A testimonial of an Asian Ex-Ex-Gay.
Over dinner, Patrick told me his story, a story that stretched over 14 years. These three hazy episodes he recollected above were from October 1994. That month, he was hospitalised at the Adam Road Hospital and received electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). It erased about 4 weeks of his short-term memory, and what he now knows about this period of his life, is from what others have told him. He first thought he stayed just a few days at the hospital, but later learnt he had stayed 3 weeks.
“It took me no less than 2 months,” Patrick emphasised, “before I realised that I was seeing a psychiatrist. All this while, I knew that I felt like a ‘sick person’ who needed medical attention and that my mum was lovingly taking me to every one of the appointments. She would also sit in together. And every day, she was also the one who gave me my medication.”
“One day, two months later, I noticed that the signboard at the Adam Road Hospital said ‘Mental Wellness’. Only then did I realise I was being treated by a psychiatrist. I also began to wonder why I had such a severe loss of memory of the past 2 months.” At that instant, Patrick thought about two of his church members who had mental instability and who had been subjected to electro-convulsive therapy. “Did Dr. Wong , do to me that most inhumane act of ECT??? I needed to know and wanted to know, and so at my next visit I questioned him. But beyond ‘yes’, Dr Wong was reluctant to release any more information to me. He tried to appease me with some magazine articles extolling the great benefits of ECT and the near-zero side-effects. He said that ECT is the quickest and most effective method to terminate the ‘trauma’ a patient suffers from. The only side effect is the loss of the immediate memory which could be weeks or months.”
* * * * * * * * * *
In 1982, the Billy Graham Crusade came to Singapore. Patrick, who had been with the Church of Our Saviour  since 1975, and Christian even way before that, found his convictions rekindled. “I was awakened to the seriousness of homosexuality. It was wrong, immoral and a sure road to hell. If I were to persist in my pursuit of casual and paid sex, I would end up in hell. It really affected me. I sought spiritual help. I told God that I would know he was real if he could break the power of my dependency on gay sex.”
His friends, many of them from the same school, but all gay, sniggered at the idea that God could help overcome homosexuality.
After turning the issue many times over in his mind, Patrick decided he didn’t want to hide it. “I didn’t want to go to hell.” So he confessed to his Pastor the same year.
“He was so happy,” Patrick said, raising his arms, recalling the Pastor’s grateful heavenward glance, “that someone who was gay had seen his sinful ways and turned to God for help. ‘Hallelujah, you’ve seen the light, son!’ ”
On the Pastor’s advice, he destroyed everything that connected him to his gay past: the photographs, the clothing accessories, contact numbers, gifts from boyfriends. “I was serious. I wanted to go to heaven.”
Patrick was also required to separate himself from all his gay friends. “It was one of the 12 steps of therapy. I never saw those friends again till last year.”
Patrick’s church touted him as a model Christian, someone who, by the power of God, had found the determination and strength to reform himself. “Although I only gave my ‘conversion from homosexuality’ testimony 3 times in my home church; the ‘good news’ was told by my Pastor to all his other clergymen, and church members were encouraged to go and testify to their friends and relatives of the power of God that has delivered a homosexual from his sinful ways. Consequently, I became more and more popular, and this resulted in a flood of people coming to see me for counselling. It was people with all kinds of problems who came to see me: women involved with married men, young man confessing their bondage to heavy petting or premarital sex, and of course, homosexuals who wanted help. The logical reason was that if God could break the power of the worst sin, i.e. homosexuality, then any other sin is of no problem. So why don’t we talk to Patrick, and ask him how did he avail himself of the power of God?”
Soon the number of people who came to see Patrick was more than he could reasonably handle. His Pastor said to him, “You have a proven ministry. Give up your secular job and come serve the purpose of the Kingdom of God.” A scripture from Matthew’s Gospel was quoted to Patrick, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” So in January 1984, Patrick officially became a member of the pastoral team. Not longer after, he was awarded the title ‘Pastor’.
Patrick was proud of what he had achieved. He was sure that he had made the right decision. It wasn’t going to be easy living a new life, it was going to take continuing effort and willpower, but the reward in the end would be his.
This is not to say it was smooth sailing. Even though he never went cruising again, nonetheless there were lapses, occasional moments of weakness. They were not frequent — fewer than twenty times in the 12 following years — and never premeditated. It was just by chance, meeting someone while swimming or cycling, or being cruised in a public toilet.
Yet after each slip, there were overwhelming feelings of guilt for 3 to 4 months. It would weigh heavily on his mind. He saw himself as diseased, for sin is a moral disease. He had committed the sin of sodomy, the sin of perversion, the sin of homosexuality. And he needed healing. “The teaching in the Book of James, chapter 5 verse 16 said, ‘Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.’ ” 
His conscience prodded by this biblical injunction, Patrick always confessed his slips to his Pastor. Typically, the Pastor would frown and sigh, “you need more accountability and more deliverance.”
Patrick also needed to work towards achieving the Crown of Victory over homosexual orientation, i.e. marrying and procreating. For the first three years, Patrick didn’t think he was ready to get involved with a woman. He could give up his gay life, but it would take a while before he was ready to date someone of the opposite sex.
At first, his Pastor planted ideas very subtly. “But one day,” Patrick told me, “he lost all his politeness. ‘Are you impotent?’ he asked.” So the pressure began to build, and Patrick felt he had to prove himself otherwise. Even the Bishop got involved. In a private interview he asked WHEN Patrick intended to get married and have children, because this would greatly enhance his ministry as a Pastor.
“The first woman I dated was Marjorie , a concert pianist. It lasted one week! I was frightened at the thought of this girl.”
“Janice, my second, lasted 3 months. She was from the same church and a Clinique sales assistant.”
After Janice, there was a break of about 3 years.
“Then there was Erin, a Creative Director. That lasted 7 months. After her, I saw no one for 5 years.”
In the meantime, Patrick went to Belfast, Northern Ireland, and stayed three years. “In 1990, which was the 7th year of my pastoral service, I was granted a ‘special sabbatical’ in appreciation of my contribution to the growth and development of the church. This followed from a mission trip which I led to Ireland. There was a church in Belfast which was interested in the ‘ministry of deliverance’ [see box alongside].
Patrick was an outstanding example of a ‘deliverance candidate’, so it seemed the right thing to send him to teach the “Western” church this powerful warfare tool called the ‘ministry of deliverance’. Since this request coincided with his due sabbatical leave, he volunteered to go and spend 3 years there. While there, he took the opportunity to further his theological knowledge, signing up as an external candidate for the Diploma in Religious Studies with Cambridge University.
“The Church’s recognition of my contribution,” said Patrick, “was seen in their generosity in that they paid for 3 years’ study at Cambridge which included tuition fees, books, food & board. This was in addition to the fact that every month I continued to receive my full salary with year-end bonus too. I was the only one in the Church’s pastoral staff awarded with such a generous support.”
He spent about 70% of his time on theological studies and 30% in helping the local church in Ireland. “In June 1993, I graduated with a full diploma with distinction for consistent high performance throughout my course. The diploma also made special mention of my proficiency in the New Testament Greek.”
Upon his return, Patrick resumed his role as a Senior Pastor but had five new portfolios added to the previous two.
He began seeing Regina, an engineer. “I saw her for over a year, and she was the first woman I had sex with. I thought she was a virgin like me, but I discovered much later, and to my regret too, that she had slept with all her previous boyfriends.” Good Christians are supposed to remain virgins till after marriage.
“Then one night,” Patrick continued, “while we were lying naked in bed, she suddenly turned me over, and with deft fingers, she took my manhood and plunged it right into her private garden. Being a virgin boy, the first experience of intercourse was like a journey to seventh heaven. If you’ve never had a woman before, you can’t know what a great feeling it is!”
“Though in body I felt like I had taken a trip to heaven, in my spirit I had fallen into the depths of hell. In the Bible, Apostle Paul made sexual sins — the sins of adultery, fornication and homosexuality — to be the worst a Christian could commit. So once again, I was troubled by guilt; yet I was afraid to confess it especially now that I had become a Senior Pastor. I finally did so, to my fellow Senior Pastors, only 3 months later, instead of my usual immediate confession. But the procrastination only meant that the guilt continued to burn and torment me for 3 months.”
Soon after, Patrick decided to marry Regina and the wedding was set for 7 January 1995, even though he was increasingly aware that Regina was the wrong choice for him. “She was controlling, possessive, demanding and most often, unreasonable. On the one hand she gave me sexual ecstasy but on the other hand she tormented me in ways no less than Delilah’s as she tormented Samson. As a result, I needed to find comfort in men again, whom I knew would be reliable.”
So in a way, it was waiting to happen. “We took a short holiday in July 1994 and stayed two nights at a well-known hotel in Kuala Lumpur. There, I discovered their spa pools. There was a big one that could sit 20 people and three smaller pools, each in its own room. And the doors could be locked! You can imagine what went on. There were so many men! I had a glorious time!”
“But immediately after, I was extremely guilty and extremely stressed again. I was guilty of the sin of fornication and the sin of homosexuality compounded together. I was an incorrigible sinner. Everything was caving in. The torment was terrible. The scripture in James kept coming back to me. Otherwise there would be no healing. None.”
Three months later, he was in Adam Road Hospital. Patrick was later told he had a complete breakdown, though he has no memory of it.
* * * * * * * * * *
After discharge, in addition to follow-up appointments with Dr Wong of the Hospital, Patrick was made by his church to see a Christian psychologist. This guy was American and charged $200 an hour, but since Patrick was a Pastor, the rate was reduced to $100 an hour. Patrick had to see him once a week, and it went on for six months.
“This psychologist once wrote to Dr Wong,” Patrick recalled, “asking for details of my history and prescriptions. On seeing the letter, Dr Wong pointed out to me that this so-called doctor had no obvious medical qualifications. Clearly, the psychologist’s only qualification that mattered was that he was Christian; that’s why the Church insisted that I saw him.”
“He was no help at all.” Patrick said of the American psychologist, emphatically. “Every week that I saw him, he always drew this diagram: ‘Now you’re in a well,’ he would say, ‘and you need to build a staircase to come out of it…’ ”
“Week after week! What a waste of time and money!”
The ministry of deliverance
as explained by Patrick:
“The ministry of deliverance is a new powerful weapon discovered through the charismatic movement. It is one weapon which can fight many battles which will result in a victorious Christian life. As a consequence of charismatic renewal, every problemm is now ‘spiritualised’.
‘Spiritualised’? Yes, meaning behind every conceivable problem there is a ‘ruling or controlling spirit’. For example, it is the ‘spirit of adultery’ that compels a person to persist in living an ‘adulterous lifestyle’ though he/she knows that it is both morally and spiritually wrong. The extreme application of this spiritualisation is seen in that ‘chain-smokers’ are bound by the ‘spirit of nicotine’. Laugh as those outside of this spiritual experience may; but those who have undergone the ministry of deliverance profess that they felt something left their bodies, and from that moment on, they no longer continued in that ‘problem’ or ‘sin’, be it adultery, gluttony, gambling, homosexuality, etc. The success and phenomenal growth of the charismatic, sometimes referred to as ‘Pentecostal’, churches was attributed to the fact people were delivered from all kinds of ‘bondages’ or ‘demons’ through the ministry of deliverance. Personally, I underwent three sessions to cast from myself the spirit of homosexuality.”
Finally Patrick was advised to “leave familiar territory and go to foreign ground”, to help in his recovery. So he left the Church of Our Saviour, where he had been for 22 years, and went over to join the administrative staff of another in Marine Parade Christian Centre, where he stayed for two and a half years.
“In all those two and a half years, my old church never once contacted me to find out how I was doing. Where was all that Christian love and brotherhood?”
For years after his hospitalisation, Patrick was on medication. Some drugs lifted his mood, others were downers. The balance swung this way and that, and he never felt quite right.
“By 1998, I felt I had to do something for myself. Heal myself, so to speak. I had to RECLAIM my own happiness. It gradually dawned on me that I was happiest when I was gay. So why don’t I go back to a gay life?”
“I had by then lost touch with the gay community, or the places where they hung out. I didn’t know where to go. Somehow, by intuition perhaps, I went to Peace Centre — that shopping mall on Selegie Road. It had been quite a haunt even before. That day there, I saw this nice Malay guy … and from then on, you could say, yes, I knew I had found my centre again.”
* * * * * * * * * *
What did Patrick learn from those fourteen years of his life?
“The Church is never there for you when you need them most. The Gospel speaks of the power of love, but in the Church, you only find the love of power. Even in a small church, it’s incredible, the amount of politics.”
“It’s so amazing, how scripture was used to make me feel so corrupted, so horrible, so beyond help or redemption. How did they do that to me? By instilling guilt. Guilt can really torment you, but guilt is imposed by religion and society.”
And guilt often serves as a device for control.
“Most people are generally conformist,” Patrick pointed out, “and I can now understand people better when they try to conform but are also struggling against the controls. Guilt is very real. In my case, it drove me to breakdown.”
But amazed as Patrick was at how instilled guilt almost destroyed him, he was doubly amazed at how he managed “to make a quantum leap out of there,” by just choosing to be true to himself.
“I am amazed, from my own experience, how scriptures can be used to inculcate a sense of guilt, failure, depravity and corruptibility, when they should be used to bring the message of love of God for humankind in spite of our sinful ways. After the Great Flood destroying a wicked earth,” Patrick explained, “God said He would not destroy Man again in spite of his sinfulness. And the sign of the Rainbow in the sky was given as a promise, that God will love instead of deal harshly with sinful men (Genesis 9:12). Instead the Church says your sinfulness casts you away from God. That’s not right. God loves you in spite of your sinfulness.”
“You don’t have to do what the Church wants you to do. Do what God wants you to do. The Bible has undergone, too many times, the surgical hands of the Church. It was translated from Hebrew and Greek into modern languages especially ‘English’. So much so that the Bible now says what the Church wants it to say, rather than speak forth the original Word of God. My advice is that the time has come when we must follow our own hearts where the Spirit of God abides. It’s no coincidence that the Book Of Jeremiah says that in the last days nobody will try to tell his brother what to do, but instead a still small voice within each man will point him in the right direction.”
In closing, Patrick had this to say, “Right now, I only follow what is in my heart and I possess a peace that surpasses all understanding. If you want to share in this peace, then you too must follow the still small voice within you which is the Spirit of God. Never surrender your right and duty to listen to the voice of God for yourself and never let anyone deceive you that you are incapable of listening to the voice of God. That is not only deception, that is also the evil spirit of ‘control’.”
So my Dad says to me, “Son, you did your best. Besides, you can’t make a fish fly.” And Dad’s right. You can’t make a fish fly. But you could chuck a fish across the room, and for a few fleeting moments, it really believes it’s flying – until it smashes its head against the wall. – Peterson Toscano with his dad in ‘Fish Can’t Fly’.