SSA suggests an experience, not a permanent identity. It implies a set of feelings, not a way of life.
Although not a universal experience, many of us in the Brothers Road community have found that the nature of our sexual attractions has shifted over time — sometimes profoundly — as a result of our personal-growth and inner-healing work.
Many of us have found much greater peace, love, brotherhood and self-acceptance.
We’ve often experienced a shift in our same-sex attractions toward more platonic feelings of brotherly love. We’ve found that our sexual or romantic feelings for other men can become less intense, less frequent, less lustful or erotic, and less troublesome.
Many of us have also found meaningful healing in our relationships with women. For some of us, this can even lead to increased interest in developing romantic relationships with the opposite sex.
Are We Claiming That People Can Go From Gay to Straight?
Our sexuality is far too complex, too nuanced, and too fluid to answer that question with a simple yes or no.
And our response to the question depends in part on what is meant by “gay.” In our experience:
- If “gay” is an identity, it can be embraced, rejected, or redefined. Each of us gets to choose how we will self-identify.
- If “gay” is a lifestyle, it can be chosen (lived out), “unchosen” (avoided or replaced) or adapted to something else. Each of us gets to choose how to live our lives.
- If “gay” refers to same-sex lust, it can be diminished, surrendered or eliminated. Any of us can be susceptible to lust, whether it’s directed toward the same or the opposite sex. Lust can consume a person, leading to confusion, obsession, and pain.
- If “gay” is a feeling or attraction, we can embrace its “gold” (all that is positive and ennobling about it) while turning from the “shadow” (all that is negative or harmful). Sexual attractions themselves are neither good nor bad, but what we do with them might be.
When men in our community experience some degree of shift in their sexuality, they usually describe it more as a shift in their bisexuality, with an increase in their heterosexual side and a decrease in their homosexual side. (Of course, a shift in the opposite direction can also happen.)
Or, they may experience a shift in how they experience their attractions, from homo-sexual to more homo-emotional — where same-sex platonic affection and attachment meet their needs more deeply and authentically than sexual or romantic connections can.
In some cases, a man’s distress may really be about his same-sex lust or out-of-control same-sex sexual behaviors, not his same-sex attractions themselves. So when his lust diminishes, or he gets his behavior in line with his personal values, his SSA distress may all but disappear.
Perhaps less frequently, but still significantly, some men do in fact report a degree of heterosexual interests emerging where none existed before.
And of course, shifts in identity — from an internal label of “gay” to “bisexual” or from “bisexual” to “heterosexual,” for example — are often possible and can be quite meaningful to some men in how they see themselves, their personal relationships, and their life goals.
Even then, the reality is that meaningful shifts in sexuality are not always constant or permanent.
In our experience…
Sexual fluidity can be very real.
Our Real Goal Is Peace
While shifts in sexuality are certainly not a universal experience for everyone who sets out to understand his same-sex attractions, for most of us, that’s okay. Because heterosexuality isn’t the real goal anyway. (Look around you. Obviously, heterosexuality alone can never guarantee happiness!)
Furthermore, efforts to transform one’s basic sexuality can never be assured of success.
No, our real goals are peace, love and acceptance — for ourselves and others. And in a way that best aligns our identity, feelings and behaviors with our deeply held values, beliefs, values, and life goals.
What Kinds of Shifts?
- SSA. Many of us have found the level and intensity of our same-sex attractions diminish over time, sometimes dramatically.
- Brotherhood. We’ve experienced an increased sense of belonging and brotherhood among men from all walks of life.
- Self-Esteem. Our self-esteem has improved and feelings of shame have diminished or disappeared.
- Sexual Behaviors. Those of us who have struggled with self-destructive and out-of-control sexual behaviors have often reduced or even eliminated those behaviors altogether.
- Single and Celibate. Many of us have found a whole new level of peace and fulfilment as we have embraced living a single and celibate lifestyle as a higher calling consistent with our faith, values and beliefs.
- Marriage and Opposite-Sex Attractions. Many of us have found renewed commitment to and love for wives and family. Many have found new or increased romantic and sexual attractions to the opposite sex.
- Faith. Many of us have found a renewed sense of peace with God, an increase in faith, and a far greater sense of his unconditional love for us.
- Peace. But more important than all of this, we are finding peace — and peace in a way that aligns our identity, feelings and behaviors with our deeply held values, beliefs, faith, and life goals.
What Professionals Say About “Change Efforts”
- Q&A With the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity
Is homosexuality genetic or biologically determined? Can change or growth occur in a person’s sexual attractions or orientation? Is it harmful to try? This Alliance of mental health professionals answers these and other tough questions.
- “While You Probably Think Same-Sex Attraction Is Fixed, Researchers Don’t”
“There is not only no scientific evidence that sexual orientation is immutable, there is conclusive scientific evidence that most people who experience exclusive same-sex attraction end up developing an interest in the opposite sex over time…”
See more at “Q&A: What Professionals Say”
My SSA has been greatly reduced. There are days when it seems non-existent. I have noticed that when my SSA is reduced, my opposite-sex attractions naturally increase.
I don’t have same-sex attractions today in the sense that when I see a good-looking guy I don’t want to engage with him in any sort of sexual way. I see him as an equal — a brother with good and bad qualities, just like me.
I have had no interest in dating other men since 2003. Currently, I am very happy and functional in a heterosexual relationship. Romantic feelings toward my girlfriend were present immediately when we met, and the sexual desires I have toward her are equal to those I once had for men when I was pursuing a homosexual lifestyle. With her, I feel genuinely and completely fulfilled emotionally, spiritually, and sexually.
It has been over 14 years since I’ve had any sexual behavior with other men and at least 10 years since I’ve even wanted to. My desire for a homosexual romantic relationship is completely gone, and now I desire to have a romantic relationship with a woman.
After years living as an active gay man in multiple relationships, I now have not been sexually involved with another man in over four years and no longer have the desire to pursue men sexually or to view pornography.
I am no longer acting out on my pornography addiction, and this has greatly helped me and my desires. Today, my SSA feelings are significantly less than they were before. Now, when they come up, I can deal with them in healthy ways and in ways that make me feel good about myself afterward.
I no longer experience shame or guilt around my homosexual attractions. I do not experience any conflict between my attractions and my personal value system. I do not feel sexually repressed or incomplete because I am not actively expressing my homosexuality. I believe I am in a situation equal to any individual who is in a committed relationship with one individual and yet still experiences attractions to other individuals.
My same-sex attraction is modestly diminished, but far more importantly, I am comfortable with that as a part of who I am, open about it with my friends, and have mostly found a way to get those needs for intimacy met with men through non-sexual outlets.
My sexual attractions to guys are far less than they used to be. They happen less often and are not as strong. I still find men attractive, but the desires are desires to be friends, to get to know each other, to somehow become more like what I see in him. There’s not nearly as much of that same needy, clingy desperate feeling. I find that my brotherly male friendships bring an incredible sense of joy and peace into my life. Sexual connection or exclusive relationship scenarios fade in the light of the joy I feel with my brothers.
I have learned that I need intimate, healthy, emotionally connected relationships with other men. As I have taken the steps to be open and vulnerable with the men in my life, I am growing in these relationships. This is filling the void in my heart that I used to medicate with gay porn or acting out sexually with other men. The real connection I long for with other men is not sexual or romantic, but pure, brotherly affection, affirmation and belonging.
Benefits Not Directly Related to Sexuality
Many of us have found numerous and varied benefits, apart from any shifts we may or may not experience to our sexuality. Benefits like:
- Improved self-esteem overall.
- More self-confidence.
- An increased connection to our own internal sense of masculinity — an enhanced sense of pride and confidence in being a man.
- More male friendships, and more meaningful male friendships, with greater authenticity, vulnerability, and (non-sexual) intimacy.
- More peace and satisfaction in living as a single man, thriving rather than feeling “less than” or second-rate.
- Sometimes a new marriage, or sometimes a much-improved marriage, and better family relationships overall.
- A greater sense of living authentically, without hiding or pretending.
- Feeling closer to God, with a greater sense of spiritual peace and love.
My sexual impulses for women are still minimal, but my confidence in who I am as a man, my ability to stand up and speak my truth and be heard, my letting go of defining myself by SSA or anything else, my leadership abilities, care of others — all of these have grown enormously. I would not be the secure leader and man that I am today if it wasn’t for this work.
I have seen every aspect of my life improve. I feel a lot more assertive and confident at work and in all of my personal relationships. This has made me a much more effective leader and enabled me to be much more effective in my relationships with family and friends. Everyone has noticed a major improvement. I am happier than I’ve ever been.
I have had huge benefits unrelated to my sexuality. I have become a man with self-esteem, integrity, and confidence. I am able to be a better husband, father, son, employer and human being. I understand my masculinity and am able to express it. I have honest, open and meaningful friendships that are based on who and what I truly am. I am happy and I help bring joy to those around me. This is not at all who I was before this work.
I have learned to assert myself and to not allow myself to be taken advantage of. I have improved as a husband and father, with incredible confidence. I have learned to relate to other men as a man among men, rather than seeing myself as less-than or unworthy of masculine love and affirmation. I feel like a man, and for the first time in my life, I am actually thankful to be a man.
SSA Can Still Return or Escalate Under Stress
Despite growth in many areas, we often find that our same-sex attractions still “show up” when we are distressed or don’t get our basic emotional needs met — especially needs for healthy, non-sexual male bonding.
The only times when same-sex sexual feelings attractions and desires start to creep back into my life today are when I feel I am unable to connect with men in a healthy, non-sexual way.
When I experience increased SSA today, it alerts me to something in my life that I need to address. When I deal with that, the SSA again subsides. I find that my SSA is fluid depending on how much of a man I feel I am at a given moment. When I make the choices that are conducive to my psychological well-being, then I can go without experiencing any SSA whatsoever. Instead I experience identification with other men, and consequently experience increased opposite-sex attraction. When I’m not doing what I need to do for self-care, again I notice the appearance of SSA.
Occasionally, when I feel insecure or emotionally hurt, I may find myself having sexual feelings toward men. I have learned to go back to the root cause and address it. My SSA today happens occasionally when I am triggered emotionally by events at work that make me feel insecure about myself as a man.
If Sexual Attractions Don’t Change
But what happens to those who try to alter or reduce our same-sex attractions and are not successful?
Certainly, we recognize there is a segment of men in our community who haven’t experienced any meaningful shift in their sexual attractions. Some critics contend that this could theoretically cause so much depression, anxiety or self-recrimination that it’s better never to have made the attempt to begin with.
This makes no sense to us. What if we are talking about an unwanted sexual behavior rather than an unwanted sexual feeling — a behavior like pornography use, for example? Would anyone seriously argue that it’s best for a man to not even try to reduce or stop his pornography use that is causing him such distress? After all, he might not succeed at the effort, and then he might suffer from even more depression and self-criticism!
No, it’s often better to make the effort (assuming one is intrinsically self-motivated to try, and not doing it out of shame or outside pressure) — but to build on a solid foundation of self-worth, regardless of the outcome.
We pursue self-improvement (of any kind) not to become good or worthy, but because we already are good and worthy — and as such, we deserve better for our future than we’ve had in the past.
Here’s what some men in our community have said even when they haven’t experienced a shift in their sexuality:
Even though my sexual attractions haven’t really diminished, I have more self-esteem and self-assurance. I feel better about myself in general and I’ve been able to step into many tasks powerfully, where I was afraid to do that before. I’m a leader and a mentor in my community.
I have had no negative effects from change efforts. Just the opposite. I considered both change and gay-affirmative options to be a difficult challenge, with potential risks. Doing nothing wasn’t an option for me any longer, but gay-affirmation seemed much more radical and permanent. I considered the change option to be more measured and reversible if it didn’t work for me.
What About Harm?
The accepted orthodoxy today that is that any effort to reduce, alter, minimize or “manage” one’s same-sex attractions is doomed to fail and in fact is so harmful that it will likely lead to suicide.
Our hearts break for anyone who has been shamed, ridiculed, or rejected through some type of forced or abusive “change” therapy. Some of us have experienced similar hostility and know firsthand how damaging it can be.
However, for most of us, our experience has been dramatically different. We found that our efforts to understand and address our unwanted same-sex attractions have been hugely beneficial.
I was suicidal when I was in that lifestyle, but after I got out of it I have found that I am happier and more relaxed in my life.
I keep hearing in the media that attempting to make any change in one’s homosexual orientation can cause harm or suicide. But when I was living the gay life, I hated myself. I hated my masculinity. I hated my life. I often didn’t want to live and medicated myself with alcohol, drugs and sex. Now, I like who I am. I like who I am as a man. I accept myself as a man. I know that in my heart and don’t turn to substances or sex to help me feel better.
I often had thoughts of suicide and depression before seeking to understand and change my attractions. I have NEVER had a suicidal thought since beginning this process. This journey to greater awareness and authenticity has been like stepping from a dark grave into the light of day and fresh air!
I can honestly say that the Journey Into Manhood weekend has helped me save my marriage and even my life. It has put me on a path of healing. My entire experience has been a positive one. I no longer feel despair and hopeless like before.
I know I would not be happy living a gay life. Although this journey of inner healing and self-discovery has not been an easy one, it has been the best decision for me. I am happier, more confident, and enjoying life now than I ever did before.
Counter-Cultural Harm: Hostility to Our Goals
Ironically, many of us have felt harmed not by our so-called “change efforts” but by those who actively opposed our personal goals and values. Some of these people may have been well-intentioned. Some were just inexperienced. But some were actively hostile.
Gay-affirming therapy was extremely harmful and disempowering. The entire process of pro-gay therapy (as I experienced it in groups and in church settings) was designed to reduce who I was to a very small and convenient sexual identity — and then to blame all of my life’s problems and unresolved feelings on society’s unwillingness to accept me as gay.
I know some people who even contemplated suicide because gay-affirming groups, movements and therapists convinced them they had no power of discernment over their sexual orientation and could make no choices about how they would feel, live or form relationships if they questioned their “gayness” in any way.
I found gay-affirming therapy to be extremely fraudulent and misleading because it promised a fulfillment, wholeness and peace that never came.
My experiences with a therapist who told me I was born gay were quite harmful.
I would go to this therapist with relative peace of mind, not even planning on doing work related to my same-sex attractions. He kept steering the conversation to same-sex attractions. I would leave incredibly agitated, feeling like I hadn’t been heard.
He simply wrote off the parts of my experiences that could not be explained in the scenario he was trying to convince me of: that people are born gay and there was nothing that could change sexual attractions. This was after I had already experienced some changes in my attractions.
He taught me just how damaging it can be when a therapist pushes an agenda onto his client. It was as if I didn’t matter as a person.
From one side, I felt pressure from people telling me that I needed to accept my attractions and embrace them, and from the other side that all I needed to do is pray to God and it will go away. I felt I didn’t have the freedom to choose for my own. Both kept me from clearly understanding what this actually means and what could help me to become the man I really wanted to be.
I frequently encountered (and still do) people who told me that what I was trying to accomplish was impossible, unhealthy, and foolish. These people did not know me. They did not take time to learn about me. They did not care about me. However, that didn’t stop them from attempting to discourage me from attempting to live my life the way I wanted.
This alienated me even more from people and led to intense despair. I am lucky that organizations like Brothers Road exist and helped me learn that other people had in fact been successful in addressing their same-sex attractions the way that’s right for them.