I had a conversation last week: some of my friends in a leadership program for the Ontario government were asking about my experiences as an LGBTQ person in the conservative church, and several of them expressed surprise that people still try to fight their natural-born orientation. I sighed and expressed a strong positive: and today I found reference in the news that not only does it still happen, there is still just as much emotion around it. If not more. Sigh. When will people learn to accept each other?
Matt Moore is a 23-year old writer for “The Christian Post” who blogs about how his faith has given him the strength to overcome his same-sex attraction. Or rather: perhaps I should use the present tense: he writes about how his faith is giving him the strength to overcome those attractions. It seems that last week he was found using “Grindr”, a gay dating app/service (Daily Mail Online, Feb 6 2013). His profile was seen on the site and this was reported to the public by Zinna Jones: an action for which she has taken some heat, but very well (and correctly) defended. (Zinnia Jones, Feb 6 2013)
I’ve done a bit of research on Mr. Moore and exactly what he writes about in his blog. “Acceptance of being gay would cost him his eternal soul, he believes… He has made clear, however, that he considers his gayness to be the root of many problems he had before he converted to Christianity.” (The Examiner, Feb 7 2013) Now I’m not trying to make fun of him… but he would have been about 20 at the time he converted… and having known quite a number of men and women that age (I was an “older” student), I can assure him it was not his homosexuality that made him a “party animal burning the candle at both ends” (Ibid). I know lots (emphasis on “lots”) of men and women who were like that who were as straight as… well as straight as they were wild. It’s not being gay that makes you give in to “drunkenness” (from the title of his blog) and risky behaviour (he describes having unprotected sex with an HIV+ partner: Matt Moore, 2012). It’s being young.
Many gay activists have expressed frustration with Mr. Moore since his “outing” on Grindr. “By propagating the dangerous and discredited ‘ex-gay’ myth through his writings and activism, Moore has led other frightened LGBT people astray and legitimized a culture of religion-based bigotry that causes many vulnerable LGBT youth to experience depression and anxiety, abuse drugs and attempt suicide.” (HuffPost Online, Feb 8 2013) Much though I understand Mr. Moore’s struggle, I have to agree with them. It is one thing to choose this personal hell for yourself. It is quite another, and fundamentally wrong, to propagate this mythology among the youth of today. I therefore offer this slice of my own history to help correct his perspective.
I couldn’t help but see the parallels between my life and Matt’s. I knew I was attracted to men from a young age: although one of the differences was that I was not “wild” and I did not act on my feelings with other men. I, also, turned my life to God, partially hoping to correct those feelings that I had been taught were wrong. I have a degree (BA) in pastoral studies from Moody Bible Institute and was counselled there for being gay. I would have been about 23 at that point, the same age Mr. Moore is now. In my case, because I’d never acted on my feelings, I was thought to be an “easy fix” and was eventually proclaimed to be “cured”. Like Mike, my counsellor assured me that “struggling” with same-sex thoughts was normal, but could be conquered; so I went boldly out into the big, straight world. Two years later, I proposed to my wife. I told her about my counselling on the day we were engaged, and that I still struggled with thoughts: but that together we could conquer the “sin” in my life.
We were married for almost ten years, and she was the one who left. Our divorce was not because I had broken down regarding my orientation; not because I had committed adultery. But she was not getting what she needed out of our marriage. We had been to councillors and I had tried my best; I remember being quite frustrated at one point. I was getting my BS and MS at Penn State at the time; I picked up physics and mathematics and geosciences easily, but I could never figure out the basics of what my wife wanted. It was not until after she left that I ventured into my first gay bar; now, almost fifteen years later, I’ve been with my husband for over a decade. We’re married and I still work with churches, and today I speak across Ontario as a member of the Ontario government’s Pride Network. Now I know what my ex-wife wanted, and now I understand that I was simply unable to give it to her. But I still wasted ten years of her life, and she suffered emotionally. Mr. Moore speaks about forgiveness: that’s the kind of forgiveness I hope he never needs to ask for.
But ultimately, Matt, there is one dimension that I never had to deal with. Each of our actions affects others. People read your blog and believe the rhetoric, the mythology: that God wants to “cure” their homosexuality. It doesn’t happen. God cures ills and gives power to overcome sin; but being gay is neither of those. Many regard asceticism and discipline as part of the Christian life; but your sacrifice is of your self. Being gay is part of who you are. You’ve been fighting this for three years; I did it for fifteen. I hope that none of your readers ever believe your writing enough that they commit suicide: because depression is not a result of being gay, but a result of social pressure to not be who you are. Today there are many options other than the drunk and promiscuous “homosexual lifestyle” of your youth. There are churches where being gay is accepted and even celebrated. I pray that you can rediscover yourself in an LGBT context and find one of them, a place where you can be your whole self. It’s much more fulfilling than a life of denial.