Rev. Erika Allison
Rev. Erika Allison is a bubbly, happy, cheerful, kind of person. Hearing her voice across the zoom expanse, I can hear that she’s smiling and that she’s excited to be here with me today. Her upbeat enthusiasm is refreshing and not an indication of the heavy topic we are about to dive into as we start our podcast interview.
Erika grew up in a Lutheran household and was outed as being gay without her consent or knowledge which is a traumatic event in itself but more trauma would unfold from this one domino that fell, in the life story of Erika. As our interview unfolds she expresses how from one day to the next, she went from being the “good” kid to the “bad” kid who needed salvation and immediate therapy–conversion therapy to be exact. Even as Erika is describing how she landed in gay conversion therapy, I cannot even fathom what it might have been like to be in her shoes, in this moment. Having someone tell you there is something wrong with you and if you don’t change you will lose the love of your family and the God you were taught to believe was “all-loving.” That is a heavy burden and truth to have to be forced to face.
Erika and I discuss how beyond the gay conversion therapy, there is also all the indirect and direct messaging that you are taught in your religious experience that begins to grate at you, if you go against the grain. The element of brainwashing in religious institutions is real and the standard weapon of choice to keep members in line and at war with themselves if they try to deviate from church rules. Erika goes onto to say in the interview, the effects of the indirect messaging caused limitations within her and with her relationships. The wounding and trauma of this experience was layered, complex, and on-going.
Furthermore, she talks about how abandonment and self-abandonment played a large role in her internal separation. There was the actual abandonment from the people who were in her inner circle and there was also self-abandonment when she chose to conform or maintain harmony and peace in situations, instead of speaking her truth or saying “no” to a situation. Erika talks about how these tiny self-abandonments begin to stack on top of each other and become untenable after time. As a self-described “people person” during this experience, she found herself often times acquiescing to the whims of others.
Coming out of self-abandonment requires us to bring in self-compassion, patience, and empowerment. Erika explains in the interview how as she was finding her way back to herself forgiveness played a big role in her healing and still does to this day. She mentioned that self-forgiveness allowed her to fully integrate into her humanness and divinity. It also gave her the luxury of standing up for herself and all her parts. She stressed the importance of not forcing forgiveness of other’s, that this takes time and some of the messaging you received in your religious experience might influence you to feel obligated to forgive quickly–however each person should honor the dignity of their own process and time when it comes to forgiving others.
Erika not only survived this experience more over she came out with the internal directive to go into the world and help other heal others from the harms of gay conversion therapy. Erika’s book “Gay the Pray Away: Healing your Life, Love, and Relationships from the Harms of LGBT Conversion Therapy” is a road map of healing and homecoming, integration and empowerment, and most importantly Self-Love.
Erika’s interfaith practices have been her anchor on path to The Divine. Like many of us who find solace in spirituality, Erika has found that there is collective acceptance and tolerance in spirituality for all of the parts that make us human: Our thoughts, gender, sexuality, our divine innate wisdom, and our spiritual gifts. That interfaith and spirituality are the places where we can show up fully as ourselves and not only be enveloped by our spiritual community but we find true, honest resonance in one another.