"Tell me, which member of your family would be hurt the most by your being gay?" All of a sudden I could see where this was going. If you can't be straight any other way, shame might just work. But shame wasn't something that I needed. I'd spent enough years being ashamed. It was just such a mean, stupid, pointless question. No wonder Tom turned straight. Pile up enough shame and any queer might do the same.

I guess that I continued to meet with Tom because I thought at some point he would get to the good stuff. But he never broke open the secret of being straight. At the end of our counseling sessions I would walk away and wonder, "Why can't I discover the long buried key to becoming straight? What is all of this stuff that just stays buried inside. What am I hiding from?" 

I had my final counseling session with Tom at the end of the semester -- the end of my unremarkable career in reparative sex therapy. Tom said to me. "Paul, you have to believe that you can overcome this. You have to believe that God wants to help you. Look at me. My wife is going out of town this weekend. And I know that I can be away from her for two days and not think about dick."

Not think about dick. Tom could keep himself from thinking about dick. I sort of stared at him. He was so nice, so kind. He so wanted to help me. He so believed that You Do Not Have To Be Gay. And in that moment I understood that even if God could help Tom not to think about dick, he couldn't help me.

I said goodbye to Tom and left. My therapy was over and I had not been cured. I was still just as gay as I'd ever been. I had found no root cause, no emotional damage, no relational dysfunction that had caused me to be gay. All that I had was me. There was work yet to be done; all of the shame, all of the ambivalence, had to be distilled and reoriented before I could live openly as a gay man. But eventually I reached that place where I knew that I didn't have to be gay. I knew that I got to be gay; that I had been given this wonderful and completely queer gift by God. And all I had to do was say yes to what God had always wanted me to be.

 

Paul Fromberg is rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church. He lives with his husband Grant Martin in San Francisco.