Michael Brown

According to Michael Brown, ex-whatevers are the most persecuted group around.

Ironically, the group that can lay claim to being the smallest and most rejected minority in America today once was part of the LGBT community. They once identified as gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender, but they no longer do. Today, they are “ex-gay” or “ex-trans.”

Brown’s purpose is to defend the very concept of people choosing not to be gay or transgender. As he later admits, the primary reason for promoting so called ex-gays and ex-trans folks is to justify discrimination.

Mr. Brown is confused. Being gay is a sexual orientation. Being ex-gay is ambiguous. Does that mean that someone’s sexual orientation has changed? It might mean that someone has chosen to be celibate. According to the American Psychological Association it might mean that someone has learned how to pretend to be heterosexual. Conservative Christians do not approve of gay people due to the wording (and translation) of ancient texts. Appearing to change reality to appease a deity does not really make any an ex-anything.

Being transgender is not really a form of sexuality. People become transgender to mitigate the suffering caused by gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is well documented in the medical literature going back 75 years. Does ex-trans mean that they are no longer gender dysphoric? I don’t know and neither does Michael Brown. Conservative Christians do not approve of transgender people because the construct of gender creates a biblical conflict. The notion that someone can have incongruent gender and natal sex is religiously unacceptable.

Two things are indisputable:

  1. There is no methodology proved to safely and effectively change someone’s sexual orientation and;
  2. There is no intervention known to medical science that can cure or lessen gender dysphoria.

Their numbers are very small, since they came out of a small community to start with. And it is only a small percentage of that small group who make a break with the rest of the LGBT community.

Most of them make that break because of their religious faith, often newly found. Others make the break simply because they no longer want to identify as gay or bi- or trans. But for making that break, they pay a steep price.

The notion of “making a break with the rest of the LGBT community” is absurd. This is not about the group. This is about individuals. Moreover, contrary to Mr. Brown, there seems to be a paucity of secular ex-whatevers.

The most pernicious part of this narrative is that there are people who “no longer want to identify as gay …” Brown is asserting that sexual orientation and gender identity are choices and a mountain of peer-reviewed research says otherwise. In fact this entire “identify” meme is intellectually dishonest. It further suggest choices over sexuality.

They are mocked and maligned and bullied by the community they once called home.

They are told they do not exist. They are assured they will fail. Their motives are questioned. They are called liars and mercenaries. They are even mocked for being so small in number (even if they number in the thousands or tens of thousands, that represents the tiniest slice of the population).

Oh, the poor, oppressed heterosexual-cisgender people. Personal testimonies engender religious approval. They are not evidence which is the very basis of science. These people face criticism for two reasons. First they claim that other people can, and should, do what they claim to have done. Secondly, many of them become profoundly antagonistic to LGBT people, often citing the same bigotry as conservative Christian hate groups.

And why is it that we put ex-gays and ex-trans individuals under such intense pressure? If they have one slip-up, they’re called phonies. If they still struggle with attractions or gender confusion, they are told they haven’t changed. But why?

There are plenty of former alcoholics who fell off the wagon for a season, only to get back on track. Do we ridicule them or empathize with them and show them compassion? Many of them identify as recovering alcoholics. Why can’t someone identify as a recovering homosexual?

And there you have it. Here we have an intelligent man with a PhD from a good school using the term “gender confusion.” Is that to be found in the medical literature? People with gender dysphoria are not confused. Mr. Brown is confused. Some people, not many, have incongruent gender and natal sex. Just as with sexual orientation, it is a natural variant of human sexuality. People cannot be influenced to have gender dysphoria and people cannot be influenced not to have gender dysphoria. “Gender confusion” is a Christian term used to suggest that people with gender dysphoria can be un-confused through some form of counseling. Where is the evidence that counseling can change someone’s gender in order to comport with their sex?

It gets worse. Having a sexual orientation that is subject to religious opprobrium does not mean that sexual orientation is a bad habit. Comparing ex-gays to former alcoholics is intellectually dishonest.

For 12 years Alan Chambers was head of the Exodus International ministry.


Change is possible. I stand by that phrase and I live by it. The opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality; it’s holiness.


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, I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on my side’ who called you names like sodomite — or worse.”

Ultimately, Chambers — who famously compared homosexuality to obesity — said: “Nobody really changes.”

Brown does not use obesity for comparison. Yet:

There are plenty of former porn addicts who still struggle with temptation. Do we tell them they will never be free, or do we encourage them to resist their temptations?

Does Brown not understand the difference between a bad habit — pornography — and, say, sexual orientation which is at the very core of who we are as people?

I personally know ex-gays who have experienced a complete and total change. They have become heterosexual and have been happily married for many years.

I know others who have seen a marked decrease in same-sex attractions along with an increase in opposite-sex attractions. Some of them are in successful heterosexual relationships.

Evidence? Where is the evidence? Where is the peer-reviewed research published to support those claims. What percentage of ex-gays “become heterosexual” as Brown claims? The second paragraph admits that these ex-gays are still gay. How much shame was required to make someone claim to be nearing or at heterosexuality?

There is a well known scientific method to test sexual orientation by measuring arousal. Where are the supposed ex-gays who submitted to such testing in order to verify their claims? Claiming to be ex-gay in order to receive religious approval (and often to create an income) doesn’t mean that someone is ex-gay. Ex-trans makes no sense at all unless we understand their history of gender dysphoria.

… Why … do LGBT’s commonly mock and attack and ridicule those who identify as ex-gay (or, ex-trans)?

The reason is simple: If it is possible for someone to change from gay to straight, either through the gospel or through counseling (or both), then the whole “innate and immutable” argument goes out the window. (The same can be said for someone who is ex-trans.)

In other words, one of the foundations of LGBT is activism is that, “We’re born this way and we can’t change. Gay is the new black. (Or, trans is the new black.) This is who we are. Our sexual identity is as innate and immutable as our skin color.”

The evidence is compelling that sexual orientation and gender identity are immutable. At the risk of repeating myself, some ex-gay people are criticized for attempting to persuade others that they can — and should — change their sexuality. Some supposedly ex-gay people become decidedly bigoted. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to realize that they are doing this to convince others, and themselves, that they are no longer gay. And, no, Brown’s theory does not apply to transgender people primarily because being transgender is an expression of sexuality. Claiming to be ex-trans is not the same as claiming to have changed gender to conform to natal sex.

Walt Heyer is the perfect example. He had gender-affirming surgery in his late 40s which can be ill-advised. We do not know anything about Heyer’s medical care leading up to surgery. Heyer is a conservative Catholic and being transgender created a significant conflict for him. I do not care that he reversed his surgery. What bothers me is that he makes a living attempting to convince the world that no one requires gender affirmation in any form. He is a source of anti-trans bigotry and his assertions are contrary to the overwhelming scientific consensus.

Here is an interesting admission:

If change is possible – again, through divine intervention or through counseling or both—then the whole push for “LGBT rights” can be questioned.

No it cannot unless we scientifically study those who claim to have changed and then get an approximation of their numbers as a percentage of the LGBT population. There is no evidence that counseling has any effect on sexuality. Divine intervention? Please. Then why would Brown’s god make LGBT people in the first place? What he really means is probably the efficacy of so-called pray-away-the-gay programs.

Ultimately those are based on the preposterous notion that people should change to appease a deity based upon ancient chronicles. There is nothing wrong or immoral about being LGBT and all the shame and all the crackpots in the world cannot change that. People should not be defined by their sexuality. The world’s largest company is presided over by a gay man. It is harder — much harder — for transgender people but that is changing too and that scares the living crap out of people like Brown.

The entirely false premise that people can change serves to justify discrimination — Just as Brown admits. Since that is true we are obligated to question the legitimacy of those change claims. They do not stand up to serious scrutiny. Every mainstream professional peer group has asserted that efforts to change sexuality are ineffective and potentially toxic.

So-called reparative therapy pre-supposes that people are broken and in need of repair. It consists of two elements: Shame and blame. People are shamed and parents are blamed. The premise that people who are different are somehow damaged because God doesn’t approve is so flawed that I find it astonishing that anyone takes it seriously

I have said it before. The mindset of people like Michael Brown is comparable to the folks who flew airplanes into buildings for their God. Brown is not a violent terrorist but he shares their logic and justification for what he does. Fortunately most Christians and Jews do not agree with Mr. Brown.

I am immune to this bullshit. I am extremely comfortable in my own skin. I include my middle name in most of my endeavors to say “yeah, it’s me.” However, there are parents and children who can have their lives dramatically and negatively altered by this nonsense. There are still parents who kick kids out when they come out. I have no words to describe my disdain for those folks. Then there are families who have had their lives disrupted by their belief in crackpots. Children don’t change but they do learn to lie to their parents to get some relief. That loss of trust is never coming back. Never!

Brown will continue to be a hate monger. He is the one who really needs conversion (or deconversion) therapy to relieve him of religious literalism. Brown is likely to become more irate and irrational as acceptance continues to improve. That’s on him. Acceptance will also make so-called ex-folks less relevant than they already are. The derision that they choose to face is well earned.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.