Last year, Exodus International, one of the largest ex-gay ministries, closed its doors for good. Its leader made public apologies.
The fall of so called "conversion therapies" is a major win for LGBT+ rights--especially as states have begun to outlaw the practice for minors, who were vulnerable to being forced into treatment against their wills.
Such a shift leaves a power vacuum, though. While some sects are becoming more accepting of LGBT+ individuals on the whole, others are as conservative as ever--pushing back against what they see as intrusive and destructive cultural change.
It's in that spirit that the celibacy movement is taking off.
Like ex-gay, celibacy promises to bring LGBT+ individuals in line with biblical scriptures regarding homosexuality. Irene Monroe, writing for the Huffington Post, says:
But now, with more and more ex-gay ministries losing not only potential clients and political leverage but the monies that reparative therapies generate, there is a gradual shift from "curing" homosexual orientations to promoting abstinence from sex altogether.Like ex-gay, Monroe explains, the issue is divisive:
But for LGBTQ Christian conservatives the debate has literally forced them to take sides, with celibate LGBTQ Christian bloggers referring to themselves in shorthand as "Side A" Christians and "Side B" Christians. "Side A" Christians support marriage equality and queer sexual orientations, whereas "Side B" Christians support hardline Biblical literalism.Sexuality is one of my "soapboxes". Raised under the ideals of a purity culture, the concept of abstinence just to remain pure is repugnant to me. I find myself recoiling at the very thought of the celibacy movement.
Owning your sexuality is an important part of embracing who you are. Denying it, repressing it, is damaging. Monroe points out some of the issues:
The negative health outcomes, both emotional and psychological, that these "conversion" programs exact are manifold and include depression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior, sexual dysfunction, avoidance of intimacy, loss of faith and spirituality, and the reinforcement of internalized homophobia and self-hatred, to name a few.Now, that's not to say that everyone who chooses celibacy is unhealthy--not in the slightest.
Plenty of people, gay, straight, in-between, are celibate or asexual for their own reasons. Sexuality is a spectrum, and not all of us are at the same point--or even in the same ballpark.
The idea of forcing yourself to remain pure, however, of denying perfectly normal, natural urges to remain pure--that is what is damaging. The idea that our sexuality is dirty or broken--that is what is harmful.
That was a core part of ex-gay, and it's still a core part of celibacy messages. Monroe states:
In other words, the theological message that homosexuality is an abomination to God and is a sin remain intact, but more emphasis is now placed on celibacy.It's what we call a "wolf in sheep's clothing"--and why yes, that is a technical term. They masquerade as loving the sinner, hating the sin. But truthfully, they are teaching the sinner to hate themselves.
It's hard for conservative Christians to accept that sexuality is a natural part of our identity as humans. A healthy part. Gay or straight or purple people eater, who you are attracted to, and who you love, is a part of who you are as a person.
Asking people to repress this isn't natural--and it certainly isn't healthy.