My story is my own, a truth I didn’t get until recent years. For all intents and purposes, I am a man who was born gay. For the sake of the point I am trying to make, let’s define gay merely as homosexual. I realize the word is outdated, but hang with me. Homosexual is (simply) defined as a person who is sexually attracted to the same sex. I didn’t come out of the womb longing for sex with other boys, of course, but wrapped up in that light blue baby blanket, all warm and soft and cuddly, were all the makings of a gay man.
As I matured, those ingredients burgeoned and in the great big Kitchen Aid of my life, mixed with early childhood experiences, perceptions, and biology in time resulted in a gay – same-sex attracted – teenager and man. If my life had been different, would I have still been gay? I don’t know, probably. But that’s not the point, and frankly all the pontificating is a distraction. “I was born gay” is important because there is very little I, or anyone else for that matter, can do about who they are attracted to – heteros, homos, bad boys, tall girls, you name it.
But wait – there’s more.
I am also a man who is joyfully married to a woman. To Leslie. We have two beautiful children. We’re a family – that basic, fundamental unit of life – which is an experience that has been known by all cultures throughout all time. Leslie is now and has been my very first choice, the only person I have loved and been intimate and sexually active with over the course of twenty years.
To wear any one label would explain only a fraction of who I am. I cannot deny any part of the truth of my story – be it attractions, experiences, or beliefs. But until recently, I haven’t been able to confidently own all of these things equally in every setting. The level of gratitude I feel for the grace to humbly and openly experience my identity is something I cannot adequately express in words
During many speaking engagements and media interviews as the president of Exodus International, I talked about a diminishing of my same-sex attractions or how they had changed drastically. I think part of this was wrapped up in how I felt about Leslie. I understood that truly gay men wouldn’t feel about a woman the way I felt about Leslie, so that must have meant I’d changed or was changing. Through the years, I’ve come to see things more clearly. Attractions are different from temptations.
Like I said, my same-sex attractions hadn’t changed. But my sexual temptations did. They did diminish. What actually changed for me was the insatiable need I once had for sex with a man. It’s not like I’m constantly holding myself back from jumping in bed with a man. What truly stops me is the same thing that would stop me if my orientation was primarily toward women: faithfulness to God first and my wife second. Sex doesn’t equal intimacy. The allure of the forbidden is tempting no matter what you are tempted toward. An orgasm with a man would last about five minutes and would seriously alter a life I dearly love and value above all else. It’s not worth it. I don’t want it. I want what I already have,
During one interview with a national newspaper, a gay reporter concluded his interview with me and asked if we could talk off the record for a few minutes. This was often how interviews went for me. “Don’t you feel like you are denying your true self, Alan?” the journalist queried kindly.
“Let me answer this way,” I said. “It’s Friday. When I am finished with this interview, I will drive home. At home, I will put on a baggy T-shirt, a pair of expandable waist shorts, and huge-framed glasses, and order a pepperoni pizza from Giovanni’s and probably watch Mary Poppins with my wife and kids. That’s my true self, my true life, and I love it.”
I want to spend the rest of my life with Leslie. My love for her on the day I proposed – on our first date – was reason enough to ask. But it has grown exponentially every day since. I love investing in our life together. I love that we have a hundred gazillion stories together, have looks that only we can fully decipher, and are the only people neither of us ever grow weary of. She is the only person I truly want in every single way. I do not desire to know anyone and to be known by anyone in the way I know Leslie and am known by her. Those of you who have found what I am talking about – whether you are with a same-sex partner or opposite – understand this point.
So who am I? I’m a son of God, a husband, a father, a son, a son-in-law, a brother, a brother-in-law, an uncle, a cousin, and a friend. I’m Alan. And what’s my orientation? My orientation is Leslie.
Alan Chambers (@AlanMChambers) is perhaps best known as the final President of Exodus International, a ministry he closed in 2013. He and his wife, Leslie, have been interviewed by nearly every major media outlet in the world because of that role and his story as a Christian with same-sex attractions. He has written three books centering on faith and sexuality and also writes for magazines, newspapers and online publications upon request. Alan’s family and friends know him best as Leslie’s husband, Isaac and Molly’s daddy, for his great sense of humor and love of decorating (both homes and people). He lives with his family in his hometown of Winter Park, Florida, which he considers the greatest city in the world.