An Uneasy Victory
A plea from a Christian husband and father who day by day resists his homosexual desires.
I am a business executive, congregation president, youth-group leader, athletic coach, happily married man for more than 25 years, and proud father of a couple of teenagers. Oh-I’m also gay. My admission requires some explanation and perhaps some supporting evidence. You see, except for some experimentation during adolescence, I have not acted on my desires. From the outside I’ve looked and acted like a normal heterosexual male.
I was raised Conservative Baptist (emphasis on conservative). From as early as I can remember, I knew right from wrong, white from black, good from evil, righteousness from sin. There was no moral gray, no ambiguity. I felt irreparably condemned by what I knew.
When my wife and I were ready to choose our own theological home, we became part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The message of grace alone is what attracted me to Lutheranism. Unfortunately, we Lutherans are not all that good at living in and sharing that grace, and sometimes I still feel condemned by what should be good news.
On the inside-in my psyche, feelings, and attractions-I’m as certain of my gayness as I am of my sex. I first became aware of my sexual orientation when I was 9 or so years old, at church summer camp. At that time, I had no idea what sex was. I was nonetheless aware of the overwhelming emotional attraction I had to another boy my age. It was an experience that would repeat itself over and over. As I entered adolescence, it would take on a more sexual nature.
By the time I was in high school, I had experienced a number of serious crushes on other young men. Most of these were simply teenage friendships, but in a couple of instances, they included some physical expression. The physiological and emotional drive to be intimate with another person of my own sex became almost overwhelming. So was the guilt associated with succumbing to this drive.
While my high school buddies were bragging about their heterosexual exploits, I was trying desperately not to have the homosexual encounters I so desired. For all of us, adolescence includes some alienation from others and from self, but for me the sense of aloneness and self-loathing was more than I could bear. I developed a variety of coping mechanisms, including alcohol, drug abuse, heavy smoking, and forced heterosexual encounters, but they proved ineffective in distracting me from my homosexual urges. By the time I was a high school senior, I was frequently depressed and seriously thinking about suicide.
In the summer between my first and second year of college, I became a Christian. Given my church background, I had known about Christ for many years. Nonetheless, I had never been able to make a meaningful connection between the conservative theology of my family and my inner turmoil. At age 19, when I found myself in the throes of suicidal depression, Christ was my last resort.
I thank God that much about my life changed as a result of that choice. I recovered from my depression, got my drinking under control, quit smoking, and straightened out my sexual life enough to begin a healthy relationship with a wonderful woman. In time this led to marrying a person who truly knows me and has supported me more than I could ever deserve. But as great as all this was, my sexual orientation did not change; I still was not then, nor am I now, a normal heterosexual male.
I wish I could be normal. I’ve tried just about everything to become that-counseling, therapy, prayer, healing-you name it. But for all my trying, all I’ve managed to do is control the behavioral manifestations of my sexual orientation. In his grace, God has given me the power to live a fulfilling heterosexual life, together with the grace to live with knowing I’m still homosexual. It hasn’t been an easy victory.
There are times when maintaining this dichotomous life is nearly overwhelming. Over the years I’ve continued to struggle with emotional attractions and attachments to other men. At times that has torn away at my insides and eroded my confidence in myself and in God. I continue to struggle with thoughts that my wife and sons would be better off if they didn’t have to deal with such a moody husband and father, especially his recurring bouts of almost suicidal depression.
Yes, mine is a victory in the sense that I have managed to maintain life, love, and fidelity in my marriage, but this victory has required a daily battle that comes at considerable psychological cost to me and to my family.
I have no regrets about my commitment to maintain faithful within a heterosexual marriage. Nothing has taught me more and been a greater source of joy than the relationships I have with my wife and sons. But I am sometimes angry that I have had to do this on my own, without the support of friends or of a caring Christian community.
Shroud of Silence
Christian literature on homosexuality is full of polarizing rhetoric. One side says that we should welcome our gay brothers and sisters into Christian fellowship; that we should recognize this is how God made them and therefore it must be how God intends for them to live. The other side recites the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, uses words like abomination, and gives us anecdotal evidence of people being changed. From my perspective, I cannot help but conclude that both positions are naive.
My position on homosexuality-while grounded in experience-seems to offend many and please almost no one. My fervent belief that God intends us to live in heterosexual and monogamous fidelity offends liberals who think I should accept and live out my supposedly God-given sexual nature. At the same time, my experience that grace abounds but doesn’t make it easy for me to live the straight life offends conservatives who preach and demand a clearer victory over my sinful nature. Rhetoric seldom provides us with an accurate representation of reality. My story is real. I believe it is shared by many more than just me but disclosed by few.
Why haven’t I told my story to my church friends? Why is my identity anonymous? Because, despite all the claims by my heterosexual friends to “love the sinner but hate the sin,” I do not trust them. I do not believe that they could know this about me and still want me to be their congregational president, their youth-group leader, their sons’ coach. Perhaps I’m hypersensitive in not trusting, but I’ve overheard too many jokes and seen too many expressions of hate directed at homosexuals to believe that these same people could be my friends if they knew.
To be honest, I myself sometimes have a hard time loving the sinner while hating the sin. Sometimes this takes the form of self-hate, but more often I struggle with hating promiscuous heterosexual men because they seem so self-justifying and because some people-even some Christians-seem so accommodating of that sin while so condemning of mine. Just last week I was talking with a Christian friend about concerns I had for members of our youth group. His response was something like, “Well, you know, with all those hormones… ” I don’t get it. Do young male heterosexuals benefit from some special dispensation? Why is their giving in to urges so understandable while my giving in to mine would be an abomination?
The debate on homosexuality is tearing at the fiber of almost every mainline Christian denomination while leaving many of us who actually are homosexual feeling misunderstood, marginalized, and ignored by the dialogue.
I am not trying to argue in favor of homosexuality but to simply acknowledge the reality of my condition. I acknowledge my homosexuality as a manifestation of my brokenness. But I do not believe I am any more broken than the person who sits in the pew next to me. The greedy, the liars, the drunkards, and the single yet sexually active heterosexuals are all like me in this brokenness.
Sin is sin and grace is grace. We are all sinners and we all-whether heterosexual or homosexual-are offered the same grace. Ours is no easy victory. It would be a whole lot easier if our churches would try to understand and accept those like me who claim victory nonetheless.