I have never been forced into, encouraged towards or even offered conversion therapy. I’ve also never had a Christian leader suggest that I need to or ought to seek change in my sexual orientation. But I have benefited greatly from various forms of support that have helped me to be a follower of Jesus while also being same-sex attracted.
I grew up in an evangelical, charismatic church, and by the time I reached the middle of my teenage years, two things were very clear to me. One was that I had chosen to follow Jesus and I wanted to be obedient to him in all areas of my life. The other was that I was same-sex attracted or gay. When puberty hit, my sexual and romantic desires were very clearly for guys rather than for girls and there was never any doubt in my mind about that.
I believed then – and still believe now, after years of studying, thinking and praying – that obedience to Jesus means stewarding my sexuality into either celibate singleness or marriage to a woman. The latter option didn’t then and still doesn’t now feel very attractive to me, and so one of the biggest questions in my life has been ‘How do I reconcile my commitment to Jesus’ teachings with my sexual orientation?’
In my mid-teens to early twenties, that was a very real and significant question for me. And I’m hugely grateful that I didn’t have to try and answer it alone. Over those years, I benefited from the support of many Christian pastors and friends.
I can’t imagine how much more difficult and distressing that time in my life would have been if I hadn’t been able to receive this kind of support from churches and Christian friends.
I benefited from good Christian teaching, which helped me to better understand what the Bible says about sex, marriage, singleness, identity, and friendship and how these truths could help me to follow Jesus as a gay guy. I benefitted from pastoral support and close friends who helped me to wrestle with the teaching of the Bible and sought to support me as I tried to put it into practice in my life. And I benefited from prayer. The prayers were never aimed at changing my sexual orientation but were prayers that are good for any Christian – for wisdom, strength, self-control and flourishing as a follower of Jesus. I can’t imagine how much more difficult and distressing that time in my life would have been if I hadn’t been able to receive this kind of support from churches and Christian friends.
In more recent years I have benefited hugely from seeing a Christian counsellor. For the majority of a two-year period, I met with my counsellor every couple of weeks. Our aim was never to change my sexual orientation. In fact, we rarely talked about it and were both in agreement at our very first meeting that changing my sexual orientation wasn’t something we were particularly interested in. But the things we discussed and worked through did sometimes interact with my sexuality, perhaps almost inevitably given what a big part of life sexuality is, and so it was important for us to have the freedom to acknowledge that and to discuss it when it was relevant. Those years of seeing a counsellor, have left me a different man today than I was before them, helping me to deal with significant and destructive pain I was carrying and with a toxic self-image, neither of which, as it turned out, were directly linked to my sexual orientation.
I’m so aware that in many ways I have been fortunate. The fact that I haven’t ever been forced into or encouraged towards conversion therapy doesn’t change the sad reality that some people like me have been, and some of those people have been deeply damaged by that experience. This is something that we as Christians must acknowledge and take responsibility for, and we must now play our part in caring for those who have been hurt in this way and in making sure the same thing doesn’t happen to others. And one of the ways we can do that is to make sure that the sort of support I received is made readily available to those who would like to receive it.
Our position on conversion therapy can be found in this article.