CONFUSED NO MORE
by Matt Lieberman
Freedom From Homosexuality As A Deaf Man
"I will have a hard life." as I thought to myself, when I first realized that I liked boys, not girls. I had feelings for boys on my swimming team and I was staring at the boys in their swim suits. It was just another year on the swim team in Louisville, Kentucky in the summer of 1985. I never understood why I felt attracted to boys. I was afraid on what my life would be like in the future, a hard life? So, I kept quiet with all of these thoughts inside of me. I was screaming for help, yet I was too ashamed and scared to tell anyone. I felt I was so different.
My family had moved from New
Jersey, my birth state, to Kentucky in 1977. My dad was an outgoing, humorous,
successful businessman who traveled a lot. He was usually busy and worked hard.
He did not know how to be close to me emotionally, nor did he ever say he loved
me. He only expressed his love to me by going out and buying me things. My mom
was a compassionate, dominant mother who was always in charge of the kids'
problems and worked as a nurse. My grandmother joined the family before I was
born due to a bitter divorce. She always gave me coffee and chocolates, and
loved to laugh. My oldest brother was humble, usually quiet and had good
manners. My sister and I loved to talk and play with hairstyles and fashions. I
have a third-born sibling, another brother, who is also Deaf. We had the same
schools and activities together. My Deaf brother was tough, excelled at sports,
hung out with the jocks and usually was the one to win fights with me.
Sometimes, I was afraid of him and he called me a fag and sissy. I felt hurt
because I believed he was right; and knew I was different, so we were not close
emotionally. I wanted to be accepted in the guy's group, like my Deaf brother.
With no real male role model, I became very close and comfortable with the women
in my family and other girls. Being Deaf, my brother and I usually missed out on
some of the communications that were taking place in the family. I am the
youngest son, having the "good-boy" image, interested in art, loved to climb on
trees, and meet new people. I loved my family and my life in Kentucky, but I was
struggling with my gay feelings with fear and never told anyone.
August 1986, we had to move to St. Louis (STL), Missouri for me and my Deaf brother to attend St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf (SJI). SJI provided speech therapy and lip-reading, which we call oralism. Sign language was forbidden. I didn't want to move to STL, because I loved my life in Kentucky. In STL, I was lost, and it also caused me to be angry at my father for the change. Although distant from him, I vowed never to be like him. So, I would usually watch TV for hours, design art and do landscaping. I was into my own make-believe world. At SJI, I hung around with girls all the time and developed my love for drama. During puberty I started to have fantasies about guys. I was exposed to some x-rated videotapes and pornography, which stirred up more gay feelings. I didn't get any recognition from the guys; they always applauded my Deaf brother. I went rejected, unnoticed, and I envied those guys. I was so hurt, angry, and I lost my self-esteem. I was overcome with self-pity, bitterness, loneliness and severe depression; I thought about killing myself. I became isolated and hated myself for being Deaf in this hearing world.
In 1990, after I graduated from SJI, I entered into the hearing mainstream school for my freshman year of high school, thinking I would do fine in the hearing environment with my oralism training. It was the most horrible year of my life. I was left out, rejected by both hearing girls and guys. My voice would hurt when I forced myself to talk too much. My voice was not clear for the hearing people to understand me. It was also hard for me to understand people talking. It was impossible to catch every word they were saying. It was then I realized that I needed sign language. I was able to get a sign language book and learned a few words. With oralism drama experience at SJI, I tried twice to get involved in the drama department at the hearing high school, but to no avail. I got so fed up with my life of loneliness and failures. I cried out and demanded a challenge and a change in my life!
Finally in 1991, I went to Gallaudet University for a drama camp, "Young Scholarship Program" in Washington, D.C. I entered a new life of Deaf culture and community which I found many new friends and finally felt accepted. Immediately, I quit my hearing school and joined Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) that fall. At that time, I did not know American Sign Language (ASL) well, so I was ridiculed for my oralism. But it was worth it, because it forced me to learn ASL fast. I realized that ASL is the best language for the Deaf culture. I now use it comfortably and naturally. I gained a complete new self-esteem and perspective, with no more self-pity. At MSSD, I joined all the activities and professional drama opportunities available in the Performing Arts Program. I put my full efforts and risks into my love for drama, which improved my ASL and acting abilities. For three years, I traveled nationally and internationally with the MSSD Road Show, a Deaf drama tour group.
At MSSD, an outspoken assertive gay activist declared to the entire school that we must respect his gay rights. It was then I learned about gay issues for the first time. I had a few girlfriends, but it was never serious. I was just being a nice boy and trying to portray the "boyfriend" image. The girls would misunderstand me and break up with me because I couldn't be a real boyfriend to them. During my junior year, I became best friends with a gay man. This friendship later turned into a secret "gay" relationship. I became hooked and addicted, but I did feel guilty about this distorted relationship. I was emotionally dependent and became obsessed with this man. I felt very comfortable with him and found a new gay identity. It felt great to "come out of the closet" and be acceptable. I didn't need to pretend to be macho or something I perceived from the straight world. I could be myself!
My mother became suspicious when I bragged about my new special "friend." When I visited home for my 1992 Christmas break, my father bluntly said to me, "Get a girlfriend!" I was completely turned off. I had lost respect for my dad. I was so afraid about my parents finding out about my gay relationship. Unknown to me, my mother read my journals. Two days before Christmas my parents confronted me. I had to tell them my secrets, finally admitting I was in a gay relationship. My dad couldn't handle it and left the room. My mom lost her temper and panicked and said things that really hurt me. We ended up arguing a lot. My mother jumped to conclusions. My parents tried to stop me from going back to MSSD. They wanted to put me back into the hearing school. "NO!" I screamed, "They can't take away my Deaf culture, community, friends, and drama, no way!" I didn't want to loose my self-esteem and suffer all over again in a hearing school. I would do anything to go back to MSSD, so I terrorized my parents, and they finally let me go back. As time went by, the gay relationship I was in turned ugly. We started to turn against each other. It became very physical, verbal and emotionally abusive. The gay relationship went on and off continuously.
In January 1993, things went crazy when I was busted for "under-age" drinking at a gay bar in Washington, D.C. I got suspended from school and had to go back to STL, where my parents forced me to go to therapy. They wanted to help me in their own way. However, I fought with them again and returned to D.C. So, my mother and grandmother had to keep on praying for me. Unknown to me, my grandmother saw the C-SPAN interview of a man who left the gay life. So my parents forced me to attend to ex-gay meetings, which made me very uncomfortable. I was the only Deaf person there. I wanted to get it over with and be with my Deaf friends, not those "religious hearing people." I was so tired of being preached at by my mother. In my anger and rebellion, I didn't want to hear anything about this strict and boring God.
Summer 1993, while visiting home, my mom found my love letters and caught me on the phone (TTY) with guys. We would argue and she'd force me to go to therapy again, which never interested me. I went along with her wishes so she would let me go back to MSSD. In the fall of 1993, I returned to MSSD for my senior year, all the while lying to my parents that I was getting "better." I did tons of drama accomplishments and activities to fulfill my dreams. I won the Joseph A. Velez award for excellence in drama; it was the biggest accomplishment in my life up to that point. Yet, I would go back to the abusive gay relationship and eventually found other gay men.
For my mother's sake, I went to a church once with my two lesbian friends. I felt so bored sitting there so I decided to flip through the church's Bible. I was shocked to find: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, "Don't you know that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers; none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God. There was a time when some of you were just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God. You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you." I shut the Bible, quickly stashed it away and refused to believe it literally. I interpreted the Bible myself, choosing to believe that being homosexual was really okay. However, I knew it was God speaking to me, but I ignored it. Then I graduated from MSSD on June 4, 1994. I entered Gallaudet University for my freshman year, the fall of 1994. My parents had me live off campus with an ex-gay man's family. They knew I would be worse off with the homosexuality in the dorms. I also went back to the "boring" ex-gay meetings. I had no interpreter, so I gave up the meetings. I didn't understand how was God working through them. I was so confused; what I saw was mumbo-jumbo.
Later, a girl I knew killed herself. This really shook me up and made me wonder what will happen to me after I die? I began zigzagging back and forth from homosexuality and God in a confused state. When I became lonely, I would sneak off to a gay bar to see my friends. In October 29, 1994, I was at a gay bar for a pre-Halloween special and I was dressed up in a beautiful orange and black antique costume. I was drinking and standing on top of the balcony of the bar, feeling the loud thumping of the music and seeing the flashing colorful lights. I was looking down at the dance floor and saw all the people dancing sensually. It seemed like everything went into a blurry slow motion. Suddenly I knew God was watching me so closely. He began showing me how He felt about what I was seeing. I froze and it made me squirm. I thought to myself, "Geez, what am I doing?" I was struck with guilt and had an uneasy feeling, which I knew was from God. I realized I was so dark inside. I couldn't hide or run away from Him. I tried to ignore it; yet, I became more confused about homosexuality and God. I soon lost my motivation for education, and left Gallaudet with mixed motives. I wanted to move to Hollywood to act in movies. I also wanted to get away from the gay lifestyle in my own way. In 1995, I became a workaholic with two jobs, and was doing some dramas to save up money to move to Hollywood. Through my own strength I was suppressing my gay feelings and just trying to ignore my desires and get on with my life. I continued to go to several ex-gay meetings; however, being the only Deaf person there, I was lonely, depressed and confused. I still believed that change was impossible.
In summer 1996, I was accepted to the professional summer drama school at National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD). However, I was still confused and vulnerable. I felt that I was strong enough to resist gays and the temptations. I thought I would not get involved with anyone again. I told NTD that I was ex-gay. It shocked everyone and at the same time, I felt stupid, helpless, confused and embarrassed that I told them. I didn't feel like that I was truly a changed person. So I became lonely, I met a gay man, who was an actor and a model from Hollywood. We started a gay relationship and he was different, much kinder than the first gay relationship. He was definitely what I thought was "Mr. Right." He never verbally, physically, or emotionally abused me. It was like a perfect gay relationship I always wanted. We even made specific plans for me to move in with him to California. Deep down inside my heart I knew it was wrong and God was watching me, but again I chose to ignore Him.
In September 1996, a friend invited me to a Deaf Christian retreat in Oklahoma. The speaker asked the audience to open up their hearts to God in prayer. Everyone was quiet and had God speak to their hearts. I sat there quietly and wondered with my heart open; and then all of a sudden, pictures began to flash back. All the past events kept popping up in my mind. God was showing me to wake up and to go to Him. I wasn't expecting this. I realized all of the things I did was against God and I felt guilty. I cried so hard and I knew I needed God. I asked God to forgive all of my sins. As I was crying alone, I asked the Lord, "Please send someone to talk and comfort me." I felt a hand touch my shoulder. It was Steve, comforting and supporting me. Steve told me that God had shown him to come, comfort and talk with me. I was shocked that the first time in my life, the Lord answered my prayer. I told Steve everything about my past and he didn't reject me. I finally met a friend who was my age, who would only be my friend. During this time I saw a Deaf drama called "Father's Love" by "The Master's Hands" of Deaf Ministries Worldwide. They performed an ASL drama about the creation of this world, Adam and Eve and about Jesus. The drama revealed how and why God sent Jesus to die on the cross, exposing the devil's schemes and other things. I finally understood in my heart knowing God, instead of just about God. All the confusion about homosexuality and God suddenly became clear. I understood the reason why I fell back into the gay lifestyle. I was depending upon my own mind and strength, which is the devil's way, not God's way. 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right." (NLT) I was determined to do God's will, which changed my life.
August 1997, God lead me to join the Deaf Bible School called Evangelism Training Center (ETC), at Deaf Ministries Worldwide (DMW), which was the home to the same drama group that I saw at the Deaf retreat, a year earlier. I found many new Deaf brothers and sisters in Christ. I now know and understand that God has the best plan for my life, as well as for anyone who wants to obey Him. I learned that Bible reading, prayer, and a personal connection with God is very important. In October 1998, I joined The Master's Hands Deaf traveling drama group. God has done so much in my life as I went on Missionary trips and many other opportunities. In May 2000, I graduated and received a Deaf Culture Ministry Certificate.
In July 1999, a major impact came into my life when I went to the 24th Annual Exodus International Conference in Wheaton, Illinois. I was shocked to see that there were over 1,100 hearing people there, many whom have followed God out of the gay lifestyle. We were all openly talking about sexual issues where the church is normally silent. Thankfully, I had four interpreters and met friends my age. Everyone had a mixture of stories concerning adultery, fornication, promiscuity, homosexuality, incest, molestation, prostitution, pornography, rape, sexual abuse, transsexuality, and transvestitism. I learned that the distorted environmental influences are the reasons behind their own homosexuality and other areas. I saw the real root causes for homosexuality, including my own. I finally understood why and I felt peace, acceptance and was able to share about my experiences openly. At the workshops, I learned and found so many resources, tracts, tapes, websites, CD-ROMS, articles, magazines, health risks, facts & myths, brochures, and books. I learned that there were over 100 Exodus ministries all over the USA. I thought, "Geez, the hearing people know about this while the Deaf people know nothing about this." Afterwards, I was determined to have Deaf workshops for Deaf people to attend in the future. At the 25th Anniversary of Exodus International Conference in San Diego, California, we had the first two Deaf workshops, which were very successful. I now look forward to the annual Exodus conferences with more ministries for the Deaf.
In conclusion, I do not support people who are intolerant, homophobic, and hateful, who condemn people and are violent against gays. I do not support anyone who forces gays to change. I have experienced that myself. It is wrong and it is not God's way. God never forces people to change and love Him. My goal is to explain to Deaf people that God is the only One who can change their lives. God is continuing to work in my life, and He is healing my root areas. I am learning so many lessons from Him. When you really believe in God, you will obey what God tells you to do. I know that I did not consciously choose to have gay attractions, but I have the conscious choice whether to give in or not to act on those attractions. When I have temptations, I express my feelings and thoughts to God in prayer and with trusted friends. I now enjoy healthy male friendships, which helps me to regain what I lost when I was growing up. The Bible is my instruction and it is the only Truth. 1 Corinthians, 10:13, "You are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much and he will show you how to escape from your temptations." (CEV). I am not too keen on the word; "ex-gay;" I'd rather say that I am identified in Christ, just like any Christian who follows God. It is not a life of "going back into the closet" or "suppressing homosexual desire," but a life of joy and true freedom. Many don't realize that we have an enemy, the devil, who likes to confuse us and to have us do things "his way." Philippians 4:13, "Christ gives me the strength to face anything."
Today I can report that my family, friends and I have truly forgiven each other. My family and I love one another more now than ever before. My grandmother had hope and peace from God as she passed away. She is now with the Lord forever. We will live together forever loving God and loving one another. I have been celibate since 1996, and I am content being single doing God's will. I obey God and enjoy a real intimate connection with Him. I am no longer giving God excuses, nor fearing death, nor confused about my true identity, because my identity is in Christ. When I die, I will have the courage to face God who loves me. We all have eternity waiting for us, an eternity in Heaven or Hell. James 4:14, "How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog-it's here a little while, then it's gone." (NLT) Our God, the Alpha and Omega, has given us a free will to make our own choices. 1 Corinthians 14:33, "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace. . . " So, I am Confused No More!
Matt is now a youth evangelist, public relations representative, and an assistant office manager at Deaf Ministries Worldwide (DMW). Matt is also traveling nationally and internationally with "The Master's Hands" Deaf drama ministry, of DMW in Sulphur, Oklahoma. Matt is currently establishing an outreach ministry to Deaf gays and lesbians at DMW, which will also be associated with an Exodus International's affiliated ministry. Matt is also heading up the First Stone Ministries, Ministry to the Deaf.
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