I Lived the Most Unusual Gay Christian Life Ever
A short synopsis of my life story
“Mike, I have never met anyone like you.”
Yep, I get that a lot!
One of the advantages of living to be 68 is that I have experienced (and shaped!) much of America’s history. I am a gay Christian. And those two terms — “gay” and “Christian” have been uneasy bedmates ever since my birth in 1953. Everything about my past has been, well, ahem, complicated.
The Wonder Years
From my birth into an Air Force family (with a father who was a World War II highly decorated hero), the word “homosexual” was never whispered. Anywhere. Anytime.
It was as though there was not only a ban on being a homosexual in any government job — but also a ban regarding speaking the term. The first 30 years of my life were exempt from meeting any homosexual male or understanding the concept. Shoot, the word “straight” did not exist in my era and Air Force culture.
“Normal” was a heterosexual (and such people did not need to use that term as their identity). Normal males would then proceed upon the normal developmental progression: boy meets girl, both fall in love and marry, they produce children and live happily ever after.
I assumed I was normal — and all indicators seemed to bear that out. I rough-housed with my two brothers, plus played competitive football, basketball, then baseball every year. I dated three different girls in high school — where we went to proms, kissed in the back seat of my parent’s car, and I tried to feel as much of the young lady’s body parts as possible.
The odd thing was, I couldn’t get too excited about the whole thing. I did not look forward to the dates. I ended each of the three relationships more out of boredom than any romantic drama.
In contrast, I immediately became very aroused each time I joined my fellow athletes in the school’s open showers. An electric charge constantly waited in my body, always ready to erupt into an erection (but suppressing such, for fear of ridicule). Now that was exciting! Far more so than “making out” with my female date or fondling her breasts.
The Air Force Years
What little I heard about “gays” when I was growing up was limited to pejorative terms, such as “perverts, limp-wristed, girlie-men” — none of which described my nature. In contrast, I was an all-league football player who went to an all-male Air Force Academy (whose motto was “Bring Me Men”). That alma mater was the second hardest university in America in which to get admitted. The Academy was uber-masculine and built to “weed out the bad apples.” Up to the challenge, I became one of the highest cadet commanders, graduating in the top 10 (of my class of 750) in leadership competency. I ate up the pressure and sought to be the very best: the man among men.
This trend of hyper-masculinity continued as I entered the actual Air Force as an officer — where I excelled ahead of 95 percent of my peer group. My Reward? I was declared to be someone who has “the right stuff.” And as such, I joined the most elite, aggressive group of Air Force officers — a fighter pilot! Yep, picture Tom Cruise in his “Top Gun” fighter jet, swaggering and strutting to be the best of the best. Such was I.
And yet, I was gay.
Each day, I became visually aroused by fellow fighter pilots’ nude, athletic bodies in the open showers. All of us had chiseled bodies — and I secretly leered at every man’s torso each day. I was too frightened ever to approach a man for homoerotic or homoromantic activity. I knew my expulsion from an Air Force career would be instantaneous and very ugly if I were outed. Yet every day, I fantasized about being sexual with the man of my choice, resulting in pleasing orgasms.
And never once did I conceive of myself as a “homosexual.”
The Married Years
In my final year at the Air Force Academy, I began dating the most beautiful woman in the world! Gosh, I was head-over-heels in romantic and erotic love with her! I longed to be with her — and missed her every time we said goodbye. Astoundingly, she agreed to marry me. And so, I promised my priest, my family, and my very best friends (all in attendance at our wedding) that, “I will never leave you — until death do us part.”
To my consternation, among the bliss of our first years of marriage, I still was overwhelmingly aroused by male nudity in the open showers and preoccupied thoughts of homoerotic activity. It would be inconceivable to act upon my attractions, but the longings were extraordinarily intense.
At age 30 (i.e., eight years and two children into our marriage), I had become a professional counselor at the Air Force Academy. One unforgettable day, I counseled an 18-year-old cadet who told me he was a “homosexual.” Truly intrigued and curious, I inquired, “How do you know you are a homosexual?” And everything he told me, I realized, was likewise true for me! OMG.
For 48 hours, I went through an identity crisis, repeatedly looping the words in my head, “So I’m a homosexual.” Confused, frightened, sad. I knew I needed to inform the only person I could trust with such sensitive information — my wife. So, we sat down that afternoon, and I declared,
“Honey, I think I’m a homosexual.”
And when that sixth word entered into my wife’s ears, our marriage effectively ceased.
My wife was stunned. Horrified! Furious!! She swore I had deceived her all along. She accused me of being filled with depravity — a living embodiment of sin. I became, in her eyes, a monster.
The previous eight years of Eden abruptly ended — resulting in my wife and I being banished from the Garden of Bliss. And we were only allowed to return on rare occasions. And for the next 33 years after that coming out event, our “mixed orientation marriage” became a series of challenges and mutual pain.
The Conversion Therapy Years
My wife demanded I undergo counseling to remove my homosexuality. I did not need counseling to automatically be aroused to my wife or maintain an erection throughout the culminating orgasm. All of the vaginal intercourse with my wife was personally satisfying but not ravenously sought by me.
The mandate from my dear wife was extremely clear: remove all of my homosexuality so she and I can get back to being normal again. And my wife believed once my homosexuality disappeared, then she could trust me. But such faith in me would not be forthcoming unless I permanently killed off all vestiges of my homosexuality.
At this point in history, the “ex-gay movement” was unleashed. I never considered myself to be an “ex-gay” and thus took exception to the movement’s “pray the gay away” approach.
Alas. Two years of conversion therapy from a psychiatrist resulted in me feeling less weird but just as gay as always. Nothing about my same-sex attraction diminished. But what did decrease was my hope in being able to change.
I seriously pondered suicide. Oh my.
The “Focus on the Family” Years
After retiring from the Air Force after 20 years of very distinguished (and very closeted) service, I became a civilian. Furthermore, Focus on the Family (a.k.a., “Focus”) hired me as their vice president (and president of their one-semester college institute). Dr. Dobson was my boss — a man whom I highly revered before joining Focus. And if you are one of the few people unfamiliar with Focus on the Family during the years of 1995–2004, please know it was the most powerful evangelical force in America. No Republican nominee for president of the United States could get elected without first earning Dr. Dobson’s endorsement.
Focus on the Family had a well-earned reputation for providing high-quality materials on marriage and parenting. It was an extraordinarily generous ministry — giving away millions of dollars to help families thrive. And it was solidly evangelical. The organization had a very “family friendly” reputation.
Dr. Dobson, however, had earned a reputation as a pro-life zealot and a hater of gay rights. Thus, Dr. Dobson (and other evangelical leaders of the 1990–2010 era) engaged in what they termed a “culture war.” Evangelicals viewed themselves as the forces of good and light in mortal combat against the forces of evil and darkness (i.e., the “gay agenda” and “gay activists”). The Republican party gladly entered into an alliance with Focus on the Family — and some elections were decided primarily upon the voter turn-out of evangelicals.
And amidst this mega-powerful evangelical ministry was a closeted gay man who was not about to disclose his homosexuality to anyone at Focus.
That is, until one day, I did.
The Counseling Years
After resigning amicably from Focus on the Family in 2004, I used my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, plus my Licensed Professional Counselor credentials, to begin counseling homosexual Christian men. Because of my evangelical track record as Focus’ vice president, that company referred all of their homosexual clients to me. Soon after that, Exodus International learned of me — and they too referred many of their ex-gay clients to me for counseling. Even Dr. Joseph Nicolosi’s NARTH organization referred homosexual men to me.
At that time in American history, the standard counseling method for gay Christian clients assumed a “Reparative Therapy” definition of causation: improper emotional bonding between father and son. Furthermore, professional Christian counselors applied what I later derisively referred to as the evangelical mantra: “repress, repress; don’t, don’t; confess, confess.” Push down all same-sex attractions; avoid all touch with males; and report all infractions.
Homosexuality was, of course, believed to be a “disorder” — wherein culture viewed the gay man as a “lesser than.” The normal human phenomena of experiencing an attraction, pursuing a relationship, and culminating in marriage were presumed to not apply to gay men. Rather, same-sex attractions were considered a “sexual addiction” that the gay man must control.
When I first started my counseling career, I assumed all gay men wanted to become straight. After all, that had been my goal. However, because of my inability to lose my same-sex attraction, I became convinced that sexual orientation change was impossible. I would ask “ex-gays” if they had extinguished their same-sex attraction. Literally no one could tell me, “Yes, it is all gone.” So, I steered my counseling focus away from becoming straight and centered on shame reduction.
I had come to believe, by God’s grace, that my gayness was not a disorder. In fact, I now view it as a gift.
Instead of “struggling with my homosexuality” and viewing my sexual identity as an unspeakable shame, I came to know for certain that Jesus loves me exactly as I am. And that includes everything I am in my gayness. Oh gosh, was that ever a huge weight removed from my daily anxiety! And my clients began experiencing that same freedom. Not a freedom from homosexuality (as the ex-gay movement trumpeted), but instead a liberation toward knowing he is 100% fully loved by God as a gay man.
My counseling method flourished. This is, until I gave a presentation at the annual NARTH conference.
The Out Gay Years
My wife of 41 years died of cancer in 2017 — and I had fulfilled my promise to never leave her, “until death do us part.” I then universally declared myself to be a gay man who deeply loves Jesus. I then had a short-lived identity with celibacy; developed a romantic love for a gay man in whom I am now married; and revised my theology — now believing God affirms men who marry men.
Today, I serve as a “Yoda” — a seasoned mentor — for younger gay Christian men. I come alongside such beautiful people as their friend — extending kindness and dignity to each man. Additionally, I write — a lot! — about what it is to be a gay Christian. Many people read my articles; many forward them to their gay friends, parents, employers, or pastors.
In closing, everyone keeps telling me, “Mike, you are the most unusual gay Christian I have EVER met!” And I smile and thank them.
It seems that I do not neatly fit into anyone’s box or tribe. I am viewed as “too gay” for some evangelical Christians, and “too Christian” for my non-Christian gay friends. Oh well.
I simply remind every one of my friends — every one of my readers — of the most important life lesson I have ever learned:
Jesus loves you exactly as you are. So do I. Together, let’s provide kindness and equality to all gay Brothers.