CHAPTER 4 – Clergy, Friends and Family: What Can We Do?

Clergy, family and friends are often told to “support” someone who is gay. What does that mean for those who wish to be honest about possible dangers or be there for someone who is beginning to realize that there is more suffering than joy involved?

I can only offer a personal opinion here. Be advised, I am not a qualified therapist and I am refering to dealing with mature persons who are mentally stable. I speak largely based upon the blunders of many well-meaning individuals during the previous phase of my life.

1   Close your eyes, count your blessings and imagine

Imagine what it would be like, if you longed for a relationship (perhaps the one you currently have), but in practise could never attain it. Try to imagine that every boy or girl you ever dated and even got engaged to was unfaithful to you and suddenly left you. Imagine that this happened not only once, with all of the tears and chaos, but many times! Have you ever broken up? How did it feel? Magnify that feeling by about one hundred times.

I think you will agree that it is very basically human to long for the company of another and to have romantic feelings and longings. Many people will have a chance to experience these dreams in reality. Others will try to turn them into reality, only to have it fail time after time after time. Not all of these people are gay. Many heterosexual people (perhaps more in recent times than before) may have similar experiences. In any case, these events lead to frustration and pain. You may at times feel that the person constantly sets themself up for these failures. Perhaps you are right. But will threatening them with hell, damnation or excommunication make their situation (and yours) any better?

2   Check your Motives

If you have strong emotions such as hatred or disgust toward a family member or church/synagogue/mosque member who is suffering and needs your help, then you are not in a position to support this person. Be honest, find someone else who can support them and step aside! The worst thing you can do is to diguise your contempt or hatred as a theological responsa or worse, as some type of therapy!

3   Let them learn

It may feel tedious, but there is a lot of back and forth to be done before someone who is thinking of leaving the gay life actually does so. And with all of the confusing theories and information for and against its no wonder that someone who wants to believe that maybe they have left a couple of stones unturned will find their way back to the gay community for “one more try” before it’s over. There is not much anyone (save the person him or herself) can do here.

The decision to turn away and leave must be the honest, personal decision of the individual based upon their own experiences and learning.

You cannot learn for someone else.

4   Help them ask the questions

How long have your relationships lasted? How have they ended? Do you feel that people have been honest with you? Are people generally unfaithful to each other in that community?

The above questions are the ones your family member or synagogue/church/mosque member should honestly be asking and answering for themselves (not necessarily for you). If you have a good relationship of trust established you may be able to help them start asking these questions and learning to answer them honestly without being afraid of what impression will be created or what you will be thinking of them.

If they come to the conclusion that “something just isn’t right with all of this”, the best support you can offer is to have them explain to you the things that don’t add up and ask you comparative questions about “what can be considered acceptable or completely unacceptable”. For instance, the individual may have been told or convinced that it is not normal to feel jealous or hurt when someone is unfaithful or having numerous relationships at the same time and they need to be supported to understand that this may be a normal human reaction and acceptable in some circumstances.

5   Provide them with a bright spot

We all have something from our childhood, from our religion and from our friendships that gives us a good feeling or security. If you are somebody who represents or knows about this “bright spot” then you are in a valuable position to support a person leaving the gay community. Childhood friends, sibling, parents, teachers and clergy are natural places to run to out of the cold and out of the pain and chaos. But individuals will not run to a place which they have learned not to trust or feel they are not welcome in.

Just as much as leaving the gay life is turning away from something, it needs at the same time to represent turning toward something which is  real, positive and stable.

A person may turn toward something positive from before puberty or before their divergence toward the gay life. There may have been interests or activities included in this time period which could be revived in order to fill a void and create a bright spot for the person. Examining this and finding such a bright spot is one of the most valuable forms of support clergy, friends and family can provide.

The above is a rough summary of some of the best support you can provide. Perhaps the most important and central principle in this entire exodus process is that the process should not, indeed it cannot be forced! There is a fear of leaving the known for the seemingly unknown. The best method, in my experience, is to leave for short periods and then increase the duration of exodus from the gay life. In my case this part of the process took around one and one half years, after which the exodus was total.


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