Surviving my own personal hell, living through “dyke to wife” reparative therapy

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012 signed Senate Bill 1172 to ban “reparative therapy” for minors.

With this historic legislation, California becomes the first state to ban licensed mental health professionals from practicing psychological therapy aimed at turning gay and lesbian youth straight – a controversial practice also known as “ex-gay” therapy, conversion therapy and sexual reorientation.

To put it in plain terms – these quack therapists and their supporters want the homosexual to become the heterosexual.

I was going to research all the groups, pro and con, and inform readers on the lawsuits that we know will follow this legislation. I have chosen not to do that, and instead write from personal experience on reparative therapy: trying to change from dyke to wife.

I was born in 1952, and as far back as I can remember, I knew I was different. I knew I wasn’t the frilly little girl my mother wanted me to be. I was way more comfortable in my Sally Star cowgirl hat, boots and gun with holster. I filled my doll carriage with dirt, rocks and twigs, and I ran with the boys on the block. I was the best wrestler, the best pin-ball player, and my little blue peddle car was my pride and joy.

My family was all over the town I was raised in. Aunts, uncles, cousins were everywhere. It can be both a comfort and a curse. When I was a small child, it was a comfort to run from aunts to uncles gathering hugs and kisses as I went!

Holidays were spent together all wrapped up in bows, lights, laughter, love and food, food, food. Any picture you might have in your head about the 1950s and families gathered around a table with the roasted turkey in the middle – my family could have been that family. We were Methodists, Republicans, and very pro-country and pro-military. My brother was the oldest and the boy – so he was favored, and expected to do great and wonderful things. I was the girl and expected to get married and have babies. This was small-town life in America in the 1950s.

It was in the late 1960s that I knew for sure that I was indeed a lesbian. I had no idea what to do about it, had absolutely no one I could talk to about it, and instinctively knew that my family would never, ever understand or accept. It’s a small town, and I knew my mother would have suffered greatly from the gossip and the innuendo that would have come our way, so I chose to see my girlfriend on the sly, and while other girls were sneaking out to see their boyfriends and have their first sexual experience, I was doing the same with my girlfriend.

This was 1968, and it was certainly not safe to be gay then, and certainly not in the confines of my little town.

To keep away the gay rumors, I dated boys and pretended to be involved, but there was rarely kissing and certainly no sex of any kind. The thought of that was just more than I could bear. It actually made me physically ill to think of having sex with a boy, especially when I was enjoying sex with a girl. My life was complicated – to say the least.

Life got even more complicated as I got older, and as I understood there was nowhere to run and no life I could ever have as a lesbian in my little town, I did as my parents wished and got married. It was the 1970s reparative therapy for gays – you ignored who you were and tried to be what society, your church and your family wanted you to be. I did my best. I went to church, I sang in the choir, I had a job. I cooked, cleaned, did laundry and tried to be happy.

The thing is – I wasted over 20 years of my life, and the life of my husband, trying to be someone I wasn’t. No amount of prayer or Bible reading or laying on of hands could change who I was. No amount of pressure from family or promises from books, literature or therapy could change who I was, and in the end – everyone suffered, and I didn’t suddenly change into a straight woman wanting that heterosexual sex. The lies, however, did change every single one of us.

The “dyke to wife” therapy was a bust and certainly no one was a winner. Lives wasted, hearts broken, lies, deceit, anger – for what? Appearance? The church? The family? Society? When I finally came out and refused to partake in any more of the lies, most of my family walked away from me or followed me around reading Scripture, and friends went by the wayside. It turns out that the Scripture is more relevant to them than the human being standing in front of them.

Any gay or lesbian who has lived a life that doesn’t involve your gayness – you have been through your own version of reparative, conversion, reorientation therapy. Your own little version of hell.

We are simply who we are. We are not defined by anyone – gay or straight. I commend Gov. Brown on his courage to say exactly what this type of therapy is: “quackery.” And I’m proud to live in the State of California, which values the life of every one of its citizens.

About barbaraweicksel

My home is San Diego, CA - a most beautiful city. Mountains to the East, Pacific Ocean to the West, and the desert in between the mountains and the ocean. Beauty everywhere, but... The world is full of beauty, and I do love to travel. what I hope to share on these pages are my thoughts and some photos of the world as I see and experience it. I'd be happy to have you along on the journey - and then join me while I'm at home...
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8 Responses to Surviving my own personal hell, living through “dyke to wife” reparative therapy

  1. jenibeanstalk says:


    Reading your story was a surreal experience. Move the setting 20 years forward, and you tell my story as well.

    I tried…good heavens, how I tried. Growing up gay in the South is no joke. I married a man, had two gorgeous, fascinating children, but realized in my late 20’s that I could no longer keep up the act.

    I now have the love of my life helping me raise these amazing kids, and have never been happier. But oh…! What I lost. Family, friends, social circles, my children’s friends… But I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

    I can never regret my marriage because it gave me my two very inspirational reasons to live and better myself everyday, and it kept me busy until the universe was ready to give me the gift of my partner. But I do regret that I wasted so many years of my life and my ex-husband’s life attempting to play the part of the “good Southern woman”.

    There is nothing in the world like the freedom of being who you really are. Nothing. And it is my firm belief – and my life’s cause – to try and get the message to as many LGBT individuals as possible (especially adolescents) – You are beautiful. You are wonderful. You are a magnificent human being that was created just as you are for a purpose. Lean on us, on the community, to help you push through the terrible times and find your way out of that dark, senseless closet. It’s beautiful out here in the open. Free, and joyous. Join us – don’t be afraid of who you are, because who you are is the perfect beginning for who you are to become.

    Thank you Barb, for your incredible writing, and for tackling such rough issues so openly and honestly. Reading your blog is one of my very favorite things, and it always brings a smile to my face to see a new email from your site.

    Well done, my lady. Well done.


    • barbaraweicksel says:


      Thank you so very much. There really is nothing more important than the freedom of being who you really are. It just took some of us a little longer to learn that lesson. The fact that you’re out there helping and listening and speaking the truth, well you will never know who you’ve have touched.

      Thanks again for your kind words…


  2. Nancy Cory says:

    I also can relate to your article Barbara…..I was born in 1961 and in 3rd grade had a crush on my English teacher, Ms. Pierce! Then growing up I was the “tomboy” of 6 kids, my brother the youngest of 6 and I next to the youngest and he and I did everything that boys do together growing up! Then I married a man at 21, as you say because that was “the thing to do” and also to get out of my home. Then after 2 beautiful kids, I discovered that I wasn’t happy around 22 years of marriage and many secret affairs with women who were either too young and crazy for me or were also married as I was. We divorced in 2007 and I have been living on my own and have never been happier in my life, although my g/f of 8 eight years is still in a married relationship but wants out, we have tried to have as normal a life as possible but I feel I am still “not there”. Any suggestions? There is so much more to her not leaving her husband, but basically I keep telling myself I must be a fool to start my journey for freedom but cant quite get there!

    • barbaraweicksel says:

      Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to write your comment. Your words have taken me back to a time in my life when it was so complicated, so full of questions with absolutely no answers or at least no answers I wanted to hear! The only thing I can tell you is that you are most certainly not a fool for wanting a life lived in freedom. It’s not about your g/f, it’s about you and what you want. It’s about your life with your kids and it’s about living honestly and showing your kids you have nothing to hid or be ashamed of.

      Feel free to contact me: if you’d like. No pressure but if you want to email me please feel free to do so.

      You take care of you and thanks again for reading.


  3. Barb, thank you so much for this remarkable post. As always, it’s a brilliant piece of writing but it most shines for its honesty and courage. Outstanding.

  4. Kyle Smith says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I related to it strongly from a male perspective. I was the only boy and was expected to “carry on the family name” (Smith? Are you friggin’ kidding me?). I was born in the 60’s in small town New England life. I married, had kids, put myself through school, and my depression just got worse and worse. When I would find a way to connect to a man and feel “at home” for a minute, I would be so overcome by guilt and shame afterwards… it was awful. After the marriage fell apart and I finally came out (in that order), things got better for the most part. My mom was proud of me (she has since passed), my father not so much. He continues to refer to my homosexuality as a mistake before God, morality, and biology. 😦 His loss and mine, but life goes on.
    I thought I might mention two resources you might like, or like to pass on. One is a website where GLBT folks can share their stories as a collection and as a way of supporting others who have been afraid to come out. That is the “I’m From Driftwood” website:
    The other is a PDF put together by the Mt. Kisco Presbyterian church. They have a spiral bound printed version which my Baptist church hands out regularly. But the PDF is free and more easily passed along. It’s called “What We Wish We Had Known”. It was their way of addressing the issue of people using the Christian bible and its teachings as a tool of hate. It’s written in a very easy to read fashion and includes years of research on homosexuality and scripture. It undoes a lot of the misuse of scripture against homosexuality:
    I wish you continued peace and strength on your journey.
    Kyle Smith
    Pennsylvania, USA

    • Virginia says:

      I appreciate your story and can say i have realized in the last 4 years of my life that i have denied and tried to ignore my feelings. i honestly know now that i have had attraction to woman or girls when i was younger. i am the in the gray, because i am married and cannot come to telling my husband and ending my marriage. i do appreciate that im able to read these stories and know im not the onlymwoman who has this life experience. your blog is great to read , thamks for your honesty.
      ginny in penna.

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