A Military Perspective on Ex-Gays, SOCE Therapy, and Peaceful Co-Existence

During my short time in the military, I have learned a few very important lessons. One of these lessons is the need for a healthy amount of strength and confidence in defending what I think and believe in.

I have discovemilitaryred a type of respect in standing firm for my beliefs and convictions, while also allowing others to do the same. This is an approach greatly needed within the Ex-Gay community as we begin to make our voices heard. There has been much publicity surrounding Exodus International recently shutting their doors. Not only has Exodus International disbanded its network of ministries, but key members have gone on record apologizing for the “damage they had done to the gay community.”

To be fair, each person must listen to the dictates of their own conscience, and if these leaders feel they need to apologize, then by all means they should do so. However, we as ex-gays need to be careful in trying to right legitimate wrongs accrued during our culture war, that we don’t cross over into become passive and placating, and therefore shy away from difficult conflict where it is needed.

Gay political activists claim that Sexual Orientation Change Effort (SOCE) therapy causes harm to its clients. On the one hand, there may be some truth in that statement. Any kind of treatment, whether medical or psychological, comes with a measure of risk of side effects or all out failure. No treatment is guaranteed to be 100% effective, 100% of the time.  When it comes to SOCE, just like any other treatment, it is the responsibility of both the clinician and the patient to consider the options carefully, weigh the risks involved, and proceed with realistic expectations for treatment outcome.

The mental health profession has a long history of asserting a client’s right to self-determination, which is the right to determine the direction they want to take with their life, free from undue influence by their counselor or outside influences. Yes, SOCE may have potential negative outcomes, but it is the client’s right to accept the possibility of those outcomes.

We as ex-gays, friends and family of ex-gays, and/or mental health professionals need to step up and take a stand for those who wish to explore the options open to them. Our being gay or ex-gay does not infringe upon each others’ existence outside of the political arena, and people on both sides need to realize that we can support and defend our own civil rights without denying others’ civil rights. Should we accomplish this, we will be working towards a peaceful co-existence.

Nathan Ruark is an Advisory Board member of Voice of the Voiceless. He carries the rank of Specialist in the Michigan Army National Guard where he works as a radar repairer, and holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology from Grand Valley State University. He has volunteered with Sexual Orientation Change Effort (SOCE) programs for the previous 10 years and publicly advocated for SOCE rights for the past 4 years.