Survivors of Reparative Therapies Speak Out in Solidarity With LGBTQIA Students at Christian Colleges -- #TellOurStoriesToo

04/17/2015 03:04 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

LGBTQIA students at a Christian college that hosted a documentary affirming reparative therapy are asking reparative therapy survivors to tell our stories in support of formally asking their university to host a panel of reparative therapy survivors and those in the ex-ex gay movement. SoulForce Equality Ride House in Los Angeles explains, "It is irresponsible for Biola University which has a history of endorsing reparative therapy and currently offers no resources to LGBTQ students on campus in this climate, it is especially dangerous to host this documentary. If you care to join this campaign, and stand in solidarity with these students, please use social media to tell your story about the harms of reparative therapy or you can use #TellOurStoriesToo and join us in asking Biola to host a panel before the end of the semester."

As an intersex Christian theologian subjected to "reparative" therapies both medically and psychologically for decades, I invite Christians to consider ancient Christian leader Archbishop of Hippo and "Church Father" St. Augustine's view back in the early fifth century, City of God Book XVI Chapter 8:

As for the Androgyni, or Hermaphrodites, as they are called, though they are rare, yet from time to time there appears persons of sex so doubtful, that it remains uncertain from which sex they take their name; though it is customary to give them a masculine name, as the more worthy. For no one ever called them Hermaphroditesses.

As conservative Christians ramp up their anti-trans fearmongering and political lobbying, denying anyone non-binary even exists, and lobby to legalize discrimination against LGBT people generally, even with its implicit misogyny, this ancient Christian text (once the most widely read by ancient and medieval Christians apart from the Bible) argues that even those whom ancients considered "monstrous" are created by God and equally part of one human family descended from one common human ancestor, ha'adam / Adam (the human being made of earth).

Though my story is only my own and not offered as a generalization for all LGBTQIA voices, identities or experiences, Augustine's words overlap with my experience, and contemporary Christians' failure to heed them provide an example of how far wrong "reparative therapies" can take us in opposition to this original Christian celebration of gender diversity. In my case, as a person whose intersex condition physically began to emerge in puberty (congruent with my inner sense of myself as male from toddlerhood), an OB-GYN prescribed high-dose hormone therapy with estrogen and progesterone to "normalize" me, calling my undersized and reversed internal organs and rare menses "abnormal" but "female." I did manage to "pass" as "female" while teaching at a conservative Christian university, but the side effects of those hormones and the psychological medications also applied for decades to "normalize" me (anti-dementia and anti-psychotics included) didn't make my sense of being a gay man go away (though I did stop talking about it) nor relieve the suicidal depression that being forced to live as a female caused me.

Alhough conservative Christians continue to accuse people who gender transition of "not trying hard enough" to comply with the gender assigned at birth, I complied with reparative hormone and psychological therapies for 32 years, progressively getting psychologically and physically sicker to the point of being given months to live before I finally stopped taking female hormones and psych meds literally as the last resort to save my life. It became evident just before my 48th birthday that I am exactly what Augustine describes here.

Recurrent health problems revealed that the years of "reparative" female hormone treatments had created tumors in my internal organs that now required removal not only of those the tumors but of all the now-diseased organs, Reparative hormone therapy had also suppressed the male growth of my intersex puberty, which now resumed. Within a year, without surgery or any hormone injections, just by ceasing to comply with "reparative" female hormone therapy, I function as an intersex masculine person and am not only no longer lingering near death but so robust in health that I make my living teaching yoga. As Saint Augustine so long ago explained, it's simply a fact that gender diversity exists, and in the context of the larger work in which he makes this statement clarifies that in reality, the Bible's testimony on this is plain: ALL people are God-created and of equal value -- made of the same stuff (descendants of the same human forebear). Gender variance is NOT a sin, not even by Christian standards. Denying gender variance exists, however, or calling it "sin" or "a choice" is denial of God's creative work and the human equality that derives from our common origin (created by God). I would be so bold as to call it blasphemy.

That's my story of reparative therapy: I am a person born with a medical condition that made my gender ambiguous -- misidentified at birth and "abnormal" once puberty began (the protagonist in the 2012 novel Middlesex seems to have the same intersex condition I do). For me, hormone and psychiatric reparative therapy included high-dose psychotropic drugs used for years to "fix" this emerging masculine body, perhaps in part because I was exclusively andro-erotic: Reparative hormone and psychopharmaceutical therapy brought me intto conformity with a "female" and binary (thus heterosexual) socially preferred identity, until I stopped those meds because of the near-fatal side effects they caused, only to be told by my Christian employers that "a person like that" "violates Christian values" so can't be a faculty member of an evangelical Christian learning community... better off dead than healthy as intersex is the feedback I've since received implicitly or explicitly from so many fellow Christians then and since -- especially when recovery and health mean a gender identity that now coincides with a gay sexual orientation. Doctors and therapists now disavow reparative therapy for gender and sexual orientation. So did ancient Christians. Please consider sharing your own story in solidarity with LGBT youth in Christian families and Christian schools so that these attempts to "repair" what is not is broken are shown for what they truly are -- ineffective at best, dangerous at worst and not even consistent with Christianity itself.