My Changing Sexual Orientation

My Changing Sexual Orientation
 
Author:  Yaakov  
 
(Posted: August 2012)

Don’t let the title fool you - my orientation isn’t changing on its own. This is not 
an easy path, and at least in my case, not a short one. But since I’m aspiring 
to masculine wholeness as I understand it, including, among other things, 
marriage and children with happiness and real love (including a highly 
satisfying marital relationship with my future wife - in the spirit of the 
Torah), this marathon of a journey is worth every effort.

Coming to terms and therapy

My story, in short:

Eleven years ago (at age 20), I started feeling distraught when the reality began 
setting in that I had same-sex attractions that weren’t going away. More 
specifically, I was infatuated with my best friend at the time, which turned 
into a crisis when he started dating a young woman. This threatened our 
relationship, as I understood things at the time.

When I sought psychological help, the therapist I met with told me that I would never 
succeed in overcoming these feelings. This was the only time in my life when I 
seriously contemplated suicide, so I did not return to her. In what I saw as a 
last resort, I turned to my parents and shared with them my struggle. They 
responded with support, and when they asked me what I want to do with the 
struggle and I replied that I wished to change my orientation, they sought an 
appropriate therapist, and soon thereafter, I started therapy with the founder 
of Reparative Therapy, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. From my therapy with him, I learned 
to listen carefully to my emotions, to learn from them, and to honor them as 
well as myself.

Encounters with the feminine

About half a year after I started therapy - after I had learned to become vulnerable 
with others and with myself while maintaining self respect - I experienced, for 
the first time in my life, an arousal towards a woman. This arousal took place 
during a long heart-to-heart talk with a good female friend from high school, 
with whom I took the risk of opening up about my same-sex attractions (I didn’t 
tell her I was gay. I don’t like the term, and I’ve never identified myself as 
gay. I am a man like all other men, who experiences attractions to others of his 
gender, sometimes more and sometimes less). From this friend I received not 
pity, but understanding and respect, and I understood that she doesn’t see me as 
weak or pathetic, but as a human being, a man, who deals courageously with a 
particular difficulty. 

Her supportive and respectful response helped me internalize that this was the truth 
about me: I wasn’t weak or pathetic, but rather a person of value who deals with 
challenges, just like everyone else. And suddenly, I started to feel trust and 
emotional safety towards her... and sexual arousal.

I continued therapy for about five years. I began to discover my inborn 
masculinity, and I started dating young women, arriving with them, at times, to 
sexual situations, borne of powerful desire.

I remember the first time. I was 25. It was a Shabbat afternoon in the winter, 
just after a rain shower, and I was taking a walk in the neighborhood. A 
mischievous thought entered my mind that I wanted to have a sexual experience 
with a woman (I did not consult with a rabbi - I just had a gut feeling that 
this was a good thing). On Saturday night, I called a young woman whom I knew 
was interested in me, and who wasn’t exactly shomer 
negia (avoiding 
physical contact with a member of the opposite sex), and asked her if she was 
free and wanted to meet up tonight. She said that she was going out with 
friends, but that I was invited to come along.

I met her and her friends at a pizza shop, where I found, among the others, a 
good-looking young man to whom I was immediately attracted. What to do? I drew 
from my repertoire a technique that I learned in therapy (that I now realize is 
more than a technique, but actually a way of living) - instead of distancing 
myself from the man I was attracted to and continuing to see him as foreign and 
different from me, to take steps to connect with him. I spoke with him and 
befriended him, intending to prove to myself that the two of us were not really 
different in our essential maleness, but similar in essence and equal as men in 
this world.

I thus succeeded in changing my perception and feelings at that moment, thereby 
getting past the barrier.

We all continued to eat and laugh, and I asked the young woman whether she wanted 
to go back to her place and watch a movie after dinner. She agreed, and we went 
to her apartment. We sat on the couch and started watching the movie. I started 
to touch, and she responded. After some time on the couch fully clothed, she 
invited me to her bedroom, where we were soon disrobed. We did everything except 
penetration, which I established for myself as a strict boundary, given the 
prohibition of niddah (a woman in her menstrual period). 
And I enjoyed every moment.

Journey into Manhood

I started to enjoy attraction to certain women when I was in certain states, but 
my attraction to men was still very powerful. Towards the end of the long period 
of reparative therapy, after years of my therapist urging me to attend the 
Journey into Manhood (JiM), I finally signed up and participated. I soon 
thereafter participated in the New Warrior Training Adventure as well as 
subsequent process groups.

My attending JiM was the most important and decisive step in my transitioning out 
of homosexuality. I there experienced connection to myself and others that I 
hadn’t been able to experience in my years of one-on-one therapy. My emotional 
floodgates opened, whose waters until then lurked just beneath the surface (in 
my therapy the floodgates released only a drop at a time), and I understood that 
now my desired change was really beginning to take form, and in a big 
way.

The main idea of the workshop is this: “if you change your beliefs and perceptions 
about yourself and about other men, you change the world of men as you know it.” 
In other words, when the man stops seeing himself as foreign in the world of men 
and starts seeing himself as part of it and equal to other men, he stops 
yearning for them sexually. And in the place once occupied by sexual yearning, 
he experiences deep love for other men characterized by identification and 
brotherhood.

The workshop is not a seminar of lectures - it is experiential. Quoting the 
description on the workshop’s homepage: 
“You won't just talk about what it is like to look another man in the eyes - you'll 
stand eye to eye with another man while we help you process whatever feelings 
might arise.”

Beyond the experience itself, participants acquire tools and strategies to help them 
deal and grow as they continue their journey. The strategy that has served me 
best is called a “clearing,” a process used on workshops of all kinds and all 
stances regarding homosexuality. The clearing requires a person - in this case, 
a man - to distinguish between the truth and the “stories” he tells himself 
about the other person standing opposite him. For example, I deluded myself many 
times that the man standing opposite me was stronger than me, better than me, 
and that he possessed greater value as a man than me - and as a result of the 
clearing process, I recognized that we were equal... "the delusion would burst", 
at least temporarily, and along with it the erotic attraction.

By repeating this process - whether with men standing opposite me in the flesh, or 
with men I knew, with whom I imagined having such a conversation - I got to the 
point where today I am no longer capable of developing an attachment marked with 
dependency towards another man, of the type that I had experienced throughout my 
life until I started doing clearings. Instead of these dependent attachments, 
today I enjoy closeness, love, support and mutual affirmation with many male 
friends. A more superficial attraction, however, remains.

Developing attraction to women

Despite having enjoyed several sexual experiences over the past few years with women (and not a single one with a man, with the exception of one instance of erotic 
touch before I started therapy), I have had difficulty entering a deep, 
long-term relationship with a woman. I also found that my more superficial 
attractions towards men were getting stronger, and I began desiring a sexual 
experience with a man. I therefore began working with a life coach who helped me 
put my needs (such as food, drink, relaxation and recreation, socializing) first 
on my priority list. The results of the coaching were an increase in self 
esteem, better mood, greater enjoyment of and satisfaction from life... and the 
superficial attractions, albeit still there, lost much of their 
power.

Today I am about 80% where I’d like to be, which is the place where I experience 
absolute identification with other men instead of craving, and to experience a 
deep, significant relationship with a woman who will be my life partner in all 
respects, including this struggle - like several of my companions on this 
journey, who are already married and living in happiness and love (and honesty 
regarding their journey) with their wives and children.

And I continue to do my work - to deal with the challenges (in particular by way of 
using techniques of changing beliefs and perceptions, as well as connecting 
instead of detaching), but also to have fun and to be happy.

Final thoughts - costs and benefits of making this effort

The journey out of homosexuality is like a marathon. It demands hard work, 
persistence, resilience in the face of recurring challenges, and preparation for 
a long haul. A select few who embark on the journey experience a complete 
change, while another minority experience no change at all, despite efforts. The 
majority who do their work diligently experience a reduction in their same-sex 
attraction and an increase in same-sex identification, such that much of their 
attraction is replaced by bonding, with what’s left often being weak enough that 
they are able to focus on the other aspects of their lives - many on their 
relationship with their wife and children - without getting distracted and 
bogged down.

I do not see homosexuality as a mental illness. Rather, I see it as a personality 
quirk that some wish to change. That being said, I compare it to several other 
personality-related phenomena appearing in the DSM, also life challenges that 
some wish to address and alter the impending outcome. Many alcoholics, for 
example, embark on a journey guided by Alcoholics Anonymous. While some break 
completely free of their desire for alcohol and some others continue to relapse 
over and over - some even suffering harm as a result of their involvement - many 
AA people go on to live productive, happy, meaningful lives with some desire for 
alcohol but not enough to disrupt the pursuit of their dreams. They make a 
choice to go the route, they set a goal, they take a risk, and they achieve 
whatever they achieve. Much like everything else in life that’s 
worthwhile.

For those of you with a child dealing with homosexuality, I urge you not to force 
your desire for change on him. This journey is as hard as a marathon, and no one 
should be forced to run a marathon. It’s not fair, and it disregards a person’s 
right to choose his destiny. He also will not succeed in changing if he feels 
forced by others to do so, and may therefore grow very resentful. Rather, 
present him with his options and give him his space to make his own 
choice.

But for those of you reading who are dealing with unwanted SSA and choose this 
marathon... you’ll experience connection, brotherhood and meaning like you’ve 
never experienced before. If you’re ready and willing, I urge you to go for 
it.

Yours, 

“Yaakov”