“Don’t ban the kinds of help that enabled me to be free, happy and well.”
I grew up in a household that was in many ways loving, but my mother also suffered an addiction which deeply affected my father who became very distant as my parents divorced.
I first felt same-sex attraction at thirteen, with a crush on a quiet and beautiful classmate. My feelings were intense and deeply personal, so much so that I decided I could no longer hide my ‘real’ self and ‘came out’ at fifteen. My parents struggled with my same sex attraction for a time, but they rarely talked about it and they welcomed my friends to the house, even when they knew that we were sleeping in the same bed.
My mental health deteriorated but I finished high school and began my first job where I met the woman with whom I would have my most significant same-sex relationship. For the next few years I firmly believed I was a lesbian, and my circle of friends was composed almost entirely of people who were same-sex attracted or experiencing gender-confusion. Yet I also saw childhood trauma, family breakdown, mental illness and substance abuse among this group, and personally I was dealing with anxiety and depression as well as not feeling comfortable in myself.
With a lot of soul-searching I came to a challenging and frightening conclusion: I had built my house on sand, and I wanted out of that lifestyle.
During this time I saw a psychiatrist and had been sharing my journey with him. He always maintained a calm and non-directive approach when listening to me, and I recall one key conversation where he told me that he viewed much of my same-sex behaviour in terms of delayed development. Thankfully this also meant that I was a person in process who could develop with time and care.
I then saw a psychologist, who helped me catch up on development that I’d missed, even basic things like how to have healthy friendships with women. He also helped me realise that some of my sexual behaviour had actually been quite traumatising, and if I wanted to be well and comfortable in myself, I needed to process that trauma.
The psychologist helped me to no longer feel so afraid of men or distaste towards them. He also helped me to no longer feel helpless in the face of older women, by processing my deep wounds around being wanted or rejected by them – issues largely rooted in my mother having left the family.
Over time, my anxiety and depression decreased and the more I made space for my own natural femininity, I stopped feeling the need to find that femininity in other women. I realised that for years I had been grasping for the beauty and softness I saw in other women, while suppressing the beauty and softness within myself.
A few months later I met the man I would marry. I was genuinely attracted to him, but I still harboured some issues about my history.
So I decided to seek out some support from a Christian ministry that works in this area. I met with a pastor and she helped me to understand and forgive myself for my former actions and impulses. With support from her and a Christian counsellor, I made further connections between my same-sex attraction and the alienation I felt with my own gender – including my fear of becoming like my mother.
I could see more clearly how my sexual development had been stunted, and was still in need of healing, and with prayer and pastoral support I experienced forgiveness, a new sense of freedom and the firm knowledge that God was never ever going to let me go.
In conclusion, I was involved in same sex relationships for ten years – but I came through it and today I am happy, deeply in love with my husband, and comfortable in my own skin.
I don’t know how I would ‘label’ myself today – so I’ve moved away from labels altogether, and I believe it is time for me to tell my story. This is especially so now, given the likely possibility that others may soon be barred from having important and searching conversations like the ones I have outlined above.
It deeply troubles me that the kinds of conversations I had with my mental health supports, conversations that were key in my healing and development, may soon be illegal. I urge readers of my story not to ban the kinds of help that enabled me to be free, happy and well.