Then & Now
Many brothers have walked this road less traveled. Here are some of their stories.
Then & Now: Rich
Virginia, USA. Married. Christian (Latter-day Saint). Born 1962.
Unlike most SSA men, my first sexual feelings in early puberty were exclusively for girls.
But I also had the classic pre-homosexual home life. I experienced my mother as controlling and shaming. I experienced my father as kind and gentle, but I found him distant, ineffectual and, for me, a poor role model of masculinity. I never fully bonded with him. I bonded naturally with my sisters but built little meaningful bonds with my much-older brothers.
So I was extremely vulnerable to sexualizing my unmet same-gender needs when I began feeling bullied and alienated from boys at school, and at about the same time discovered gay pornography. I longed for male acceptance and belonging, and porn helped me feel that, at least temporarily. But it quickly turned my natural longings for masculine attachment into lust, then addiction. And when I visited places that sold porn, men sought me out and gave me attention and (momentary) affection. I was hooked — but horribly conflicted.
My Decision Point
After college, I briefly adopted a gay identity and lived a semi-open gay life in Los Angeles for a few months. I became willing to walk away from my lifelong faith and values and preemptively reject my family of origin if that’s what it would take to bring me peace.
But the gay world (or at least gay Los Angeles in the late 1980s) greatly disappointed me. Instead of finding a mecca of male bonding and acceptance, I found a judgmental, promiscuous culture that seemed to value others based almost exclusively on their youth, fitness and physical appearance. I saw rampant drug use. Many men displayed a campy, effeminate “crush” on masculinity. Derision of family life, monogamy and religion was standard.
Most unsettling, I didn’t like the man I was becoming when I was in that world.
Then I met Marie. With her, I felt uplifted, like I was being called to be a better man. I liked the man I saw reflected in her eyes. That’s who I really wanted to be. We fell in love and married in 1988.
Unfortunately, because I hadn’t resolved my underlying longings for healthy male connection, my addictive sexual patterns soon returned. I became even more conflicted and distraught than ever. At the most hopeless point, I began to imagine suicide scenarios as a solution.
Finally, in 1997, I found reparative therapy and the life-saving help I had been looking for.
My Road Less Traveled
When I was at my most conflicted, I found a book, Born That Way?, that introduced me to the idea that I really could change the direction of my life. The book led me to an SSA support ministry, which in turn led me to reparative therapy at Joseph Nicolosi’s clinic in Los Angeles. (Read my personal experience with reparative therapy here.)
Reparative therapy changed my whole world. Finally, I was able to be completely authentic about my struggles and internal conflicts. I had never felt so understood, supported, and affirmed — yet still challenged. I was empowered to explore and freely set my own agenda for the direction of my life. I uncovered and began healing underlying issues and past hurts that had set me up to numb my pain by “acting out” sexually.
Most important, perhaps, I discovered that I had legitimate underlying needs for healthy male connection, and without meeting those needs platonically, I would continue to be driven to seek out male connection sexually.
This journey of self-discovery led me to:
- Embrace my own masculinity — something I hadn’t realized I had never really done, due to a subconscious love-hate-fear relationship to men and masculinity.
- Work a Twelve Step program that supported my goal of becoming sexually “sober.”
- Participate in a life-changing men’s experiential personal-development weekend and follow-up community. Through it, I built deeply authentic, vulnerable male friendships for the first time in my life.
- Establish relationships with mentors who loved, accepted and supported me through all of this.
- Embark on a spiritual walk to align my life to God’s will in a more meaningful, more personal way than I had ever done before.
Where I Am Now
I finally found lasting sexual sobriety beginning in the late 1990s and at last became completely faithful to my wife, Marie. Tragically, she died of cancer in 2006. After she died and I was single again, I felt great peace in discovering that, even in those circumstances, I wasn’t drawn to return to my former gay life or to hook up with men again.
When I dated and remarried in 2010, it was wonderful to feel so heterosexual, with none of the internal sexual conflict and confusion that I had previously experienced while dating Marie 20-some years earlier. I am very much in love again and completely attracted to my wife, Janet, on every level.
Now with years of hindsight, I see that my SSA journey has become one of the great blessings of my life. I have more and deeper friendships than ever before. I am more emotionally balanced and grounded. I have clarity and purpose. I am a better husband, father and friend. I feel whole. I am at peace with who I am.
— Updated 2020