One of my favorite pieces of music is an obscure orchestral piece by Charles Ives called, “The Unanswered Question.” Written at the beginning of the 20th century, it truly feels as though a solo trumpet is asking a question that can never be fully answered.

The trumpet hangs in the air, always waiting for the proper response.

My friend Carver’s question did the same to me for a moment. It’s a question I’ve been asked before. I’ve asked it of myself many times. I’ve asked God as well.

“Dean, do you think you would have struggled with all of that — gender identity, sexual identity, same-sex attraction — if your family life had been different?”

I let the question hang in the air a second. A thousand thoughts ran through my head, the same ones that had before: flashes of abuse, feelings of worthlessness, and echoes of harsh words resonated inside of me.

Normally, I would have given a vague response that would let the question continue. But something clicked inside of me, something that decided to end the question.

I gave a definite answer to the once unanswered question.

“Yes,” I replied confidently. “Yes, so much of my life would be different. I would have avoided so many mistakes, so many struggles.”

I can’t say for sure that I would have never had SSA. I can’t say for sure that I would not have still wrestled with my sexuality.

But I do know this: so many things in my life would have been better had I had not been abused by my brothers, emotionally neglected by my dad, or constantly been told I should have been a girl.

I know my self-image would have been healthier had I had a supportive family. I know my choices would have been different had I had brothers who took time to invest in me rather than try to destroy me. I know my view of God would have been different had my dad been a better reflection of my Father in Heaven.

I walked away from my conversation with Carver with a new view of my past. I have painted the past in vague tenses in order not to play the “what if” game. But to leave every door open has made this what if game harder to avoid. By acknowledging these important aspects of my life would have been different had my circumstances been different, I am left with fewer what ifs.

Again, I am pretty sure my life would have included SSA no matter what. I have written previously that, along with the nature vs. nurture belief, many things went into creating who I am today — SSA included.

And today I’m thankful that I have brought myself one step closer to ending the unanswered question in my own life.

Do you ever wonder if you would still struggle with same-sex attraction or any other struggle if things had gone differently in your life? How do you reconcile the life you could have led with the struggles you now face?

* Photo courtesy Forsaken Fotos, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • It’s interesting because for a while I was one who believed such things, but since I don’t exclusively struggle with ssa but have a more bisexual experience things didn’t seem to add up 100%. Others that believe this way many times do not hesitate to look at my tough child hood and terrible experiences with my mother and say, “that’s what it is.” And though i can look at my childhood and my relationship with her and pinpoint a lot of my struggles there I came to a point where I was like “no. This is not her fault. This isnt anyone’s fault – it just is.”
    Now as you said, had things been different who knows how my life would be now. I think of it as I would not desire female relationships or approval as much – my husband’s affections would be enough. Maybe I wouldn’t have fallen for so many straight girls when i was younger. My relationship with my mother i think can help me trace back as to why it was so hard to lay down certain types of female relationships. But none of that explains my physical attraction to women. So yes, I believe we all have issues with our parents and childhood, but I also believe these witch hunts are not always healthy. These things affect how we relate to people (same-sex or otherwise) but I dont believe they determine this. It may determine how you react to thw fact that God prohibits such relationships. It may affect the type of person you’re attracted to personality wise (my husband wears the same deodorant as my dad and i didn’t notice til the honeymoon). But the same can be said about straight people and their relationships. I personally believe that this way of thinking can also be damaging to the parents and not just the individual

  • I’ve played the “what if” game many times, rethinking events in my past and childhood. What if I had a father who invested in me? What if I had an older brother who could have taught me what it meant to be a guy, throw a ball, be a part of the dude brood, be tough. Or the harder questions… Sometimes I wonder if I had just TRIED HARDER to like sports or be tough or fit in with the guys. Then would I have been “normal”?
    But I have another “what if” that I have to ask. What if I had been that easy, confident, athletic guy, who was a part of the pack? Would I have still cried out to God? Eagerly read HIs Word? Prayed to Him over and over in desperation while driving down the road or in the secret places of my life? Maybe the confident, happy, masculine me (who doesn’t exist) would not have felt a strong need for God and never developed a real relationship with him.
    Just to say, while I still wish I could make my attractions to men just go away, they have also made me the man I am today, and have given me a rich vital relationship with my Father in heaven. When I had no friends and no one to turn to, I could always turn to Him and find help in time of need.

    • It has also been interesting to learn over the years that a few of these athletic, confident guys we envied were also gay. I expect they struggled too especially the closeted ones wincing inwardly as they smiled or even laughed along when their team mates cracked the occasional homophobic joke in the locker room. 40 years later, I feel no less attracted to men primarily than when I first did as a young teenager in spite of all the counselling, deliverance prayer and voracious reading of related “cure homosexuality” Christian literature in the course of my life. I did sense God telling me at some point that instead of trying so hard to get fixed, I should focus on building a close, dependent relationship with Him and His Grace would cover me. I also got tired of the “what if?” Question as I have never resolved it satisfactorily. My constant efforts at self improvement on reflection really does not seem to have changed me very much either. My current focus is just trying to build a closer walk with God and with His help become a better husband, provider and father to my 4 children as hard as it is and trust that He will see me through…..

  • I don’t really ask the “what if” question- but more just wish that I wasn’t. That I wasn’t gay. That life wasn’t complicated. That I wouldn’t desire connection with men. That I could just, enjoy, my wife- in simplicity.
    These thoughts aren’t really about loss of privilege, or wishing i was straight. It’s more about exhaustion- i’m just so tired of this. This complexity, these negotiations, having to constantly explain or justify myself. Having to make a million decisions about who I am, and what I do. It’s just, so, tiring. So, here’s to wishing it wasn’t so taxing to live this way.

      • Anon, you don’t seem to be having any fun brother! It is necessary for us to enjoy the journey ( ups and the downs) because of Jesus being our brother along this Way home. That’s why Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
        Jesus is in this life yoke with us to carry us and infuse us with his power and love. All we have to do is hang on, confess when we mess up, accept his forgiveness, and trust him to finish the good work that he began. Learn to enjoy Jesus, love him, obey him, and love people and all will work out.

    • Anon, I really like what you said here, and I can relate to it. Like you, I wish that I didn’t have these unwanted attractions to men. But something happened a year or so ago. I just started to….accept it. Sorry for how cliche that sounds, because it was anything but. But after years of trying to change, act, pray it away, I finally reached a point where I stopped caring what people thought about me, or needing to justify the way I am. I figured, “You know, I’m attracted to men, I don’t like it but that’s just the way it is. I don’t think those feelings are ever going to change. If I seem “gay” or “effeminate” to others in my life, well…I’m sorry, but I don’t seem to be able to change that.”
      With acceptance came some peace (finally), and more comfort with the person that I am. Being relaxed seems to have paved the way for me to make friends with straight guys and even start to feel like one of them. I’m a guy, attracted to men, not particularly “manly”, but trying to live for Jesus Christ with all my heart. Some of the exhaustion and complexity started to fade away, and with it some peace, at last, for my tired heart and soul.
      Hope this is an encouragement to you, Anon. I care.

      • Just accept it. Hmm. I want to believe that it would work.
        But part of me feels like I have to reject the sin nature- the place where these feelings live. And part of me feels like I have to justify being married to a woman, to the outside world. And part of me feels like because i’m married to a woman, and attracted to men, I have to figure out how that works.
        I mean, I don’t ever regret getting married or making the decisions I made to get here. but at the same time, it’s hard to just live with all the inconsistencies and disconnected pieces. It takes a toll, too, to just let it be. So I’ve been trying to put it all together- but that’s exhausting.
        Thanks for your thoughts (and verse Celdin). I appreciate the encouragement.

      • I feel encouraged because God never asked me to be straight. He only asked me to love Him and keep his commandments. It was society and religious establishment that demanded that I be straight. This knowledge was very freeing. I still hate being attracted to men, but it is a fact of life. I can not change my past or the things I did. Many things were beyond my control, and I had no idea I was being attacked by the enemy for my belief in God. I am living in the present now, and live for the Lord.

  • I personally don’t believe that SSA is nature, totally nurture in my opinion so I really do think a lot about how different my life would be if things were different growing up. I’m an only child so I’m constantly thinking about how different my life would be if I did have siblings. Of course I think about what if I had brothers that I was close to growing up, if my parents had more kids what would they look or be like? I’m also thinking about what if I had close friends growing up, wasn’t surrounded by people I couldn’t relate to, or if I did try to be less shy and befriend more people. I’m sure its useless to keep speculating about this and just focus on the here and now. Of course that’s very hard when the here and now just keeps kicking the crap out of you and all you want to do is live in a fantasy alternate reality.

    • That’s my experience, too. I also grew up as the only child of parents
      who were already in their 40s when I was born. As a little boy, my
      parents sung and prayed with me in the evening when they put me to bed. I
      remember that, for a time, I asked God very intensively for giving me a
      sibling. Older women (my mother, my grandma and one, two others) had a
      big influence on me during my childhood. I felt safe in their presence. I
      had some male friends as a boy, but when puberty hit, the alienation
      between my peers and me increased. I liked gardening, classical music,
      helping a farmer milking the cows, harvesting potatos etc. I couldn’t
      relate to most of the things the others were into. I hated sports like
      soccer, something most other boys like in the country in which I live. I
      couldn’t understand why they wore crazy clothes and why they liked
      listening to strange noises they called music 😉 During those years,
      I sometimes thought that life would have been easier for me if I
      had been born some decades ago, when people were “still normal” and not
      as crazy as my peers in the late 90/early 00 years 😉
      For me, there
      were two incompatible worlds: the world of my peers and the world of my
      parents. I had to choose one of them and I chose the latter because it
      seemed more reasonable and comfortable to me.
      However, I believe that
      nature may also play an important role in the development of SSA
      (traits, interests may have a biological base).
      But you’re right, we
      are living in the here and now. We cannot change our past and the fact
      of being the only child, but today we can befriend with people and try
      to be more connected with others.

    • I also grew up as the only child of parents
      who were already in their 40s when I was born. As a little boy, my
      parents sung and prayed with me in the evening when they put me to bed. I
      remember that, for a time, I asked God very intensively for giving me a
      sibling. I
      had some male friends as a boy, but when puberty hit, the alienation
      between my peers and me increased. I couldn’t
      relate to most of the things the others were into. For me, there were two
      incompatible worlds: the world of my peers and the world of my parents. I
      had to choose one of them and I chose the latter because it seemed more
      reasonable and comfortable to me. However, I believe that nature may
      also play an important role in the development of SSA (traits,
      interests may have a biological base). But you’re right, we are living
      in the here and now. We cannot change our past and the fact of being the
      only child, but today we can befriend with people and try to be more
      connected with others.

  • “What If’s” can be very deceiving, I believe we can idealize all the possibilities and find ourselves investing in this daydream of what could have been instead of investing in the character and person that God has called us to be.
    If the question had been poised to me, I believe my answer would have been similar to Deans. Yes, things probably would have been happier and healthier for me if I did not have to face some of the struggles I had as a child, but I believe my SSA would still have been evident.
    When it comes to Nurture VS Nature, I fall on the side of Nature. I grew up at a time when the prevalent thought was that same sex attraction was a condition based on the environment you were born in ie: absent father, overbearing mother, being sexually abused as a child and so on. As I have grown spiritually and become a father to two boys, I see things in a different view. I can definitely recall times when I know my father seemed distant or when my mother manipulated things so she would get her way… but if we are honest I believe this can be said of about 99% of parents. I know now that my parents loved me deeply and wanted nothing but the best for me and my siblings. They were not perfect and yes, they could have handled things differently, but they could not have loved me anymore than they did.
    I am the youngest of 4 kids, 3 boys and 1 girl, plus I am a twin. Both of my brothers were popular and athletic. Me on the other hand, I was well liked but lacked the social grace to be popular and I have absolutely no eye hand coordination. I suck at sports! My personality, interest and demeanor were completely different than my brothers and this was established at a very young age. The nurture my siblings and I received was identical, yet I am the only one who has SSA.
    I can look at the person I am today and recall all the what if’s I used to have and I realize how invalid they are now. I didn’t like my brothers growing up, I was jealous of them. Now, my brothers are my best friends. I talk to them almost daily and we share everything with each other. My relationship with my dad is better than the relationship my brothers have with him. I can speak openly with my mother and call her out when she begins revert to her overbearing ways. I still suck at sports, but I have become an athlete in my own right. I cross-fit 5 days a week and can out lift and perform faster than many of the younger guys in the gym. I do long distance running and have completed more half marathons and full marathons than my age. I am heather and more fit than 90% of the jocks I compared myself to as a youth. I have great friendships (I still desire a deep and spiritually intimate friendship) with men who love me and are willing to invest in my life. All the “what if’s” I once had are for the most part a reality in my life, but I still struggle with SSA. This longing and desire is a deep seated passion that comes from something farther than the environment I was presented with as a youth.
    I have no doubt that my SSA is a result of inherited sin from our Father Adam. His sin that contaminated this world, has made all things natural and good; unnatural and bad. Each of us are now brought into the world PS 51:5 with an insatiable appetite for sin Rom 3:23. So I can say with confidence I was born this way, but this does not give me license to accept or engage in my sinful nature.

    • Michael, I love this. So much. From your family history to your INSANE workout regimen and the masculinity you so obviously possess throughout. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m inspired.

  • I’ve always wondered if I’d still be same-sex attracted if I’d had one or two or seven core male friends growing up. Or at least an older brother to guide me. I honestly don’t know. Obviously I’d still be sensitive and emotional and such, but I do wonder if the fixation on other males would have been there or been nearly as strong. In any case, I don’t worry about it too much these days. Having SSA has introduced me to some of the manliest men I could ever know — through Xanga and now YOB — and I wouldn’t change a thing!

  • I’m completely certain that I would not have had SSA if my family life had been different. There were a lot of factors at play, but the fact is if my dad had loved me better and my brother hadn’t left I would have coped with everything differently, including the abusive interactions with a classmate that sexualized my desire for a male relationship. That was the catalyst, not the cause.
    I’ve thought a lot about what life would be like if things had been different. If I could change how I feel now I would, no question, but I would never change the past. I just don’t know and it terrifies me to imagine what I could have become if I wasn’t forced to depend on God, seek His truth, and learn to sacrifice my needs to love a brother on his terms. No greater love has a man than this. . .

  • This entire blog is such a sad read. Every post has an undercurrent of deep shame and brokenness, a dark tone regarding ssa. I have yet to read a post and felt empowered, inspired or uplifted. I can relate to some of these feelings and have felt some myself. But reading these posts leave me with a sense of hopelessness, and I always sense deep longing and yearning to be “normal” from the author and something other than “this”. I ran into this blog on accident and was excited at first to read the stories of fellow christian brothers who are experiencing SSA. I don’t expect every story to sound the same, but we definitely have a lot in common, and I can’t help but notice that there’s a collective sense of overwhelming shame. This blog has left me with such a dark and somber feeling regarding sexuality.

    • We are coming forward to talk about our brokenness regarding sexuality- that leaves little left to feel other than dark and somber feelings. As well, this community’s purpose is not to provide the hope for you but to point to where one’s hope should be- Jesus Christ. For me personally, I would not be alive today without Christ. I would have been driven to suicide long ago without hope in Him. However, my hope is not about having a happy life but about having a purposeful life, where my mistakes and my past will not mar the impact I can have on this world. Because of Christ, I can have a lasting impact for His Kingdom despite my shortcomings.
      I hope you see that I am not necessarily disagreeing with you. I do know that almost all of my posts show a sense of longing and yearning for a difference. But I also hope that you can see that my longing is a sign that there is something more than this world can offer. A sexual lifestyle will never satisfy me. No earthly relationship will ever make me whole. I have only ONE place in which to place my hope and joy that will fill me up despite my brokenness- that is Jesus. I hope that you look at our community through that lens. Please do not try to make us your hope- we will sorely disappoint you. Instead, allow us to be a community in which you can relate to others struggling as you are so you can remember you are not alone as you strive towards a life honoring Christ.

    • Dean said it all for me, Norberto. There’s a lot of darkness here, yes, but hopefully you also see the Light flickering in the wind in the dark of night. We don’t have all the answers, but we do have each other and the One we’ve staked our lives to. Have you checked out our podcast yet? They’re 45 minutes to an hour long, and you’ll see a more rounded personality to this community there. Lots of laughs, lots of camaraderie, and lots more stories. Thanks for taking the time to leave your input, Norberto! Blessings, brother.

      • Unfortunately I don’t see myself sticking around here. I now see that the community here are Christian men who basically hate being gay. I’m Christian and gay and I celebrate it so much! Being gay is a unique and wonderful gift given to me by my Heavenly Father. There is so much joy to be found in accepting this part of yourself and understanding that God fashioned you the way you are and that His greatest delight is to see you flourish and to fully become the greatest version of yourself. I believe my homosexuality is part of the vision He had for me before I was formed. Do you really think we’re gay on accident? If God creates us in His image and likeness, would you say it is a repeated mistake of His to have created soooo many of us this way and then leaver us to fend for ourselves? haha nay. He knows why we are this way. We were made to love, uniquely, just like Him. Unfortunately I don’t think many of the men on this blog are able to see that. There IS a lot of pain in having been made homosexual. I only see it as a challenge to be met and I believe we were lucky to have been chosen! My homosexuality has made me stronger, smarter, wiser, kinder, more creative and sensitive and so much more. I would never want to know myself any other way. I am this way by design. I don’t see myself as “broken” I see myself as “unique” I AM the love of God manifested in a very unique way. Made to love, made to serve with all the tools and gifts that I was given, one of them being my homosexuality. And to be honest I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I’ve experienced pain in life but I have experienced even greater joy in the Lord! And the only way I was able to experience that JOY was by saying “yes” to Him, saying “yes” to myself, “yes” to self-acceptance, “yes” to who God designed me to be and the purpose I’m meant to serve and by saying “no” to self-rejection,” no” to self-loathing, “no” to shame, to guilt, to sin and addiction. I pray that all of you find peace, love, warmth and comfort, and then clarity on these matters of sexuality.

        • That’s fine, Norberto; this community isn’t for everyone. I do take issue with your claim that we’re left “to fend for ourselves.” I used to feel that way. Definitely. But then I found my other brothers. And I realize that struggling together is much better than struggling alone. Fulfilling, even. I, too, wouldn’t change a thing about my sexuality because this struggle has introduced me to some of my dearest friends. I’d like to think God had that in mind from the start.
          I wish you well in this journey. We’ll be here if you ever wanna wander back!

          • What. A. Joke. As a survivor of the ex-gay trip, let me state with confidence that ex-gayism perpetuates the very same wounds it claims to heal. If you enter ex-gayism, you enter into a world in which the straight men at evangelical churches are told to look upon you not as a peer, but as an example of “broken” masculinity, and in which you yourself have to regard yourself as an “inferior” male because you don’t turn your head whenever a shapely lady walks by. Oh yes, they talk about “how we are all equal in sin in the eyes of the Lord” and such, but this superior/inferior dynamic is the real deal. Personally, I this is a lousy way to live one’s life.

          • I’m sorry for the pain you endured in your own journey, Rick. I hope you stick around to hear more of our stories and the hope and togetherness we’re finding . . . day by day.

  • Sometimes it is so hard to articulate in writing what is in my head…as empty as it seems at times. As I have looked back on my life…growing up etc., I cannot recall a time when I wasn’t SSA/SSO. I sought God on this many times, asking “why.” He seemed silent for a long time, but one day, I sensed His still, small voice speaking to my heart, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
    A verse that has often come to my mind is from I Cor. when it says, “Why do we go through what we do? It is so we can provide help and comfort to others with the help and comfort we have been given from the Lord.” I am paraphrasing this verse…but I know in God’s economy nothing is ever wasted…
    Life goes by so quickly and I can see that the “credentials” I have allow me to speak hope and comfort to others in their darkest hours…not to speak pious platitudes or offer quick fixes or “microwave surgery”…who needs that. I may not have all the answers but I do know One who does and meets us at every turn in the hurley burley of life on earth.

  • What if? I have had SSA for as long as I remember, but caused me to act on it? Was it the death of my best friend by suicide at 14? Was it my stepmother telling me that he was burning in hell for comitting suicide? Was it a lack of a father in my life? Was it genes? Was it physical abuse by my grandfather? Was it being told that I was a wicked child and deserved it by his wife? Was it my hatred of anything female? Was it a combination of all these things? Was it because I had sin in my life?

  • >