the tl;dr

I was in 5th grade when I had my first exposure to pornography.

A boy brought a porn magazine into the changing room at the private school I was attending at the time. All the other boys gathered around to stare, but when I saw the photos I felt embarrassed and moved away.

I was in 7th grade when I had my second exposure to porn. But this time, instead of a random, one-time event in school, it was my next-door neighbor – and instead of being embarrassed and walking away, I was drawn to it. But as I was looking at the images of men and women having sex, I felt that something was wrong.

You see – I had grown up in a Christian household. I had prayed and asked Jesus into my heart when I was very young. I knew that I was supposed to grow up and get married one day and have a family. And yet, in spite of all those realities, as I stared at the pictures I was seeing, I was drawn to the images of the men.

According to every personality test I’ve taken (and I feel like I’ve taken them all), I’m prone to being a perfectionist. As hindsight is always 20/20, I can see now how I didn’t know how to process and reconcile these new realities – my faith in Christ, my conservative upbringing, and my sexual attraction to men. So I did the only thing I could do in my situation – I compartmentalized it. I shoved it into an airtight mental lockbox and hid it from everyone – myself included. I saw it as a flaw – an imperfection – a mistake in my core being of beings.

Fast-forward through high-school and college – the internet becomes a thing, and suddenly I no longer need my friend’s collection of porn magazines anymore. I’m able to look for whatever I want online now. My addiction to porn, gay porn specifically, took hold fast. My daily use, sometimes multiple times a day, only fueled more conflicts within me: body image, jealousy, envy, co-dependence, secrecy, and more.

I created two lives for myself. There was my public life, where I made it my mission to never do anything to appear gay – I was the good Christian boy. And then there was my private life, where I consumed as much gay porn as possible. Unfortunately, those two lives weren’t willing to live together – so their conflict tried to kill me, quite literally.

I don’t like talking about my attempted suicide, but it happened. I felt the overwhelming pain of my brokenness and the feeling that God himself hated me. I wanted to experience love and intimacy from another man, and yet knew that I could never pursue that kind of lifestyle. I felt so conflicted and lost and hopeless that I couldn’t live with myself.

My senior year of college my discipler/mentor in Cru, along with one of my best friends at the time, who was also on staff with Cru, confronted me about my addiction to pornography. It was an ugly confrontation, full of tears and yelling as I was faced with the reality of the depths of my addiction to pornography. At the end, I was just emotionally broken. I felt exposed and vulnerable, watching my carefully crafted identity crumble around me. And yet, as they were leaving, one of them stopped, turned around, and said something that cut right to my soul:

“I don’t want you to think what I’m saying is trivial, but I love you.”

I heard God speaking directly to me through my friend. He saw my brokenness, and instead of being repulsed, he showed me love and grace and acceptance. I knew I had finally found the people who loved me enough that I could tell them about my attraction to men and not worry about being rejected.

Finally opening up to these men about my sexual orientation was the most freeing and healing experiences I have ever had. I was finally able to let others into this area of my heart that I had sealed away and hidden, and instead of running away from me, they ran toward me. They were intentional in their time by engaging with me as a brother – never avoiding conversations about my sexuality, but instead leading them. Not withdrawing physical affection, but showing greater affection.

It was an amazing time of healing and restoration for me. And through their love and relationship, as well as through counseling provided by my church, I was starting to accept my identity in Christ, and my identity as a man who is also attracted to men. Little did I know that God had another surprise in store for me – a wife and children.

Even though I was, and still am, exclusively attracted to men, God put someone directly in my path, and opened my eyes to view her in a way I never saw any other woman. She loved me exactly as I was – my attraction to men and everything. I was drawn to her, and we both knew that it was God bringing us together. Our relationship was based on Jesus first and foremost – recognizing that we were both broken people, and yet finding the beauty in Christ by using our brokenness to provide healing in our lives.

13 years and three children later, we’re still together. Even through some hard times, Christ continues to be our foundation.

What’s amazing to me is that at 38 years old I am still learning things about who I am. Thankfully, because I know my ultimate worth and value and satisfaction come through my relationship with Jesus, I’m able to confront the ugly parts of my being, and give Christ praise as he turns those parts that I think are ugly and worthless into things that are beautiful and wholesome.

tl;dr – I am a follower of Jesus Christ, who has blessed me with a wife and three beautiful children. I am also sexually attracted to men. There have been times where I viewed my sexuality as a curse – something to be fixed, or hidden, or denied. But Jesus has been showing me, more and more, that He didn’t make a mistake when he gave me my personality and my body and my sexuality. He wants me to be a good steward of all the things He has blessed me with, including my sexuality.

The trap of “cuddle culture”

Disclaimer: this may very well be an unpopular opinion for many people within the Side-B community. There are several people who I know well, love, and respect, who hold a very different view than I do in this area. This is in no way an attack on them or their views – it’s simply my take on an issue and my application of Biblical principals.

One day. That’s the amount of time it took for me to first hear about the idea of cuddling and snuggling being a normal practice within the Side-B community.

Cuddling and snuggling were not inherently foreign to me. After all, I’ve been married for 13 years and I have three children. Some of my most precious memories and moments are when my children snuggle up in my lap and just want to be held by their daddy. There’s such a tenderness to those moments – such an innocent and pure intimacy between me and my children. I absolutely love that.

But cuddling with another man? That was a very new idea to me. The thought of being able to experience one of my love-languages, physical touch, from another man was more than simply interesting – it was intoxicating.

I’ve heard others use the phrase “touch deprived” to describe their experience of physical intimacy with other men – and I would say that was, and still very much is the case with me. I have never experienced anything more than the occasional hug from another man on the rare occasion. Maybe a few times a year, if that.

I have longed for physical affirmation and intimacy from other men my whole life. I have craved it. I have been desperate for it. So the idea of “touch deprivation” hits very close to home for me. And not just me, for many, many other men who feel that same sense of deprivation. I think that’s one of the reasons so many men have willingly subjected themselves to ex-gay “therapy” – the idea that by just getting married to a woman that the need for physical touch and intimacy with men would be completely met by a woman. My heart breaks for those men, those women and those marriages built on completely false foundations.

As I was soaking up all the new language and new community that Side B had to offer, I was also presented with personal stories, articles, blog posts and podcasts extolling the benefits of cuddling to meet the needs that we have a same-sex-attracted men and women. Everything made logical sense. I have needs for physical touch and intimacy as a human. Because of my history and my orientation, I have a specific need for physical affirmation and intimacy from other men. Side B is a community of men and woman who follow Jesus, and follow the traditional, Biblical sexual ethic. Cuddling seems to be a means by which the common need for touch can be met within the community. Therefore – cuddling seemed to be a God-send.

And yet. Something felt off. I knew that if I spent time investigating that uneasiness that I’d probably come to a conclusion that would make me unwilling to participate in any cuddling – so I ignored the warning signs completely.

Within two months of being introduced to the Side B community, because of my own choices, including ignoring my own convictions about cuddling, I made choices that resulted in me violating my marriage vows of faithfulness.

Thankfully – God is so merciful, so good, and so generous that He blessed me with a wife who has been nothing less than a living example of unconditional love and forgiveness. We are very thankful for where we are now on this side of events as we can both confidently say that God used these experiences to draw us closer together and closer to God. (I’ll dive more into this in a later post.)

Now on this side of those events I can very clearly see and articulate the things about Side B cuddle culture that I should have heeded and guarded against:

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

“I can do anything I want to if Christ has not said no, but some of these things aren’t good for me. Even if I am allowed to do them, I’ll refuse to if I think they might get such a grip on me that I can’t easily stop when I want to.”

1 Corinthians 6:12 [TLB]

This is just wisdom right here. While God has clearly told us to flee from sexual temptation, to have nothing to do with sexual immorality, there’s no specific mandate about cuddling – especially when the thought behind the cuddling is supposed to be safe, platonic, and healthy.

And yet, I have yet to meet anyone who has participated in cuddling or snuggling in the Side B community that has been able to say that all of their experiences have been completely safe, completely healthy, completely free from sexual temptation. I’m not saying that person doesn’t exist – I’m just saying that the collective experiences seems to be that the end justifies the means. In other words, the end of having our legitimate need for healthy physical affirmation and touch gets justified regardless of how many times we walk directly into situations where we know we are going to be faced with sexual temptation.

I can’t help but feel like this is trying to get around the idea of costly obedience. It is costly, so costly for those who have same-sex attraction to willfully choose to deny the pursuit of sexual relationships with others (in marriage or in singleness) for the sake of obedience to Jesus.

If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

Matthew 10:37-39 [NLT]

Following Jesus is costly – for everyone. For me, and for those who are gay or same-sex attracted, that cost is felt in a very different, very visceral way, because it involves denying a part of our identity (not the primary part, which is found in Jesus) that everyone who isn’t gay or same-sex attracted takes very much for granted. And instead of finding encouragement and comfort in the church, in the local body of Christ, we are often met with rejection and disgust or disdain.

I don’t think cuddling, in and of itself is sinful. I think it is morally neutral, and has very legitimate uses and places. However, I think it is exceedingly dangerous to promote cuddling as a viable, healthy, safe answer for the Side B community when experience and history and wisdom say otherwise.

Participating in cuddling is more than a benign physical act like shaking hands or giving someone a high five. It is inherently intimate. It is inherently tender. But when you take people who are physically attracted to each other, or who barely know each other, and get into intimate, tender situations with each other, it’s incredibly easy to make gradual compromises – mentally, emotionally, physically, until you are just another casualty in the Side B cuddle culture.

I can’t take a compliment

I remember the first time that I shaved my head completely. I was just starting to thin at the age of 21 years old (thanks genetics!) and after trying to do something to mask the thinning that didn’t work, I just decided to shave it completely. Afterwards I headed over to a friend’s house were there was a small gathering of the guys who I desperately wanted to be affirmed and accepted by. As I walked in the door one of them looked down the stairwell and saw me, and then just started to howl with laughter and tell the other guys to prepare themselves for what they were about to see.

I had already been experiencing a lot of depression in this season as I wasn’t receiving the affirmation and affection and acceptance that I so desperately craved. I noticed that when I felt depressed that there was a physical sensation that went along with it – like a sudden void or vacuum appeared in my heart, going all the way down to the pit of my stomach and below. Hearing this friend absolutely lose his mind with laughter at my appearance created one of the most intense versions of that physical sensation I can recall.

I can’t think of a time where I received any compliments from friends or family about the way I looked when I was growing up. I can spout off countless comments about my shortcomings. I was too short. I was too skinny. I was too weak. I was too awkward. My voice was too nasal. My lips were too red. My hands were too small.

By the time I was in college, the idea of compliments was something completely foreign to me. And as if my growing up experience wasn’t already enough of a shot to the gut, there was always more ways to look worse. I started to lose my hair at the age of 21. By the age of 23 I had to have a buzz cut. By 25 I was shaving with a razor.

People *love* to remind me about the parts of me that I’m extremely insecure about. Even to this day at the age of 38, there’s not a week that goes by that someone doesn’t jokingly remind me that I don’t have hair, or that I’m heavier than they are, or that I’m older than they are. And those are the people that I know and have good friendships with. But it doesn’t just have to be friends that remind me about my looks, even strangers regularly feel comfortable enough to point out that I’m bald.

Once my wife and I were walking around a mall when a man maybe in his 50’s walked right up to me, put his hand on my head and then called out to the rest of his group, “see this is what I was saying I could do!” and then started laughing.

Let me tell you how much I *love* hearing some variation of a barber joke and how I don’t need one.

I share all this not asking for a pity party, but to provide context as to why I just can’t believe anyone when they give me a compliment.

In recent years I’ve received some compliments here and there, which has been a huge surprise for me. I can literally think of one compliment I received that I *genuinely* received well because of the context, but otherwise, I just can’t believe any compliments.

Even compliments from my wife are next to impossible to receive or believe because I think to myself, “you’re more or less trapped into affirming me… it’s a biased opinion.”

As I have started to step into healthy community with other Side-B men, my inability to receive or believe compliments I receive is becoming an obvious issue. I’ve received several compliments from men who meet all of our cultural requirements for objective masculine beauty. I see them and I have to guard my heart from envy or jealously that I don’t look like they do – and I have to guard my heart even more from then turning to myself and just seeing a worthless heap of genetic flaws. (My daily morning routine typically ends with looking at myself in the mirror and then telling myself how gross I look before I head to work.)

So when someone who is objectively an attractive person gives me a compliment – I just can’t accept it or believe it. I assume they are just trying to be a sweet person, but they don’t really mean it. I assume they are just saying something to make me feel better, but they can’t see anything good in me. I assume it’s just something to say because it’s what you’re supposed to say, but they really see me the way I see myself.

I wish I could take a compliment, but I can’t.

Then again, I wish I could just be invisible – I’d much rather go unnoticed than be noticed for only my flaws and shortcomings.


Not long after posting this I showed it to another Side-B brother and in our conversation this was said:

HIM: “Consider this – what are you truly saying to the person who wants to compliment you when you reject their words?”
ME: “Hmm. I’m calling them a liar, or I’m saying that they are just speaking out of their butt, or that they aren’t capable of making their own decisions and opinions.”
HIM: “Yep. Or, that they only want something from you, aka, being manipulative.”
ME: “Whew – this is making me emotional.”
HIM: “As it should! If I truly love, respect, and value someone, I have to find a way to accept their compliments.”

Thank you brother for the encouragement.

It’s never a coincidence

I can, without reservation, say that I fell in love with my wife the moment I saw her.

This was very surprising to me, since, by all indications she was a woman and not a man. Not that I was expecting to fall in love with a man, or get married, but more because I had never been attracted to any woman. Ever.

But, for whatever reason, which I still don’t understand to this day, I was just immediately drawn to this particular woman.

My wife and I first met in a college ministry weekly meeting where I was the keynote speaker that night. I can’t even remember what I was talking about – probably something about Paul, or from the book of Romans – but I remember what happened right as I finished talking: she walked up to me smiling ear to ear and thanked me for my talk – or something like that.

I feel like I was all deer-in-the-headlights as she was talking, but it’s probably because in my mind I was literally hearing myself say, “I’m going to marry this woman.”

Of course, I couldn’t just propose to someone I just met, so I had to get to know her – and I knew the perfect way: organize a group gathering, make sure she was coming, and then uninvite everyone else at the last minute. So, that’s exactly what I did. I got a group of people to agree to go see the movie Hostage after a weekly meeting, but about 10 minutes before we were going to leave, I ran to all the guys who were going to come and gave them the skinny: “Would you mind NOT coming so that it can just be me and her?” They understood the situation, and so, I had just gotten myself a solo date.

Turns out that the movie was pretty intense – which ended up being great for me since she spent half of the movie holding onto/hiding behind my arm.

Fast forward a few months and we’ve reached the inevitable point that all Christian couples reach – the DTR talk. (For those not familiar with youth-group culture, DTR stands for “define the relationship,” and it’s basically the point where you either are officially dating, or you revert to just friends.

I knew that I still wanted to marry her, but I also knew that it wouldn’t be right or fair for me to continue to pursue a dating relationship with her, much less move into marriage, without her knowing all about me and the reality of my attraction to men. Summer was approaching, and she had decided to go on a summer project for almost 2 months. A few days before she left we had our DTR conversation during a 4 hour road trip. I laid it all out there, all my faults and failings and everything. I had never been so exposed to someone before, even when I had been naked in front of someone else.

Her response and reaction was nothing less than unconditional love. She hurt for me in the areas where I was hurt. She shined for me in the areas where I shined. She was the perfect reflection of Jesus’ love for me in that moment. I was even more confident that I was going to marry her.

We decided to use the separation to intentionally pray about entering into a committed relationship as we were both on the same page that if we were to start dating, we knew it would lead to marriage.

Everything was going well until the last week of her trip, when I got an email from her.

She wanted to talk to her discipler on the trip about my same-sex attraction, just to get counsel and wisdom from someone else, and help her really process what it would mean in our relationship.

The request really struck a nerve. After all, the other person doesn’t know me at all! How would I be able to explain myself or defend myself? What if she didn’t have a good understanding of our identity in Christ? I was panicking because of an element outside of my control, but was specifically about me. But, at the same time, I knew that God was really allowing me to enter into marriage, then I’d have to trust him with this. So I gave her permission to share my story.

The following day I received another email. After sharing my story with her discipler, the discipler shared her story – about being married to a man who is sexually attracted to other men.

I was floored. God had literally sent my future wife overseas to be discipled by a woman who was married to a man who was also same-sex attracted. She was so encouraged by the conversation, and we both took it as a confirmation of the things we had been praying about.

Just over a year later we were married.

This week we celebrated our 13-year anniversary. We have three beautiful children – two daughters and a son.

I don’t deserve a wife or a family, especially this one – they are all the best part of me, but I am so thankful that God has poured out this blessing on me, and given me the responsibility of sharing in their lives.

Being gay isn’t a sin.

Now before you weaponize the nearest Bible around you and launch it at me, please allow me to elaborate a bit.

Words have meaning and are important. Similarly, context is important because it helps explain the intention behind those words. For instance, when you read the Bible, the context is vitally important. If you read any part of the Bible without the proper context (who is writing, who they are writing to, why they are writing, etc) then you can easily find yourself creating your own personal doctrine or theology without realizing that you’ve completely misunderstood the purpose and meaning of the verse. (Don’t get me started about Jeremiah 29:11.)

So, understanding that words have meaning, and that the context of those words are important, let’s take at why I’m claiming, Biblically, that being gay isn’t a sin. Basically, it boils down to this: there is a difference between being attracted to the same-sex (culturally defined as “being gay”), and engaging in sexual behavior / activities (Biblically, a category of sin).

I am exclusively sexually attracted to men. Within church culture, that’s called “same-sex attraction,” or “SSA.” Outside of the church, that’s called being gay. I can tell you with 100% certainty that I did not choose to be gay, or SSA. In fact, I can tell you how for years and years in junior high and high school that I would pray to God every single day, begging Him to change me so that I wouldn’t be attracted to men. After all, I was a Christian. I was supposed to get married and have kids, and definitely not be gay. And yet, despite being raised in a “good Christian household” and being a Christian, and all that, I was sexually attracted to men. I felt like I was broken. It wasn’t a fun place to be.

For the sake of example, let’s assume that you as the reader are straight, or for the sake of irony, “opposite-sex attracted” or “OSA.” You are straight because you are exclusively attracted to the opposite sex. You didn’t choose to be attracted to the opposite sex, you just are. Attraction, in and of itself, is not inherently a sin, though, it can turn into a temptation, and then into sin. [Matthew 5:28; James 1:14-15]

Lust (a very strong sexual desire) is defined as a sin in the Bible.
Attraction (something that evokes interest, pleasure or liking) is not defined as a sin in the Bible.
Therefore, attraction cannot be defined as inherently sinful.

I’m camping out on this point for a bit because this seems to be where many well-meaning Christians get stuck when having to wrestle with the reality of a Christian who is also same-sex attracted. The Bible is very clear on lust (defined as a very strong sexual desire) – Jesus equates lust to the act of adultery [Matthew 5:28]. Lust is a sin, regardless of the object of the lust. Therefore, regardless if a person is lusting after the same-sex, or opposite-sex – lust is lust is sin is sin. Let’s agree on that.

However, the Bible 100% does *not* say that attraction in and of itself is a sin. The Bible warns about the dangers of being trapped or led away by someone’s physical appearance alone, but doesn’t go so far to call attraction a sin. In fact, there are two things I would point out from the Bible that I would say go against the notion of calling attraction inherently a sin:

  1. There are multiple references throughout the Bible about the attractiveness of specific individuals. If attraction itself was a sin, then why would the Bible provide commentary to the attractiveness of anyone? Take 1 Samuel 16:12:

“So Jesse sent for him [David]. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes. And the Lord said, ‘This is the one; anoint him.'”

1 Samuel 16:12 [NLT]

If attraction is inherently a sin, then this passage, as well as many other throughout scripture are confusing – why would we need to know about how handsome David, Saul, Joseph, etc, etc, etc, are? It wouldn’t make sense to call our attention to their attractiveness unless it was done so in the context of also calling out that their attractiveness caused others around them to sin. Additionally, the author of 1 Samuel is the prophet Samuel – how can a man call another man handsome with beautiful eyes – commenting on how attractive David is – and it not be called out as homosexuality?

2. Jesus repeatedly rebuked the Pharisees – the religious teachers and scholars of the day – for elevating their own traditions to a place of equal authority as God’s Law. [see Matthew 15:1-14, Matthew 23:1-36] They had the clear Laws from God, but then created their own additional laws which they imposed upon the people – and then would punish people for not obeying their own man-made laws. Calling something an inherent sin, which God doesn’t call an inherent sin is exactly what the Pharisees did – and that’s exactly what the attraction vs. lust issue is as well.

Want another example of taking something that’s not a sin and making it into one? Take the issue of drinking alcohol. The Bible clearly tells us that getting drunk is a sin [Ephesians 5:18] – and yet – the Bible does not claim that drinking, in and of itself is a sin. In fact, quite the opposite – throughout scripture the presence of wine is seen as a blessing of God’s provision. Jesus’ first miracle was even to turn water into wine! (And don’t even try to pull the conspiracy theory about it being weak alcohol content… the master of ceremony said it was *the best* wine. If getting drunk was an issue and called out as a sin, they they 100% had alcoholic drinks.) But that doesn’t stop many, many people in churches saying that drinking alcohol in-and-of-itself is a sin!

Jesus was tempted in every way.
Jesus never sinned.
Therefore, temptation isn’t a sin.

Jesus was tempted in every way, and yet didn’t sin [Hebrews 4:15]. I draw such encouragement from the knowledge that my Lord and Savior was tempted *in every way*, and yet didn’t sin. Lusting is clearly, inherently a sin. Engaging in sexual behavior outside of marriage is clearly, inherently a sin. But just being attracted to someone, even being tempted to lust, in and of itself is not a sin. Can it become sin? Yes! But this is a universal struggle against sin for everyone – not just for those with same-sex-attraction.

Here’s where the meaning and context of words comes back. When someone says, “being gay is a sin,” what they are actually communicating is that the mere attraction to the same sex is inherently a sin. Maybe they are actually trying to say, “sexual immorality with the same sex is a sin,” which is true, but then again, all sexual immorality, regardless of gay or straight is a sin.

“Being gay is a sin” is unfortunately a phrase that has been weaponized to create an us vs. them mentality within the church, as though if you’re gay, you’re more broken than everyone else – as though you need to get cleaned up first, and then come to Jesus – as though you aren’t welcome in the church.

Every single man, woman, and child is inherently broken [Romans 3:23]. The form our brokenness takes varies based on a multitude of factors which we don’t necessarily choose. I am made in God’s image, and therefore have inherent worth just like you and everyone else does [Genesis 1:27]. But even more than that, God considers me to be His masterpiece [Ephesians 2:10]. Because of my faith in Christ as my savior, I am a child of God, regardless of my attraction to men [1 Corinthians 6:11].

As a follower of Christ I am called to live according to a standard that God has given throughout scripture: to live in purity [1 Corinthians 6:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5; Matthew 5:28; etc.], ultimately summed up in honoring God and loving my neighbor [Matthew 22:36-40]. All followers of Christ who have placed their faith in Him are called to live according to His will and His Word.

I am so thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who recognize that we’re all broken people being made whole and holy by the beautiful love and grace of a savior who can directly, personally relate with our struggles, and who loves us deeply as our Father and creator, and finds us beautiful and worthy of love.

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