Alan Medinger’s childhood need for a man’s attention went unmet by his mentally ill father. Today, the founder of the ex-gay ministry Regeneration tells about how he became involved in the homosexual lifestyle.
Alan Medinger’s childhood need for a man’s attention went unmet by his mentally ill father. Today, the founder of the ex-gay ministry Regeneration tells about how he became involved in the homosexual lifestyle.
Alan: We can't say that these things are universal, but I've ministering to it to men in this area for over 20 years, and I see a common pattern. Most of us bailed out of the process of growing up as men. I think the problem originally lay in our not connecting with our fathers, not taking into ourselves those things that are inherently masculine. We didn't feel like girls, most of us, we weren't feminized in that way, but we didn't have that fundamental sense that we were men, and we got out into the world of peers, and there are friends who were physical and rougher and competitive and so forth, and we felt like we didn't belong in that world.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 23rd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Today we'll look at some of the factors that might cause a young man to ask himself the question – am I gay? Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I remember there were times when I was growing up when my parents might say to me, "Son, you need to go upstairs. This is one of those times Mom and Dad need to just have a little private conversation." And I think the subject we're going to be talking about this week is one of those subjects where parents need to determine whether younger listeners ought to tune in or not. It's a sober subject, but one that I think is on the heart of a lot of parents today.
Dennis: It is, and for a lot of reasons. You know, the subject of homosexuality is one that because of the militant forces that can surround this subject, because of our own backgrounds of where we come from as young men and young women growing up maybe in the '50s, '60s, '70s, where there was fear of homosexuality, of people who practiced the homosexual lifestyle and, you know, as a result, Bob, we're not sure how to come down on this as Christians.
And certainly the Bible is clear that we are to respond with love to all people. If your brother is caught in a trespass, the goal for a believer is to restore that one in a spirit of gentleness and love and compassion. And certainly the sin of homosexuality, adultery, drunkenness, deceitfulness, each of those really need to be dealt with with that same compassionate spirit.
And we have a couple of gentlemen in the studio with us today on FamilyLife Today that are going to help us, I believe, approach this subject with a little better wisdom than we've had in the past. Don Schmierer joins us, along with Alan Medinger. Alan, Don, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Don: Great to be here.
Alan: Great to be here.
Dennis: We are going to primarily focus on Alan's story, but Don has written a book that I found very fascinating called "An Ounce of Prevention," and Don lives in Sacramento, California, lived there his entire life, has written this book really as a research project, right?
Dennis: And has really sought to help us all better understand those who struggle with homosexuality. Alan comes from a homosexual lifestyle. Alan and his wife, Willa, live in the Baltimore area. They have two daughters and one son, all of them grown, and he has written a book called "Growth into Manhood," subtitled, "Resuming the Journey." And I really like that subtitle that you pointed out to me just a few seconds ago, Alan. But this story really goes all the way back to when you were a child. You were eight, nine, 10 years of age, and something occurred at that point that sent you off in the wrong direction.
Alan: Right. The book is not a testimony book, but my story is woven through it, throughout it. I did grow up with same-sex attractions. There was no specific event when I was eight or nine that I can recall, but in the – I grew up in a good home. My parents were good, kind people. We went to church; not a particularly religious family, we didn't pray in the home or anything.
But I guess an overriding issue in my family was that my father was mentally ill; suffered severe depression; was always under psychiatric care, and I think I grew up looking for a father, looking for a man to – a man's attention, a man's affirmation, and I can remember at a very early age, maybe what you're referring to was just one memory I had when I was a very young boy, and she had a grown daughter whose boyfriend was there, and it was Christmas, and he had me on his lap and for about, oh, gosh, two hours it seemed like, he played with me and talked with me and wrestled with me and did all kinds of things.
And that met such a need in me that – that man's attention and that mans' interest, that man's affirmation, that for years after that, I would go to bed at night, and I would think about that, I would think of that memory, remember that experience with that man.
Like a lot of guys who grew up with a homosexual orientation, I had a very serious need for a man's love and affirmation and also I craved being a man. These things at first were not sexual, but I got into puberty, and they turned sexual, and I actually started to act out homosexually when I was about 12 years old.
Bob: This was in the '40s?
Alan: I grew up in the '40s and the '50s, yes, uh-huh. There was not a gay alternative lifestyle out there telling me that's who I was. I am grateful for that, so I didn't get into school where they brought in teachers to tell me I was gay.
Bob: Well, but, in that era, for someone to begin to act out, how did you even know where to go or what to do?
Alan: Well, I was secretive. In fact, I never thought what I was doing was right. I knew a sense of right and wrong. Most of my activities in those days was with boys. You know, I would find boys, and I wasn't terribly active, but I actually found boys who would be sex partners or who I would take care of up through high school.
Dennis: How would you go about finding someone who had an orientation similar to yours?
Alan: Well, they usually didn't have an orientation similar to mine. They usually were boys that would just, you know, try anything once. I never did – and I think this was God's protection – I never found another boy who was really oriented like I was.
Dennis: So it was more of an experimentation?
Alan: For them it was, yes. For me it was a drive, a desire, a strong desire.
Dennis: You know, I grew up a little bit later, toward the end of the '50s and early '60s, and the taboo around this subject was ominous. You had to feel that as a boy.
Alan: Oh, I did, yeah, and I was cautious. I was secretive about it, but boys talk about sex, and there were boys that would experiment with me.
Dennis: What happened with girls during this period of time? I mean, obviously, puberty is a time when young men begin to go out on dates, and they're attracted to young ladies.
Alan: I did date, but I was kind of conformist. Every boy dated, so I dated. There was no real sexual interest there, but I assumed I would one day marry and have children, and I would just cope with this other thing. It wasn't who I was, so I didn't see it governing my whole life straight ahead, as many would today, growing up in this culture. So I did date. In fact, the girl who I first dated in junior high eventually became my wife 10 years later.
Dennis: How about that? During that period of time, what was occurring spiritually in your life? Was it a time of rebelling against God? Were your parents pointing you toward Him? Where was He in the midst of your life?
Alan: I think, like a lot of boys who grow up with a homosexual orientation, I wanted to be a good boy. A lot of other – we all were good boys, it seems, and at least we were people pleasers, and we wanted to think of ourselves well. So I was always in the church. I never stopped going to church even in college years, and I taught Sunday school and so forth.
There was no depth or reality to my faith, certainly no personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In later years I was to pray that God would take away these desires but nothing ever happened. I really didn't believe in a God who acted in our lives. It was all intellectual kind of belief.
Dennis: Kind of a once-a-week type of experience?
Alan: Yes, very much, yes.
Dennis: As you and Willa dated prior to your marriage, did she ever have a clue?
Alan: No, she never did in those years.
Dennis: Were you afraid to say anything at that point to her?
Alan: Oh, absolutely. I never would say anything to anyone. Although, at the point we married, I had not been active homosexually for about six years. An interesting thing happened – when I got into college, I joined a fraternity, which was amazing, because I was a pretty nerdy guy. But, all of a sudden, I had about 40 other guys who were my friends and accepted me, and I think in that environment some of those deepest needs for male affirmation and friendship were being met in a non-sexual way.
It didn't change my attractions. My fantasies were all homosexual, I certainly would have preferred a man to a woman, but I think the edge was taken off of those needs. So I didn't act out those four years of college nor two years afterwards. So at the point I married my wife, I had been free from any of that behavior for six years.
Dennis: I want to stop you there, because in your book, "Growth Into Manhood, Resuming the Journey," the real theme of this book is that in adolescence growth toward manhood stops.
Dennis: You actually refer to it, as I recall, as a young man being stillborn.
Alan: Mm-hm, or we bailed out of the growth process, is another way I talk about it, yes.
Bob: So you're saying typically boys will kind of continue along a track, but there is some kind of arrested development that goes on in the life of most who begin practicing homosexuality?
Alan: There is in most. Now, we can't say that these things are universal, but I've been ministering to men in this area for over 20 years, and I see a common pattern. Most of us bailed out of the process of growing up as men. I think the problem originally lay in our not connecting with our fathers; not taking into ourselves those things that are inherently masculine – a certain being physical, initiating that kind of thing. We felt different, we didn't know who we were.
We didn't feel like girls, most of us. We weren't feminized in that way, but we didn't have that fundamental sense that we were men, and we got out into the world of peers, and there were our friends who were physical and rougher and competitive, and so forth, and we felt like we didn't belong in that world, and it was too threatening. So many of us, I say, went inside. We looked out at their world, and we went into those things where maybe we could succeed – into studies or music or being a good boy, whatever.
Dennis: You know, at this point, I want to turn from your story, and I want to just say a word to you, Don. You've written a book called "An Ounce of Prevention," and in there you talk about those matters that really can arrest the growth of an adolescent young man as he moves into manhood. What might some of those things that prevent growth look like?
Don: One of the things that happens probably more often than what we would like to admit is that there are sexual molestations that take place in a young person's life. It could be an uncle, it could be a friend.
The other thing is, of just how the dad not accepting the child or not affirming them or spending quality time with the young person. One of the things, also, is putting down the boy.
Dennis: A rejection, in other words?
Don: A rejection, yeah, or as perceived by the sensitive child as being rejected by the parent.
Dennis: I could see how a father, certainly, not wanting to reject his son but how just without realizing it could cause a young boy to begin to shut down in his development and, certainly, Alan, your father because of his own struggles with mental illness was not engaged, not involved, not affirming you as a young man. Did you have any kind of relationship with your dad?
Alan: Cordial. My father was a good, kind man, but I never remember him teaching me anything, showing me anything, giving me any guidance, any discipline. He was there. The expression we hear a lot in our ministry from men who talk about their fathers – he was there but not there.
It seems that the uninvolved father is more damaging than the nonexistent father or the overly aggressive father.
Dennis: In other words, the father who is there physically …
Alan: Physically, but not emotionally, not mentally, not providing that boy with the guidance he needs, the protection he needs. There is – somehow a child knows what a father's role should be, and it seems to be in him, and when it isn't there, he's lost, and he knows that.
Bob: Okay, hang on here, we've got a huge generation of kids growing up with Mom – that's all there is at home – no dad around, they may not even know who their father is. Is that an incubator for an explosion of homosexuality?
Alan: I think it is. We don't have any statistics to that effect yet – that homosexuality is really increasing. It seems to be because it's so much more visible than it used to be, but we don't know.
Don: Another very critical point is of whether the mother will put down a father.
Don: Or other men.
Dennis: In front of the boys?
Don: In front of the boys. I have a very, very close friend whose father – or the boy's father left for another man, but the mother has refused to ever say anything negative about him or to put him down. She always uplifts the father, and those two boys have turned out very, very healthy.
Bob: It's not to say that the absence of a father is going to mean automatic homosexual tendencies in the life of a child, but the absence of a father is going to lead to some kind of anti-social, some kind of pathology, it would seem, whether it's violence, whether it's drug use, whether it's being a part of a gang. All of a sudden, Dennis, they're headed off in a direction with no leadership, no patriarch to call them in the right direction.
Dennis: You know, as these men have been talking, I've just been reflecting upon the Scriptures and how God created us. He created a family to be a mom and a dad committed to one another for a lifetime, and it's out of that commitment that the security flows to the children to grow up, to learn how to love, to learn how to resolve conflict, to learn what their own identity is as a boy, as a girl, and the health of a man and a woman in love with one another creates a greater chance for health among children.
But when that marriage unit is torn apart, now, all of a sudden, we have the dysfunction of sin, and we begin to see the fallout not merely between the adults but in succeeding generations. And I'm with you, Don, I look out on the horizon, and I get concerned because we have a generation of young people who have grown up out of a culture where there were still boundaries and morality in place, and now, all of a sudden, none of that is in place anymore. And it's kind of like if Dad's not in the picture, morality and boundaries are not supported by the culture, then what's going to keep things together?
And I think it points out the importance of the mission of the local church to proclaim the Gospel, to uphold the Scriptures, to teach the Scriptures, to call people to morality, to call people back to God and back to faith in Him and trust in Him and to follow the precepts of the Scriptures.
Alan: Statistics certainly bear out all of the malfunctions, the problems that exist where there is no father. It's just we haven't yet seen definitely that there is correlation between homosexuality and an absent father. We do tell mothers, certainly, single mothers, if they are bitter towards men, if they've been hurt, so many of them have by losing their husband, that they can certainly damage their son or daughter's manhood or womanhood.
Dennis: Alan, what would have happened in your life if there would have been a strong, godly, male enter your life with words of affirmation, encouragement, belief?
Alan: Dennis, I've wondered that so many times. I can't help but believe my life would have been quite different. I know one of the things that was missing was a lack of discipline from my father. Maybe that wouldn't have come in, but there was a period, you know, when I can remember when those needs had not been sexualized, I just wanted a man to accept me, accept my budding manhood, to affirm me as a boy, to show me I had some worth, I think I could have gone the other way.
Dennis: And in the process never entered into a period of your life that we're going to hear more about tomorrow, that really betrayed how God made you.
Alan: Yes, yes, uh-huh.
Dennis: And that occurred while you were married, right?
Alan: Yes, before I was married, and then for 10 years in the marriage, I was active homosexually.
Bob: We're going to dig into that, as you mentioned, tomorrow. I think one of the dangers we face in a broadcast like this is you can cause some parents to become almost paranoid, and they can become introspective and say, "Gee, when I scolded my child for spilling Cheerios on the floor, maybe I was pressing him toward homosexuality." How can we have a proper level of concern without becoming too paranoid?
Alan: Well, one thing I think we need to remember is that between 95 and 97 percent of the children who grow up, grow up with a fairly decent heterosexual orientation. They don't grow up homosexual, and that's among children of educated people, uneducated, and Christians and pagans, and so forth. It's built in us to be heterosexual, it's built into the family structure to produce heterosexuals. So it's a small number of situations where the homosexual child is produced, and there we do believe it's a combination of that child's innate personality and experiences and how he responds to those experiences.
So it's not something that people need to be overwhelmed about. I say just do what comes naturally and don't make certain mistakes.
Dennis: You know, I want to underscore that because I do think there is a great deal of fear about what Bob just said. We hear these statistics, possibly as high as 10 percent of the population are homosexual, and that's a myth. That is simply not true.
But three things you can do just by way of application today – number one, pursue a healthy relationship with your child, whether you're a mom or a dad, just develop a good, wholesome, affirming relationship where you express belief in them.
Secondly, I think whether you're a mom, a dad, or a grandma, or grandpa or maybe even an aunt or an uncle, get a good working definition of manhood and of womanhood and start coming alongside a niece, a nephew, a son, a daughter, a grandson, a granddaughter, and begin to build these qualities and affirm these qualities in their lives.
And then, finally, third, I would encourage you to operate out of a relationship of grace – just as God gives us grace, because forgiveness and embracing them and their mistakes as they grow up is a healthy part of the maturation process.
Bob: And, you know, it used to be, as a parent, this was something that you would deal with if you saw some kind of an indication in your child's life that led you to think there might be something going on in his thinking. In our culture today, I think parents have got to be proactive rather than be reactive. I mean, all around our children are messages about homosexuality, and some of those messages are confusing, and that's why it's good for a mom and a dad to have a biblical understanding of what's going on and to be equipped to know how to engage with our kids on a subject like this.
And both of you guys have written books that help parents in this area. Alan has written a book that's called "Growth Into Manhood" where you not only tell some of your own experience, but you talk about what happens as young men are growing up. And then, Don, you wrote a book called "An Ounce of Prevention," and we have both of these books in our FamilyLife Resource Center.
If our listeners are interested in getting a copy of either or both of the books, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and you can get more information about the books, or you can order copies of them online, if you'd like. Again, it's FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY – 1-800-358-6329. Someone on our team can answer any questions you have about the books that are available or other resources we might have available to help on this subject. Again, the number is 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
You know, when we think about this subject, there really is a lot more to understanding masculinity and manhood than understanding the whole sexual dimension of it. Dennis, you've given a message to men in a variety of settings around the country about stepping up to manhood and stepping beyond manhood, knowing what God's design for a man's life is.
This month we're making a copy of that message available to folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount and, along with it, we're sending a copy of a message that Dennis's wife, Barbara, has given to women on what a wife can do to help her husband step up to manhood. Those two CDs are our gift to you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We are listener-supported and depend on your donations to continue this radio program.
If you are making a donation this month online, and you'd like to receive the two CDs, just type the word "manhood" into the keycode box that you find on the donation form or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, make your donation over the phone and mention that you'd like the manhood CDs when you do. Again, we're happy to send them out to you, and we want to say thanks in advance for supporting the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We appreciate your financial partnership with us.
Well, tomorrow we're going to continue our conversation. We're going to talk more with Alan Medinger about being married and practicing homosexuality and that whole experience, that chapter of his life. I hope you can be back with us for that part of the conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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