The same-sex marriage debate in Australia is heating up and this week saw even more ignorant and bigoted opinion pieces in the mainstream press.

One I read mentioned “life choice” which particularly riled me, as I tweeted quite exhaustively.

I chose to move to Japan, but I never chose to be gay.

I chose to accept myself for who I am.

Nothing more.

The piece stirred up memories from my Christian years and I thought it would be worth writing about it.

The purpose is partly to say “I tried to pray the gay away” but mainly just to record my experiences.

I’m more sensitive about religious issues than many, and try not to disrespect people’s beliefs. We all have our own worldview, and many of us are keen to share it with others. I’m as guilty as the next person.

What I’m not intending to write is a criticism of Christian beliefs or whatever. I experienced a wide range of levels of belief and they can’t be easily grouped together. But obviously less open-minded believers may take offense to what I write. I can’t help that.

I was raised in a very lightly Christian household. Some Sunday School, church at Easter and Christmas, a children’s Bible. Of course it left an impression but I wasn’t really a believer.

In high school I became close friends with a Christian teacher and in the course of events I became Christian at around age 15.

Now the gay part: I’d had strong same-sex attraction from a very young age, and also acted in ways unbecoming of my gender from early on. I did ballet, dressed in tutus, played with dolls, and most of my friends were girls. I was fixated with photos of semi-naked muscularos and had relentless sexual urges after male friends from the onset of puberty. None of this came to fruition. I never encountered another gay in my teens and then became Christian, and started attending a fundamentalist church, which put the brakes on indulging any sexual urges outside of marriage. I harassed many non-believing friends for their sexual behaviour. I’m sorry for this now.

I attended church services weekly (often two) as well as Bible study group. I helped at the church kid’s club.

TBH, one reason was that the kid’s club leader was a total spunk. Probably the hottest Christian I knew. It was amazing to spend time with him. Not sure if he knew how much I idolised him. I’m guessing he did.

In church I gravitated towards guys. Guys who I fancied especially. This was easy, because same-sex relationships were considered edifying and kept you from the temptation of getting too close to the opposite sex. Boy’s camps, men’s prayer breakfasts: for me it was heaven.

All the male bonding I could hope for, albeit accompanied by the frustration of coitus interruptus.

I left many Bible study sessions, I read very widely and deeply. Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer became my idol.

In university I couldn’t wait to join the Christian group. I attended their orientation camp: no wine, song, and women – just more Bible study, prayer, and song 

Oh, and hot, earnest young Christian men.

I heard my first sermon condemning masturbation (though the word was never spoken).

I eventually was on the committee of the university Christian group and quite involved in the politics.

I also became close friends with some really spunky, earnest young Christian men.

Many one-on-one prayer sessions followed. I experienced a lot of erections and precum in these sessions. Thanks guys. I remember wrestling a couple of the guys and doing healthy activities together like swimming. My mind was always in the gutter.

Midway through uni I took a one year working holiday in Japan, and was baptised here aged 20, before joining a very conservative Japanese church (women with head scarves, etc.)

All this time with strong crushes on many guys especially at church, none of which were fulfilled

Later, back in Australia, I went to Bible college part-time while working, studying church history (can highly recommend reading in this area. Quite faith-destroying.) and mission theory. I planned to become a missionary in Japan or elsewhere.

Through all this I was aware of my attraction to men and very conscious of the “fact” that my sexual urges were not only bad (“he whomever so much as lusts after a women commits adultery with her”) but being same-sex, my feelings were an abomination. Homosexuality was condemned quite openly in the churches I attended and quite frequently. I prayed ceaselessly to have these urges taken away, as they were a “thorn in my side.”

I have my first sexual encounter aged 23, and it was accompanied with an incredible sense of guilt and repentance. Such incidents were repeated 3 times over the next 2 years.

Finally, aged 25 or 26, I met a guy I fell for. I hunted him down, virtually, as rumours at work were rife that there was a gay guy and I wanted desperately to meet him.

Our initial sexual encounters were followed by intense guilt and at church I would pray in desperation to be forgiven and to have these urges curbed.

But during breaks between hymns, all I could think of was him.

I was also kind of dating a lovely Christian woman, but my true urges lay with my weekend boyfriend. The contrast in my emotions was stark.

In the end this was tearing me apart.

I was torn between this self-loathing and a desperate desire for intimacy.

I realised this self-hate was destroying me.

I could not live this double life any longer.

I had gone through various doubts in my beliefs for a few years already by this point, and eventually I left the church, which I believed would never accept me with my same-sex desires, which I now knew were an inextricable part of my existence. The fundamentalist brand of Christianity I believed in did not allow for such liberal views as acceptance of homosexuality. It was all or nothing for me, and so I threw out the baby Jesus with the baptismal font water.

This is it. I have nothing else to add.