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God harnessed my same-sex attraction

As a 75-year-old, I’ve learnt that it is unwise to make assumptions about how one’s life is going to pan out. Now looking back, I can say that as youthful libido wains, and by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, one’s same-sex attraction can sublimate into something useful. For me this has been an introduction to the practice of ‘father care’, free of sexual content, but fuelled by spare emotional capital.

Allow me to tell you my story:

I became a teenager in 1960, where I had been attending a boys’ boarding prep school since I was 9 years old. There would be a certain amount of larking around of a sexual nature at the school, particularly in the dorms, but nothing serious. I would sometimes fantasize over certain boys I found attractive. In 1961 I graduated to an all-male private boarding school. Although there were boys who were ‘out’ about their homosexuality and acted accordingly, I, being reserved and slightly prudish, kept myself more or less within bounds. Nevertheless, there would be mild ribbing from those who discerned my proclivity.

The problem became more difficult when I left boarding school in 1965 (two years before the decriminalisation of homosexuality between consenting adults). I had, by then, realised that I was exclusively homosexual and that it was not just a phase I was going through. Homosexuals were open game on media comedy channels, where they were mercilessly stereotyped. In social banter they were marginalised, vilified and the subject of ridicule. On such occasions, I became very self-conscious and would go noticeably red when the subject came up. 

We can learn from each other strategies for dealing with temptations and bad habits. 

The thought of carrying this lifelong stigma led to some suicidal thoughts. This, combined with the fact that my father was dying from a terminal illness and that I was not enjoying the law studies that he had hoped would result in me joining his law firm, brought me to a crisis point at the age of 21. The future looked bleak and I did not have the resources within me to manage the mess. At this point, I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. I had been brought up in a church-going family and was educated at Christian-based schools. Yet somehow, the full significance of the Cross and Jesus’ sacrifice for me personally had eluded me. Was it because the message of the Cross was not emphasised in the Church of England? Anyway, my faith had not penetrated my whole heart. 

Though I did not reject Christianity, it was surely not recognisable in my life, which had become compartmentalised. This meant that, after leaving fulltime education and being more exposed to secular culture, I started to believe that there was no God and even stopped attending our village church, thinking it hypocritical to do so.

Thus, from this low point, I started searching for the meaning of life. This led me to make visits to the local hills (since I love nature) to find the answer. I grew up on an idyllic 200-acre farm with a stream running through it, wild woodlands and wild flower meadows that supported many varieties of butterflies. My father’s garden was home to so many bird species, the likes of which I don’t get to see these days. This instilled within me a sense of awe and wonder at creation, which was to be my pathway to finding God. On returning from one of these sorties to the hills, I arrived back home, found a quiet corner of the gardens, laid back on the grass and looked up into the sky. I was amazed to see the clouds like I had never seen them before or since. They were decked high in layers creating voluminous spaces in between, like I was seeing temple spaces up there. I had a firm sense that God was in this way revealing to me the existence of a spiritual reality that I had not hitherto embraced. 

That day in the quiet of my bedroom, I got on my knees to talk to God. I told Him that my life was in a mess and that I could not cope with it any longer, on my own. I told Him that I wished to give my life 100% to Him from now on and would accept whatever He wanted me to do. I got up with the sure identity that I was now a Christian and I needed to meet up with others. My new technicolour life had started! I reconnected with the local church and willingly accepted the mentorship of an evangelical couple there. They co-opted me to help out with the Sunday School teaching and I joined them for times of prayer and Bible study. Changes were made in my studies, because I searched my heart as to what I really wanted to do for a career in this life. I had always loved horticulture, each year winning the annual prize for the best kept garden at primary school. ‘Nature conservation’ summed up where my heart was. This led me to give up law and enrol on a landscape architectural course, that led me into a career as a Landscape Advisor/Manager.

My homosexuality was clearly still there. Fortunately, because of my sensibilities, I had never seriously indulged it and now understood that it was definitely a ‘no-go’ area. I tried dating girls and was quite involved with a lovely American who loved me deeply. However, after a while, I realised that I was not able to match her love and had to break it off. The hurt that this caused her impacted me greatly, so I decided not to get myself in a similar situation again. I made it clear that future female relationships were sisterly.

After training I secured a job as a Landscape Manager to a design and build firm. There I would regularly get attracted to landscape students that were under my management. This was potentially embarrassing, but I was able to keep it under control, and it tended to turn into a mentorship role for me, that was beneficial to them. Thus began a lifetime role of befriending and encouraging younger men in their life walk.

For the next three decades I was not ‘out’ to friends and relatives, but only to known gays that I came across through the church. This meant that I was not benefitting from the prayers of my church or the wisdom and experience of other same-sex attracted celibates.

Then in 2003 I attended a talk given by Martin Hallett at a Christian Conference and afterwards spoke to TFT delegates who had a stall there. I signed up as a member and started attending meetings. It has proved wonderful being able to talk freely with others in the same situation. It is as if it brings oxygen to the issues, preventing things festering and going rotten. It is great being open with each other, knowing that there is no judgement, because we have a shared experience. We can learn from each other strategies for dealing with temptations and bad habits. At the time of joining TFT I was made redundant from a post that I held at the Peabody Trust, overseeing the quality control of their landscapes. I had been with them for 10 years. Almost immediately, they realised they still had a use for my services. 

Thus, for four more years, I worked for them as a part time consultant. Since I knew I would now have spare capacity for other things, I went on a church trip to Kenya with 14 others to explore the possibility of cross-cultural work with the Kenyan church. Kirstie, a fellow team member, and I loved the work they were doing with the disadvantaged children. We went back each year for the next four years. This led to us organising activities for eight teenagers who, because of poverty, were not getting secondary education. They were, however, being given woodwork training at the diocesan rehabilitation centre for street boys. We got to know them over two annual trips; then their course came to and end. That was when the senior boy took me to one side and asked if I could find funding to get four of them into secondary education to give them a better future. 

That was in 2009, which marked the beginning of an educational funding programme, in partnership with the local Diocese, which now has 26 students on its books. It identifies needy students graduating from primary school and takes them on until they graduate from their technical college or university. The funding comes largely from my own resources and I visit the programme each year. We support about four female undergraduates, but all the secondary students are boys, many of whom lack fathers. 

We encourage a family atmosphere in the group and hold mentorship days each holiday when they can share their experiences and receive encouragement from the older members. They all like to call me ‘Dad’ and some will contact me on WhatsApp during the school holidays when they have access to a smartphone. The undergraduates can contact me anytime and will seek my advice on some issues. Thus, in spite of not having natural children of my own, I find myself with an ever-increasing family of dependants!

How glad I am that I didn’t take my own life as a 21-year-old. Same-sex attraction bore a large part in bringing me to my knees, which connected me to God’s purpose for my life. As a youth from a privileged background, I was an insufferable snob and, without Christ, would probably have progressed into a life of self-gratification.

I encourage younger same-sex attracted Christians to hang in there. With Christ’s transforming power, things are definitely going to get better as your life produces something beautiful for Jesus. After all, He is in the business of sorting out our mess and giving us life to the full. 

This article was originally published in the Winter 2022 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.

Download the Winter 2022 edition of Ascend