David's Story - Part Two: “I went off to every healing service I could find.”
Raised in a devout Protestant family, conservative Christianity was a major influence in forming his views on his sexuality, and, as a young adult, in determining that he would get married.
I grew up attending a Methodist Church which then became a Uniting Church. To be honest, when I was young I don’t really remember anything specifically being said in that church community about being gay. I certainly don’t remember anything negative being stated about it, though I imagine the bible readings that are classically used against homosexuality would have been stated at various times.
On the other hand, I don’t remember anything positive or affirming being said about homosexuality either, or really anything much being said about sexuality at all. But maybe because I didn’t fit the masculine stereotype, and because of the comments at school, I had learnt to hate myself, I’d learnt to feel that somehow I was defective and abnormal and flawed. In terms of my sexuality, I kept that well hidden, buried, and secret.
When I came to Sydney I was 18 and I joined the Protestant Church. I began dating a girl, but at the same time I was really attracted to a younger male friend. I considered it to be wrong. This attraction towards a man was bad, sinful, and I needed to confess it. I went to the minister and confessed to him that I had these same sex attractions. He responded out of good intent, but out of the limited awareness he had at the time, the position of the church.
His general message was that you starve one and feed the other, you starve the homosexual urges, and feed the heterosexual relationship. Consequently you pray to God, God will heal you of this, and everything will work out. He referred me to a psychiatrist who I went to see, and I remember the psychiatrist saying to me that I was too old, that it wouldn’t change. I thought he would sort this out, he would fix me. So I came out of the appointment and told the minister what he had said. He replied, “Well he’s not a Christian, and you are: trust in God and you can overcome.”
I kept seeing the psychiatrist and told him I’d heard about this electric shock treatment where you were exposed to alternating images, heterosexual then homosexual images. With the homosexual oriented ones you’d be given some form of electric shock or pain. I asked him about that, and he found out where it could be done. He wasn’t overly keen on it, and in the end I got cold feet when it was offered. I decided I didn’t want to proceed with it, it scared me. But I guess I was desperately trying to find something that would cure me, some therapeutic process.
I did everything you could possibly imagine. I went off to every healing service I could find. I prayed, I abstained from masturbation for eight months with this promise to God that if he was going to cure me and heal me I would demonstrate I was committed to this healing process. I would show that by not having any sexual expression, I would put it aside and block out anything that might stimulate or accentuate my homosexual feelings. I tried to block them out of my mind, and ultimately of course that didn’t work.