January's cold air was crisp and brutal. My boots crunched against the snow as I followed my father to his black Cadillac.
"So, what are you?" He clipped the words short as he slammed the door and we headed home. "Are you the queen, or is she?" I tried to make myself small against the cold door, keeping my eyes glued to the floorboard.
My father had just found out I was gay.
I was born on January 25, 1963, the second daughter of an alcoholic father and an emotionally hurt mother.
The doctors were concerned about my health before I was born because my mother was hooked on prescription uppers and downers. At the time of my birth, my mother was in the middle of a nervous breakdown. Shortly after I arrived my father came home one evening to hear my mother's screams as she battered her head against the wall.
My mother, now a beautiful Christian, understands that her problems stemmed from a traumatic childhood. Her father was an alcoholic and my mother became his emotional wife when her parents separated. Recently she has also become aware of being molested as a child.
While I was growing up my father provided most of my physical bonding needs. Mother was always there when I needed her, but she was not demonstrative in her feelings of love. Consequently I began to lean heavily on my father. My mother and I were not close, and I began to shut her out of my emotional life.
I recall terrible lonely feelings in the pit of my stomach during grade school days. I was afraid of going to school and leaving my mother, fearful she wouldn't be there when I returned. I invented illness symptoms for years to avoid facing reality at school.
My insecurities multiplied when I entered Junior High because I felt different. I fluctuated between 130 and 170 pounds and despised every inch of my body. Young teenagers aren't known for being sensitive and kids at school gave me the nickname "Fatty". Too often I was also asked the humiliating question, "Are you pregnant?"
How I longed to feel loved and special to someone.
I usually had only one special friend during my years of school, which only intensified my feelings of loneliness and served to catapult me into one very demanding friendship.
My father became the pastor of our church when I was 15. As he spent more and more time praying and fasting in his study, I turned to a friend named Judy to fulfill the void inside me. Along with my father's change of position, he seemed to become more demanding in areas of morality and displayed critical disapproval of me.
I had no one left now with whom I could feel secure. Both of my parents were objects of my bitterness and resentment; I shut out their love and gravitated to Judy's declaration that I was her best friend.
During tenth grade, Judy became my lover. I found ways to get out of my house on week nights by perfecting the art of telling lies. My conscience pricked me terribly, but the love and acceptance I felt from Judy were worth it to me. I depended on Judy for every emotional need. I would have died to please her, my need for security was so great.
After two years with Judy, I began to wonder if I was what society called "gay".
I didn't come to a conclusion until that dark night in January. Looking back now, I realize that over the years I had interests in other girls. Although short-lived, I also had a few friends that I "loved" very early in life. But I never confronted my homosexuality until my world came crashing down, encompassing me with guilt and shame.
That same evening in January, my father had found a letter from Judy expressing her love for me. I was at Judy's house with her cousin, Dick. At one point in the evening Dick came crashing into the bedroom, laughing. Judy threw me from her and yelled in a disgusted tone, "Get away from me, you're sick!" I can still feel the hurt of realizing her love for me was false. She would rather save her honor than declare her love for me.
Then the door bell rang, announcing my father's arrival. That night, for the first time, I realized I was gay. After an evening of angry accusations from my parents and many angry words, I lay in my bedroom, staring into the darkness. What have I done? I thought. Where can I turn now? I hated myself and I felt like everyone else hated me too.
I knew that my parents had every right to ostracize me, and I felt that they would also be justified in their hatred of me. Guilt clung to me like a heavy blanket. For three days I stumbled through the motions of life in a stupor. On the evening of the third day, I cried out to God in despair.
"Please help me." That's all I could say. I felt so low that there was nothing to offer Him. But slowly, through the darkness, like a flower blooming, I felt God speaking to me.
"Give your life, your family and yourself. I will give them back to you one hundredfold." God's cleansing peace washed over my wounds as I yielded everything to Him.
I would like to say my surrender to God was the end of my struggles, but in reality I had only taken the first step toward freedom as I began the slow process of coming out of homosexuality.
During the ensuing months, I experienced untold guilt and shame. I withdrew into a shell of condemnation. I had one friend who somehow loved me in spite of my past. Sue belonged to our church, so I saw a lot of her in the following year of high school. Her friendship was the first I experienced as a Christian with a female outside of homosexuality.
Sue's vivacious nature helped me find joy in my Christianity and, at the same time, provided a vent for my frequent periods of weeping. I had a lot of suppressed emotions pertaining to my parents. Sue was such a lighthearted person that my depression didn't seem to affect her.
I know now that God sent Sue to me at a time of great need. I entered a stage of denial, blocking from my mind any thoughts of my past relationship with Judy.
After I asked God for help I did not have a struggle with sexual feelings for other women,nor did I have sexual feelings for men. You might say that I was neutral.
When I turned eighteen, I married the most wonderful man I have ever known. Tom had joined our church right after my relationship with Judy broke apart. He lived next door, so I saw a lot of him. After we'd known each other for about a year, he asked me to marry him. I accepted immediately and we were married ten months later.
Tom was tall, ruggedly handsome, lighthearted and protective. I married him because I loved the secure feelings he gave me. In becoming Tom's wife, I was looking for a father figure. He knew about my past but didn't judge me.
I realize now that although God had taken away my homosexual tendencies, I still had unresolved bitterness and resentment toward my father and mother. These feelings caused my insecurities because I wouldn't allow myself to be loved by my parents. It would be many years until I could honestly deal with this problem.
Tom loved me through our first years with an unfailing passion. But no matter how much he tried to reassure me of his love, I doubted it. I loved my husband with all my heart, but only like a child loves a father.
After the birth of our first child, Jessica, it became painfully apparent that I had an old problem hanging around. I had no desire for the intimacies of married life. I was cold, constantly pushing away Tom's affection. I had no desire for intimate relationships with friends, much less with my husband.
By 1987, Tom and I had been married six years and had three children. But all was not well. I was frequently depressed and my weight was up to 200 pounds.
We decided to join a counseling group at our church. Tom needed to vent his feelings of being abandoned by me. My marriage to Tom had become a heavy cross on my back.
It took two years of counseling before I could see the bitterness I held toward my parents. I saw how I had shut out their love. Finally I started dealing with the hurts and feelings I had locked away.
For months I worked through these emotions. My first step was to share with Tom some of the most painful periods of my gay past.
With these secrets out in the open, buried feelings from years before poured out of me. I leaned on Tom in full trust as I vented my emotions: Anger toward Judy and my parents. Shame for my sinful actions. Embarrassment for being the gay daughter of a pastor.
All these feelings I labeled and cried through, worked on and dealt with over a period of months. Much of the time I struggled to remain open to my female friends and not operate in a shell of self preservation.
As I worked through these emotions, I began to notice a marked change in my relationship with Tom. When he showed me affection that in the past had triggered repulsion, now I felt a new response as a woman.
At times these last few years have been very difficult. Only through the grace of Christ and His long suffering love have I been able to come through this time.
A few months ago I dealt with the bitterness toward my parents. I took a big step and wrote my mother, explaining my painful memories, my anger and hurt feelings toward her, and my desire to become close as mother and daughter. The Lord is healing the breech and this is something for which I'm very grateful. My father and I are also growing close again.
I am no longer bound by homosexual feelings and I am now a complete woman, very comfortable with heterosexuality. I no longer deny or hide my past, but see God turning my weaknesses into His strengths. Glory be to the Most High and All Powerful God!
Beth is a homemaker living in Milwaukee, WI. She and her
husband, Tom, have four children and attend Charity Faith Church.
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