The Man in the Mirror
Imagine - me married!
A day of rejoicing and celebration, of sharing love between family and friends. At my side was my wife, the woman I loved. But special as it was, our wedding held a much deeper significance.
There was a time when I would never have believed such fulfilment was possible for me. Only three years earlier, I was lost in pursuit of my identity; desperately seeking love and acceptance. I was transsexual - or at least that's what my psychiatrist called it. Although physically a man, I felt "trapped" in the wrong body. I was obsessed with the desire to change my outward gender and conform my body to what I believed I really was - both mentally and emotionally. I convinced myself, and worked hard to convince others, that sex-change surgery was necessary for me if I was ever to lead a fulfilled life.
Watching movies as a child, I noticed that the girl was always the object of the hero's attention and affection. My heart would ache as I thought, "I wish I were wanted like that." Years later, I would live out my childhood fantasy and become "like a woman" in the hope of being truly loved at last.
The first half of my life was an emotional concentration camp: My alcoholic mother was killed in a car wreck when I was four. Prior to that, I was sexually molested by a family "friend." After my mom's death, I was separated from my father for a year. I lived in an emotional vacuum. My identity and security as a male was left unaffirmed and unnourished. Later in school, I was routinely ridiculed, rejected and physically abused due to my effeminate mannerisms. Even though I tried to "conform" to the norm", I was continually labelled a homosexual and a failure as a man. It's no wonder I had problems. As a teenager, I had not yet identified myself as a homosexual. Yet, I was certainly aware of my attractions to the same sex and I felt fear and shame. A few years later, when eventually involving myself in the gay scene, I felt such a sense of relief. I felt accepted and understood. At last, I had a place to belong. It was great for a while. Soon I was living in the fast lane, and always surrounding myself with others who would reaffirm and reinforce the gay life.
I was eventually stationed in Hawaii. There I totally pursued darkness, immersing myself in Honolulu's gay scene. Many homosexuals are mature and responsible but I, like many others, was not. I got involved in minor prostitution, drug abuse, and the sometimes-dangerous life of the street.
But I also began to grow weary of the gay lifestyle I was involved in. Behind the facade of acceptance and the promise of love, I saw many unhappy, cynical, and desperate people. They were all searching for that elusive "perfect match" that would fulfil them. Couples who claimed to be in love were often objects of envy and doubt. "How long will it last this time?...Could this be all there is to life?" I asked myself. Most of my gay friends said we were born gay - we couldn't change. Some even believed God had created them to be homosexual.
After being on tour in the Orient for several months, I learned that my two closest gay friends were now attending a "gay church" - the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of Honolulu. Founded in Los Angeles in 1968, MCC openly welcomes homosexuals and interprets the Bible to portray a God who blesses monogamous homosexual relationships.
I wasn't really interested in God at the time, but I did like the idea of a religion that approved of my sexuality. Up to this point religious people, though often sincere, seemed only to offer me a message of condemnation. I thought that God loved heterosexuals. Eventually my two gay friends became the first male couple to be "married" in the state of Hawaii. I was one of the best men at their wedding.
In the spring of 1977, I completed my tour of active military duty and returned to my hometown. A few months later, I received a letter from my gay friends - the "married couple" in Hawaii. They told me that their marriage was over, and that they had turned away from the homosexual lifestyle and identity. They were now Christians. They said that the teachings of the gay church were not true, but that I could find the truth for myself in the Bible. They hoped I would understand, and closed by saying they were praying for me. I had never heard anything like this before. "What traitors!" I thought.
My own journey out of the gay life first began with my attempt at securing male love by becoming a woman through a sex change. Though I did not get around to ever having the surgery, I was on hormone therapy and lived as a woman for about a year and a half. Yet, even then I realised that surgery couldn't really solve my problems and wouldn't secure love for me. Realizing that I hadn't managed my life very well on my own, I finally began sincerely seeking after God. I turned to the Bible, knowing I'd find the answer there.
"Come now, and let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool. If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken." (Isaiah 1:18-20)
As I read this scripture, I broke. Bitterness, guilt and shame for the lost years of my life poured out as I wept at the foot of my bed. I admitted my failure and guilt before God as I cried out to Him, "God, I cannot change what I am, but I'm willing to be changed. I know you have the power. Make me the man you want me to be!"
To be pleasing to God, to be loved and not rejected by Him - that was all I wanted. As I prayed my life into His hands, trusting Him, the "old man" died and the "new me" was born! What had happened to me? I wasn't sure, but I felt good. Peaceful. Clean. Forgiven. And confident that God would be with me now to help me begin living a decidedly different life.
It was my re-ignited faith in God that led me down a new path I once thought impossible for me. It wasn't that I was trying to stop being gay. I didn't know "how"- or if it was possible. I was however, willing to stop living my life onmy terms. Instead, I yielded to God on His terms. That was in January 1980.
At the time, my gay friends thought I was crazy. They said I'd be back in the bars in a week - a month - a year. I never went back. But it wasn't easy. I did have a lot of struggles in the beginning, but like most worthwhile efforts, perseverance paid off. Today I very much enjoy the opportunity to live beyond my past problems. I enjoy being a husband since 1982, and a father. It isn't proof that I'm not gay, but it is evidence of a life I never thought possible. My recovery process took time and work and the encouragement and accountability of my supportive friends. More importantly, my recovery depended on my willingness to co-operate with God. Over the years and around the globe, everyone that I personally know - or know of - that has overcome homosexuality has been enabled to do so as a direct consequence of a life yielded to God and committed to the way of Christ. Though I'll never live my life as if I had never been homosexual, I am able to live beyond having been homosexual.
Being my own toughest critic, I sometimes have difficulty seeing the changes God has brought about in my life. I may never live up to society's unrealistic standard of manliness. But then I live by a different set of values now - I look to Jesus. He is my example, my ultimate goal, and the object of my desire.
In over a decade of living this challenging yet satisfying new life, I've had a unique opportunity to travel the world and minister to the sexually broken. I have met many hundreds (if not thousands) of men and women who have overcome various sexual disorders. Many more are "in process of recovery", a phrase I believe accurately describes God's ongoing triumph in the lives of those reconciled to Him. As has often been said, "God gets glory out of the process - not just the end result." Becoming a Christian is just the beginning!
One evening while I was preparing for bed, the Lord spoke to my heart saying, "Look in the mirror - tell Me what you see." I looked for a moment and said, "I see a new creation!" He said, "Yes, but look again."
So I did, and then said, "I see a child of the King - a servant of Jesus - and beauty from the ashes of my old life." Yet I knew these weren't the answers He was looking for. What was the Lord trying to show me? I looked in the mirror again.
"What do you see, My son?"
At last I understood. "I see that the man, the man in the mirror - is me"