My childhood home was located within one block of the base of Stone Mountain near Atlanta. I loved playing with Eddie and Freddie, two brothers who lived in a two-story house across Mountain Street.
One afternoon we created a game of being naked together. In the coming months, we played it whenever we could. I always felt dirty after our "game," especially when it became sexual. But I never understood why.
Playing at the neighbor's was a welcome relief from the stress at home. Daddy's drinking led to ugly fights between him and Mom. After he had a brain operation, his moods seemed even worse. He would be watching TV and begin crying uncontrollably or suddenly rage with anger. When the opportunity came for me to move to Panama to live with my older sister, Marilyn, and her family, I decided to take it. I was only 10.
Unfortunately, my brother-in-law was also a heavy drinker. "He's different than Daddy when he drinks," my sister whispered to me one night. But their fights were just a sad replay of my parents' arguments. I was uncomfortable in their home, and often felt a knot in my stomach that never quite went away.
Eventually Marilyn's husband got transferred back to the United States, and I went home to live with Mom (Dad had been committed to a psychiatric hospital). I had fallen behind in school, and felt estranged from my former peer group. TV became my best friend, filling me with fantasies of car wrecks, house fires, and other disasters. In my daydreams, I was always rescued by a young, strong, caring man who saved me just in time.
High school gave me a new beginning. Mom had remarried during the summer, and we moved to a new county. By ninth grade, I had begun to make a circle of friends that included the class elite. I became good friends with a student named Tom, and often he invited me to his house to spend Friday or Saturday nights.
One night we were sharing his double bed; after he'd fallen asleep, I studied his sleeping form in the faint light. His muscles were much more developed than mine. His smell, masculine and warm, beckoned me closer. I felt myself getting sexually aroused. You stupid queer! I thought in disgust. Silent tears wet my pillow. I had burned with lust toward my best friend, and I mourned the loss of purity in our friendship. Maybe this will all pass when I have sex with a girl, I thought.
By the time I graduated from high school, I was buying gay porno-graphy. Flip-ping through those pages put my whole world in pers-pective. I was a queer.
"Dear Jesus, please change me," I often prayed, but God did not seem to hear my prayers. I remembered the night I had given my life to Christ at camp. We had sat in small circles of teens sharing communion. I had wept, feeling so accepted by God. But, in the light of my struggles, did that experience really mean anything after all?
During the next two years, I attended a small Methodist liberal arts college. But my vision of entering the ministry had died, and when I saw a poster advertising jobs in Wyoming, I quit school and headed for the Rockies.
After three months of scrambling eggs at 5:30 a.m. at Yellowstone National Park concessions, I was ready to move on. I relocated to San Francisco where I shared an apartment with my other sister, Monica. I'll settle this queer stuff here once and for all, I promised myself.
Soon I was visiting gay bars, and felt like I had found myself-finally! I started going home with other men for sex, but even in their arms, I often felt alone and empty.
Then Victoria, a college friend who was also gay, invited me to share her one-room apartment in New York City. Why not? I thought, and headed east.
I got a job waiting tables at the restaurant where Victoria worked, and soon settled into the routine of work, sleep, and indulging in an active social life with other gay men. Drinking and getting stoned added variety to the endless days, and dulled the inner void.
I came to despise the bars. The men were cold, lifeless. My sex life dwindled, then one man gave me hepatitis. After six months, I decided I hated New York.
I returned to college to finish my degree, and found some friends who enjoyed the gay bars in Atlanta. But unanswered questions continued to swirl through my mind: Could a man really love another man? I hadn't found it in San Francisco or New York. Sex? Sure, but not love. And nobody seemed to want a permanent relationship.
What did I want, anyhow? To belong to some man, any man. I'd cook for him, clean his house, iron his shirts, and warm his bed-if he would just love me.
During the next few years, I pursued my elusive dreams in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and San Francisco. Eventually I ended up in a rural farming community 20 miles from Athens, Georgia. My female roommate had come out of the closet and taken a lesbian lover. Our household stirred constant scandal in the community.
Pastors from miles around visited to invite us to church. I took one up on the offer and found myself getting un-wanted attention from two of the local businessmen. Their sexual interest in me "proved" that the whole world was corrupt. I was just more honest than most people.
But my emotions were a wad of hurt and confusion. I found myself addicted to smoking pot. I also read the Bible and prayed that God would help me break my substance abuse.
My arrival in Boone, North Carolina, in June 1979 marked a new beginning. I had heard of this area's natural beauty and decided to check it out for myself. I arrived with $65 in my pocket.
I found an empty room in a student boarding house in the university district. The owner, a gray-haired lady named Mrs. Hardin, promptly invited me to church. I thanked her while thinking to myself, I'm a flaming queen. I doubt anybody in Sunday school would be comfortable if I swished into the young adults class. I began hoping for a job that required me to work Sundays.
I found employment at a local restaurant and decided to accept Mrs. Hardin's invitation after all. But after sev-eral weeks, I was disillusioned with church. Too often I caught the hungry look of somebody "in the closet" who was checking me out.
Then I went with a friend to a Christian concert at the university. The songs filled my heart with hope. At the end, one of the musicians said God had given him a mes-sage for someone in the audience.
"This person is a young man who has been seeking to know more about God," the man said. "This young man has drugs on him tonight." The speaker invited the individual to accept God's call to repentance. Suddenly light and heat seemed to ignite inside as I heard the silent words, "You will never know Me until you are clean."
The man on stage warmly invited the person to come forward, but I could not move. I was awed, but returned silently to my apartment to ponder what had occurred. Once alone, I flushed my small stash of marijuana down the toilet with the thought, OK, God. I accept. I want to be clean. I want to know You. Now what?
I began attending another local church. Glancing around during the singing, I was overwhelmed by the joy reflected in the faces around me. Within one week, I was enjoying dinner at the homes of friendly church families, and even found myself confessing my past involvement in homosexuality. I felt drawn into the warmth of their acceptance, and knew I'd found my spiritual "home."
One Sunday morning, I sat in church, contemplating my two months' abstinence from cruising but plagued with doubts. Would I eventually reject this church and its people for sex with another man? Then the words of the sermon penetrated my confusion. The pastor was encour-aging us to trust the Bible as God's blueprint for our lives.
If I am going to follow Christ, I cannot practice homo-sexuality. The thought was simple, yet profound. Celibacy wasn't too high a price for having Jesus in my life. Freedom from the compulsions that had dominated my soul for years seemed possible. Everything inside me latched on to the truth that Jesus had died for people like me. When the pastor asked if anyone wanted to be baptized in water, my hand shot straight into the air.
Soon I had quit my restaurant job and was working on a tree-planting crew with other Christians. The work was hard, but the fellowship with other men and the beauty of the mountains gave me a great joy. I spent a lot of the travel time to and from work memorizing Scripture.
My ex-lover Dan crept back into my thoughts. But I knew I couldn't go back. And I kept busy with church activities during the week to thwart feelings of loneliness
The months passed, and I wondered what more God had for me. Church life was fulfilling, but I sensed a restlessness inside. Then a young woman named Freida joined our church and we became acquainted One day I had the thought, You're going to marry Freida. I didn't take it too seriously, not sure where it had come from.
Homosexual temptation was still a reality. But I had learned to fill my mind with God's scriptures and promptly ask Him for a way of escape. By now I had gone six months without masturbation, and the frequency of homosexual thoughts had dwindled significantly.
Later Freida and I traveled with a group from church to a Christian education conference. During the ride, we got to know one another better and I sensed that God had something special for us. Two weeks later, I asked her for a date, adding, "My intention is to see if we are compatible for marriage."
"I'd like that," she replied, and my heart warmed.
"Good," I responded. "Uh ... let's pray and ask God to direct our relationship!" By our second date, we knew our friendship was headed toward a permanent commitment.
We were married 13 years ago. God has blessed us with five children. We have learned a deep and abiding trust in each other's love. Our physical relationship was not a problem from the beginning, but we were married ten years before I could begin to express my deepest emotions to my wife.
Recovery for me is no longer centered on resisting homosexual acts. I seek a personality formed in the image of Jesus Christ. A personality free to love men without fear or pain. A personality which is controlled only by the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I am a new creature equipped to fight the flesh and release the spirit. And my long search for acceptance is fulfilled in the love of my wife, family, and brothers and sisters in Christ.
David Davis is involved in Breaking Free, an ex-gay ministry in Boone, N.C. Copyright © 1994 by David Davis. Distributed by Love In Action, PO Box 753307, Memphis, TN 38175-3307