Elizabeth's Story
* Names changed to protect privacy.

SUMMARY: I was involved in same sex relationships for ten years, I was "out" to family & friends, was not attracted to men & even "settled down" with a woman & bought a house with her. Several years later, - following counselling, time getting to know myself, and discovering and accepting God's plan for gender and sexuality, - I have left that lifestyle, am recently married to a man I love deeply, and have no interest in same sex behaviour.

I grew up in a household that was in some ways loving, but also disordered. My mother suffered an addiction which deeply affected my father who became very distant and angry. There was a lot of shouting and tension in our home as my parents slowly separated, then divorced. As my mother became less stable and began spending days then weeks away from home, she made it my role to cook and clean the house. I was fully in charge of this by 14, trying my best to support two younger brothers entering puberty and a deeply broken father.

I first felt same-sex attraction at 13, with a crush on a quiet and beautiful classmate. We became friends, then one night she crawled into bed next to me with my arm around her. That began a series of similar relationships – emotionally intense, "joined-at-the-hip” type friendships, combined with increasing physical closeness that became sexualised through my teens.

In the following years as my mother moved away, my father became our primary carer and did his best to support my brothers and me as teenagers, but was still emotionally distant (with the exception of uncontrolled anger when he was really struggling). As a result I learned not to express my own negative emotions and to fear strong emotions in others – instead gravitating to the gentleness I felt in other girls. My father was also ill-equipped to address the emotional and developmental needs of a teenage girl, and so effectively treated my brothers and me alike. I cannot remember him affirming my attractiveness (which I was deeply uncomfortable with anyway, as I correlated this with weakness) or my femininity, and I believe this is one of the reasons that my appearance and mannerisms became increasingly masculine.

I read books on homosexuality where I could and gleaned information from the Internet (also discovering a secret interest in erotica). My feelings were intense, deeply personal and elating, so much so that I decided I could no longer hide my 'real' self and came out at age 15. My school's welfare officer sent me to a local government program with other same-sex attracted young people (run by a lesbian), and my doctor sent me to a counsellor at the local community health service (also a lesbian). Unsurprisingly, both encouraged and congratulated me that I had found my 'identity'!

My parents struggled with my same sex attraction for a time, but they rarely talked about it and were frankly preoccupied with their own problems, so my sexual development was low on the list of priorities. They welcomed my friends to the house, even when they knew that we were sleeping in the same bed.

By 15 I was experimenting with paganism, by 20 I had been involved in BDSM (bondage and discipline, sadomasochism). Men occasionally sexually approached me, but all experiments were short-lived, never felt right or good, and I didn't believe it was possible to have a relationship with them the way I had with women. Not surprisingly, my mental health deteriorated and I was referred to a psychiatrist, all the while still trying to fill the role of "mother” at home and doing what I now recognise was a desperate sexual playing out of my own unmet needs for love and affection.

Paradoxically, it was also during this time that I started going to church. I was baptised at 16 into a major denomination, at a parish with a female minister. I thank God that I walked into that church – my reading into radical feminism had given me such a low view of men that I don't think I would have stayed with a male priest.

In my late-teens I moved in with a gender-confused male friend, "David”* (who I "officially” dated for a short time – but was really just friends with) and his family. I finished high school and began my first job where I met "Sarah”* with whom I would have my most significant same-sex relationship. She was vibrant and attractive – she had also been my boss and was seven years older than me. The relationship was intoxicating and hit with a bang and we were effectively living together after three weeks.   

For the next few years I firmly believed I was a lesbian, I lived with David and Sarah (later we even bought a house together) and my circle of friends was composed almost entirely of people who were same-sex attracted, experiencing gender-confusion, or involved in BDSM. I can also see now how I surrounded myself with information that continually affirmed my life-choices, such as having a spiritual director who was herself in a lesbian relationship.

Yet by God's grace I still continued to attend church and even began a theology degree (at a liberal theological college). It was through these studies that I worryingly realised that my feminist, liberal-progressive theology required a significant reinterpretation (even rejection) of portions of Scripture and the Christian tradition, and I started to wonder if my beliefs really stood up to careful criticism.

At the same time huge cracks began to show in my "chosen family.” David had a same-sex relationship with another house-mate, then Sarah began a sexual relationship with David, then the partner of my friend and lesbian-Christian spiritual director confessed her love and passion for me – She was almost twenty years older than me, someone I looked up to, and I felt powerless to refuse.

It was one big, incredibly confused, mess.

I was seeing first-hand how unstable the queer lifestyle really was. These people I loved and looked up to were really quite damaged (childhood trauma, family breakdown, infidelity, sex with multiple partners, mental illness and substance abuse were all very common). And I started to see how much their belief-systems largely acted to justify the unhealthy lifestyles they were living.

Worst of all, I had been singing the same tune right along with them.

With a lot of soul-searching and tears, I came to a challenging and frightening conclusion: 

I had built my house on sand, and I wanted Out.

As I began to speak more critically, I lost most my friends, but started getting to know the God that I had, for years, been trying to shape in my own image. I discovered the work of Prof. Mary Kassian (from the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood) whose passion for women's issues mixed with a respectful, academic, critique of feminism spoke volumes to me, as did the complementarian teaching on God's design for gender.

I spent the next 18 months or so seeing a psychologist, reading, getting comfortable in my own skin and catching up on development that I'd missed (even basic things like how to have healthy friendships with women). Yet, I still believed that my sexuality was deeply, probably permanently, damaged. I couldn't consider a relationship with a man, but no longer desired a relationship with a woman. 

I experienced the shift in my attractions as part of my delayed development. The more I made space for my own natural femininity, I stopped feeling the need or attraction to finding that femininity in other women. For years I had been grasping for the beauty and softness I saw in other women, while suppressing the beauty and softness within myself.  

I was gaining a far more balanced and godly view of sexuality and gender. I explored some traditionally female-dominated interests, while maintaining my traditionally male-dominated interests (mostly science and mathematics), and I happily joined my now confident feminine dress with short purple hair – which I still had when I met the man I would marry.

He had just finished his training as a minister and soon after meeting him I thought, "I like this one. I could stand next to him.” I was genuinely attracted to him, but not because he was a mirror of me (he certainly wasn't!), and I didn't lose myself in him. I found myself willing to trust that he would lead us aright (and he has). And I wanted to serve God with him – I could now see my relationship as not just about filling my needs – but part of serving the Kingdom of God.

I was proud of my progress and honest with him about my past, but I still harboured some guilt about my history. How could I have been so confused for so long? Why did I let myself stay in those unhealthy and harmful situations??

It was then I found the Pure Passion series and shortly afterwards Exodus Asia-Pacific, which helped me see how I ended up in the situations I had thrown myself into. I made further connections between my same-sex attraction and the deep alienation I felt with my own gender – both from my fear of becoming my mother and from being forced at a young age into a subservient role serving my male family members.

I could see more clearly how my sexual development had been stunted, and was still in need of healing. In particular, I reflected that I needed to name the things I had done as sins,as not God's plan for me. In doing this I experienced forgiveness, a sense of freedom and the firm knowledge that God was Never Ever going to let me go.

I don't know that I would call myself "straight”, and "ex-gay” feels awkward (why define yourself by what your not?) - so I've moved away from labels altogether. Most recently, my husband and I have started speaking up for Christian sexual ethics in our denomination and I pray that I will one day have the courage to tell my story more openly.

In conclusion, I was involved in same sex relationships and various sexual sins for ten years – but I came through it and I got out, and today I am happy, deeply in love with my husband, and comfortable in my own skin. My heart goes out to young people experiencing same sex attraction today and I hope that this story encourages them and their families to take an honest, realistic and long-term view of gender and sexual development – even when it means naming deep wounds.