Interview: Founder of group that ‘heals homosexuals’ out of the closet

By William De Luca
Posted by Eleições Hoje
Translation: Sérgio Viula


Founder of group that ‘heals homosexuals’ reveals: “Nobody quit being gay, there were relationships even within the group”

Nothing better than an example to rebuke the supposed efficiency of treatments to convert sexual orientation, which claim that gay people can “go” straight. The English and philosophy teacher, also a theologian, Sergio Viula, 42, born and resident in Rio de Janeiro, was one of the founders of the Movement for the Healthy Sexuality (MOSES), an evangelical NGO which

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helps people interested in quitting homosexuality. He got married, had two children and saw by himself the very methods of ‘sexual re-orientation’. In an exclusive interview, Sergio talked to me and showed that methods to change sexual orientation are useless, causing pain and suffering to those who are willing to go through any of them.

How did your life within the evangelical church begin? How did you get in?

- I started at 16, in a neo-charismatic, but later on I migrated to a Baptist church. I was converted by the preaching of some friends’; it was not a family tradition, which was catholic. Nowadays, some of them are catholic and some are evangelical.

At that time, had you already realized you were gay? Had you already had relationships with other boys?

- I’d actually had relationships with gay guys, but I’d never assumed I was gay, as I used to think it was something temporary. My first relationship was as early as the age of 12, with a little older boy, and in secret, of course. It lasted two years, though. Actually, I wanted to think that it would be temporary due to the pressure at home. My family used to be very conservative.

How was the process of “becoming ex-gay”?

- In fact, ex-gays don’t exist – it’s pure self-suggestion. I started going to church and noticed that homosexuals didn’t know how to deal with their ‘difficulties’, due to lack of orientation by their leaders, so I decided to found the Movement for the Healthy Sexuality (MOSES), with João Luiz Santolin and Liane França. That was when I started saying – at very opportune moments – that I was ex-gay.

Didn’t you ever get convinced that you had become ex-gay? Did you ever know that you were deceiving yourself?

- Today I know that I was deceiving myself. But back then, I thought that every sentiment or attraction was a mere case of ‘temptation’ and that it could be overcome with prayer and dedication to god. In the group, we used to think, basically speaking, that being gay was a sin, which should be confessed and abandoned and, therefore, we would proselytize, counsel, pray, preach, recommend certain books, read the Bible – things that believers usually do, but focusing on homosexuality itself; unfortunately, always demonizing homogenic love. I worked 18 years totals with the church, MOSES started in 1997. In 2003 I was out. I spent about seven years within the group. We counted on psychologists and volunteers. Once, we packed a bus and took everybody to Miss Brazil Gay in Juiz de Fora (a city in the neighbor state of Minas Gerais) with the only purpose of evangelizing LGBT people who attended the event, but the director board was composed by about 10 people.

But how was this process of ‘abandoning the sin’? Was it like a treatment?

– That didn’t really happen, after all. It was like the so-called discipleship, which happened to be brainwashing, indeed. You have to get isolated from your former circle of friends, start attend church meetings, go through counseling sessions, pray, fast, and stuff like that. When somebody happened to get involved with another homosexual, he had to confess what he’d done. THAT’S FUCKING CRAZY! Sorry, but even nowadays I feel angry when I remember that.

Why anger?

– Nobody really quit being gay. There were relationships even within the group, between an activity and another, they would always find time for that. Can you figure out how much suffering to myself and to all of those who have already worked or been influenced by this kind of ‘ministry’? That’s enraging! And there are people repeating that stupid discourse until today.

What do you feel when you see people like pastor Silas Malafaia doing the kind of preaching that you used to do? Is it a similar discourse?

– He is a complete idiot! I was a boy when I got involved in all that. I had way too little life experience and there wasn’t so much information as there is today. He, on the contrary, acts out of bad faith, with financial interests, power projects, etc. He says that he’s never been gay, hasn’t he? I am very suspicious about people who spend so much energy and money to fight something that has nothing to do with them. I comprehend straight people who understand the risks involved in homophobia, but I can’t understand heterosexuals who have a fit for just realizing that gay people are happy, healthy and producing for the nation …

Isn’t it all about raising a flag nowadays? Gaining visibility, whatever …

– It’s still bad faith, though. It just confirms my thesis.

When did you decide it was high time you finished? Did you leave the movement at the same time you came out?

– That’s right. I left at the same time I came out. It all happened when I was sure I had done and believed to the fullest of my abilities. The last drop was a trip to Singapore, where I met a Philippine and made out with him. I returned to Brazil determined to put an end to that panacea. I did so and immediately started to re-think several of my approaches and beliefs, but it would take me two years before I could finally say everything that I’ve been saying since I came out. There was persecution by MOSES, many people were in shock, but they had to bend to it, as my involvement with the group had been massive. Most of my projection, however, was within the church. I was a pastor, the editor of an apologetic newspaper called Desafio das Seitas (The Cults’ Challenge), which reached its highest level during that period, and so on …

And within your family? What was the reaction?

– My parents were shocked, but my children have never created any trouble, they were just puzzled at me leaving the church, as I used to be so dedicated to godly affairs. I divorced their mother, but that hasn’t apparently caused any big problem. They just frankly asked me about the issue at 12 (my daughter) and 11 (my son). Both understood it all very well and have always been my friends. They get on really well with me and Emanuel, my partner.

Do you feel whole and happy today?

– Yes, I am in peace with myself today, happy, and I wonder how I could stand such useless existential castration for such a long time.

Do you think that what you (in MOSES) used to do was an act of violence against yourselves and the others?

– Yes, it was an act of violence against ourselves, as we had internalized the homophobia that surrounded us from early childhood, as well as against the others, because we reproduced that very homophobia which they had internalized by themselves long before. We just reinforced it even more.

You didn’t only leave the church and the movement, but you quit believing in god… How did it happen?

– It happened principally due to my honest and daring inquiry about god/gods, Christian and other religions’ scriptures, the church and other religious institutions. My current thought and approach to the idea of god/gods is not mere result of suffering within one or another church or belief. Actually, many churches opened their doors to me when I came out of the closet. They confessed their interest in getting me minister as their pastor. Troy Perry, founder and bishop of the Metropolitan Community Church, told me that in person. It was not thanks to believers’ misbehavior either, as I know some who I consider fantastic people until now (both from the evangelical and protestant mainstream and the modern inclusive churches). Bearing that in mind, neither god nor scriptures or churches pass through the sieve of reason, and I am not referring to the reason of a brilliant mind, such as Nietzsche’s, Darwin’s, Sartre’s, Hopkins’, Dawkins’, etc., I refer to the

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reason of an average mind like mine. I can’t go against myself and that which I so distinctly see. Nonetheless, I defend freedom. And that’s why, believing or not believing are things which cannot be controlled, restrained, unless they put human rights at stake.

To conclude, what would you tell a gay youngster who is going through that process of ‘spiritual healing of homosexuality’? Is that worth it?

– Religious conversion which does not admit and CELEBRATES your homosexuality does not deserve your time and talent. If you want to attend a church, search for one which is mature enough to even question the validity of its own religious statements. But, preferably, live your life without relying on existential braces whatever they are. I take the opportunity to suggest the reading of a post written by me (in Portuguese). This post was born from a lecture that I delivered in the Ecumenical Church of Copacabana during the celebration of the Bible Day in the catholic calendar. It was this year.

William De Luca is a reporter of economy with the Jornal da Paraíba, a Journalist and an LGBT activist.

Posted by Eleições Hoje (Elections Today) on 25th October, 2011 02:39 PM. Under Entrevistas, Notícias (Interviews, News)

postado por Shirley Galdino em Activism,Humanism,LiHS,Shirley Galdino

Comments (29)

29 Comments

Sergiy, in 3 November 2011 at 2:48 AM

Great story!

Sergio Viula, in 3 November 2011 at 8:32 AM

Thanks for reading it and leaving your comment.

XOXO
Sergio Viula

TampaZeke, in 3 November 2011 at 9:35 AM

If you’re interested in a “religion” that encourages followers to question it and even encourages its followers to reject it if it doesn’t stand up to reason and experience, you should check out Buddhism.

In the Kalama Sutta the Buddha said,

Kalama Sutta
The people of Kalama asked the Buddha who to believe out of all the ascetics, sages, venerables, and holy ones who, like himself, passed through their town. They complained that they were confused by the many contradictions they discovered in what they heard. The Kalama Sutta is the Buddha’s reply.

– Do not believe anything on mere hearsay.
– Do not believe in traditions merely because they are old and have been handed down for many generations and in many places.
– Do not believe anything on account of rumors or because people talk a a great deal about it.
– Do not believe anything because you are shown the written testimony of some ancient sage.
– Do not believe in what you have fancied, thinking that, because it is extraordinary, it must have been inspired by a god or other wonderful being.
– Do not believe anything merely because presumption is in its favor, or because the custom of many years inclines you to take it as true.
– Do not believe anything merely on the authority of your teachers and priests.
– But, whatever, after thorough investigation and reflection, you find to agree with reason and experience, as conducive to the good and benefit of one and all and of the world at large, accept only that as true, and shape your life in accordance with it.

The same text, said the Buddha, must be applied to his own teachings.

– Do not accept any doctrine from reverence, but first try it as gold is tried by fire.

That’s what drew me, a former Southern Baptist Christian, to Buddhism, which has no “god” but relies on reason and experience.

[...] time, it’s Sergio Viula, founder of the Movement for Healthy Sexuality (the Portuguese acronym is MOSES), an evangelical [...]

Sergio Viula, in 3 November 2011 at 11:38 AM

Buddhism is undoubtedly better thant Christianity. Even Nietzsche, who used to hammer deities, assumed that. ;) In Buddhism there is no god. From that standpoint, we are closer to each other than any other group.

Thanks for the reply.

Cheers,
Sergio Viula

TampaZeke, in 3 November 2011 at 5:33 PM

Yeah, Einstein also said that if he were ever to consider following a “religion” it would be Buddhism because it is the most scientific and reasonable. Of course, having no god in Buddhism, many, including myself, argue that Buddhism is a life philosophy rather than a religion.

Sergio Viula, in 3 November 2011 at 7:02 PM

It’s great to hear that, TampaZeke!

Thanks for sharing. :)

[...] could change sexual orientation. However, in an interview with Brazilian secular humanist blog The Flying Teapot Project, the professor and theologian revealed that he now embraces his identity as a gay man — and [...]

John Emr, in 3 November 2011 at 10:00 PM

Thank god there is no god, now you can enjoy your life. Best of everything is yours…

[...] sad the damage these people are causing worldwide. From FlyingTeapot: Nothing better than an example to rebuke the supposed efficiency of treatments to convert sexual [...]

Sergio Viula, in 4 November 2011 at 7:50 AM

lol Thanks, John. That’s a witty approach to it. :)

radioredrafts, in 4 November 2011 at 2:57 PM

“Poor God. The stupidities he gets blamed for.” –John Blackthorne, from the James Clavell novel “Shogun”

Sergio Viula, in 4 November 2011 at 3:39 PM

Poor Devil, too. ;)

[...] Brazilian evangelical ex-gay group Movement for the Healthy Sexuality (MOSES), has just come out as still 100 percent gay. He even revealed what really happens in ex-gay therapy programs—hint: it involves fasting and [...]

Sergio Viula, in 5 November 2011 at 2:31 PM

I’d also like to recommend this simple, but objective, video which rebukes these groups’ main fallacies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vui6L0pWRF8

I hope you like it and if you do so, please, spread the link. ;)

Another one that you may like is this one about Insulting and Homosexual Identity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6JzptGngJw

If they go too fast at some points, feel comfortable to pause and have a calm look at each and every point.

Cheers,
Sergio Viula

[...] a vehement talk with a blog The Flying Teapot Project, Viula pronounced he began carrying sex with other boys during a age of [...]

Truth Wins Out - The Brazilian John Smid, in 15 November 2011 at 2:21 PM

[...] in Brazil, and has now left all that behind, referring to it as “brainwashing” in an interview he gave to the Secular Humanist League of Brazil. In his words: In fact, ex-gays don’t exist – [...]

Paul Douglas, in 15 November 2011 at 5:28 PM

Thanks for all of the work you have done Sergio! Do you have more of your story posted elsewhere?

Sergio Viula, in 16 November 2011 at 8:06 AM

Thank you, Paul, for all the support. I don’t have many more details about the story in English, but I suggested some videos which might be interesting. They’re in English and approach the issue from that very standpoint.

I’m copying them below for you:

Fallacies ot Sexual Reversion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vui6L0pWRF8

Bullying and gay identity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6JzptGngJw

I hope you like them. I have a book, but only in Portuguese. I might translate it someday, but I still can’t assure when.

Thanks for your interest and support once again.

Hugs,
Sergio Viula

[...] Sergio Viula: This man was the leading provider of “ex-gay” quackery in Brazil. In an interview he gave to the Secular Humanist League of Brazil, Viula  called such programs “brainwashing” [...]

Adrenalin Tim, in 14 December 2011 at 7:57 PM

Just dropping by to say kudos to you for your bravery and honesty, Sergio. I’m thankful that you escaped the harmful industry of the “ex-gay” movement.

I hope that both religious and non-religious people will hear your words and come to a place of more acceptance and understanding.

Sergio Viula, in 15 December 2011 at 11:14 AM

Thanks for such a lovely comment, Adrenalin Tim! You can’t figure out how encouraging words like yours are, not only to me, but also to those who are still wondering about coming out of the closet.

A warm hug,
Sergio Viula

Sergio Viula, in 21 January 2012 at 7:30 PM

Sergio Viula, founder of Brazilian ‘ex-gay’ ministry who came out releases provocative FREE e-book: http://www.myebook.com/ebook_viewer.php?ebookId=111704

James, in 4 February 2012 at 2:02 PM

Dear Sergio,

First of all let me say how happy I am that you have been able to find peace in your life. If homosexuality is a true expression of your authentic self, then that is indeed something to be celebrated.

However, I must disagree with the conclusions this article attempts to draw. None of what you said shows that “methods to change sexual orientation are useless”, as the preamble to the interview states. What your story shows is that the methods *you tried* did not work. There are thousands of people who have gone through processes to change their sexuality, and many of them say that it did work to a certain extent. Some of them have undoubtedly exaggerated or even completely made up their stories of success, but I think we should not be so arrogant as to assume that all of them are lying.

We have not necessarily perfected the techniques to change people’s sexual orientation yet (although I would argue that there are better approaches available than religious fundamentalism). But this does not mean that we never will. And it certainly doesn’t mean we should stop trying. There must be many people around the world who, for whatever reason, are unhappy with their sexuality and wish to change it. I think we should offer those people all the resources we can to help them do so.

Love to hear your thoughts.

Sergio Viula, in 4 February 2012 at 9:47 PM

Dear James,

Your comment is very loving. That’s a beautiful feature of yours. I highly recommend that you read my book (In Search of Myself). It’s free of charge and available on slideshare (you can read it online or download it or print it to read it later): http://www.slideshare.net/SergioViula/sergio-viulatranslation

As you read, you’ll probably understand my views on the questions you have raised.

Anyway, I’d like to point out that the simple fact that someone does not accept such an essential and beautiful aspect of his/her being as it is the case of his/her (homo)affection is something to really worry about. Why should we see their will of a change as something healthy? Why should we welcome their self-hate? Because it seems to be the easiest way to escape prejudice? Well, that is not a good reason and will never make an illusion (change) real. Take for instance the case of black people. They will not quit being black to escape racism. It may be argued that they can’t, but that is the same with homosexuals or any other sexual orientation. Women suffer due to chauvinism, but they won’t quit being women or compromise just to please the macho men around. Both black people and women will fight prejudice, not themselves. Why should LGBT people be different?

Another thing that called my attention was your statement: “There are thousands of people who have gone through processes to change their sexuality, and many of them say that it did WORK TO A CERTAIN EXTENT (capitals on my own).

What is it supposed to stand for? Does it mean that they have become straight to a certain extent? Or do they remain gay to a certain extent? Or even better, have they become bisexual? Actually, this ‘to a certain extent’ simply means that they have been quite certainly under excruciating effort/pain. For how long, time will show. ;)

I do value your comment and the time it took you to write it. Thanks a lot.

Please, read my book. In Brazil, it’s paid (print version). Take advantage of its translation and read it without any cost. It may surprise you… or not. ;)

A huge hug,
Sergio Viula

James, in 5 February 2012 at 3:18 AM

Dear Sergio,

Thank you so much for your quick and considered response. You seem like a very loving person also! I do appreciate the opportunity to discuss these matters in such a supportive environment, far from the closed-mindedness and hysteria of some other internet forums.

I would very much like to read your book. The pressures of my life right now mean that I can’t get to it right away, but when things calm down I will dive into it, I promise you.

In answer to your first point, I would ask you to please consider that there are other reasons people might wish to change their sexuality other than to escape prejudice. I give myself as an example here. I am a same sex attracted young man, but I live in a place that is by and large very tolerant of gay people (London, England). My friends and family are without exception 100% supportive of gay people, and not one person I have told about my sexuality, either in my private life or in the workplace, has had a problem with it.

I am therefore not exploring the possibility of change because I am trying to escape prejudice, since I feel there is almost none around me. I am doing it because my homosexuality does not fit with my own internal sense of who I am. It would take a lot more time to explain than I have here, but the essence of it is that for me, homosexuality does not feel like the true expression of my authentic self. I support anyone, including you, who sees being gay as a beautiful and essential part of themselves. But for me it is simply not right.

I give you an analogy. The ‘T’ in LGBT stands for ‘Transgender’, people who have a strong sense that the body they were born into does not match the gender that they feel themselves to be. Years ago, such people would probably have been told that ‘You are a man (or woman), you have to learn to accept yourself as such’. Now though, we have moved on in our understanding. Sensitive individuals do not try to persuade transgendered people to accept the sex they were born into, nor do we accuse them of self hate. We accept that even though they were born into a male body, they are in fact female (or vice versa), and we help them to change their bodies to match their self-identified gender.

It is a similar story with my sexuality. I feel that even though I do have same sex attraction, those feelings do not represent my true self. I have a strong sense that change might be possible for me, and so like I say I am exploring that possibility. It it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But I only ask that you respect my right (and the right of others like me) to try.

Again, love to know your thoughts.

A huge hug right back,
James

PS: I would love to talk about ‘to a certain extent’, but I think my post is long enough as it is! Maybe another time :-)

Sergio Viula, in 5 February 2012 at 8:22 AM

Dear James,

You have been very brave sharing your feelings. Thanks for that. Considering all the good things you have said about your family, friends and workmates circle, I would recommend that you consider seeing a psychoanalist who might help you identify the drive that leads you to want to change your sexual attraction. Psychoanalysis can (not necessarily will) help you dig the underneath lands of our hearts. Anyway, I dare to say that, although nobody can stop you trying to change, the comparison to transgender people is not appropriate to support your point. And why is that so? Let me try to explain:

Transgender people are not disatisfied with their sexual attraction. They are uncomfortable with their bodies. It is very easy to manipulate body features, from the colour of one’s hair to the genitals one was born with. Some transgenders will not change their body to fit the the ‘heterosexual’ pattern as there are trangender people who (before doing anything about their bodies) feel attracted to the other gender. And after being operated on, they keep feeling the same way. Let me break it into an example for the sake of simplification.

A boy feels attracted to girls, but for some reason, he does not see himself as a boy. He feels like a girl. So, he grows up dreaming to go through the transexualization process. One day he is finally granted that chance. He still likes girls. He goes through the process and becomes a transgender woman. However, instead of seeking a male partner, he (now she) seeks a girl. If he had remained in the male body, his sexual orientation would be considered straight. Is his attraction supposed to be considered lesbian now?

So, as you see, sexual attraction and gender identity are not identical twin sisters (or brothers). An estimated 45 percent of transgender people surveyed said that their relationship with a spouse or partner ended because of their transgender identity. Surprisingly, 55 percent, stayed on or their relationship ended for other reasons, according to that report. (See this stunning case and read more about that here, please: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/transgender-love-husband-transitions-wife/story?id=14280850#.Ty5dwMU1_Qg Note that even when those 45% ended because of the partner’s transgender identity, they might have come to an end because the other partner couldn’t handle their spouses’ new body shape, not necessarily because the transgender partner didn’t want sex with their original spouse. ;)

As you see, even in people who change their anatomy, the sexual drive remains the same it had always been. Those transgender who used to love same-sex people will keep that drive. And so will people who had originally loved other-sex people. Boys who loved girls and ‘became’ transgender women will stick to girls. Boys who loved boys and ‘became’ transgender women will stick to boys. Are the transgender women married to women lesbians? Are the transgender women married to men straight? I could ask the same about transgender men: Are girls who married boys and ‘became’ transgender men gay? etc, etc, etc… :)

Once again, experience shows the inneficiency of SOCE (Sexual Orientation Change Efforts). It is too simple-minded to try and define sex, sex orientation and gender in a Catholic/Protestant manner… It is absolutely anachronistic to say that women were made for men, and men for women… :P

I must add that I feel very glad to learn that you consider other people’s ‘gayness’ as something valid and legitimate. That is another beautiful feature of yours: respecting individuality. ;) Personally, I hope you will fall in love with someone who really deserves you and enjoy the beauties of affection and partnership. Nonetheless, I must say that no relationships, either straight, gay or bisexual are easy, and the neighbour’s grass usually seems greener than ours. Once a pastor, I had hundreds of opportunities to see how unhappy ‘aparently adjusted straight couples’ were. Not better than many homosexuals who complain about their partners. It is human, all too human. The opposite is also true: happy straight couples and gay straight couples are everywhere. And so are happy straight people and happy gay people who have never been in a serious relationship.

Thanks for sharing your heart here.

A special hug,
Sergio Viula

James, in 5 February 2012 at 12:07 PM

Dear Sergio,

Thank you once again for your kind and thoughtful response.

I was in no way trying to imply that sexual attraction and gender identity are identical twin sisters (as you charmingly put it!). I understand that transgendered people want to change their bodies, not their sexual attraction. I was merely offering their case as an example of how someone might want to change something about themselves that others would consider essential.

Seeing a psychoanalyst about my feelings does sound interesting, but I know on a gut level that what would make me happiest would be to succeed in changing my orientation. There are books out there I plan to read (especially Alan Medinger’s ‘Growth Into Manhood’) that seem accurate in explaining the reasons I developed same sex attraction in the first place. If I can confront those issues and courageously deal with them, I suspect the outcome will indeed be change. I can only repeat that just because SOCE did not work for you, that does not mean it will not work for anyone.

Thanks for your lovely comments about finding a relationship. Nothing would please me more, and I sincerely hope that you find such a relationship for yourself, if you have not done so already :-)

Take care,
James

Sergio Viula, in 5 February 2012 at 12:45 PM

Dear James,

I see you’ve made up your mind, so all I can do is hope you’ll find rest. If you go all the way through SOCE and find out you were mistaken as to trying to change your sexual orientation, be humble and brave to simply step back and out of that movement and/or ideas. It is never too late, but the longer it takes the less time left. ;)

Thanks for sharing.

Yep. I’ve been in a relationship for almost 5 years now. You’ll find out more about it and other stuff when you read my book. If not now, maybe one day. ;)

Peace and love,

Sergio Viula

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