I'm not gay, I'm not gay, I'm not gay." This repeated phrase opens yet another presentation by Chad Thompson, 25, to a group of college students in Wisconsin as he tells his story of change from gay to straight. At churches, public high schools, and universities across America, Thompson presents a hugely controversial message: Homosexuals can change their sexual orientation.
His story is common: Chad's father was physically present yet emotionally distant, with periodic fits of rage overshadowing the love he could offer his son. This left a huge void for masculine affection, especially when male peers rejected him-and that void became sexualized during adolescence.
Chad says that at age 12 he dreamed of living in an apartment where each of the doors was labeled "fag." He believed the nightmare represented the well-founded fear that if people knew about the homosexual desires he was feeling he would immediately be ostracized. When he was in the fourth grade his Sunday school teacher had left him thinking that "all homosexuals go to hell." Chad, believing he would too, wanted to change but didn't know how.
In the 10th grade, suffering clinical depression, Thompson told a counselor he was gay. The counselor told him that men who experience homosexual attractions are, unconsciously, trying to recover their father's love in the arms of another man. Likewise, lesbians are looking for their mother's love in the arms of another woman. This explains, in part, why so many people who experience homosexual attractions report poor relationships with their same-sex parents or peers.
Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, author of A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, says a boy who was lacking healthy masculine love during childhood, or who might have suffered rejection and abuse from male peers, "will fall in love with what he has lost by seeking out someone who seems to possess what is missing within himself." While this pattern may not be true for all homosexuals, Thompson says it fits his own story: "The unmet need for love and affirmation from someone of our own gender somehow becomes eroticized when we hit puberty."
During adolescence, Thompson says, "my body started telling me I wanted sex from a man but in my heart I knew it wasn't about sex." In fact, it was really the desire for love and affection from someone of his own gender: "My fantasy was that a man would just wrap his arms around me, look me in the eye, and tell me that I meant something to him." But he says he was able to "experience extraordinary victory over my homosexual desires," as dozens of male friends over the years gave him non-sexual love and affirmation.
He says that a vacation to Colorado with two church friends brought home the power of male affirmation to heal the wounds that were causing his same-sex attractions. On the surface the trip appeared to be three college guys exploring the West, but for Thompson "the intensity of the experience was almost overwhelming." The constant stream of affirmation from guys his own age unraveled his connection to his previous orientation.
Thompson admits this does not mean that homosexual attractions never emerge but, just like anyone else struggling to change, healing is a process with good days and bad ones. He wrote a book, Loving Homosexuals As Jesus Would, that his father read; Thompson says his dad was humbled by his culpability and lamented that reading the book was "harder than watching The Passion of the Christ."
Thompson says his good friends have helped him, but the most powerful and lasting transformation has come from being affirmed by his heavenly Father: "For me, overcoming homosexuality hasn't just been about falling in love with males less, it's been about falling in love with my Creator more."