Self-acceptance and inner peace didn't come easy, but Aaron Simnowitz takes pride in having found it.
Simnowitz's heartbreakingly honest new book Letting Go(d): How I Failed Gay Conversion Therapy and Learned to Love Myself details his journey coming to terms with his sexuality while growing up in a devout Christian family. The author shares that he spent over three decades of his life struggling to accept himself.
"When you grow up in the church, it's just there already. You believe smoking is wrong, drinking is wrong, and being gay is wrong," he tells Sonia Baghdady of Advocate Now. "I don't remember ever being told that. It's just comes with the culture."
Aaron Simnowitz on Letting Go of Fear & Embracing His Sexuality
Simnowitz says he realized that he was attracted to men when he was eighteen. For the next fifteen years, he spent time enlisting in various conversion therapy centers, in an effort that he calls "praying the gay away."
"I never believed it was okay, which is why I kept pursuing it. It was never going to be okay for me." Simnowitz says.
It was a sermon led by a lesbian pastor that changed Simnowitz's perspective, which he describes as "a big turning point for me in viewing the Bible differently in regards to homosexuality."
"There's six verses in the Bible that supposedly say that homosexuality is wrong. But the seminar kind of broke it down, saying [with] the different translations of the Bible, and the different culture and the context, it's not really saying what we think it's saying at face value," Simnowitz explains, adding, "The word homosexual wasn't even in the Bible till 1946, so someone just like placed it there in a book that's been around for hundreds and hundreds and thousands of years."
The author says that he no longer struggles with his identity, or views LGBTQ+ identities and himself as sinful. He also has not lost his Christian faith, despite feeling frustration at the attitude many in religious communities continue to hold.
"I do think the church has missed the mark on this a lot. And it's it's odd because I've been on both sides," he says, continuing, "And it's frustrating because I've known a lot of loving people in the church. But to have this idea that people are going to go to hell because they love the same gender, I think it's very damaging. And it damaged me immensely."
For those struggling with their identities, Simnowitz says that "the best advice is to just find people who are really just going to love you and support you as you are."
For more interviews like this, watch Advocate Now on The Advocate Channel.