In a frank and moving interview last week, the Episcopalian Bishop of New Hampshire talked about his attempts to overcome his homosexuality.
The Right Reverend Gene Robinson was ordained bishop in 2004, precipitating a momentous controversy still raging strong today in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Speaking to British journalist Andrew Collier, the Anglican Church’s first openly gay bishop recalled his early struggles with his sexuality:
[When I didn’t grow out of homosexuality,] by the end of college and the beginning of seminary, I got into therapy twice a week to rid myself of this horrible thing. I felt if I couldn’t change it outright, I could at least put it aside. I very much wanted to have a wife and family.
[The therapy] didn’t work, and it almost never works for people who attempt it. I guess I did think it had worked. I suspect it didn’t make the same sex feelings go away, but it certain worked in that I felt ready emotionally and spiritually and physically for a relationship with a woman, so it certainly made that part of myself possible. And so when I entered into a relationship with the woman who became my wife, it was full of integrity – I wasn’t pretending to be something that I was not. And yet within a month of meeting her, I shared that all of my primary relationships had been with men, that I had been in therapy to make a heterosexual relationship possible, and that I felt I was in a good place to do that.
On falling in love with a man for the first time (prior to his marriage):
It felt very positive to be falling in love with someone, to have them falling in love with me, and to experience this kind of bond, and at the same time it was horrifically awful because – oh my goodness, maybe this isn’t a passing phase. Maybe I am this way. Oh my God, what am I going to do?
It was this realization that led him to pursue therapy to change:
And knowing that if I were this way, the chances were almost complete that I wouldn’t be ordained. So there was a lot at stake and I wanted to do this right and well, so I got into therapy, to change that, and the desire for a family were perhaps the two guiding principles.
Like so many ex-gay marriages, however, all was not as idyllic as it seemed:
It was a wonderful marriage and as a matter of fact almost everyone we knew was devastated by the announcement we were getting divorced. We were the marriage everyone hoped for. We were the ones people pointed to and said ‘if only we can have what they have’. And yet beneath the surface there was this other very painful thing going on.
The interview is a worthy read, and will certainly give a very different impression from that of much of the conservative vitriol surrounding Bishop Gene’s appointment. In particular, he gives a beautiful account of how he and his wife ended their 15-year marriage, and how that relationship continues today. He also addresses current Anglican divisions, warning that the Church of England would be close to shutting down if not for the legions of gay men and women in its pews, its organ stalls and its pulpits.