Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse
by Jallen Rix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ex-Gay, No Way / 1844091872
I want to start by saying that this is an excellent memoir and a very necessary book -- I highly recommend this book to anyone who is gay (or thinks they might be) and is worried about reconciling their sexuality with Christianity, as well as a recovery tool for anyone suffering from the religious abuse that occurs in the name of "turning gays straight". We need to live in a world where books like this are no longer necessary, but until that level of tolerance is found for everyone, books like this are crucial in helping people to connect and recover.
"Ex-Gay, No Way" tells the life and trials of gay man Jallen Rix as he struggles with his sexuality within various Christian communities, and as he goes from various Christian "ex-gay" groups that promise to turn gay men and lesbian women into either straight individuals or -- failing that -- eternally celibate ones. Not surprisingly, the promise turns out to be a hollow one, and Rix points out with gentle irony that very few of these programs have any real results to show for their efforts.
What is interesting about Rix's story is that he sought out these groups somewhat voluntarily; by which I mean he went because of social pressure, but not because his parents bundled him off to "ex-gay" camp when he was still a minor and without a legal right to protest. This point of view provides an interesting understanding into the self and why social pressure within, say, a church group can pressure a normal, healthy individual into submitting voluntarily to heart-breaking religious abuse.
If there is a criticism to be leveled at Rix's memoir, it might perhaps be that some stronger editing could have been applied. Several chapters, particularly once we get past Rix's memoirs proper and into the psychology of the "ex-gay" movement, feel like concentrated block-quotes from beginning to end. I understand that Rix is trying to provide a voice for the community that has sent their experiences to them, but the many quotes seemed to break up the flow of writing and made it hard to follow the narrative.
Perhaps this is also an issue of formatting -- for the eBook version I was reading, there was very little to distinguish a quote from Rix's own writings, so often I'd go through a page or two or a quote only to get to the end, see the signature, and realize that I hadn't been reading Rix's experience at all. After a lot of backtracking, I finally got frustrated and laid the book aside until I could read it on a larger screen.
It's worth noting that this isn't going to be the perfect book for everyone -- not even for all LGBT or QUILTBAG peoples. Rix admits in the beginning that his book has fewer experiences of lesbian women than of gay men; he also notes that his book is very pro-Christianity, and that he considers facing (and -- probably -- eventually embracing) a Christian upbringing to be an essential part of understanding one's heritage. I do see his point of view, but not everyone who has been subjected to religious abuse may want to start their road to healing with a very pro-religious memoir like this one -- so be forewarned of that going in.
I'm glad that Rix's book exists, and I'm glad that the people within it were given a chance to share their voice. Though this wasn't quite the novel I was expecting, I'm still very glad that this book exists and that I took the opportunity to add it to my library.
~ Ana Mardoll
View all my reviews