Gay Christians Seriously Contemplate Suicide. I Did. Twice.
Life Lessons of a Loving Gay Christian
Suicide among gay Christians is an American epidemic and a scar across traditionalist Christian churches. LGBT+ youth in rejecting families are up to eight times more likely to attempt suicide than are their heterosexual peers. And 85% of LGBT+ youth in evangelical families felt uncomfortable in coming out to parents (i.e., “rejecting families”).
I would know. I entertained suicide twice. Here is my story. And if you are a gay Christian considering suicide, here is your way out.
I cannot change. It would be better if I were dead.
Me (talking to myself; 1987):
I hate what has happened to our marriage. I could end my life right now.
I know how deeply and completely I love my wife. However, as long as I am a homosexual, she will not trust me. She believes I have both a character flaw and insufficient motivation to change. She sees me as a sinful person who wants “perverted sex” over being with her. She now judges my every move. Each time I look at a man, she thinks I am imagining being sexual with him. She posts (at strategic places in our home) Bible verses that condemn homosexuality. She steps into the one-on-one conversations that I am having with another man — presuming I am “coming onto him.”
She ignores all of the times in which we both enjoyed intercourse. It had truly been a pleasing experience for me. I alone know what I know to be true. She has it in her head that I fantasize about other men during our intercourse. I hate that false charge! My body enjoys the experience — and I know what I am focusing on! Furthermore, I know it used to be a pleasing experience for her — I watched her body language, which conveyed genuine pleasure. I am so frustrated with her false accusations that I could scream!
My wife has repeatedly told me: “If you truly want to change, you can.” She thinks I am not trying hard enough. Well, I know my sincere efforts to change. I went to weekly therapy with the most esteemed conversion therapist in my area for two years. He was a psychiatrist (i.e., the loftiest of all counselor titles). And he too was in a mixed-orientation marriage — with himself having had same-sex attractions. I presumed that he was changed — and that he knew how to change my orientation.
And his type of conversion therapy was the “industry gold standard.” At that time in history, he believed that if I “repaired” my “broken” relationship with my dad, I would relate better with straight males. Thus, the psychiatrist’s first “magic pill” for removing all of my same-sex attraction was to “recognize the origin of your homosexuality.” And the psychiatrist believed that my attraction was due to an insufficient father-son bonding. Hogwash! I admired my dad immensely. He attended all of my sports events, and I knew my dad supported me. There was nothing “broken” in our relationship.
Flummoxed, my conversion therapist then presumed that I must, therefore, lack masculinity. I’ll never forget his laughable suggestion: “Mike, I think you need to start hanging out with masculine men.” My response was:
“Doctor, you’ve got to be shitting me. I have exclusively hung out with masculine men ever since I can remember being a boy. I played three sports and even excelled at the macho, super-aggressive sport of football. And for goodness sakes, Doc — I was a fighter pilot! That is the peak of uber-masculinity! I do not need more masculinity. What I need is to lose my same-sex attraction.”
The good doctor was, at that point, nearly out of his “magic cure pills.” So, he referred me to the local “Homosexual Anonymous” group. The philosophy of this group was that homosexuality was an addiction. And this group believed gay men need to control their sexual addictions. And once managed, then heterosexuality would inherit the void space. Again, hogwash! Repeating aloud the mantra, “I know that I was born heterosexual and I shall return to heterosexuality,” did not diminish my same-sex attraction. Neither did confession to our group of all my private fantasies and masturbations. My same-sex attractions are, as always, alive and well.
So I ceased counseling altogether.
And my wife was disheartened. She was certain that therapy would remove all vestiges of homosexuality. Furthermore, she declared that she could not trust me until all of my same-sex attraction was extinguished.
Tragically, our relationship was not originally this way. Being husband and wife for the first eight years of our marriage was like living in Edan. We were super happy and content; we loved doing any and everything together. And we made a super parenting team! Life was blissful; our marriage was exemplary.
But then, on that fateful day, I said six words: “Honey, I think I’m a homosexual.” And with the release of that sixth word, it destroyed our marriage.
Now, we argue. A lot! And the subject is always about my homosexuality! My wife would hurl assaults at me:
“Why can’t you change? You could change if you truly wanted to! I don’t trust you anymore. I want our relationship to be devoid of all your homosexuality!”
I feel so stuck. My soul feels like it fell into a dark pit, completely black. I try to climb out, but the walls are slippery mud. I cannot get a grip. I want this depression to end, but it’s the same darkness every day. I am out of options of how to change my homosexuality. I CAN NOT CHANGE. It is impossible. I cannot give my wife the one thing that she demands.
I am without hope.
I cannot change. It would be better if I were dead.
I can never return to the love we once had.” I am so hopeless; it would be better if I killed myself.”
Me (talking to myself, 2021):
Where did the fire go? My beloved gay Brother-in-Christ no longer prioritizes me. Why?
It was only two years ago when we entered into a friendship pact together — and he became my dearest friend. I wanted to support him, defend him. Always. We talked daily. We seemed to be like-minded, knit at the soul. I thought of him as a Brother and my brother.
But then, I unexpectedly changed.
Insidiously, I began changing toward a belief that God approves of gay marriages. However, that was “a bridge too far” for my beloved friend.
His correspondence began decreasing. Foolishly, I clung on too tight and became co-dependent upon his brotherly love. I made some demands. I kept awaiting messages to me that rarely appeared. I desperately wanted to return to “the good old days.” But the reality was that I was no longer my beloved friend’s priority. And in our case, “absence did not make the heart grow fonder;” instead, it became “out of sight, out of mind.”
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months. Initiated communication from my friend grew less and less, as did his replies to my messages. And my soul grew more and more despondent. I LOVED the relationship that we once had. It now seemed impossible to return to those good old days.
I lost hope.
One day the hopelessness gripped me so strongly that it felt that I could not go on living without a return of his prioritized friendship.
So on that cold, blizzardy day in Colorado, I once again fell into the black pit. And the hole was once again everything I had hated. Dark; extremely dark. Slippery walls. Futility to climb out. Stuck.
I can never return to the love we once had. I am so hopeless; it would be better if I killed myself.”
It would be so easy to end it all. But there is a way out. You are not alone.
I have had two instances in my life in which suicide was an option. And in both cases, it involved a relationship that was impossible to restore. Furthermore, both suicidal ideation was preceded by a deep, dark depression. A blackness that was so complete that I lost all hope.
Not all suicides, of course, follow my pattern of depression. For many gay Christians, suicide’s common ingredient is something known as “learned helplessness.” Psychologists have discovered that whenever a person cannot attain what he wants, he gives up hope. Such a person disregards the “escape hatch” provided to him. And the person has indeed learned that his situation is helpless. Hopeless. He firmly believes that he cannot change the existing conditions.
Gay Christians are especially prone to learned helplessness. And the suicide rate among gay evangelical Christians is not only a national epidemic — it is a blight against conservative Christians.
Allow me to explain.
A young gay male may feel uneasy about his same-sex attractions (sometimes discovered as early as age four, but inevitably found with the onset of puberty). He learns from his church and his family that “homosexuality is a sin.” The young lad believes he is a sin. He believes God hates him — for as long as he still experiences attraction to other males. Thus, the young gay Christian thinks he will be rejected by everyone to whom he comes out (which, sadly, is often true). Hence the gay Christian becomes ashamed to be himself. He hates his homosexuality. And losing his same-sex attraction (and possibly becoming straight) becomes his “lifebuoy” of hope in which to cling.
Like a man adrift at sea, the gay Christian believes “God is big enough” to change his orientation. So the gay Christian prays for change. Constantly. But no change is forthcoming from God. So, the gay Christian attempts conversion therapy — believing what his church says will happen: “change is possible.” And the treatment proves impotent; so does the support ministries. Likewise, repression, confession, and the power of positive thinking do not eliminate his same-sex attraction.
So the gay Christian learns he is helpless to effect any change in his orientation. And hopelessness becomes his belief.
And suicide seems like the only proactive step that the gay Christian can take, to escape from his private hell.
Furthermore, just as depression and learned helplessness are often precursors to suicidal thoughts, so is bullying. Here is a horrific statistic to drive the point home: LGBT youth are 91 percent more likely to be bullied than their straight peers. Let me say that again, for emphasis: for every one straight youth who is bullied, nine gay youths have likewise been bullied. Horrible!
Bullying can come in the form of physical battery. Or, bullying may appear through verbal taunting or threats of harm. And bullying can occur through cyber messaging: social media “outing” a gay youth or describing him as perverted (lesser than) to all of his social peers.
Furthermore, the bullied gay Christian may experience depression, which only blackens his hope. And the gay Christian might inevitably experience learned helplessness. He is powerless to change his sexual orientation. He cannot escape the bullying (which, tragically, often occurs in his church setting).
All hope is lost.
And suicide becomes the gay Christian’s only option to take control over his destiny. And in one unspeakably disastrous moment, he takes his own life.
Suicide among gay Christians simply ought not to be. Gay support groups do exist, and they provide commonality and strength in numbers. Medication for depression exists, and it can be extremely effective (ask me). And gay Christians can still counter learned helplessness. Gay Christians can potentially change schools or churches to seek protection from authorities. And gay Christians can move into gay supportive environments — even if it means bucking your teachers, pastors, and parents.
You are not alone. You may call a suicide prevention hotline.
Or you may contact me: email@example.com. I no longer charge money for supporting gay Christians. Nope. Instead, I offer supportive friendship. I would love to hear your story — and to marvel at your amazing grit and character. You deserve to be treated with the highest dignity and regard.
After all, that is exactly how Jesus treats every human life.
Dr. Mike Rosebush is one of the writers for “Backyard Church” and the founder/author of GAYoda. He has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor with 45+ years of mentoring thousands of gay Christian men. Read the complete set of articles here.