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    Drew Payne
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

His Story - 6. Table Talk

Ryan was already waiting for me, and he’d picked one of the outside tables. We always met up at the same coffee shop, and if I got there first, I’d choose a table inside, but if Ryan got there first, he’d always pick one of the tables outside on the square of pavement in front of the coffee shop.

I went right up to the table and sat down opposite him.

“Hello, Chris, I’ve ordered you a coffee and muffin,” Ryan said.

“Thanks,” I said.

“How did it go today?”

“Not bad. It’s still not easy, but I think I’m getting somewhere now,” I said.

“Good. Let me get the waiter’s eye, and we can have our drinks and muffins.”

This had sort of become a regular date for us. Every other Wednesday morning at about eleven, I’d meet Ryan at this coffee shop, and we’d have a drink and a cake together. Ryan had suggested this; he said it would give me some company after each session. Every other Wednesday at ten o’clock, I’d see my therapist, Gill William, at her office just around the corner.

Nina had found Gill William for me. She was a short and quiet-spoken lesbian who seemed to be able to understand anything. She never judged, no matter what I told her; she only nodded and would ask me a question that really made me think, that would help me open up more. I can’t say that my hour sessions with her were easy; she can get deep under my skin. But in the same way, I was beginning to feel good about these sessions. She had a way of putting things into perspective and helping me to see why things had happened and why I behaved the way I did. She didn’t make me cry; she didn’t go for the big show of emotions; she just helped me to think and to see things as they really were.

Today hadn’t been an easy session, I’d finally told her about what had happened to me as a teenager with The Release Trust. I’d tried not to be over the top and all emotional. I tried to be calm, but telling my story was still hard. When I’d finished, we fell silent; she just sat thinking for a long and quiet moment before she said, “Oh, God, that must have been awful.”

Her words were wonderful, as if someone had lifted a heavy weight off my back. It felt such a relief, and it felt so good. She had taken me seriously; she’d realised how bad it had been, but she hadn’t given me some crass answer about pulling myself together and getting over it or that I should be happy because I’m out of it now.

It was Ryan’s idea to meet for coffee after my sessions with Gill William, but he never asked about them, except a general question about how they went. Instead, we’d talk about many different things. The strange thing was that these meetings really helped, too. They stopped me from going over and over what had happened in the session before, digging away at my own emotions and leaving me feeling depressed again. Ryan was always full of news about one thing or another.

After the waiter had brought us our drinks and muffins, Ryan started to tell me about how far he’d got with his book.

“Last week I emailed off the first draft to my editor, and already I’ve got notes back from her. I’m having to start a shitload of rewrites. She wants me to lift the tone of it. God, I thought that writing the first draft would be the biggest part. I was wrong on that.”

I just sat there and looked at him as he talked. He was so attractive. Too often, I’d find myself thinking about him. I wanted to touch him and caress him, if not just to be with him. I loved this hour or so we spent together, only the two of us, every other week. It was so important to me. If I’d had my way, I’d have spent every hour of the day with Ryan. The problem is, there’s no hope of that for me; the most I’ll get from Ryan is friendship.

Only the second date after we started meeting like this, after I’d started my sessions with Gill William, Ryan told me all about Zachary, his new boyfriend. Ryan was so excited and pleased to have started a relationship with Zachary. Every word he told me about Zachary was like a knife going into my body, but I hid my pain. I learnt long ago to perfectly hide my emotions away. If I was jealous or stupid over Zachary, I’d lose Ryan’s friendship completely. If I wasn’t boyfriend material, at least, I could be his friend; at least, I could keep some contact with him; I could still keep hoping.

Today Ryan’s hair seemed lighter in colour, more blond than strawberry, and was falling into his eyes every other movement. He was so attractive today. I smiled back at him and hoped he didn’t realise how I felt.

The best description for this story is semi-autobiographical.
As a teenager I was an Evangelical Christian and also a member of an ex-gay organisation. As a teenager I realised I was gay and it terrified me, were I grow-up was extremely homophobic, and I willingly jumped onto the ex-gay belief as soon as I heard it, it was my fire-escape from hell, I wrongly believed. I cut myself off from them, two-and-a-half years later, when I realised it was the only way to survive because they had left me so damaged and so deeply depressed.
My twenties were largely lost as I could not come to terms with what had happened to me, not being able to accept the damage done to me, and through this not being able to fully accept my sexuality. It was two good friends, a woman and a man, who separately confronted me with the reality that I was a damaged person and they helped me find therapy.
That was all a long time ago and I’m now happily married to my husband.
I wrote this story to explore how difficult it can be to come to terms with who you are and what damage was done to you by the ex-gay movement. Unfortunately, the hurt doesn’t stop when you break away from them. This was something I’d not seen explored in gay writing before. There are stories about going through the ex-gay ministry, both fiction and non-fiction, but there seems to be very little about surviving life afterwards.
Emotionally, all the things in this story happened to me, I just changed the physical realities of them. I do this a lot in my writing, it is one of the ways I write about the things that concern me.
For a long time, I used to say Chris, the narrator here, wasn’t me; that’s not the truth. We might not be the same but Chris and I are closely related.
Copyright © 2019 Drew Payne; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

{{{HUGS}}} I have no words to express my sorrow for the pain through which you went. {{{HUGS}}} to you and your husband.

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Thank you.

It was thirty(+) years ago and I had a wonderful therapist who helped to put me back together again. Then I met my husband.

I wrote this story, and Keeping the Faith, because I wanted people to know how harmful those ex-gay groups are, and stories are my way of doing that.

Thank you.

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I think Chris made the right decision to hide his feelings for Ryan - and finally he could make use of something he'd been forced to learn while being abused. Ryan was important as a friend and someone who inspired Chris to take that important next step and also helped him in the aftermath of the sessions. I'm sure Chris, like you, will find someone to love.

Thank you for writing this very important story to remind us all how much evil comes of fanatic and bigoted religion.

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48 minutes ago, Timothy M. said:

I think Chris made the right decision to hide his feelings for Ryan - and finally he could make use of something he'd been forced to learn while being abused. Ryan was important as a friend and someone who inspired Chris to take that important next step and also helped him in the aftermath of the sessions. I'm sure Chris, like you, will find someone to love.

Thank you for writing this very important story to remind us all how much evil comes of fanatic and bigoted religion.

Thank you so much for that.

I was worried people would want a happy ending here, Chris and Ryan getting together, but for me that wasn't an honest ending. Chris is still screwed up, though he is being to put himself back together again with the help of his therapist, but he's just not ready for a relationship here. And Ryan isn't into him in that way.

Since publishing this story here, my mind has been working on an idea for a sequel to it.  I want to explore the political side of the ex-gay movement.

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Well done, Drew. I thought there may be more to the story, so thank you for telling it. 

I guess the story’s over even though in my head, it feels as though it’s only just begun. Chris is showing restraint not trying to pursue Ryan, who is being someone he needs more right now: a friend.

For a sequel, how about Chris, Kay, Nina and Ryan (and however many supporters they can find) going round to the Release Trust premises and setting the place on fire. Okay, maybe a little over dramatic. Maybe just paint the building pink, lol.😎🌈

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I hurt for you, and weep for the pain you endured. I might have been cheered by a happy ending, but you did right to show us something more real and true. I can hope for Chris now, and that’s enough. 

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13 hours ago, lomax61 said:

Well done, Drew. I thought there may be more to the story, so thank you for telling it. 

I guess the story’s over even though in my head, it feels as though it’s only just begun. Chris is showing restraint not trying to pursue Ryan, who is being someone he needs more right now: a friend.

For a sequel, how about Chris, Kay, Nina and Ryan (and however many supporters they can find) going round to the Release Trust premises and setting the place on fire. Okay, maybe a little over dramatic. Maybe just paint the building pink, lol.😎🌈

@lomax61, I wanted to show Chris maturing in his relationship with Ryan, as he starts to deal with the damage done to him. Ryan isn't attracted to him but their friendship is something good, and Chris now has the maturity to accept it. This is a far more stable character than he was in the first part of this story.

The four main characters fire-bombing The Release Trust's head office is a wonderful idea (Certainly makes me happy) but is out of character for them, and Nina would put her registration at risk. For the sequel, I want to write about the politics of the ex-gay movements, which would be a rather dark look.  I've wanted to write about this for quite a while and returning to this story has shown me that Chris, and the other characters here, are the right ones to write it through, with some new characters. Just, God knows when I'll get the chance to do it but I now have a schedule of things I want/need to write and that is firmly on the list.

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13 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

I hurt for you, and weep for the pain you endured. I might have been cheered by a happy ending, but you did right to show us something more real and true. I can hope for Chris now, and that’s enough. 

@Parker Owens, please don't hurt for me. I am very fortunate, I have a very happy life. I have a job I enjoy, a home I love and a husband who makes me so happy. I am very fortunate.

I went through hell as a teenager and in my twenties, but I found people who helped me. That was what I wanted to write about here, that the damage doesn't stop when you escape the ex-gay movement. But not showing Chris at least beginning to deal with the damage done to him would not have been honest, there is a way out of this mess but it isn't easy.

I couldn't give Chris that romantic happy ending because it would not have felt honest. He has PTSD and at the end of this story he's only just learning to manage friends, but I had to give him a hopeful ending, I had to say there is a way out of this mess.

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9 minutes ago, Drew Payne said:

@Parker Owens, please don't hurt for me. I am very fortunate, I have a very happy life. I have a job I enjoy, a home I love and a husband who makes me so happy. I am very fortunate.

I went through hell as a teenager and in my twenties, but I found people who helped me. That was what I wanted to write about here, that the damage doesn't stop when you escape the ex-gay movement. But not showing Chris at least beginning to deal with the damage done to him would not have been honest, there is a way out of this mess but it isn't easy.

I couldn't give Chris that romantic happy ending because it would not have felt honest. He has PTSD and at the end of this story he's only just learning to manage friends, but I had to give him a hopeful ending, I had to say there is a way out of this mess.

You achieved your purpose very well. You’re right; the happy ending would have felt too easy, too much like fiction. 

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Marty

Posted (edited)

I like the way you have managed to wind this story up, Drew. Chris isn't all the way there yet, but he's finally moving in the right direction. And with his therapist to help guide him, and the support of good friends like Ryan, and Kay and Nina, I'm fairly confident he'll continue to move in the right direction.

I'm not worried about his infatuation with Ryan; he seems to accept that there's nothing he can do about it, and to be happy enough to just continue having him as a friend.

It would, perhaps, be interesting to know how Chris gets on in the future, but I think this particular story has reached its logical conclusion. It has served its purpose in exposing the harm that groups offering Gay Conversion Therapy can inflict on vulnerable individuals, especially when they do so under the pretence that it is being done in God's name. That story has now been told; continuing on from this point forward would mean that a new story was being started.

I think I have already said in a comment to a previous chapter that I am an atheist, but I am strongly of the opinion that individuals who belong to such groups as The Release Trust would, were the prophesied second coming of Jesus Christ ever to occur, be first in line to nail him to a wooden cross again.

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Quote

When I’d finished, we fell silent; she just sat thinking for a long and quiet moment before she said, “Oh, God, that must have been awful.”

I volunteer with an LGBT helpline, and know just how affirming a response like that can be for a caller who has just disclosed what, to them, is or appears to be a traumatic event in their life. It shows them that they have been heard; that someone has really listened to them. It shows them that they are not being judged; neither for allowing the event to take place, nor for their response to it. It shows them that someone actually cares.

Edited by Marty
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@Marty, thanks for your feedback, especially about the ending.

I wanted to show Chris moving on but not give him a huge, romantic ending. It would have been so out of character with the rest of the story, and Chris is still a very screwed up character here.

With his relationship with Ryan, I wanted to show a maturity beginning to happen with Chris, showing him now being able to read situations and not get too hung up on them.

The therapist's line was taken from real life, word-of-word. I went to see an amazing therapist (I directly copied her for this story) and that is what she said to me when I'd got up the courage to tell her what had happened to me, as a teenager. When she said those words it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. She didn't say that I could take something positive from it, she didn't say that it was years ago so  I should put it behind me, she just acknowledged the pain I had been through. She was the first person to do that.  In my professional life I do the same thing now, whenever patients tell me something painful or distressing, I don't try to find something positive to say, I just acknowledge their pain. I leant from the best.

I will be coming back to Chris but in a much different story. I have wanted to write about the politics behind the ex-gay movement for years but hadn't found a way in. From comments to this story, I realised that Chris was my way in, but a very different character from here. He's matured and dealt with his own pain. But as I say, when I get the time to do that. I've got several other things I want to write first.

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Thank you for telling this story, Drew. 

The effects of these kinds of movements are long lasting. I’m glad to see that Chris will be able to move forward. I’m glad that you were able to find your happy. 

 

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18 hours ago, Defiance19 said:

Thank you for telling this story, Drew. 

The effects of these kinds of movements are long lasting. I’m glad to see that Chris will be able to move forward. I’m glad that you were able to find your happy. 

 

I wanted to, I had to write this story about the lasting damage done by the ex-gay movement.

When I wrote the first draft of this story there were a lot of people (LGBT people) claiming the ex-gay movement didn't do any real harm because once people left it they were able to come out. I actually heard this said more than once. I wanted to show how the damage carries on even after the person has left the ex-gay movement behind. And I wanted to show the potential healing power of the LGBT community.

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