Bob Fife was raised in a dysfunctional home and, despite an early conversion to Christianity, had an uneasy young life. Nothing prepared Bob for being sexually molested by an older boy he trusted—or for what happened in his heart afterward.
From the confusion of his teen years, to his marriage and fatherhood, to his discovery and embrace of the flamboyant Toronto gay scene, the path Bob took became increasingly indulgent. He even abandoned his young family to follow his new lifestyle around the world. But an unexpected visit from his college-aged son over a decade later caused Bob to confront the consequences of his excesses—and find his way back to a restored relationship with the God who loves him.
For those seeking to deal with their same-sex attractions, not celebrate them, Bob’s fascinating story points a way to grace and redemption. Today he devotes his time to mentoring men and women who are looking for alternative ways to deal with same-sex attraction.
Q: You share some very personal and difficult details of your life in Out. What moved you to write this book?
Many times when I shared my testimony, friends and fellow believers would say, “You should write a book.” I prayed about it a lot and felt this was what the Lord wanted of me. However, I also knew I was not a writer. When I invited Ron Hughes to help me with the writing process, he agreed, and the book became a possibility. As we worked together, I discovered I had three goals. I want the book to offer hope to those who are reluctantly same-sex attracted. I want it to give an example of how a church might provide support to them. I hope it will help begin a calm loving conversation the church needs to have about ministering to same-sex attracted individuals.
Q: Can you share about your family situation growing up? What was your relationship like with your father?
I was the youngest of six children. My father was very abusive to my mother, my siblings and me. I felt he particularly targeted me, and I had no meaningful relationship with him in my formative years. My oldest brother, who had joined the military, dominated me. My other brother was mentally challenged, and I couldn’t relate to him as a peer. I never had a healthy male role model and didn’t want to be like any of the males in my family. I didn’t respect them for a variety of reasons.
Much is sometimes made of the relationship between same-sex attracted boys and their mothers. I can’t say I identified with my mom, though she often defended me against my father. I sought the friendship of my sisters, but when I was young, they formed a block and kept me at a distance, though individually I did have something of a relationship with each of them.
My family during my childhood could only be described as dysfunctional, with the ruling emotions being anger and fear. I understood affection as expressed in the care of my mother, but because she worked when I was little, I didn’t have much time with her to experience the nurturing and cherishing I later learned is typical of maternal love.
Q: Though you didn’t recognize it as such at the time, you were molested by your sister’s boyfriend when you were a child. What role did that experience play in you later identifying as gay?
That loss of innocence had a profound effect on me. While I had no real idea of what was happening to me, it came to represent masculine acceptance. Because of the unfamiliar and powerful sexual urges of adolescent males, I bonded strongly to Roger. Since I had had no sex education at home, school or church, I assumed our relationship was typical of all male friendships. At this time in my life, I was forming my identity, values and worldview. Subconsciously I concluded sex was the way men expressed regard for each other. Perhaps, because I had never sensed healthy love and respect from my father and brothers, I perceived Roger’s attentions as love. In that highly moldable period of my life, I decided love means sex, and sex means love.
Q: Did your experience growing up in church have any effect on your choices to enter—and eventually leave—the homosexual lifestyle?
Typical of the time, sex was a taboo subject in the church. When it was referred to at all, it was done using scriptural language of the 1600s, which meant nothing to me. No one was explaining words such as “fornication” and expressions such as “burning with lust.” When I was an adolescent, even popular terminology such as “petting” and “necking” were vaguely understood to be bad things that older teenagers did (though I wasn’t sure exactly what). While heterosexual behavior was referred to in incomprehensible jargon, homosexual activity was not even obliquely referred to. We young people were on our own to figure out what sex was all about. So in the absence of any meaningful guidance, I can’t say the church had any effect at all on my choice to begin engaging in homosexual activities when I was an adolescent, other than leaving a vacuum.
Later, after my encounter with Lance and my introduction to the gay scene in downtown Toronto, I had a clearer sense of the traditional sexual morality espoused by the church, but by then my earlier experiences had shaped my attitudes at such a deep level that my faith, such as it was, did not act as a deterrent.