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Our Voices of Change

  1. Ajax

    Why are the people with unwanted SSA who have changed and enjoyed “straightening out”, like myself, so seldom heard about? There are several reasons for this. The first is that the Media are biased against us. More specifically, they presuppose inherent evil in sexual restriction of any sort. They never deign to defend a viewpoint in favor of any sort of chastity because they know that they don’t have to in order to keep a following.

    Media portraits of anything from Mark Driscoll’s preaching against divorce to Mormons’ practice of traditional gender roles always beg the question that such things are oppressive. On what ground are they oppressive? Why do followers of such countercultural trends willingly do so? What good reason might they have for doing so? What right have we to restrict their worldviews in a country that alleges to respect freedom of religion and separation of Church and State? I have yet to see the mainstream media offer any conservative minority group a fair shot at such questions. Those of us with unwanted same-sex attraction are one of those groups.

    But there are other, more practical reasons for our anonymity. Based on the contexts in which we meet, many of us have agreed in writing not to out each other, in much the same manner as other anonymous recovery groups. Many of us are in broken families or high-profile careers. We don’t want to be accused of hating the gay community, because we don’t. We wish to spare one another the stigmas, stereotypes and willful ignorance that often accompany a confession of egodystonic SSA. Being a single man who enjoys quite a bit of privacy in his career, I have far less to fear in being outed than, say, Ted Haggard did. But I overhear and read a great deal of rubbish that has long gotten old.

    I tire of hearing, for example, that if men like me just threw in the towel, embraced our gayness and got laid, we’d be happy. That judgment presupposes a sex-worshipping worldview that I do not share. I would not be happy if I did that. I didn’t find any rest in who I was until I considered the possibility of change from SSA, until I was taught how to take on the attributes of all the men I envied and lusted after. It is no concern of mine whether sex-crazed journalists with herpes and weekend kids dismiss traditional gender roles as oppressive social constructions: I have rest about my sexuality only because I continue pursuit of archetypal masculinity.

  2. Ajax

    Receiving physical touch from men has been a pivotal part of my healing from unwanted SSA, not least because it’s my chief love language (cf. Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages”). Also known in our circles as healthy holding, it is a safe means of receiving the male affection of which many of us did not get enough from our fathers when we were little boys. Its chief focus is on safe re-connection with the masculine from which many of us received deep wounds. It is completely non-sexual and falls in much the same category as any other expression of unashamed, heterosexual male bonding: a father snuggling with his son, the bear-hugging in sports, the intimacy of brothers-in-arms (cf. Beowulf, The Song of Roland, David and Jonathan, Band of Brothers, All Quiet on the Western Front, etc…) and even the affectionate, bravado-laden man-piling I often encountered on my dorm floor at university among very straight, very secure alpha male-type men (I attended a conservative Christian college). The stigma around its use in healing unwanted SSA remains unclear to me: I found it extremely helpful in discovering and nurturing my own masculinity and never found it an erotic experience. It is always done fully clothed, with at least three men present, in non-sexual positions and settings (ie we never do it on a bed and we never lie on top of each other or in other positions suggest a sexual encounter). I eagerly offer and receive it as a means to continued cultivation of my own masculine strength, and it has served that end beautifully.

  3. Edited out of my recent remarks on the Dr. Oz show (http://www.doctoroz.com/episode/gay-straight-controversial-therapy), in response to the man who said reparative therapy made him suicidal, was this: “I was suicidal BEFORE reparative therapy, when I thought I had no choice but to live a gay life. Reparative therapy saved my life!”

    My true testimonial of the life-saving (and marriage- and family-saving) potential of reparative therapy didn’t make the cut. But interestingly, Brad Lamm’s claim that people like us “are killing kids” made the cut. Ah, balance.

  4. David

    The thing is, I never wanted to be gay. I only entered the lifestyle when finally, in college, I saw no other way forward, I actually spoke to God before I came out of the closet and told Him that these feelings were not going away, that I saw no way to proceed other than to open this up and look at it. He heard me. Whatever that thing is inside me that I speak to – that thing nodded. So when, five years later, I spoke to Him again during a particularly blissful religious moment and asked Him what I could do for Him and He told me I could give up that relationship I was having with this man who for me at the time was the love of my life, He was really telling me that I had seen everything I needed to about this and there WAS another way if I was ready to try it. So I listened and followed. I left being gay, not knowing how I was going to make it work. But He showed a way. I journeyed for more than ten years on my own. Eventually, when I needed more help, I found it through reparative therapy and other men who have chosen a similar path.

    That’s why it’s so important to me that others know our stories. Some people say ‘I’m gay, I was born that way.’ For others like me it’s more complicated than that. I was born THIS way, and it’s taken me time, patience and help to work it all out.

  5. Ajax

    I have never met a facilitator of conversion therapy who promised a cure or even guaranteed a change for everyone: there’s too much about the human psyche that we simply don’t know to claim that. Perhaps my history, specifically what I’ve been spared, has allowed me to enjoy more turnaround than some. Although I struggled heavily with gay pornography for most of my adolescence (and since gotten cleaned), I have never identified as gay, nor had a live sexual encounter with another man. I have never viewed my SSA as something that ought to be there, and no outside influence programmed that paradigm: my parents are nominal catholics but quite pro-gay, and I didn’t become serious about my Christian faith until I was 17, a good five years after I knew about my SSA. It just felt wrong and if memory serves me there was never a point in my life when I even considered joining the gay lifestyle and adopting its title. It takes 10,000 hours to master a skill: intentional reorientation, I believe, has to be thought of as such a skill, one mastered only with more difficulty than many of my overindulged generation have the patience for. What’s more, some factors may work very powerfully against successful reorientation. If, for example, an overbearing mother with a limited understanding of boundaries uses shame and fear of rejection by his family or religious community to “persuade” her homosexual son to undergo conversion therapy, it probably won’t work, and he may, in misdirected anger, sue the facilitators for fraud several years later. It remains outside of my understanding how conversion therapy could completely fail for anyone committed to cultivating the techniques taught, provided, of course, that HE desires to change.

  6. Jon

    Reparative therapy and the related counseling and experiences has fundamentally changed me for the better and continues to do so. It is not harmful, and has brought joy into my life that I have not experienced in a long time. There was no coercion, only my own will. I had encouragement, but also opposition. I have noticed changes and I have no doubt that these will continue as I do my work and take care of my needs.

  7. Alan

    People do change and it is real, lasting, and true. I am one who has. The process of change is very difficult and obviously it is not for everyone. For me the process of eliminating my same sex attraction came about when I went searching for my True Self. My change had nothing to do with a religious condemnation of my feelings or my personal hatred of my SSA. I simply wanted to know what was true for me and I was very anxious to the point I could not eat for weeks. I was not fortunate to be able to work with a Reparative Therapist. I worked basically on my own and in groups addressing my defenses and allowing space to feel and integrated old pain. (e.g. a 12 step offshoot group, Anne Wilson Schaef’s Living in Process groups, Primal Integration groups, self-therapy integrating the work of the late great Alice Miller, Jean Jenson, and modifying the self-coaching work of Ingeborg Bosch’s Past Reality Integration. The process was very painful and looking back I, at times, put myself and those around me at risk by my not having appropriate boundaries around my old pain and not integrating and allowing the “rewiring” to really take.
    One of the issues I faced was the constant message from gay affirming folk, that to embrace my same sex attraction is the only path to your True Self. There are many other like me who remain anonymous because the healing process was so painful and we wish to place it in the past and simply live our lives happily in the present. And frankly we do not want the wrath of others (like many of the guests on the recent Dr. Oz show) that cannot seem to reconcile the fact that some with same sex attraction can and do change. It seems to me that many gay agenda activist, who are celebrated in the media as cutting edge, sophisticated and sensitive voices regularly demonstrate extreme lack of open–mindedness, respect, and love for anyone who disagrees or has had a different experience. And this is what they so often accuse everyone else of — incredibly ironic! One last point, in our culture today, we celebrate the coming out stories and the evolution of sexual orientation moving from the closet of the straight world into the authentic gay experience. Fine, live and let live! Why can we not accept and celebrate with equal respect the move in the other direction and really embrace the mystery of the sexual orientation continuum?

  8. Bob

    I am very excited that there is now a place to let people know what our experiences have been like. I am someone who was gender confused for a long time–I had attractions to both men and women, but my primary attraction, i.e. the one that seemed the most powerful, was to men. Yet, I was always sexual with women, dated, and ultimately got married at 29. Some would say that I got married for societal reasons and peer pressure. I am sure those had something to do with it. If I were born in a different time, I might have made different choices. I can only speculate about that. But, for me there was always some level of heterosexual attraction–I used to get crushes on girls in school and feel waves of excitement when I would talk to the pretty ones and they paid attention to me. So, it was all very confusing at the time. Had I not started accessing porn regularly on the internet until many years later, my confusion might have stayed in the background as I became a husband and father. But, instead this confusion became overwhelming and a source of tremendous anxiety and even more confusion. My porn use was initially strictly heterosexual, although I always focused on the men, to strictly homosexual. Viewing porn escalated dramatically over a few years. This is when I acknowledged that something wasn’t right and I decided to do something about it and found therapy. Based on this story, one might label me bisexual, a latent homosexual, a heterosexual who struggles with homosexuality, a heterosexual with a sex addiction for the same sex, etc.–the list of labels could go on and on. But, what is much more important to me than a label is the truth about my reality–I was 42 years old, had always had strong desires to look at and sexualize men, but I had chosen, for whatever reason, to live my life as a heterosexual, was married with children, loved my wife, and was really bothered by my confusing attraction to men. I did not want to get a divorce and try to live my life as a gay man. I also did not feel that I was lying to myself or missing out on anything by not embracing and celebrating my attractions to men. Luckily, I found therapeutic resources that have opened up a whole new world of understanding about how I got here, what it means, how to deal with it, and how to live a life of freedom and happiness without all of the confusion. If I were to tell you that I have experienced an overnight fix or “cure” I would be lying. I have been engaged in some form of therapy, group experience, or individual work for the past 12 years and I have come a long way, but there is still progress to be made. I am much more content with who I am as a man, a husband, and a father. I experience much less shame than I used to. I know who I am and what my purpose is. My wife and I are still together (25 years in Feb) and have experienced more intimacy than ever before as a result of my growth and change. My desire to look at men is considerably less and has waxed and waned over the years. When I experience it, it is completely different with different outcomes and messages I tell myself about it. I hope to go into more detail about my specific experiences in therapy in a later post. For now, I wanted to say that I am so convinced that I was not born “gay” and that I would not have been happy living as a gay man. I am seeing more and more that there are a lot of guys out there like myself and I am so glad that there has been a place for me to land with understanding and knowledgeable people and therapists who have researched this area of sexuality, walked this road I am on, and can lead and guide me along the way. I will be forever grateful for the men who have spoken into my life and helped me see the truth about myself and experience true freedom. More later.

  9. Craig

    I fully support the use reparative therapy for unwanted same sex attractions. Acting on SSA is contrary to my faith and personal standards and values. Never the less, having struggled with it virtually all my life, I have on occassion given in. Reparative therapy, though found late in life, has enabled me to progress greatly in living my life with greater peace, contentment and integrity. It may not be as effective for everyone, but what counselor or counseling is? Those who desire it should not be hindered from receiving it simply because some are convinced it does not work and/or is harmful. Many others, like myself, can attest to its benefits.

  10. aaron

    Arthur, I hope G-d willing, to go to share my story on Voices Of Change some how, and am praying that everyone in JONAH turns out fine. If it weren’t for you, Rich, and others within our community, a lot of us would be in worse straights or dead…G-d Forbid. G-d should make you successful.

    Aaron.

  11. Ajax

    It remains unclear to me why so many, in particular the mainstream media, judge RT as harmful. My guess, based on what others tell me, is that its methods are far less combative than they used to be. Perhaps its earlier techniques were abusive, traumatizing, violent, administered coercively or in order to instill fear of rejection by one’s religious body or family. My heart breaks for anyone who underwent such torture, and I submit a tearful plea for forgiveness from those in the gay community who for any reason felt coerced into conversion therapy or deceived into thinking that it would result in an overnight cure. I shudder with gratitude that I have never experienced any such thing in my own efforts at reorientation. I was offered help for my unwanted SSA and pursued it simply because I wanted it outside the agendas of any human authority figures in my life. One reason I’ve enjoyed so much victory diminishing it (perhaps more so than others who sought and were promised an overnight cure) is my willingness to see my complete masculinity as a daily decision that I own, a journey, perhaps even a garment or talisman that I “put on” because I want to for reasons against which I hold no one else. I’ve long understood that pursuit of perfection is a turnip ghost, and that applies here. I see myself rather as a parabola approaching the y-axis, aware of the goal and in constant upward pursuit of it.

  12. David

    One of the first experiences I had with reparative therapy was in a group session led by life coach Alan Downing. In that session, with support from other men, Alan helped me understand a particularly painful situation from my childhood involving my dad that had been playing over and over in my mind since I was a teenager. In an extraordinarily skillful way, Alan helped me bring that painful memory outside of myself so I could see it clearly in front of me. I was able to own it for the first time – to see how I was the one holding on to this memory and the self-defeating thoughts that came from it, and how I was also the one who had the power to dispel all of it. The experience changed forever the way I see myself and my father. And it was a powerful first step in reclaiming my life and my sexuality.

  13. Ajax

    What, you ask, does reparative therapy really do anyways? Being a man, I can only speak for my understanding of the male version of it, and even then only from the perspective of a client. I make no claim to having the authority to facilitate it. First and foremost, therapy for unwanted SSA presupposes that it is unwanted in the client who agrees to undergo it. How it could work through coercion is outside my capacity of understanding, since all the processes I’ve undergone required informed consent. Neither family, religious leader nor anyone else coerced me (I first found out about RT through the PURSUED help of a trusted professor at university), and I have never submitted to anything in conversion therapy against my will. There is no NLP or brainwashing involved. I have never been promised a cure, nor even been taught that my SSA is a disease. I was simply honored for wanting freedom from it regardless of my reasons and worldview. Conversion therapy seeks chiefly to diminish attraction to the archetypal male attributes that those of us with unwanted SSA envy in OSA men and are unable to see in ourselves. This usually involves exploration of the PERCEIVED rejections and wounds inflicted on the client by the significant male figures in his life. Facilitator may employ simple techniques such as EMDR and classical conditioning, or psychodramatic processes designed to kill the messages of shame and rejection that accompany perceptions of oneself as insufficiently masculine. Standing on an Anthropological giant, growth into complete manhood is offered as a rite of passage or initiation, and facilitators use any number of creative and challenging but safe means of offering this initiation to the client. No specific worldview prevails: there are well-known and skilled facilitators of every faith: one of the best-known is a non-practicing agnostic Jew.

  14. David

    I have been on this journey for many years. Reparative therapy has helped save my marriage and my sanity. It’s allowed me to connect with parts of myself – my masculine strength, self-confidence, joy and assertiveness – in ways I never thought possible. It’s helped me find a way to live happily and successfully in accordance with my religious beliefs and personal values. In my view, the question isn’t whether or not this therapy works. It’s why it isn’t offered openly and routinely to anyone and everyone struggling with unwanted same sex attraction.

  15. As a VOC committee member, I hope that everyone who posts here will do so with authentic comments and responses, and that respectful communication will be paramount. I, for one, am profoundly and happily affected by VOC, including this blog page. I hope this is yet another tool by which all men and women can be free to express their views, their wonderful stories of therapeutic change, and how this has affected their lives.
    I would like to encourage everyone to relate some details of their therapeutic experiences. What about your therapy is, or was, most helpful to you?

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