For my entire childhood, I was confused about my gender, not fitting in with boys or girls.

Early on, I was exposed to gay porn and touched by neighborhood boys. When my sexual desires emerged, they were only for males.

Since I loathed who I was, I would fixate on one impressive male, wanting to just delete myself and replace me with him. “Gay” was my assumed identity, but I hated myself because I didn’t want to be gay. I wanted to fit in with the boys, not be sexually attracted to them.

By age 17, I was emotionally unstable. Searching for answers, I walked into a Christian bookstore in desperation. I left suicidal because there were no resources there that offered me real help.

Finally, I broke down, told my parents about my same-sex desires and behaviors, and found a therapist who helped me explore the changes that I wanted to pursue. For five years, I met with Dr. Schmidt weekly, and he helped me talk through my emotional pain and connect with a support group of people who were also leaving homosexuality.

I realized that I wasn’t alone, and I discovered, over time, the underlying issues contributing to my same-sex attraction and gender confusion. Gradually, my insecurities, self-hatred, fear of males, and obsession over one male faded.

I then attended a ministry school where I found a community of people who were not intimidated by my messy process. Eventually, I found the courage to show them my pains and imperfections, and they loved me regardless.

From there, my addictions to pornography, masturbation, and codependency dramatically fell away.

Some people want to be gay, and that’s their right in America. But some people who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria are not at peace with that direction for their lives. Many people experience same-sex attraction or gender confusion only after having been abused.

While sexual abuse is not part of everyone’s story, the connection is common—and interacting with someone else’s genitalia doesn’t heal sexual abuse trauma. But talk therapy can.

>>> Ex-Gay Pastor’s Counseling of Those Questioning Their Sexuality Could Be at Risk With Equality Act

If counseling bans had been law in 1989, blocking me from the therapy I was asking for, I probably would have killed myself. I would not have been satisfied with a government-mandated gay identity.

I wanted a wife and my own children, and I wanted friendships with other men without treating them as objects—both seemingly unattainable for me in the midst of my struggle.

However, despite the years of same-sex attractions and behavior, my life did change. I experienced change in my sexual desires.

I met a woman, we fell in love, and we’ve been married since 2006. She’s my only lover and best friend, and together we have four beautiful children. I no longer have desires typical of a gay man.

But laws banning the counseling I received to help me pursue a straight life would have prevented the rich life that I now experience with my wife and four children.

In addition, the Equality Act—which is set to be voted on this week in the House of Representatives—would outlaw the kind of counseling that helped me find resolution and peace, calling it “discrimination.”

There are thousands of OnceGay people out there. When I testified in the hearings for California’s AB 2943 last year, many other OnceGay people came out of the woodwork to defend the rights of those questioning their sexual identity.

We put together a book of our testimonies for the legislators of California, and later distributed them to committee members in Massachusetts, Texas, and Congress in Washington, D.C. Now, also features our testimonies. 

My testimony is that change is possible with my life as proof. I am changed today because I had access to resources that enabled me to pursue the convictions of my heart.

Sexual identity is so personal and fundamental to who we are that government should not be allowed to mandate people’s sexual identities or their futures. Rather, patients should have the right to clarify and pursue their own sexual identities and not be bound by any government ideology.