Justin first noticed same-sex attraction (SSA) when he was 13 years old. “I did not really associate this with homosexuality,” he said, “and I never equated these longings with gay identity.” As with many teens, the attractions felt like a hunger to connect with other boys. While he experienced some opposite sex attractions – both emotional and physical– he was primarily attracted to the same gender. Any hope of these feelings going away dwindled as his teen years passed.
My interest in interviewing Justin centered on the fact that he is a PK (a Pastor’s Kid). His father is the senior pastor of a large evangelical church in Houston, Texas. I wanted to know: what is it like to grow up with SSA when thousands of church members know you as the senior pastor’s son? “I was very afraid of being exposed,” Justin replied. “The idea of people knowing about my SSA was a disastrous scenario to me.” While his parents never intended to convey this message, he felt a constant demand to be perfect; especially in the area of sexuality. “No one in the church really talked much about this issue, so I was pretty much alone in a private struggle. Where could I go? Who could I tell? I did not have a clue where to turn.”
Justin was stuck in the dangerous space of repression. “Being so alone in this struggle consumed all my energy. I really wanted to tell my youth pastor, but I just could not do it. At school, I played like the issue did not exist – I worked hard to uphold the image that I was a happy person.” I asked Justin: what about the prospect of sharing your struggle with your parents? “While it was not a rational fear – because I knew they loved me – I felt it would be the end of the world,” he replied. “I did not think they would reject me. I just felt crippled by the idea of being exposed for what I thought was one of the worst things you could be known for. I tried to just maintain a good boy image.”
“As scary as it felt for my parents to find out,” Justin clarified, “I actually was most afraid of peers in my youth group and at school finding out. I would be an outcast if any of them ever found out.” As you can imagine, this is a tremendous amount of pressure for a teenager to carry alone. Yet the alternative of being exposed – that option simply gets shut off. Justin explains, “The secrecy, isolation and fear emptied my life of meaning. This void inside made me work really hard not to be fully known.” At times, he coped with loneliness by using pornography. Other times, he secretly hoped that a peer might love him romantically. Today, at age 26, Justin says: “My subtle efforts to seek love never materialized. I am thankful that I have never acted on the attractions.”
Join me Monday as Justin takes us back to the moment when he shared his SSA struggle with his parents. If you are caught in the trap of repression, do not allow isolation and fear to destroy your hope for a joyful life. PK or not, check out my For Pastors’ Kids (PKs) series and follow the rest of Justin’s story. You are welcome to contact me if you need additional guidance.
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