Learning That God Really Loves Me
Rob G's Story
I did not choose to be gay, nor was I born gay. Instead, my attraction to other men was something that developed over a number of years, with many factors contributing to its development.
When I was a child, I didn't know that my father loved me. He was away at work a lot, and I didn't see that much of him. My need for love and affirmation was not met. Though my dad did not mean to hurt me, I felt rejected, and shut off my feelings toward him in order not to be hurt anymore. Of course, this did not solve the problem of not having my needs met - I was still left with a hole in my heart. And, while I felt that he did not affirm me in developing into a man, shutting him out meant that I no longer had an adult male to bond and identify with.
When I was a child, I was usually on the sidelines of what boys were up to. In some ways, this was due to simple geography. From kindergarten to grade 12, I lived far away from my schools and from my classmates, which limited after-school friendships and activities. More often than not, I just went home and played Lego or read books in my room. Even at school, my lack of interest and skill in sports meant I ended up playing outfield or similar positions in gym class. Because of frequent moves, I changed schools five times, staying at three of them for a year or less. It was hard to make friends when all the other kids had already known each other for several years.
In other ways, living on the periphery of life was due to a simple and complex thing called sexual abuse, which in my case ranged from being sexually fondled by an adult male "friend of the family" at age five to being raped by three male peers in my early teens.
The abuse taught me to be afraid of men. I found it easier to be friends with the girls, who weren't interested in being competitive, than with the boys. The abuse destroyed my sense of personhood and what little there was of a sense of masculinity. The message I got was that I was dirt, something to be used by others.
The abuse also taught me that the way to be close to a man is by being sexually involved with him. That was, after all, the context in which I had experienced closeness and attention. Puberty, when it happened in the middle of all of this, further sexualized my emotional need for love and affirmation. As far back as I can recall having sexual fantasies, they were only about men.
In earlier high school, a few of the boys -- particularly one named Jimmy -- often called me "fag." I understood it to be derogatory, but neither knew exactly what it meant nor that it could be used to actually describe my desires. It was only a few months before my 19th birthday that I realized the word "homosexual" applied to my thoughts and desires. This was a great shock to me, and I became quite depressed. I was moody and slept a lot. I declined to answer when someone asked, "How are you?" On two occasions, I felt like killing myself. Of course, in one sense I was still the same person. But in another sense, I now had this label stuck on me. I now knew that the thoughts that were in my head were not the same thoughts as other people had. I was no longer "just me."
I told my two closest friends what was happening. Raymond replied that he already knew and that he, too, was gay. Richard and I were sitting in the kitchen when I told him, late one night, with my parents sleeping upstairs. It was a very difficult moment. I remember holding a glass clenched in my hand, and shaking with fear and emotion. When I finally managed to speak, Richard wasn't surprised to hear that I was dealing with homosexuality, and was very supportive.
It was helpful to have both a friend who knew what I was going through because of being in a similar situation, and a straight friend who stood by me. Most of the friends to whom I "came out" over the years were, in fact, straight Christians, and only two of them reacted negatively. The rest of them continued to love me and to relate to me as they had before knowing. I consider myself very fortunate in this regard, for I know that many gay and lesbian persons have not experienced the same compassion and unconditional acceptance as a person.
Over the next months, I got some information from a local gay phone line and wondered whether my beliefs about what the Bible said were wrong. After much thinking, I concluded that God's intention for his creation really was for one man and one woman to be in a life-long committed relationship, and that anything else was wrong. I did not know then whether change was possible, but decided that, even if nothing ever changed in regard to my sexuality, following Jesus was my first priority. This was a difficult decision for me -- I knew that it could mean being alone for the rest of my life.
That August, we moved to London, a city in Ontario, Canada. At university, one of the first people I met was a Christian med student named Ron, and we became friends. It took a long time for me to trust him enough to tell him why I was feeling so depressed. When I did, our friendship remained the good friendship that it was. Much later, he told me a story which he had heard in one of his classes, about an alcoholic doctor with two sons. After leaving work, this doctor would often drink enough to make the family dinner time a very unpleasant experience. His sons grew and got bigger and one day, before dinner, they tied him up in his study. His wife simply assumed he was working late. It was the first peaceful meal in a long time, and the boys used the same method on other nights. At some point, after a neighbour noticed a light flashing on and off and discovered what was happening, the doctor went into treatment for alcoholism. The point of the story, though, was that while what the boys did worked, it didn't really solve the problem. As Ron's professor said, it was a maladaptive way of coping with the situation. Somehow, this story made sense out of my own experience, and gave me a great sense of hope.
Two things happened during the years between hearing this story and starting to deal with my abuse. I learned a lot more about homosexuality, including alternate perspectives to those which were generally available. I began to see how the things that happened affected my sense of who I was, both as a person and in terms of my gender identity and sexuality. I began to understand how my responses to what happened, like shutting out my dad when I felt rejected, further affected my sense of who I was. It later became clear that my sexual fantasies about men mirrored the unresolved abuse from my childhood, and were an attempt to reconnect with the masculinity which I lacked. Trying to get worth and masculinity from other men was, for me, a "maladaptive way of coping with the situation".
Secondly, I learned that God really loved me. I very much needed to know in my heart that I mattered to Him and that He loved me as I was. I didn't have to change first, or solve all my problems; in fact, there was nothing which I could do to get Him to love me more than He already did. Having grown up in a church, I knew in my mind that God loved me. But my experience with my earthly father, whom I felt did not love me, made it hard for me to believe in my heart that God my heavenly Father really loved me.
Part of what helped me heal in this area was to separate "my two fathers". This enabled me to love my earthly dad, to see him as a man who has many good qualities along with his shortcomings, and a man who was a better father to me than his father was to him. And I could see my heavenly Father more clearly as the One who always loves me and always is there for me.
Knowing that God really loved me gave me a solid base from which to deal with the abuse of my childhood. As I worked through first one incident, then another, I began to see the lies which I had believed. The abuse told me I was good for nothing; God tells me that I am very precious and that the abuse should never have happened. The abuse told me that I was bad; God tells me that what happened is not my fault.
As I grieved the loss of my childhood and my innocence, God held me and comforted me. He also placed around me a number of friends who helped me through this painful time. One of them was a woman named Wendy, who had been my colleague for about 5 years. Over those years, a good friendship developed, and almost without knowing it, I came to love her. We were married in July 1991, not in the mistaken belief that marriage "cures" homosexuality, but because I truly loved her and was attracted to her. This was a great surprise to me; I hadn't expected to get married, nor had I been sexually attracted to women before.
About three years ago, I started working through the severest abuse incident. With difficulty, I had told Wendy and another friend, Don, and dealt with some of the related issues. Now I realize that there is more work to do. I still feel tremendous shame about the things that were done to me. Though I know in my mind that I am not bad, I sometimes still feel bad about who I am. I am slowly beginning to tell more people about what happened when I was abused, thus taking the power out of a secret that I have carried for years. Neither Garry nor Dave, both of whom I told recently, think less of me because of it. Their responses reflect to me how God sees me, and that He does not blame me for what happened.
I used to be -- but am no longer -- exclusively homosexual. I now experience sexual attraction to women. I find my physical relationship with Wendy very satisfying, without needing homosexual fantasies for this to be the case. Though I still experience some attraction to men, I expect this will continue to decrease as the abuse and its shame are worked through, and as I gain a greater sense of my masculinity.
I have to keep going to God -- I need to have His truth and His light shine on the lies which I have believed for too long. He really knows who I am, and all that He created me to be, and I look forward to its continued unfolding.
[Eight months later]
For a long time I had no idea what to do about the shame I felt. It was only after seeing a television interview with a police officer who had been raped that I knew what needed to be done. She had not overcome what happened to her until she began breaking the silence and speaking about her experience. I realized then that I too needed to tell more people about what happened to me.
The first new person I told was Dave, the youth pastor at my church. I knew he could be trusted from having talked with him previously about other issues, but it still took several hours to be able to tell him about having been raped by a man in front of some of my peers while in my early teens. After I left his office, I noticed three things. First, it no longer seemed to be such a horrible secret. Secondly, I was amazed that he -- another man -- would have given me his whole afternoon. And I began to feel angry at the man who had raped me.
A number of weeks later, I asked Dave an important question: "Do you think I'm bad because of what happened?" My brain knew the right answer to that, but my heart did not. He said, "It never crossed my mind that you might be bad because of what happened." I had expected Dave to say that, because of such-and-such reasons, he didn't think I was bad. That it had never crossed his mind was completely unexpected, and God used that answer to start reaching my heart.
In late spring, I told Garry, a close friend who had been there for me as I had worked through some of the other abuse. I asked him the same question. He didn't think I was bad either.
In July I had coffee with Richard, one of the first people I had told about my struggles with homosexuality. When I told him this secret, it was no longer necessary to ask if he thought I was bad. The truth had made it to my heart and the shame was gone.
Anger remained, however, as did the pain and hurt behind it. On several occasions I was able to connect to these feelings, and to grieve the pain and loss which I had experienced many years before. In the middle of summer, realizing that the anger needed to be worked through, I thought of doing a drawing to express what I felt. The opportunity to do this came in early September, when Don and I went to the cottage for a weekend. In preparation I took along paper, coloured markers, and a photocopy of the man's face.
On the Saturday afternoon, I began to feel angry, and in my anger began to imagine what I would do with the photocopied picture, including what to write on it and how to mutilate it. After a few minutes of actually drawing and mutilating, the process fizzled and I began to cry. It struck me that this was a picture of a real person -- not a nice person, nor a good person, but a human being who is loved by God just as much as I am -- and therefore that wanting bad things to happen to him is just as wrong as him having done bad things to me. I was able to forgive him for the evil he had done. Seeing his humanity also meant that his power over me was gone. His definition of me and of what a real man should be like lost its meaning, and I was able to connect to my own masculinity.
I've waited a long time for this. For too many years, the little boy inside me was afraid of men and afraid of being a man. Unaffirmed in my masculinity and separated from it, I tried to find it in other men. I don't need to do that anymore. The pain and shame of the abuse have been resolved and healed. Now it no longer seems strange to see a grown man when I look in the mirror. I no longer automatically think of all other men as being taller than me; only those who really are. And I know at a deep gut-level that I'm a man not because I meet someone else's criteria, but because God has created me to be a man and in His love walked with me on the long journey of connecting to this reality myself.