The Confusion over Sexual Abuse, Drugs, Promiscuity and Gay Orientation

This week I received an e-mail from a guy who is about 22 years old. He lives in a big city and although his father was unhappy with him being gay and wanted him to get therapy to become straight, this guy came out as a teen and became very active in one of the gay scenes in his city which included lots of partying, sex and drugs. Now he is attempting to sober up (in fact has been drug free for almost 10 months), and in getting help with substance abuse and compulsive sexual behavior, he has gotten religious. This has led to pressure to leave off being gay altogether. He wrote us at Beyond Ex-Gay asking for help with the confusion he feels right now. In my follow-up e-mail, I mostly asked questions to better understand his situation and his confusion. He reported that as a child he was sexually abused twice.

He writes,

So today I started searching on internet stuff about homosexuality and I found a lot of info, so I´m really confused. I think god has a big plan for me, but is really hard to discover what it is. I found your case in a wave of articles.

There´s a part of the Bible which says that you can´t get laid with men, such as you do with women, I think is Levitic and theres a lot of things that really freak me out.

I have to say I have a kind of sexual addiction, that I´ve been dealing with recently. Theres a mess in my head, I think you know exactly the way I feel…
There are a lot of things I have to separate… My lust, from my preference, my addiction to drugs and alcohol, my attitude with god, etc…
That´s like a summary about my life.
What do you think?

I have asked him for permission to share a little of his story and my response. I know many people who read this blog will relate to some of the themes that emerge. Below is an excerpt of what I sent.

Dear __________

You mention something very important and very painful–you were sexually abused twice as a child. I am so sorry to hear this. I know firsthand how difficult and challenging this can be. Boys are often told they must be strong, macho, so often we don’t get to tell anyone about what happened. It becomes a secret, a burden that we carry. So many people get abused as children–male and female bodied people–and much of it never gets reported. With the abuse also comes a lot of shame and confusion. We feel the shame our abuser puts on us like a mark on our souls. We can feel dirty, evil, bad, wrong. We also develop a complicated relationship with our own bodies. In fact, it has been proven that boys who were sexually abused can develop a overactive sexual hunger. They can react by having a lot of sex later in life. It is like the early sexual experiences increases our desires. Someone harmed us and we live with the effects. (You can read about some of these effects at Wikipedia)

In my case sexual abuse DID NOT make me gay or effeminate. I was already liking “girly things” and had crushes on boys and male teachers before the abuse. Perhaps this is what made me a target for the an abuser. What the abuse did was complicate my sexuality and how I felt about myself. It made me hyper sexual while also piling on shame about my sexuality. It also was complicated because the abuse in part was pleasurable–the attention, even the sex, so I felt guilty and responsible. Does that make sense? Your experience may have been different. In my case I ended up blaming myself for much of it thinking that I asked for it. I then responded by having a lot of sex with other boys during my teen years and then into my 20s (even as I tried NOT to be gay).

Turning to drugs, sex, partying can all be results of sexual abuse. Our lives can get out of control not because we are gay, but because our sexuality was tampered with. Now you are trying to clean up your life, stay clean and sober, stay out of trouble, but it feels like you have to get rid of ALL of it. You may have learned some bad habits among your friends on the party scene. You may be growing tired of all of that and want something more. A clean, wholesome life. I understand that.

The problem is that if that clean wholesome life means denying the reality that you are a guy who is mostly drawn to guys for romance and partnering, you may fall into the hands of a type of abusers once again–people trying to impose their ideas of sexuality on you. They may mean well and think they are helping you, but I have seen the results of this–many times people grow depressed, more promiscuous, lonely, confused and far from God and others. Getting help with your drug addiction and sexual compulsion is a great thing, but if it also includes trying to change your orientation, it can have terrible effects. The APA just put out a LONG report about this very thing last week stating that no one should provide these change therapies because they don’t work and often cause harm. (You can get a link to the report from Ex-Gay Watch.) If one feels that their faith and sexuality don’t line up they should attempt to live a celibate life or find a new faith community that accepts gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

The important thing right now is that you get the help you need about your primary issues. Staying drug free sounds like an important thing in your life as is having a faith life. There are also gay-affirming churches that can help you grow in your relationship with God. There is a wonderful on-line community called the Gay Christian Network) where many people are gay and Christian. You will find a lot of people who don’t want to have sex before they are in a committed relationship and even some who believe God doesn’t want them to have sex at all right now. They remain honest about their orientation and faithful to how they feel led.

We live in the world that believes that heterosexuals are more valuable than homosexuals. Anti-gay religious and non-religious spokespeople will point out to the excesses and misery of some gay people and say, “It is that way because they are gay.” never admitting that much of the pain gay people experience has to do with living double lives for fear they lose their family’s love or their jobs or their friends if they don’t hide the gay part of them. Also, There are holy and stable gay people out there who you may not have yet met. I know hundreds of them. I am not exaggerating. Many have overcome a time of extreme sex and drugs and craziness. They have dealt with the real pain in their lives and have developed deep and meaningful relationships with God.

To me Jesus means so much. I am a Christian and someone involved in a faith community. I walk in the Light before God as a gay man after nearly 20 years of trying to change for everyone else, thinking this is what God wanted. I needed to separate issues–sexual addiction, abuse, despair, gay orientation–these are all different things that may impact each other, but to treat my gay orientation like an evil disease or effect of the fall or the result of abuse only makes my problems more complicated and delays my healing. There are excellent trained therapists out there who can help you shift through these difficult issues and help you find clarity.

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This post has 8 Comments

  1. Laura on August 19, 2009 at 5:04 pm Reply

    Wonderful post!

    Could you perhaps provide the link to said APA report about the adverse effects of ex-gay “therapies?” I’d love to read it. Thanks!

  2. Sheria in SA on August 19, 2009 at 5:13 pm Reply

    Peterson, this is such a great post, have a lump in my throat… Even as a straight young woman, I hear everything you just said in your post, very true; the abuse, confusion, desperation etc. When you talk about the abuse, drugs, pain etc, it makes me so so sad that kids have to go through this, it does…I have never been sexually abused, nor have I ever SEEN drugs before in my life, but can only imagine the turmoil, the PAIN abused people go through. To the 22 year old, am sorry about your pain and shame…Be strong, have faith, hope and everything will be okay. And Peterson, you and anyone else who has suffered abuse must NEVER be ashamed!! Kids are just that, kids…kids are INNOCENT and must NEVER be corrupted or taken advantage of!! The abusers must bear the SHAME!!

  3. Paula S on August 20, 2009 at 3:17 pm Reply

    What a great article! I think you gave this young man who is trying to find true meaning in his life some very good advice. It sounds like you know what you’re talking about because you’ve had similar experiences. I hope he can find what he’s looking for.

  4. GreenEyedLilo on August 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm Reply

    I am *so* glad he found you.

    You said so many helpful things, but I want to chirp in with this. If he’s in a big city, he can probably find an LGBT Alcoholics Anonymous group. There is also Rational Recovery, a completely secular method that a couple people I know have found success with. Sex addiction and abuse recovery counseling from a LGBT-friendly perspective can also be found. There will be ads in his local LGBT paper, if there is one, or he can Google “LGBT” or “gay”, plus the name of his town, plus what he’s after.

    I’m amazed at how these ex-gay groups and their promotors so often hit where people are weak. There was a commercial for Tylenol that talks about how arthritis always hits your weak spots. Too bad you can’t make the toxic messages that people like this young man receive go away with a couple Tylenols.

  5. Muser on August 20, 2009 at 11:30 pm Reply

    Really great post. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Billy Glover on August 21, 2009 at 12:05 pm Reply

    It is a different “take” on the issue of drugs, promiscuity and homosexuality, BUT I have actually heard a black preacher start a sermon by blasting homosexuality and then blaming homosexuals for the boom in young women having so many babies out of marriage, and then he went on to almost accusing the whole congregation of being guilty of adultery-saying, as President Carter had, that you are “guilty” even if you only thought about it.

    The point is that since the 60s/hippies, etc, sex has been blamed on lots of things, and in uneducated minds, our seeking civil rights and speaking out has made us the scapegoat, even for Woodstock, etc.

  7. Gretchen Paules on August 25, 2009 at 11:05 am Reply

    The Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation is a newly formed nonprofit with a mission to help heal and support adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse worldwide. We are actively seeking adult survivors who would be willing to post a childhood photo and caption, their story, or their creative expressions to our website http://www.letgoletpeacecomein.org. By uniting survivors from across the globe we can help provide a stronger and more powerful voice to those survivors who have not yet found the courage to speak out. Together we can; together we should; together we NEED to stand up and be counted. Please visit our site for more details on how you can send us your submissions.

    Our site has been a helpful resource to many survivors who are looking for a safe and judgment-free place to share their experiences.

    Thank you for everything you do!

    Gretchen Paules
    Administrative Director
    Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation
    111 Presidential Blvd., Suite 212
    Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

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