At first sight, my mother thought the nurse had brought her the wrong baby boy. To my Hispanic parents, I, this little blond-haired, light- complexioned baby, was a bit surprising.
Although I was cherished by all the members of my large family, I grew to harness a deep intuition that suspected my authenticity was somehow displeasing, dissatisfying, and disappointing. And as puberty settled in, I realized that my worst fear was true: I was attracted to the same gender. Me and my sexuality were offensive to the world.
From age 9 to about 26, I prayed every day that God would take away my sexual cravings, femininity, and anything else that would distort my sexuality. I was attracted to woman from time to time, but men caught my eye more often than not. As my continuous prayers and persistent fasting had no effect to purge my sexuality of any deficiencies. I grew increasingly angry and hopeless. God was not willing to accept my petitions for change.
I met a girl during my sophomore year of high school. We spent my sophomore and junior years talking every night on the phone for hours. Those were special moments for me. She showered me with affection, attention, hope, and a sense of being valuable. At the end of my junior year, she had finally agreed to be my girlfriend. The two years of wooing and investing had finally paid off. I couldn’t have been happier. I was in love, and authentically in love. As two teenagers commonly do, we had become sexually involved.
Although I was completely smitten, my attractions for men never wavered. The shame permeated my being. I still felt damaged.
Searching for a temporary wave of happiness, belonging, and a reprieve from the deep sorrow encasing my identity, drinking was the perfect elixir. Drinking made me courageous and I liked that people enjoyed me, even if for the entertainment.
It was a month before my 21st birthday, and I tuned in to watch an episode of Oprah. I watched a man talk about being straight but acting out sexually with men. I sat there in, what many call a “come-to-Jesus moment.” Up until then, my plan was to become a worship pastor, marry a beautiful woman, and have children. However, after hearing his story, I knew I had to address my deepest secret. My temporary plan for a closeted life crumbled.
My first date with a boy was, in many ways, delectably euphoric. Sitting on his couch, we watched a movie, Good Will Hunting to be exact. I remember experiencing an extreme excitement, but also a pulsating fear. On one hand, I was scared that I was offending God by enjoying his soothing company and sincere affection. On the other hand, he smiled because I smiled. He wanted to know me.
He was muscular, and having him hold me released the sorrow holding my identity hostage. I felt an unexpected sensation. Some call it vitality; I call it effervescence.
It was not long after my first experiences with that strapping lad that I had to come out to my parents. I drove home from Boulder, Colorado with tears streaming down my face. I was petrified. When I arrived late that night, my parents weren’t home. I sat in their driveway, saturated in shame and worry. Their car came around the corner, pulled into the driveway, and their headlights shone right on my pain. My tears, terror, and truth were exposed in, what felt like, broad daylight. Instinctually, my mother said, “I knew this day has been coming for a long time. Come on, let’s go inside and talk about it.” Clearly, she had known.
In thinking it was the best option, my mom and dad sent me to a reparative therapist through Exodus International. What if all of those ex-gay stories were true? What if help was right around the corner? I would imagine my years down the road with panging fear. Being bisexual might be an irreversible sin. So, I promised that I would grit my teeth a little harder and deny my flesh a little longer. I would be stronger.
After realizing that conversion therapy was anything but reparative, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I would study psychology to figure out the missing pieces to my puzzle.
Ironically, I met a very kind man at work who treated me like a prince. Our four-year relationship was filled with my ambivalent dance. I loved him, but the idea of us made me feel dirty. I was embarrassed of the way I loved, and of for the cravings of my heart. My boyfriend at of the time got the worst of those two worlds.
Bruised and battered, I persistently drank to the point of blackout. Waking up in the mornings, I was angrily bombarded with stories of how I had yelled at and cursed at him. He recounted how I would shout things like, “It’s your fault I am unhappy.” Projecting my anger, hurt, and pain onto him, I would berate his love for me.
As a last attempt to change my sexual orientation, I applied for seminary. And it was sitting in classes like Human Development, New Testament Theology, and Human Sexuality where I began sincerely questioning the presence of any God. If God truly existed, why had God allowed the son of a pastor who was so sincere in his faith to develop a sexual orientation that was described as perverse?
Driving to those seminary classes while screaming at God became my morning routine. Tears running down my face and fury pumping through my veins, God’s silence felt like the ultimate abandonment. Why wasn’t God willing to help?
I had spent years digging through research articles in the seminary library and thousands of dollars on my therapist’s couch. Up until then, my fight had been in vain.
Luckily, I found an incredible therapist who was more invested in teaching me about my God-given value than promoting what any pastor had to say. I studied the character and “‘personality”’ of God all throughout the Bible. I was hung up on the notion of “God is love,” contemplating this day and night.
During one particular drive home from seminary, I was so utterly consumed with self-hatred. I prayed that God would kill me in a car accident before I reached home. I wanted to die before I had made an irreversible sin. I would rather die a clean specimen than live dirty a dirty life. When I arrived at my house, I couldn’t understand why God had allowed me to live. And I kept feeling those words, “God is love,” swirling within my soul. I had loved my high school sweetheart with every fiber in my being, but I also remembered that the love I had for my boyfriend felt exactly the same. There were no difference, such as love versus lust, or love versus compulsion. I had loved both of them the same. It hit me like a ton of bricks: There can be no righteous version of love and a sinful version of love if God is love. There couldn’t be a sinful version of God.
After all those years of fasting, praying and feeling disgusting and despicable, I finally felt liberated from the slavery of shame. I had experienced a moment of true communion with my own authenticity and God’s love.
From that moment onward, my work was cut out for me. I had to learn to trust God with my entire, vulnerable being. I slowly cleared out the behavioral patterns that stabilized my low self-esteem and began practicing patterns that revealed my beautiful, natural relational offering. I slowly found a sense of connectedness with God that was not based on my behavior, but rooted in the creative design from which God created my essence.
Ultimately, I realized that God was not ignoring my prayers, fasted meals, and episodes of rage. God had been waiting for me to accept myself as the child created in their image.
One of the more profound lessons I learned along that segment of my spiritual developmental path is this: I cannot determine what aspect of life God is going to reconcile next. God may be focused on my pride in one chapter of life and my sexuality in another. And for my neighbor, God may be establishing belonging or unconditional love before approaching anything related to human sexuality. I realized that, because we all possess inherent value, I could not judge another’s authenticity. It all belonged to God; we all belong to God.
We are people who constantly participate in evolution. Each moment of the future arrives to welcome the next step assured by God. One by one, our steps take us closer to our authentic selves if we are willing to conspire with God.
As a child of God, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t just tolerate my “same-sex attractions.” I love myself BECAUSE I’m same-sex attracted. I have come to see the beauty in my human diversity. I have fallen in love with its offering to masculinity, femininity, our understanding of love, but also the lessons of unconditional love it forces me to embrace. Because I have plunged into the depths of self-hatred, abusive drinking, debilitating shame, and uncontrollable rage, have I have had the opportunity to learn the most liberating lessons of self-acceptance and love never fettered by conditions. God truly loves me, just as I am, and I have vowed my life to teach that lesson to as many as I can.