Exodus Asia Pacific


James Parker

I grew up believing myself to have been born gay. Why should I think otherwise? I had always, and only, had the most powerful, all-consuming, erotic attraction towards my own sex.

Teenage years were hell. I often thought of suicide, occasionally self-harmed and had a growing problem with alcohol. I lived in a rural mining community in the North of England believing I would never be accepted among my own as a gay man, particularly as I watched a male cousin some ten years older than me, now deceased from a drug overdose, struggle to find his place as a gay man in the late seventies and early eighties among a society dominated by working men's clubs.

In floods of tears I came out to my parents when 17 years old. Dad and Mum were amazing. They said they had known I was gay and then affirmed their unconditional love for me. My mates at school also told me they had known I was gay and not only honoured me for coming out but affirmed me in what they too saw and believed to be my true sexual orientation. My deepest fears rapidly subsided. I felt a freedom like I had never experienced before.

At 18, I moved South to London and fully embraced my gay identity. I wholeheartedly served the gay community and actively preached its messages of diversity and inclusion, challenging every individual and institution that dared to suggest that being gay was somehow a choice, or even wrong. This was not merely a cause of external justice for me but rather about my own place of acceptance in the world. I never felt the need to change, or to even try to. I was reconciled to having been born gay. That was that.

I was raised in a Christian family and always had a niggling desire to know more about God. I regularly went along to monthly meetings of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement while in London and learnt a lot about safe sex– but little about God. I led a very promiscuous lifestyle once I arrived in London but eventually settled down with a long-term boyfriend and we considered going abroad to find a place to get married – or at least to have a civil-partnership.

It was while in this long-term relationship that I got invited one evening to attend a series of weekly gatherings called Life in the Spirit Seminars, just like Catholics “Come Alive”. I came to a place where I made the decision to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. There were no dramatic changes overnight to my life but my then long-term boyfriend noticed that I was somehow calmer and less self-focused. He too came along to the weekly gatherings, gave his life to Jesus and was profoundly touched by the person of the Holy Spirit. We became the archetypal gay Christian couple.

However, as I began to daily develop a spiritual life, very slowly I began to reflect on my life a little more deeply. Within some months I came to realize that I had issues which affected my relationships with others, and especially with my boyfriend. I hadn't seen them before. They had always been there of course. Unbeknown to me I had been living under layers of denial which the Holy Spirit was now beginning to reveal to me.

I came to face the reality that I had a deep-rooted fear of rejection. I had commitment issues, and could easily be riddled with anxiety. I had used others for my own pleasure, and allowed them to do the same to me. Although I felt accepted by those around me, I realized that I had an innate fear of men –the real homophobia: an intrinsic fear of, and a chasm between, me and the normal heterosexual male.

The Holy Spirit led me to a place where I knew that I needed to terminate my relationship with my long-term partner, after all we were both trying to satisfy the mystery of manhood using each other when neither of us really possessed it. The Spirit then gave me the wisdom to discover where I needed to learn to forgive, and I had many people from my past, especially men, that I needed to forgive. The prayer sessions I had with other trusted Christians, where we called upon the Holy Spirit to meet with us, never focused solely on my being sexually attracted to men, but together we looked everything in the eye. This included the painful process of facing the truth that I had been consistently sexually abused by a number of men as a child over a three year period.

Much of my spiritual journey became concerned with recognizing where I had chosen, often out of misperceptions, to build walls within myself against significant others in my life, especially against my parents, siblings and other prominent people from my past.

I eventually came to realize that as a boy and as a teen I had failed to interact with other men on any significantly integrated emotional, physical and intellectual level. I had perceived myself to be rejected by men even as a small boy, had made an inner vow as a child never to deeply trust men again, and lived out of this decision throughout my formative years. Only later did I see that other males had in fact tried to reach out to me at different stages during my childhood, but I then responded out of my perceived hurt and so became more distanced from other guys until they eventually gave up trying to interact with me. This included to some degree my father and two older brothers. No wonder men and all things masculine had become a mystery to me. By the time I hit my teen years I had become obsessed within with all things masculine and yet externally I felt wholly separated from, and unable to enter, the world of my own gender. Once testosterone kicked in at puberty I was erotically craving men with every fibre of my being and began to further feed this craving with pornography and sexual fantasy, two insatiable fabrications of truth and love.

The Holy Spirit, who was forever comforting me and counseling me. He showed me that I needed to ask God for forgiveness, to forgive the same men that I had pushed away for how they eventually stopped reaching out to me and therefore abandoned me. I had to forgive myself for making an understandable decision as a child to protect my heart, but a decision that would have a devastating and stunting effect on me as a male.

Because I had failed to take my place as a man among men, I had had to find a place for myself in the world somewhere. I could not live without relationships. The Holy Spirit began to show me that as a child I had chosen to make my primary gender friendships among women. As I began to untangle the synaptic misperceptions of my place within the realm of men, so too was I led to face the searing reality that I had thrown myself wholeheartedly into a world of the feminine. I had become emotionally embroiled with everything feminine and had nothing truly masculine alongside me with which to balance this.

I came to see that I also suffered from heterophobia. I despised women on many levels, but partly for their natural ability to woo and engage every aspect of a heterosexual man, which I could not do. I found myself needing to forgive women as a whole for how they had, mostly unknowingly, enticed me into a place of false identity. They had graciously given me a place of belonging among them, and yet this I came to learn was not where I truly belonged. I needed to ask them for forgiveness for how I had taken my place among them instead of rejecting their invitation and walking away. I also needed to ask God to forgive me for my past mistakes and to then receive his forgiveness.

As I found resolution to past hurts, mostly through extending and receiving forgiveness, but also through periods of intense grieving and sorrow related to my lost childhood, changes began to take place deep, deep within me. My fears gradually subsided. My anxiety levels steadily decreased. My sense of acceptance among both men and women began to rise. A strong sense of dignity and self-respect began to take hold of me in a way I had never experienced before.

My gait changed from where I minced to being one of very deliberate footsteps.  Instead of slouching my shoulders, my posture changed and I began unwittingly to hold my head up higher. What was most noticeable to others was the change in my voice which dropped quite rapidly in my mid-twenties as I engaged with the process of forgiveness through counselling and prayer. Even more challenging than having to accept as a teenager that I was gay, I began to see that maybe, just maybe, I was never truly gay and that there was a man as real and as noble as the men I had often admired, worshipped and yearned for hidden deep within me waiting to be freed and released. No one was more shocked, frightened and eventually excited by this than me.

Unquestionably, the way I saw myself and my place among other men and women began to change. So did my close relationships. The more resolution I found within myself around my own sex, the more I stopped eroticizing and romanticizing after other men, often in that order.

For a few years I then lived chastely, engaging with healthy friendships in a way that I had failed to do during my childhood and teen years. With these years restored to me, which God had promised to do for me in Joel 2:25, restoring to me the years that the locusts had eaten, so my heart joined the world of heterosexual men. Subsequently, the ever-present erotic attraction within me towards men slowly subsided.

The more inclusive my friendships became with other men, the more I began to desire an exclusive connection that contained “mystery” to it. I began to see woman in a way I had never seen her. I began to notice her curves. I began to be caught up in her scent. I started to see her as wholly different, mysterious, and yet complementary to me. Here I was in my late twenties suddenly experiencing what many males go through in their teens. Before too long I began dating women and eventually got married and today am a father, something I was told I would never, and could never, be.