Growing up, I can’t recall consciously acknowledging my attractions to other guys. They were definitely there, just as certainly as I lacked any physical attraction to girls, but all I knew about gay people was what I heard in church—that they were godless, hopelessly depraved and hellbent on destroying civilization—so naturally as a good Christian boy I couldn’t possibly be one of those.
By my college years it was becoming difficult for me to deny that I was a little too interested in my male friends and acquaintances, and that I was missing whatever it was that they saw in the women they were so preoccupied with, but I rationalized it as a “phase” and told myself that a little more male bonding would make up for it. I never doubted that I’d eventually end up married and raising a family, though the prospect of finding a wife seemed strangely utilitarian.
In my mid-20s I finally reached a point where I couldn’t continue living in denial. I spent some time seriously confronting the issue of my sexuality for the first time, but at the time there still weren’t a lot of resources available online, and what little I found defending the idea that one could be both gay and Christian was relatively weak and unconvincing.
So, not wanting a life of one-night stands (which seemed at the time to be my only alternative), I joined a Living Waters program that, providentially, was just starting up at the time. It was a small group, but it was a godsend all the same to be able to talk about all these feelings that I’d kept hidden (even from myself) for so long.
In retrospect that group was exactly what I needed at the time. It did, regrettably, leave me with the impression that I’d start growing into my ‘natural heterosexuality’ any day, but it also forced me to confront a number of issues in my life including problems I’d had with my father and stepfather, and the healing I experienced as a result of all of that left me emotionally healthier, if no less attracted to other guys. Plunging wholeheartedly into the program, I also read every Christian book on the subject that I could get my hands on.
During that time I also built up a number of close male friendships, which again was a very positive thing even though it brought me no closer to the “natural heterosexuality” I was expecting to start growing into at any time. I ended up falling in love with one of those friends (something I wouldn’t consciously acknowledge until years later), which only made it all the more painful when he and the other two key members of my core group of friends all got married and moved out of the area over a period of about a year and a half.
Faced with the pain of losing those friends (especially the one) that I’d become so dependent on as part of my ‘healing’ process, and with the fact that my attractions hadn’t changed at all (which no doubt had to be my fault), I chose to withdraw from the world rather than deal with the loss. I did go through another program during that time, this one geared more generally toward sexual addictions (since that’s what homosexuality was, according to many of the books I’d read), but again, it brought me no closer to my goal of becoming straight.
Still desperate to be rid of my same-sex attractions, I joined another local Exodus-affiliated ministry. This one was different, with no formal curriculum and less emphasis on orientation change, but I decided to give it a try anyway. Working in that atmosphere I was forced to confront all of the anger I’d been harboring toward God (both for my failure to change and for the friends that he’d so abruptly ripped out of my life), which in turn enabled me to be completely honest with him (and with myself) for the first time in my life.
Through that process God was able to get through to me (again for the first time) that he really does love me exactly the way I am, whatever my flaws and regardless of whether I’m ever able to fall in love with a woman. I’d heard the message of God’s unconditional love all of my life, but it had always come with all sorts of disclaimers and exceptions and consequently had never truly sunk in.
The freedom that came with that understanding empowered me to take a closer look at everything I’d been told about homosexuality. The more I examined what I’d learned from Exodus and the church, the more I began to see how heavily their entire case rested on faulty assumptions, false stereotypes, outdated psychological theories and fatally flawed studies. Although escaping the fundamentalist mindset that went along with all of that was still a fairly lengthy process, it wasn’t long at all before Exodus’ entire house of cards had collapsed entirely under my scrutiny.
That’s not the end of the story, of course, but it marks the starting point of what I believe to be a life of greater integrity and maturity. And that’s a story for another day.
Eugene's Blog is Parodoxy