Why Change?

Written By: Ben Newman

Ben Newman, the founder of People Can Change, summarizes 5 basic responses from men who expressed their desire to change sexual orientation.
Written Originally for www.peoplecanchange.com (Dec. 2003)

Why Change? What could possibly motivate us to go against our seemingly "natural" urges and do all the hard work described on this Web site?
 
To one extent or another, we were all motivated by at least one of the five things listed below, but usually were motivated by a combination of them: We were often miserable "gay"; we wanted to resolve the inner conflict between our homosexual desires and our deeply held beliefs; we wanted to have a family, or preserve the families we already had; we wanted to grow into mature masculinity, which for us meant heterosexual masculinity; and we felt called by G-d to come out of homosexuality into what for us was a far better life.
 
1. We were often miserable "gay."
 
In so many ways, "gay" just didn't work for us. It was so easy to become sex-obsessed in the pornography- and lust-saturated culture of homosexuality. It was so difficult to feel connected to G-d or some kind of higher purpose in a life where the mantra seemed to be, "If it feels good, nothing else matters." We were living in dissonance with the values, beliefs and goals we'd held for a lifetime. We pined for love and acceptance from men, but it seemed that so many gays so idolized youth and physical perfection that we often felt more rejection from our gay brothers, not less.
 
Still, we kept searching, partly because we didn't know where else to look and partly because we did find moments of pleasure and moments of real connection with good, decent and kind homosexual men. Those were the moments that kept drawing us back to homosexuality, hoping and believing that maybe the next boyfriend, the next encounter, would finally make us feel whole.
 
But for most of us, the hole inside of us that yearned for male affirmation and acceptance just got bigger the more that we pursued wholeness by engaging in homosexual behavior. Several of us were plagued by thoughts of suicide. Some of us became sex addicts, no longer able to control our obsessive search for sex. Our lives became filled with darkness. 
 
Paul writes:
    
    "For 12 years, I lived life as an openly gay man. I had a partner of three years who I dearly cared for, a family of wonderful loving friends scattered around the world, a house, a new job, and the prospects of a beautiful life. There was just one question that periodically raised its ugly head: Why was I so insufferably miserable?

    "I was amazed. I had everything that I ever wanted. Yet, I also felt an incredible black hole inside that seemed to be sucking the life out of me. How could this be? I kept trying desperately to fill it. I read a lot of philosophy, I thought a lot about existence and life, and tried various ways to reach a peace. Nothing worked, not one damn thing. The pain just continued to increase, steadily and persistently. All I wanted to do was cease to exist, to end the suffering.
"
 
Ben writes:
 
    "As soon as I 'accepted' that I was gay, and I could deny it no longer, I felt immediate relief from the turmoil of vacillation, but I also felt all my life's goals, dreams and values tossed to the wayside, with no higher purpose to replace them. I was adrift without a moral anchor or spiritual compass. A boyfriend talked theoretically about moral versus immoral homosexuality, but I couldn't see it (perhaps in part because I had met him at a gay bathhouse!). It seemed my 'life's work' would become about pursuing sex with men and trying to feel good about it. I just couldn't look in the mirror and like that kind of a man."
 
These experiences are confirmed by a myriad of statistics and our own personal experiences in the gay world. We found promiscuity was rampant; within gay circles, we found it was not only a given, it was celebrated and joked about openly. "Permanent" relationships are fleeting, lasting usually just a few months but occasionally a few years. On average, gay men die as much as 20 years earlier than heterosexual men. It is no wonder we were miserable; what is amazing is that so many seem to find fulfillment in that kind of life.
 
2. For many of us, our homosexual longings conflicted with deeply held beliefs, causing painful turmoil and confusion.
 
We could not simply toss aside everything we had come to believe about right and wrong, good and evil, God, and our life purpose. These things were part of our identity, part of how we made sense of the world. Many of us found we couldn't will them away any more than we could will away our homosexual desires. Nor did we want to.
 
3. We longed to have a family of our own one day, or, if we were already married or had children, we wanted to hold our families together and be the husbands our wives deserved and the fathers our children deserved.
 
We couldn't live with the thought of putting our wives and children through so much turmoil just because we couldn't control our lust. We had made promises to them, and we wanted to find a way to keep those promises and live with ourselves in peace.
 
4. We longed to grow into a fully mature masculinity, which for us meant heterosexual masculinity.

In short, we wanted to be men, and we simply defined "real men" as straight men. As much as we tried to convince ourselves that homosexual men were just as masculine as straight men, that there was nothing emasculating about having sex with a man or pursuing the gay interests, we felt inside ourselves that that just wasn't true.
 
Our masculine souls, no matter how buried below a gay identity, longed to feel as masculine as we perceived straight men to be. And we began to realize we would never feel that way as long as we related to men sexually or romantically. We learned that to grow into full masculinity, we would have to grow into heterosexuality.
 
5. We felt called by G-d out of homosexuality into what for us was a far better life.
 
At different times and in different ways, almost all of us turned to G-d in our turmoil, and felt this simple truth deep in our hearts: Homosexuality was wrong for us, and G-d would lead us out of the pain if we turned to him.
 
This became a powerful motivator in our lives. Coupled with the fact that for the majority of us, being gay just didn't work, a spiritual hope of eventual peace offered a tiny, flickering light at the end of a tunnel. We walked toward it.
 
And our journey began.