L.T. Miller shares another scene in a continuing story about his adventures in (and coming out of) an ex-gay ministry.


I was floundering around like a lone fish washed ashore on a deserted island – tired of fighting crashing waves, tired of feeling defeated. I was wandering aimlessly through life asking myself existentialist questions that went unanswered.

I had just completed two years at a local community college and had been accepted to the University of North Carolina. I was considering a double major in English and History. But was that what I really wanted?  I hated living at home and was jealous of my brother’s escape. He was finishing his first year of college in New Brunswick, Canada.  Unlike me, my brother Charles was on a mission. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was called by God to be a youth minister.

I visited him during spring break. The small bible college he attended is located in Sussex, a quaint little village swallowed by acres and acres of pristine forests, rolling hills, and dairy farms. The town claims only three and a half square miles in a seemingly endless landscape. If it wasn’t for the huge roadside attraction it would be easy to roar past and not even know that the hidden enclave of four thousand exists . . .  but how can anyone not notice the enormous statues of Butter Cup and her calf Daisy? The monument was built to acknowledge Sussex as the “Dairy Centre of the Maritimes”. The larger than life sculptures of the two Holsteins sit across the highway from Irving’s Truck Stop where we went for burgers and fries one chilly afternoon.

A silly girl named Penny joined us.

Her booming laugh shook the small greasy spoon diner.  It was a laugh so powerful that it could be seen and felt. I could reach out and touch it as it wafted over me.  This hearty laughter followed her wherever she went – enveloping everyone she encountered. It was infectious.  As I got to know her I realized that she, like my brother, had found her calling. Her mission in life was simple. All she wanted to do was emulate Jesus.

The summer passed quickly. When Charles returned for the fall semester I followed.

We arrived in Canada in late August and were greeted with cold and gloom. I don’t recall the temperature escaping out of the thirties that day. There may have even been a snow flurry or two. The drive up the east coast had taken almost twenty-four hours and we had plowed straight through, making the occasional pit stop to relieve ourselves, gas up the car, and grab a quick bite to eat. I was exhausted.

The minute we pulled into the parking lot of Bethany Bible College, I caught sight of Penny. She stood in the midst of a small crowd, holding court, gesturing wildly as she spoke.  Those around her were laughing. As soon as she saw Charles and me, she abandoned her friends, and ran toward the car to greet us.  Her exuberance almost knocked the breath out of me, and before I could even open my mouth to say hello I was locked into a giant bear hug. It felt good. I knew immediately that this was the beginning of something special.

Soon we were smitten with one another. Aside from my deep dark secret, we were like any other young couple on campus. I’m not sure how, but Penny was able to snag a key to the dining hall. Late at night, way past curfew, we’d sneak out of our dorms and meet there. We would talk for hours, daydreaming of a future together. I’d teach English at a Christian school, and she’d be involved in some sort of ministry. We’d name our children Bianca and Shelby.

In October the first snow fell. It was bitter cold, dipping well below zero at night. There were mornings I’d step outside into the frigid air and within seconds my glasses would fog over. It was a constant battle keeping them clear. The beautiful countryside was a winter wonderland. I’ll always hold dear to my heart the wonderful memories of mine and Penny’s long walks together in knee-high snow.

FirstSnow_5289096766_63faecf8c3_zI’ll never forget that one evening her friend Sherry loaned us her car, a little white mustang if memory serves me correctly. We drove way out into the country and parked on a remote dirt road. We climbed into the back seat and within minutes the windows were steamy.  After what seemed like a really long time we decided we should head back to campus. Unbeknownst to us, it had begun to snow heavily during our make out session and already there were a few inches covering the road. Penny asked me if I wanted to drive. “Sure,” I said. I started out slowly and carefully, my hands tightly gripping the steering wheel. I had never driven in snow before and had no clue what I was doing.  I crawled along at a snail’s pace, scared to drive over ten miles an hour.

“Come on L.T., speed it up buddy. You’re driving slower than my grandpa. At this rate we certainly won’t make curfew and we’ll be lucky if we make it to our first class in the morning.”

“Shush!  You’re a Canadian. You’re used to this ridiculous weather! I honestly don’t how ya’ll do it up here with all this cold. It’s a wonder ya’ll don’t come out of your mamas’ wombs blue.”

As I prepared for the bend in the road up ahead, I hit the brake a little too hard, and when I did I lost complete control of the car. Before either of us knew it we were out in the middle of a snow covered field spinning wildly. Penny laughed uncontrollably the whole time.


Like any new experience, eventually the novelty wore off.  As the end of the semester quickly approached I wasn’t sure I liked it at Bethany. It hadn’t taken long for me to realize that I didn’t have much in common with the other male students.  I was the only guy on campus who didn’t know how to maneuver a hockey stick, and more often than not the rough housing in the dorms was too much for my sensitive nature.

And the reality was that my relationship with Penny scared the hell out of me. I suppose I was in flight mode. No doubt she had quickly become my best friend in the whole world but deep down I knew that I’d never be able to give to her what she deserved. She needed someone in her life who would be able to love her in a way I never could. So in late December we said our painful goodbyes and I returned to my life in North Carolina.

January was brutal. I missed Penny terribly. We would write letters to one another almost daily and racked up hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars in phone bills. Over the next several months we managed to visit one another a few times, but over time I became more and more distant. Eventually our relationship became strained to the breaking point, and we drifted apart.

It’s hard to believe that was more than twenty five years ago.

In 2010 Penny and I found one another online.  Our friendship has flourished and we are closer than ever. I am grateful that she has found happiness. She is blessed with a wonderful husband and four beautiful boys.

I love scrolling through her timeline on Facebook. Her heartwarming quips about faith, family, love, and friendship are little jewels of inspiration that always bring a smile to my face. She still makes me laugh. In her profile photos I see a beautiful woman who has transitioned into middle age with dignity and grace. Any lines of aging that appear are subtle and they speak wisdom and experience.  Her impish grin is just as I remember – and even in photos her twinkling eyes still solicit innocent gossip.

One night we were both perusing Facebook, and ended up in an offline conversation. “L.T., I want to ask you something.”

“Okay. Shoot.” I then stepped outside on my deck for a quick cigarette. When I returned the question was still not asked.  I hurriedly typed: “Anxiously awaiting” then allowed my fingers to rest on the keyboard, ready to answer.

Still, after what seemed like an eternity, no reply appeared on the computer screen. I imagined her sitting in front of her laptop, biting her lower lip, choosing her words carefully before typing.

Finally: “Please don’t answer if you don’t want to, k?”

“Oh puhlease! After all these years, don’t you know by now that you can be completely honest with me, say whatever the hell you want? Spit it out already.”

“Okay . . . here goes. I suspect stuff happened at Bethany between guys. Were you party to any of that?”

“Hmmmm . . . let me just say that there is one guy who I am almost positive was about as queer as a three dollar bill – gaydar is a powerful thing. All I know is that I enjoyed a few late night discussions with him – both of us hanging out on his bunk bed. On one occasion we chatted into the wee hours of the morning before I eventually excused myself to my own room. He groggily replied, ‘Oh, it’s late, no need for you to wake your roommate – just hang out here – I won’t bite’. Damn, he was cute.  Funny – I can’t remember his name for the life of me. Dang it . . . what was his name? Maybe you remember – the blond dude from Prince Edward Island?  Nothing ever happened between us . . .  but let me just say – I didn’t sleep much that night. Whether sexual stuff happened between other guys I’m not sure. I was naive.  All I know is that there was the occasional back rub between others that bordered on erotic. I suspect there may have been some minor indiscretions but don’t know for sure.”

“Oh yes . . . I know exactly who you’re talking about. James. I often wondered about him.”

I suddenly felt self-conscious.  “Oh, God, Penny am I being insensitive – callous? I mean God – we were going out for heaven’s sake.”

The reply came quickly. “No!  Not at all!  You are being real and honest. I am thankful you feel like you can be.”


“But L.T., he was not hot! Ewwwwww. . .”

“LOL. Okay sweetie . . . it’s getting late, need to get off to bed. Sweet dreams.”


“Oh, Penny, one more thing.”


“I’m enjoying this – our late night bantering. I know you still don’t understand completely or agree necessarily with my ‘lifestyle’. Just know that I get it. It took years and years of therapy and prayer for me to be able to reconcile my being gay with my faith . . . so I understand. All that matters is that we love one another. Sleep well my friend.”


Our online conversations have not always been this light and carefree, and it took a long time before either of us felt comfortable being so nonchalant about me being gay. At first it was awkward. Many times there has been an intense exchange of words between us. We often disagree, and we piss one another off at times. However, there’s an openness now that is refreshing – healing. But the kind of comfort we now enjoy didn’t happen overnight. When we first reconnected, many years had passed and there was much to catch up on. She didn’t seem surprised when I came out to her. I’m sure she’d always suspected.

Not long after the rekindling of our friendship I received the following message from her “Your mom had a blurb on her Facebook page a few days ago about living a homosexual lifestyle – in that it mentioned that there was something that developed in the fetus during the 17th week of pregnancy. Can you please direct me to where I could read more about that, and if there are some medical facts I could find out about?  Thanks honey.” This was a huge step for her.

From this initial inquiry, an ongoing discussion has ensued.

“L.T., I want you to know something. Despite the fact that we may not agree on everything in life, we have a bond, I respect you and cherish our friendship. I used to think that when people said they were born gay they were so very wrong. After speaking with many people – gay, straight, believers of different religions, mothers and fathers with gay, straight, bi sexual children, siblings and so on – well, I do think that people can be born with gay genes. However, I think people can play on a choice as well.”

“Your coming to the realization that this is genetic is huge, and I am grateful for that, for you, and for our friendship. You’ve come a long way. But what do you mean by ‘choice’? Please elaborate.”

“Well . . . we all have genes in us that can cause us harm. That is because of man’s innate brokenness – we all are born with sinful natures. For example, some of us have genes that might point us towards drugs or alcohol.  Some of us struggle our whole lives to push these urges, thoughts, habits and struggles away. Some of us give in to them. Some of us push them to the very back of our minds.”

I could feel myself becoming defensive.  My blood began to simmer. “Please continue.”

“Well . . . I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t know if being born gay makes it right. I talk and read and pray about it often. God puts people in my path almost daily who struggle. If they are comfortable with me, and usually they are, they share.  It amazes me how much I know about so many people and it causes me to think about so many things. What I do know is this: it is never ever my job to judge anyone. I love Jesus. I don’t like all the religious spirited stuff but I love my Savior. I believe He wants me to love on people regardless of their lives, their choices, their addictions, bad habits, sexuality, or whatever. I love people. I love helping them reach their potential as a human being. I strive to see everyone’s good qualities. But I can’t help comparing the gay gene to other things that aren’t necessarily good – like for example being born with the gene that leads to alcoholism. Both in my opinion are self-destructive.”

“How can you make the comparison you’ve just made?! That makes no sense to me. How is my relationship with another man of almost fourteen years self-destructive? So you were born genetically straight . . . totally cool, no gay person that I know has a problem with that . . . but what if society told you that being straight was wrong and that you had a choice in the matter? What if society tried to convince you that you needed to abandon your natural inclinations and be with someone of the same sex? You probably wouldn’t like that very much, would you? Fortunately you don’t have to face that dilemma . . . you have the unbridled freedom to share your life with the person of your choice and society doesn’t blink an eye. So my question for you is why is it so terribly wrong for two people of the same sex – who you agree are genetically born  gay, just like you were born with the ‘straight’ gene – to have the same freedoms you enjoy? Please tell me – how is that self-destructive?  Furthermore, why would the God who you love so much – the God who supposedly created us all in His image – inflict upon someone the “gay gene” if it’s wrong? Certainly not a God I want to follow!”

That concluded our conversation for the evening. I logged out of Facebook, shut my computer off, and made myself a vodka tonic. For the next several days, I avoided her. I turned off chat, and customized my posts so that she couldn’t see them.

About a week or so later I received this message: “I’m sorry if my words upset you the other night. I value our friendship way too much to ever lose you. I like hearing and learning from you and about you. You challenge me and make me think and dig deeper. You make me crazy sometimes. You have made me cry, and made me laugh. You have expanded my thinking and my comfort zone of the unknown. Forever we are friends despite our differences. You are in my heart, etched eternally. I love you, always have, and always will. I feel we have a deep rooted friendship that will never fade.”

“Penny, honey, thank you. I’m sorry if I was harsh. I just get so worked up. I guess you hit a nerve. I get tired of that argument and I overreacted. I know you are trying. I love you too.”

“I just don’t understand how being in a gay relationship is not emotionally taxing? You are forever defending, hiding, shouting, analyzing and so on. How is that not self-destructive?”

“Penny Darling, how is being in a gay or straight relationship, either one, not emotionally taxing? Relationships are hard regardless of sexual orientation. Perhaps the gay community is perceived by some as forever defending, hiding, shouting, analyzing and so on, but how is that any different from any minority that has been oppressed by the majority? The gay community fervently defends and speaks out because of an intense desire to bring about equality and freedom. Members of the gay community hide because of a fear of rejection and persecution. And doesn’t everyone analyze? That’s part of introspection and self-discovery. Whatever you interpret as self-destructive behavior is the direct result of people’s fear and bigotry. It is not self-imposed.”

It took a while for her to respond. I knew she was pondering my words carefully. “I’m trying, L.T., I really am.”

My heart melted for her. “I know you are.”


photo credit: “First Snow of Winter,” Macomb Paynes via Flickr, cc


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Ex-Gay SurvivorL.T. MILLER was born in a small southern town. While in college, he became involved in ex-gay support groups, and in 1996 was accepted into the New Hope Ministries residential program in San Rafael, CA. During his two year stay, he questioned everything until finally he completely abandoned a misguided ideology that made less and less sense. He found a gay church in San Francisco where he was accepted for who he was, and with the loving support of a lesbian pastor he was able to begin life anew as an openly gay man.  L.T. Miller is the Ex-Gay Survivor.