I was somewhere in between being who they needed me to be and who I was; what made them comfortable and what made me feel loved.

For as long as I can remember, I was caught in this tug-of-war. The tension, the pain in all of this did not come from what was real, but what was imagined. Perceptions, fears, and rumors shaped much of my childhood. There was a split in who I thought I was and who I was thought to be.

In short, I fought to be straight, to prove to the world, to my family that there is nothing wrong with me. I am normal.

For most of my life, there seemed to be a neon marquee that followed me around, announcing to everyone, “HEY LOOK OVER HERE, THIS GUY IS GAY!”

The older I became, the brighter these lights flashed. If you’d asked me then if I were gay, my answer would have been no, and it was the truth. I was not attracted to guys.

But that wasn’t enough. Nothing I could ever do was enough.

To this day the lights still flash, and I don’t know how to turn them off.

As time progressed, I did grow attracted to guys — but if you ask me today if I am gay, I will say no, and it’s still the truth. I am attracted to guys, but I know who I am: I cling to who I was.

Something happened in those transitional years of adolescence, and I have spent my entire life trying to figure out what happened. I did not grow up homosexual, nor did I experience unexplained desires to be with the same sex.

What I do remember are the questions, the most recurring being: why am I so different? I believe that much of my attraction stems from shame.

I was taught to hate myself.

Much of this time from my life feels like a dream. As I close my eyes and walk through the hall to my bedroom, I feel only memories of pain: memories of wanting to die or get kidnapped, whatever would set me free. Memories of a God who, in theory, was a Savior who could if He wanted rescue me from the life I was forced to live.

Fake hope, fake smiles, fake laughter, fake family, fake Christianity.

Soon I began to envy my straight male friends and strangers and altogether reject myself. There was not one good thing about me. I had become who they said I was all along.

When you grow up ashamed of yourself, you become well-versed at two things:

Hiding and faking.

Do you also wrestle with self-hate and shame? Have you ever hid yourself from others? Do you ever worry about appearing too “gay-acting” or not “straight enough”?

* Photo courtesy of nichephoto, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • You could easily be describing my childhood and how I feel about my past. That’s exactly how I feel. I still wrestle with self-hate and shame, I’m currently trying to improve the way I see myself, some days are better than others.
    Some days I wonder if I am being my true self or am I still hiding from the world because I’m too worried about if I’m acting too gay. I feel I have gotten so used to hiding that I have forgotten who I really am. Somedays I have to stop an think if I truly dislike something or if I only dislike it because I’m trying to hide once again

    • Yes,yes and yes. I resonate with everything. That sounds like me. Sometimes you have to give yourself space and time to be your true self, It doesn’t come easy for me,

  • You know, when I learned that SSA wasn’t biological and that cravings for affection and intimacy from the same sex were actually quite normal (as evidenced by our culture in the past) it really removed a lot of shame from my system. These days I mostly find myself just feeling resentful over my life situations that have led me to SSA such as growing up with a lack of brother figures. I am trying to put it all behind me and accept what happened while still searching for my long lost brother figures.

    • I can’t help but wonder if it can be done, can’t it be undone? Can the damage be undone?
      I am definitely on the search for a masculine figure to love me and guide me, whether i acknowledge it enough or not.

  • You describe it so precisely and well, Bradley. I was walking that hallway to your room myself. Yes, the struggle with self hate and shame is very familiar. They are just now going down to defeat after several decades. I was well-versed in three things. I would have to add envy to your list. That has been at the core of my attractions. The perfect physical body came to represent in a twisted and irrational way the spiritual and emotional perfection that I craved. Of course, I had that all along in Christ, but I denied it by refusing to believe what he said about his healing work and me. Your neon marquee is a great metaphor. That I did not experience as I have always been fairly athletic.

    • YES,envy! How could i forget the trap of envy and comparison. What a rabbit trail they led me down. If only I had loved myself, I would have been spared so much.

  • Well said Bradley,
    As one who never had any male roles models growing up plus the added denial of any male attention or affection, I sought to be whatever I perceived others wanted me to be. Consequently, I have not ever known what it was like to be comfortable on my own skin. My “normal” is still unknown to me. That term makes no sense to me. I have about turned myself inside out trying to be what I thought others expected me to be, yet I still am trying to figure myself out. When you’ve been raised in an environment of overwhelming female influence and lack of male attention, it becomes the perfect storm for you to seek out that male attention in other ways that are not at all healthy. Such has been my dilemma. I’m not sure if it will ever work out the way I think I would like it to, but it is what it is and that’s my daily struggle. Not wanting to sin and staying close to the Lord at the same time battling temptations to fall.
    Keep posting your story. Blessings to you.

        • The Patriarchs weren’t always successful either. God doesn’t assess us the way we asses ourselves. He sees Jesus and He sees your desire to stay close. I had a miserable afternoon 3 days back in terms of self control (not this struggle but another one). He quickly offered forgiveness and reminded me that I was clean beyond imagination. I tend to laugh sarcastically at that one until He looks sternly my way.

    • I definitely relate to not being comfortable in my skin. I didn’t receive much affirmation about my identity and instead received criticism, so I have no idea what it’s like to love oneself.
      I hope we reach that place of being comfortable with ourselves!

      • I hear you Bradley. You know it feels (or doesn’t feel). I have yet to even begin to have a sense of being comfortable with myself. I pray you have better luck than I have my friend.

  • Hiding myself from others…a not-fun game I know too well. I was super self-conscious of my voice sounding “too gay” in my early teen years, and it was just easier not to talk at all. Saddened and aching by your own hidings. But there is hope, brother. So glad you’re here and not hiding with us.

  • I totally get it, Bradley. My siblings and I were taught self-hate and shame early in life. Unfortunately, some in my family still do. I hate labels! In my formative years the name calling took it’s toll. After awhile, they are believable, especially when a youngster is searching for identity. From my own personal experience shame and self loathing has been a struggle so overwhelming and insurmountable it seemed I would never make any progress away from it. Names, imaginations, memories and voices haunted me and prescribed my lifestyle of behavior in every avenue of my life. Hello, my name is ‘Shame’ seemed to be my introduction. Only a few years ago, I began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Books, research, counseling, talking about it with safe people (recovery groups) and asking family members questions about early childhood experiences all have led to a better understanding of who I am and who God says I am. Just last year, I learned that the voices from the past was now being spoken by “me”, not “them”. That revelation was an eye opener, for sure. A new perspective came shining into my belief system as if it were a brilliant sunrise. I now can identify my own shame as it arises within me as well as identifying from others and in others. I can now healthily reject it, Praise God and all the people that have walked with me in my journey. From what I understand, shame and envy can be roots of SSA. Thanks for letting me share……Slade

  • I’m late to this party but want to wish all the brothers a great holiday weekend!
    Your post resonates Bradley. All that stuff of looking within and trying to be someone else just screws with your head. The most freeing times I’ve experienced are when I stop looking within and look out. . . to God, to others. I have this big goofy St. Bernard, when I’m loving on her and forgetting myself it feels good/normal. Something I’ve gotten from following Jesus is that I can acknowledge my junk and live anyway, the junk’s not the big thing. And sometimes it hits home that God’s been loving on me all along. If you want a great weekend, go get a puppy, or hug someone’s dog, or just love on someone else.

  • I still struggle with that. I have a hard time not viewing myself as a failure, and often have a deep loathing for myself. I had never thought about that as a trigger for being attracted to guys, but it makes sense…..sounds like I need to work on this area in my own life

  • Forgot to leave this with my earlier comment. . . if there’s any vets reading this, 1st, thanks for doing what you did. But also if you’re reading “Fighting to be Straight” you can stop fighting, you’ve got nothing to prove to anyone.

  • The whole labels thing is something I really don’t have figured out. On one hand, I don’t think any label can really fully describe anyone. But on the other hand, it can be helpful sometimes. Explaining “I’m a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction who chooses not to pursue a homosexual relationship” is a whole lot less of a mouthful than “celibate gay Christian”. I’m not completely averse to using “gay” to describe myself in some contexts.
    I definitely hide myself from others a LOT. Nearly constantly, to some extent or another. I’m not a flamboyant person and I have a stereotypically “gay” voice (I think). But, still, I do think about how others perceive me a lot more than I should.

    • I will say, as I’ve gotten older that i worry about others perceptions less than I used to. And the “gay voice, “don’t get me started! Haha

  • There are a lot of expectations to be one thing or another. Growing up I was expected by society and religion to be straight. Problem was that I didn’t know how. When I finally accepted that I was SSA, I discovered a new expectations by the LGBT community. I just wanted to be me. I finally got it when our pastor spoke on the yoke of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
    It dawned on me that I am free. Carrying the yoke of Christ means that no longer did have to be something I’m not. No longer did I have to follow the dictates of society or religion concerning what it means to be a man. No longer did I have to succumb to the propaganda of the LGBT community. All of a sudden I realized that God had not asked me to be straight (which I can’t) but just to love Him and keep his commandments. There are only ten. It freed me to say to a guy “I love you” outside of a sexual context. It meant I didn’t any longer have to overcompensate and pretend to be manly. It meant I didn’t have to feel guilty for ‘betraying’ the LGBT community. I didn’t have to have a boyfriend. I didn’t have to have a girlfriend. I didn’t have to be conservative. I didn’t have to be liberal. I didn’t have to apologize to anyone for being SSA (gay). I didn’t have to apologize for being celibate. I didn’t have to apologize for masturbating. I didn’t have to apologize for noticing a cute guy’s butt. I didn’t have to apologize for missing my friend.
    I am free!

  • Yes, yes,yes. I have always felt pretty different than other guys. I never really enjoyed the typical guy things like sports and stuff. I was more into artistic things. I did gymnastics which was fun, but then got into dance which I really enjoyed. Even before realizing my same sex attraction, I felt different than others. For as long as I can remember I always had a feeling that I belonged on the outside. I would just isolate myself because I assumed people wanted nothing to do with me. After realizing my same sex attraction, shame began to take over my life. I had grown up in the church and to be “gay” was like the worst thing ever, or so thats what it seemed. I definitely tried to hide that part of me. There have been a few times when my mom would ask about it, which was super awkward, so that let me know that I’m not hiding it enough and need to hide more. I definitely still have shame built up in me, I still hide myself, and I still am afraid of appearing too “gay-acting”. After a guys night I was at a few nights ago, I was talking to one of my best friends about my struggles and stuff. I was telling him about feeling like I have to hide who I am in fear that I will appear too gay or something. God and other posts on here have definitely been encouraging me to not be afraid to be myself. I know Jesus came to give life, and that He wants me to be who He created me to be and have confidence in who I am in Him. And not live in shame or in hiding.

  • I know I’m SUPER late to this post but it’s really resonated with me. I feel like side B people really understamd shame in a unique way compared to even our secular counterparts. Growing up, I was in a super homophobic environment, I’m talking a good gay is a dead one sorta thing so it was pretty severe. I remember experiencing SSA as a child but instinctively feeling strange and like it was something I needed to hide or else everyone would know I’m “not normal.” As a teen, I started to REALLY consider my SSA and naturally began to pray it away. When I realised it doesn’t go away, I slumped into a horrible depression. I hated myself with a might that shouldn’t be humanly possible. I felt like maybe if I hated myself enough, it’d go away. Or like I had to hate myself for everyone else to love me and all that did was push me into a deeper isolation. I became suicidal, a thing that’s unfortunately very common amongst lgbt teens. Honestly I don’t know any lgbt person that hasn’t either attempted suicide or atleast contemplated it when they realised it doesn’t go away. All the more I drew away from my friends and family. I was surrounded by so many people yet I was so lonely. I didn’t feel known and fully loved by anyone, I felt like if anyone ever saw all of me, saw this- they’d run away. I felt like a monster of sorts and eventually I was exhausted. I eventually made what I felt was a trade, I decided I’d love myself and everyone else can hate me for me because I couldn’t do it anymore. What led me to this point was the fact that I genuinely felt like I wouldn’t live another year; either I would’ve eventually ended my own life or one of my internal organs was going to give out because of the amount of stress/self hatred/pain I was in. I broke down in tears the thanksgiving after my 16th birthday because I couldn’t believe I was still here. Something didn’t give out just yet but my physical health was taking a hit. That was the final straw. I become part of the greater lgbt community, I didn’t date but I embraced the identity and culture how best I could in the closet. I no longer felt internalised shame, or tempted shame in general. Until I joined the side B community. I’ve felt so many people expect shame or want shame out of me/us. The super conservatives who expect us to be exgays or long for it. Then the radical progressive saviors who want side B’ers to be ashamed so they can tokenized us as the reason why any theology that isn’t side A is harmful. I was ready for the hate from church but I didn’t expect other lgbt people to respond the way they have in regards to this because more than anyone else I thought they’d understand forced shame. This has led me to pull away from lgbt spaces tbh, It hurts more coming from them because not long ago, they were my family.
    As for church, I have a few things that help me not fall into shame. 1. I don’t pray the gay away anymore. I see it as an asset in connecting with God. Tbh I doubt I’d have ever become a Christian if I were straight. My sexuality has allowed me to see the world in a way I just would’ve been oblivious to and it’s allowed God to show up for me in ways that He can only show up for forks like us. It also makes my prayers more interesting than it I’d imagine it does for straight people and I think that’s cool. If He decided to take it away, I’d still appreciate all that it has allowed me to learn and see. 2. I using lgbt descriptors. I used to feel like if I ran as far from it as possible, someday I’d be free. That’s just not been the case. Now if I use SSA, it’s out of respect for some environments but I can’t just bring myself to it in general. It feels like runing again and I physically don’t have it in me anymore. It feels like it’s a slippery slope back into self hatred because It feels like I’m expecting change someday. I don’t. And that’s ok. It doesn’t make me less saved and I’m glad God and I have an understanding for each other on that. 3. The greater side B community has been a Godsend. Truly it has been, especially since I found it when I was dealing with the shame from secular gays AND the church early in my conversion. It’s nice to talk to people who understand. One thing I’ve seen pretty quickly is that side B’ers are truly a different breed 😂. We’re caught in a cultural war where we’re hated by two groups that claim to be for us yet alot of the time tokenize our experiences for their own gain. Hurting us, in the process 😩. So many of us have been driven into shame and it’s exhausting. We are a resilient lot, I know He’s proud of us and so am I. 😌

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