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Undoing the damage from conversion therapy

Discussion in 'General Support and Advice' started by okccpdude, Jan 13, 2018.

  1. okccpdude

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    I am a 32-year old male. A brief history; I came out when I was 23 and I don't think it could have gone any worse. It culminated in me renouncing my sexuality shortly after my 25th birthday and doing conversion therapy. Through most of my late twenties I retreated very deep back into the closet and lived an extremely repressed life. Things slowly started to thaw out a bit in late 2015 but it wasn't an easy process. Over the past year, slowly but surely I have come out to various people. Definitely not my parents, but most of my friends now know. I've gone to a few gay bars as well. I never thought I'd even get this far but I've done it. However, having lost 5 years of my life to conversion therapy and the ex-gay movement, it's not as simple as just coming out again. There are some severe mental issues I have as a result of the therapy, issues that sometimes make me wonder if I'll ever be able to have a fulfilling life and having a relationship. I know the ultimate answer is to seek help from a licensed therapist and I am planning on doing just that. However, I want to see if you guys have any advice.

    For the complete backstory, see this link. https://forum.emptyclosets.com/index.php?threads/extreme-fundamentalist-parents.372135/

    My first big issue is I have a lot of internalized homophobia that is surfacing. Growing up in the kind of religious environment I grew up in caused a significant amount and this was an issue back when I was 23. However, it's much, much worse now due to the conversion therapy and years in the ex-gay movement. Conversion therapy taught me to behave like a straight guy. In many ways I can say it made me more confident in my masculinity, something that I was extremely uncomfortable with before. However this means things like flirting with guys and stuff and being romantic is difficult for me.

    Secondly, and this is part of the same issue, is I have an extreme amount of anxiety when it comes to relationships or doing anything sexual. I also have a lot of anxiety in terms of how I appear to others and how they perceive me. I want to be able to have a relationship, but I have some unknown barriers preventing me from initiating anything. I always chicken out. Adding onto this is I am not sure whether or not I am a top or a bottom. I actually don't really like anal sex at all (more of a cuddler) but it seems like that's primarily what most guys want. I also have a deep fear of intimacy and I am not sure where that comes from.

    Lastly, is I have to deal with the reality that sooner rather than later I am probably going to have to go no contact with my fundamentalist family. While a few years ago it was inconceivable, today it's starting to become something that I am more accepting of. It's still extremely difficult and it gives me this helpless feeling. There is still temptation to just relapse back into the church, go back in the closet, and remain celibate the rest of my life just to please them. I know that's not the life I want to live however.

    Anyways, thanks for reading this and thanks for any advice that you may have.
     
    #1 okccpdude, Jan 13, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018
  2. Chip

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    Hi, and welcome.

    First, I'm so sorry to hear of the difficulties you had with the ex-gay and conversion therapy experiences. I really wish that the people who run these programs could be locked away for a lifetime so they couldn't harm any more people.

    Second, you seem to have a pretty clear understanding of the issues that the conversion therapy has caused, and that's an important and crucial part of being able to resolve your issues.

    Therapy will be crucial. This might be a tall order, but I'd try to find a therapist who has extensive experience with clients who have been through conversion therapy. In many ways, it isn't unlike treating someone that's been in a cult, but it is a specialty that most therapists won't have a lot of experience with.

    You can absolutely find people who will appreciate cuddling and won't have a strong need for sex. It will take time, and you almost certainly won't find those folks on hookup apps or in bars or clubs... but they exist. And your own ambivalence about sex is something to be expected given what you've been through. I think that as you work through your issues, you'll find that your connection to your sexual self will re-emerge.

    I do absolutely believe that you can get to a place where you can fully love and accept yourself, let go of the internalized homophobia and self-esteem and other issues, but it will likely take time and patience. Talking about it, both here and in therapy, is an excellent way to start.
     
  3. Pole star

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    I can relate to a lot of what you have written having been extremely represssed myself. I grew up in a very heteronormative society and just imbibed all that. It took me a long time to realise my true self but once I realised it acceptance was immediate. I was just relieved not to have this feeling that something is not right and the inability to know what it was. Although all that was years ago it was only in the past year that I have been able to shape my views on relationships and what I want, thanks a lot to EC. Each one of us is different and what we want is different as well. You do not have to follow what people here say but use it as a guide to shape your views and do what your heart tells you to do. Each of us is unique and the way we react to situations is unique; so you have to take general advice with that in mind. Ultimately you chart your own unique course.

    Acceptance of self does not guarantee a relationship but is essential for one's own health and happiness. As far as sex goes, when I initally realised I was attracted to same sex, I was worried if I could be intimate with someone, then worried about oral sex then about anal sex. Now I can imagine having all that. I think it is natural to have those fears. But they are just that. You do not need to do anything that you are not comfortable with. It is your body and you do not want to do anything that you are not comfortable with and not allow anyone else to do so either.

    Keep posting on EC.
     
    Winnie likes this.
  4. bingostring

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    I think the others have said it already. You seem to have a grasp of the main issues and you will definitely benefit from some sympathetic therapy to help you steer the right course ahead.

    It’s not just the conversion therapy that has affected you but probably the insidious programming by your fundamentalist family environment you have absorbed from a very early age.