I came out to my parents at age 15. They'd already heard that I was bullied at school, with homophobic name-calling and taunts levelled in my direction on a daily basis, so they concluded that the reason I was gay was because I'd been told that I was so many times. I tried to tell them that I had already realised my sexuality before the bullying even started, but my reasoning fell on deaf ears. Eventually, my parents decided to send me to a 'Christian Counsellor', who would help me to fight my sexuality and cure myself of this abnormality.
Over the following sessions, Helen told me that while I was beautiful and special and loved and precious, what I did and felt and wanted to do was an abomination. Even though the basis and foundation of her religion was one of love and tolerance, this one thing, this single facet of natural humankind was "hateful" (her word) in the eyes of God. As a fifteen year old, I saw no hypocrisy in the opposition between her preaching of both love and hate together. She laid out a simple idea for me; if I continued down the path of homosexuality, I would be damning my immortal soul to hell. It was as simple as that. Nothing else I could do in life would help in any way - if I acted on my homosexual urges, I may as well be a murderer.
Every time we met, Helen would hold her hands over my head and pray for my deliverance from the demons inside me. The determination in her voice as she prayed for me was so steely that I dared not question the validity of this exercise. Like my mother, who I heard speaking in tongues on a daily basis, I assumed Helen was privy to some spiritual connection to God that I simply wasn't attuned to. As always in my childhood, I watched her practice her faith believing that one day I too would feel some kind of belief that would set me free of the life I had somehow been condemned to, through no fault of my own.
Helen told me that every time you have sexual intercourse, your soul divides in half. When you are married, you share your soul with your wife and she shares hers with you. Together, you make a whole person. But if you have sex with more than one person your soul gets divided in half again - then you have only a quarter of your soul left, then an eighth, then a sixteenth, and so on and so on until you have but a mere fragment of a soul left, that cannot possibly ever be saved. At least, she said, when you divide your soul with a woman there is a chance that a child will come of that division, but with a man the division goes nowhere, slowly chipping away at your soul until there's nothing left and you have lost everything for the sake of just having sex. "Can't you see how ludicrous that seems?" she asked me directly, "To lose your soul for the sake of sex?"
Early on she identified that I had a natural fear of hell, instilled in me from a young age by my parents. From that moment on, she used this as a touchstone for all her claims. Everything became polarised as either good or evil, of God or Satan, capable of sending me to heaven or hell. For some reason, I was convinced that she was enlightened in some way that others were not; maybe some divine revelation had opened her mind to celestial knowledge I couldn't comprehend, but the trust that my parents had in her meant that I trusted her too. In reality, this woman was no more qualified to "treat" me as the school librarian. She wasn't trained in counselling, she had no medical background, she had no training in anything at all; she wasn't even ordained. I was there because I wanted to please my parents and I thought that she would succeed where I had failed.
Eventually, I stopped going to see Helen. I was 16, my relationship with my parents was strained and I discovered a website called "gaydar". The moment my teenage angst arrived in earnest and I stopped caring what my parents thought of me, I forgot all about Helen and the way she tried so hard to change me. But for that period of time, I wanted to change so badly too. I wanted it as much as she wanted me to and we worked together, collaboratively brainwashing me that I was attracted to women... But, of course, it didn't work. I was and still am gay. I can't say that Helen failed because that would imply there was a possibility she could succeed. My mother once claimed that she knew a man who cured himself of his homosexuality by the power of prayer alone. I responded to her, "I'd love to see how happy he and his wife are together."