By Annette Fuller Reynolds, Reprinted from The Indianapolis Star, 12/18/94
August 1995 – Scott Infante has come out of the closet twice. The first time, as a freshman in college, he declared his homosexuality. After adolescent and teen years marked by sexual encounters with other males, he decided it was time to step forward and admit his gayness.
The second time, as a junior in college, he declared his devotion to Jesus Christ. His faith, he says now, gave him the power to regain control of his life and become a happy, contented heterosexual.
“This time, life is right,” said the tall, bearded and slender Infante, 30, a married father of two. “I’m grateful for every moment.”
His life’s experience is at the crux of his career. Today, he is executive director of the Indianapolis-based Restoration Inc., a non-profit Christian ministry whose purpose is to help those who want to get out of their gay lifestyle.
When he leads seminars for his clients, he always tells his life story.
The former Bloomington resident was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Some of his earliest memories are painful ones, he says–there are vague recollections of his father leaving the family when he was 4. His parents divorced shortly after that.
“A 4-year-old believes everything that happens in the family is about him,” Infante said. “Dad leaves, so it must be my fault. These are the perceptions of a child, not a rational adult.”
Since Infante was an only child, his family consisted solely of him and his mother after his father left. Their relationship was strained, and typical adolescent arguments over grades, curfews and chores became volatile. “We knew how to hurt each other,” he said.
Through his childhood, he rarely saw or talked to his father. He created visions of his father in his mind, and fantasized about having a male caregiver in his life.
When he was in junior high school, he was sexually molested by a neighborhood boy of the same age. One day, during a visit in Infante’s home, the boy forced Infante to fondle him and participate in sex.
The sexual encounter made Infante feel both pleasure and shame. But the guilt was overridden by teenage hormones and his desperate need to gain affirmation from a male.
He began having consensual sex with this boy. But shame helped him fi ght back his growing sexual attraction to other boys. In his senior year in high school, he dated girls, and he went to the prom, just like any other guy.
BECAME SUBSTANCE ABUSER
He also became a heavy drinker and smoked a lot of marijuana during those teen years. Glad to make the break from his home and Miami, he headed off to college at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian College, a small private, liberal arts school in Laurinburg, North Carolina, on the recommendation of a friend. The school’s selling point for Infante was that the faculty had a gay member, according to Infante’s friend.
His freshman year, he continued to grapple with his sexuality. Trying to fight off his homosexual urges, he attended a small country Pentecostal church there and asked for God’s help.
“I really thought God would say, ‘Poof!’ and my homosexuality would be gone,” Infante said.
He remembers being approached by a lesbian on campus who told him bluntly. “You’re gay. Get over it and get on with life.”
He took her advice and decided, for the first time, to openly acknowledge that he was gay.
Infante transferred from St. Andrew’s to Indiana University in 1984 as a sophomore. He had heard that IU had a large contingent of gay activist students.
His first year as a Hoosier was spent as an out-of-the-closet gay man, go- ing to gay bars and having relationships with several men. He became promiscuous and had many one-night stands.
“Waking up in the morning in bed beside a man I barely knew never made me feel better about myself,” Infante said. “It didn’t take me long to see the futility of my lifestyle. It still left me completely unsatisfied.”
Emotionally wrecked and suicidal, he took a handful of antidepressants that had been prescribed for him by a campus doctor. He was rushed to the hospital, where his stomach was pumped.
Not surprisingly, his grades showed his emotional upheaval. Both sophomore semesters at IU, he flunked nearly all of his classes.
After flunking out twice, he had to petition the school for re-admission. That’s when he met Carole Allen, who worked in the IU records office.
“When I began working with Scott, he was very depressed,” she said.
Sensing that this student needed help, she invited him to lunch. Over slices of pizza, Infante spilled out his problems to Allen.
“It was sort of an unusual thing for me to do – to get that immersed in a student’s problems – but I knew that at least I could listen.”
Before the conversation ended, she had invited Infante to her church, First Assembly of God in Bloomington. Infante began another attempt to get help through religion. This time, something clicked. “He just did a complete turn-around,” said Allen, who watched Infante’s progress. “His life changed, his attitude changed.”
Infante’s junior year was the most critical time in his life. “What a struggle,” he said. “But, ironically, they were my richest times with God.”
He counseled closely with Dennis Strickland, then the minister of Vineyard Christian Fellowship, where Infante attended.
“Those conversations were definitely intense,” said Strickland, who is now pastor of Bridge Builders Church in Wilmore, Kentucky. “He was dealing with underlying issues of self-worth.”
Strickland remembers several conversations in which Infante broke down and cried. “I could just see him living through a lot of internal pain from his childhood, of his father leaving his family. It was like he had to get through that before he could move on.”
By the mid-’80s, talk of AIDS had infiltrated the IU campus, and Infante learned of the disease with fear in his heart. He knew he had engaged in behaviors that put him at the utmost risk for contracting the HIV virus. The pivotal point in his ongoing struggle came when he decided to take the test for the HIV virus.
“I vowed to myself and God that no matter how the test came back, I would give my life over to God,” Infante said. “Either way the test came back, I told God, ‘I’m staying with you.’”
When he found the test was negative, his life took on a new fervor for religious work. At the same time, his attentions became focused on a coed named Dawn Williams whom he had met a year before, when they both worked at a Bloomington yogurt shop. At the time, he had told her he was gay.
A year later, he sat down beside her in a campus cafeteria. She was going through some tough times too, after a failed romance. The two became best friends.
As Infante’s heterosexuality bloomed, their relationship went from platonic to romantic. They were engaged in June 1987, and later that year, Infante graduated from IU with an English degree. They were married May 7,1988.
Infante rejects the notion that he is bisexual. To him, both homosexuality and bisexuality are aberrations.
He and his wife moved to Miami, where he got a temporary teaching certificate. He taught school nearly two years in inner city public schools, and he and his wife had their first child, Sarah, now 5.
They became active in the Miami Vineyard Fellowship, where Jim Bricker was senior pastor. (The Miami and Greenwood churches are two of nearly 600 Association of Vineyard Churches across the country that have a conservative theology and a contemporary liturgical style, says Bricker.)
“Scott and I had many conversations about his purpose in life, his destiny,” said Bricker, who is now pastor at the Southside Indianapolis Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Greenwood. “I remember one conversation we had while walking on the beach in which I challenged Scott, and told him that God had a lot in store for him.”
In the summer of ’89, Infante became assistant pastor at the church, serving as an apprentice under Bricker. He has no formal theological training for the post but most of his work was administrative.
RETURNED TO INDIANA
All the while, an idea was churning in the back of his head–the idea of an organization that would help gays become heterosexual with spiritual help. Feeling that he was being called back to Bloomington, he returned there in October 1991 to make that dream come true.
He spent a year attending conferences and formulating the plans for his organization, thinking about both the philosophy and the business aspects of what he wanted to create.
While Infante was unemployed during that 12 months of preparation time, the family had to get by on public assistance. “It was a year of canned soup and beans,” Infante said with a smile.
The couple had another daughter, Rachel, now 2, and are expecting a third child in April.
On January 1, 1993, Infante became the founder and director of Restoration Inc., based in Bloomington. He has set up a funding base of nearly 50 contributors in central Indiana and is seeking donations from churches.
Two months ago, he moved its headquarters to Indianapolis.
Restoration has a board of six people, including an attorney, businessmen and women, and mental health counselors. They meet monthly and serve three year terms. Infante hopes to enlarge the board to 10 in the coming year.
He describes himself as a “minister who doesn’t function in a traditional church.”
Allen, the counselor who helped him when he was a student, marvels at what Infante has done. “I’ve been absolutely delighted to see his ministry grow,” said Allen, who now is co-owner of a religious bookstore in Bloomington.
Does he ever still feel attracted to men? “As long as I live, I will experience temptation.” he said. “But it doesn’t rule my life. My goal is to one day, experience complete healing and be free from my life-dominating struggle, and to help others do that too."