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I Kept Changing My Sexual Identity

Warning: you may discover it’s time for you to change!

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Conversion therapy did not diminish my same-sex attraction. And yet, my sexual identity has changed from straight, to homosexual, to bisexual, to same-sex attraction, to celibate, to gay, to affirming. Let’s examine the distinctive of the various sexual identities.

Overview

For decades, scientists, counselors, and pastors presumed a gay man could change his sexual orientation and become straight. Fifty years of failed sexual orientation change efforts have solidified the notion that one’s sexual orientation is generally enduring.

However, one’s sexual identity is intensely personal and prone to revision.

By definition, a man’s “sexual identity” is how he thinks of himself in terms of who he is romantically (e.g., longing) or sexually (e.g., erotically) attracted. The man then provides a word or phrase that best describes his own perception of his sexual identity. Examples of one’s sexual identity include straight, homosexual, bisexual, same-sex attraction, gay, affirming, and more.

There presently is great debate within Christianity regarding the exact term one should use when describing his sexual identity. For example, should a Christian man publicly call himself “gay?” Some Christian denominations say, “heck yeah,” while most evangelical denominations edict, “hell no!”

This article speaks of my own life experiences. I was unable to eliminate my same-sex attraction despite profoundly dedicated attempts. That said, my life has equally demonstrated a constant progression of self-chosen sexual identity terms. I invite you to review my life and glean whatever you can regarding the importance of accurately naming your sexual identity. Please appreciate that this article is intended for gay Christians. I do not want to change you — but that might happen if you continue to read!

Changes in My Sexual Identity

My own sexual identity has continually been revised. What follows is the true story of how my sexual identity has evolved over the 68 years of my life.

Straight (30 years; 1953–1983). Growing up in my family of two male siblings and dominant masculine culture, I presumed I was just like all other males I knew. I was “normal” — since all of the males I knew seemed to be just like me. We all considered ourselves to be “young men” who would one day enact the ways of “men:” find a woman, marry a woman, enjoy sex with our woman, have kids, and be the leader of our respective households. I was certain that such would be my destiny.

Before being age thirty, I gave absolutely no thought to defining my sexual identity. The term “straight” was not familiar in my era and culture. Rather, a male assumed himself to be “normal” unless he engaged in fellatio or anal intercourse with another man. Such men acquired sexual identity terms that are too derogatory to repeat in this article.

Oddly, my daily arousal in the open showers of men’s locker rooms, followed by masturbating to homoerotic thoughts, did not deter me from believing that I was “normal.” After all, I never actually engaged in fellatio or anal intercourse with males. My sexual identity was secure.

That is until I met my first homosexual man.

Homosexual (20 years; 1984–2004). At age 31, I had to professionally counsel a man who wanted to leave the Air Force discretely. I asked this man why he believed he needed to leave immediately. After an awkward silence, he confessed to me: “Because I cannot shower with the other men.” My heart froze as I, too, had years of fear of getting an erection in the open showers. So, I asked the man, “What does it mean to you that you cannot shower with other men?” The man presumed I was an idiot, so he spelled it out for me: “It means I am a homosexual.” Completely stunned, I then asked the man, “How do you know you are a homosexual?” The man described his longing to lie in bed with a man, feel his body, and engage in a homoerotic activity. I gaped in shock. I, too, had always had those same sexual desires! Thus, I suddenly realized that I, too, must be a “homosexual.”

For the next 48 hours, I was in an identity crisis. A mental fog — wanting to find any other sexual identity that was not so “loathsome” — yet inwardly knowing that “homosexual” was indeed accurate. I kept thinking to myself,

“So there is a name for people like me. And the name is ‘homosexual.’ I am a homosexual. I am a homosexual. I am a homosexual.”

I needed to confide in someone safe — someone who would affirm me in my identity crisis and give me hope for my future. Thus, I came out to my beloved wife of eight years.

And that did not go as presumed.

I naively thought my wife would respond with a soothing message of:

“Oh, honey, this admission doesn’t change anything. I know you love me, and I will always love you. Together, we can work this out.”

Instead, my wife responded with horror and disdain! She demanded I receive professional counseling to remove all of my homosexuality so that our marriage could return to “normal.”

So, therefore, during this era, my sexual identity was “homosexual.” I viewed that as depravity, a horrible stigma, and something in which to be deeply ashamed. My “homosexual identity” meant that I must stay closeted and devote every effort to change. So, I underwent conversion therapy. I attempted to repress all attractions to men. I confessed all of my homoerotic fantasies to my “accountability partner.” I theologically focused upon how God had created me as a straight male. I believed the teaching that something had gone wrong in my attachment to my dad — resulting in me needing to “repair” my lack of masculinity.

However, there was a problem. I already was very masculine and enjoyed a healthy relationship with my dad.

So, I came to view my sexual identity of homosexuality as a “broken” condition. I was a “lesser than.” I prayed for change; I repented; I anticipated change. But my same-sex attraction remained as always: predominant and enduring.

Bisexual (6 months; 1987). For a very brief period in my life, I wanted to believe that I was bisexual and not a homosexual. I had been living in shame ever since I acquired a sexual identity of homosexual. Such an identity induced feelings of embarrassment, self-hatred, and inferiority — emotions that I had not experienced when presuming to be straight. So, I wanted to return to being “partially straight” and being more acceptable to myself. Thus, I desperately wanted to embrace a bisexual identity.

Accordingly, I read lots of published articles and some books on bisexuality. The more I read, the more discouraged I became. The descriptions of bisexual men were simply not who I was. True, I was able to experience romantic attractions and erotic pleasure with my wife. But when I was fully honest with myself, I came to see the truth that such longings and natural erotic sensations toward women writ large simply did not exist within me. Try as I might, the bisexual identity simply was not accurate for me.

Later in life, I would learn about the concept of gay men being attracted to only one woman (i.e., their wife). I then could understand that such was true for me. And if I was a “one-woman man,” then I was not truly bisexual. Alas, to my disappointment, I returned to my original sexual identity: homosexual. Such resignation made me feel sad, defeated. At that time in my life, I was aware that I could not extinguish my attraction to men. And there was something very distasteful in accepting a homosexual identity once again. Sad.

Same-Sex Attraction (15 years; 2004–2019). In 2005, a fellow therapist asked me if it would be more helpful to conceive of myself as someone who “struggles with same-sex attraction” rather than a “homosexual.” As I pondered this change in sexual identity, I could feel myself becoming stronger in my self-esteem. “Struggling with same-sex attraction” seemed nobler — as though I was on a godly campaign to be holy amidst my broken nature.

Furthermore, by focusing upon my same-sex attraction as a “thorn in my side,” I became no different than the iconic apostle Paul. He, too, had some annoying part of his humanness that God would not remove. Accordingly, instead of feeling like a pervert, I was now simply one Brother whose thorn was the same in substance as “every man’s battle.”

Thus, I liked my new sexual identity. Such an identity would last for the next 15 years. And today, there are still scores of men who prefer “I struggle (or experience) same-sex attraction.” Such an identity seemed to be something in which I could satisfactorily live the rest of my life. Since it was true that I was unable to extinguish my same-sex attraction, then learning to be content with the unwanted attraction seemed like a holy pursuit.

Furthermore, the term “gay” had a connotation of perversion (back when I suffered from internalized homophobia). “Gay” reminded me of gay parades where men wore jockstraps and imitated anal intercourse as a defiant gesture to the condemning crowd spectators. Such seemed crass. Additionally, I was well aware of statistics that gay men have hundreds of homoerotic encounters in their life. Since I abstained from homoerotic engagement, I did not want to associate with the “pervert” gays. Golly, I realize now how ugly and judgmental I was back then.

Thus, I acquired positive self-esteem with my long-standing sexual identity of “struggles with same-sex attraction “ for all of the above reasons.

Celibate (1 year; 2019). I was married to my wife for 41 years until she died of cancer in 2017. I considered myself a “widower” during 2018 and then progressed into identifying as a “single” man by 2019. That same year, I began reading about a movement called “Side B” — single people who experience same-sex attraction and decide to be celibate for the rest of their lives. Not only would Side B men forfeit the pursuit of marriage, but they would abstain from anal intercourse for the rest of their lives.

I had always had the theological conviction that marriage was only between a husband and his wife. Thus, before 2020, I did not believe that God endorsed same-sex marriages. Accordingly, I had always thought that vaginal intercourse should only be between a husband and his wife, and anal intercourse between men should never occur.

So, in 2019 I began believing that I was celibate — and I sought support from men in the worldwide Side B community. In fact, during 2019, I would become a minor leader within Side B. Being celibate was my new sexual identity. And that lasted for only one year.

Gay (2019 to present). Near the start of 2019, I read Greg Coles’ fantastic book, “Single Gay Christian.” It changed my life for the better! I began realizing that the term “gay” was simply a universal descriptor of men who experience same-sex attraction. The sexual identity of gay was not a personal statement of one’s sexual behavior, theological perspective, or political party affiliation.

Furthermore, I came to embrace being “queer” and a member of the universal LGBTQ community. My sexual identity was merely the “G” in the string of LGBTQ letters. I no longer viewed my sexual identity as a “struggle.” Rather, I came to view my attraction as a gift — a unique, enduring, central part of me. I completely lost all sense of shame concerning my sexual identity. Being gay was simply a different attraction than the majority attraction of being straight. Being gay was also in no way a disorder, a perversion, a sin, or any other weakness or badness. Indeed, being gay was a different way for me to contribute my gifts within Jesus’ Kingdom.

Affirming (2020 to present). Late in 2020, the Holy Spirit convicted me that gay marriage was a union endorsed by God. At first, the notion was intolerable. After all, the Bible never endorsed anything other than marriages between men and women. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of evangelicalism disdains gay marriages. However, like the proverbial “splinter in my mind,” the Holy Spirit would not let me dismiss the idea that God affirms gay marriages.

My first “crack” in my formerly cemented view of marriage was the realization that “love is love.” I had experienced romance with my wife; I also experienced it with my male partner. Secondly, I came to believe that God would not create an unfair system wherein all gays are prevented from God’s relational blueprint. And I was convinced that God designed people to become attracted and committed to a person for a lifetime.

So, reluctantly I gave in to the Spirit’s repeated nudging. I now believe God affirms gay marriages that resemble Jesus’ marriage to his spouse (i.e., all women and men who align with Him).

Jesus does not love me because I hold a particular sexual identity. Jesus does not love me because I have a specific theological belief about marriage.

Rather, Jesus simply loves me. For no real reason, Jesus happens to think I am very special — and He will never stop loving me.

And I will never stop loving Jesus.

GAYoda is a publication to uniquely and specifically support gay Christian men. Click here to learn more.

Dr. Mike Rosebush is the founder and author of GAYoda. He has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor with 45+ years of mentoring thousands of gay Christian men. Read a short synopsis of his story here.

Read Dr. Rosebush’s complete set of articles here.

Dr. Rosebush provides friendship support to gay Christian men across the U.S. and can be contacted via Facebook or mikerosebush75@gmail.com.