Coming Down the Mountain

At an early age, I started hearing the word gay used to describe me. I wasn’t sure what it meant the first time I heard it around kindergarten or first grade, but I could tell it wasn’t good.

Around age six, I was metaphorically kidnapped. My kidnappers took me from the land of the identity I knew to be true and transported me, against my will, up a mountain of lies. As I traveled up that mountain, I was seduced and indoctrinated. When those who took me from myself got me to a certain point on the mountain, they left me to fend for myself with the new identity they’d forged.

It took me 30 years to fight my way down this mountain of homosexuality on which they’d left me and make my way back to my God-given identity. Once at the bottom of that mountain, I wanted to help others find their way down. But I wasn’t sure exactly how to do that. 

In 2017, I visited the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Alabama after being interviewed about the Courage Apostolate on EWTN. While there, I went down to visit Mother Angelica’s tomb, and I left feeling a strong connection to her that I didn’t have before my visit.

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A year later, I returned to the Shrine on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and felt, during Mass, that I should follow St. Francis. Not knowing exactly what that meant, I shared my feeling with my spiritual director, who strongly suggested that I make a pilgrimage to Assisi. I had never been out of the country and was a bit nervous, so he offered to go with me for at least part of the trip. I contacted a travel agent, and the trip was set. 

Father and I met in Assisi for two beautiful days and then headed to Rome. On the way, he suggested a detour to Orvieto, the site of a Eucharistic miracle—or at least where a miraculous Host is kept. As we drove up the winding mountain road, we came upon a house set back off the road and a woman standing out in front of it. She was dressed formally and had on a lot of makeup…a lot. I am a hairstylist, so I see a lot of made-up women, and this woman was really made-up. It struck me as strange, but I said nothing to Father. 

We continued up the mountain through another switchback, and there, on the same side of the road, was another woman semi-formally dressed and wearing a lot of makeup. I turned the music down in the car and asked Father if there was a bus stop nearby, and he said no and asked, “Why?” I told him it looked like those women were waiting to be picked up by a bus, and he replied, “they are waiting to be picked up.” Oh, now I understand. They are prostitutes. He said yes and that they were likely trafficked. I felt a twist in my gut at these words as we continued up the mountain to Orvieto. 

We went to the church where the miraculous Host is housed and then had a delicious lunch. But I could not get these women out of my mind, so I brought them up again during lunch. I felt we should do something for them. Father explained that there wasn’t much we could do, since whoever trafficked them was likely watching them. After lunch, we continued on our way to Rome. 

As we drove, I imagined that these trafficked women didn’t speak Italian and had no documents, so they couldn’t leave the country even if they could escape their traffickers. It occurred to me that they were stuck on a mountain with an identity they didn’t want and no one to help them, and it struck me; this is part of why I couldn’t get them out of my mind. We have something in common. They have been told they are prostitutes, forced to live this identity, and they have no one to help them; just as I was told I was gay, and I felt I had no option but to live that identity and had no one to help me. 

When I returned home, people asked what the most memorable part of my two weeks in Italy was. Out of all the beautiful sites I saw and experienced, these women were what I brought up repeatedly. I felt so bad for their situation and that I had done nothing to help them. As I spoke to a client one day, I realized there was nothing I could do to help those women get off that mountain. But there was something I could do to help men stuck on the mountain of homosexuality. I had been rescued from the false identity assigned to me, and I could help show others the path down the mountain.

The way down from the mountain of seeing oneself as a prostitute, I would imagine, is similar to the way down from the mountain of seeing oneself as gay. The people trafficked into prostitution were taken away from what they knew, as was I. They were sexually abused, as was I. Once the abuse changed their view of themselves, they set out to live that reality with no other options, as did I. To come down from that mountain requires significant effort, a willingness to suffer, and a God-given desire to be as we truly are, not who we’ve been told we are. 

At an early age, I started hearing the word gay used to describe me. I wasn’t sure what it meant the first time I heard it around kindergarten or first grade, but I could tell it wasn’t good. The name-calling continued throughout my time in school, both at school and at home. My parents didn’t know about it because I was too embarrassed to tell them, so I kept it and all the pain and confusion it caused me to myself. I liked girls in a way I didn’t like other guys, but even some of those girls to whom I was attracted thought I was gay, which hurt my sensitive soul. The word “gay” was repeated frequently, slowly pulling me out of who I knew I was on a deep level and making me question my identity. Then, around age ten or eleven, sexual abuse became part of my life. 

The first time I was seduced was by a Playboy magazine passed around by the neighborhood boys. I was shocked to see women, whom I had always seen as mysterious, suddenly demystified. There they were with all the parts I’d heard and wondered about on full display. I was shocked, embarrassed, and excited by what I saw, which led to self-abuse. Soon after that, Club magazine contributed to my sexual seduction. In this magazine, there were both men and women with no clothes on, and they were simulating sexual acts that I’d heard about but never seen. 

I slowly began to engage in what felt good (but now I know was self-abuse) while looking at the magazine. After a few times, I began to get bored. On one occasion, I was looking at the woman, and suddenly my eyes jumped to the man, and I became aroused. I felt sick. What had just happened? I went from looking at women to looking at a man. It had never occurred to me to do this before looking at this magazine, and now I’d done it. I’d become what I’d been told I was. 

I hid this as best I could throughout high school. But once I was out of school, I began abusing alcohol and marijuana and going to gay clubs. In those clubs, I met men who had accepted what they’d been told they were. In talking with some of them, as we became friends, I found that many were molested, bullied, and had difficult relationships with their fathers and other men. Though we all had similar backgrounds in general, none of us really equated our commonalities with our attraction. In hindsight, I recognize that this is because of the early suggestion that being gay is our identity. This programming is powerful, especially when it begins at a very early age. 

When wounds are inflicted on us early enough in life, we do not remember them, and the resulting injury seems like part of who we are. Our brokenness becomes our identity, and so we either embrace it or stifle it without the knowledge that our same-sex attraction is something that can be healed to varying degrees. So, I slowly accepted it until, a few years later, I came out to everyone I knew as a proud gay man.

I lived to the full one of the many optional identities under the gay umbrella. I spoke with a feminized affectation, plucked my eyebrows, wore large hoop earrings, had long fingernails, wore makeup, and wore clothes that were androgynous. No one would have ever suspected that in the back of my mind, I still remembered who I used to be and, in some way, wanted to figure out what had happened.

After years of living the gay identity, I started questioning things. Why did I never feel gay until after people repeatedly told me I was and I was seduced by porn? Why did I still sometimes find myself attracted to women but dismissed it, repeating the gay indoctrination? These questions, not necessarily a desire to have anything healed, drove me to therapy, as did my desire to get off marijuana.  After years of living the gay identity, I started questioning things. Why did I never feel gay until after people repeatedly told me I was? Why did I still find myself attracted to women but dismissed it, repeating the gay indoctrination?Tweet This

I had many questions, including why I turned away from the Catholic faith of my childhood and the root of my addictions and same-sex attraction. Along with asking my therapist, I also prayed and asked Jesus, and He slowly answered through therapy, study, prayer, and Scripture. I came to see that, at a young age, I felt different, but not in a way that I saw negatively.

Then people started assigning sexual meaning to these differences, and I began to see myself in a negative way—in a way that made me different from other men because I did not neatly fit into the mold of what some in society say a man should feel and act like. So, I assumed that meant I wasn’t a man. I am sensitive, but “real men” aren’t. I want to be close to women and love them but not use them sexually, but “real men” do. I like art, but “real men” like sports. I like to be nice, but “real men” are rough and aggressive. 

I saw men as different from me and so began to want to be with them, so I could get what I was missing from them. And because of porn, I believed the best way to do this was through sexual activity. When I engaged in this activity, I was struck by all that was wrong with it. Things didn’t fit together with two men as they did with men and women, and the ways that could make things fit together created pain and exposure to disease. I thought this could not be what God intended. If “making love” was not possible between two people of the same sex without pain, exposure to disease, or peripheral devices, then this can’t be natural or in accordance with God’s design. 

I had many requests for God, the first of which was to help me stop smoking marijuana, which He granted. Clean from drugs and alcohol and the haze that they’d kept me in that enabled me to live the false gay identity, I turned back to Him and His Church. Once back in the Church, I was introduced to the teachings of the Church about same-sex attraction, which was a relief. To finally have confirmed what I’d felt from the beginning of my trip up the mountain brought freedom and peace. I am not who people told me I was. My identity is assigned by God, and nothing I do or feel can change that. 

Soon thereafter, I was introduced to the Courage apostolate which, along with ongoing therapy and a Sacramental life, helped reintroduce me to my old self and heal the wounds that made it possible for me to be led up the mountainous lie of the gay identity in the first place. I understand now that there are all kinds of variations in masculinity. I’d lived what I thought would make me a “man,” which entailed being angry, aggressive, harsh, and foul-mouthed, and I’d stifled my tender heart and emotions, and this brought me addiction, isolation, darkness, and misery. I wanted what I believed would come from living what I remember being in my heart, and I decided I was willing to suffer to live it, even if meant being vulnerable and being hurt sometimes.

Years later, I am still a work in progress. But I am grateful that I no longer dwell on the mountain of the false identity assigned to me by others. I am a son of God loved unconditionally and nothing other. This is where I am blessed to be.

I have a strong relationship with my father and brother and have many chaste male friendships. My relationship with my mom is properly balanced, I have been drug-free for 13 years, I have peace and love in my heart, and I am friends with Jesus Christ.

How awesome is that! Friends with God. Look what Jesus did for me and what he can do for you or your loved ones. Through my website, occasional public speaking engagements, my witness in this magazine, and my unpublished manuscript, Becoming a Good Man, I hope to help many others willing to walk the challenging but rewarding road off the mountain of homosexuality. 


  • Garrett D. Johnson

    Garrett D Johnson was born and raised in Washington DC and raised in a nominally Catholic family in Maryland. He left the Church in his late teens and lived a hedonistic lifestyle that included drugs, gaming, and living as a gay man until coming back to Catholicism in his late 30s. He is a blogger (his website is, a stylist, and a member of the Courage apostolate. His self-published autobiography Becoming a Good Man will be available in 2024.

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