I have a confession: For over 8 years I have lived my life as a self-identified gay man. After much consideration, I have made the conscious decision to no longer live my life this way. I find that living as a gay man no longer speaks to the man that I am or the man I wish to become.

Let me explain.

I was raised in a single parent household as my father left when I was three. Unbeknownst to me at the time, his absence left me with a host of unanswered questions, hidden longings and a hole in my identity so deep, you could almost see it. I learned early how to be ‘the good son”, to be polite, respectful, well-behaved basically the husband my mother never had. The message I received growing up was that my masculinity was problematic and responsible for the hardships and abandonment experienced by my mother. Watching her struggle only added to my contempt for my masculinity. At the same time, not having my father around to intercede and temper the unruly feelings of anger and hatred I had towards my masculinity created within me a craving, a longing for someone to show me how being a man worked for me. I wanted to see the functionality of my masculinity.

Enter my “Vitamin D (daddy) deficiency”.

My same sex attractions began to gradually emerge initially as a cautious curiosity and then finally as a full-blown yearning for male approval that refused to be quieted by restraint. At age 24, I took pride in identifying myself as a gay man and took to the ground running with my newfound confidence in my sexual identity. I held many unconscious perceptions and beliefs about what it meant to be gay. For one, I believed being gay was a partially acceptable way to connect with other men, men who growing up seemed to prize competition over connection and who would only show love and affection through a perfunctory pound or a power-driven embrace. I also saw being “gay” as a way for me to assert my identity and finally take a stand for who I was, who I loved and who I wanted to be. In addition to these perceptions and beliefs, I also saw my sexuality as my spirituality; connecting me to the amen corner of my burgeoning masculinity. Little did I know what realizations “The Life” had in store for me.

As a former gay identified man, I immersed myself heavily in “The Life.” While in the life, I encountered a lot of broken men who were plagued with an insatiable appetite for the love, attention and affection of other men. Over time, I began to see my own reflection in these men. I saw that in my quest for love and connection, I was becoming someone who devalued other men and consequently reduced them to mere sexual partners. Somehow I believed that in order to survive the gay scene I had to become this way, which was not true.

Though my decision to remove the gay label from my identity has not been without its challenges, it has also yielded a bumper crop of unexpected rewards. For one, I have noticed a decrease in my anxiety levels as I once centered my life around meeting a man who would make me feel safe, loved and secure. As a former gay man I was hungering with an appetite that would never fill. I was searching for someone to fill the gaping hole in my identity instead of working towards more intrinsic endeavors such as personal fulfillment and self-definition. I have since committed my existence to these endeavors.

Also as a result of shedding the label, I have noticed an increase in my level of self-awareness and internal discernment. I am now better able to recognize when my attractions are improper and based on the deficiencies of my childhood and can manage my compulsions in constructive ways such as an increased involvement in various community activities and interests. Engaging in these healthier forms of energy management and channeling my desires into constructive endeavors have also fostered better interactions and connections with others.

By recognizing that my need to identify as gay was simply a reflection of my unmet need for closeness, connection and male intimacy, I in turn admitted to myself that the label no longer served a purpose and was in fact ineffectual. Admitting that to myself freed me from feeling the need to identify as a gay man which had a tremendous impact on how I see other men in relation to myself.

Another byproduct of my decision to no longer identify myself as a gay man is a deeper connection to the part of me that craves spirituality. I believe that in addition to flesh we are spiritual beings searching for something more than just ourselves. I have since began reading the scriptures and have also began to pray more as I seek a connection to my Heavenly Father, the only real father I have ever known.

So where does this leave me, a man-child searching in the midst of a sexual wilderness? No. It leaves me with a realization that living my life as a gay man no longer speaks to the person I am and want to become. I no longer have a desire to have a romantic relationship with another man. I realize that my participation in the life was a manifestation of my need for male approval, love, validation and acceptance, a need I often times sexualized in order to satisfy my hunger for a father figure.

Truth is, I will always have a “Vitamin D deficiency.” I wish I could put a nice bow on my testimony and say I no longer have attractions to men but that would be a lie. However I no longer wish to identify myself by my attractions as I am more than just the desires of my heart and the conflicted dissonance of who I was, who I am and who I will become. I am a man emerging past broken on a quest for higher ground.

Luis Pabon is a licensed social worker, writer, poet and author of a new book of poems entitled “Tendencies” which further explores themes of fatherlessness and sexual identity. He blogs at Luis Speaks: https://luisspeaks.wordpress.com/