Ben Gresham has now found peace with his faith and his sexuality
When he was 19, Ben Gresham attempted taking his own life.
Over the previous three years, Ben, who grew up as a Pentecostal Christian in the Hills District of Sydney, had attempted three conversion programs to turn him straight.
“I’d always been told that homosexuality is wrong,” he says. “That if you’re gay or lesbian you can’t be part of the church, you don’t get into heaven and that it’s a sin.”
“I would pray every night that God would take my attraction to men away from me.”
Church leaders helped Ben enrol in gay conversion programs, which involved answering extremely personal questions on a daily basis.
“It was like being treated as a sex addict.”
Ben’s life was turned around by the group Freedom2b, who help support LGBTI people from Christian backgrounds. He’s now reconciled his faith and his sexuality and found love in his partner Sam.
“I think it would shock and surprise many church leaders to think that every day we still read the Bible that we still pray,” says Ben.
But the Reverend Ron Brookman from the Living Waters Ministry disagrees that homosexuality is compatible with a life of God.
Although he grew up sexually attracted to men, he says he transformed himself into a heterosexual.
“There was no miracle, it was a slow and steady walk over 3 years intensively and probably 10 -12 years after that less.”
Ron’s been married to his wife Ruth for 13 years and they have three children, though he admits he didn’t tell his wife about his past until two years into their marriage.
Gay conversion therapy has been around since the early 20th century, when churches considered homosexuality to be the product of arrested sexual development based on Freudian theory – despite Sigmund Freud explicitly approving of homosexuality.
In the mid-twentieth century, with the rise of clinical psychology, aversion therapies such as shock treatment were used to try to alter a person’s sexuality. With gay sex being illegal at the time, such treatment was often court-ordered.
Since homosexuality has been decriminalized across most of the Western world, the modern “ex-gay” techniques have become popular, blending self-help techniques with spiritual methods – sometimes extending as far as exorcisms.
But despite the use of all these different techniques, there’s no peer-reviewed research demonstrating that “conversion” is possible. The most any therapies achieved was a reduction in homosexual desire, with no accompanying increase in hetrosexual desire.
Most medical professionals say gay conversion therapy does more harm than good, and that it’s unethical to conduct it.
Ben is optimistic there’s a change in the air.
“The majority of people have been amazing and they’ve given me hope that the church will one day change.”
To see The Project's story on gay Christians, click here.
And if you or anyone you know is experiencing difficulties, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or for more support contact Freedom2b.