Grabbed by God
In many ways, being ex-gay is even more difficult than being gay. Many people in the Anglican Church see homosexual orientation as unchangeable, so they find my story politically incorrect and are quick to dismiss it: they tell me that I was never homosexual, or that I am still homosexual and living in denial. But I know where I have been, and I know what the Lord has done in my life. Mine is a story of God’s transforming power at work in my life.
I have spoken up and told my story whenever invited to do so, as a plea for a safe place in the Church for those who wish to come out of homosexual lifestyles. It is simply false to assume that all who experience same-sex attraction would like the Church to affirm their sexual orientation. On the contrary, many are trying to live chastely, despite societal encouragement and even pressure on them to embrace a gay or lesbian identity and to act out sexually outside marriage. For them especially, it is absolutely essential that the Church keeps upholding the message that our God is an awesome God who can utterly transform our lives.
“I Should Have Been a Boy”
As far back as I can remember, I had a feeling that I was different: I was a missionary’s kid growing up in Japan, but also I believed I was God’s mistake, a boy in a girl’s body. My father had wanted a boy, and when I was born he had to check me over twice. I grew up feeling I was a great disappointment to him. Today I believe he actually passed on the feeling to me that l was a mistake. I identified with the males around me: I played with my three brothers, and most of my friends were boys. I developed some masculine mannerisms and speech patterns.
To complicate things even further for me, several of my father’s students sexually abused me, and I was unable to tell anyone. I felt very dirty and ashamed of myself. I somehow felt it was my fault, and I was certain that my father would punish me for what was happening. For years, I hated myself.
For grade seven, I was sent to a girls’ school. There I developed a crush on one of my classmates. My father told me that this was simply forbidden. After that school year, my parents transferred me to a local Japanese school and encouraged me to go out with the boys who came asking the Canadian girl for a date.
During my teens, I continually looked for ways to rebel against my father, a strict disciplinarian. When I was 18, he and my mother sent me to Nova Scotia to live with her parents. Nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered there. My own grandfather raped me, and when I went running to my uncle to get some help, he raped me too. I made my way to California, where I ended up on the streets. In my desperation I kept out of prostitution only through the Christian virtues my parents had raised me to cling to.
When I eventually arrived back in Japan, thanks to another uncle who had wired me some money, my father told me I should not have come home. That night, in spite of the fact that he has never done such a thing, I dreamt that my own father was trying to rape me. Something broke in me that night, and when I awoke, I was no longer able to trust any man.
Looking for a Place to Call Home
For the next few years I felt very confused and angry and trapped. I was aware of my same-sex attractions but believed my faith in Christ required me to live my life out as a straight person. I avoided any kind of intimacy. I drifted back and forth between Japan and Canada in search of a place I could call home.
At the age of 20, I became a missionary in a Pentecostal church in Japan that catered mainly to descendants of Koreans who had been brought over as slaves during the war. With no formal training, I felt overwhelmed by the suffering and despair with which many of them reacted to the discrimination they faced.
I was questioning the very existence of God when I met an Australian woman who offered me the comfort I so badly wanted. I chose then to walk away from my Christian beliefs and surrender to the need to hold and be held. She coaxed me into giving up fighting a battle that I was “going to lose anyway.”
Leaving my missionary role, I returned to Vancouver, and I began a homosexual relationship that lasted 13 years. During these years, I was pretty promiscuous, I am ashamed to say. Most of my lovers were other women in long-term relationships as well.
I truly believed I was born homosexual, and the lifestyle felt right: I loved the security of having a partner who gave me a sense of having a home, and the affirmations that new lovers gave me.
Whenever my father visited me in Vancouver during this period of my life, he preached at me and told me I was going straight to hell for my lifestyle. In fact, that is what most Christians I knew managed to tell me. I longed desperately to be totally accepted, and I looked for every scientific rationalization that would prove I was born homosexual.
Our awesome God grabbed hold of me one day. On a visit to Japan for a family funeral, I went to see a Catholic monk, my former math teacher, who had spent so many hours patiently listening to my problems when I was a teenager. I had told him in a letter that I was in a homosexual relationship. Would he respond with the same line that most Christians gave me? He was so dear to me, though, that I trusted that one visit with him would be worth anything that he could possibly say. He caught me by surprise when he hugged me and simply said, “Welcome back.”
That day he treated me as though I had never left the faith, in spite of where I’d been. And through him, I experienced unconditional love. That day, I met my heavenly Father, the God of Unconditional Love. I wanted more of this unconditional love, though I was not certain about the rest of Christianity, nor where my lifestyle was fitting into all this. I remember shooting up a prayer that day, asking God to reveal Himself to me.
A Second Chance
A few months later, back in Vancouver, a car accident put me in hospital for about ten days. I came to realize through this that I had been given a second chance to make the most of my life. Shortly after the accident, I woke up one night in the middle of the night singing the chorus “Father, I adore you … Jesus, I adore you … Spirit, I adore you.” Before my mind ever understood, my spirit had always known the God of Unconditional Love to be the Trinity.
About a month later, I went to an Anglican church for the first time in 14 years. During the sermon, my mind wandered, and different scenes of my life flashed in front of me as though I were watching a movie. All the things I had done, one scene at a time, and with each scene came a sense of grief. With such a past how could I possibly start anew? Telling my father that I hated him, that hell would be heavenly if he wasn’t going to be there. Me with a woman, me in the gay bars. Scene after scene of my selfish acts. Everything seemed to be there! My grief overflowed – would my heart burst? In agony, I cried out, “Lord, I know I’ve been sinful. Please stop!” and the waves of scenes stopped immediately.
When Communion began, I knew in my heart that Christ had died for me, for those very scenes that I had just seen. And as I received the body and blood of Christ, an electrifying warmth swept through my body from my head to toes. I had never felt so loved as I did at that moment. And when I returned to my seat, I realized that for the first time in my whole life I felt totally accepted and clean! Everything was behind me, and I was now being given a new life in Christ!
That day during Communion, God didn’t stop at just washing my sins away and making me clean. He totally took away the attractions toward other women! And not only did God reconcile me to Himself through the blood of Christ, He eventually led me to reconcile with my earthly father.
Today God continues to reveal my inner scars and the reasons I chose the life that I did, and He continues the work and healing process within me. Today I know I am not a mistake, and I am happily married to a wonderfully loving man. Wonderful are the works of the Lord!
The Rev. Dr. C. Dawn McDonald is an Anglican priest. Having served in the Diocese of New Westminster, and then the Diocese of Yukon in Canada, she is currently serving in the Diocese of Central Florida, and is available for speaking/teaching engagements.
This testimony appears in printed form in the booklet Transformed by an Encounter with Christ: A contribution to the ongoing discussion on same-sex blessings in the Anglican Church of Canada, published in 2006 by the Zacchaeus Fellowship.
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Story © 2004 Dawn McDonald. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Photo: Sue Careless