LGBTSelf WorthStory

I Tried to Pray the Gay Away and It Nearly Killed Me

pray the gay away

Trigger warning: In this article I talk very frankly about alcohol abuse, suicide, and depression. Please read at your own discretion. Thank you.

//

I’ve met a lot of different people in the past seven months since coming out. Many of them also went through reparative therapy programs. We often joke about trying to “pray the gay away” and what a silly concept it is. And then I realize that there are many people out there who are still trying this. People are desperate to believe that there is a way to change their sexual orientation because they believe that they are broken in some way.

Unable to reconcile their faith and sexuality and/or gender identity, there are many who fall into depression, some who lead double lives, struggle with addiction in silence, and even some who are driven to take their own life.

As I reflected on my history with reparative therapy, and my own attempts at suppressing my sexual orientation, I realized that as much as I make light of this situation, that belief that it was possible for me to change my sexual orientation was more than destructive. It was deadly.

I tried to pray the gay away and it nearly killed me.

//

It was snowing that night. I remember that quite clearly. I remember looking at the red door on my house and thinking how lovely it was. I remembered every single Christmas gathering and birthday party, and I remember thinking, Wow… I’m going to miss this.

The house was no longer a home though. Dad had gone. My brothers were now living in different states. Probably a product of my sin. I was the one, with my homosexual attractions, who had let sin into our home. And that sin had infected everything. You have to do this. It’s the only way to make things right.

I had plotted it out for months at this point. I had silenced my thoughts about the consequences of what would happen to my family and friends. They’ll be fine, I’m sure. Sad, but they’ll get over it.

My foot slowly pressed the gas and I began to pull away from my house for what I believed to be the last time.

Our neighborhood was a golfing community. Golf cart paths weaved throughout and at the very front was a lake. It was beautiful in the moonlight. There was a part of me that thought about driving my car into that lake. It was dramatic and poetic, as was my nature. I saw the movie playing out in my head:

Careening across the field, slowly sinking into the freezing water, letting its icy cold fingers embrace my limbs and lungs and just drifting off into a sweet nothingness. And then opening my eyes to see the golden gates of Heaven, feeling the embrace of my Savior…

But it would probably be my luck that, in my attempts to attempt such a poetic end, the lake would be too shallow and I’d end up having to explain to the tow truck driver and my mother how my car ended up stuck in the lake.

That would be embarrassing.

Jesus, if I can’t stop my body from sinning, I’ll end my sinful body and come see you. I trust that you’ll forgive even this. That’s what I prayed.

Driving past the lake I giggled a touch at the foolish notion. No, what I was doing was a much better way. Much more my style.

I got to the bar, ordered a top shelf triple gin and tonic, and began talking to strangers. I wanted to know about their lives. Most were students, some were in Greek life, some were just locals like me. We danced to the terrible pop music that was playing. I took some shots, had another triple, and let my mind get blurry and dark.

What a good way to end. Beautiful strangers. Quality booze.

Not feeling anything.

When the lights started to come on, I knew it was my cue. Closed up my tab, stumbled out the door. Everything was going fine.

That was fun. I’m ready now. I was going to get in my car, turn the key, get on the highway, and probably crash and die. Maybe I’d fall asleep at the wheel. Maybe I’d crash into a tree. I didn’t know. I didn’t care. But I was ready.

And as I was walking to my car, I blacked out. I have this small blip of memory of someone. I think I knew them but I’m not sure. And next thing I know I’m waking up in my bed. My keys are on the nightstand. I look out the window. My car is parked on the street. Not a scratch on it.

How am I alive? This wasn’t supposed to happen.

//

It had been ten years of trying to pray the gay away. Ten years of trying to fix myself. Ten years of struggling to grasp why I was gay and why God would allow this to happen to me—a Christian. I had been to therapists and group meetings and even went around the world as a missionary, hoping that through these acts of penance, God would grant me freedom from what I was feeling.

These unwanted homosexual attractions were something I viewed as separate from me. They were a cancer to be cured, a tumor on my heart to be cut out. I was terrified to share my torment with many people because I was ashamed. I was told that if I just prayed the right prayers, if I fasted, if I did the “heart work,” that maybe, hopefully, God would grant me the grace to overcome these temptations.

But nothing ever worked.

Not therapy, not prayer, not getting “demons” cast out of me, not fasting, not group confessions, not holy oil, nothing. For ten years I was convinced it was something wrong with me. It had to be me. I wasn’t ever going to be good enough for God because I wasn’t strong enough to overcome this trial.

This warped view of myself distorted my logic. It caused me to view my life as invaluable. It pushed me to take my life because a life full of this, what I saw as a horrible pattern of sin, a terrible addiction that I couldn’t hope to overcome, was not worth living.

So I tried.

I tried to kill myself because I saw my heart as incontrovertibly damaged.
I believed my soul as marred beyond any hope of healing.

And it didn’t work.

After that night at the bar, when I woke up in my bed with the world’s worst hangover, I asked God why he kept me alive. And it was almost like a light came on in my head, like a candle in the darkest room. What the hell was I thinking?

I knew something had to change. I knew that there had to be a different way of looking at this.

Praying the gay away nearly killed me and, if I hoped to live at all, something had to change. Click To Tweet

That’s when I began reading medical journals on sexual orientation. I began exploring new kinds of theology, new ways of talking about God that I never knew were possible. I read stories of people who had walked what I’d been through. I was amazed. Something else was possible. More than that, I didn’t just have to survive, but I had an opportunity to actually thrive in this life.

The next year was still a struggle as I worked out my personal theology, but the biggest thing I look at as a clear indicator of God’s will for my life and for other people who struggle with their sexual orientation or gender identity is this:

Jesus said we’d know a tree by its fruit. So what is the fruit of your life? Is what you are doing bringing you life or death?

As I worked to suppress and change my sexual orientation, continually being met by failure, I internalized those failures as being my fault. I believed God was displeased with me, that I wasn’t doing enough, that I couldn’t change.

What what was the fruit of that labor?

Literal death. I wanted to kill myself and nearly did.

So if the way of Jesus is supposed to lead us to life, I am convinced that trying to correct my orientation is not in line with the heart of Christ as it lead me to a place of death.

And this just isn’t my story. There are thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals who can tell you that the same self-hate I experienced also drove them to similar places. And enough is enough.

No more.

No more stories of people being pushed to the brink of taking their life because they can’t fix themselves.
No more transgender individuals throwing their lives away because of familial rejection.
No more marriages that are torn apart because one partner hoped and prayed and believed that a heterosexual marriage would heal them of something that is naturally a part of who they are.

No more death.

There is a better way. And it starts with embracing good science and psychology. It starts with hearing people’s stories and believing them.

God has set me free to live a life that is abundant and full of His glory. You can look at just the past seven months since I came out and see that depression, suicidal thoughts, and much of my negative self-talk has fled because I am standing in the truth. I feel like a whole new person. And I cannot and will not go back to a shame-filled, half existence when I know there is so much life to live.

The teaching that one has to change their sexual orientation in order to be in right relationship with God is wrong, dangerous, and is killing people.

There is research to support this, science to back this up, and countless stories from people like me who have survived reparative therapy practices and teachings from conservative leadership.

Regardless of where God leads an individual in this matter, we have to begin to embrace people where they are, and give them to the freedom to wrestle through their theology, and land where they feel closest to God. That could be celibacy. That could be staying faithful in a mixed orientation marriage. That could be embracing progressive theology and pursuing a same-sex relationship.

But don’t lie to people and tell them the have to fix themselves before they come into a full relationship with God.

We must choose the way that leads to life, and show others that path when they have lost their way.

 


 

I tried to pray the gay away I know that this is an incredibly heavy subject, and I thank you for reading. I know this story is just one of thousands. If you, or someone you know, needs help, ask for help. 

For free, safe confidential support for LGBTQ young people, you can contact The Trevor ProjectYou can also call them at 866-488-7386.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Is this also a part of your story? What would you say to an LGBTQ+ person who is struggling with simply just holding on to life? 

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  • Emmersto

    *hugs* thank you for holding on

  • Kim Belcher Messick

    My heart breaks for so many. My daughter did not go through reparative therapy, but we have been part of the conservative church for 30 years, and you know the damage that can do with that as your “conscious.” She told us she was very close to suicide several times. I love your “posture” of encouraging those who are at that point to turn to God and draw close, WHATEVER that looks like for them. I wish that we (society, the church) did not think everyone needs to believe exactly the same and express themselves exactly the same. I pray for all of our hearts (ALL, meaning people on all sides of this) to be open to transforming into a heart/spirit that allows others freedom, space, and the ability to live peaceably in close proximity. “What would I say…?” I would tell them that I love them; that they are beautiful and that they have much to offer the world around them just the way they are; they are worthy, they are free. Let’s walk together through this. We will learn together, we will hold each other up. And when we are stronger, we can then turn and help others who are falling and hopeless.

  • Angel Peterson

    Thanks for sharing your story! It is a story of hope! I hope more Christians will listen and really hear.

  • Joseph Pierce

    What an amazing story! I am so glad that you have written this blog. It’s such an incredible encouragement to me. I have gone through pretty much the same thing. For so long I was way down and oppressed and hurt and in that dark pit of despair in regards to this issue, it was when Jesus open my eyes and showed me the truth, and the truth is that when we take our focus off of Jesus all of the sudden, nothing seems to make sense anymore. This whole argument going on and constant debating and theological nitpicking and pulling scriptures out of context is all a ploy from Satan To try and take peoples focus off of Christ Jesus. Jesus is the word, that’s the truth. So many of my friends in my life have been LGBT people whom I have met in all different walks of life, in Nice neighborhoods, and even in homeless shelters where I stayed. And all of them have at one point in another been so grieved by this issue. But it was when we looked at Jesus that all the sudden all that weight and hurt was lifted and we felt loved and appreciated and accepted for who we are. And that’s a gift my friend. That is something that many condemning people dont understand, it is precious and I am overjoyed and blessed and honored to be a gay person. If I were not I would have not seen this kind of love, this aspect of love from the very heart of Jesus, that can only be seen through this window. we are blessed my friend, we are blessed indeed because Jesus has taken something that was meant to condemn, and turned it into a stumbling block for those who claim to love Jesus. to give you an example I was with a woman one day when I was at work and I hadn’t really come to grips with my sexuality and I was upset the whole day about this issue and I finally told her I’m gay, and I looked down in shame. She looked at me and she said “I used to think negatively until I found out my son was and then I realized, what if part of the reasoning why gay people are in this predicament is because God is revealing Who truly loves him?” Just remember readers that in our hardship the truth of people’s hearts is being revealed and in turn God is getting the glory! Just some food for thought. Bless you brother 🙂

  • Nicholas

    I know what it’s like to go through this i came within an inch of running a razor blade up my arm because i had so much self hatred about being bisexual. This last year I have finally accepted it and am at peace with it. I’m still not out and have only told a few friends and one family member, but God is removing the fear of rejection and I believe that God maybe directing me to be a light in the LGBT community.

  • Sue Bonner

    I did my time at ex-gay counseling, and did everything they told me would “un-gay” me. I went to their support groups, classes, and counseling. I read their books and pamphlets, and I listened to their tapes. Even worse, several times my church tried to cast demons out of me. None of it made my attractions to women go away. Through a series of circumstances I started attending a church that had no problem with gay people and gay relationships. I went through an intense period of study and rethinking of my viewpoint. Let’s just say that in early 2010 I was so closeted I was almost closeted to myself. Now in 2016 I’m so out and proud that I have to be careful not to be obnoxious about it.

    During my study period, the most important thing I learned about understanding the Bible is you need to learn everything you can about the context it was written in. If you don’t, you will read your own life experience and cultural assumptions into it, and will end up getting an improper interpretation. When I read about the cultural context of the six (and only six) verses on the Bible that talk about homosexuality, I quickly came to the realization that they had nothing do to with loving, committed same-sex relationships. Loving and being in a relationship with a woman is not sinful. Coming to that realization was like have a soul-crushing weight lifted of of my shoulders. I’m a much happier and more emotional stable person than I used to be. And things are good in my life.

    • Mike Stidham

      A relative of mine, in the process of fighting his gay nature, ended up going to one of those “pray away the gay” group counseling sessions. He took his mom with him for moral support. They left early, looked at each other and said, “Those people are WEIRD.” That was his family’s initial step toward “yup, we’re going to have to accept him as gay.” He’s happy, his parents are happy he’s happy, everybody’s happy except for some homophobic extended family.

  • Mike

    Kevin, thanks for your story. For your honesty and openness. I see your life thru this blog, I see your happiness and your zeal for life, I have to admit that I am jealous. My life is one described above. For years I tried to pray the gay away, I tried to be the best christian I could be, hoping that if I was good enough God would free me of this struggle. I can’t say that I agree with all you say. For me personally, I can’t make the same decisions you have, but I don’t judge you, nor do I piety you. In a way I do respect you and I admire you. I’m married with a family, I love them, but at times it does feel like this struggle is killing me. What I wish most is to walk in the joy and peace of Gods love for me. I wish the same for you.

  • Brave, powerful story. Honestly, I’m hoping that 50 years from now, the verses used to explain homosexuality as a sin will be read the same way we now read verses that justified owning slaves. Though I’ve been told I’m not a “real Christian” for thinking that way…

  • Dawne

    Thanks, Kevin, for your beautiful testimony. May it help many.

  • “There is a better way. And it starts with embracing good science and psychology. It starts with hearing people’s stories and believing them.” YES

    Thank you so, so much for sharing your story. It is wondrous.

  • Josh
    • zunelander

      I took a listen to the audio at this site. It’s really nothing different than what hasn’t already been said before. One of the interesting things about James White’s response to gay Christianity is that he says, he hasn’t kept up with the latest info on the subject. I wonder, if he knows about how the Jews divided the law of Moses into two groups, because that has a lot to do with understanding the prohibition on homosexuality in the law of Moses versus that prohibition no longer being a prohibition anymore under the only law that matters: the royal law of the new covenant. James White needs to read the books of Michael Wood, found here: http://michaelwoodcrypto.com/books/ If anything, he should take a gander at the excerpts, if he’s not willing to purchase them. I will go out on a limb and say, these books will supersede any of the books he has ever read on the subject. Yes, I could be wrong, but that’s just how revealing they are.

      One of the biblical references James White says is the main reason he believes the bible is opposed to homosexuality is Matthew chapter 19, where Jesus references the creation story. Despite the well known “clobber passages”, James White says, Jesus’ reference to the creation story sets the stage for opposing homosexuality and homosexual relationships. I would buy that if the conversation Jesus was having was about the subject of who can marry and who cannot. However, that was not the subject of conversation in Matthew chapter 19. Interestingly enough, the subject was divorce and whether or not man could divorce his wife for any old reason he wanted to. That goes on today and is not preached on hardly at all to a congregation that contains divorced congregants who divorced for reasons other than adultery. Jesus said, unless a man’s wife has been found guilty of female adultery (porneia), then divorcing her was out of the question. Once Jesus made this known, the disciples reacted by saying, “If this is the case between a man and his wife, it is better not to marry!”. First, read carefully what was being said in the disciple’s reaction. They, pretty much were saying, if a man can’t divorce his wife for any reason he wants to, men shouldn’t get married. If you delve into the mindset of that reaction, you will see how women were viewed back then. “I want to be able to divorce my wife for whatever reason I want!” is the attitude that reaction revealed. However, Jesus was concerned about the wives, because it matters how you treat others, even your spouse. Thus, another implication of breaking the one and only law that matters: the royal law, which is based on the utterance, “you shall love thy neighbor as thyself”. Divorcing one’s wife for any reason other than infidelity was deemed a mistreatment of one’s neighbor. In this case, the wife.

      After the disciples reacted as they did by saying, it’s better not to take a wife, Jesus then brings up a related issue to not taking a wife: eunuchs. The creation story was brought up to reiterate that no man should put asunder what God has joined together. That ties into the issue of divorce. Eunuchs are brought up as a connected conversation to the issue mentioned by the disciples: not taking a wife. Jesus then gives examples of those who will not take a wife and the reason why they don’t take a wife. One of those examples is one pertaining to those who are born eunuchs from their mother’s womb. Historically, these were called natural eunuchs. Their counterparts were man made eunuchs. Natural eunuchs were such because they were naturally disinterested in women. You can read more on that here: http://www.well.com/~aquarius/contents.htm

      James White also disagrees that same gender love is the same as opposite gender love, primarily because two men and two women cannot reproduce children. This is a common argument, but I think, a not so good one. Especially since, there are heterosexual couple who can’t reproduce or simply do not choose to reproduce. Is a family only one that has children in it? Really?

      James goes on to say that gay Christians override scriptural authority by believing what they believe, because the bible clearly teaches that heterosexual marriage is the only lawful relationship approved by God. He says this, because it represents what he believes and how he perceives the bible’s teachings. As I see it, his comment means, gay christians override HIS view of what the bible teaches on marriage. There’s a difference between overriding scriptural authority (based on how James White interprets scripture) and overriding scriptural authority (based on what the correct interpretation of scripture is). Because James White is not inerrant and not infallible, his interpretation of the bible is up for debate and is not automatically deemed correct, just because it’s what he believes is the case. Only an infallible interpreter can say if a fallible human being is interpreting something correctly or incorrectly. Since no one on earth qualifies as an infallible interpreter, one can side with James White in faith or side with the gay Christians in faith. Either way, neither side knows with 100% certainty that they are correct. However, both sides can have 100% faith that they are correct. There is a difference between being 100% correct and having 100% faith. The first requires unadulterated proof of accuracy. The second requires no proof at all.

      I wanted to listen to James’ full message and reply simultaneously, but I’m watching a movie now:) I’ve already sent a message at the site, suggesting the James read the books I previously mentioned. Once the Jobs and the Justices are known about, the sooner your gay brothers and sisters can be treated in the way you would want to be treated. For that is law and the prophets and the narrow road to life.

  • Man so can relate. Just talked my family (Parents & Siblings) about where I am at. Came out to them initially 11yrs ago and haven’t talked about things until a few weeks ago. Oh and told my brother for the first time as well. Not easy been 39 and also having family that have been involved in church for years, add in that I was also a Pastor in Australia.
    Its been a load off my shoulders sharing where I am at, and the depression that I had has lifted a lot. In the 11 years I was able to resolve been Gay and still been a relationship with God. I hope one day I can help others do the same. Thanks for sharing your story Kevin, its powerful.

    • YOU! You are helping others. Simply by living as you were created to live. BLESS you.

  • Simon Day

    In answer to your question firstly I would say don’t do it, commit suicide, that is. My son was sodomised as a boy and he killed himself at 20. Thanks gay movement. Secondly mental illness is just as hard for people as being gay. Thirdly being bullied and raised by mentally ill parents and many such things also lead to depression, and terrible internal emotional struggles but we don’t have the crutch of being “gay” to get everyone’s sympathy. I think it’s a crutch that is replacing leaning on Jesus. Brokenness is good for you, it keeps you close to Jesus. I think the millions now taking SRI’s are similar to the many now supposedly coming out as gay, you all are not depending on Jesus. It’s an idol. There are many things that are hard about our lives and some of us are stuck with it and just have to carry on and there is no big supportive movement for us to all get together and have birds of a feather get together party type mentality that you gay lot seem to revel in. Why do you need gay bars, gay clubs, and why is it even called gay? It’s a big con. It obviously is not gay. And calling it praying the gay way is a cunning play on words too. I’m pretty sure I’m dealing with some personal things but I don’t want to join a pity party club and celebrate with others like myself and thereby replace the sweet comfort and love of Jesus. He loves me so much and He always always always comforts and loves me through it all. I know that I know that I will be reigning with Him. He uses me to do things and go to people who no one else wants to know. Jesus personally rewards me and loves me for it. My condition has caused me to be robbed and taken advantage of over and over. People and families are exttremely cruel and jealous. They are jealous of everything. It doesn’t matter what you do they are jealous because they have been hurt and damaged too and often the last person they want to hear from is one on their own, so we just have to carry on on our own with out them. Please remember Jesus loves you. I think you have been robbed of Jesus love and forgiveness. That’s been done to you by churches and family and gay haters. I know what I am talking about because i too have been judged and shunned. It’s not just being gay that gets you judgment. But telling everyone we are gay is a crutch and support that denies Jesus. Make Jesus your crutch not your condition . Amen . Thankyou Jesus

  • Peter Chan

    ‘Repent’ for one’s sexuality . . . seriously, like ‘repent’ for one’s preference for spaghetti over rice?

    That is so repugnant a notion on which I could puke for decades, even for life.

    I am 53 and I have always been strongly feeling that the traditional teaching from the church on this (non-)issue is so fundamentally twisted that I would quit Christianity in no time despite having been Christian ever since I could recall my earliest memories.

    ‘Christianity’ as an institutionalised, yet brutally distorted religion, I mean. I hate Christianity with all my passion but on the other hand love and embrace Jesus Christ and His examples with all my heart.

  • Hank Selzer

    I am deeply grateful for this testimony from YOU, my dear brother. Your story does many things for many people, but I think what it does for me is that it encourages me, so THANKS!

  • Jeremy

    Thank you. I’m struggling to accept myself and to come to terms with my sexuality, but I am hanging in there somehow. I have a very poor self-image all my life and wondering if it’s not too late to change that. I kind of accept it in my head that the Lord loves me as I am and that I am ok, but my heart feels different and over-rules my head. It’s a yoyo existence which makes it difficult for others to live with me. Lol! As well as me to live with me. It’s made harder when you live in a place where gay is illegal and everyone around you seems happy that it is.

    • zunelander

      Hi. I suggest that you read the books at the link. I think, they would open you up to great knowledge and the understanding that God does love you just as you are how it’s not being gay that is an issue, but how you treat others. Highly suggested. Prayers to you.

      http://michaelwoodcrypto.com/books/

      • Jeremy

        Thanks. I don’t have money to buy books. Thanks for prayers and encouragement.

        • zunelander

          I understand that. If you can save your money, do so. It will be well worth it, one book at a time. You can even click on each book and there is an excerpt for each book, I believe. So you can read a good amount for free, just to get an idea of what each book says. If I could send them to you, I would. Stay positive.

  • Jennyfer Rahill Mancino

    I just discovered your blog and I heart you big time. God is moving mountains in The Church through people like you. Thank you for being brave. Big hugs brother!

  • Beth Williams Wigley

    Kevin, I’m just so proud of you for your bravery and your incredible determination to live an authentic life. My sister and I have been warring over this topic recently (she has a close Christian friend who’s son is in a “train the gay out” school). I’m heartsick that there are people in this world who are not allowed to live comfortably in the body and spirit that God blessed them with. Who are we to question His will for our lives? I hope you’re successful in all that you do — I’m sure your story is helping so many young people. I pray for love and comfort for you on your journey. God Bless You, sweet man! Fondly, Beth Wigley

  • John Purssey

    Hi Kevin,
    I’m maybe as about as hetero as you can get. Don’t know really, but never attracted to blokes..
    Stories like yours are really sobering and the social pressure that puts people through this psychological and spiritual distress is completely contrary to the heart of Christianity as I understand it.

    Just want you and others to know that I and others are doing our bit to change some attitudes.
    Some of my friends, and children of friends, are in the LGBTQI identification.

    Can’t say much more but God Bless. I think you have decided what is the cross you are to take up daily. I hope you have some Simons to help you carry that load.

    PS. Perhaps my exposure to Julian & Sandy (BBC – Round the Horne) as a boy gave me the right attitude, despite the probable stereotyping. The Purple Haze mondegreen was good, too.

    John