As the third of eight children, four boys and four girls, I was always very shy. And being less than a year younger than my elder brother, always hid behind him and actually looked to him to ‘protect’ me. At the same time, I wanted him to leave me alone. I remember that September morning when he began school. Our home was a farmhouse with a yard of about a half acre, at the edge of town, which we rented from the farmer who cultivated the land and lived elsewhere. I was now the one ‘in charge’ of this beautiful yard full of trees to play the things I wanted to play. This was my Sherwood Forest! This was my own little world and no one else could bother me. I was only five years old at that time, and although I had three younger siblings, I cannot recall that they figured in my play at all. There were no other playmates. I felt that this was my yard now, and I could do what I pleased there. I felt like the king of the hill. I never had that feeling again until I got my own apartment many years later.
The following September, as I began school, my family had moved to a new home, and my wonderful domain was left behind. As wonderful as the previous year had been, the next was a traumatic one which scarred my psyche, squelched my appetite for education, and made me even more withdrawn and shy. I would procrastinate homework assignments, study periods, special projects and home chores as well. (I have since learned that this is a common trait of homosexual children.)
Within days of beginning elementary school, I was playing on the school grounds during the lunch period, when an older boy offered me some fudge from a box, and I accepted and took a piece. Then he told me that it would cost 2 cents. I didn’t have any money, so I threw the fudge to the ground. Immediately following the lunch period, there was a knock at my classroom door. It was the boy with the fudge. He told my teacher that his teacher wanted me to come to her classroom. I followed him there and was subjected to the worst tongue lashing tirade of my entire life — right in front of the entire class of eighth-grade boys, who were this nun’s students. I did not believe I had done anything wrong, because the boy hadn’t told me beforehand that he was ‘selling the candy.’ But I was not given the opportunity to explain. I was utterly humiliated, and I wanted to lash back at the num. But had I done that, I would have been severely punished at home and would probably have been expelled from school. So I stuffed my anger and cried instead — which humiliated me even further in front of these older boys.
I felt left out by the other boys at school and in the neighborhood and never had any close friends during my school years. They did not ask me to join in their games on the playground at school, and seldom at the neighborhood activity center. I was a loner, wanting close friends, but fearful of rejection and thus always waiting for the other person to make the first move.
My first attraction was to a classmate I will call Fred, in sixth grade, but I didn’t really know that this was a sexual feeling. My crush on Fred continued into adulthood, but it was never overt because I was too shy to make advances. I don’t know what it was that attracted me to him, but I wanted to kiss him. I thought if I could be his best buddy I could do that. I caught myself just staring at him from time to time, looking at his lips and wanting to kiss them. That thought gave me a feeling I had never experienced before – a tingling that went up and down my spine. He and I were partners as altar servers, sang in the choir, and were paired by the choir director in pageants and processions, as we were so similar in height and age. I carried the torch for him until he married. When the group of guys that we hung out with held a bachelor party for him a week before his marriage, I drank myself into oblivion. I had never before, nor have I since been so drunk. I was devastated and tried to drown my feelings. I remember neither leaving that party nor how I got home, but I awoke in my own bed the next afternoon. This is something I had never told anyone and never addressed until in my therapy, by answering a series of questions outlined in Chapter seven in The Battle For Normality.
One of the questions in that chapter explores sibling relationships. I felt that my relationships were much the same as other children, a love/hate type of thing. You know – one minute your brothers and sisters are your best friends, and the next you are unreasonably jealous and want them out of your life. So I sent a letter to my remaining sisters and brother asking them to write anything they could remember about our individual relationships during our childhood. They all said that there wasn’t anything significant that they could recall, but there was one thing they all seemed to remember. I had not told any of them that I had written to the others, but they each saw me as having been favored by Mom over the years. They felt that I was her favorite and that she showed it by allowing me to escape punishment for wrongdoing giving me special privileges. I, on the other hand, felt Mom demanded more of me than my brothers and sisters. I learned to play the ‘poor me’ role often, even in adulthood, when faced with difficulty at work or with my peers.
I dated girls in high school but did not feel particularly attracted to them. Several boys caught my eye, but none of them could distract me from Fred whose facial features really turned me on, but I still did not connect that with sex. In fact, I didn’t even know what sex was all about. Neither the elementary school nor the high school which I attended, had a gym, and there were no such thing as “health classes,” so I was, rarely, if ever, exposed to other boys in the nude – not even my own brothers. And I knew little of the functions of the male or female anatomy. I recall the very last day of elementary school, as we received our report cards at the end of the year, our assistant pastor came into our classroom to give us boys ‘a serious talk.’ I don’t recall any of that talk, except for one aspect that I thought rather odd – he told us that it was a sin to ‘play with ourselves.’ Now this didn’t make any sense to me at all, as I more often than not, played with myself, since I had no real friends to play with. That was the extent of my ‘sexual education’ at the age of 14.
In my first year of high school I was working a part-time job in a deli/tavern, and on weekends I often worked till closing time and cleaned up before going home. Several men used to hang out there playing the pinball machine and drinking beer. One night after closing, one of them remained while I cleaned up. When I finished my chores, this man offered to drive me home. I thought that rather odd, as I lived exactly one block away; I could be home before he could get his car open, started and moving. So I refused his offer. However, He was persistent and talked me into getting into his car. He drove me to my home, parked the car and asked if I had any hair on my privates. I quickly said that I did. He asked if I would show him, and I said “No!” I was getting scared and started to get out of the car. He then asked if he could feel it, and so I let him, zipped up quickly, jumped out of the car and ran into my home. That was the last time I got anywhere near him.
I graduated from high school before I even had a nocturnal emission, and I was in the army, past my 21st year, before I even masturbated. The latter became a habit that I carried on most of my life, until I began therapy. I found myself masturbating while reading adventure stories of men in dangerous situations. That turned to fantasies of touching men and being fondled by them. I never saw or read any pornography until many years later. But once I did, I couldn’t get enough, and that’s how I learned all I needed to know about sex with men. The book, The Joy of Gay Sex, filled in the details. However, I prayed that God would take away these feelings and fantasies and “make me normal,” for I had been instructed that homosexuality was a sin. Yet it seemed so natural for me. I was in a revolving door, one minute revolted by homosexual feelings, and the next fantasizing and masturbating to those fantasies.
In my mid-twenties I determined to rid myself of these feelings after spending the weekend in a religious retreat. I set out to accomplish that with a prayerful life, taking a six-month leave of absence from my job and living and working at the retreat facility which was operated by the Franciscan Friars. Thus introduced to the monastic life, I asked for and received permission to be admitted to their Order, and began a life as a Franciscan Friar, which lasted for nineteen years. However, within a few years, the temptations again became overwhelming, and I found myself in that revolving door once again. Even the counseling of my confessor could not effectively change that. My confessor suggested that perhaps this life was not the best for me and that I should discontinue it. In a fit of anger, I did. I felt betrayed because I thought he was supposed to help me overcome my sins, not turn me away. It was shortly after that that I had my first ‘acting out’ episode which led me to admitting to myself that I was homosexual, something I had formerly vehemently denied. I began frequenting places where other homosexuals gathered.
The first acting out experience was with a priest whom I had been known for many years. And it seemed so ‘natural’ that I wanted to go as far as we could with this. He tried to convince me that we should ‘quit’ this, as it was not healthy. And then he simply absented himself from my life. When I sought advice about homosexuality, another priest, serving the group Dignity, advised me that this was the way God made me and I should just accept it and get on with my life. So I did, and I soon met my long-time companion, Al. Neither of us were ‘out’ at the time, but in the intervening years I discovered that some of my family had suspicions. Within a short time, we began sharing the same apartment as well as the same bed. For eighteen years we were devoted to each other exclusively, just as the A.I.D.S. explosion hit the scene. Neither of us was inclined to ‘experiment’ outside our relationship, and we were even thinking of having a public commitment ceremony. He kept telling me that he was not “homosexual,” he just happened to like men. So I simply told him that until he admitted his sexuality I could not make a public commitment. In the meantime he started drinking more. When his employer advised him to seek help for that problem, he went to one session and then quit. His drinking made him unable to perform sexually, and I did not like the odor of alcohol on his breath. He became verbally abusive and threatened physical harm. This became worse as he drank more, and it scared me. I was afraid that in a drunken rage he might do something violent to hurt me. That’s when I began to consider ending the relationship.
I remember when the letter to Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons was issued. I was in Chicago at that time, and Cardinal Bernardin was the Archbishop. He was so concerned for his flock of homosexuals that he delayed implementing much of it until he could form a group we could accept, and he called it AGLO (Archdiocesan Gay & Lesbian Organization). That caused a hot debate at the Dignity meeting. Many wanted to accept his proposal, and just as many wanted to reject it and continue as they had been doing for years. The Cardinal had no choice but to prohibit them from using any of the Diocesan facilities, and those who remained in the Dignity group soon began using different Protestant churches for their services and meetings. I joined AGLO, which fully accepted the Cardinal’s direction and began meeting and holding services at a church in the ‘heart of boystown,’ the Chicago version of Greenwich Village in N.Y.C. It was very difficult trying to live my faith and still be homosexually active, as most of us were. It was about then that I really began to question the theory that homosexuality is genetic and unchangeable.
Due to my partner’s heavy drinking, I began to seek companionship outside our relationship. Most of it was with friends of my former life as a Franciscan – other Friars. These were totally non-sexual friendships, and I became more and more convinced that I needed help. At first I looked for some solution to my partner’s drinking problem. when I read pamphlets on addiction, I realized that I too had an addiction. I was addicted to homosexual pornography and masturbation. I read David Morrison’s Beyond Gay, and I became convinced that this had to change. Thus began a journey that has filled my heart with love and gratitude to our Father God – a journey impossible to describe, despite the heartache of separation from my long-time companion.
I then read The Truth About Homosexuality by John F. Harvey, the founder of Courage, the Catholic version of Exodus. It led me to The Battle For Normality by Gerard J.M. van den Aardweg, and I followed his program step by anxious step. The program offers constructive help and support for men and women troubled by unwanted homosexual feelings and/or behavior – which exactly described my feelings at the time.
I discovered many things, totally unrelated to sex, which had led me to seek sexual affirmation from other men. One of them the anger I had carried suppressed since I was six years old in my first month of elementary school – an anger which I had never revealed to anyone until recently. I had to get rid of this anger even though I could not confront that nun who was long dead. I wrote the entire incident in explicit detail onto foolscap. I then placed these papers on a ceramic plate and set them afire, making certain that they all burned to ash. I then took these ashes out onto my balcony, and threw them into the winds until they disappeared. It felt like a ton was lifted from my heart, and I experienced a healing and felt the hand of God. I knew His forgiveness for my anger, and I forgave myself in turn. When I told my pastor and spiritual counselor of this, he confirmed God’s blessing for me, and I wept with joy.
As the therapy continued, I realized that another wound was yet to be healed, and that is now being addressed. I have always had a difficult time dealing with females, especially in the work place. I believe this resulted from the animosity I held for so long following that verbal abuse by the nun. (I am currently working on this issue, and I cannot say what the outcome will be.) My feelings towards men had changed by this time, and I began to rid myself of most of the trappings of the homosexual life – porn magazines, novelettes and cyber sites, even certain clothing. I replaced them with items such as the Bible, Christian books and magazines and modest clothing – just as I replaced the anger in my heart with the love of the Lord. My prayers became more meaningful when I realized that I was being selfish in my requests that God take these feelings away. Now I began praying for the grace to do his will, and not mine. I surrendered myself to the will of God. This was a major breakthrough, but not the end of my journey to wholeness.
I had always felt something was missing between myself and my father, but could not put my finger on it. I loved and respected him and even envisioned following in his footsteps for a vocation. He was a delivery man for a major cookie manufacturer, and, as a boy, I was allowed to accompany him when I had a day off from school. It was so good to be with him. When I finished high school I actually applied for and was hired for the job at the same company. When I informed my family at dinner that evening, I thought my father was going to have a heart attack from anger. I discovered later that the company did not allow members of the same family to be employed in the same facility, and he thought I had jeopardized his job. Since my employment was probationary, I was let go when the employment office discovered the relationship. And that was that. But I was devastated that my father was not proud of my attempt to be like him.
There was a deeper problem than that though. I never experienced the Father/Son talk upon entering adolescence – the old birds and bees thing! Through my therapy I came to realize that it was not my father’s fault, because he never had this from his own father, who had not had it from his father. It was about this time that I discovered the book Just Between Father And Son by Dr. James Wilder, a doctor of psychology and sexuality therapist. The book tells of the Father/Son talk that he had with his eldest son just as he was entering puberty. They spent an entire weekend together just to discuss the subject of sexuality that the son was experiencing. In the book Dr. Wilder relates the subject of sexual relationships to the Scriptures. As I was reading the book I felt that this was happening between me and my father, and another healing occurred. I prayed about this for a couple of days, then read the book again, and wept because of the loss I felt that I had not had the chance to experience this with my father. My counselor and pastor both urged me to forgive my father in my own heart, since it was not possible to actually do so in person because my father died in 1977. I turned it over to our Father God and asked him not only to forgive dad, but me too. Another major obstacle in my psychosexual growth had been overcome. I wanted to shout it from the roof tops. I was free of these feelings of same-sex attraction. Someone recently asked me if this means I am “cured,” and I cannot honestly say I am. I only know that I am no longer drawn to other men sexually. I pray daily that I can remain chaste, and only my Father God can answer the question of ‘cure.’ So I leave it in his hands, and may His will be done. I still have some issues to work through in therapy before this is finished, but I do not feel they are related to the same-sex attraction. Time will tell!
I have heard disparaging remarks about change therapy, and find it difficult to swallow most of them because they sound so much like the things I heard time and again from those who want the world to believe that homosexuality is totally genetic. I believe there are many more factors leading to homosexual attraction than just genes. The sociological traumas are different in every case. I have two brothers who have been called to the Father. Neither lived past his fifty-second year. Both had the same disease that I have, arterial sclerosis, and yet I am still here. I used to wonder “Why?” Both of these men were good men, with families to raise, and I was living a life of homosexual sin with no wife or children to take care of, just me. Why did God allow me to have a surgical procedure to correct this disease but not them? What has He got in store for me?
Just about a year ago, as I was proceeding with my change therapy, I encountered a web page, http//frlarry.com, and I got my answer. In his weekly homily of Jan 14, 2001, Fr Larry referred to 1 Corinthians 12:4-7. Verse seven reads, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.” These gifts are to be used for the ‘good of the body of Christ.’ And so I began trying to find ways that I could use my gift for others. I did not apply them right then, because I was still uncertain of my same-sex attractions, even while working to overcome them. But I could see that perhaps I could help other guys in the struggle with their demons.
Toward the end of July 2001, I felt confident enough to begin, and so I joined a support group at Prodigal Ministries. I also heard about online support groups such as People Can Change, Courage, and soon enough, GLOWfriends, and I began to tell my story. My pastor has asked me to talk to other men who come to him with same-sex attraction problems. And the pastor of my sister’s church has referred some of his parishioners to me. So I must share with all of you as the Holy Spirit guides me. I just let the Holy Spirit move where he will.
If anything I have said to anyone has helped them reach a decision or given them the courage to keep on, then it is the grace of the Holy Spirit working through me, for which I give thanks and praise. A wise man once said, “Pray as though everything depended upon God, and work as though everything depended upon you.” I have done that, and my testimony here is the result. Praise the name of Jesus.
Editor’s Note: We thought this story, first written in 2002, for our onliine GLOWfriends community worth sharing again on our blog. Our online community was blessed by John’s honest sharing and gracious contributions from a committed Catholic perspective, and we are pleased that he consented to share his story as part of his own therapy as well as his ministry. Our apologies to John for not getting this story on the site in timely fashion. We’ve lost track of him and would love to hear from him again.