Who is Joel Barrett?
Joel Barrett, LGBTQ Writer, Speaker, and Gatherer
In what feels like another life, I was a very conservative Baptist pastor living in the midwest with my wife and three kids. When I use the words "conservative Baptist," most people reply "oh you mean, like Southern Baptist?". No. We thought the Southern Baptists were too liberal. I was a part of independent, fundamental Baptist churches.
I always knew something was wrong with me, but I thought my sexual desires were merely a spiritual problem that would go away as I became more godly. Being gay wasn't an option in my world, so I was determined to rid myself of this "besetting sin" through prayer, Bible study, memorizing scripture, going to church, and a long list of other good, godly, behaviors. It was my secret and I was determined to overcome it.
In my 30's I came to a turning point. In a final attempt to fix me, I called Exodus International, the largest ex-gay ministry in the world at that time. Ex-gay therapy is more commonly known as conversion therapy, reparative therapy, and a host of other names. Regardless of the name, the goal is to eliminate, reduce, or at best suppress one's SSA (same-sex attraction). Since this practice is not based in any science and there is no evidence that one's sexual orientation can be changed, the experiences of those who have gone through vary greatly. Movies like Boy Erased tell true stories that are an accurate portrayal of elements of my experience, especially in attitude and language.
Eventually, I resigned from my church and committed myself 100% to this process for nearly three years. No one wanted to be "not gay" more than me. I felt like the poster boy for ex-gay therapy during that time. I went to individual and group counseling sessions, attended retreats, read the books, went to conferences, listened to the speakers, fought evil spirits with the counselor, and cried and prayed like never before in my life. To hear a short audio version of some of my story listen to my performance on the storytelling podcast RISK!
Today I am happily married to my husband of 15 years. I share my colorful story with audiences everywhere to encourage them to live authentically not controlled by fear and shame.
My book, Godly, But Gay will be released in 2021.
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