Turning Weakness to Strength
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t dealing with homosexual problems. A close family relative started sexually abusing me when I was seven or eight years old. Some years older than me, he got me to have oral sex with him on a regular basis. This went on for about a year, until he left the area.
He was a close family member, and I trusted him. At first I didn’t recognize that there was anything wrong with what we were doing. It felt pleasurable and I enjoyed his attention, especially since I didn’t get much positive attention from my father, who was distant, hostile and frequently violent. But I wondered about the secrecy: I was told by him not to tell anyone or he would “get” me. So I felt simultaneously desired and threatened by him — and very, very confused about love, especially “brotherly” love among males.
More than that, I was confused about what it even meant to be male. I just couldn’t relate to the world of boys and men. I had fine and gross motor skill problems, so I was not particularly good at sports. At school, I spent time with boys in my early school days but later found it more comfortable to be with girls. At home, I was quiet and submissive to my emotionally detached mother. I always tried to be a good and helpful boy.
A Foundation of Faith
During childhood I had an inherent interest in spiritual and religious things and felt that God was watching over me and if it was not for this foundation feeling I am sure I would not have been able to cope with the struggle I have endured with same-sex attraction.
When I was 12, I made friends with a boy at school whose father had died. Like me, he was immature for his age. I started to attend his church youth program. From the first day that I attended I knew that I wanted to become a member of his church. I was particularly attracted to spiritual yet rational aspects of the religion. It was a place where I could feel relaxed and comfortable — unlike my home and school. I felt that the spiritual truths I was hearing about were somehow familiar to me and something that I wanted be part of, so I was soon baptized.
Not long afterward, however, while spending the night at my friend’s house, he made a sexual advance to me, and I responded. From that time on we became very involved in homosexual activity, including mutual masturbation, genital and anal sex. I felt pleasure and release, of course, but emotionally I felt nothing. My friend wanted to kiss and embrace, but I somehow knew that men didn’t treat each other like lovers, and resisted it. I did not associate affection with sex.
It did cross my mind that what we were doing might be wrong, but because a close family member had done this type of thing to me, too, I wanted to continue the experience. But over time, I started to become aware that our sexual practices were compulsive and empty. I could feel that the sex was spiritually enervating and shallow, and resulted in low-self esteem and self-destructive behavior. It was addictive and compelling, but it didn’t feel right.
I guess I did consider us to be “more-than-friends,” but his anger and rage was hard to deal with. The relationship continued for about eighteen months and ended because I could not cope with it any more and recommitted myself to the church that we both belonged to. I felt relieved to be away from my relationship with him but still, after all that time, felt an emptiness that I could not fill. I met up with him again some years later and he had at that time been married and divorced. He made subtle sexual overtures to me but I did not respond. He has since married again and has children and is happier than he has ever been even though he is no longer associated with the church we had joined.
Fear of Men
In hindsight, given my early sexual involvement with a family member and later with my friend, my alienation from my father and my over-identification with my mother, I guess it’s not surprising that I became somewhat effeminate in my mannerisms. In high school, boys teased and taunted me because of this and because of my awkwardness with sports. A very well-built, tall guy started to come to my rescue and defended me. More than once he protected me from a severe beating. I appreciated this man because he was one of the few that treated me as a person and defended me against a bully. He seemed to understand.
This was an emotionally difficult time for me, and I tried every way possible to avoid physical education classes, which didn’t help my reputation either. I felt constantly on guard and different from other boys at high school especially. I often stood back and quietly listened to the other boys but could not communicate with them on their terms. I never felt connected to them or part of them. My secret sexual involvement caused me to feel even more disconnected from them.
At 16, I dropped out of school and entered a four-year apprenticeship as an electrical mechanic, an area in which I showed technical aptitude. My intention in quitting school was to escape the abuse of the boys at high school, but now I was thrown into a group of the foulest mouthed and roughest men I had ever met. At building sites, there was plenty of pornography being passed around (which I found stimulating), and the men were always talking about sex with women and their extra-marital relationships. I felt totally alienated from them. They belittled and criticized me. Once a group of them even ganged up on me and stripped me of all my clothes. I was left to find refuge in a small, unfinished room on one of the highest floors of the multi-storied building we were working on. If not for a kind man who retrieved my clothes for me, I don’t know what I would have done.
When one tradesman made a sexual advance toward me, I reluctantly responded. I secretly started some homosexual activity with him at work. This was my only direct sexual experience with a man since my relationship with my friend at school, and it lasted until he was transferred to another building site. When I ran into him again later, I did not respond to his advances. By this time my spiritual commitment had a stronger impact on my decisions.
My next work assignment was in the company’s electrical store where I was happier because I didn’t have to be around men as much. Thus, my pattern was firmly established out of fear and self-preservation, I would try to avoid men as much as possible, even though I was sexually attracted to them. I never did spend time with men socially until later when I spent time with heterosexual men in my church.
It was because of my nonsexual association with one of these young men that I became more actively involved with the church and had my first spiritual epiphany that at that time gave me the beginnings of greater internal strength.
In the meantime, to minimize suspicion about my sexuality, and because I liked being with girls and felt safe with them, I dated several girls from my church during my late teen years. But sexually, it was the guys at my church to whom I was attracted. I would arrange to spend a night at their homes, and then late in the night while they slept, I would try to handle their genitals and arouse them without waking them. Alarmed, a couple of them spoke to the church elders about this. I was mortified, but the elders and these people responded to me with kindness. They helped me recognize my behavior as predatory and helped me curtail it. One man from this time has remained a close lifelong friend, confidant and mentor to me.
In my early 20s, I moved from my Australian home to the United States for a year and a half to try to sort out the conflict my homosexual feelings created with my spiritual feelings and my desire for a family. Part of me wanted to serve God through full-time missionary service. Part of me wanted to marry a woman and have children. Part of me wanted to find a boyfriend, and indulge all my homosexual fantasies. I was horribly conflicted, and my whole future seemed to hang in the balance. I felt lost but felt a spiritual path was going to be my best choice even though I continued to be torn.
Turning to God
A terrible motorcycle accident brought my deepest desires for my life into sharp focus. I broke both my legs in the accident, and I spent a full month in the hospital, followed by six months of rehabilitation therapy. Afraid I would never walk again, I begged God to rescue me — physically and spiritually. I promised God that if he would let me walk again, I would turn my life around, stop seeking sex with men, and serve a full-time mission, if God would have me as a missionary.
Returning home to Australia, I fulfilled my promise to God, and he helped me walk again. As I immersed myself in scripture, I received a most powerful spiritual witness of their truth, especially as I read that if I humbly took my weaknesses to God in faith that the grace of God would turn my weaknesses into strength. (Much later I would learn how compatible this scriptural principle is with the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous.) This represented another spiritual epiphany; I somehow knew that God could help me, and he would give me strength to thrive in Christian service to him.
In 1983, at the age of 26, I received a call from my church to give two years of full-time missionary service in my home country of Australia. The homosexual feelings and memories didn’t disappear, by any means, but I found as I lost myself in service to God that they lessened in frequency and intensity.
When I completed my mission and returned home, I soon found that when I was no longer serving God full time, the homosexual desires again intensified. But since 1983 I have never again succumbed to temptations to have sex with men. I belated starting university, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in social science with a focus in community development. I started once again dating women, and married at the age of 30.
I never told my wife of my history of homosexual problems until about five years into our marriage. When I finally did tell her, it was not a complete surprise to her but did initially create a serious rift in the relationship. Eventually she became supportive, trusting that the behavior, at least, if not the feelings, was in my past.
Even though I was not actively homosexual, my "emotional homosexuality" kept me from being as affectionate with my wife as we both would have liked. Eventually, we started to withdraw emotionally from each other. After 10 years of marriage and three children, my wife and I separated. Like the motorcycle crash so many years before, this emotional crash woke me up to the fact that my life was not working. Withdrawing from homosexual behavior and serving God — as important as these had been to my growth and development as a man — were not nearly enough for me to have a truly healthy heterosexual marriage if I still secretly lusted after men.
Uncovering and Healing Buried Wounds
With my marriage and family hanging in the balance, I went into therapy, and for the first time dealt head-on with my brother’s sexual abuse of me as a young boy. The therapy awakened me to the real origins of my sexual identity and sexual confusion. I recognized that I needed to change the way I saw myself and the world I lived in — especially the world of men.
I started “bibliotherapy,” immersing myself in books about understanding homosexuality, to help me understand how the molestation led to my homosexual confusion. Joseph Nicolosi’s Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality particularly opened my mind and heart to new understanding about my sexuality and me. I gained a new understanding that as I healed the past, I would heal the present. I was not destined to feel homosexual forever! I confronted the family member who had abused me and learned that he, too, had been abused, although by someone outside the family.
I confronted my father, from whom I had felt estranged for so long, and he opened up to me for the first time about the struggles in his own life that had shut him down emotionally. I came to see that his lack of affection was not about me but about his own, deep emotional pain from childhood in particular the death of both of his parents. His mother died a week after his birth and his father who he never met and died when he was just nine years old. In addition he harbored traumatic war experiences that left him angry and scarred.
Confronting the wounds of my past — by confronting the member of the family and father and coming to understand them — was the beginning of my completely letting go of my homosexual feelings and the start of my “growing up” as a man.
With new insight into myself and my real desires for my life, I reconciled with my wife after three months of separation. We determined to put our family above all else, and I committed to continue to deal with the underlying problems that I now could see had caused my homosexual feelings to begin with. The more that I did deep "soul work," the more I found that my homosexual thoughts and feelings became less compelling and easier to dispel. They just didn’t mean the same thing to me anymore.
In particular, a book called “Willpower is Not Enough” by Dean Byrd and Mark Chamberlain helped me further let go of homosexual fantasies and interest in Internet pornography by focusing not on controlling behavior through the human will but changing desires through surrender to God. I re-confronted my abuser because I felt that he still treated me as a child. For the first time I met him on equal terms, which helped me feel like a stronger, more mature man.
I have learned to love and even respect my father. He died in May 2003 and spending time with him in his final hours of life helped me to recognize that we were alike in many ways. I gave the eulogy at his funeral and that was also healing. All of these things have taught me that the stronger I feel as a man, the less sexual desire I feel for another man’s masculinity.
Men Who Help Men in Manhood
Along my belated journey to manhood, I found men who mentored me informally as I dealt man-to-man with my father wounds, lifelong emotional timidity and many other issues relating to my confusion over manhood. In particular, This mentoring has been immensely healing. I see now that only other men can give the kind of masculine affirmation and mentoring that every boy needs to complete his journey into manhood. It is my hope that I can do this for my two sons also.
The listening and support runs two ways though, and I find great satisfaction in being there for other men. Other men have struggles, that although may not have been exactly like mine, can be surprisingly similar and are important to support. I still can talk deeply with other men, giving mutual support for our very different – and yet in some ways, surprisingly similar, efforts to reach our full potential. After all my years of abusive or sexualized male relationships, I find great joy in a mutually giving, platonic relationships with other men who wants nothing from me but honest and caring friendship.
My marriage now is better than ever. I am now 47 and my sexuality is changing as I recognize my sex drive is not the same as it once was — which is not a problem. My wife and I have felt increasing levels of commitment and understanding as our relationship becomes more deeply companionate. I find greater masculine joy in my roles as husband and father. I enjoy just hanging out with my children and being there for them.
A friend’s example has encouraged me to further upgrade my qualifications. I now run my own company that has helped many people to use computers in their homes or offices. I have decided to spend the rest of my life working with men professionally to help them find their full potential — whatever that is. It has been a long journey but in my 48th year I now recognize the importance of men helping men to grow as men. I once felt such intense estrangement from men and, out of fear, did everything I could to avoid them. As a result, my innate need for male connection could only be fulfilled sexually. Whenever I can I help men to find spiritual and emotional healing and my love for men as brothers preclude sexual desire for them.
I continue to participate in church as a leader of a group of men, mature men, and as God promised me so many years ago, my weakness has in reality become my strength.
—Peter Hollow, Updated November 2013 (Originally posted in 2000)