Imagine being labeled ‘mentally ill’ for being attracted to someone your own sex. This was the reality up until 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) changed its view on homosexuality and declared it was no longer a mental disorder.
In the wake of this, the New York Times wrote, “many psychiatrists have held a traditional view of homosexuality as being a disease and regarded the best method of treatment as being an attempt to convert a homosexual to heterosexual behavior. If this occurred, the patient was considered ‘cured’.”
Despite the change in the way homosexuality was looked upon, several organizations and ministries started offering different types of therapy and retreats for adults and minors. One of the biggest organizations, Exodus International, had hundreds of ministries across the U.S. and Canada at its peak, but was shut down in 2013. Shortly after, the president of Exodus International, Alan Chambers, made a public apology. “I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents,” Chambers said.
In recent years, several states have voted to ban the use of ‘conversion therapy’ to prohibit counselors to perform treatments whose purpose is to change a minor’s sexual orientation. But most states are yet to prevent the therapy from happening.
Desire to change
An organization that still exists today is Journey Into Manhood, an ‘experimental weekend of self-discovery’ where men with unwanted same-sex attractions can share and deal with their feelings. The retreats do not accept men under the age of 21 years and the organization officially states that it does not perform ‘conversation therapy’ and that it is not able to “cure” anyone from their attractions. However, what really happens during the retreats stays a secret between the participants.
Throughout the past fifteen years, more than 2,500 men from all over the world have been through the program. They all participate voluntarily and for different and personal reasons — some have a desire to find a wife and become a parent, some are already married and have kids and want their life to stay like that. Others join the program because they want to live the life they feel is aligned with God’s will.
One of these men is Brett Glover, 35, who was raised in a religious family in a small town in Alabama. The first time he experienced same-sex attractions was in fifth grade, although he did not act on it until his early twenties. This experience kickstarted a homosexual lifestyle that lasted ten years.
During this time, Glover had several long relationships with men without his parents knowing. He told his friends about his sexuality, but kept it a secret for his family back in Alabama. Whenever Brett moved in with a man, he would always tell his family that it was “just a roommate.”
Not until a serious breakup with his last boyfriend did he come forward to his mom about his sexuality. The rest of the family have not heard all of Brett’s story yet. “My family needs to grow spiritually before I feel comfortable telling them. They need to be in a place where it wouldn’t be such a big deal for them,” Glover said.
Growing up in Alabama, he went to church with his family, but in the years where he was dating men, he stayed away from the church. Since Glover participated in the retreat in 2015, his feelings for men has diminished, but are not completely gone. He hopes that the same-sex attractions will disappear completely when finding a wife. One of his dreams for the future is a wife and kids.
“If God is making the plan for me, everything is going to work out so much better. I’m waiting for him to introduce us,” Glover said.