by Scott Kingry
At the age of 13 in 1976, I noticed the first stirrings of homosexual feelings in my own life. The conflict over my same-sex attraction continued to unfold over the years as I tried to piece together why I had these feelings. In all my years of encountering homosexuality from several different perspectives, I’ve never met a person who at the onset of feeling an attraction to the same gender wasn’t sincerely troubled by it.
In my life, it seems that a mixture of both “nature” and “nurture” have influenced the formation of my same-sex attraction. The temperament that I was born with feels like it could be a possible factor. It’s difficult growing up a boy in our culture if your personality is more on the meek and mild side. I was thoughtful, creative and artistic and always gravitated towards and responded to beauty. I was very sensitive to others’ emotions and feelings. Even my build and body type (which are genetic) were cooperating with this culturally unmasculine disposition. My frame was small and slight for my age, and I lacked athletic prowess. Running, dribbling a ball or throwing anything were all done with a lot of awkward enthusiasm.
All of these very real biological dynamics I believe set up the next stage of “nurture” or environmental factors that could have contributed to my homosexuality. I’ve often wondered why God created the relational systems in the ways that He has. In my limited way of thinking, a better idea would be that we could just “pop out” of the womb fully formed as adults able to tackle the complexities of our world on every level. But, for some reason, God preferred that out of a union of a man and a woman, a small, helpless baby would be born. Ideally, this child would grow and develop through several stages of life, receiving specific and unique things from each parent. But, unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world, and events, circumstances and choices come into play that disrupt this developmental process. We also get hurt by the important people in our lives and begin building walls against them to protect our hearts. While these walls protect us, they also prevent us from getting our legitimate emotional needs met.
In addition to environmental and relational deficits in my life, I began struggling with some confusion about my gender as early as five years old. I gravitated toward things that were traditionally feminine in our culture. Through my elementary school years, this set me up with labels from my male peers like “sissy” and “fag” and girls became safer to spend time with on the playground. On the home front, my younger brother had a long list of the sports in which he excelled. My parents were consistently busy and involved with his games while I struggled to find my place in band or cub scouts (neither of which I liked). I continued to feel “different” and “out of place” and slowly began making choices to detach from everyone.
Even with all this relational deprivation from men in my life, there were some shreds of heterosexual feelings developing. As I hit 5th and 6th grade with hardly any confidence, stature or self esteem, I did manage to have a few girlfriends whom I genuinely did care about and felt attracted towards.
Things became more difficult as I entered Junior High School. A move to a new home, neighborhood and school coincided with the changes occurring in my body and the beginning of puberty. Whatever few bits of self-confidence I had were now being crushed out of me with even more harassment and ridicule from my peers in this new environment. To add to this pain, I noticed a growing attraction to a few of the boys in my class. It was as if the huge emotional need for male identification that I lacked so much throughout life was somehow getting tangled up with my awakening sexuality.
For a short period of time I experienced a bisexuality of sorts, being attracted to both males and females in my classes. I had no one to talk with about these confusing feelings, and my conflict drove me deeper into isolation and silence. At age 14, with limited understanding, I began making choices. I decided to act upon my feelings and entered a sexual relationship with a friend my age who lived on my street. What ever friendship we had was lost, and over the next several years whenever we got together, it was usually for a sexual encounter.
High school brought some relief to the teen angst I was experiencing. A new school of around 2000 people was the perfect place to lay low and blend in. By that time, I had become a pretty depleted person and had no real sense of who I was. I also had no close friendships, having managed to push almost everyone safely away. Then, a life-line was thrown out to me. I became a Christian and my heart was opened up to the person of Jesus Christ.
I became a Christian in the 1970’s when the Jesus Movement was thriving. Kids in my class were becoming “saved” and were sharing the gospel throughout the hallways. Suddenly, with my new found faith, I was thrown into all sorts of gatherings and activities. I was attending Bible studies and was actively involved in a busy youth group. For the first time in a long time, I had friends, and I felt a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself.
Unfortunately, this sense of well being didn’t last very long. My sincere love for Jesus, my new found community and my busy Christian activities were all being overshadowed by some strong and condemning messages about homosexuality. I listened attentively to the sermons that described homosexuality as an “abomination to God” and “a perversion”. According to the pastors and my new friends, there seemed to be very little hope for a homosexual person ever getting near heaven. I left these Sundays feeling waves of shame and guilt. Was I one of the “evil people” they were talking about? Did God see me as an abomination?
These were questions I wrestled with during my private prayer times, but my attractions remained despite my prayers, and even though I loved my friends dearly, it just wasn’t a safe enough place to confess what was going on internally. The theological messages I was receiving of little forgiveness and virtually zero grace made me begin to seriously doubt God’s love for me. Upon graduation with a diploma in my hand and a new sense of freedom, I once again resorted to old tactics and detached from everyone, including God, and went off in search of my new life.
Now for the first time, I thought my life could actually start, and I pursued it passionately. I entered a gay bar in 1985, after having turned 21, and felt like I was finally home. Ten long years of silence and isolation were over. I felt a deep sense of relief—here was the community I’d been searching for all this time. I was around men and women who were like me. I could talk about my feelings and act upon them. My feelings, my behavior, and the belief that this was my orientation led me to fully embrace a gay identity.
I soon developed a small group of friends and eventually began adopting the social and political views to which the gay community subscribed. The 80’s had become a hot bed for the growing gay movement. It was time to make ourselves known, become militant and get involved in the campaign for gay rights. That same year I came out to my parents and confirmed their suspicions that I was homosexual. I moved to the gay area of the city and continued employing my survival mechanism of detaching from those who would hurt or disapprove of me. Heterosexuals became the enemy—after all hadn’t they been the ones that had hurt me all my life? I now only spent time with my close circle of gay friends and for the most part only patronized gay establishments. I lived in a “safe” gay world.
At was also at this time that I began looking for “Mr. Right”. I sincerely desired a long- term monogamous relationship with a man. I wanted what most couples hoped for—a house, a dog, two cars in the garage, a well manicured lawn and someone to come home to every evening—the ideal American Life. Well, I wasn’t going to find this type of perfect person in a bar every night of the week. Bars had become the only place I connected with friends and the only place I felt safe.
I jumped into several relationships with men, each one filled with a lot of hope and each one failing pretty miserably. The relationships were usually mutually abusive and riddled with emotional dependency. I was so desperate to attach to a man that it didn’t matter if he was healthy or unhealthy. I repeatedly gravitated towards older men, wanting them to take care of me, but these relationships never lasted and only added to my growing anger and bitterness. I talked with my close gay friends frequently about how I was feeling, but I sensed that I needed something deeper in the way of counsel.
Through a series of events, I struck up a friendship with a man who was a customer at a bank where I was a teller. He came in often, and I found him to be kind whenever we chatted over his transactions. I also noticed he had a small Christian fish symbol on his personal check deposit slip. “Oh, no,” I thought genuinely disappointed, “He’s one of ‘them’”. The rift between the Gay community and the Christian community was at an all time high, so I knew this guy would probably dislike me if he ever knew my background.
One day during one of our brief chats, I found out that he was a counselor connected to a large Christian organization. I thought it would be nice to talk with him about some of the problems in my life, but once again I quickly dismissed the idea due to what appeared to be our mutually exclusive belief systems. Amazingly, he invited me to breakfast with the intention of getting better acquainted. This was the first time I considered telling someone who was a Christian about my homosexuality. How would he react? Would I be rejected? I thought about this risk with a lot of fear. I’d already lost so many relationships and been hurt by so many people; I didn’t want to lose this new friendship. The fateful day of the breakfast finally came, and I shared my story with him, waiting for his reaction. He very honestly admitted that he didn’t agree with my lifestyle but wanted to continue being my friend.
This surprised me and made things just a little more complicated. Could I be in a relationship with someone who didn’t accept my sexuality? This was who I was, my sole identity, and to question that was to question my existence at a core level. And yet, I was intrigued that he wanted to know me more intimately. I decided to continue meeting with him over lunch weekly. Thankfully, the focus of our conversations was not about my sexuality but about the person of Jesus Christ. With every meeting, I began growing more uncomfortable, realizing a major decision was looming on the horizon. Do I detach from this guy and my conflicting feelings or do I face Jesus again?
Eventually I threw up a sincere prayer. “I did this once before, Lord, and bombed out really bad. I don’t want to do that again. I don’t really understand why my sexuality is such an issue. I have felt like this for a long time, but if you will show me what’s true about my homosexuality, I’m ready to hear.” The Lord honored that prayer. I felt his intimate presence in my daily life again. I even secretly began reading the Bible, seeing the passages with fresh eyes.
Once again, I went back into the closet, but this time I was hiding my Christianity. I knew my friends were not going to be thrilled with my renewed faith and the fact that I would dare question my sexual orientation. I also was a bit skeptical, too, wondering what I was going to do with my same-sex attraction. I had repressed it for so many years, and then I had wholeheartedly embraced it for a period of time. Neither of these options was very successful. I was going to need a third option between these two extremes. Fortunately, a month later, I confided in a lesbian friend of mine, who had a similar Christian background, and I found her to be equally confused. She got me in contact with Where Grace Abounds, a ministry in the Denver area for men and women who are in conflict with homosexuality.
Hitting the doorstep of this new environment, I suddenly began to realize that I had brought along years of emotional baggage, and I had left a multitude of broken relationships in my wake along life’s journey. I also had many misperceptions of myself, women, men and God. My gender confusion still haunted me. Was I man? Should I have been a woman? I came with a ton of thriving addictions to alcohol, cigarettes, sex and pornography, which had become ways of numbing the pain. Homosexuality was the least of my problems when compared to this growing list.
The longer this list grew, the more the problems overwhelmed me; it was going to take a lifetime to work through all this damage! “True,” I heard the Lord say in one of my prayer times, “but there’s no rush; you and I will tackle these things in your life one at a time.” God’s grace washed over me for what seemed like the first time in my Christian experience. God loved me and wanted me even with this massive list of issues. As grace became tangibly applied through my Christian support group, I realized what I had heard theologically on the topic of homosexuality was only God’s truth in part. The homosexual feelings were a symptom of a deep desire to meet legitimate emotional needs with other men.
I had been deprived of emotional connection and identification with men for so long that hearing there was a positive aspect to my homosexuality – that these needs were valid in some way – lightened a heavy load I’d been carrying for so long. I started to realize that my problem was trying to meet these valid needs through sex, and that is why each of my relationships failed. Rather than magically take away the homosexual feelings, God wanted to fulfill the very real emotional needs that had been lacking so much throughout my life. It saddens me that it took almost 25 years for me to hear a true message of God’s grace.
The issue of whether or not a homosexual person can “change” their orientation has been one of controversy since the mid 1900’s. Merely trying to change orientation is simplistic and short-sighted. Also, it’s typical to think that because a person is in conflict with his or her homosexuality and might possibly want to address it, that this is the first thing on God’s agenda. For me, with my long catalog of problems, I believed that my homosexuality and rampant sex addiction would be top on his list for me to get busy on. It shocked me when I suddenly realized He wanted me to begin a reconciliation process with my family.
How graceful and so like God, I thought. His top priority is helping us address the problems in our relationships – with him and with others. As I sat and listened to other men and women in my support groups and began counseling and addressing these deeper issues in my life, things did start to change. I developed a supportive network made up of of both men and women, and through these healthy relationships, my starved emotional needs were being met. Forgiveness was happening within my family after decades of distance. I was getting a handle on my addictions and ran to them less for comfort. At the same time, I was dealing more up front with my pain and problems. I started to embrace and thank God for my identity as a man, realizing that I didn’t have to reach some societal stereotype to be considered masculine.
So even with all this transformation occurring, it still begs the question: Can a person change his or her orientation? I believe the answer is “yes”, but the level of a person’s emotional, physical and spiritual damage might prolong a person’s process. Also, how serious a person’s own motivation is for seeking change may also affect a desired outcome. And though the reality is that the statistics are relatively low for those achieving successful change, I know many men and women who have found healing of past wounds. Many have married a spouse they are truly in love with and attracted to.
What was helpful for me was to realize that “change” means different things to different people. Not all men and women who are conflicted with homosexuality want to eventually be married and have children. That is not the epitome of a successful process. Healing the deeper issues in one’s life, becoming more of a whole person, and living within one’s convictions enables people to freely choose God’s plan for their life. Being married or single can be a rich existence in whichever situation.
Though I have occasionally been attracted a woman (which did surprise me), I am very content in my singleness. As I look back on my own experience, I saw a progression from heterosexual feelings to bisexuality to homosexuality. If sexuality is really more fluid and more on a continuum than we previously thought, perhaps a person who has moved through this range towards homosexuality could move back? I don’t know; it’s just a question that I often ask. Meanwhile, God’s grace continues to be the motivation for the changes in all the facets of my life, and for that I am eternally grateful.