False Starts: What Didn't Work
Denying or Suppressing It
Pretending there was nothing amiss in our lives was like ignoring a growing tumor. Refusing to deal with our homosexual problems ensured that they would continue to thrive and multiply. We could resist for a time. We could look the other way. But that only gave our problems time to fester and grow worse. We could abstain from homosexual behavior, but that didn't resolve the feeling. Avoiding the problem could never fix the problem.
We certainly never consciously chose to be sexually attracted to men. Neither could we simple choose to change and be attracted to women instead. At best, willpower could only help us resist the urge to indulge whatever sexual desire we felt in the moment. It could not bring long-term healing.
Rather than work on our will, or our mental control, we found it much more effective to work on our heart, or our emotional and spiritual desire.
Trying to Pray It Away
Almost all of us at one time hoped and prayed that God would suddenly change us, that if only we had enough faith, we would wake up one day and find our homosexual desires miraculously gone. Yes, those are those who testify of such miraculous, sudden recovery, but it certainly doesn't seem to be the norm -- and certainly not without a lot of hard, personal and spiritual work leading up to that "overnight" recovery.
In fact, many of us came to see that we had been praying the wrong prayer for many years! Rather than asking God to change us, we needed him to show us the steps he wanted us to take toward change -- and then trust him enough to take the very steps we feared most. We needed to be humble enough to learn the lessons that the struggle was designed to teach us -- and then move on.
As Ben writes:
"Like so many others, I once begged God to change me with a single touch, the way he healed the blind man. I prayed and read scriptures hoping that would change me, but all the while I remained locked in isolation and shame. Ultimately, I learned that trying to heal my emotional wounds through spirituality alone was like putting a cast on my arm when I had the flu. I was treating the wrong problem. I was emotionally broken and weak, but in many ways spiritually strong. Trying to strengthen myself spiritually, alone in my room in prayer, wasn't going to heal the isolation I felt in the world of men. I started to change when I saw the Lord as a guide who would lead me through a healing journey if I did it his way, not mine."
For most of us, praying and building a renewed spiritual life would become the fuel that powered our journey out of homosexuality and the map that guided our way -- it was seldom our journey in itself.
At one time, many of us were convinced that indulging our desires for homosexual expression was the only way to satisfy them and get relief from constant yearning for male attention and affection. And in fact it did bring relief -- momentarily. But those of us who did indulge those desires often found that, when the fleeting embrace or erotic experience was over, we felt more lonely and desperate than before. The "hole" inside our souls that we were constantly trying to fill was deeper and emptier than ever, and we were desperate for more. It became easy for us to fall into addiction and dependency.
Even those of us who found a romantic partner who seemed like he would always be there for us often found we could never get enough of him to fill the emptiness inside ourselves. The true need buried deep inside was a little boy's need for love and acceptance from his father and from the other boys and to fully and proudly embrace his masculinity. Sex with another man only alienated us from ever really finding the real solution to our needs.
"Gay Pride" or "Gay Affirmation"
For some of us, it seemed for a time that the answer we were looking for was to accept and embrace our supposedly innate gay identity, "come out of the closet" as a homosexual and claim "gay pride." In fact, those of us who did so found it to be an exhilarating, freeing experience -- temporarily. No longer were we crippled by vacillation. No longer were we hiding in shame. No longer would we beat ourselves up with self-criticism and so-called "homophobia." At last we were "out and proud."
But no matter how right it was to free ourselves from shame, self-ridicule and self-hate, and no matter how much relief we found in finally getting off the fence and making a decision -- any decision -- homosexuality still felt wrong for us. Some of us denied this for a long time but we could ultimately lie to ourselves no longer. For us, it just felt wrong. Attempting to resolve our homosexual struggles by killing our conscience felt like it was killing our souls instead.
Almost universally, we felt alienated from God and our spiritual lives. We were out of integrity with our deeply held values and beliefs that had always anchored our lives. We felt more alienated than ever from the masculine world of straight men.
Sadly, most of us also found far less healing, acceptance and unconditional love among gay men than we had imagined we would. A common experience among us what that we experienced the gay world as a place that was fraught with promiscuity, lust, obsession with youth and physical appearance, addiction to sex, alcohol and lust. We found judgment, pettiness, spiritual darkness and brokenness. Although we experienced small pieces of healing there at times, for the most part, it only deepened the emotional and spiritual emptiness inside.
Shame, Self-Ridicule and Self-Hate
For those of us who once "came out" as a homosexual and embraced "gay pride," we found it immensely freeing to release the shame, self-ridicule and self-hate that had crippled us for so long. Indeed, letting go of these destructive emotions was a vital part of our healing for all of us. Until we did, they entrapped us, disabled us and obstructed real change. But we found it was counterproductive to embrace an openly gay identity and lifestyle in an attempt to free ourselves of shame and hate, because doing so required us to suppress our conscience and surrender our values. We found instead that it is ultimately far more healing and freeing to "come out" as a man who is courageously reclaiming his innate masculine identity, brotherly love for other men and spiritual connection to God.
Isolation and Secrecy
As long as we kept our "shameful secret" hidden and attempted to fix it in isolation and secrecy, we made little or no progress. No wonder. Problems relating to others do not heal in isolation without relationships. Fear of trusting others cannot be overcome without taking the calculated risk to trust.
Indeed, we found that what we wanted most -- authentic male bonding -- in some ways, we actually feared the most. Emotional intimacy felt much more risky than sexual intimacy. So we used lust and sex to give the illusion of intimacy without having to take the emotional risk of opening our hearts to another man, especially a straight man.
Trying to Force Opposite-Sex Attraction
Some of the worst, albeit well-meaning, advice we ever received was to resolve our homosexual feelings by dating women or looking at female pornography to arouse interest. We already loved women - as sisters. We identified with them - too much so.
Our problem was not generally with women, so that's not where the solution lay. Our problem was with heterosexual men and masculinity, and with our own maleness. We needed to spend more time with heterosexual men, not with women. Before we could concern ourselves with attraction to women, we had to feel like more of a man. We needed to ground ourselves much more firmly in a male identity and in the male world. We needed to overcome our "heterophobia" with men.
That is where we found healing.