When I was growing up, there was no option:
One man with one woman, in marriage, for life.
Anything else was condemned.
The thought of a man with a man was unspeakable.

I was never allowed to consider that I might desire a man.
But my feelings were insistent
And I could not make sense of them.

In grade school, they called me a sissy,
And I hated them.
In high school, they called me a faggot,
And I hated them more.
I tried desperately to prove to everyone,
Especially to myself,
That I was a good person,
Worthy of respect,
Able to be loved.

Yes, I dated girls,
Just as I was supposed to.
But I really just enjoyed their friendship.
I took to heart the warnings about sexual attraction,
That I should view all girls as sisters and treat them with respect.
I never really understood what all the fuss was about.

I was always attracted to other guys.
I thought this was friendship.
But the others never wanted to be as close as I did
And each one in turn pushed me away.

I stole forbidden glances in the dorms,
In the shower rooms,
Trying not to look like I was looking,
Grasping for scraps,
Pushing away the guilt,
Not allowing myself to believe the obvious.
To be such a person was to be filthy, despised, hated.

Yes, I dated women.
Once I even asked one to marry me, diamond ring and all.
Thank God she wanted to wait.
She didn’t know me well enough.
When she later had grown to love me, she asked again about marriage.
But by then I knew that it could not happen.
She had come in too close.
I couldn’t love her in that way.
She was a sister to me, a friend.
She could never be my lover.

My inner guilt was constant,
Though pushed deeply into denial.
My self-hatred, lurking in a fog of confusion, continually dampened my spirit.
I sought a sorry redemption in the religion that condemned me.
I would devote my life to saving the lost.
I would earn the respect of my church and family
And the eternal gratitude of those I would rescue.

I built friendships with foreign students,
Talked often with men at the mosque,
Spent a summer overseas.
My world was stretched with a richer understanding of culture
And the terrible power of religious belief.
But as I honestly tried to understand others,
The foundations of my own religion crumbled.
No one at the church could understand my struggles
Or bring order to the confusion in my mind.
Very few even tried.

An ex-gay ministry brought a new ray of hope.
At last I had found other guys like myself.
We shared our deepest personal feelings and experiences.
Here approached the level of connection with other men that I had long desired.
My feelings were labeled “emotional dependency” and shown to be destructive.
They couldn’t call it love,
Or the normal human desire for close companionship.
That my desire was spurned and left me in pain
Only confirmed that it was wrong.

Once the program was over, I was again on my own.
The support their solution demanded
Existed only in the program.
Other men had their wives and girlfriends.
I could never hope for such a deep connection with them.

A stone can float on water if supported with wood.
But when the wood becomes tired and draws away,
The stone sinks again.

I considered myself recovered and refused to give the issue any further place in my life.
I still tried to date women,
But for some odd reason, it never worked out.
They always wanted more, and I didn’t.
I again pursued ministry,
Believing that I was now stronger and healthier.
But I was still frustrated
And very much alone.

Do you know what it’s like to need someone close to you,
To want someone to understand you and love you,
To have someone touch you in the place of your deepest brokenness
And tell you that you’re all right?
Do you have any idea what it’s like to carefully build a bond with another person,
To hope that here at last is that special one who will be your closest friend
Who will stand by you no matter what happens,
With whom you can reveal the most secret, vulnerable parts of your being,
And then have that friend turn from you in confusion and disgust
Because you are both men?

You learn to hide.
You learn to choose your words carefully.
You learn to feel people out and discern their attitudes.
You learn to disregard the offhand remarks and cruel jokes
From people who consider you a friend but don’t really know you
Or realize that they are hurting you.
You develop an intuition, a sixth sense,
Like the instinct that a wild animal needs for its survival.
You learn to shut out your feelings.
You learn to tell people what they want to hear.
And you pray that you don’t lose your soul in the process.

I don’t claim to speak for God any more.
I can’t tell others what they should or should not do.
But I know that we were created to love
And that love suppressed and denied
Becomes a terrible burden to the soul.
I know that the child who is taught to hate himself
Has God’s gift of joy cruelly snatched from his hands.

Maybe you don’t understand.
Maybe you can’t.
Maybe your world is too fragile,
Your beliefs too tenuous to allow for someone who is different.
Maybe some day
I can cry out when I am wounded
And hope that you can hear me.