A prominent Malaysian LGBTI rights advocate gave a heart-wrenching account of the damage Christian conversion therapy can do to a person.
‘It made me feel so utterly lonely and isolated’, he wrote. ‘And it prevented me from living my life fully until I was in my 30s’.
LGBTI conversion therapy seeks to change a persons sexuality or gender identity through prayer, counseling, or even violence. It has been widely denounced by Western governments and the World Health Organization.
Malaysia and Singapore are notoriously anti-LGBTI. Both countries still criminalize gay sex.
Muslim-majority Malaysia has been seeing a politically-induced crackdown on LGBTI citizens. Singapore’s conservative and Christian population have reacted strongly to new efforts to repeal the anti-gay law.
Pang told Gay Star News he wanted to share his story because realized he had to be strong and confident.
‘I just felt it was time to reflect how to heal, and how to create a community that heals together’ he said.
‘I never took the time to consider the extent of the hurt and damage done to my soul by my conversion therapy experiences’.
Hugging and confessions
Pang became a Christian at the age of 14 and spent 12 years ‘trying to go straight’.
He said his conversion consisted of a lot of meetings, huggings, confessions, and endless prayers.
These often ended with him crying, ‘begging God to make me a good person, to make me straight’.
Meanwhile, he was also told he was gay because he was incomplete. Whenever he felt love or lust, therefore, he would be filled with a deep sense of shame.
‘I was subjected to weekly chipping away of my sense of self, dignity, and wholeness. I was convinced that as I was incomplete, I was therefore lustful, shameful, irresponsible, lacking in self-control’, he wrote.
Importantly, Pang said the experience killed his sense of self.
Leaving the Church
Eventually, Pang left the church. He found out a pastor had been advising his male friends to stay away from him.
But, he revealed in his Facebook post, he found some hope for a more inclusive Christian church in the people he met.
‘One of these church leaders told me that when I said my happiest moment consisted of being told I was incomplete and needed to be straight, that it broke her heart, that the church had reduced me to that’, he wrote.
Another man thanked him for sharing his story and said all stories were ‘sacred texts’.
‘To be told our personal stories are sacred texts is really empowering’ Pang told Gay Star News.
Pang thanked people trying to make the ‘church whole again with all the broken pieces of our stories’.
Since leaving the church, Pang Khee Teik has joined the arts community of Kuala Lumpur.
‘I was encouraged to find my voice and tell my stories’ Pang told Gay Star News.
‘I met people who organize and together we created spaces for our stories, our sacred texts’ he said.
Pang is now editor of Kuala Lumpur-based Queer Lapis.