My gender identity and sexuality were shattered and confused at a young age. My father was uninvolved and detached from my life even though we lived in the same house, and he was a person I felt I could never please. I grew up believing that I was not acceptable and could never measure up. I felt I was not good enough and was a nuisance to my dad.
My brother mercilessly bullied me and I grew up being called gay, faggot, girl, and pansy for as long as I can remember. He crushed my attempts to be one of the guys, got other boys to bully me, and told me that all my male cousins and uncles made fun of me behind my back because I was a such a sissy. Because one of my uncles did make fun of me, I believed my brother and lived in perpetual shame that I was weak and did not have what it takes to be accepted among guys, or even to be a male.
As time progressed I came to believe that to be a man meant being cruel, insensitive, and abusive. I decided that if that’s what it meant to be a man, then I wanted no part of it. Because I believed that guys in general were not safe and wouldn’t accept me, I defensively detached from them and escaped into a world of girls where I felt safe and accepted. I watched what my sister watched and read what she read. I learned to see boys from a girls perspective. When I dreamed, I sometimes was a girl and woke up disappointed because I felt that being a boy was so much harder.
Of the few close male friends that I had, these relationships turned sexual in nature around fifth or sixth grade. One of my friends discovered his older brothers stash of porn. We started looking at the videos and magazines and acting out what we had seen together. This went on for years. So my limited experience of intimacy with males was purely sexual in nature. Neurons that fire together wire together. I learned that this is what it must mean to have intimacy with another guy. When we hit puberty, we are normally attracted to the other gender because it is different and mysterious, exotic and erotic. When puberty hit for me, since I had identified more with girls than boys, boys became my "mysterious other."
I didn’t come to terms with my sexuality until I went to college with a new computer which I had all to myself. I became addicted to porn, being drawn mostly to gay porn because of my need to connect with the masculinity which I believed I was devoid of and excluded from. I was in the Christian Fellowship and loved Jesus, but I didn’t know what to do with my addiction and same sex desires. I hated men but ached to be accepted by them, and yet believed I never could be accepted by the male gender. I knew that a romantic same sex relationship was not truly what I wanted. When I’d allow myself to go down the same sex attraction road, it activated a toxic network of emotional dependence, possessiveness, idolatry, comparison, insecurity, depression,. and despair. My life was one of self-loathing but I couldn't see a way out. I wanted to die and could hardly function.
When I hit rock bottom and started opening up to my campus fellowship leaders, the Lord used them to show me that my hatred towards my father and brother were poisoning and distorting the ways I viewed men, causing me to reject them and the masculinity within myself. When I finally surrendered my hatred to God and forgave my father and brother in prayer, this tangible dark churning hole of pain I carried in my chest for a long time ended. I felt like a sword had been pulled out of my heart. I had a palpable sensation that there now shone in that very place a bright, warm, penetrating light. God started to change my heart, and I began to understand how my family members were wounded, and because of their wounded-ness, they wounded me. This insight gave me compassion for my dad and brother.
I have had seasons of deep grieving, but there were times that I felt the arms of God embrace me in the midst of it. I started to understand that my Heavenly Father is not like my dad, and the attention, encouragement, and affection I needed so desperately from my father could be met in my Father God. It hit me that Jesus is not like my brother, but He’s a brother who sacrificially loves, serves, and defends me.
STORY OF GOD
God did an amazing work in me in college, but when I graduated I thought I could continue the battle on my own. Instead, I fell back into the cycle of porn addiction, shame, and isolation for years. When I came to Westside in 2013, I was impacted by the teaching on the Story of God—God’s meta-narrative of redemption and restoration in history. I heard that my story makes sense only in context of His larger story, and that God wants to use my story, even the parts that I am ashamed of, to bring glory to Him. I realized that I didn't share my story because of shame and dropped out of a community when I was asked to share mine.
Two organizations that have been transformational for me in moving away from shame so I can tell my story have been Portland Fellowship and 423 Men. Portland Fellowship is geared to help believers work through the the roots of their same sex attraction (which include unresolved wounds and self defeating lies) and grow in healthy intimacy with God and others. In 423 Men, I’ve received a deeper level of healing by being with brothers who don’t struggle with same sex attraction, but who receive me as I am and offer to help me fight my addiction to porn. I encountered vulnerable men who honestly shared their greatest shame. God showed me that the feelings of these men did not change their worth or eradicate their masculinity. On the contrary, I respect and love them even more for their courageous transparency. I started to connect the dots... if God's love and total acceptance was true for others, it must be true for me as well.
I’m learning that If I wear a mask, the mask gets the love and I still feel alone and isolated in my shame. But, when I pull the mask off and bring my shame into the light, I feel known and validated. In my authenticity I’m met with God’s unconditional love reflected to me by my brothers. I have experienced true intimacy with my 423 brothers. It is so infinitely more satisfying than sexual encounters I previously used as a way to connect with the masculine. This newly found intimacy and sense of belonging is helping me to accept myself as a man in the same way as I am accepted by men. This process is dissolving my defensive detachment, drastically deflating same sex attraction, and is helping to kill the lure of the false intimacy which porn offers me.
Being in 423 Men is helping to free me from broken and harmful stereotypes of what a man is. Men actually CAN be good, loving, present, intentional, of strong of character, show their emotions, and can have a spectrum of careers, skills, hobbies, and body types. I am no longer disqualified. God is still leading me out of a host of insecurities. What was once a hurricane in which I was drowning no longer dominates or ravages the landscape of my life. When I relate with a man, I can now see myself in him, and him in me. There is a new identification with men, and that’s a work of the Lord! How we are made as men and women matters because together men and women reflect a fuller beauty and depth of the character of God. The fact that God created me as a man is not an accident. It is purposeful and significant and a means that He wants to express something about Himself to the world through my masculinity.
There was a time that I felt that the universe would laugh in mockery if I declared that I was a man. I now understand that the masculinity the enemy tried to shatter in me is in fact my birthright. God is redeeming and restoring me. Today I can see that God’s boundaries for my life are not limitations but protections so that I can live in freedom. Anything He asks me to surrender is only so that He can fill me with something better.
Early in my recovery, a man said he thanked God for his same sex attraction because of what the process of redemption had him. I wanted to punch this guy in the face because of how much I hated my own struggle. Over time, I’m coming to understand that the joy of knowing Jesus is truly worth any suffering that it took to bring me to Him.