VIRGINIA’S STORY

 

Where I’ve come from

I can remember as young as a six year-old feeling attracted to other girls. At that age there was nothing sexual in it, but by the time I became a teenager the attraction developed into a sexual one and I started to act out on those feelings. Although I did not have a long-term partner I was totally same sex attracted. I had a couple of relationships with men in my older teenage years, mostly to ‘fit in’ and be accepted by others. I wasn’t interested in men but hated being rejected, gossiped about, and judged, so I did whatever I could do to fit in. I hated being different. I hated that I was attracted to women. I had very low self-esteem, was ashamed of who I was and hated myself.

All this led me to try and live two separate lives – one family and friends saw, and another where I lived out my sexual desires. I became an expert at wearing a mask – at being someone that I wasn’t. In time this led to depression and a desire to end my life.

Right throughout my teenage years, and for the first ten years or so as a Christian, all my relationships were unhealthy, sexually or emotionally. I didn’t even really know what a healthy one looked like. It came as a shock for me to realise that all my ‘friendships’ with women were emotionally dependent relationships. Through my journey I came to understand that emotional dependency is very common for women with same sex attraction.

By the time I became a Christian at 23 years of age, I believed I was born gay. I believed that this would never change, that not even God could or would do anything about it. I believed that I was stuck with this for the rest of my life. 

Walking the path

I have now been a Christian 24 years.  In that time, I have seen God totally transform my life, and He continues to do so today. Over those years God and I have worked through a number of areas around my sexual identity issues, to see that transformation come about.

My parents influence

One such area has been my relationship with my parents. There were many factors in my relationship with them that were to influence the development of my same sex attraction. One was my sense of rejection and abandonment by them.

My older sister was born a sickly baby. Understandably, my parents took care of her and looked after her closely. My Mum also lost a baby between my older sister and myself, so I imagine her fear of losing another baby led her to even more hold closer to my older sister. By the time I was born two and a half years later the relationship between my parents and sister was very tight and firmly established.  There was little room for me to connect with either parent, but especially with my Mum. From this I was left with a sense that I wasn’t ok. That something was wrong with me. That I was unlovable. That if I had been lovable then my parents would have connected with me too. That’s what I understood. It wasn’t what they wanted to communicate to me – but it was what I understood and believed about myself.

Coupled with this, my Mum was a very strong, very capable lady who didn’t show a lot of emotion. My Dad – a very passive and sensitive man – did not provide the protection for me as a young girl that I desired and needed, creating in me an inability to trust men. I believed they would not protect me, only abandon me.

My God-given desire to connect, to feel loved, cherished and protected, was unfulfilled. And I desperately wanted to feel loved and accepted. Unable to feel either in my relationship with my parents, I was left seeking for these needs to be met by other (usually older) women.

As God and I worked on the transformation process He gave me an understanding of who my parents were and the life they had experienced. I came to see that this life had impacted who they became as people, and more importantly for me, as parents. Understanding that helped me to forgive them for the things they had done and the things they had failed to do. Through this process I’ve seen God bring about restoration in the relationship with my Mum. Unfortunately my Dad died before I became a Christian so I have not been able to live out a restored relationship with him. However, I have been able to work through issues in this relationship and reach a place of forgiveness with respect to my Dad. 

Renewing my Mind

Another significant area that I’ve worked on has been the renewing of my mind. Just as Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, my life has been turned around by the renewing of my mind, by having to address what my thoughts were and making choices to change those. A component of that has been changing the labels I wore. What I said about myself, how I labelled myself, and how others labelled me played a massive part in who I became. This began right from when I was born when an old Aunty asked my parents what my first name was and when told she responded by saying “That’s a boy’s name.” When she asked my middle name the same thing happened, “That’s a boy name.” I can only speculate what was spoken into my life in my first days on this earth.

For many years after I was teased about being a boy, about looking like a boy, walking, talking and dressing like a boy. On countless occasions I was teased by friends and family about being gay. I was ridiculed for not having a boyfriend and I was publicaly humiliated in respect to my sexuality. Labels and what was spoken over my life hugely influenced who I believed I was. The world said that a woman who was attracted to other women was lesbian. The world put that label on me and I took that label on myself by labelling myself as lesbian.

God and I have constantly worked on this area of my life. He’s done that through many means, especially through other people. In my early years as a Christian God brought into my life a strong Christian friend who repeatedly challenged me about rejecting the good that was spoken into my life, and labelling myself in negative ways. In later years He also brought others across my path who spoke positively into my life. I had to make choices to accept the positive things others said about me even though I didn’t feel their truth.

I also became aware that everything I faced in my life I filtered through my sexuality. Eighteen years into being a Christian I began working for a counselling organisation where we specialised in working in relationships; and through this job I worked a lot with women. I sat and heard their stories and their struggles in how they saw themselves and how they related with others. None of these women had any same sex issues, yet in many ways their struggles with loneliness, jealousy, shame, guilt etc, were exactly the same as my own. However, what I realised was that they didn’t filter their struggles through their sexuality as I did.

With this I came to understand that the issues I was now facing had absolutely nothing to do with my sexuality; the issues were just part of being human. From this point on I chose to no longer filter my struggles through my sexuality. This brought about a massive shift in my thinking, enabling me to completely remove any label that I’d put on myself or others had put on me, which left me to identify myself in who I am in God , not (who I had falsely believed I was) in my sexuality. 

Boundaries: taking and leaving responsibility

Understanding what I am responsible for, and what I am not responsible for, has also been a huge part of my transformation process. I was taught from a very early age that I was responsible for other people’s emotions, especially my Mum’s and older sister’s, and it was my fault when my sister made decisions that negatively impacted her. I learnt to ‘walk on egg shells’, to be afraid of others’ anger; I learnt that their sadness was my responsibility. This led me to a need to please other people. If they were pleased then anger and sadness wouldn’t be present.

I became very good at reading moods and doing what I thought others wanted me to do to make them happy. I became completely boundary-less, I didn’t know where I ended and other people started. Therefore, I barrelled over other people’s boundaries and I had none of my own. This led into really unhealthy ways of relating. I was trying to meet all the needs of the other person and I was looking for them to meet all of mine. Of course, neither ever worked and I ended up with broken relationship after broken relationship. By the time I became a Christian I had no friends and no one close in my life.

The process of learning boundaries, what I am responsible for and what I am not responsible for, has been a long one. Having constantly to question and challenge myself on my motives for everything I would do and say, around allowing others to take responsibility for their own emotions, around having to make choices to allow the other person to be who they are, not who I wanted them to be. Nowadays, I have a very clear sense of who I am and what I am responsible for, and what I am not.

Overcoming Emotional Dependency

In learning to accept responsibility for my behaviours I came to recognise that I totally acted out in emotionally dependent ways. I was emotionally starved and desperately wanted to connect with others – especially women – and had no idea how to do so. I would constantly buy gifts for my latest ‘target’, demand all her time and sulk or get angry when it didn’t work out. I was jealous of her other friendships. I would seek to make friends with those people either to disrupt my ‘target’s’ friendship or so I could get to know more intimate and personal stuff about her. Once I’d got all I needed from my ‘target’, I’d move on to the next, or more often than not, once she became pressured and overwhelmed by my intense behaviour she would end the friendship. I had absolutely no healthy relationships; in fact I didn’t even know what one looked like.

One of the first steps in changing this was me acknowledging that my behaviour was not loving as I called it, and that in fact I was sinning against God in doing this. Being a Christian God was now to be the one I looked to meet my needs, to bring into my life who He wanted, when He wanted to. However, I never let that happen. My latest ‘target’ was always before God and often one ‘target’ would finish one day and the next one begin the following day. There wasn’t much room for God to be number one!!

Again, part of the process in seeing change in this way of relating was me making choices, me choosing to do what I didn’t want to do but which I knew full well that God was asking me to do. I had to make choices that went exactly against my emotions, and to choose God and His direction rather than look to meet my needs my own way. On numerous occasions God asked me to end the relationship and I had to do that even though I didn’t want to. I constantly had to ask myself “What were my motives?” for anything I did or said. I had to be brutally honest with myself, and more times than not then had to choose not to do what I was going to do. This was an extremely hard and long process and one I would never like to go through again.

At the same time, I had to start to learn what a healthy relationship was. I had absolutely no idea! Working in this process I very slowly began to allow God to bring into my life who He wanted there, and many times they were not the type of people I would have chosen! Through these people I began to see and learn what was a healthy relationship, how I could – even in my brokenness – function in healthy ways, especially in how I related with women.

As I mentioned I also worked as a counsellor with people who experienced brokenness in their relationships. As has often been my experience, God puts me in places or situations where I am completely out of my depth, have no clue what to do and feel like I am barely keeping my head above water. However, at the same time I also grow and learn, and that’s exactly what happened in working in this context.

I was taught by peers, and through this work learned what healthy relationships looked like; at the same time I got to practise that in my personal life. I learnt how to slowly develop healthy relationships, how to allow them to go through stages of development, and how to allow the other person to be who they were. A hugely significant thing for me was to learn how to have very deep, very emotionally connected, and yet very healthy relationships with other women. I’d never thought I’d ever get to that place and I had never known what it was like to be in that place either.

Nowadays, I don’t have any emotionally dependent relationships but I am always aware that if Satan is going to tempt me anywhere it will always be where I am weakest. So I am aware of my triggers, aware of my vulnerabilities and aware of boundaries I need to put in place. This has created a safety for me in developing healthy relationships with other women.

A change in identity

These are just a few of the areas God and I have worked on. There are many more components to my journey. 

A while back a good friend asked me, “If I had to sum up in one sentence what had changed in my life, what would I say?” What I said to her was “My identity has changed. Who I believe I am, who I believe others say I am, and most importantly who I believe God says I am. That’s what’s changed.”

My life has been transformed. I no longer identify myself as lesbian. I no longer identify myself as unlovable, rejected, abandoned, hopeless, useless and not worth anything. I no longer filter myself through my sexuality. I no longer label myself lesbian. I label myself as a daughter of God and a co-heir with Jesus.

This shift in how I identify myself, I believe, has been the most significant thing that has brought about the change in my life. I can honestly say that nowadays I do not struggle with being attracted to women. Nowadays, I don’t have to make the same choices I’d had to over my early years as a Christian. But I am also completely aware of my vulnerabilities, I am completely aware of my triggers, and I am completely aware of my responsibility in the choices I make.

When once I would have said that my struggle with my same sex attraction occupied 100% of who I was, today I can say it does not. I like being a woman. I like who I am, I like the woman God has made me to be. And I am incredibly grateful to Him for the transformation he has brought about in my life.