No Easy Victory
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—and I'm 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 usually 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 sinfulness. 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 was, and still 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 about 9 or 10 years old, at church summer camp. At that time, I had no idea what sex was, but I was nonetheless aware of an overwhelming emotional attraction I had developed to another boy of my age. It was an experience that would repeat itself over and over again. 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 came to nothing but teenage friendships, but in a couple of instances, they did take on some physical expression. The physiological and emotional drive to be intimate with another person of my own sex was almost overwhelming. So was the guilt associated with my succumbing to this drive.
While my high school peers were bragging about their heterosexual exploits, I was trying desperately not to have the homosexual encounters that my nature inexorably seemed to draw me toward. For all of us, admittedly, adolescence carries some degree of alienation (from others and from self), but for me the sense of aloneness and self-loathing was almost more than I could bear. I developed a variety of "coping mechanisms"—alcohol, drug abuse, heavy smoking, and forced heterosexual encounters—but they proved ineffective in distracting me from my urges. By the time I was a high school senior, I was frequently depressed and given to serious thoughts of suicide.
A Strange Normality
At 19, in the summer between my first and second year of college, I became a Christian. Obviously, given my Christian family background, I had known about Christ and the offer of salvation 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. But at 19, when I found myself in the throes of suicidal depression, Christ seemed to be my best choice of 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 (eventually), and straightened out my sexual life enough to begin a healthy relationship with a wonderful woman. In time this led to my marriage to a person who knows 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, "normal."