Why Did You Even Try to Change?

Ex-gay survivors have many reasons for wanting to change from gay to straight. Some we have never fully articulated, but recently I got to understand yet another reason why I so desperatly sought to change my sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

During this current trip to Europe, I had a long conversation with a conservative Methodist woman from the US (who now lives abroad). I have thought long and hard about the ecounter and after journaling about it some, I decided to write the essence of it here.

After sharng with this women in detail my ex-gay saga–the steps I took, my heart to please God, and the damage the process caused emotionally, psychologically and spiritually–the woman proceded to tell me that she felt the scripture was clear on the matter and that we should not give God a timeline of when we want him to work. She then asked,

But why did you even try to change? Perhaps it was God’s will for you to bear
the burden of your gay feelings as your daily cross. We all have burdens to bear.

ME: Do you realize what you are saying? That I would go all of my life without the prospect for a companion or lover or partner. That I would even have to be concerned about having a male roomate because I might fall in love with him. Do you understand how hard such a life would be?
SHE: God can always do a miracle!

ME: Like change me? See change is essential. If not, you will live your life shut off from intimacy. Look at the Catholic Church and what has happened with so many of the priests.

SHE: I don’t want to look at the Catholic Church.

ME: You need to. They suppressed their sexuality and it came out all twisted. I grew up Catholic and some of the most bitter men I ever met were priests.

You are a divorced heterosexual woman. You may never remarry, but you always have the hope that you will find a nice man and settle down. If not, you can always get a roomate to be a companion to you. But you will deny me that hope and insist that I live a celibate life without a partner, unless of course God does a miracle. I sought God for nearly two decades for that miracle and it nearly destroyed me.

Jesus spoke about this very thing when he condemned the Pharisees saying,

You put burdens on men’s backs that you will not bear yourselves and make them
twice the sons of hell as youselves.

I finally suggested we pray together because I found her words abusive, and we were not getting anywhere. Also, I knew I had to stop the dialogue before it got any further and ugly. I found it difficult because I felt she wasn’t hearing what I had been saying and instead she said many of the same things I told her that I had told myself for years.

We prayed, but I left haunted by the memory of years of hoping, longing, praying for change, knowing instinctively that if it did not come, (and for most I met, it never did) then I looked at the prospect of a lonely lonely life.

This post has 14 Comments

  1. Daniel C on June 3, 2007 at 8:27 pm Reply

    What is it that make people so sure that they know the intentions of god?
    They are so focused on what the bible says about sex, but it’s like that perhaps have 3-4 verses in the bible.
    But what the bible says about rich people, what every prophet is condeming the way you treat the poor, does seem to concern them litle.
    What if the right wing “christian” started to be a litle more “christian” they perhaps shouldnt support massive killing, Bush, povertry and the rich people getting richer. What is it with the queer issue that makes it the most important thing in the universe.

    Well, the bible isn’t even very family-friendly. For one thing, kings etc. had alot of wifes throught the bible. Jesus remained unmarried. And almost nowhere the important of a good family-life is being proclaimed. This was not the big issue when the bible was written. It is the big issues for the right wing christians today (everywhere, not only in US). Why? I am no bible fan, but sometimes I wonder if we read the same book.

    Perhaps they havent read it

  2. Ally on June 3, 2007 at 9:01 pm Reply

    My heart literally aches over all this, Peterson. I’ve been having a bit of a hard time internally lately, and I so thank you for the reminder I desperately needed of the twisted path I led myself down. No more of that…ever.

    May we all be set free from these kinds of hauntings.

  3. alex resare on June 3, 2007 at 9:11 pm Reply

    First of all: I am so sorry you had to meet this woman. Secondly: I am glad this woman get to meet you. I am sure she will remember you for a very long time.

    Sadly my experience from brothers and sisters like that is that their history has made them hardened so it is possible she have no idea how she have hurt you and possibly many others. I am sure she did what she thought was the most loving and caring thing.

    Even if I am very sad that you have the experience you have I think it some sort of wierd blessing as well. She might never get to where you are. In my experience sadly people talking about what crosses others should bear often ends up very alone.

    Thirdly: Peterson my friend. I am so happy you are you. You face darkness, you are not afraid of foggy twilights and you spread light. That is a blessing given to only a few.

    I hope you can feel free and sense some of the happy warm feelings the rest of us have for you and that you can put this event behind you. But if it sticks with you for a while it is to say the least understandable.

  4. Michael on June 3, 2007 at 10:33 pm Reply

    Peterson, I think you are right on with the pharisee reference and daniel c is also – so much of modern day so-called Christianity is focused on small issues that men in positions of power have twisted and used to promote their own agendas.

    The fact of the matter is that the Bible isn’t clear at all on homosexual orientation and relationships. The Bible seems to condemn any kind of abusive sex, which is pretty much all same-sex intercourse was back then, but the Bilble may also contain passages that show caring same-sex (possibly homosexual) relationships, such as David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and the Centurion whose slave boy Jesus healed.

    As Daniel C points out, there is a lot of passages that Evangelicals and other anti-gay Christians seem eager to avoid, including Paul’s admonition to not marry if possible and of course the Epistles that tell women to be silent in church, yet look at all the ministers who promote marriage and the female Evangelists. It’s simple hypocriscy.

    The woman you met really had no idea of what she was saying -the true implications of it – and that’s the sad part. It’s reflective of many modern Christians who use the religion as a way to be exclusive and an “in-group” and either don’t care to think it through or are afraid that thinking about it all will have them excluded as well.

  5. Steve Boese on June 4, 2007 at 4:47 am Reply

    For some of us, the effort to change, or to try to be content while pretending to be straight, has been an essential step, a season we needed to spend in order to emerge into the next season.

    For me, discovering that I was trying to deny something that God had intended for me and created within me changed so much. Psalm 139 became a huge comfort — that I had been fearfully and wonderfully made — as the ultimate reminder that I didn’t need to remodel God’s creation (me) to please anyone else.

  6. Anonymous on June 4, 2007 at 9:48 am Reply

    Many blessings in your direction, Peterson.

  7. Anonymous on June 4, 2007 at 10:56 am Reply

    Peterson, this was clearly a difficult interaction, but I’m glad you did it. While you don’t think she has come to see an alternate understanding of things, perhaps the seed has been planted….

    Then, too, there is your recount of it in your blog, which will also be read by others, and which might also provide some food for thought.

    Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks!

    — Tom D.

  8. disputed mutability on June 4, 2007 at 1:52 pm Reply

    Hi Peterson,

    I’m sorry you had such a bad experience with that woman…it doesn’t sound like she spoke very humbly or sensitively.

    I’m curious as to whether you feel that everyone who disagrees with you about what Scripture teaches on this subject is an abusive Pharisee. If not, how do you distinguish between them?

    It’s just interesting to me in a self-conscious kind of way…when we spoke, I didn’t feel our conversation was abusive or bad, but I don’t know how it felt to you. Granted, we didn’t exactly go where your conversation went with this woman, but we could have, and if pressed, I would probably have had to give roughly the same answers she did, although hopefully a bit more diplomatically. 🙂

    peace,
    dm

  9. John on June 4, 2007 at 2:30 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing this difficult, frustrating conversation, Peterson. It helps me to read how you handle such a conversation and the advice the commentators have given. I have conversations like this all to frequently with my immediate family–all of whom are ardent evangelical Christians in rural Texas.

    My interest was particularly drawn to the woman’s comment about “isn’t is possible that God gave you homosexuality as your cross to carry every day.” I’ve heard this thought a lot. I think the source of the confusion lies in equating all human suffering with the will of God. It seems this woman’s conservative Christian response to homosexuality is sort of ascetic. I think you were right to challenge her to consider other difficult romantic situations and ask her to evaluate whether such painful scenarios are the “will of God.”

    Thank you for talking with the woman. All too often I can feel comfortable among my friends and (more liberal) extended family members and forget that many, many people around me oppose the love I have for my partner. Moreover, many oppose that love and baptize this opposition in the name of God.

    There is so much work to do to reach our friends, family, and neighbors who believe differently; I applaud your effort with this lady. I hope your conversation added some discomfort to her convictions–discomfort that will cause her to revisit the conversation and rethink her position long after you guys talked.

    See you in Irvine!

  10. Bruce Garrett on June 4, 2007 at 8:39 pm Reply

    What is it that make people so sure that they know the intentions of god?

    Conceit.

    This has been another edition of Simple Answers To Simple Questions…

  11. Mi Lucha Interior on June 6, 2007 at 3:45 pm Reply

    Hi Mr Toscano,

    First of all, thanks for expressing your feelings and sharing your journey on your blog. I have to say that your blogs particularly push me to stand firm in what I believe, to research more in depth, read and inform myself, otherwise you have, i have to recognise it, very good arguments against whatever my own journey of faith is so far. We are of course standing in two different directions.

    After reading your post, I just wonder why there is such a need to oppose so strongly to the idea of change? It might not have been your case, and it’s absolutely valid, however, meeting Jesus Christ, isn’t it all about change?

    If we want to stay exactly where we met him, it would be a bit strange isn’t it?

    I found your answer very interesting, and made me think of Luther’s “homo encorvatos in sei” as a definition for -you know- (my latin is not that good). It’s all about you, your life, you having a companion or lover, your rights … it’s all about how hard life would be for you. It looks not really Christ-centered, but Peterson-centered.

    Kind regards,

  12. Peterson Toscano on June 6, 2007 at 4:54 pm Reply

    disputed mutability, if someone disagrees with me I immediately condemn them to a lesser known level of Dante’s Inferno where they will be forced to sit on a sticky floor in front of a fuzzy black and white TV watching reruns of the dinosaur Barney with a demon forcing them to sing along in a different key. If they are especially contrary to my way of thinking, there may be a pesky fly to harass them for eternity .

    Actually I do see the conversation that you and I shared this spring very differently from the one I had with the woman that I wrote about. You listened to me. You heard me. You considered what I had to say. I listened to you. Considered what you had to say. I knew going in that you and I would not agree on many things, but you showed respect for my journey and the processes that I have taken that has brought me to my present understanding. You didn’t bother to tell me things I already know.

    The key difference I see between Jesus in the Gospels and the Pharisees of his day is that Jesus is concerned with God and people above everything else. The Pharisees care about rules and laws first and foremost. Jesus wants to make sure everyone is in right relationships with each other and God. The Pharisees demand unquestioning obedience to the lifestyle they claim is the only one that God had established for man.

    People who disagree with me are not Pharisees. I learn the most from the people with whom I disagree and who disagree with me. But the mutual respect and understanding is essential.

    Disputed Mutability, I look forward to the opportunity to further discussions with you. I appreciate your integrity and thoughtfulness.

    mi lucha interior,
    Exactly, it wasn’t Jesus who was calling me to change in the ways that I sought change. It was man. It was man who insisted that heterosexuality is far superior to homosexuality and that my life would be easier and richer and more comfortable if I were just normal. I believed that. I denied the reality that for me being same-sex attracted is not abnormal, sinful or wrong. It is just different from most of the people around me.

    Knowing in my heart that it is not good for man to be alone and that it is better to marry than to burn, I sought the promised change that my leaders insisted was within my grasp. Even after I realized that change was not possible, I still sought to hand over my sexuality to God and do everything in my power (and God’s power that I believed was available to me) to be faithful and obedient to the teachings given to me.

    Being pragmatic I understood that to continue as an ex-gay would result in great great harm to my soul and mind my relationship with God and would ultimately end in suicide.

    mi lucha, that is my story and the story of many people I have met. If you are happy as an ex-gay and it is what you feel is best for you and you are not at risk of hurting others in your life with this choice, than I have nothing against you. For me such a lifestyle was not possible or healthy and not what I understand to be God’s will for my life.

  13. Bruce Garrett on June 6, 2007 at 9:33 pm Reply

    I found your answer very interesting, and made me think of Luther’s “homo encorvatos in sei” as a definition for -you know- (my latin is not that good). It’s all about you, your life, you having a companion or lover, your rights … it’s all about how hard life would be for you. It looks not really Christ-centered, but Peterson-centered.

    I think you’ve just defined the very act of giving testimony as something that is innately not Christ-centered. Because what you’re saying about Peterson would be true after all, if he was telling everyone about how he had changed and was now a happy heterosexual or comfortably ex-gay. It would still be all about him, his life, having a wife, or the possibility of one…how much better life is as an ex-gay, or how hard the struggle to be righteous is, but nonetheless how important. It’s all about Peterson either way after all isn’t it?

    So instead of giving testimony, we should all just shut up. Because speaking the truth of our lives to others is an act that is essentially self centered and ungodly. Thank you for clearing that up.

  14. Mi Lucha Interior on June 7, 2007 at 9:49 am Reply

    Bruce,

    I guess you did not get my intended point. My point is that I prefere to read about God’s works in the life of other people as a testimony, and if there are changes, because of this particular intervention of the new creation in the present world, then Praise the Lord!

    Peterson,

    Thanks for answering my comment. I think I understand very well your situation. When you were seeking for “change”, your motivation was basically the human/social pressure on you. And of course, that’s understandable that you would have to come to terms somehow that the motivation was actually wrong. Am I mistaken in my understanding of your words?

    I also know many others (who once identified themselves as gay) that have chosen the narrow path of growing into true masculinity, as a process taking often time (even decades).

    Obviously, we are in different theological and philosphical grounds, still we succeed to have a decent conversation. Quite “emergent”. Greetings,

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