In today’s more “enlightened,” more secular, gay-affirming world, what would possibly motivate men like us to work toward minimizing our erotic or romantic responses to other men, and/or increasing our erotic or romantic responses to women, to the extent possible?
For us, there is usually no one answer to that question, but a variety of reasons, including:
General disappointment with gay life, gay relationships or gay communities.
Deep internal conflict with religious or spiritual convictions and personal belief.
A strong desire to have a wife and children, or to maintain an existing marriage and family.
A perception that, for many of us, homosexuality has been a way to cope with underlying pain or unmet needs.
A general sense that “gay” was not a core, authentic identity for many of us, or that homosexuality just felt “wrong” for us, somehow.
A general desire to find peace and fulfillment, and to be a better man overall.
Disappointment with Gay Life
As politically incorrect as it is to say this, disappointment with gay life, gay relationships or with our experience in gay communities has been a key motivating factor for many of us. The fact is, the reality we experienced just didn’t match the fantasy or the media portrayals. Some examples:
“The gay community just didn’t meet my needs. I didn’t identify with gays.” — Maurice, Alabama, USA
“I eventually came to the conclusion that gay relationships were never going to be fulfilling for me, and I wanted to find another alternative.” — Jeremy, Texas, USA
“When I imagined my best fantasy — I’m out and proud, everyone loves me, and I live happily ever after with the man of my dreams — it somehow felt like a consolation prize.” — Tim, Idaho, USA
“What I saw of the men I knew who had gone into the gay lifestyle was unappealing. It seemed to me to be a world of promiscuity, and lacked depth. I was looking for a committed family of men to be in my life, and it seemed to me that I wouldn’t necessarily find that level of fidelity in the homosexual community. In addition, I didn’t see anyone in an openly gay life who I wanted to be like. I wanted to live life as a man, not defining myself by whatever my sexual impulses may be.” — Tim, Oregon, USA
“Being in the gay life in Manhattan generated a rush of excitement that I initially mistook for self- fulfillment. But the lifestyle and my behavior were still driven by my deep insecurity and emotional neediness. I was easily manipulated, and when the rush of an ‘encounter’ wore off, I felt lonely and bad about myself. Deep dissatisfaction with the gay lifestyle, and a desire to live a physically and emotionally healthier life, motivated me to pursue change.” — “David,” Israel
“When I have acted on homosexual attractions, it has always left me with a bad feeling afterward.” — Sam, Utah, USA
“The gay world (or at least gay Los Angeles in the late 1980s) greatly disappointed me. I found in it an obsession with sex, porn, youth and physical appearance; prevalent recreational drug use; a campy, effeminate ‘crush’ on masculinity; and derision of family, monogamy and religion. I didn’t like the man I became when I was with gay boyfriends or at their parties.” — Rich, Virginia, USA
Faith and Spirituality
Religious or spiritual faith and personal beliefs are strong motivators for most of us.
“My religious beliefs cause me to see that there is something higher than myself, and if I want to be in line with that, then I should live the way that I believe will make me happy. The way to my happiness is through living in line with my personal beliefs, religion, and the lifestyle that I choose.” — Jason, Utah, USA
“What motivated me to shift my sexual attraction was my faith. I am an orthodox Jewish man, and I was resigned to the ‘fact’ that I would never be married or loved by a wife. In spite of being a rational, ‘modern’ thinker, I won’t give up my faith.” — Yeshaya, New York, USA
“My primary motivation was my belief in God and my personal convictions. I knew that I was living a lie and that the only way out was to seek God and then to participate in counseling.” — Samuel, South Africa
“I wanted to live as the man God had created me to be, at peace with his desires, and at peace with other men and women.” — Stefan, Germany
“After 18 years of living a gay lifestyle, I had come to an end of myself. I did not like anything about who I was and where I was going. I grew up in a Christian household and decided that I would give God one more chance. I had tried everything else in order to make myself feel better and more connected. Nothing worked. It was in a life of submission to God that I found my answer. He is what motivates me to live the life I live now — a life based on biblical principles, honoring God and serving other people.” — Ronald, California, USA
“At 21, I realized that my religion was more important than the transient nature of this life, and if God didn’t want me to act in a certain way then I accepted His authority over my life.” — Mohamed, United Kingdom
Wife and Family
A strong desire to have a wife and children of our own — or to hold together a marriage and family we already had — is a significant motivator for many of us.
“I wanted to get married to a woman and to live according to my biological sexuality.” — “Eli,” Israel
I was committed to maintaining my marriage and living in harmony with my personal values.” — Kevin, Idaho, USA
“I desired a life that was more compatible with my personal goals as far as family, marriage, children, etc.” — David, Arizona, USA
“I strongly desire to find my soulmate of the opposite sex and to be a father.” — Charles, France
SSA Was Covering Underlying Problems
Some men perceived that, for them, SSA did not represent their authentic, inborn sexuality but was a way to cope with underlying pain or unmet longings:
“I realized that my homosexual desires were an escape from my self-hatred and shame, from real friendships with other men and their emotions, and from women. I realized that I used sex only to reduce distress and not because of real love and relationships.” — Stefan, Germany
“I knew that underneath my SSA were wounds that I didn’t know what to do with. I was sexually abused as a pre-teen… and I could sense that my desire for men increased dramatically after that, mainly because my need for attention and acceptance escalated.” — Kevin, California USA
“I was motivated to change when I accepted that the roots of my unwanted SSA were not a spiritual issue, but that of a wounded boy who had never had a healthy nurturing fathering, and were profoundly emotional and psychological in nature.” — Dan, South Carolina USA
“I began to understand that what I was really seeking was non-sexual affirmation from the world of men. Sexual gratification never filled the underlying void. I felt deep in my core that I was not homosexual; rather, I had sexualized those male qualities I judged I never possessed.” — Chuck, Florida USA
“It became obvious that this lust for older, strong and good-looking men matched the absence of and longing for my father, who died when I was 2 years old. …The loss of my father and the lack of brotherly connection when I was young will never be fulfilled by a sexual relationship with a man, and that precludes me from leading a gay life.” — Charles, France
“It was incredibly liberating to come to understand that my attraction to other men at its core wasn’t because of homosexuality per se but because of a deeper unmet need for me to connect with masculinity in order to complete my own growth.” — Mohamed, United Kingdom
Not Our True Selves
A number of men experienced a general sense that “gay” was not a core, authentic identity for them. It just didn’t “fit” with their true sense of self, or it simply didn’t feel right, morally. For example:
“It was in conflict with my authentic self. It didn’t make sense to me that God would create me to be gay.” — “Rob,” California USA
“Though same-sex attraction was never a choice, I have always felt that it was in conflict with the person that I truly am.” — Charles, Ohio USA
“Homosexuality was already not working for me, but now [after my spiritual conversion] it also conflicted with my conviction that homosexual acts are immoral.” — Tim, Idaho USA
“I never felt 100% at home during the time I lived that lifestyle. It never seemed to fit with who I am made to be, but I had addictive drives to continue the behaviors, even though they made me feel guilty and shameful. Since beginning the journey out of sexualized same-sex attraction, I have found more peace and satisfaction than I ever thought possible.” — Robert, Texas USA
“My same-sex attractions did not resonate with the way I wanted to live my life. Part of the motivation was spiritual. Part of it was societal. But mainly, homosexuality just wasn’t working for me.” — “Monty,” New York USA
A Desire to be Happier, Better
A lot of men described a general sense of overall unhappiness with life and a general desire to find greater peace and fulfillment. Some also described a yearning to simply be a better man, to become their best self—and for them, that didn’t fit with their same-sex attractions.
“My life was rapidly deteriorating. My mental health was suffering. I was depressed, anxious and had panic attacks. I had lost contact with my family. I was riddled with inner conflicts and was extremely unhappy as a result. I knew that I was living an unhealthy lifestyle that I had to change.” — “Hakim,” United Arab Emirates
“I want to change because I want to find the joy that I have not glimpsed in the gay environment. I firmly believe that what I want and really need is to fulfill my needs in healthy non-sexual ways.” — Jose, Mexico
“I believed that by working to reduce the intensity of my homosexual attractions, I would be able to live my life with less stress and depression.” — Kevin, Idaho USA
“When I was living a gay life, I felt this emptiness in my heart. I didn’t know where it was coming from, but I realized that I needed to change. I realized that what I wanted most in my life was not to feel alone—but contrary to what everyone was telling me, pursuing a gay life style made me feel even more alone.” — Stephan, Germany
“My real motivation is that I deserve to be happy, less burdened, more loved and cared for. I deserve to not be chained to what was done to me when I was younger. I also am motivated as a future father. I want to start a new path to a different kind of environment for my future children.” — Jeddy, Texas USA
“I felt that I wasn’t reaching my potential. I felt that my body was naturally created heterosexual (physically, biologically, endocrinologically) but my psychology wasn’t in step. I wanted more from life. Marriage. Children. To reach my fullest potential as a human male.” — Mohamed, United Kingdom
“I didn’t like the man I became when I was with gay boyfriends or at their parties. In contrast, when I met [my future wife], I felt uplifted, like I was being called to be a better man. I liked the man I saw reflected in her eyes. That’s who I really wanted to be.” — Rich, Virginia USA
Shame Never Motivates Real Change
What you don’t see in these responses are significant references to outside pressure to change, or fear of family or societal rejection for being gay — the kinds of things that most critics assume could only be motivating someone to pursue change.
Any successful change or personal-growth effort — whether we are talking about sexual attractions or sexual behaviors or weight loss or quitting smoke or earning a PhD — must be intrinsically self-motivated. In the long-term, people don’t make difficult, lasting changes to please others. Personal-growth efforts must always be authentically self-motivated.
And even more important, they must not be based on shame.
Quite the contrary. Successful personal-growth or emotional-healing efforts of any kind must be built on a foundation of self-worth. We pursue change (of any kind) not to become good or worthy, but because we already are good and worthy — and therefore we deserve better for our future than we’ve had in the past.
That’s why our Journey Into Manhood program teaches:
“If you gain nothing else from this weekend, we want you to know two truths:
“1. You are valuable and good just as you are — today, unchanged, and even if you never change.
“2. You have brothers who see your ‘shadows’ and accept you, just as you are.”