The Changed Movement
These “formerly LGBTQ+” Christians feel more ‘free’, but the cost of this ‘freedom’ is dire.
“He never intended for His children to anxiously question their sexuality or gender, or hide in shame. We’ve seen Him move over and over to meet men and women right where they are — no matter their life’s experiences — to know His love.”
This quote is from the Changed movement website, the creators of #OnceGay Instagram. Accused of glamorizing conversion therapy, the Changed movement calls itself a community for formerly LGBTQ+ individuals to share their experiences and reach to others like themselves. Spearheaded by Bethel Church in Redding, California, the movement seeks to give hope to LGBTQ individuals through Christianity. Lynette Dowell, one of the people involved in this movement, said in her online testimony that she was molested as a young child, developed same-sex attraction, and developed sex addiction. After years of what she called a“downward spiral”, she opened a Bible and read Psalm 51:10. After that, her life “started over” and she continued to live “without sex addiction or lesbian attractions.”
Luis Ruiz posted that he has a “reconciled relationship with his family and the privilege of helping others to know that change is possible.” He “fell prey to the world’s narrative” that people are born gay and chose to “leave the homosexual lifestyle” after surviving the Pulse nightclub shooting and learning that he was HIV-positive. It was at that moment that he decided to “live a healthier life…that was not centered around sex and damaging behavior”. Ruiz states that his true identity is in Jesus after receiving pastoral care and returning to his childhood faith.
Macky Diaz went from an unsuccessful marriage to an abusive one. After concluding that she was entering the wrong relationships because she was actually attracted to women, she met the woman who would be her girlfriend for five years. However, after those five years, her daughter began praying for her at their church. After that, she left her girlfriend and started attending church again to match her change of heart.
These are three stories in a sea of many. However, as shown by a study by Santos, Ang, Paz, and Duque from De La Salle University in the Philippines, the themes of identity dissonance, spiritual conviction, role models, and cognitive reconstruction will show up in most, if not all of the stories on the Changed movement website. Four ex-lesbians and six ex-gay men were interviewed for this study; seven out of the ten participants were involved with ex-gay ministries. They reported feelings of shame and dissonance from learning how to pinpoint their sexuality as well as pivotal spiritual moments in which they say they have met God. They stayed on this path due to the friendships they had formed during the sexual re-orientation process. However, it is not known if any follow-up studies will be conducted on these individuals.
Another study, this time by Bridges, Lefevor, Schow, and Rosik, found that sexual orientation support, LGBT community support, and the attainment of education were significant factors for the mental health of LGB Mormons and ex-Mormons. In contrast, gay and bisexual men (and presumably women) who have undergone failed sexual re-orientation attempts experience sexual dysfunction, poor self-esteem, and social withdrawal. Conversion therapy has a low success rate of changing sexual orientation, which means that it causes more people to suffer than to attain the change they seek.
For transgender individuals, attempting to make someone’s gender identity match their natal sex is similarly seen as “inherently unethical”. Although studies on the effects of conversion therapy on transgender individuals are scarce, transness is seen as a “disidentification” and “part of the homosexual continuum” that stems from childhood trauma, particularly sexual trauma, and, in natal males, the combination of an overbearing mother and an absent father. This conflation can explain why transgender-specific studies on conversion therapy seem to be far and few between. However, since history repeats itself, it is reasonable to assume that the Changed movement sees transgender people as “super-homosexuals” on a linear spectrum of homosexuality.
Speaking of history repeating itself, this is not the first time America saw this type of a large-scale conversion therapy movement. The previously established conversion therapy group Exodus International shut down after its then-president, Alan Chambers, issued an apology to the people that Exodus International had hurt by trying to change their sexual orientation. In this apology, he admitted the following:
…I once lived in fear of all things gay and mistook my religious homophobia as a passion for God’s truth.
Instagram has not removed this content on the grounds that Bethel Church’s posts are expressing an opinion rather than attacking others. However, when religion has strong connections to suicide in LGBTQ individuals, the line between an opinion and an attack becomes blurry.