Ex-gay, no way pt. 2: Sexologist Dr. Jallen Rix talks about surviving the ex-gay movement

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The second part of a conversation with Justin Juul about Dr. Rix's work with the Ex Ex Gay movement -- and the answer to that eternal question, "What, exactly, is a sexologist?" Read part 1 here.

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Dr. Rix, left, with partner

SFBG: So, after all of this, do your parents still believe you can just switch it up and find yourself a wife?
Rix: Yeah, I think they do. They blur behavior and attraction, you know? Like, they would never say this, but they seem to think that if I could just keep my dick in my pants, I could learn to be normal again. They’re just old, man...and from a totally different time and place.

SFBG: How do they feel about your sexology work?
Rix: You know, they made a point to give me a pat on the back when I graduated with my degree, which is really all I can ask. The thing about my parents is that I know they love me the best they know how. And that has to be good enough because I realize that I’ve been the theological dilemma of their lives. Here’s an example: my sister died of a really rare heart disease when I was sixteen and my mom later told me that her death was easier to handle than my coming out. She apologized later, but still, it’s just obvious that life choices are never going to be easy for them. As far as my sexology stuff goes, they manage to be nice about it, but I don’t think they’re thrilled.

SFBG: So what is a sexologist, exactly?

Rix: Well, if you look around at all the problems in society these days, it seems like the majority of them have to do with pleasure-phobia, sexophobia…just a general fear of following our desires. As a sexologist, I do what I can to help people accept themselves. To answer your question, sexology is the study of what people do sexually and how they feel about it. There are only a handful of schools that award degrees in sexology. You’d be amazed at how little sexual research is done these days. I mean, scientists don’t even know what comes out of females when they ejaculate.

SFBG: Where did you go to learn about this stuff?
Rix: I got my degree from The Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality here in San Francisco. It’s a very special place -not funded by the government at all. It’s certainly unconventional because of the independence it has, but it’s not like we just sat around and had sex. I know people probably assume that, but it was actually a pretty rigorous program.

SFBG: So what do you do now?
Rix: I have a private practice where I see both couples and individuals. I assess their sexual history, find out who they are as sexual beings, and then help them come to terms with it all. It’s not psychotherapy; it’s very goal oriented. Usually within three or four months we can identify what’s going on, come to some conclusions, and then decide if we want to spend more time resolving the issues. I specialize in working with the LGBT community and with people recovering from religious abuse. You’d be surprised how many people have their sexuality fucked up by moralistic religious inaccuracy. I counsel those people to try to help them feel good about themselves.

SFBG: Well, here’s a question: as an ex-gay survivor turned radical fairy sexologist, would you prescribe ecstasy to a couple with intimacy issues? I know I would.
Rix: Ha! That’s an interesting idea. And I have talked to people about that option, which can be risky. Most times though, the main problem is that most Americans simply don’t give themselves enough time to have a fulfilling sex life. I would suggest “date night” before I ever brought up the therapeutic value of a drug like that.

SFBG: Good answer. All right, before we go, let’s talk a little more about ex-gay stuff. Would you say you survived the ex-gay experience without any deep scars?
Rix: You know, when I’m sitting there writing this stuff out, sometimes I think, “Wow, I’m not really a hardcore ex-gay survivor.” But the thing about ex-gay ministries is that they basically mirror conservative religion as a whole. So, in a way, anyone who went to church is an ex-gay survivor. And to take it even a step further, it’s not hard to see that America follows this model of intolerance. We are a Christian nation so all of these themes –sexuality is a choice between right and wrong, fulfilling desire is bad, etc-- are forced upon all of us. The ex-gay camps and ministries are more extreme, of course, but obviously, the sentiment is everywhere.

SFBG: So, as far as the actual ex-gay experience goes, how closely does it mirror what you see on television? Is there any truth to the extremely negative stuff we see where kids are basically sent to suicide camps?
Rix: Well, not to the extent that you see in movies, but that sort of thing does happen. The places I came across were nowhere near as theatrical as what you’re describing –no cement floors or whatever—but they were definitely cultish. I’ve meant dozens of people who’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars to undergo brainwashing at live-in camps. They tell you what to watch and read. They tell you how to dress and what music to listen to. You’re not allowed to be alone for like six months. It’s a shame that people feel forced to do that to themselves.

SFBG: And what about the flipside? Did you ever feel that the ministries were just a place for gay kids to hang out and hook up?
Rix: Ha, yeah that definitely has some truth to it. One thing the ministries relentlessly push is the idea that homosexuality has something to do with unhealthy father-son relationships. The idea is that people develop sexual tendencies toward men because their fathers never loved them right. The church tries to reverse this by setting up mentor relationships, which of course doesn’t work. The men in these relationships usually wind up either falling in love or suffering even more because of all the pent up sexual frustration.

SFBG: So it’s kind of like a matchmaking exercise?
Rix: Yeah, it’s so weird. The couples I met would do everything together. They’d live together, eat together, go on trips together. They were gay couples in every way …other than the fact that they “allegedly” didn’t have sex.

SFBG: Have you ever come across anyone who found the ex-gay experience beneficial to his or her well-being?
Rix: Well, the answer is complicated, but yes; there are a few guys out there who have gone through the ex-gay thing and then gotten married to a woman, had kids, and lived happily ever after. Of course, and this is just my guess here, but the women these guys marry are probably lesbians. I mean, I pray to god that these guys truly have found a way to be happy, but my guess is that the relationships they’re in are pretty much bi-sexual arrangements. The concern I have is that these people are promoting the unconditional love of Jesus…but only if you change who you are. The message is just blatantly contradictory and that’s really my problem with the whole ex-gay philosophy.

SFBG: Do you think it’d be better if they were just honest?
Rix: Yeah, I do. I mean if you look at the people who are behind organizations like NARTH (National Organization For Reparative Therapy of Homosexuality), you can see that every single one of them is a born-again Christian. They believe that homosexuality is wrong in God’s eyes. They should just say that instead of acting like “oh we’re just here to help people with their unwanted desires.” They believe that being gay is wrong and that’s that. That’s what’s wrong with the Christian church…total hypocrisy.

To read more about Dr Jallen Rix’s ex-gay experience, or to share your own horror story, go to www.doctorrix.com. Also, be sure to catch Jallen’s next workshop. Details below.

Maximizing M2M Pleasure: Enjoying More Slices of Your Sexual Pie.
Facilitated San Francisco Sexologist, Dr. Jallen Rix, “The GaySexpert,” and San Francisco Life Coach and Massage Healer, Mark Hollenstein
“Explore your sexuality with other men in a safe and nurturing environment. Participate in sexy group exercises, honest sharing, lively facilitation and a few fun surprises, to more fully experience a rich, satisfying and open-hearted sex life. Break through long-held beliefs that keep you locked in unconscious shame. Learn healing techniques to release negative emotions that hold back your sexual freedom. Experiment with options to fulfill more of your sexual desires. Receive and give intentional, arousing touch with respect for your personal boundaries. Build a stronger ‘sex-esteem.’”

Sunday, April 26th, 10am to 5:30pm
Center for Sex and Culture, 1519 Mission St.
$125, Lunch Included (sliding scale available).
Portions of the day will be clothing optional.