I just have SSA.””

  1. 1 jpdanna December 19, 2008 at 7:15 am

    Religious sects like that just don’t know what they’re doing. They miss the entire point of spirituality because they are projecting their own beliefs…their own concept of what “sin” is. They cause so much guilt and pain in the unwitting that they too often resort to suicide. The whole problem is one of identity. We are not a psychological complexity. We are free-willed beings of energy who will one day drop religion into obsoloscense with it’s misuse of the mind. Religion needs a brain flushing, and to understand what it means to live by The Golden Rule.

  2. 2 augustine December 19, 2008 at 11:38 am

    I can see how a group like Living Hope could twist something like the Golden Rule to suit their own agenda, but I can see where you’re coming from. My main problem with them isn’t so much one of morality or the guilt they no doubt cause to many people (although those are serious issues as well), but the fact that they’re taking the position of experts on a topic that, judging from their website, they have no knowledge of beyond their own narrow definition of what homosexuality is. In a subtle way, it’s religion taking the place of modern medicine and science.

  3. 3 Zack December 19, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    It’s outdated, sexist hogwash all the same.

  4. 4 Jason February 7, 2009 at 7:10 am

    Well, at least it was meant to be vitriolic.

    I’m one of the youth on the Living Hope forums, and although I don’t speak on behalf of Living Hope, I’d beg to differ on a few points.

    One, our clever ‘bit of social engineering’ is just a synonym, Nothing more. Homosexuality and gay may have certain connotations for some people. Perhaps after being made fun of, or after being persecuted by intolerant church members, SSA is just easier on the ears than gay. Personally, I don’t feel that it’s a big deal, but if you insist that I’ve been brainwashed by the deviousness of it all, then I won’t hold it against you.

    Religious stupidity? You’d think that by now, people would be more tolerant. We may respectfully think that you are wrong, or that Buddhist teachings are at odds with our own beliefs, but I think you’d have a tough time finding similar language to describe others. At least your suggestion to throw the Bible out the window and seek happiness is significantly less offensive. You say that you can understand why many of us wouldn’t want to do that, and that seems fair enough, that you understand that for many of us, those two actions are contradictory. Now, again, feel free to call me brainwashed, because that sort of argument is inherently impossible for me to defend (since if it’s true, I have no business making any self-assessments), but the Bible isn’t something I resent, and it isn’t some distasteful requirement of being saved. Its a source of encouragement and hope for me, and throwing it out the window would do little to make me happier.

    You mention that Living Hope “can’t be expected to be even remotely impartial”. Well. More on this later, but I’m fairly certain it doesn’t claim to be impartial. Now, the evidence. You are correct (I believe, again, I don’t speak on behalf of Living Hope)in citing little scientific evidence. However, it does come from somewhere. Some of it is from the Bible, in which case we really have no business arguing biblically-based to non-biblically based. You can’t have an argument that way, that sort of thing is what makes some of us Christians seem so intolerant (and occasionally, a bit unintelligent) when it comes to intelligent design and things of that nature.

    But a lot of it comes from years and years of experience on the part of the founder of Living Hope. He has counseled thousands of people who come to him voluntarily because they are unhappy with their homosexuality. Since pro-gay gatherings don’t tend to do much counsel and one-on-one discussions on childhood incidents and parental relationships, and since Living Hope is one of the largest organizations with a so-called “redemptive view” on homosexuality, this puts them in a rather unique position. Many of the things you cite come from patterns that are much, much too strong to simply call patterns. Now, a counterpoint to this would be that the pool that they are drawing from is only people who want to change/are unhappy in the first place, and may not necessarily reflect all gays. This would be perfectly valid, it is inconsequential, because since Living Hope is only counseling those who want to change in the first place, I think that using information only drawn from this group is perfectly acceptable.

    The thing about emotional maturity is easily explained, you just didn’t spend enough time on, perhaps. The same beliefs that say that you and I (or perhaps, just me) are emotionally immature say that those people getting stoned, getting drunk, and getting knocked up are also emotionally immature, but in a different way. And I think you misunderstand the “painful stereotypes”. Maybe you understand it perfectly, I couldn’t quite tell. It does describe masculinity as a spectrum, but it doesn’t suggest that jocks are more masculine (although, less likely to struggle with homosexuality), it just says that both ends of the spectrum are perfectly normal types of masculine, neither more than the other.

    Now, not being familiar with Exodus or WordPress, I can’t make any generalizations, but to me, it makes sense that the vast majority of people posting “its a daily struggle, etc etc” would be people still struggling (yes, a “duh” moment there, but bear with me). Assuming that there is at least one person who has been helped, I think they are significantly less likely to post on those forums, or to be on a website designed to help them, when they have already been helped. Now, this argument doesn’t prove that people have been helped, but it allows for the possibility that they have been helped. To prove that people have been helped by Living Hope, you’ll just have to take my word for it. But, I would assume that you won’t take my word for it, because you have no reason to do so.

    Now, the bit about “finally tipping its hand”, and on preying on vulnerable teenagers. If your glance at the Living Hope website makes you use such language as “finally tipping its hand” then the website may need a rewrite. At least on the forums, it is immediately made clear that God is what the ministry is all about, it isn’t something hidden from us vulnerable teens, only to be revealed once we’re in it’s snares. God is the whole point of it all – for many of us, we were already ‘religious’, others were already saved, and others didn’t know God at all. But no one is pressured into accepting Christ, and no one is backed into a corner of religious intensity where we all take turns beating them on the forehead with a King James version Bible. Again, you’ll have to take my word for it, but people are on Living Hope BECAUSE they are seeking this sort of change, but even those “fence-sitting” Christians aren’t pressured. If people want help, they can find it, but the moderators of the forums and the founders of the ministry are less pressuring than you give them credit for, and more respectful than you appear to be.

  5. 5 augustine February 7, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I never attempted to give the impression of being respectful to Living Hope, because I am not. I have no respect for it, at all.

    Unfortunately I don’t have time to address all of your points (hopefully later), but let me ask you something: if I, as an atheist, came to Living Hope because I was unhappy with my sexuality, what help would I receive?

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