Confessing Our Selves: Truth and Identity Politics in the Christian Ex-gay Movement

By Michael Thorn.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper will analyze “queer” confessional practices in the Ex-gay Movement using a governmental perspective. The Ex-gay Movement is a loosely organized phenomenon that mixes ancient spiritual practices rooted in confession, prayer, and Bible study with modern psychological techniques rooted in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. It claims to “heal” homosexuality. Although the movement accepts a queer definition of sexual fluidity, it still encourages LGBTQ people to turn towards the “truth” and change their sexual and religious orientations so as to live good “straight” Christian lives. For ex-gays living within a religiously ordained heteronormative context, the fluidity of sexuality is not a spectrum that opens up new possibilities—it is a situation that must be struggled against and corrected through religious and psychological work. The primary technique through which the self-deprecating “queerness” of this movement will be critiqued in this paper is the ancient practice of confession. This requires an examination of correspondences between aspects of this movement and aspects of the historical research of Michel Foucault, whose research into both modern and ancient forms of governmentality provides the basis for this paper’s theoretical approach.

Keywords: Ex-gay Movement, Confession, Foucault, Governmentality, Truth, Queer Theory, Christianity, Homosexuality, Identity Politics

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.205-220. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 749.755KB).

Michael Thorn

PhD Student/Teaching Assistant, Joint Program in Communication and Culture, York and Ryerson Universities, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Michael Thorn is a PhD candidate in the joint York/Ryerson program in Communication and Culture and is currently writing his dissertation. His research into the discourse surrounding the Ex-gay Movement will use a Foucauldian governmental approach rooted in Foucault’s so-called “late” period, a period characterized by an increased concern with subjectivity, ethics, and truth.