I was fourteen years old when our family traveled to Orlando for a theme park getaway. Little did they know they were setting in motion, a lifelong dream. While in Orlando, I saw Killer Whales for the first time. I was blown away. I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. It took me a long time to reach my goal. I am really lucky. It took the Children of Israel 40 years to find a way out of the desert. I am just glad it only took me fourteen years and that I made it with all my own hair and teeth.
When I tell people that Jesus delivered me from ten years of unhappiness, guilt and shame, they ask me if I was a used car salesman. Saying that Jesus swooped down from heaven and saved me from eternal damnation and the fiery darts of Hell, though true, is a bit over the top. Jesus' role in my life is best described as mentor, friend and constant companion. He cries a thousand tears for every one that I shed. Simon Wiesenthal once said, “Every tear is forever on the mind of God.” Jesus Christ cares for my heart better than anyone.
What could have been so bad? One or two misplaced emotions eventually snowballed into a life that consumed my every thought. From the age of 18 to 27, I lived as a gay man, but I had gay feelings long before that. I was introduced to pornography by my brother, at the age of 6. Age 9 provided me with a bevy of choices about the world. Not only was I called into the ministry through a sermon about Jonah, my brother and a cousin exposed me to six hours of video pornography. I knew it was wrong, but it was mesmerizing and I was getting to hang out with the guys. To add to my confusion, I noticed at an early age that I was more drawn to the men in the videos, than the women. It continued to foster a burgeoning curiosity about sexuality and began a 30 year addiction to pornography and masturbation. It haunted my every day thoughts. When I began to walk with Jesus the struggle always brought up feelings of guilt. How could I call myself a Christian and still struggle with pornography? I never shared any of my sexual struggles in the church for fear of being ostracized. My secret battle was embarrassing, stifling, shameful and inexplicable.
I didn’t grow up in the most functional family as a boy. Who did? My brother was molested by a man when he was 13 and I was 6. It sent our family dynamics into a tailspin that immediately begin to affect all of our lives. I wouldn’t learn of the event until I was in my late 20’s. It was something my parents kept secret and locked away. It repeated a longstanding tradition of not talking about painful or embarrassing things in my family. My mom always quipped that she gave me the middle name Aaron, because she knew I would be a great spokesman. Then, she says, I didn't say anything for 12 years. My thought was always, "Who could say anything in this house?" There were three other people whose voices in my childhood home were much louder than mine.
One of those voices was my brother. In many ways he was everything a big brother should be, but the enemy had other plans for us. My brother’s molestation seemed to awaken a pornography appetite which he eventually shared with me. My brother never touched me physically, but I remember being naked with him and he made a game out of naming our penises. I remember being in my brother’s room watching him masturbate with a pillow while looking at a pornographic magazine. No 6 year old should ever be exposed to that. When my brother moved out of the house I inherited his porn collection by default. My early introduction to pornography awakened a sexual curiosity and exposed me to all manner of sexual situations that culminated in rampant sexual experimentation with other boys from the age of 6 to 13.
Almost two decades later my brother would tell me about his molestation. He said he had battled with confusing thoughts about his own sexuality which led to promiscuity with girls and erratic behavioral issues in response to the trauma. The bad behavior garnered the constant attention of my father. This created an absence of my father in my life. Not to worry. Mom stepped up to the challenge. The family dynamic was that my brother was my father's favorite child and I was my mother's. It was more implied than decided upon. My mother ruled with an iron fist or victimized tears. Dad was passive. Mom was aggressive. I spent my childhood scared of both. My dad was a good provider, but he can best be described as there, but "not there" in my life and ever present in my brother’s life. My brother and I had every material provision we could ever want: annual family vacations, amazing Christmas gifts, clothes, food, etc. From the outside we appeared to be the perfect family, but no outsider knew what was going on behind closed doors. One of the most haunting memories of my childhood happened when I was six years old. My mom locked herself in her bedroom and was threatening to kill herself with a gun. I remember sitting there, paralyzed, on the other side of the door crying and pleading with her. I don't remember where my father was. From that moment on though, I think was afraid to leave my mom alone. It would not be revealed to me until much later that my mother suffered from bi-polar disorder. I began to use humor and other distractions to diffuse the conflict created by having a manic/depressive mom. I did anything I could use to derail potentially tense situations. I became a little performing people pleaser who tried to keep mom smiling, but the stress of that role began to take a gradual toll on my life.
My father was the strict disciplinarian and resident Christian. He forced us to go to church every time the door was opened. I appreciate that now, but was not having it back then. I had a growing hatred toward my father. He had a short fuse. He never seemed interested in my life unless it was Sunday morning. I think my hatred for my father came about as a result of my mom’s continual attempts to emasculate him in my presence. In one breath my mother would filet my dad with her words and in the next minute she was pushing me to build a relationship with him. One family vacation she got so mad at him that when he got out of the car to ask for directions, she drove off and left him two states away. She frequently left him after arguments and took me to my grandmother’s house. My relationship with everyone in my family was strained. I was ostracized by my brother and male cousins. I was distanced from my dad. I was bullied by boys in school. I learned early on that the world of men was not a safe place. So I tended to gravitate to the women in my life who were always softer, kinder and gentler.
I spent most of my pre teen years playing with my female cousins and interacting with them. As far as guys were concerned, I was paralyzed in fear over them based on a history of volatile interactions. The problem was that I still longed to be around them. The gap between me and my male peers began to widen. I was a little boy distanced from almost every male figure in my life.
If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, well then it’s probably a duck. At least that is what the guys that bullied me in school felt. I was a feminine guy with feminine responses and actions. It wasn't because I was born gay. It was because I learned how to be a human by watching the actions and reactions of a woman, my mom; a wounded, mentally unstable woman. There were other strong female influences in my life as well. It was a recipe for disaster. I never entertained the thought that I was gay until my attractions and the mental impact of the bullying and name calling collided inside my head. For all intents and purposes, I had watched my mom’s life for years, not my dad. I mirrored her ways, words and attitudes. Don't get me wrong, I love my mother. She is the main reason I had a solid foundation for success in my early years. I know that she loved me and still does. The problem was that little boys were never meant to be best friends with their mom. They weren't mean to be poured into solely by a woman. It's like trying to program a Mac with Windows programming code. Something gets lost in the translation.
When I was a seventh grader, a gruff and tumbled, ninth grader with a bad attitude became my own, personal tormentor. He took it upon himself to call me Fag, Queer and Sissy. I have since learned that his own tragic childhood had left him with plenty of anger. Unfortunately, that anger was focused on me. His hatred further damaged my self esteem and confidence. I walked around in a fog of fear and anxiety. High school was painful and isolating. I had few close friends. I was the nerd who got good grades. I wasn’t the most masculine boy in school so I was the subject of some nasty rumors. The verbal slurs rooted themselves deep in my mind. The bullying further pushed me away from men and toward the belief that I might be gay.
High school graduation to me was like parole to a death row inmate. I had a chance at a new life. I could reinvent myself. Right the wrongs of the past. Act straighter. Date girls that didn't know me. I could become a new person. So I did. Upon enrolling at Oklahoma State I enrolled as Matthew Walker. Since Kindergarten I had gone by my middle name, Aaron, but I felt that the person I had been in high school needed to disappear. I had hoped that by laying "Aaron" to rest that all the turmoil and pain of his life would die with him. Needless to say, it didn't, but I did begin a new life as Matthew. No one back home understood, but in that moment I lumped every aspect of my past into one basket, good and bad, and threw the entire thing into the trash. In one fell swoop I had silenced any voice Aaron would have in my life. I tried to forget everything about my past in light of making a new life. I let a few bad experiences cloud my judgment and my whole life at that point. I wouldn't really learn the impact of that decision for many years.
College gave me freedom not to attend church. When I started college, I finally found the courage to write my parents a letter detailing my high school experiences with bullying and teasing. One night when I was headed back to college, my father and mother were in their car and I was in mine. We had pulled over on the interstate to say our goodbyes and my father got into my car. He recounted the memories from my letter and consoled me. I know my father had spent many late nights praying for me. This time, my father prayed for me in person. Tragically, my heart was too damaged to accept or appreciate his attempts to help me in that moment. I wasn’t ready to receive his love and compassion. I was caught between his Christianity and the growing temptations of homosexuality. I could tell my father that I’d been bullied, but if I told him that I thought I was gay, I felt he’d reject me outright. That was the first of many times that my father reached out to me, but I rejected him. Thank God he never stopped reaching.
College was the catalyst for sin in my life. I left Barnsdall, Oklahoma as a virgin on a bent to have sex. After all, the people I admired in high school were all sexually active. I was the odd man out. I dated a girl and lost my virginity that first semester. Then something strange happened. One day in normal conversation, she asked me if I thought I was gay. Not the typical relationship banter, but I responded with ambiguity and wonder. That conversation opened up an area of my mind that was lying dormant. It was like someone flipped on the light switch in a dark room. Some would say I was in denial all those years in high school when I could think of nothing but guys. In all reality, I can see how the enemy slowly chipped away at my resolve and prepared me for the ultimate demise. Eventually I started dabbling and curiously investigating gay things. After a night of drinking at a college bar, I fell into my first adult sexual experience with another guy. It was Spring Semester 1990 and I discovered a new “drug” that would control my life for the next ten years.
My workout program in college included bar hopping and running from God. I hoped that Jesus would forget me and let me live my life. My journey into homosexuality, began innocently enough with loneliness, anger and low self esteem. In four years I moved five times. One move took me from the dorms to a fraternity house in search of a cure. I believed that being surrounded by guys would fix me. I called it heterosexuality by osmosis. I was desperate for answers, which left me open to believe anything. I followed a Christian friend into the fraternity. I discovered later that he, too, struggled with homosexuality. By the end of my sophomore year, I had a minor in confusion. After the fraternity experiment failed, I gave up and allowed homosexuality to take over my life.
In the beginning, I constantly prayed that Jesus would take my homosexuality away. Night after night on the edge of my bed, weeping and crying. I never heard an answer during those late night confessions. I would wake up the next morning and brace myself to see if the feelings were gone. Nothing ever changed. Was I praying the wrong prayers? Was God even listening to me? One of the problems was that I was going to Jesus with stipulations and demands, not an open heart. I was asking God to take something away that I had a death grip on. I loved the idea of doing the right thing by God, but I loved my sin with every fiber of my being.
I moved through three states in a period of five years. I felt I was moving closer to my dream. In reality, I was slipping into debt and moving away from Jesus’ plan for my life. A few, small, misguided steps became a sinful, demanding lifestyle, spiraling out of control. I invested myself physically and emotionally in every guy I dated. I searched desperately for love and acceptance. Sex seemed to be the toll for the companionship I needed. I was willing to pay the price. Each encounter added to the hollow feeling growing inside. Thank God, my father never stopped praying.
The bible says that in the end days men will become lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. That was truly evident in my life. I felt I had two choices at the time. I could either live a sad, apologetic life of denial in the church or pursue homosexuality, a boyfriend, just have a fun and try to make the best of my fate. For ten years, I chose the latter. Another verse that rang true in my experience was Romans 1:27 “Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another…” There were times while I was having sex with a guy and I still didn’t feel close enough to him. I felt that I wouldn’t be complete unless I was “one” with him, but that type of connection always eluded me. There were times when I would hang up the phone after talking for hours with a guy and would still have violent separation anxiety when I hung up. Homosexuality and lust grabbed a hold of me and worked its way into my heart, my actions, mind and my desires. I was inflamed with lust and the scriptures rang true.
My father told me that separation from God feels similar to being surrounded by friends and still feeling alone. A poem I wrote details it best. “Simple paranoia rages inside me. Surrounded by familiar strangers, I’ve never been so alone.” Man was created to commune with God. He was never meant to live his life apart from God. When we are separated from Him, loneliness sets in. A life lived without Jesus is merely an existence.
When Jesus didn’t take my homosexuality away, I thought I was meant to live that way. The bible says that homosexuality was wrong. Christianity and homosexuality could not coexist in my life. I told God that I was going to be gay no matter what. That decision took me directly to the proverbial brick wall people talk about at the end of the road. I never hit the wall, but let me just say, I could feel the grain of the brick. I started dating this guy I met on the internet. He smoked. He was verbally abusive. He was dating someone else. Not ideal, but I had to prove my point to God. I found myself in two harmful sexual situations and arguments that would quickly turn volatile. I broke it off. That was the beginning of the end. The guy I dated after him was a true companion. He showed me the love and acceptance I had been searching for, for 10 years. I shifted all my focus onto him. I wouldn’t let him out of my sight. I spent every waking moment with him. He was the one for me. He was a guy I could hang out with. He didn’t want sex. He didn’t smoke. And two weeks after we met, he didn’t want me. I was so love starved at that point that all it took was one person to show me love and I was hooked. I smothered the guy. Proverbs 27:7 says “He is who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even that which is bitter tastes sweet.” It was this relationship that God used to walk me out of homosexuality. God spoke to me and said, you have been searching for a guy like this for ten years and now he doesn’t want you. I can show you what you are truly looking for: companions, friends, mentors, confidantes. You simply have to trust me and surrender to my plan and walk away from the failed plan you’ve been striving towards for the past ten years. A few months later I decided to leave everything behind and turn to God for help. Proverbs 27:17 was where God was taking me, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
One event that also helped in the decision making process was that I had recently gotten back in contact with the first guy I had dated in college. By some strange miracle, he had broken up with his current boyfriend and both of them had become Christians. I had known for a very long time that I was supposed to walk away from homosexuality. When this guy told me that he had already done it, it was almost as if the spirit of competition rose up in my heart. I was a little angry that he had done it before me. But after that conversation, I knew that it was the beginning of the end for my homosexual life.
This time my prayers were simple and sincere. I prayed, ‘God, I have tried for ten years to make this work. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t make this life work. Here it is. Let’s see what You can do with it.’ It wasn’t a challenge to God. It was a cry for help. I gave God free reign over my life. On December 20, 1998, I loaded my car, and left Mississippi and homosexuality behind. I was moving towards God, but I was dragging my feet. Matthew 5:6 says it best “The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” All my flesh could think about was the depravity of celibacy, long church services and learning to date women, instead of shopping with them. After ten years of being in and out of the closet more times than Julia Roberts on Oscar night, I turned my life over to Jesus. And immediately I became Super Christian and went on to pursue a full heterosexual life with my wife and our 2.5 children. And the polar ice caps melted and flooded Greenland. NOT! Of course change didn’t happen overnight. I needed time to grow in my faith and time to listen to God’s voice, not the opinions of others. I wrote to my friends about my journey out of homosexuality. Gay friends denounced me. Christian friends rejoiced. The rest were just confused. “Is it possible to stop being gay?”
Jesus orchestrated some great blessings in my life. Three days after returning to Oklahoma in January 1999, I went to work with my dad. Working side by side with my father, I was able to establish a bond that fostered my growth as a Christian and as the man God intended. God was so present in my life. He sent me a swim coach so I could pass the swim test for my dream job. He gave me the perfect job. I was able to pay off more than $10,000 in debt. God began laying the foundation of my dreams. Jesus restored my finances. He restored my faith. He slices, He dices. If you call now for only $19.99 you can get this fabulous...just kidding. In short, Jesus restored my life. I looked for happiness and success for ten years in the world. In less than a year Jesus turned my life around. It wasn’t always easy, but obedience led me to answer God’s call on my heart.
God would have never chosen this path for me. However, He has taken my past and used it for His glory. One of my life’s goals is to help homosexual strugglers find their way out of the darkness. I once called homosexuality the Cadillac of sins, perfect in every way, nestling neatly into a person’s life at such an early age. It seems so natural that we are fooled into believing it is genetic in origin. While other boys are dealing with boy/girl things, the homosexual struggler begins to feel different. Isolation begins. Imagine the struggles every teenager endures, then factor in having to deal with homosexuality. Add to that the self-righteous preaching damnation and not salvation. The fear of rejection; fear that paralyzes proper development. I know that type of fear. No one should have to endure that type of struggle. My power to react and my abilities to enlighten are gifts from God. Celibacy has been my practice since 1998. I still have the potential to stumble in my humanity. 1 Peter 5:8 says “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” My daily walk with Jesus and my time in His word, are what keep me grounded. This message may appear to be the epitome of intolerance and ignorance to some. For those struggling, it is one of hope. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life… I have 10 years of insight into the gay lifestyle. I will share the message of God’s healing power as we are called to do in Jeremiah 1. “...You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 1:7-8. “They will fight against you, but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 1:19 "I have pondered many questions about God. Men have forever tried to elevate themselves to His level. Why do we consider ourselves so advanced a species. We need machines to fly. Birds have wings. We need SCUBA to dive. Fish have gills. When you think about it, we need the help of an outside force to accomplish almost everything in our lives. For goodness sakes, we can’t even digest corn, people! Why would we rule out the need for an outside source to govern our spiritual needs? Relying on Jesus to be my strength doesn’t make me weak. It makes me smart. It allows me to build my faith and take part in his amazing plan for my life.
If you are wondering about my dreams of becoming an animal trainer working with Killer Whales, in January 2000 God opened the doors to my dream job. I have been working with marine mammals of all types for about 14 years now. Jesus truly opened up the storehouses of heaven in my life.
“What would have happened if you had avoided the gay lifestyle and had sold out to God at an early age instead?” I believe I might have been realized my dream in life earlier.” I definitely would not have ten years of memories to overcome. God renews my mind daily, but the devil uses my memories to haunt me at times. In animal training there is a concept that behavior gravitates towards reinforcement. I have to admit that the clubs, the attention and the acceptance were all very reinforcing. I received the proper amount of reinforcement I needed to continue on in my behavior. One of the hardest things to do is train an animal to perform a behavior differently than it was originally trained to do. The “old dog, new tricks” sentiment. It can be done, but you are competing with a huge reinforcement history. I can't imagine having a 20‑30 year reinforcement history as a gay man to overcome. The memories of the pornography, sexual encounters and intimate relationships keep a person bound to the belief that they were created different. I have been where teens who struggle with homosexuality are headed. I can say with confidence that by leaving homosexuality early on they will have a better chance of fulfilling their dreams and God’s purpose for this lifetime. By coming out young I had time to repair the relationship with my father. I know a few men who lost their fathers before they ever began to work through their issues. I have the gift of youth so that I can reach teens, before they make some of the same mistakes I made. God placed me right in the middle where I can help bridge the gap between young men and their fathers.
God has allowed me to enjoy the benefits of obedience and the fulfillment of my dream job. I am happy that I came out of the lifestyle young. I hated the presence of homosexuality in my life. I don’t deserve a medal of honor for being in the gay lifestyle for ten years. God would prefer that all of us remain pure and holy. Jesus was born of a virgin. I can’t relive the ten years I lost. God can use what I learned to prevent others from going down the same road. I have a great fear for the next generation. Life has become a combination of parents who pass on their unresolved issues and wounds to their children. Parents of today have forgotten that their family should be their main priority. Our children corner the market on anger, bitterness and pride; emotions they embrace in order to protect themselves from the pain. Those are the walls standing between them and the freedom of a relationship with Jesus.
I have watched God change and reshape my dream over the years. As a boy my greatest dream was to work with Killer Whales. As a man, surrendered to Christ, God has given me a new dream; a new mission. I have been in ministry to the gay community for the better part of 10 years. I have served alongside Exodus International, an organization that helps support men and women who desire God’s true direction for their sexuality. More recently I started a live in program in the Central Florida area that helps young men who desire to leave homosexuality behind, find a place of refuge away from the hostile plans of the gay agenda. I made a vow to myself as a little boy. I promised myself that if I had the power to do so, that no little boy would ever hurt like I did. God has helped me honor that vow and restored a life that was stolen from me at birth.