The long and winding road: A one-time activist reflects on his journey out of the gay lifestyle
March 28, 2016 (MercatorNet) -- I grew up believing myself to have been born gay having always, and only, had the most powerful, all-consuming, erotic attraction towards my own sex.
Teenage years were hell. I often thought of suicide, occasionally self-harmed and had a growing problem with alcohol. I lived in a rural mining community in the north of England believing I would never be accepted among my own as a gay man, particularly as I watched a male cousin some ten years older than me – now deceased from a drug overdose – struggle to find his place as a gay man in the late 70s and early 80s among a society dominated by working men’s clubs.
In floods of tears I came out to my parents when 17 years old. Dad and Mum were amazing. They said they had known I was gay and affirmed their unconditional love for me. My mates in high school also told me they had known I was gay and not only honoured me for coming out but affirmed me in what they too believed to be my true sexual orientation. My deepest fears rapidly subsided. I felt a freedom like I had never experienced before.
At 18, I moved to the all-consuming metropolis of London and fully embraced my gay identity. I wholeheartedly served the gay community and actively preached its messages of diversity and inclusion, challenging every “intolerant, homophobic and bigoted” individual and institution that dared to suggest that being gay was somehow a choice, or even wrong. I have since come to see that our fight was not merely to have the concept of abnormal accepted but was rather to make normal taboo and to place it under ideological suspicion.
I was raised in a Christian family and always had a niggling desire to know more about God. I regularly went along to the monthly London meetings of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and learnt a lot about safe sex, but little about God. I led a very promiscuous lifestyle, eventually settling down with a long-term boyfriend. We discussed travelling abroad to find a place to get married or at least to celebrate a civil union.
It was while I was in this long-term relationship that I was invited one evening to attend a series of weekly gatherings called Life in the Spirit Seminars attended by some of my fellow university students. I came to a place where I made the decision to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. There were no dramatic changes overnight to my life but my long-term boyfriend noticed that I was becoming calmer and less self-focused. He decided to come along to the weekly gatherings, gave his life to Christ and was profoundly touched by the person of the Holy Spirit. Almost overnight we were being upheld as the archetypal gay Christian couple.
As I developed a spiritual life, daily reflecting a little more deeply on my life, within months I came to realize that I had issues which affected my relationships with others, and especially with my boyfriend. I hadn’t seen them before. They had always been there and yet unbeknown to me I had been living under layers of denial which the Holy Spirit was now beginning to reveal to me.
I came face-to-face with my deep-rooted fear of rejection. I had commitment issues, and could easily be riddled with anxiety. I had used others for my own pleasure, and allowed them to do the same to me. Although I felt accepted by those around me, I realized that I had an innate fear of men – this was the real homophobia -- an intrinsic fear of, and a chasm between me and the normal heterosexual male -- and not the false homophobia the gay community projects onto mainstream society.
I came to a place where I knew that I needed to terminate my relationship with my long-term partner, having recognized that we were both trying to satisfy the mystery of manhood using each other when neither of us really possessed it.
I embarked upon an incredible journey of forgiveness, having many people from my past, and especially men, that I needed to forgive. The therapy and prayer sessions I now regularly engaged in never focused solely on my being sexually attracted to men, but I was encouraged to look every aspect of my present and past in the eye. This included the painful process of accepting that I had been consistently sexually abused by a number of men as a child over a three-year period.
Much of my spiritual journey became concerned with recognizing where, during my infancy and childhood, my little soul had chosen to build walls within myself against significant others in my life, especially against my parents, siblings and other prominent people from my past.
I eventually came to realize that as a boy I had failed to interact with other men on any significantly integrated emotional, physical and intellectual level. I realized that I had been rejected by men even as a small boy; that I had made an inner vow as a child never to deeply trust men again; and that I had lived out this decision throughout my formative years.
Only later did I see that other males had in fact tried to reach out to me at different stages during my childhood, but that I had always responded out of my perceived hurt and so became more distanced from other guys until they eventually gave up trying to interact with me. This included to some degree my father and two older brothers.
No wonder men and all things masculine had become a mystery to me. By the time I hit my teen years I had become obsessed with all things masculine and yet externally I felt wholly separated from, and unable to enter, the world of my own gender. No wonder being gay was so painful internally. Once testosterone kicked in at puberty I was erotically craving men with every fibre of my being and began to further feed this craving with pornography and sexual fantasy, two insatiable fabrications of truth and love.
My greatest strength across all of these hurdles was my spiritual life. The relationship I had now fostered with the Holy Spirit brought me immense comfort and wise counsel. I came to see that I needed to ask God for forgiveness, that I needed to forgive all the men whom I had pushed away for how they eventually had stopped reaching out to me and had abandoned me. I also had to forgive myself for making an understandable decision as a child to protect my heart, a decision that would have a devastating and stunting effect on me as an adult male.
Because I had failed to take my place as a man among men, I had had to find a place for myself in the world somewhere. I could not live without relationships. Through prayer, I began to see how, as a child, I had chosen to make my primary gender friendships among women. I had become emotionally embroiled with everything feminine and had nothing truly masculine alongside me with which to balance this.
I came to see that I also lived out of heterophobia. I despised women on many levels, but mostly for their natural ability to woo and engage every aspect of a heterosexual man, which I could not do. I found myself needing to forgive women as a whole for how they had, mostly unknowingly, enticed me into a place of false identity. They had graciously given me a place of belonging among them, and yet this, I came to learn, was not where I truly belonged. I needed to ask them for forgiveness for how I had taken my place among them instead of rejecting their invitation and walking away. I also needed to ask God to forgive me for my past mistakes and to then receive his forgiveness. And as ever, I needed to forgive myself for making poor decisions.
As I found resolution to past hurts, mostly through extending and receiving forgiveness, but also through periods of intense grieving and sorrow related to my lost childhood, changes began to take place deep within me. My fears gradually subsided. My anxiety levels steadily decreased. My sense of acceptance among both men and women began to rise. A strong sense of dignity and self-respect began to take hold of me in a way I had never experienced before.
My gait changed from being feminine to one of very deliberate footsteps. My posture changed and I began unwittingly to hold my head up higher. What was most noticeable to others was the change in my voice which suddenly dropped quite distinctly in my mid-twenties as I engaged with the process of forgiveness through therapy and prayer.
Even more challenging than accepting as a teenager that I was gay, I began to see that perhaps I had never truly been gay and that there was a man hidden deep within me as real and as noble as the men I had often admired, worshipped and yearned for, a man who was waiting to be freed and released. No one was more shocked and frightened by this than me.
For a few years I then lived chastely which permitted me to enjoy non-erotic heart relationships with all men and women. Subsequently, the ever-present erotic attraction towards men within me slowly subsided.
The more inclusive my friendships became with other men, and the less mysterious men’s hearts became to me, the more I began to desire an exclusive connection that contained “mystery” to it. I began to see woman in a way I had never seen her. I began to notice her curves. I began to get caught up in her scent. I started to see her as wholly different, mysterious, and yet complementary to me. Here I was in my late 20s experiencing what most males go through in their teens. Before long I began dating women. Eventually I got married and today I am a father, something the gay community and selected others told me I would never, and could never, be.
I had envisaged myself spending my entire life preaching that people are born gay, and yet the opposite has become true. Today I am socially excluded for rejecting the gay belief system and "deathstyle" in favour of a predominantly heterosexual identity although years ago I experienced no exclusion or rejection even when I was the first person to come out in high school and at university.
I was unknowingly given the freedom, and took it, to open a door that enabled me to scratch well below the surface of my conscious mind and to think outside the box of what has now become mainstream society’s beliefs about sexual orientation.
Today, I find myself a million miles away from where I expected to be half a lifetime ago. I am surrounded by the richest of relationships and am certain of God’s eternal love for me. Nothing can replace this. Can life really get much better?
James Parker originates from the UK and moved to Australia having married an Aussie lady nearly ten years ago. He now lives in Western Australia and is passionate about the recovery and restoration of men and women. Reprinted with permission from MercatorNet.