Dear Susan: Are Ex-Gay Camps a Good Idea?

dear-susanHave you heard of “reparative therapy?”  Ex-gay camps?  Where they “cure” the gay out of kids and young adults?  Do they work – are they a good idea?

When a Christian parent of a gay child does a Google search or talks to their pastor, this is often the prescribed remedy to “fix” their child.

I welcome the chance to address this question.

I write Dear Susan posts every Friday. Sometimes they will be poignant, sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes tender, sometimes funny… but hopefully always worth the read.  🙂  If you have a question you would like me to answer, please email me at – and please put ‘Dear Susan’ in the subject line.

Here we go…

Dear Susan,

Q We have been a happy family. Now our son says he is gay. He has always liked church, VBS, camp, family game nights, etc. Our older son has no issues. I don’t know how to reconcile this, and we have thought about those ex-gay camps. Is that a good idea? Please, Please, Please, help us. We are scared and just don’t know what to do. Thank you, I really hope to hear from you.

Perplexed Mom


Dear Perplexed,

A Please, please, please don’t subject your son to those ex-gay camps. They are a terror. If he goes, he will suffer untold abuse, learn to hate himself, and possibly to hate you. And he will come back still gay. (Sometimes people pretend they’re straight, because it’s easier than fighting that system, but they come out again sooner or later. Sexuality just doesn’t work like that.) One young man said, “I can’t change what I didn’t choose.” That’s exactly right. If you ask your son if he chose to be gay, he will say, “No, Mom! Why would I choose this?” He’s prayed for it to go away, guaranteed. Please do not punish him for something he didn’t even choose.

Exodus International tried for 37 years to make people not gay anymore. Last year, Exodus closed its doors the Exodus president admitted “reparative therapy” does not work, and he apologized for having hurt so many people in the process. I implore you not to trust someone who says they can change or fix or heal your son; they are just preying on your fears about your son being gay.

Remember that God wants you completely dependent on him. Parents tell me time and again that when they ask God about their child, God tells them just to love them, accept them, embrace them.

Remember that we live in a religious, behavior-focused culture that does not accept homosexuality, but God has shifted culture many times throughout history. We want to be open to that shift, lest we miss God.

Boldly approach the throne of grace as Jesus said, and ask God to guide you. If something deep inside of you is afraid to pray boldly and confidently, then perhaps you do not yet understand how much God loves you, and that God uses kindness to motivate us to think differently, not fear.

Err on the side of love and remember, you can never love too much or too fully.

*If you have a question for “Dear Susan” please email it to Please put ‘DEAR SUSAN’ in the subject line.

[To read more from Susan Cottrell, visit]


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SUSAN COTTRELL is a national speaker, teacher, and counselor with years of Biblical study and discipleship experience. Her books include: Mom, I’m Gay – Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faithas well as How Not to Lose Your Teen and The Marriage Renovation. Through her nonprofit organization – – Susan champions the LGBTQ community and families with her characteristic tender-heartedness, and she zealously challenges Christians who reject them with her wise insistence that “loving God and loving others” are the foundation of the rest of the scripture, just as Jesus said.

She is the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin, and her “Mom, I’m Gay” book has been endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign and others. Sharon Groves, PhD, HRC’s Religion & Faith Program Director says, “I often get asked by parents for resources that can address the struggles of raising LGBT sons and daughters without having to leave faith behind. Susan Cottrell’s book, Mom, I’m Gay, does just that. This is the kind of book that parents will love.”

She and her husband have been married more than 25 years and have five children – one of whom is in the LGBTQ community. She lives in Austin, Texas, and blogs at and here in IMPACT Magazine’s FreedHearts and Jesus Blog columns.