Self-hatred is difficult to write about; I have told very few people.
Ever since middle school, I’ve struggled with hating myself. A sentence I’ve said to myself every day of my life since then has been something like “I hate being gay” or “I hate my situation in life.”
It scares me a bit, sharing that information.
So, why am I sharing on such a public platform? Simply because I know I’m not the only one who struggles this way.
When somebody struggles with self-hatred, it’s so easy to feel alone and isolated, and I want my brothers who struggle with this to realize that they are not alone.
Some readers might have some concerns. The first being whether I am suicidal; the answer to that is no. It is a legitimate concern since suicide rates are three times higher among gay men than other people groups, and suicidality is something I did struggle with as a teen.
If this is your struggle, do not feel shame. But please seek professional help. There are so many people who love you, whether you realize it or not.
Another concern some may have is for my mental health, and I want to assure you that I have taken appropriate measures to make sure I am healthy. I meet with a therapist on a regular basis and have proper community support structures in place.
I also want readers to know that there is no shame in seeking the help of a therapist; it is very beneficial.
So, how did I get to this point of self-hatred?
Ever since I was young, I was taught that one of the biggest threats to the church and society was the gay agenda. We heard regular warnings from the pulpit about the gays. We had Christian magazines, books, and radio all saying the same thing.
As a kid, I said a lot of derogatory things about LGBTQ+ people. I cringe at the things I remember saying. When I realized I was gay, all of that hatred that I showed to others turned in on myself.
That realization drove me to reparative therapy.
The logic makes sense: I hate gay people, I am gay — thus, I need to not be gay.
The problem is that reparative therapy did not improve my situation; it made it worse. Because of that experience, it’s even hard to let others pray for me, especially if they put their hand on my shoulder. It brings back so many memories of people “praying the gay away.”
Reparative therapy drove me to self-destructive habits such as cigarettes, inactivity, and unhealthy eating.
How does one escape this downward spiral? Not easily. Imagine untying a massive knot of rope that has been set outside for years. It is not going to happen quickly.
But things are getting better. I haven’t smoked in over six months, the longest I have ever gone. I ride my bike almost every day for my commute. My eating habits have improved tremendously.
I see these steps as signs that my mind is now changing, that I am beginning to enjoy life.
How am I escaping this self-hatred? Firstly, by believing the most basic and important theological truth of all time: Jesus loves me, for the Bible tells me so.
Feelings can lie. I felt that being gay was enough for God to hate me. But that is not what the Bible tells me.
Even the greatest enemy of God can be shown the greatest amount of love from God through Jesus (Romans 5).
Secondly, I’m escaping self-hatred by realizing that I am not alone. That I have been united with Christ (Romans 6) and adopted into God’s family where I can call God my father (Romans 8).
And thirdly — probably most controversially — I’m escaping self-hatred by enjoying the culture created by non-straight people.
I know some readers will immediately think I am changing my sexual ethic and that I am promoting sexual immorality by embracing some aspects of non-straight culture. I assure you that I am not. I am still celibate, and I do not see that changing any time soon.
There are many things associated with LGBTQ+ culture, especially gay male culture: fashion, cooking, music, drama, interior decorating, etc. Obviously, those things are not inherently gay.
But as a result of culture associating those things with gay people — and I enjoy many of those things — I avoided doing the things I love so I wouldn’t be seen as gay.
Now, I am doing the social things that I enjoy. I have been dressing nicer and enjoying different styles of clothing. I have been getting into interior decorating, which I love! And I have been enjoying cooking and the creativity it brings. Today, I made turkey burgers and a caprese salad.
Basically I’ve become a walking Queer Eye episode.
For the first time, I think, I am enjoying what life can be like. And it is a wonderful experience.
Have you struggled with self-hatred because of your sexuality? How have you seen victory over self-hatred, and how has the struggle continued?
Yep! I definitely have struggled and sometimes still struggle with accepting myself and loving myself. Sometimes I think…if I love myself too much then I’ll end up Side A! But perhaps part of loving myself is accepting that risk and the risk or making mistakes, knowing that I am never too far from God to come unto Him.
I struggle with not knowing whether my desires for intimacy with other men are healthy. I hate that, whenever I crawl into bed, I long for another man to be there to put his arms around me. I don’t want sex, but man, I’m tired of the physical loneliness. I feel like I need some serious bro-cuddles, and that makes me feel guilty.
Don’t feel guilty. I long for that too, and I had that until my best friend died when I was fourteen. The reason why I went into the gay lifestyle was because I was missing him. It was all empty and brought me no happiness. I needed to deal with my loss. My one consolation and joy is that I will be reunited with him again after I leave this world!
Thanks Bradley. I know I could never be in a romantic relationship with another man, but I wish I had a friend that close! It’s something I’ve wanted for a while, but it usually feels like I put way more time into relationships than anyone else.
I hear you Nathan! I understand the guilt, frustration and unanswered questions. It’s definitely difficult because in our American culture, so much has been sexualized. I understand the longing feeling of desiring a cuddle buddy in bed or elsewhere and I too don’t feel a distinct need or drive for sex.
I read “A Bigger World Yet.” While some of it sounds like conversion therapy talk, the vast majority of it talked about male intimacy. Part of it said how men used to sleep together (and even snuggle) and no one though of it as sexual! Today however…
That’s a true story! Another sad thing is that it seems like all the guys I know who are touch-oriented are Side A. I have to struggle with wanting deep friendship and closeness with these men especially, because even if I tell them I’m straight, they might see (and have seen) my desire to keep consistent social contact or even compliments I give them as a byproduct of a “crush” or “flirting”. I don’t go around asking for cuddles or attention from people, but some guys still think I’m in love with them. What a world.
Thanks for being so bold to share this shadowy part of yourself, Will. I never underwent reparative therapy, and my heart breaks for everyone harmed and traumatized by those practices. It’s extremely helpful for me to hear stories like yours and Garrard’s in “Boy Erased.” And what a testament to God’s work in you since those days. Proud of you and these new steps you’ve taken! Keep it going, brother.
Thanks for putting this into words. I thought I felt more fear at being found out than self-hatred in college, but using food, tobacco, & alcohol to quash those feelings was definitely not self-love. I listen sometimes to church folks talk about us on YouTube to hear what they think about me. Their smug use of the SSA label makes me crazy. It’s like we’re just like straight men except attracted sexually to men rather than women. They ignore the marginalization & stigma we go thru & the church’s role in perpetuating it. I don’t think you’re bad for wanting physical contact. We need that to be healthy. Trust yourself, trust the journey, trust God. Peace in the struggle!
Thanks for your post, Will! I’ve struggled with self-hatred too, but mostly in terms of body image. My struggles with body image have, of course, been steeped in my sexuality, but I never hated my sexuality like I did my body. I guess I can thank never having been exposed to reparative therapy for that, but the enemy found another means of attack. I’m glad I’m on the other side of it.
Dysmorphia is a really sucky thing to deal with. I’ve always been on the chubby side and have kind of a weird body shape for a guy so I feel your pain. Body image seems to be a very common thread among SSA testimonials for both Side A and Side B. In my arrogant opinion, it’s a lot easier to hate the tangible, concrete thing, like your body than something abstract like sexuality.
Thanks for writing so honestly, Will. You have spoken a much-needed truth and set a great example. Demons are difficult to fight when they look and sound just like the person staring at you in the mirror. I’ve struggled with self-hatred since I was very young, although for very different reasons, and handled it (at first very poorly) in very different ways. My inital experiences with realizing I was SSA, were somewhat eclipsed by something of an inferiority-complex. I have supportive parents, a wonderful Church family, and have been blessed with incredible opportunities, yet for some reason I grew up feeling like garbage all the time (I have my own theories as to why, but I’ll spare the reader my unfounded speculations). It came to a head in college where in, the process of finding myself, I found myself so completely detached from who I wanted to be as a person, that I gave up on it entirely. That’s when the cutting started and the addiction to porn escalated out of control. At that point I fell into the trap of “well, I’m always going to see myself as the kind of loser who does this kind of stuff, so I might as well be that kind of loser and enjoy myself.” Yeah, that wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had… Fast forward to Senior year and a shot to the heart (purely metaphorical, although perhaps the literal variant would not have been quite so painful) and I was standing at ground zero. It felt like my whole world was crashing down, but looking from the bottom of a crater up at the pale daylight streaming through the dust-cloud and over the rim was a perpsective I could never have imagined: the process was slow, painful, required a ton of prayer and fasting, and never really seemed to accomplish anything tangible, but by the end of it, I realized I was a different person, and I looked at each sunrise with the distinct impression that God truly does have new mercies for us every day. I never bothered with therapy–although I really should. And sometimes I relapse: those old feelings of resentment still swell up from time to time, but I take some solace in knowing that I’m not who I thought I was. I am bought at a price. I am not my own anymore. I am a new creation. That prospect is terrifying and exhilarating and calming and exuberating all at once: I don’t have to be who I want to be. I belong to God; that is enough.
First off, congrats on being a walking “Queer Eye” episode. That sounds agonizing and wonderful at the same time.
Second, thank you for sharing so deeply. I know the self-hating struggle all too well. I appreciate your candid perception at your own journey. I resonated with much of it.
Finally, I am thankful you are enjoying what life that is enjoyed living can be like. I pray you continue to grow in this!
I found this the hardest post to read because it hit the closest to home. I spent decades feeling like you, Will. I guess I still do… at times. Having only started exploring this within the last year I still feel confused and overwhelmed. It was a call to a suicide hotline that gave me my first feeling of hope. I am part of a church that still preaches condemnation for SSA and it is so hard to sit under sermons preached by people I love in which I hear I am sick, evil, twisted, perverted, an abomination and an offense to my Creator. They don’t know about me, so it’s not like I feel singled out, but it does something to me… I have had to learn to not react, to think of other things so I don’t call attention to myself by swallowing with my dry throat, turning red, or sweating. But I see rays of hope. This site and reaching out to others outside my church community has made the biggest difference. I spent so many years hating who and what I am and feeling there was no hope for someone like me. It took strangers telling me they saw good in me and loved me for who and what I am to brush away the cobwebs. I’m not a mistake. I’m not an aberration or evil or disgusting… I’m a man with struggles but my Lord & Master has not discarded me — He used my pain and shame to lead me to reach out. Bless you all for sharing your stories! And Will, THANK YOU for this. You can’t imagine how deeply your post affected me.
Thank you for sharing your story! I hope you continue to grow in your walk with the Lord, while reconciling your attraction. I too discovered YOB recently, within the last year, and it’s really helped me navigate this complex issue of faith and sexuality. Praying for you brother!
Thank you, Brother! I appreciate your prayers and want to do the same for you.
Tough post to read at the beginning Will, but thanks for writing it. I’ve exhausted all the ways hatred can change you, At some point you realize hatred only changes you for the worst. Knowing Jesus has made everything better, especially those nights where darkness still comes and weighs on you that you’re alone. Shame like hatred has passed, but I still fight wanting to hear that this isn’t my fault.
Just heard this song. It’s about growing up gay and knowing your parents love you. It reminds me of God’s love.