Having a lesbian identity was the best thing that had happened to me...I'd been rejected by men...ridiculed all my life for being a tomboy. I was angry about being treated as "different" from other girls, tired of the pain of rejection...I mean, as soon as I learned what "homosexual" meant, I knew that was me. I had no interest in men...and it just felt so natural, so I acted on it. As a lesbian, it was great to finally have an identity that fit. I loved being gay...but down deep inside, I wondered if living like this was right. Of course, I didn't think there was any way out...I mean, I was born this way, right? So why did I feel the doubt? When I let Christ into my life, He opened my eyes to a love I had never experienced before, but had always wanted. I learned how He had a different purpose for my life...and saw how His unconditional love helped me to heal the pain I'd covered for so long...I really thought I belonged before, but believe me, there's no better life than being with God.
I looked around the crowded courtroom. I knew I was guilty of a pretty serious crime. Six months before, two other women and I had set fire to a naval building in Jacksonville, Florida. The structure was totally destroyed. Now the case was over, and I was about to be sentenced. I held my breath as the judge looked at me.
"Young lady, you are guilty of willful destruction of federal property. I sentence you to seven years in prison."
Seven years in prison! I couldn't believe it. How had I gotten myself into such a mess?
Actually, it wasn't much of a surprise to anyone that my life had come to this. I was only 23, but I'd been going down the wrong path for years.
All my life I felt different from other girls. I believed God had made a mistake--I should have been born male. "God, please change me into a boy," I used to pray. "Then people will like me and accept me." People always said that I looked and acted more like a boy. I felt deeply hurt and rejected; I didn't like being a girl
As I entered the sixth grade, I became aware of my sexualily. Then one day I heard someone use the word "homo." I asked what it meant. As soon as they told me, I knew I was one. But I kept my discovery to myself.
I began rebelling. In order to be accepted by my peers, I began smoking, and using alcohol and drugs.
My parents did their best to love me, but I was emotionally troubled and they could not reach me. I couldn't relate to my two younger sisters who were very feminine; my older brother and I didn't relate either. I felt like the "black sheep" of the family. I just didn't fit in.
Then, at age 13, I developed a serious crush on my P.E. teacher. She became my idol. Though I was failing everywhere else, I excelled in athletics. I lived in a world of fantasy, dreaming about being romantic with my P.E. teacher. I imagined myself to be strong and masculine, and even dreamed of marrying one of my girlfriends.
I didn't care about school. I started to run away from home. I was getting in more and more trouble with alcohol and drugs. At 15 I dropped out of school; the next year, my parents and I decided that it would be best for me to live with my aunt in California. I left home for good.
I didn't stay long with my aunt. Instead I began hanging out with a woman who introduced me to promiscuous sex with men, LSD and rock 'n' roll. I had fallen in love with this woman, so I'd do whatever she asked. During the year I spent with her, I became increasingly more aware that I might be a lesbian.
People began to notice my behavior around this woman, but I never talked to anyone about my true feelings toward other women.
During that year, my connection with my family was pretty well broken; I was really on my own. On my seventeenth birthday I ended up in the hospital from my first overdose of drugs.
Then I met a man who wanted to marry me. Mark was in love with me but I knew I could not be with a man. Finally I told Mark that I wanted a sex change. He even went with me to set up an appointment with a sex-change psychiatrist. I never did keep that appointment. However, instead, I broke up with Mark. My desire to be with a woman had become very clear to me.
At the age of 18,I joined the Army. I'd heard they had a lot of lesbians, and I had to find out if that's what I was.
In basic training, my first female lover was 13 years older than me. When she took me to my first lesbian bar, I was elated with feelings of belonging and acceptance. At last I fit in; I had a new sense of identity. I was a lesbian.
After a few months I broke up with my lover and left the army. I totally submerged myself into the lesbian lifesyle. I went to the bars several times a week. I loved my new lifestyle. In the bars I was popular and considered an attractive, young lesbian. What a change from growing up feeling like such a misfit!
I searched for the perfect lover, someone with whom I could spend the rest of my life. I began going from one relationship to another, but none of them lasted very long.
Although I'd believed in Jesus since I was a little girl, I didn't know much about the Bible, except the stories I'd heard in Sunday School. I tried to live by those stories, being kind, forgiving and generous.
I don't want to go to hell, I thought. But I was born gay, so there is no way to change. I drank even more to numb the guilt inside.
Then I joined the Navy and ended up in Jacksonville, Florida. Drinking took over my life. I went through several alcohol rehab programs before the Navy diagnosed me as a "hopeless, chronic alcoholic." In 1979 I was discharged.
After getting out of the Navy, I found a new lover. She helped me to stop drinking and get my life back together. I got more interested in gay rights. My lover aud I travelled to Washington, D C. to participate in the first National Gay and Lesbian March in October 1979. I felt my calling was to fight for the rights of "my people."
Two weeks later, a close friend in the Navy tried to kill herself. She was being discharged for being gay. When her lover came over at 3 a.m., I had been drinking and dropping acid.
In my drug-induced state, I decided to retaliate against the Navy by throwing a Moletov cocktail at the Naval Investigative Service building on base. I put some kerosene in a bottle filled with rags and two friends went with me over to the NIS building. The fire we started was a lot bigger than we expected. The whole building burned down and eventually we were caught and sentenced.
In prison I began to sober up. I couldn't drink as much as before, and I began seeking the Lord. God must have a purpose for my life, I thought, and I wanted to know what it was. My little sister and her husband were praying for me; when I talked to them, I could sense God's love for me.
I had noticed a group of Christian women inmates who frequently prayed together. I knew one of them--she had recently become a Christian and had given up being gay.
"Dawn, can we pray for your knee?" she asked me one day. She knew I was going in for surgery, due to an injury.
I agreed. Besides asking the Lord to heal my knee, some of them quietly began rebuking evil spirits in my life. As they prayed, I felt increasingly light and joyful, like a thousand pounds were being lifted from my shoulders.
A couple of weeks later, I picked up a book about the Bible that my sister and her husband had sent me. Maybe the Bible is true, I thought. I got my Bible and opened it up. As I began reading, the words pierced my heart. I knew it was true; homosexuality was not God's will for me.
I knelt beside my prison bed and asked Jesus to come into my heart and to forgive me for my sins, including my lesbian involvement. Now I wanted only His will. My life changed radically. I said goodbye to all my gay friends, including my lover, and began devouring the Bible.
After two-and-a-half years I was released. As a young believer, I was zealous for the Lord, becoming involved in teaching Bible studies and doing prison ministry. I wanted to serve God in any way that I could.
I had been a Christian for almost four years when I began to experience homosexual temptations again. I met two gay women on the job and began witnessing to them. But before long, I felt myself being pulled back into lesbianism. I had left my church because of some false teaching and I had no church body to help me. I became more and more isolated.
After several months of extreme loneliness, I gave in to the desire to drink. On several occasions, I went to a women's gay bar. I felt desperate for relief from my loneliness and isolation. After a few times of doing this I felt devastated. How could I do this to the Lord after all He'd done for me? Brokenhearted, I cried out to Him for help.
I started attending a Bible study where a woman heard about my background and told me about Love In Action. By that time I was desperate for help. I called LIA and Anita Worthen invited me to one of the women's meetings.
During the meeting, I was so excited. Here were other women just like me, who loved the Lord with all their hearts but who also struggled with homosexual feelngs. Shortly after that, Anita invited me to move into one of the live-in houses and I jumped at the chance.
Being in the live-in program was like checking into a spiritual hospital to undergo major surgery in a safe and healing environment. The Lord used the program to reveal the root causes of my choosing the lesbian lifestyle. Deep-seated feelings of rejection and a detachment from the feminine came to the surface: I began to realize that I had been wounded emotionally and lesbianism was the outward result.
As a child I had detached from my mother; cutting myself off from her love left me with a huge love deficit. That's what I was looking for in my lesbian relationships. I was attempting to repair the detachment.
Facing my emotions was incredibly difficult; there were so many times I wanted to quit. But the Lord used the program, especially my house leaders, to encourage me to persevere. God's faithfulness through them enabled me to receive the healing I needed in order to become the woman God had always meant for me to be.
Today I consider myself to be fully heterosexual; I no longer have a lesbian identity. I am delighted that God has made me a woman, although it has taken a few years to walk through the damaged emotions especially in regard to my gender identity and my detachment from the same sex.
Only God's love could truly bring the healing I needed; no person could ever fill that deficit. Learning to receive His unconditional love and His total acceptance of me has freed me from the deficit I once had. The Lord has done so much in bringing healing in my relationship with my parents. Today everyone in my family is a Christian.
As a leader in Love In Action, I've had the privilege now to be a part of helping other women out of the lesbian lifestyle, comforting others with the comfort God has given me (2 Cor. 1:4). There's nothing more exciting than watching Jesus set another captive free!
Ironically, my true freedom began when I was still incarcerated. Though I was surrounded by prison walls, Jesus gave me a liberty I'd never known before. Now I know that freedom isn't a matter of location; it's a matter of the heart.
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