As a little girl growing up in the 60s, I felt twinges of things being “not quite right” with my interests. Dolls seemed lifeless and boring, as did playing house. My best friends were the boys in the neighborhood, and we played all kinds of sports and made up exciting “cops and robbers” games. On the other hand, I enjoyed learning to cook, and playing jump rope with the girls at school. “Who am I really?” I wondered, “a girl or a boy?” Feelings of being different would surface periodically, but I’d just push them back down, because they made me feel bad.
I am the youngest of 3 girls. Our family life was quite stable. As I continued to grow up, I was more and more aware of how I seemed so different from my sisters. They were each “feminine” in their own way, and I couldn’t imagine myself someday being a teenager who would giggle and read magazines about boys like they did. In the neighborhood, sometimes I would be made fun of for playing sports, or for acting or saying something goofy. I also remember feeling that my Dad seemed to pull away from me the older I got. It seemed to me that he liked my sisters better. Mostly though, I loved being a child, and enjoyed being outside and being active. If I felt bad about myself, I’d just push it aside.
However, I realize now that because of these confusing feelings, I unknowingly put a wall up around me to keep from being hurt by other people. Unfortunately, the wall also kept out the love that I needed.
During my first year of high school, I was mortified – and yet fascinated – by my attractions to 2 different girls at school. It didn’t make sense, but I felt drawn to something about each of them. I had noticed actresses or older women in the past, but didn’t think too much about it. Now, this seemed so ever present. I was very confused. The way I dealt with it was, of course, to push it down and try to ignore it. I even allowed myself to become sexually involved with an older man during that period, perhaps partly out of a desire to seem somehow “more normal” to myself.
I became a born again Christian around this time when one of my sisters shared the “4 Spiritual Laws” booklet with me. However, I didn’t have others to help me grow or understand what that meant as she went back to college. What I did know was that it made sense that I needed to ask Jesus into my heart, and that He promised me eternal life. Being a Christian however, did not magically change how I felt about my gender identity.
I was very glad to be going off to college, where I imagined all the freedom I’d have. I had developed my own kind of sub conscious “world view”: “If I get a good job, I’ll be independent, people won’t hurt me, and I’ll be happy!” This was the beginning of what Andy Comiskey calls the false self:
“The false self exists in separation from the Creator. It arises out of the creature’s own misdirected efforts to find a center, a core reality out of which one can live.” (Living Waters Guidebook)
I was rather surprised to meet a girl at college who became a good friend. It seemed like she got past the wall I had built, and it really felt good to be “known” by someone. Our close relationship turned sexual over time. As much as I loved her, we went our separate ways after graduation, and I headed off to become “happy”.
I was jolted by the reality of how much I missed my friend, and that the world of work was not all it was cracked up to be. I was “successful”, but rather depressed. Fortunately, I did meet a young Christian couple at my job who were very nice. They had me over for dinner several times, and we would talk about the Bible, and our lives. But, I never told them about my past, because I was too ashamed. Because of them though, I again hungered for a real relationship with God.
I got transferred to a new city, found a church, attended the singles group, and even got water baptized. Right around the same time, I met a woman at work who was a lesbian. This was the first person I ever knew who admitted that. Eventually, we grew close and ended up in a secret sexual and emotional relationship. Again, I was very confused. I assumed all the old stuff from my past would just “be gone” after I gave my life back to the Lord. I was wrong. Within the next year, I met yet another woman, and ended up in a similar relationship. Now I was really confused, and in despair. I was still going to church, but afraid to tell anyone about my secret struggles.
What I do remember most about that year is the disparity between the primary emotions I had. On the one hand, I felt very much in love and happy with the person I was with. On the other hand, I had a deep sense of the loss of my personal relationship with Jesus. I was really unhappy deep down. I was also still very hidden behind my self protective wall and the shame and denial I had about my sexual attractions and behaviors.
I had an opportunity to move to new city again, and I knew I needed to do that. This time though, it was quite painful to leave my latest friend. In my heart, I truly knew that I needed to get away from that relationship. As much as I felt for her, I knew I was putting her above God. I was also discouraged about my ability to live a Christian life. Regardless, I just decided that this time I’d be obedient no matter what. I didn’t care if I ever had friends again, or even if I was happy.
However, this was much harder than I thought it would be. During the first few months in my new surroundings, I cried and cried, and felt so much sadness. I almost chose to “come out” as a lesbian during one particularly “dark” stretch, but in the end, I could not convince myself that God didn’t care what I did. Also, I could not get away from the truth I saw in the scriptures. Looking back, I can see it was this major step of obedience that changed the pattern of failure in my life. I did not decide this based on feelings, but simply on what I believed to be truth. Again, I had to make the same choice – I would do my best to live as a Christian – regardless of what I felt.
From then on, I felt God leading me, and I started to understand how to follow Him better. There were 3 other main topics that He was using to change me, besides obedience. First, I learned that I needed to be very open and honest with the Lord about what I was feeling. I started talking TO Him about my past girlfriend, and my current sadness. A scripture that hit home for me was Hosea 4:6. “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” I was perishing it seemed. And I did feel clueless about most of life. Another equally powerful verse said “You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part, You will make me know Wisdom..” (Psalm 51:6). That was it! God wanted access to my “hidden part” – my heart. God wanted to reveal to me why I felt like I did, and He did just that. I was amazed at the sense of His love I felt as I came out of denial, talked to Him honestly about my attraction to women, and read my Bible.
Second, I began attending a church that majored in excellent Bible teaching, with an equal amount of grace, mercy and love. I learned so much about praising God, and about how to apply His Words to my life. It was life changing. The Pastor was like a Father figure, and I felt protected by him, even if it was from behind the pulpit. I also realized that there were other things in my life besides my sexual identity, and I loved receiving that knowledge. I actually looked forward to going to church, something I never would have imagined.
Finally, I had to learn how to be comfortable with other Christians. My self- protective wall had kept out most people over the years, until my inner needs were so great that I “leeched” on to any woman that seemed kind of like me. This changed for me when I met some other young Christians who loved God, and were very “real”. This particular group of 20 year olds would share their faith in the gay district of the city, and then have a Bible study the next night for anyone who was interested in attending. Actually, I was pretty apprehensive the first time I went to the meeting. Telling my story for the first time to a bunch of strangers turned out to be a death blow to my pride, and my tendency to say “you can handle this on your own.”
The miracle was that I became good friends with one of the women from the group. She had not been gay, but had her own sexual issues. I was disappointed at first that she had not also dealt with homosexuality. I basically “wrote her off” that first night. However, she was very kind, and pursued a friendship with me. Over time we were both surprised to learn that we shared many of the same core issues: fear of people, lack of confidence, anxiety in new situations etc. The funny part was that we were so different in how we coped with those feelings – she would become more outgoing, and I would become quieter.
I was amazed to realize how rich a same sex friendship could be with someone who loved God, and who was willing to be gut level honest about their personal shortcomings. I truly could say that this was better than any of the sexual relationships I had with women! I had not known that I was really looking for a close friend, not a lover. I also came to trust the guys in our group, as they too loved God, and were friendly, kind, and respectful. Now, through obedience, honesty, and good friends, I was armed with an understanding of how to actually live out my Christian life. I could more easily resist temptation, and grow from it, rather than be shipwrecked by it.
For the last 20 years I have continued to grow as a person and a Christian, and have been involved with several ex-gay ministries. However, this time has not been without trials. Several years ago, during a particularly stressful time, I gave into sexual temptation with another woman. Fortunately, our church had a Living Waters program. This program helped me so much. It was a place where I could talk freely in my small group about my sin, the pain I felt, and the anger I was experiencing. The group leader was not condemning, nor did she condone what I had done. Instead, I received grace from her to again be honest before God and fellow believers. I received prayer from the group, not advice, and was restored in my soul.
Living Waters is a great program for anyone on the road to sexual and relational wholeness. It is for the person just starting on their healing journey, or, like me, the person that finds that they “blew it” after many years on that road. Today, I am part of a Living Waters leadership team, and continue to receive God’s grace through teammates, and other relationships within the body of Christ.