Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My so-called (ex-gay) therapy

I need to finish reading for my seminars. I am a graduate student after all.

Instead, all I can think about is the article I read here on "My So-Called Ex-gay Life."

I lived this.

My Dad sat me down, and told me that he'd done some research, and that same-sex attraction was probably a result of a number of things including his relationship with me. It was by Dr. Nicolosi, a pioneer in the theory of reparative therapy. I read the book, and it told me that my sexual attractions were a fragmentation of my desire for wholeness and masculinity. I was focusing on one characteristic of another person, and because of that was sexualizing it. If I could have a fulfilling non-sexual relationship with a same sex partner, my feelings would diminish.

I told my Bishop a few months before that I was gay. I wanted to go to BYU, but didn't know if I should because I didn't think they would accept me if I were gay. It was 2001.

As I drove across town to meet with a therapist, I wondered what he'd see. He asked me about my parents. About my Mom. And then about my Dad. He then told me he was dyslexic, and that he overcame that challenge to get a license as a therapist. He told me I was likely gay because of my relationship with my Dad.

My Dad was the reason? That upset me. My Dad had been bishop, and while at times he had been absent, I felt horrible thinking that because of how I was raised I was gay. When I went back to see the Bishop, I told him I didn't want to see the therapist anymore. He said I could see another therapist if I wanted, and he'd still pay for it.

So I drove again across town, in a different direction, to start therapy. What did I think about me being gay? I told her I didn't know why I was gay. I had read that sometimes people had repressed memories of abuse, and maybe that was why. Maybe I remembered something. She told me that maybe that was it. We did hypnotherapy.

Maybe I just wanted attention or affection from men. Other cultures were much more tolerant of same-sex affection, and maybe I just was reflecting my need for that. It didn't mean that I was gay.

At the same time, I came out to my guidance counselor and two of my teachers. One of them gave me a book about a Christian minister who got married even though he thought he was gay, and how he had to fantasize about guys to have sex, and how he ended up getting divorced. I didn't want that to be me.

 One night while I was thinking about this, my Mom knocked on my door and asked what I was doing. It was 2 AM, and I was up late at the computer, reading about homosexuality. I knew I was gay. I didn't know what to say. The next day I went into their room, they sat me down, and I told them I was gay.

A few months later, I had switched therapists. After reading Nicolosi's book, I decided to try it. Maybe I could fix my broken Dad syndrome or my deficiencies and become straight. Or maybe it was a problem with my Mom?  Maybe I could become less gay. Maybe it was possible. In therapy, I read some articles about homosexuality being from a triangle relationship with my parents. If I could someone cross over some bridge that I had missed as a child and get close to my Dad, I could undo my unwanted same-sex attraction. When my Dad offerend to take me to Evergreen, I said yes. I read their website, and he said he knew someone who used the program.

We went in September of 2001. We had to drive because it was just after Sep. 11 and the planes had been grounded. When I got to the conference in the Joseph Smith Memorial building, I was intimidated. I was meeting a lot of gay Mormons. I wondered what they were like. I listened to the panels attently, hearing testimonials about the horrors of the gay lifestlye. Endless hookups, infidelities, diseases. It sounded awful.

My Dad bought me a few books, including the workbook for men. I hardly cracked it open at first. What was the root of my attractions? I didn't know. Was I molested? Having a problem in my same-sex relationship? Broken from faulty parenting?

Finally, something told me that I needed to leave home. I went to BYU-Idaho, books hidden carefully so no one would see, and began to analyze and try to get to the bottom of my same-sex attractions. What caused them? Could the atonement heal me?

I read about sexual abuse, and healing from it. I couldn't remember, but it seemed like maybe it had happened. I came out to a friend. I told him I struggled with same-sex attraction. I went to religion classes and spent long hours in the chapel on campus, or in the gardens, thinking, praying, trying to understand how God could help me overcome my same-sex attraction. It was lonely, but luckily I had some good dormmates. That should help me get over my deficiency in male relationships, right? I spent as much time as I could with everyone. I bonded. I wanted to be like the rest of the guys.

I went on a mission, like all my friends did. I told my leaders that I struggled with same-sex attraction, but they told me that because I hadn't acted on it (I had held a guy's hand, but that was it) I could go. I was elated. I got to the MTC. More same-sex relationships, healthy, non-sexual ones, as I'd been told I should seek from Evergreen and Nicolosi, that would help heal my brokenness.

I was doing fine. But then it got to me. What if I felt something for my companions? I felt attractions. Was I a sinner? Was I evil? I was trying wasn't I. I wrote a letter to the First Presidency. I remember learning that it was advised against, but I wanted assurance that I was ok to be a missionary. They wrote my back and told me that "any tendencies can be overcome through the atonement of Christ. After an interview with my branch president, I was clear to go on a mission.

I met my Mission President. He seemed great. I was excited. I was learning Spanish. I was a missionary. I prayed, I worked hard. I felt guilty breaking rules. I started "slipping up" thinking about guys, and I told my mission president. I ordered books on compulsive sexual behavior. I met a therapist in the mission field who told me that "Jesus may have struggled with the same temptation." I was in awe. I'm sure my companion was freaked out by the situation, even though he didn't know what was going on.

I eventually told another missionary I was gay. I was in the gay district of Dallas, and I was worried that it would influence me. I say guys holding hands down the street. I even ran into a gay pride parade. I prayed to God to get me out of there. I knew that there were gay members of the church, and I wanted to reach out to them, but didn't know how.

I got my wish. I got sent to Nacogdoches Texas, and I tried to be as strictly obedient as I could. I prayed every night that God would someday let me get married. I prayed in my closet for a long time, pouring my heart out to God to take this away. I wanted to be whole. If Jesus could heal the sick, he could heal me.

I came home from my mission. I transferred to BYU in Provo. I had the chance to start a new life, to get married. And I did.

I went out every weekend with girls, trying to show God that I was trying. Why wasn't it working? Maybe I just hadn't found the right girl. I went back to Evergreen, and I interrogated the people there about getting married. Could they have a honeymoon? One of them told me a story about how nervous he was, but that he prayed and that everything worked fine.

As I was leaving, I met a girl at the conference and asked for her number. Her brother was gay, and she thought it would be good for me to try to date a girl. I was excited to have my first kiss, and first girlfriend. But it didn't feel right somehow. And I knew she wanted to get married. I didn't.

I dated a few other girls, but never seriously. It never got to the girlfriend stage or I broke it off right after it did.

And then I met her, the girl I married. It was the best date I'd ever been on. We were so cute, someone bought us a fried ice-cream for free. I took her on a second date on the back of my scooter. I spent every day with her. She asked why we weren't dating yet. I said, well we should, shouldn't we? I felt like this could be it. This could be the one.

If you've read the blog you'll know the rest of that story. I got married, I got divorced. I came out to my family. I thought that I had everything that I wanted. I was married. My goal, my dream, was coming true.

But I ask myself, a year later, so what happened?

There's no real easy answer. But one night, around Christmas of 2010, I had a dream about a guy. It wasn't the first time, but it wasn't something that happened all that often.I knew that wasn't that big of a deal , but I was worried. So I started looking on the internet for resources for married gay men. I started posting, chatting, I read Bill Bradshaw's work. I found blogs, I read stories. It was the anti-ex gay cure I needed. I read testimonials, and realized I'd been lied to. That wasn't science. Those stories of a cure often ended in failure, divorce. And I was scared.

And I realized, that I was still gay. My reparative therapy had never worked.

So what was I supposed to do about it? I didn't want to go to church that day. I didn't know what to feel. I felt so disillusioned by everything. I felt so lost. Who was I? Why was I doing this to our marriage? Why was I doubting my faith?

I wrote her a letter. I didn't know what to say. I was freaked out. I told her I was still gay. I told her I needed therapy, I'd been really depressed. She agreed, even though we were worried what they would say.  I was scared they'd tell me I should accept myself as gay. I cried. And cried. And cried. I came out to a few friends at school. They were blown away. Wasn't I Mormon? And married? My wife asked me if I wanted a divorce. At first I said no.

 And then I told her I realized I didn't feel for her what she felt for me. She was silent. An hour went by. And then she cried. I rarely saw her cry. I rarely saw her this upset, and it tore me up. A few weeks later, I told her that I thought we should get divorced. The next day I told her I wasn't ready for that. That I needed more time. But she was. It was over. She left a few weeks later. I didn't know what to do.I was so lost. I thought about suicide. No one would accept me

Except that they did. No, my bishops and my parents didn't accept my decision or the fact that I was gay. But my brothers and most of my friends did. Even my wife did, as much as she could.

Holding onto the hope that I could change held me back. I was fine being in the church, I was fine getting married, I was fine doing everything until I realized, I couldn't change. I needed to live with that. And it was hard. Really hard to give up that dream. To let that part of myself die. The false self.

But what's happened since has been amazing. I came out on National Coming out day on Facebook. I started blogging. I started meeting people. And talking. I read a book called The Velvet Rage. It talks about overcoming the shame of being a gay man in a straight man's world. It moved me. I realized I had been shamed my whole life for being different. I'd been shamed even by therapists and church and family, people who I went to for help, just because I was different.

Things started falling into place. I met someone. I fell in love.I'm so happy. I have felt so much pain for so long, that to have a relationship with someone who cares, that I can give myself to, is amazing. I care about my ex-wife so much. But as hard as I tried I could not be the person that she needed me to be. And she couldn't be the person I needed. We had to accept that and move on. It was hard. It was painful, and agonizing, and lonely sometimes.

But I made it. And I think she will too. At least I hope so.

I unequivocally stand against reparative therapy. It has done untold harm to not just me but to my family.  But there is hope. It doesn't break you, it just makes you feel you are broken. You have to reject that. To survive. And you have to reject all the other people who tell you you are less than, or broken. You have to know that you were always whole. And that God loves you for who you are. I once prayed in agony, and felt stronger than I ever have that it was ok that I was gay. I believe Him. And I trust Him. And I know that it does get better. But it only gets better if you reach out and get the right help. Going to the wrong sources only makes it worse.