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Jan 2004

An ex-lesbian returns to her faith

Editor's Note: Rev. Dawn McDonald is a priest at Holy Cross Japanese Canadian Anglican Church in Vancouver. She delivered a moving testimony to during the so-called dialogue process when the New Westminster Anglican diocese was moving to blessing same-sex unions. A version of this testimonial appeared in the December 2003 issue of PRINT.

By Rev. Dawn McDonald
Special to The Interim

In many ways, being an ex-gay is even more difficult than being gay. To many Christians, my story is "politically incorrect," and there is opposition from every corner. Many are quick to disqualify my story; many have told me that I was never homosexual, or that I am still homosexual and living in denial. I know where I have been, and I know what the Lord has done in my life, and I do not need you to believe me. Take it or leave it, this is a story of the Gospel and how it transformed my life.

Christians understand that the Gospel can transform lives. For many who are trying to leave the homosexual lifestyle, it is absolutely essential that the Church keeps upholding the message that Christ can transform lives. For those wanting to leave the lifestyle, there is extreme pressure to remain. I have agreed to tell my story because I do not want the church to forget that God can transform lives. I am telling you my story as a plea for a safe place for those who wish to come out of the homosexual lifestyle.

As far back as I can remember, I always had a feeling that I was different: partly due to the fact that I was a missionary's kid growing up in Japan, but partly because I carried a feeling that I was God's mistake, and caught in the wrong body. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a boy. I had three brothers whom I played with, and most of my friends were boys. I was certain that I was a boy in a girl's body. For Grade 7, I was sent to a girls' school. There, I met up with a very strong attraction toward one of my classmates. My father told me that it was simply forbidden. After that school year, I was transferred to a local Japanese school and encouraged to date boys. I was always aware of my "homosexual tendencies," but I felt my faith in Christ required me to live my life out as a straight person. But when I was 20, I met an Australian woman who managed to coax me into giving up fighting the battle that "I was going to lose anyway."

I entered into a homosexual relationship that lasted 13 years; the lifestyle felt so right, and I was certain that I was "born" homosexual.

But the story I just told you has left out much of my journey, and most certainly the dark stuff. When I was born, my father wanted a boy. I grew up feeling I was a great disappointment to my father, and no matter how hard I tried, I was never able to please him. Today, I believe he actually passed on the feeling to me that I was a mistake. I was also growing up in Japan where being a boy was better than being a girl. My brothers were always getting treated better, and I knew it had nothing to do with abilities, for I knew I could do everything that my brothers could do. The natural conclusion in my young mind was that I should have been a boy, and I was in the wrong body. Thus, I identified with the males around me, and developed some masculine mannerisms and speech patterns.

But to complicate things, I was being sexually abused by my father's students, and because I felt my father disapproved of me, I was unable to tell anyone of the abuse. Like all kids who are sexually abused, I felt ashamed, and I was certain that my father would punish me for what was happening. For years, I hated myself and suffered from low self-esteem.

During my teens. I was always at loggerheads with my father. He was a strict disciplinarian, and I was always looking for ways to rebel. When I was 18, my parents decided to send me to Nova Scotia to live with my grandparents on my mother's side, where I was raped by my own grandfather, and when I went running to my uncle to get help, I was raped by him as well. I knew I could not stay in Nova Scotia and I ran to California, where I ended up on the streets. I saw many things while on the streets. And what I most hated was constant soliciting by men wanting sex for money. I had no money, and I was going hungry, but to this day, I thank God for the Christian virtues my parents gave me, for they kept me from becoming one of the statistics.

Eventually, one of my uncles came through and wired me some money to send me back to Japan, where my father greeted me with anger and told me I should not have come home. I felt truly homeless. 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. When I awoke, I was no longer able to trust any man.

I was very confused for a couple of years, and my sexuality was on hold. I found I had a lot of anger in me, and I didn't know where to turn. I found myself in search of a place I could call home. At 20, I became a missionary in a Pentecostal church in Japan. I had no formal training and I was not prepared to face the sufferings of the descendants of Korean slaves, nor was I prepared for the high suicide rate. I was questioning the very existence of God when I met the Australian woman who offered me the comfort that I desperately wanted. I made my choice then to walk away from my Christian beliefs, and surrender to the need to hold and to be held.

Leaving the position as a missionary, I returned to Vancouver and began the relationship that lasted 13 years. But during these years, I was not faithful. 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. I am ashamed to say, I was pretty promiscuous, and most of my lovers were other women who were in long-term relationships as well. There was plenty of affirmation from my lovers. But whenever my father visited me in Vancouver, he was always preaching at me, and telling me that I was going straight to hell for my lifestyle. In fact, that is what most Christians whom I knew told me.

But our awesome God grabbed a hold of me one day! When I was back in Japan for my brother-in-law's funeral, I went to see a friend. I had written to him and told him that I was in a homosexual relationship, and I was afraid he would give me the same line that most Christians gave me. But because he was so dear to me, I felt one visit with him was worth anything that he could possibly say. I was prepared to be told off, but instead, he welcomed me into his arms. That day, he talked to me, and treated me as though I had never left the faith in spite of where I'd been. And through him, I met my heavenly Father, the God of unconditional love. I wanted more of this unconditional love, but I was not certain about the rest of Christianity, nor where my lifestyle was fitting into all this. And I remember shooting up a prayer that day, asking God to reveal himself to me.

A couple of months later, I was in a car accident and in the hospital for about 10 days. Through this experience, I came to realize that I was given a second chance to make the most of my life. Shortly after the accident, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night singing, "Father, I adore you ... Jesus, I adore you ... Spirit, I adore you." I knew that before my mind ever understood, my spirit knew the God of unconditional love. I was claimed for Christ at my baptism, and God was now claiming me back!

About a month later, I went to an Anglican church for the first time in 14 years. During the sermon, my mind wandered, and I started to see different scenes of my life flash in front of me. It was as though I was watching a movie. All the things I had done, one scene at a time, and with each scene, came a sense of grief. How can I possibly start anew with such a past? Scenes of me telling my father that I hated him, that hell would be heavenly if he wasn't going to be there. Scenes of me with a woman, of me in the gay bars, of my selfish acts. Scene after scene kept coming and everything seemed to be there. My grief kept growing to a point where it felt as though my heart was going to burst. In agony, I cried out, "Lord, I know I've been sinful. Please stop!" and the waves of scenes stopped immediately. When communion started, there was a "knowledge" 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 covered me, and swept through my body from my head to toes. It was an awesome feeling. I had never felt so loved as I did that moment. And when I returned to my seat, I realized that for the first time in my whole life, I was feeling totally accepted and clean. Everything was behind me, and I was now being given a new life in Christ!

That day, during com-munion, God did much more in me. He didn't stop at washing my sins away and making me clean. He gave me much more. He totally took away the urges and attractions toward other women, and He started me off on a process of inner healing. Not only did God reconcile me to himself through the blood of Christ, He has also brought reconciliation between my father and me. Today, God continues to reveal the scars and reasons that 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!

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