Eric Marcus

How Can I Be Straight?

Filed By Eric Marcus | August 24, 2008 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: coming out of the closet, is it a choice

Dear Eric,

I am an 18-year-old university student from Edinburgh, Scotland. I recently have finished reading your book 'Is it a choice?'. I must say that it was really an amazing experience for me. I have read a lot of information about gays and lesbians on the internet but none of this information has been as honest and realistic as your answers to the many questions provided in your book. I feel so much better in myself now, and I thank you for that.

I do, however, have a question that wasn't in your book; it is a more complex type of question: What if you are gay but you don't want to be gay? What I mean by this is what if you can't imagine yourself being straight because your are 100% gay but you really desperately want to 'change' into a straight guy to make life easier?
I hope you understand my question.

Thank you again for all of your great advice.
-- Gay, But Not Happy About It

Dear Gay, But Not Happy About It,

I'm glad to hear that Is It A Choice? was of help to you. It's the book I wish I'd found when I was your age. But there wasn't anything close to it when I was a college student (most of what I found in my college library in 1976 was horrifying!).

Maybe in your next life you could come back as a straight guy, but that's only if there is such a thing as reincarnation. And you may want to experience a few more years of life before you decide that you really want to come back as a straight guy. I know that at your stage of life the prospect of being gay can be daunting (are you out to your friends and family?) and you may think that your life will be more difficult. But I can tell you that from the experiences of my straight male friends, being straight is no guarantee that your life will be any easier. And in some ways, I think that we have it better than straight guys.

As you know from my book, there is nothing you can do to change your sexual orientation. Your sexuality is a gift from nature (or God, depending upon your beliefs). And this is not a gift you can return. So your challenge is going to be learning how to accept it, embrace it, and to live a full life. If your concern is that you won't be able to have a full life, one that includes a partner (and children, if that's what you want), I suggest reading a copy of my book, Together Forever, which is about happy, long-lasting relationships. You can read more about it on my web site.

One thing I wish I had done when I was your age--and when I was your age I felt much the way you do, 100% gay and 100% unhappy about it--was to talk to a counselor at school. I think it would have taken me a lot less time to accept myself and been a lot less painful if I'd had an understanding professional helping me talk through my feelings. Is there someone you can talk to at your university?

Please let me know if you have any other questions. And keep me posted on how you're doing. Thanks for writing.

All best, Eric

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Eric, you always have such a way of phrasing things. I really liked how you said our sexual orientation is a gift from the universe that we can't return.

Happy Sunday!

Thanks for the kind words. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that when I was growing up I thought of my sexual orientation (despite all the pleasure it game me) to be a curse. It took a long time to come around to the idea that it was a gift. Some of that thinking came from reading Living In Sin? by retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong and from interviewing Rev. Carolyn Mobley for my book Making History. Sexuality is indeed a gift for everyone. To be used responsibly of course, but definitely to be enjoyed for as long as we live!

Eric, I really like the post that you wrote a while back about how some days you're more prideful that others. I think that we all struggle with this to some degree. And this kid should know that yes, things will get better. But you're never going to feel great about yourself 100% of the time. Gay, straight, or otherwise.

Two books that have really helped me are Kyros: Confessions of a Gay Priest by Rev. Zalmon O. Sherwood, and Sex and the Sacred: Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth by David Helminiak. I didn't find those books until well after my coming out years. But the the Kyros book, in particular, wold have made such a difference when I was a teenager. To know that God loved me because (not even though) I was gay . . . maybe I wouldn't have tried to kill myself.

at 5'6" I'm short, but don't want to be. I'm pale, but I'd like not to be---at least sometimes.

I can wear shoes to make myself look bigger, I can use fake tanners to look darker, but these are just artifice. They will not change my height nor will they change my actual skin color.

I've learned to accept both of these things. There are certainly advantages to being short. I fit in all doorways, for example, and the height of a ceiling fan or the ceiling itself has never been an issue for me. I also don't have to worry about people asking me to reach for things on higher shelves.
I'm pale, but I'm lucky to be partnered with someone who likes pale guys.
Speaking of partners...we've been together for 2 and a half years and couldn't be happier. There's no drama, no games, no fighting. We don't agree on everything but we've learned to agree to disagree and move on. He's my lover and my best friend. We're disease free and have good jobs. We're about as boring as you can get, but we're happy and we treat each other well. There was a time when I didn't want to be I'm so glad I am, as I would've completely missed out on 2+ years of happiness.


I actually do not know why I am responding,other than the post hit a nerve.I am 60 yrs.old,and have been out for ten years,to anyone that was interested.Looking back I knew I liked guys back in the fourth grade,Jay was my best friend,however,his hetro harmones clicked into action in nineth grade,and he told me we needed to stop what we were doing,and he would find us girl friends.Because he was so important to me,I went along with his suggestion.I never understood then what was wrong with what we were doing,but I digress.Anyway,the girl thing left me sort of feeling like,why would I want to do this until I went out with Jay and several other friends,and drank a pint of Dark Eyes on the way to a party.Well,I had found the cure,I thought,cuz girls,and guys were talking to me.I got very good at pretending to be straight,and eventually got married and had two sons.The,and lived happly ever after,didn't occur.My defences were very good,and quite deep,however,there were many occasions that my wife asked me if I was sure I wasn't gay.Just casual comments,or observations that I made.I had convinced everyone that I knew,that I was just really in touch with my feminen side,and there was nothing wrong with finding other men attractive.You are so correct in your stating that the gift we were blessed with can not be changed.I found this out through trying so hard to be straight.To make a long story less,I came out to my wife,after she read me a line from Depak Chopra,Nothing in your life will go correctly until you are true to yourself.This came to be after almost ten years of struggling with who I really was,and fortunately I had a neighbor that was gay and he was so helpful.Apon coming out to my imediate family,I was amazed that everyone that had professed to love me all of those years,just went away.As I stated,I have been out now for ten years,and they have been wonderful.I live alone with my kitty,and never date.I have tried all of the dating services,and I suppose it's my age,but I am interested in more than a roll in the rack,however,I do really enjoy that.I have just come to believe that this is the way it is,and if someone is to come into my life they will.I am still tempted to start dating women even though I really have no desire to.I realize that this sounds ludicrous,however,it is true.

Again,I have no clue as to why I am writing this,other than the post struck a nerve,that has not died,and needed to get it out,I guess.Thanks for listening,and thanks for this site.


Dear Steven,
Thanks for your comments. I can see why the letter struck a chord. The young man who wrote to me is where you were many years ago. Fortunately for young people today they don't have to feel compelled to live a life that isn't natural to them. It's still a challenge coming to an understanding of oneself, but there are lots of resources and far more support for people who simply wish to be themselves.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 25, 2008 11:19 AM

Dear Eric,

As we comfortably sashay down the street to relieve our lower back pains is it not wonderful to know that we are 100% Gay? :)For me, in one of the most restrictive universities imaginable, I was thrilled to be a Gay man in 1972. I was thrilled to confront the hypocrites and haters. But you left something out:

Steven Pierce! Sixty is not fatal! I am fifty five and partnered for thirty two years. Get involved in a "Sage" chapter in your area and you will get to meet plenty of guys over thirty five who will love to know you. You and I share a unsupportive family. It is not that they hate us, they just cannot understand, which is their loss. Circulate, and remember to cut them out of your will! Also remember, anyone who does not want to take time to know you is a loser. Feel free to drop me a note at [email protected] We live in Thailand, but I'll be happy to be a pen pal.

So open a tin for your kitty and live! Don't fall in to the youth oriented trap of thinking you are past it. do something new and interesting every day and don't "settle."

One thought that I had when I read your post that I believe your reader should consider. Not all school counselors or psychologist/psychiatrists are helpful. In fact, if you consult the wrong one, you could do some serious damage.

I was about 18 (I am 49 now) when I went to a well-known psychiatrist in New York. His theory was one could, indeed, change one's sexual orientation. Of course, even back then, that was border-line negligence on his part. Nevertheless, I tried for two years to achieve the goal of "straightness." It was a waste of two good years of my life - not to mention thousands of my parents dollars.

My advice is to be very careful who you consult. Perhaps a referral from a local gay organization would be a start.

Just don't get off on the wrong foot. It could just make things worse.

And another thing. I have been "out" for 20 years now and wouldn't want it any other way. I have met many wonderful people, lived a fulfilling life and have never been happier.

They don't call it gay for nothing!

Oh, this is good advice. I especially like the idea of talking to someone. Even if they're not particularly helpful, there aren't too many professional counselors hired by universities who'd send a kid to reparative therapy. And just talking to someone out loud can be great when it comes to rearranging thoughts.

You could try contacting Warren Throckmorton.

He believes in trying to help those in your situation - either accepting and coping with the difficulties of being gay, or trying to help you change your orientation. I believe that in most cases, the latter is impossible, and I think he's coming around to that view too. But whatever works.

He's becoming increasingly strident in his opposition to "reparative therapy", as he's had tp deal with some of the victims of it.


He does, however, believe in giving people uncomfortable with their natural feelings a choice: to try to become more accepting, or try to change the feelings. And hang the political correctness on both sides, be it Gay Pride or Sodomy is Sinful. It's up to the individual, not anyone else.

You may be one of the minority whose sexual orientation is fluid enough to change from primarily gay bi to primarily straight bi. The odds are against it though.

It's really your choice as to what to try. Keep away from reparative therapy though, it's dangerous and ineffective.

Zoe: What the @#%* are you talking about? This has nothing to do with political correctness. The teen who wrote said he was 100% gay and unhappy about it. He didn't say he was bi or that he even had a range of feelings.

This idea that a therapist can help you change your orientation is no better than believing in the tooth fairy. Yes, a therapist can help you get comfortable with your orientation, whatever your orientation.

If you're deluded enough to believe that a change in behavior will bring you happiness, then perhaps there's a therapist to be found who will help you change your behavior (having sex with someone of the opposite sex rather than the same sex).

I haven't had the chance to research Dr. Throckmorton, but a quick look at the link you provided suggests to me that HE needs therapy!

Gay, But Not Happy About It doesn't explain why he's not happy about it. I would mention that being gay is far from a monolithic experience. I've known a number of gay men who never engage in anal sex, for example. I also know a number of gay men who wouldn't know a show tune if they tripped over it.

Just keep in mind that being gay doesn't require you to undertake any particular role; you're 100% gay which means whatever life you work out and are comfortable with is what it means to be gay.

i'm from lebanon i want to say i'm a bisexual but i love boy's more but i don't want to love boy's why i'm 18 years old but all my friends love girls and some times no 1 take with him to the party's cuz i am like that in this time i feel i'm soo :S:S:S the point is how can i change my self :S plz help me i want 2 be str8 i try but i can't i do sex with girls but i want 2 be STR8