More and more societies are making room for those who are convinced that God made them gay and that they have no choice but to accept it. This has even begun happening within the Muslim community.
I am telling my story because I found a different path. I am an American man who through Allah's grace was able to loosen the grip of same-sex attractions and find my way out of the homosexual lifestyle.
I did this by embracing Islam.
I want to share my story, not to fan the flames of any political debate, but because I believe it could be a source of help and comfort to Muslim men and teenagers who want to leave same-sex attractions behind.
I also pray that my words might provide guidance to the families of those who are struggling.
For all of my adult life I have struggled with attractions to other men. The attractions began during my early teenage years and strengthened over time. I finally gave in to these urges in college and embraced a homosexual lifestyle.
I lived as an openly gay man for five years and had many same sex experiences.
I embraced this lifestyle because I thought this was who I was. It was a mystery to me exactly where these attractions came from.
Anyone struggling with same-sex attractions feels this at some point. The attractions are so deep-seated and arise in such an uninvited way that they seem beyond our conscious control.
At a certain point, in order to live with ourselves, many of us begin to accept these feelings as normal. And we start demanding that others accept them in us as well.
But I soon discovered that there was another way to see this. While living as a gay person, I was also searching for answers.
All my life I felt I was destined to find something more, something special that would better explain who I was and why I was here. The Christian religion I was raised in never really satisfied that yearning.
During and after college I also explored Buddhism, Hinduism and non-religious forms of meditation. None of them did it for me.
Then when I was 25 I had a life-changing experience that led me to Islam. It suddenly became clear to me that what I had been seeking had a name: Allah, that all-encompassing Grace that had created me and everyone and everything else.
Allah, that Light, that same Light, which spoke and continues to speak to man through His Messenger (PBUH) and all His other prophets.
Allah, that Resonance, that same Resonance, that has been delivering His message to mankind since the beginning of time.
It also became clear that in order to follow the path to Allah, I would have to give up the homosexual lifestyle. It was shown to me through several experiences, both internal and external, that homosexuality was wrong and that continuing to practice it would block my spiritual progress.
I didn't fully understand why at the time. I had to accept it on faith. But I knew deep inside that this was the truth.
Several difficult years followed, but my determination to become free of same-sex attractions was strong. By Allah's grace I was first able to cut all external ties to my previous life. I also learned, little by little, how to control the urges that kept drawing me back to what was haram.
To this day I am still vulnerable to these attractions in weaker moments. But I had only one more experience after embracing Islam. That was nearly twenty years ago. It was the last one I will ever have.
How I See My Struggle
After years of struggling, the battle has become easier. I have come to see same-sex attractions not as a curse, but as an opportunity.
Some people work for years to figure out how they can serve Allah. For me this question was answered a long time ago: control same-sex attractions and share what you have learned.
I have come to think of my life this way: whatever else happens, if I can stay free of this craziness and perhaps help others become free, I will have found success in the central jihad of my life.
Others may not agree with the approach I have taken, and that's fine. But for those who are struggling, I offer these words from my own experience: You don't have to settle for a life that is contrary to what Allah has prescribed for us. You don't have to accept a definition of yourself that is compromised or any less than what He has ordained for you as a Muslim.
And most of all, you don't have to live with the shame of rejection by your family, friends and peers. There is another way, and there are brothers (and sisters) out there who can help you, as they themselves have been helped.
Tips and Techniques
Here are some techniques that I and others have found helpful in controlling same-sex attraction.
1) Make the intention to change. You have to want to change, and you have to believe that you can. Allah is there to help you, but you have to make the intention first.
Ask Him with all the sincerity you can muster to help you battle this thing inside.
Develop the certitude that this is your own personal jihad, and make a commitment to Allah and to yourself that you will see it through to the end, no matter what happens.
2) Cut off all associations with friends and activities associated with "being gay." Do not underestimate the power of outside trappings and "friends" who will pull you back in.
Make a clean break, it will help immensely in your struggle.
3) Develop strong, healthy male friendships. Put yourself in the company of guys who are NOT same-sex attracted and learn how to get along with them. This process can be difficult at first, but ultimately it is essential. It demystifies other men, cutting the tendency to see them as objects.
4) Do regular Salat and Dhikr. Read the Qur'an. As Allah and His Messenger have said over and over, there is special power in prayer. That extends to controlling base desires of all kinds.
5) Get some help. Seek out counseling with a professional who respects your decision NOT to indulge in same-sex experiences. Or join a support group.
Straightstruggle at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/StraightStruggleis an online group that caters exclusively to Muslims who are battling same-sex attraction and their families. It is a safe, private and compassionate environment to address all issues relating to this struggle.
A Word to Family and Friends
Finally, a note for family members of brothers and sisters dealing with same-sex attraction. Compassion, love and understanding are the best medicine for anyone struggling to control same-sex attraction.
You need to have patience beyond patience and do your best to reserve judgment.
In my experience, people are best able to learn and change behaviors when given the love, support and space in which to do so.