My experience is valid too

change Oct 18, 2019

Some days can be hard. Some can be even harder. Today is one of those days.

All my life I've had to fight against what others think of me, or what I perceived as their opinions of me. I've never had strong mental boundaries against other's perception of me and I constantly wonder if the assessment others have of me is correct. I believe this is largely because I long to feel like a normal person, like I fit in, like I can be accepted and loved, because I love everyone.

That has made it especially difficult to continue moving forward in the fight against "conversion therapy" bans. I've been told I'm lying to myself, that I have blood on my hands, that I must be a sexual predator, that I'm an "f*ing idiot", that I shouldn't want to change, etc. Frankly, I'm sick of all of it. I'm exhaused by the arguments and frequently feel like giving up and hiding my opinion and my experience in the shadows.

But my experience has been real. The help I received has been effective.

After I started therapy for my same-sex attractions, my sucidal thoughts disappeared. I saw a way forward. My therapist never told me I could change or should change, but he gave me hope and ways to re-interpret my experiences. His guidance was very beneficial and helped me repair a number of relationships in my life, including my relationship with myself. I still have an enormous need for male friendship and male connection, but I see that as a good and wonderful thing and I no longer associate that need with sexuality. Sometimes the sexual response still comes into it, but it's few and far between and usually only when I am stressed or tired.

The thing I appreciated most about my therapist was that when I started noticing changes in my sexual response and how I interpreted things, did not tell me that I was lying to myself. He did not suggest that I must be bisexual. Instead he reaffirmed my experience. When I said that it was hard to say to others that I've experienced change, he acknowledged that there is an enormous amount of social pressure to deny any amount of change. I was very fortunate, as I have friends whose therapists have told them they're wrong for wanting change or more ability to cope. Their therapists have told them they won't be happy unless they start dating other men.

In the last couple of days I've begun again to have some suicidal thoughts, but this time, instead of being focused around frustration with my feelings and attractions, they are entirely focused on feeling very alone. Feeling like no one, except my wife, my therapist, and a few close friends, is willing to acknowledge that my experience is real and valid too. That I'm not lying to myself. That I'm doing my best to be honest with myself and others about my experience. Sometimes it even feels like most members of my church don't believe my experience is real. All of that comes from an extremely strong, narrow societal narrative about same-sex attraction.

Why is it that those who speak so much for acceptance and understanding are unwilling to acknowledge that some of us, however few, have different experiences than they do?