Before I begin, I wanted to say that I know YOB attracts some “Side X” or “ex-gay” readers (those who believe that it is sinful to live with homosexual attractions and must have them removed, potentially via therapy). If you fit into this ex-gay group, I don’t intend for this blog to be a bashing of your beliefs. I’m simply here to tell my story.
I recently saw the new film, Boy Erased — an enlightening yet hard film to watch. The film depicts a gay teenage boy in a conservative family being forced against his will into orientation-change therapy — which ultimately ends up being abusive.
I squirmed in recognition of a lot of the events and discussions in the movie. My story isn’t anywhere near as harrowing as the events depicted, but it did evoke memories.
Years back, I was silently struggling with my sexuality but in denial that it was even there at all. I was surely an all-American, masculine, straight guy who liked me some babes; no way was I like those rainbow flag-waving Dr. Frankenfurters dancing nearly naked in the streets during Pride parades.
I was not one of them!
But that was simply not the truth. I was completely sexually attracted to men.
After yet another porn binge, the truth started to dawn on me with its thick icy breath. Terror gripped me.
What was I going to do? I was venturing well into my twenties; would my parents start getting suspicious over why I had never dated a girl? How would they react if they ever found out? Would society cast me out?
Does God still love me?
Mixed messages from both church and society didn’t help:
A real pinnacle of American masculinity is marrying a woman and raising a family!
If you’re gay, just be true to who you are and marry another man!
Living single? Forget it! Single life is for virgin losers who weren’t manly enough to get any.
If I stayed single while all my friends went off and got married and forgot about me, would this nightmare scenario be my fate?
No, surely there had to be a way out. I couldn’t live like this.
I finally worked up the courage to self-acknowledge my sexuality and googled: “Can you go gay to straight?”
I ignored all blogs and articles critical of such notions and found something I was hoping for. It was a website for what claimed to be a non-faith-based organization, trumpeting that change in sexual orientation was not only possible but guaranteed through reparative therapy.
The ex-gay organization claimed that there was absolutely no biological basis for homosexual orientation, that it’s based solely in nurture and childhood trauma. Homosexuality was caused by wounds experienced in childhood, they claimed, causing one to develop gay feelings.
Their key causes of homosexuality were as follows:
1. Absent or abusive relationship with the father
Hmm. That didn’t particularly resonate with me as I had a great relationship with my father.
2. Overbearing mother
Nope, not this either. I had a great mother.
3. Sexual abuse
No, I was never sexually abused.
4. Poor or nonexistent relationships with male peers
Aha! Now that sounded like me. I hardly had any male friends growing up, and I wasn’t close with the few I did have. I was dying for close male relationships, in a brotherly sense, and that desire had become sexualized.
Yes, now this made sense! Hallelujah, I’m saved!
All I had to do was develop some close male relationships, maybe do some of this ex-gay therapy they promoted so much, and I’d become straight and marry a woman! My parents and friends would never even know of this “issue” I had.
I dove into all the ex-gay literature, reading about the origins of homosexual orientation and how it was cured by reparative therapy techniques. I listened to video lectures by Joseph Nicolosi, hailed as a pioneer and leader in the ex-gay world.
I listened to the testimonies of men who were “cured,” how they were now happily married to women. I read tutorials on how to employ more masculine body language like taking up more space as you sit rather than less, a seemingly feminine trait.
I even joined a Yahoo support group for men with unwanted same-sex attractions.
However, as my attempts at making friends with straight men grew unsatisfying or crashed-and-burned on the first try, I got depressed. I kept turning to porn to numb the pain of the loneliness; then, I’d hate myself because it reinforced in me that I was a lustful, gay pervert.
The Yahoo group discussions didn’t help much, as it mostly involved someone posting something like: “You guys, I’m the worst person in the world! I messed up and looked at gay porn! Someone please pray for me!”
Which would often get followed up by another user responding with paragraphs of Christianese: “The blood of Christ . . . forgiveness of sins . . . the sacrifice lamb . . . God . . . love . . . Christ and the love for you of blood of forgiveness for you! FOR YOU! (John 23:19)”
I began to hate my past, younger self. Why couldn’t I have been more assertive and attempted better relationships with the other boys? Why didn’t I have more close friends growing up? Why did I have to be such a shy, sensitive, weak, little kid who didn’t play sports?
If I had been less scared and more brave, then I probably wouldn’t be struggling with my sexuality to begin with! I would be straight and normal!
I hated my elementary through high school self. Hated him.
In the agony of my loneliness, I started having a private conversation with one person in the Yahoo group.
He was friendly and sympathetic to my feelings. This guy shared his story of being raped by an older boy, something he claimed to have been the cause of his same-sex attraction (SSA).
Now, thanks to several reparative therapy sessions, he was cured of his “gayness,” married to a woman and raising a child. He even demonstrated a reparative therapy session over the phone with me:
“Now,” he began. “I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you and I are both in the same room together. We are both naked. How does that make you feel?”
“Um . . . Just normal I guess. Nothing sexual is really going on now.”
“Okay, good,” he continued. “Now imagine that I am standing up, still naked, and walking toward you. I am sitting next to you and our knees are touching. Then I put my hand on your bare leg. How are you feeling now? Are you feeling aroused? Do you have an erection?”
“No . . . not really,” I said.
“Good, that’s good,” he said encouragingly. “You are acknowledging and affirming both of our masculinities. Feeling like I am the ‘other’ is the root cause of homosexuality.”
The truth is, I wasn’t aroused because I was partly puzzled at this pseudo-therapy session and partly just not particularly attracted to him. After that phone call, I frankly didn’t know what to feel. Just felt rather weird.
Over the years, I kept up with the cultural happenings, watching a popular ex-gay organization fold while gay marriage became legalized in the United States.
Long story short, I’ve since drifted away from that Yahoo group after discovering YOB and other sites that promoted a “Side B” traditional sexual ethic. I read so many encouraging stories of men who had made peace with their sexualities and single lives by embracing deep, platonic relationships with other fellow SSA men.
These men were still avoiding homosexual sex, but they were also learning to live with their attractions as best they could. This concept hadn’t even entered my vocabulary before.
I thought these Side B men would make for good conversations but not much else. If they pursued anything further, it would probably be for sexual reasons, right?
Much to my shock, I found other Side B guys who I not just clicked with — but IMMENSELY clicked with.
They truly loved and cared for me; no man my age had ever done that for me. Slowly, my defenses and pride came down as I realized something.
I hadn’t wanted to become straight because of a calling to marriage or fatherhood; in fact, either thought terrified me. Strangely, I also hadn’t wanted an ex-gay orientation change out of a desire to please God.
I’d wanted to be straight because I simply wanted to be normal. I had been scared. I was internally homophobic, hating myself and especially other gay men.
What had I done?!
Jesus’ call to love ourselves and others had gone over my head. It’s the prime example of a trap the worst type of Christianity has fallen into for centuries.
I had hated myself because of the world that had ignored and misunderstood me. Standing in an abyss with cries of anguish no one would hear.
And yet these Side B men reached my heart. They said they cared about me. I thought one wrong move from them would take me back to having sexual sessions online.
But they didn’t make such a move. They taught me love. These men offered me friendship and called me “brother.” They loved me the way I was.
It was around Christmas one year, and something snapped in me; I had to let it all go and give it to God. I felt sadness, bitter sweetness, humility, and finally a filling of love. That holiday season, I exploded with love.
I loved God, and I loved my brothers.
Being accepted and loved in this new world was all I’d ever wanted. That Christmas season, I truly believe I experienced an incredibly spiritual moment.
That Christmas, I learned not just to be kind and loving to others but also kind and loving to myself.
I realized I had found my tribe and community — and found love.
At that moment, I had indeed changed, even though I still wasn’t straight.
I’d stared into the void of my past sin and realized the former Eugene was nothing now! It’s time for a new story to begin!
Are you or have you been part of an “ex-gay” ideology? How have you learned to reconcile your faith and sexuality in both a God-honoring and self-acknowledging way?
I was never involved with the exgay movements. I first started noticing I had SSA when I got a hard on in the shower at summer camp. A few short weeks later I met my best friend and first love. As someone who did not grow up with any positive male influences (and certainly no touching as that was gay), he gave me the male bonding I so desperately needed. Then he died (suicide). I was of course devastated beyond all belief as all this was happening during puberty.
I began having fantasies about men (I had no idea it was due to missing him). In my early twenties I came to God, but shortly thereafter the church I was going to publicly declared that all gays go to hell. I lost it and went all gay. My near death experience in 2012 brought me back and totally erased my mind. I didn’t even know how my best friend died. I came back to God and developed a personal relationship with Him. Shortly after, he restored my memories of my best friend, revealing that my stroke occurred on the exact anniversary of my best friend’s death. God even revealed the location of his grave and told me to go.
He revealed to me that I was having sex with men because I was missing my best friend. It did not cure me per se, but it did instill in me a non-desire to have sex with anybody, as the brief momentary pleasure was just masking my pain instead of dealing with my loss. I will never claim to be ‘cured’ because I am not; however I am healing now, dealing with my loss.
I am thankful for this site, and while my story is unique, I do not feel alone anymore.
I went through an ex-gay live in program. It was very abusive. Sometimes I feel tortured. The struggle is just too intense. I really appreciate this site.
I’m so sorry to hear about that Roger. That sounds terrible. Would you be willing to go into more detail about your experience and what happened there? I would love to hear your story.
I’m so sorry about your friend Bradley. And so sorry you went to a church like that as well, that must’ve instilled some terrible feelings in you. I think all sexual acting out can come from trauma from a certain situation, it can be our way with coping with the pain the way others will turn to food or hoarding. Doesn’t necessarily relate to our sexuality. But I’m glad God has shown you a better way through it all. And I’m so glad you don’t feel alone anymore.
Hope I can find and connect with a friendship like the one you mentioned. Great story…thinking a lot about the question you asked. I hope I can stop feeling alone soon.
In a way I have been apart of sort of an “ex-gay” movement in various support groups I’ve visited amongst other things. I’ve never really identified with being gay I suppose, but I still struggle with SSA thoughts none the less. It confuses me.
As far as reconciliation with God, I feel like Im alright with the big guy upstairs, but in terms of with myself, I dont know at all.
Good stuff none the less.
Do you feel like your experiences in those ex gay support groups were beneficial to you? I think a big part of the process whether you’re Side B or Side X is learning to love yourself. It took me a while to learn to love myself but I feel like I got that through my brothers and their love for me. Its hard and doesn’t happen over night. It takes a lot of work. But just know that you are not a lesser person because of your attractions. No matter what society says.
Eugene I’m so glad you’re out of that scene! I don’t have personal experience, but I’ve heard enough. I remember reading ex-gay testimonials and virtually all of them had a forced-grin, everything-is-awesome veneer that made me deeply suspicious. Buried toward the bottom of the Exodus website I did find one that formed my approach from then on: one guy was single and was saying that becoming attracted to women was not how he measured success–his measurement for success was faithfulness to Jesus. Looking back I’m angry that the other testimonials had somehow failed to mention this, and sad that I had to scroll past so much to get to it.
I’m sure Exodus was like “oh yeah…. and we have that guy too…”
Yeah I think you’re right. I remember seeing those testimonials and they definitely had that false over idealized view with the man fixed to straight holding hands with his wife and a golden sunlit background. Its funny looking back at those now. I remember TLC did this special called “My Husband’s Not Gay” which talked about several married SSA men and how their relationships work. The show made note however about how some of them still had sexual screw ups with other guys. Ill have to watch that again, its been a while.
I still haven’t watched “boy erased.” While I never was part of an ex-gay ministry or anything I am very conscious of the fact that is in part because I didn’t start facing all this till my twenties. On occasion I think about what would have happened if I had realized all this as a teenager and told my mom. It’s very possible that I would have. And even though that didn’t happen the first few years of me trying to figure out my sexuality and all that the only Christian resources available were Exodus and Focus on the Family. Even after Exodus closed. I remember the year I decided that I needed to start figuring things out was the year Exodus closed and I was mad at Alan Chambers for closing the ministry. I thought that if there was a chance that it was true then he shouldn’t do that. A couple years later I gave him another chance and began to consider that maybe all the ex-gay stuff wasn’t all they said it was. That’s when I found my side B community and later that year YOB started and they blogged every day for nearly a year I think. All the different stories helped me understand a little more.
For me, the exgay mindset was counterproductive. To quote “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” (another movie about the exgay movement), I was “tired of being disgusted with myself.” There had to be a better way to do life. You can’t tell me that the only way for ssa people to thrive is to spend thousands of dollars on a therapy that miserably picks apart their childhood only to not deliver on it’s false advertising.
Always so great hearing from you Ashley! Why would you want to read the blogs by those YOB freaks though? Sheesh… But no seriously yeah I wonder what my parents would have done if I had come out as a teen? I doubt they’d forcibly put me in therapy but I wonder. The ex gay thing was the rule, not the exception for all Christians not pursuing same sex romantic partners. So its no surprise most of us looked into it. But yeah when I first found YOB the stories here helped put things in better perspective for me too. That there was a third option.
But yeah I feel the exact same way about the last paragraph there. I realized miserably picking apart my childhood was super counterproductive. It just made me hate myself and my life. I want to check out that movie by the way.
I am actually older than Exodus! When I first felt an attraction to guys I was about 12 years old. There was no Exodus, no Internet, and a very hostile environment at school that wouldn’t let me talk about those feelings. I basically had to sort through my feelings and beliefs with only God to help me. He actually did help me!
I decided long ago that my goal should not be an end to all temptation, but rather the power to overcome the temptation. That meant seeking a relationship with God instead of hooking up with guys or lusting after them.
I never sought orientation change because to me that was seeking an end to temptation. A few years ago I did join a church based group that was loosely connected to Exodus, but its goal was not orientation change. It was for support, helping each other fight the temptation.
We can all use that kind of support !
Well said Marshall! I’m glad God helped you through that, I can’t imagine living in a time when there was no resources or help for this sort of thing. Just people keeping it hush hush. That would be awful.
But you are so right that the goal is not the end all temptation, but power to overcome it. Trying to live without temptation is like living life wearing a hazmat suit. Sure, you probably won’t get sick but you won’t be able to feel the sun, cool breeze, or the grass.
That group sounds like a nice group to be apart of! Where its just discussion on support and fighting temptation. So glad you found that Marshall.
Doesn’t the Bible say “be ye converted” in the New Testament? And there is a verse about being a new man and letting the old man die. If the old man should die, that does mean there should be an end to SSA, not an acceptance of it like “oh well, it’s me. I’m going to be okay with it but not watch any porn.” That doesn’t go with Christian beliefs that the old man should go and to be converted. Btw, I’m not really a Christian. I believe in the Bible but I’m not a Bible thumper. I’m just noticing some contradictions in ur post n other replies when matching it up with what the Bible says.
To which passages of Scripture are you referring?
Hey Scott, I’m with Bryan, cold you clarify which scripture you are talking about? I’m a little confused.
I think the passage in the Bible you are talking about is Matt 18:3 (NKJV)
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
That means to turn away from sin and turn toward God. It means that God makes you a new creation so that you want to fight sin, not run after it. We all have to battle some form of temptation. SSA is just one form of temptation. I am not saying we should accept it and give in. No, we should battle it. That does not mean we will never be tempted.
Hey Scott, Marshall has good thoughts on the verse about being converted. There’s also verses on putting off the old man and putting on the new in Ephesians & Colossians that might be what you’re talking about. They’re a followup to the truth in Romans 6: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Truth is, in Christ, our old self was already crucified, and Jesus’ call to deny our old self and take up our cross daily following him, is so that what is true in him becomes true in us, that our body of sin be brought to nothing. It’s a journey to get there, but the starting point is truth. Scott, hope that doesn’t make me a bible thumper, I’ve been thumped, it’s just that the bible says it best.
I’m a “straight” man but attracted to some of my own & have a crush on one at work. It’s made me feel terrible because I was raised fundamentalist Christian. My mom wears a long dress & has even liked the idea of gays being killed. It’s super conservative, like pastor Steven Anderson’s church (I don’t want him more famous). Basically if I lived to be 1 million years old & had a wife & lots of children I still can’t ever be attracted to another male, not even once. Anything could set their gaydar off–orange shoelaces, slightly longer hair, even not getting a girlfriend can raise eyebrows regardless of if I talk about girls all the time. I think some people at church have the opinion that anyone 99.9% straight or less are on the same level as blasphemy, an unforgivable sin. The Zodiac Killer is a lesser category in their eyes. I’m pretty sure if some people I know knew my thoughts I would be immediately booted out as a Sodomite. Mom would probably get me out of bed at 3 am (anytime right after finding out), tell me to pack up and get out. Sodomites are called a curse.
A grocery store I go to is frequented by dress-wearing women, so I’ve purposely avoided the 2 young male cashiers I want to talk to just in case someone who knows me is there and could see me. If I was in their checkout line I would avoid talking to those cashiers except for basic stuff like saying “okay.” I might say a little bit more while looking away at my phone in case someone is watching. It hurts liking someone and not even being able to hardly talk to them.
There was a gay girl at another store I could talk to about SSA (if she was ever cashier), but later I saw a dress woman working there so that’s no longer an option. There’s another woman at another store but she’s not usually cashier & I don’t want my conversations overheard by everyone. I’m basically closeted at work (and downplayed that attraction it to the few people who I told) so I have no one to talk to about SSA.
Sometimes I feel emotionally drained at home and can’t wait for bedtime so I can lock myself in my room and go to sleep. I try to stay positive but it can be hard when you can’t ever come out and knowing what would happen if they ever found out. I don’t even want SSA & voted no on gay marriage but that makes no difference to some Christians. At least I’m lucky I seem as straight as Trump and i’m attracted to women.
I don’t mean to bash anyone’s religion, I’m just telling how strict the beliefs on SSA are. At least some day when I move out i’ll get to decide my own hair length instead of being cold at night with short hair. Maybe eventually I’ll find another store cashier I can talk to but the problem is if you tell one person they can tell another or someone else can hear me. It’s tough when something you can’t control is viewed as worse than murder.
Hi Ken, gosh your backstory is so heartbreaking to hear. I’m sorry you’ve been raised in such an environment. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a mother who would have an attitude to their children like that. I can never understand why even abstaining from gay sexual relationships is not enough for some churches. Its just fear and hatred unfortunately. I can tell you that your attractions are not worse than murder. Nor are they worse than a straight man lusting after a woman. This doesn’t sound to me like the best environment for you to be in. Hope you can some day move out and be in a less oppressively strict place. Praying for you brother.
Thank you for sharing your journey in this so vulnerably. Like you, I thought the key to resolving faith and sexuality was self-hate. Hating who I was as a kid, hating myself for the things I felt, hating that I was weak enough to be abused. I figured if I hated all the bad things, I would love the right things and be ok — that’s how it works, right?
I didn’t necessarily have a moment where it clicked — for me, it’s been a long process and journey. I love myself now and I embrace my identity, sexuality included. If anything, taking claim of my sexual identity has given me more confidence in how I live it out.
You’re welcome Dean! Well I suppose I could also say it was a long process for me as well. Though during it I did have one big moment of turnaround. It was a very hard journey of self acceptance. Its hard to accept something about yourself that society hates. But yeah I do love myself and embrace all of myself too. Being my real about the reality of my sexuality has really helped me grow.
I can definitely say I’m not part of the “ex-gay” ideology or have I ever been part of it. I don’t think my sexuality status ever became a priority until my mid-thirties when my social circle began to dwindle due to marriage. I became more consumed with my own desires to better myself from an academic standpoint. I figured since my employer was generously providing tuition reimbursement, I might as well take advantage of it. So I headed back to school as a part-time student. My sexuality was place on the back burner. Once my academic pursuits were coming to an end, the void I felt being SSA hit me hard. I felt I was alone in this supposed struggle. Luckily I came across YOB here. I feel fortunate I’m not alone having found fellowship and community with similar people. As far as reconciling my faith and sexuality, I accepted my sexuality, but I choose not to have it dictate the kind of lifestyle the world subscribes I should pursue. They say you don’t choose to be gay or straight. You don’t choose your sexuality. I’m in complete 100% agreement; however, all people make a choice on how they choose to live their lives, gay or straight. I choose to live my life for God because in the end He will be all I have and all I’ll want.
I’m so glad you’ve come across YOB and the struggle is much lessened for you my friend! I know how that empty void feels, its not a pleasant place. But I’m so glad you’ve come to grips with your sexuality, that can be such a hard thing to get to sometimes. You’re right, we all have a choice on what to do with our sexualities and its all up to us. We have our attractions but we have a choice on what to do with them. Back in my teenage years, my line of thinking was that if you had attractions to men you HAD to act on them and get a boyfriend.
[…] I used to follow many reparative therapy-promoted organizations and even looked into it for myself. I never actually experienced conversion therapy, and I’m glad I didn’t. Although, in […]
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