[MAKE SURE TO READ THIS LINK FIRST IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME VISITING ENGLISH MANIF.]
I promised that I would help walk guys through Phase 2, which is where you begin enacting the journey from gay to straight. If you took the red pill at the end of Phase 1, then Phase 2 is naturally where you go next. This is the moment when you first signal to people outside of yourself that you are making a change. The main development in Phase 2 is a radical shift in your identity and the end of your use of the label "gay" to define, describe, or limit yourself.
You are not pursuing women or trying to get yourself to desire women yet. Trust me -- there is a lot to do before you even start thinking about that. In my experience and according to what I have learned from other ex-gays, you will have very slim chances of success as a straight guy if you do not take the time to close out your gay life properly. You need to show respect to the people who knew you as gay and give them a chance to know why you will be changing so suddenly. You have to learn how to forgive people, and forgive all the things people may have done up until now, so you can be free of whatever kept you in the gay scene. You need to impress upon yourself the reality that a huge physical change is about to take place, and then do everything you can to commit to the sacrifices and difficulties that will go along with that change.
But I want to launch Phase 2 week with first some explanations to you about why I present such a radically different view from virtually everyone else whose opinions you will read. After all, everyone else tells you it is impossible or even wrong to try to change. You will hear again and again that if you try to do this, you may become suicidal.
So this essay will explain where I come from. If this helps you trust my tips, great. Always remember that you can take or leave whatever I tell you here. I am not a psychologist or science expert. You have to go slowly and seek help if you are having a lot of emotional turbulence and fear you are going to break down. The one thing I can offer you is simply the weight of experience.
I did it. Many others have. Everyone's situation is different but I still believe the core of what I have seen can be useful to others, especially because nothing I suggest is actually all that radical. Everything I did in my life was basically healthy and moral, with the exception of doing things with a woman outside of marriage, that is to say, before I married her.
As I mentioned in the post just prior to this one, Phase 2 is when you have to find a classy way to exit the gay scene, draw up a plan for your journey as a whole, restructure your thinking to define yourself differently, observe strict bans on any gay sex and on all pornography going forward, replace masturbation gradually with more intense physical exercise, and take on a "servant's heart."
The original essay I wrote about Phase 2 was published as ten tips for the ex-gay leaving the scene. That original has been archived and has to be edited, because I did not foresee the attention it drew. But here were the original 10 steps in Phase 2 -- that is to say, the ten tips the involved breaking away from the gay scene:
1. Make sure this is what you want to do, and commit to it.
2. Put away the "Big Lie"--the label "gay" and all the assumptions about it defining limits of who you can be.
3. Make a plan.
4. Say your goodbyes to the people you knew in the gay world.
5. End all pornography use.
6. Reduce and cease masturbation.
7. Join the conversation with straight men.
8. Get into a daily Bible-reading program.
9. Exercise with a purpose.
10. Start opening your heart to women.
If you have faith in your own free will and autonomy, barring a serious mental-health condition or catastrophe beyond your control, the ten things above are doable. Allow me to get personal and explain how I did the ten things above in 1997-9, during my time I could call my Phase 2.
1. Make sure this is what you want to do.
On a work trip in Brazil late in 1997, at the age of 26, it dawned on me I was never going to be happy in the gay world. Certain things happened that made it clear I could never gain satisfaction from sexual encounters with men. Men who wanted deeper emotional relationships with me, I realized, would suffer if I tried to form emotional bonds with them. I held no ill will toward them, but I could not bear to play the passive role in sex with them, and when I played the active role, I felt in my heart that they were tolerating a certain amount of hardship to try to make me feel committed to them.
The more they tried to make me love them, the more I felt terrible about what I was doing, especially because I could see how the sex itself was not good for their bodies. I loved my friends in the gay scene, though I knew that some of their strange behaviors toward me came not from cruelty but rather from their own struggles. I realized at this point that homosexuality was a dead end. I was technically "gay" because since the age of thirteen my habits and mindset had been thoroughly trained to be gay, and a straight life would be like learning a whole new language.
But when I returned to the United States after that trip, I realized that I could accept the fear and possible failures I would confront in trying to go straight, if it meant not being stuck in a lifestyle where I was going to cause emotional pain to men who wanted me to love them, knowing I would never see them as anything other than a faint replacement for what I really wanted. I wanted to be a man and be with a woman. So I gave this deep thought and made up my mind.
2. Put to rest the Big Lie that you are gay.
A few weeks after I returned from Brazil, God sent me a sign--I found out I had cancer. The shock to me of having the tumor removed and being forced into recovery for months shook me out of my complacency. I confronted deep questions about myself.
In February 1998, I relocated from New York City to Buffalo, to live with my father. When I got to Buffalo, I made a break, mentally. I stopped referring to myself as gay. I simply did not use any label. If people asked me about my sexual identity, I was evasive or said I was straight. The change in location helped me put to rest the gay label. But I also experienced the mental effects of defining myself differently.
Part of the cancer recovery required that I spend a lot of time immobilized at my father's home. I spent the hours looking through my grandmother's photo albums and seeing all the families that were built from male-female relationships, going all the way back to the 1800s.
This ultimately convinced me that gay identity was a lie. It came from a false reading of history, and had nothing to do with me. I went back to the room in Buffalo where I had first had relations with older teenage boys.
In March 1998, standing inside the room, remembering where the bed was and feeling the residue of the shadows moving around that night from 1984, it became clear to me what happened. I had wanted love and protection from older males whom I respected. They used me for sex and taught me how to degrade myself. I took that as a special privilege.
At thirteen I had still not had puberty. The fact that the two boys did not want to do anything more after the first encounter led me to feel I should seek out the same thing again and again. Some facts from the past resurfaced in my mind, which I had all but forgotten: on several occasions--in 1985, 1986, and 1987--I had been hospitalized for toxic levels of alcohol. Old medical papers referred to these incidents, though nobody had tried to intervene, even when I was hospitalized for a week due to liver problems.
Much of what I did sexually was vague in my memories because I had gone through binge-drinking episodes to medicate myself. I was never gay. I was never gay. I visited my mother's grave and kneeled there one snowy day. My feelings of anger welled up inside me, because I wished that Mom had seen that I wasn't gay--she had never told me I wasn't, and in small ways encouraged me to think I was. But she was gone and I could not go over that anymore. I was never gay.
When Mom died, I had barely any relationship with my Dad, who hadn't lived with me during my youth. I was still a teenager. Sex with men became, at that point in 1990, a question of survival both emotional and physical. I had to be gay to survive. I did what I had to, to survive. But I was never gay. The phrase, "I was never gay," resounded so powerfully in my head, there was no turning back at that point. I had removed myself from the gay scene, moved to a different city, and started a university program where nobody knew me from the past. This was the break that made the rest of the progression possible.
While my story applies to me personally, the basics of it apply to many people reading this right now. In all my years of knowing gay people, I've never met any who seemed as though they leapt into the world fully gay due to divine forces and a gift by the fates. "Gay" just isn't what people are. It's what goes on in people's lives. And if you can take control of your life, it can stop. I firmly believe that.
3. Make a plan.
In April 1998, I had the last of the cancer procedures. I had gone quite a while without having any gay sex (I would slip up in the future, but I never lost my way from that point forward; I stayed the course and feel good about where I ended up). I felt confident I could build a new life. I was going to set out and find a new life for myself.
In May 1998, I asked myself where I wanted to be in the year 2008. I decided I wanted to be a professor, married, with kids. (Lo and behold, that happened!)
So I had to get to my goal. I drove to the university and looked into graduate programs. I enrolled in summer classes to see if I liked them. And I met girls in the summer classes, and even asked a few out on dates. In the fall of 1998 and spring of 1999, when I started the MA program in English, I was a little girl crazy, I have to admit. I was 27 years old but a virgin to women, and had the emotional maturity of a teenager. I asked out a lot of girls who were around age 21, typically chasing after pretty, thin, and somewhat naive brunettes who would find everything I said fascinating. It was terrible. Luckily I broke nobody's heart because I was still a klutz about physical affection and nothing serious happened in the bedroom.
It was, I think January 1999, when I took one girl out for a drive to Canada and got into my first fight over a woman. Her brother and I had actually become somewhat like friends but he did not like me talking to his sister. We were very drunk one night in a bar and got rowdy but we just forgave each other quickly. I promised to leave his sister alone. I learned a lot about forgiveness that night. It was my first time understanding the difference in how men argue. You can even come to physical confrontation and still stay friends.
There was another guy I had befriended. I remember in the summer of 1999, I took a girl to a party, and he went home with her, leaving me at the party. That guy was a jerk. I learned that some guys are just jerks and often girls can be just as immoral as men. All these were important learning experiences in their own way.
But the woman who would later become my wife moved to Buffalo in late August 1999 to start in the same program where I had now enrolled as a PhD student. She was gorgeous, studious, very smart, and kind-hearted. I remember noticing her in two of my seminars. She noticed that I didn't bring lunch so she brought me a little lunch one day and it seemed our interest was mutual. The thing I loved the most about her was that she was much smarter than I was. We were exactly the same age. By this point in my journey, I had all but forgotten that I'd ever even been gay. My life had become a dizzying sequence of dates with girls who were too young for me, because I was an inexperienced boy and needed a woman who was ahead of me in life experience and ideas. One thing I remember that made me so excited was seeing how she wrote. Her handwriting is fast but extremely neat, almost like calligraphy, not ornate but elegant. I can't figure out why that made me feel desire for her, but it did.
So this was the woman for me. We met, you could say, by chance. But I did have a plan. I was in the program with the goal of becoming a professor. And I wasn't passively waiting for a woman to cross my path, I was working on it. This is why I say, you should have a plan.
My wife and I got married a year and a half after we met.
4. Say your goodbyes to the gay community.
My life may have been quite different if I had simply vanished. I did not do that. I wanted to give my gay friends a chance to tell me if I'd ever left anything undone or incomplete with them. I called up each one, actually, and told them I was seeing a girl and planning to get married. Only one came to my wedding; the rest refused. I forgive them for that. They had gotten to know one person and now I was, in their eyes, trying to become someone else and leave them behind. While the conversations were painful, I had to have them. Those people were a part of my life for a long time. I spent fifteen years gay. They knew more about me than almost anybody alive. The closure meant a lot to me, because I could not have thrived in my marriage without knowing that I had fully closed the door on my past. I credit the effort I made to explain to my gay friends everything, for the fact that I may have struggled with a few backslider moments in my two decades with my wife, but I became a faithful husband, I ended the occasional sins that might have threatened our happiness, and I built the life I wanted. My view is that you cannot do all that if you leave the doors open, giving you an escape route back to the gay world.
5. End all porn.
I did not do this right away, and this caused problems for me. For years, whenever I found an excuse, I watched dirty movies. But I did eventually learn to go without any porn, and the difference it made in my marriage was tremendous. Once I stopped porn, I stopped having homosexual thoughts haunting me. I thought of my wife and focused entirely on her. Porn is bad--all porn! This is something you have to do to make your new life work. Do it as soon as you can, just stop all porn.
6. Reduce masturbation.
I will not embarrass myself further by commenting a lot on this item, if it's okay! All I will say is that I did not learn about this from anyone but figured it out on my own in the late 1990s. I realized that I liked girls when I was out on dates but I didn't feel the arousal I thought I should. I knew at that point I wasn't gay, but I wondered why there was no click, and I didn't feel the urge to take kissing and some caressing further. I always stopped short of trying to go home with a girl or inviting her to a hotel or something. (This was way before I was a Baptist, so forgive me that I had very impure thoughts.) Then I remembered that during the cancer treatments, I had had to go through months without doing any of the nasty stuff men do to relieve their sexual tension. So I decided I would just see how I felt on dates, if I didn't do that. And then, it worked almost like magic, within several weeks. I suddenly felt stronger reactions on dates. I noticed more about girls and just felt more eager to invite them to go further. But I was a very good boy! Until I met the woman I was going to marry. When I met her, it was fireworks from day one and I was smitten very bad. If that relationship had not worked out, who knows what I would have done.
7. Join the conversation with straight men.
One effect of all these changes in my life in the late 1990s was that I suddenly realized there was an enormous world out there, that had nothing to do with people being gay. You could talk to guys in the gym, in stores, at church, at school, or anywhere you came across them, and have conversations about whatever you wanted, with no implication that you're going to degrade them by trying to sodomize them. Now I know, this is basic stuff, but for me in 1998, this was major news.
At some point I felt like I was one of the guys and this made a huge difference. First of all, it kept me humble. When you're gay you run around acting like everything you do deserves an Academy award. Finally I overcame that (I hope) as I would hang around with straight guys and we were all confronting the challenges of dating, school, work, and our lives in basically the same ways.
My two closest friends in high school had actually been straight and they had had no idea of the gay stuff I was doing on the down low in the 1980s. When I reconnected with them in the late 1990s it reminded me that I once had a lot of connection to other men, largely to make up for the frayed connections to my father and brother, neither of whom had been close to me.
The other thing about straight guys that helped me so much was the way they reacted to difficulties in their lives. They didn't make a big deal out of everything. I learned gradually how to be strong and resilient from them. They also taught me a lot of stuff about the gritty details of sex, which I had to learn at some point as I got closer to marriage.
8. Get into a daily Bible-reading program.
When all this started I was Catholic so I had never read much of the Bible. But I read the entire Bible from cover to cover for the first time in the summer of 1999, just before meeting the woman I would marry. What can I say? It's life-changing and utterly important. It stabilizes you and gives you grounding. It reminds you of just how important it is to strive toward holiness and away from sin. This is a must-do.
I want to keep this classy but I also want to explain to you why I present such strong views about the importance of exercise. Okay, here goes: My ability to go straight hinged a great deal on physical exercise. I do not know how I figured this out, but I figured this out by trial and error between 1997 and 1999. Straight women don't care that much about guys' having an incredibly chiseled body, so once I knew I was leaving the gay scene, I stopped dieting and working out with the strict goal of looking like a Calvin Klein model. Instead I was just trying to beef up my muscles and drop weight. I wanted to fill up a shirt without looking fat, basically.
But I figured out that exercise did two things that made my switch to straight possible. First, the hardest part about the gay past is that it haunts your body. So much of the sex was very shocking and memorable, so your body kind of remembers the movements and it is easy to have images of that time come back into your mind when the slightest thing your body is doing reminds you of it. This is what I call "body memory."
But I figured out at one point that if I exercised to the point of failure, really working myself hard to the point where I would get some soreness, my body would be haunted by the exercise instead of by sexual memories. It was, for me, like a data dump or a computer reset. I remember going on one date--it must have been late 1998, and I was kissing the girl at the end of the night. I suddenly realized I wasn't haunted by any memories of being with guys. Instead, I felt a smooth, pleasant soreness in my back and legs from jogging and lifting weights. So it clicked in my head. The more you flood your body with exercise, the less the bad memories haunt you. It is literally a case of burning the sin out of your own flesh.
After the cancer I struggled terribly with my weight and still do. But I went through three big periods of weight loss. In 1999-2000, I dropped from about 245 to 200. My weight crept up again, but in 2007, in preparation to go into the Army, my weight dropped from about 250 to 180. People barely recognized me. Then after I got my honorable discharge, I decided to eat everything in sight. (There's a story there.) In 2017, I dropped fifty pounds.
What I found with these weight drops was that they generally had a very positive effect on my affections toward my wife. It is good to get in shape. The other thing I can tell you, if you are still early in the journey, is this: You use very different body muscles when you are intimate with a woman. For instance, your abdominals and certain back muscles that you would never imagine. So when you work out, I really recommend you do weights and cardio. You want the endurance but do the full range of weight training. Many muscles you work, you may wonder, "what are they for?" And then when you are alone with a woman and being intimate suddenly you find out what the muscles are for. I'll be classy and stop there.
10. Open your heart to women.
Duh. If you go around saying, "ooooh, coooties!" this journey is going nowhere.
I hope this post clears up some of what may have seemed strange to you.
My position may seem like a strange outlier, but honestly, it is all based on very sound common sense and it's all proven.
More to be published this week!