Ex-gay counselor David Pickup, whose “Increasing Manhood” video was met with speculation as to whether or not it was a joke, was recently profiled in an XGW article that showed his obsession with hyper-masculinity. His ex-gay program, “The WorkOUT,” seems to play on both this obsession and the stereotype that gay men are themselves obsessed with going to the gym.
We pointed out Pickup’s association with Jayson Graves, a Christian ex-gay counselor on the Exodus Board. Pickup is a member of Graves’s Healing for the Soul “Therapeutic Team.” His “WorkOUT” website contains links to Christian groups Exodus International, Love Won Out, and Focus on the Family in its “references” section – yet the site also contains a section that criticizes the Christian ex-gay movement.
Most, if not all, ex-gay groups warn the public about “what the gay community isn’t telling you.” Pickup works double duty, also warning you about what the Christian community isn’t telling you. In what is hailed as a “must-read article” on his website, Pickup declares that “spiritual healing does not necessarily heal homosexuality:”
To help a man find a relationship with God is certainly the eternal priority. However, to tell him he will heal himself from homosexual temptation and tendencies only through faith, prayer and service, (as some ex-gay programs espouse), then is it any wonder the homosexual struggler will continue to struggle year after year while the underlying issues are not resolved? Is it any wonder that these men experience a constant cycle of the build-up of homosexual feelings until they act out, then continue to feel horrible when asking for forgiveness, only to let the feelings build up again?
Pickup touts connections to the Christian community all the while claiming that they’re not being completely honest with you. At the same time he ironically touches on a very important point: that the shame induced by ex-gay ministries will ultimately manifest itself in the form of unhealthy sexual activity – resulting in even more shame. This he dubs “Toxic Shame.” He derides the year-in-year-out struggles experienced by Christian ex-gays who don’t resolve their “underlying “issues” – yet Exodus President Alan Chambers, who has admitted he faces this struggle, declares that it is a normal part of living the life of an ex-gay:
…And so every single morning — this is a ritual for me — I wake up and I say, “Dear Lord, I can’t make it today without You. I choose to deny what comes naturally to me. I choose to submit my will to the Lordship of your Son, Jesus Christ. And I choose better. I choose to follow You, I choose to allow Your Holy Spirit to walk before me, to guide me, to speak for me.”
I have a simple solution to prevent Toxic Shame and yearly struggles that requires no therapy and is free of charge: Teach gays – indeed, ALL people – from the beginning not to be ashamed of their sexual attractions, so they can then express their sexuality in healthy “normal” ways, such as courting another person of the same sex and going on dates.
Declaring that Christian ex-gay groups manufacture shame may create a conflict of interest for Pickup. It must be noted that Christian groups like Exodus and Love Won Out agree that you can’t just “pray away the gay.” LWO even labels this a “glib characterization” owned by the gay rights movement. According to them, “change” is a complex process and the causation of homosexuality is equally complex. But Pickup is nonetheless implying that attending a Christian ex-gay ministry is not enough. His therapy is the real therapy – and he’s the only person you can turn to for the whole story.
People who visit Pickup’s website won’t receive a true “cure” for homosexuality, but they will take in a healthy dose of contradictions. They are told to avoid so-called Toxic Shame by avoiding Christian ex-gay ministries – yet The WorkOUT reinforces its own kind of shame that is no less toxic among vulnerable gays: a man who is gay can never truly be a “real” man. Pickup points out the cycle of repression and the years of struggle that ultimately befall Christian ex-gays, yet fails to point out that ex-gays of ALL stripes will continue to struggle with same-sex attractions no matter what program they go through. In addition, he links to the ManKind Project, which actually opposes ex-gay therapy and encourages men to embrace their sexual orientation rather than repress it.
Looks like The WorkOUT needs to work out a clearer message.