Digging into commitment issues led homosexual activist to the place he least expected.
James Parker believes he became a social activist out of necessity after coming out, the only openly gay man in his London university course.
"I actively preached against anyone who dared to suggest that being gay was a choice, or wrong," James says.
He attended a gay-affirming Christian group because he was from a church-going family and says he "had always felt a sense of the divine in my life".
He withdrew from a promiscuous lifestyle, settled down with a long-term boyfriend and planned to tie the knot in a Dutch gay church.
But these plans unravelled when, he says, "a powerful sense of God's presence" in this gay-affirming group encouraged him to "enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ".
"As I began to slowly develop a spiritual life [with God], within months I realised I had a deep-rooted fear of rejection and had used others for my own pleasure."
He clearly saw that he "had been living under layers of denial [about] my real intrinsic fear of normal heterosexual men."
James took a friend's advice to seek professional therapy and this exposed a myriad of childhood events, including three years of consistent abuse James believes robbed him of "innocence, healthy sexual development and the dignity and sacredness of my body".
James decided to end the long-term relationship and investigate in therapy "where I had built walls within myself against significant others in my life".
He believes the abuse and feelings of rejection caused him to vow as a child to never deeply trust men again.
"Only later did I see that my father and older brothers had reached out to me, but I had distanced myself until they eventually gave up. No wonder men and all things masculine had become a mystery to me."
He believes changes in testosterone during puberty combined with his inability to enter the masculine world to produce a misplaced erotic desire towards men.
"In failing to take my place among men, I threw myself wholeheartedly into everything feminine. As I peeled back the layers I came to see that I despised women because I was not born to be one of them, lacking the natural ability to woo and engage every aspect of a heterosexual man."
James then realised, "I needed to ask God to forgive me for my past mistakes and then receive His forgiveness.
"I found resolution to past hurts, mostly through extending forgiveness [to others] and receiving forgiveness [from God], but also through periods of intense grieving related to my lost childhood."
Miraculous changes in his life then became clear to James and others.
"My fears and anxiety levels steadily decreased. My sense of acceptance among both men and women began to rise. A [new] strong sense of dignity and self-respect began to take hold of me.
"As my heart joined the world of heterosexual men they ceased to be a mystery to me and the erotic attraction slowly dwindled away."
The more his friendships became inclusive of other men, the more he began to desire an exclusive friendship that included "mystery".
James says he discovered women were truly "wholly different and mysterious" to him and, he adds with a smile, "I began dating women and am now a married man and a father."
The key to his journey, says James, included a loving, non-judgemental Christian community and his self-elected therapy.
"I was supported by men and women who saw me as an individual and their purpose was always solely to love me. They believed in the 'true man' buried within the core of my person.
"I chose the path of therapy and received what I had unconsciously pushed away as a child, namely the gender affirmation necessary to form a boy in his basic male identity and to assist him in maturing into responsible adulthood."
James admits, "At times I swing from being deeply secure in my male identity to being tempted to compare myself to other men."
But he says he now reacts to *these doubts very differently than before.
"I rarely stay long in this place of questioning and I am now practised in processing my thoughts and rectifying what I am experiencing and feeling."
There is new freedom, James says, in being released from his past fear of both genders and led towards real love.
"I have exchanged my homophobia and heterophobia for a healthy, life-giving passion for all men and for women.
"I experience a connection of heart and soul with other men without the erotic connected to it, which is much better than I could have imagined when I was a practising gay man. I also get the added bonus of enjoying the mystery of woman as I now believe it was created to be."•