My parents divorced when I was five. My dad took my sister and me to a park, knelt down beside us, and told us good-bye. For the rest of my childhood, I lived with a continuous insecurity that the people I loved would always walk out of my life.
Around other boys, I felt terribly insecure and different. And because I wasn't good in sports and was effeminate, they called me names like fag, queer and sissy.
I started drinking alcohol when I was 14. I drank to numb the pain inside and to escape from my feelings of self-hatred and inadequacy. Then, when I was 15, a girl from school told me about Jesus Christ while we were talking on the phone one day. I believed everything she said about the Bible, and, after hanging up the phone, I knelt down and asked Jesus to come into my life. I sought him fervently after that, but since no one else in my family was a Christian, I fell away after six months.
When I was a senior in high school, a friend took me to a gay bar for the first time. A whole new world opened up to me. All the attention I got from other men was overwhelming. I soon fell in love with a guy named Curt. Our sexual relationship seemed so natural, and I slipped into the gay lifestyle and let go of my childhood dream of having a wife and family. But my relationship with Curt began to deteriorate and we split up after a year. Once again I lost someone who I thought would stay with me forever. Our break-up was so hard on me that I dropped out of college and moved back home with my mother.
My drinking increased, and I became so miserable that I tried to take my life. Then, due to my poor self-image and lack of money, I started working as a male prostitute. I'd be dropped off at a hotel room and sell my body for $80 an hour. By the end of that summer, I was emotionally burned out. I remember crying myself to sleep after I came home from allowing myself to be sexually used all night.
Another significant event happened that summer. At a gay bar, I saw a male friend dressed like a woman. His feminine appearance looked so real. I was fascinated and one night he put makeup and a wig on me. I was astonished to see a beautiful "woman" looking back at me.
Over the next three years I threw everything into being the best woman I could. I was proud to be a drag queen and even adopted the name "Candi." Soon I became popular as a female impersonator, not just locally but in neighboring states as well. But inside I still hated myself. One night on the dance floor I said to God, "I know you can help me--someday I'll come back to you."
In October 1985, my psychologist confronted me about my heavy drinking. I began attending AA meetings. After six months of sobriety, my head began to clear. One day I put all of my dresses, high heels, wigs, jewelry and makeup into a cardboard box and threw it into a dumpster. "Candi, I don't need you anymore. I'm saying good-bye" I said. My drag friends tried to convince me that I'd be back.
Very shortly after that, a college pastor from a nearby church asked if he could talk to me. He came to my apartment and told me about Jesus Christ. I stopped him after twenty minutes and said, "I know all about the Gospel. I used to be a Christian when I was 15. But I was born gay, so forget it!"
"No, you weren't," he answered. Then he read from Genesis 2: "And God created man...male and female... And God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good." The truth came shining through. I was convinced that homosexuality was not something I was born with or something I had to stay in. That week I dug out my Bible and started to read it again. After wrestling with the decision for days, I knelt down beside my bed. "Lord, I don't know how to get out of homosexuality, but I will follow you. No matter how difficult it gets, I'll never turn away from you again." It was February 10, 1987. I had finally found someone who would never leave me.
Something inside me was different now. At a gay AA meeting, the topic of whether homosexuals go to heaven came up. "It doesn't matter if you're gay or straight," I told them, "If we believe in Jesus Christ we'll go to heaven." My friends were shocked. They'd never heard me say such a thing before. Most of them I never heard from again.
Over the next year, I struggled quite a bit. I had gotten rid of all my homosexual paraphernalia and pornography, but I was terribly afraid of rejection by straight men, even at my church. During that time I found the name of a Christian ministry that reached out to homosexuals. I contacted the ministry and eventually moved to the town where it was located. As I was leaving, my mother said, "John, you've worked hard to change your life this past year. I'm so proud of you." "I only had Christ to lean on," I told her. "He did the changing--not me."
With that Christian ministry's help, I discovered that my concept of God was distorted. I had a difficult time accepting the reality of his total love and acceptance. The concept of being loved for just being me was totally incomprehensible. But God wanted to change my identity as a man. He did, and over time I no longer doubted his acceptance of me. I was also finally able to forgive my parents for their emotional neglect and the ways I felt they had rejected me.
My process out of homosexuality has been slow, but solid. My male friendships have eventually grown to a place where I feel secure in my masculinity and know who I am among other men. And at some point, even though Christ had filled the empty places of my heart, he also gave me the desire to have someone else there. In 1991 I fell in love with a beautiful, godly woman who had also come from a homosexual background. We were married in 1992. I cried all the way through our wedding vows, knowing Christ was fulfilling my dream. God's transforming power was so evident during our wedding that my mother and stepfather prayed to receive Jesus Christ that night. In the past, I could never say, "I'm a man." But now I'm a different person, a "new creature in Christ." I can be loved just because I'm his.
In the past, there were many masks I hid behind to protect myself from being hurt again. But now I see that they only stood in the way of God's love reaching through to me. In Jesus Christ I've found the love and acceptance I was looking for all along.