Jerry, a man married for more than two decades and a father of two, spent years fighting his attraction to other men. He listened to tapes from "ex-gay" group Exodus International and joined an "ex-gay" fellowship in his hometown, hoping the efforts would eliminate his homosexual urges -- but they didn't.
Seven years ago, Jerry came out as a gay man. Though he was free from the struggle of fighting his homosexuality, Jerry's life was marred by tragedy just a few months later when his 26-year-old epileptic son, Billy, passed away from a seizure. "It was devastating for all of us," Jerry says in this video from Lisa Ling's special report on "God & Gays."
When Jerry returned to town for his son's funeral, he was confronted by someone from the "ex-gay" group regarding the cause of Billy's death. "One of the people from Exodus had said to me, 'It was your fault,'" Jerry tells Ling in the video. "He said, 'Well, the Lord took his hand of protection off of your family because you chose the homosexual lifestyle.'"
"Given that state of vulnerability that you were in, did part of you believe that?" Ling asks.
"I hate to admit it, but I think when you're raised with the message that you're wrong and that you're evil, some of that haunts you and stays with you, in a way," Jerry replies. "You almost feel like you deserve bad things because you couldn't fix it, because you couldn't overcome it, because you couldn't conquer it. It really goes in deep into the heart and really does damage."
In Ling's special report, Jerry and several "reparative therapy" survivors confront the leader of the "ex-gay" organization Exodus International, Alan Chambers, with more stories of their painful experiences in the "ex-gay" movement. Chambers will face his critics and then speak out with a new message of his own: an apology.
UPDATE: Exodus International has announced it will shut down after 37 years of ministry.
"Our America with Lisa Ling -- Special Report: God & Gays" airs Thursday, June 20, at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.
Also on HuffPost:
Bachmann's Alleged Involvement
In July,gay advocacy group Truth Wins Out released video footage allegedly shot undercover at the Christian-affiliated Minnesota clinic owned by Michele Bachmann and her husband, and claimed to find evidence of conversion therapy being performed on the premises. "Michele Bachmann wants to be in the Oval Office and wants to be the president of the United States," Wayne Besen, "It's important to know what her true beliefs are and what goes on in this clinic."
'Gay Barbarian Horde' Invades Bachmann's Clinic
Last July activists dressed as "gay barbarians" traveled to Bachmann's clinic to protest its alleged "pray the gay away" practices. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/21/michele-bachmanns-glitter-prank_n_906165.html" target="_hplink">A press release issued by the group reads:</a> <blockquote>Today a horde of gay barbarians descended upon Michele and Marcus Bachmann's "pray away the gay" clinic and demanded that Marcus come out and discipline them for their "deviant" behavior. Marcus Bachmann, who conducts "reparative therapy" at the clinic intended to convert homosexuals, has said that gays are "barbarians who need to be disciplined." The horde requested to speak directly with Bachmann and experience some "discipline" for themselves. When Marcus was no where to be found, the barbarians glittered the empty waiting room and reception area while chanting, "You can't pray away the gay -- baby, I was born this way!" The action was organized by the same young man who threw glitter on Newt Gingrich, starting a national trend in political protest of anti-LGBT sentiments from political candidates and campaigns. "Michele and Marcus Bachmann think gay people are barbarians?" asked LGBT activist Nick Espinosa. "I think its clear to everyone who the real barbarians are, based on the Bachmanns' archaic views on LGBT equality."</blockquote>
Gay Conversion Therapy Victim Comes Forward
Earlier this month, "I'm From Driftwood" featured a video interview with Samuel Brinton, who was raised in rural Iowa and subjected to forced Christian conversion therapy. "We then went into the 'Month of Hell,'" Brinton explained. "The 'Month of Hell' consisted of tiny needles being stuck into my fingers and then pictures of explicit acts between men would be shown and I'd be electrocuted."
Prominent 'Ex-Gay' Doctor Retracts Claims Made In Key Gay Conversion Therapy Study
This week the psychiatrist who published a controversial 2001 study proclaiming that "highly motivated" gay and lesbian people could change their sexual orientation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/robert-spitzer-ex-gay-psychiatrist-retraction_n_1417679.html?ref=gay-voices" target="_hplink">retracted his initial claims.</a> Psychiatrist Bob Spitzer, who had ironically led the effort to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973, told American Prospect that he now wants to retract his study, while addressing several of the ample criticisms against its findings. "In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct," said the 80-year-old Spitzer, who is now retired and suffering from Parkinson's disease. "The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more."
John Smid Discusses 'Praying The Gay Away' With Chris Matthews
The former director of the ex-gay Christian ministry Love in Action <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/20/john-smid-former-ex-gay-minister-sexual-orientation-_n_1022417.html#s423190&title=Gay_Conversion_Therapy" target="_hplink">came forward last October</a> to say that not only that he is gay, but that he believes it is impossible to change one's sexual orientation. Though Smid admitted he did "experience homosexuality" on the show, he arguably stopped short of embracing his sexual orientation. "I would say predominately, I am attracted to men," he said. "At the same time, I've chosen to be married [to a woman] and a lot of people make that choice."
Not Born This Way?
Richard Cohen, director of the International Healing Foundation and author of "Coming Out Straight" and "Gay Children, Straight Parents," believes that people can change. "There is no credible scientific evidence to suggest either a genetic or biologic basis for homosexual desires in men or women," he said. "So people are not born this way...it's always a confounding of many different factors that lead people to experience these desires...people don't choose this, the choice is: do they want to lead that life, or do they want to change?"
Gay To Straight With Prayer?
In an appearance on "Dr. Drew" earlier this year, psychologist Joseph Nicolosi -- a founding member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) -- said he continues to support conversion therapy: "People can change, people have a choice, people should be given a choice," he said. "If a person chooses to exercise his heterosexual potential...we provide that therapy...it doesn't work for all people, but it works for some."
Pat Robertson Advises Father To Seek Conversion Therapy For His Gay Son