The Other Way Out
The Stories Of John And Anne Paulk
Homosexuality is one of the most controversial topics of our day. Its causes have been debated and people wonder, “Can the homosexual be changed?” According to many, the answer is no; however, it is possible to change one’s sexual orientation. This article gives the true stories of a man and woman whose lives speak to this intensely important yet highly delicate subject.
Secure in My Feminine Identity
I grew up as a classic tomboy, mostly playing cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers. When I was about four years old, an event happened which profoundly shook my inner security. A teenage boy approached me sexually, then warned me not to tell my parents. I never said a word, fearful that we would both get into big trouble. This silence left me to reap a lot of self-inflicted pain, and the whole incident only reinforced my tomboy image. I did not feel protected or valued as a girl.
I also craved special affirmation as a girl from my dad, but could not tell him why. For years I believed lies about myself, God and men. And the sexual experience (when I was four) kept me from embracing femininity which, to me, meant being weak and vulnerable.
Then I found myself having crushes on some of my girlfriends. I was talented in athletics, so I joined the softball team in high school, but continued to avoid most feminine activities. I didn’t feel pretty or lovable.
At church, the youth group seemed shallow. I felt disappointed that everyone behaved just like the non-Christian kids at school, and I became disillusioned. Soon I discarded church altogether, and began getting into wild behavior: drinking, dating three boys at one time, and eventually exploring homosexual relationships.
Then I went to college and met Sara. She seemed so confident and strong as a woman. Men adored her, but they only seemed to ridicule and use me. It was then, in early 1982, I realized my feelings for Sara were sexual. So I decided to look up an old boyfriend to “test” my orientation. Although he was a nice guy, I felt no attraction to him. After that, I decided to pursue my attractions for women. At the suggestion of a gay counselor, I joined the college gay/lesbian group.
But during one of those meetings, I had a piercing thought: There really is something wrong with this lifestyle. I was heartbroken by the words that shattered my dreams of finding happiness with a female life-partner. After the meeting, I went home and cried. “God,” I prayed, “please show me who you are, and fill the void in my heart.”
After that prayer, I began experiencing a new hunger to know Jesus Christ. Within six months, I made a firm decision to forsake homosexuality and follow him. But, unfortunately, none of the leaders on campus or at church knew how to give me hope that my sexual attraction for women would change. My commitment to Christ, however, enabled me to persevere in the face of this discouragement. I immersed myself in Christian activity, although the homosexual attractions never went away.
Eventually I fell into a sexual relationship with Laura, a Christian girlfriend who, like me, struggled with lesbianism. Laura and I looked to each other for emotional fulfillment. At first, it seemed like many of my childhood dreams were being fulfilled through our relationship. But along with some satisfaction came conviction, deception and emotional instability. Laura became my top priority over work, family and friends. Many areas in our lives suffered as a result. Laura even battled with suicidal thoughts. Then Laura and I tried to remain friends, but stop the sexual part of our relationship. But it never worked, because we never addressed the underlying issues.
Finally, after three months of resisting God, I said a very honest prayer: “Lord, you know that I really enjoy this lifestyle, but I want you to be my first love. I need your help. I need you to change my heart.” This prayer marked a major turning point in my life.
Shortly after my prayer, Laura and I had dinner with a Christian woman who was a former lesbian. She listened to our story and our questions, and through her we made contact with a Christian ministry solely devoted to helping people overcome homosexuality. The people loved us and cared for us, and eventually Laura and I agreed to give our relationship to God and avoid all contact with each other.
Though angry and frustrated over the break-up with Laura, I continued going to the ministry’s meetings for the next 18 months. The insights I gained there were incredibly valuable. I learned how to look for patterns in my same-sex attractions, so I could understand the underlying needs which sparked the temptations in the first place.
I continued to grow in my relationship with God, and eventually I realized that something had changed deep inside of me. God changed my sexual identity from ex-gay to godly woman. I was learning that God loved me with a gentle delight, especially when I relied on his strength.
During this time, I found myself having a new interest in men, and began spending time with them in group situations. Then, in mid-1991, I began dating John Paulk, a man in my church who like me had come out of homosexuality. On December 31, 1991, he presented me with a ring and asked me to marry him. We were married the following July. I kept looking happily at the ring, thinking, “Wow! Me married!” I was filled with joy as God established something so beautiful and holy in our lives.
Since then, God has used John to comfort me and to confront areas of distrust in my life. This has been difficult, but the Lord has been faithful to fulfill his promise to heal, even when the process is uncomfortable. I am so glad that my Father took the time to unearth the hurts that held me back from growing into godly femininity. Now I don’t need to compare myself to other women and don’t seek to gain femininity from them through emotional dependency or homosexual relationships. My identity is secure as a woman because I know Christ.
Taking Off the Mask
My parents divorced when I was five. My dad took my sister and me to a park, knelt down beside us, and told us good-bye. For the rest of my childhood, I lived with a continuous insecurity that the people I loved would always walk out of my life.
Around other boys, I felt terribly insecure and different. And because I wasn’t good in sports and was effeminate, they called me names like fag, queer andsissy.
I started drinking alcohol when I was 14. I drank to numb the pain inside and to escape from my feelings of self-hatred and inadequacy. Then, when I was 15, a girl from school told me about Jesus Christ while we were talking on the phone one day. I believed everything she said about the Bible, and, after hanging up the phone, I knelt down and asked Jesus to come into my life. I sought him fervently after that, but since no one else in my family was a Christian, I fell away after six months.
When I was a senior in high school, a friend took me to a gay bar for the first time. A whole new world opened up to me. All the attention I got from other men was overwhelming. I soon fell in love with a guy named Curt. Our sexual relationship seemed so natural, and I slipped into the gay lifestyle and let go of my childhood dream of having a wife and family. But my relationship with Curt began to deteriorate and we split up after a year. Once again I lost someone who I thought would stay with me forever. Our break-up was so hard on me that I dropped out of college and moved back home with my mother.
My drinking increased, and I became so miserable that I tried to take my life. Then, due to my poor self-image and lack of money, I started working as a male prostitute. I’d be dropped off at a hotel room and sell my body for $80 an hour. By the end of that summer, I was emotionally burned out. I remember crying myself to sleep after I came home from allowing myself to be sexually used all night.
Another significant event happened that summer. At a gay bar, I saw a male friend dressed like a woman. His feminine appearance looked so real. I was fascinated and one night he put makeup and a wig on me. I was astonished to see a beautiful “woman” looking back at me.
Over the next three years I threw everything into being the best woman I could. I was proud to be a drag queen and even adopted the name “Candi.” Soon I became popular as a female impersonator, not just locally but in neighboring states as well. But inside I still hated myself. One night on the dance floor I said to God, “I know you can help me-someday I’ll come back to you.”
In October 1985, my psychologist confronted me about my heavy drinking. I began attending AA meetings. After six months of sobriety, my head began to clear. One day I put all of my dresses, high heels, wigs, jewelry and makeup into a cardboard box and threw it into a dumpster. “Candi, I don’t need you anymore. I’m saying good-bye” I said. My drag friends tried to convince me that I’d be back.
Very shortly after that, a college pastor from a nearby church asked if he could talk to me. He came to my apartment and told me about Jesus Christ. I stopped him after twenty minutes and said, “I know all about the Gospel. I used to be a Christian when I was 15. But I was born gay, so forget it!”
“No, you weren’t,” he answered. Then he read from Genesis 2: “And God created man… male and female… And God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” The truth came shining through. I was convinced that homosexuality was not something I was born with or something I had to stay in. That week I dug out my Bible and started to read it again. After wrestling with the decision for days, I knelt down beside my bed. “Lord, I don’t know how to get out of homosexuality, but I will follow you. No matter how difficult it gets, I’ll never turn away from you again.” It was February 10, 1987. I had finally found someone who would never leave me.
Something inside me was different now. At a gay AA meeting, the topic of whether homosexuals go to heaven came up. “It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight,” I told them, “If we believe in Jesus Christ we’ll go to heaven.” My friends were shocked. They’d never heard me say such a thing before. Most of them I never heard from again.
Over the next year, I struggled quite a bit. I had gotten rid of all my homosexual paraphernalia and pornography, but I was terribly afraid of rejection by straight men, even at my church. During that time I found the name of a Christian ministry that reached out to homosexuals. I contacted the ministry and eventually moved to the town where it was located. As I was leaving, my mother said, “John, you’ve worked hard to change your life this past year. I’m so proud of you.”
“I only had Christ to lean on,” I told her. “He did the changing-not me.”
With that Christian ministry’s help, I discovered that my concept of God was distorted. I had a difficult time accepting the reality of his total love and acceptance. The concept of being loved for just being me was totally incomprehensible. But God wanted to change my identity as a man. He did, and over time I no longer doubted his acceptance of me. I was also finally able to forgive my parents for their emotional neglect and the ways I felt they had rejected me.
My process out of homosexuality has been slow, but solid. My male friendships have eventually grown to a place where I feel secure in my masculinity and know who I am among other men. And at some point, even though Christ had filled the empty places of my heart, he also gave me the desire to have someone else there. In 1991 I fell in love with a beautiful, godly woman who had also come from a homosexual background. We were married in 1992. I cried all the way through our wedding vows, knowing Christ was fulfilling my dream. God’s transforming power was so evident during our wedding that my mother and stepfather prayed to receive Jesus Christ that night.
In the past, I could never say, “I’m a man.” But now I’m a different person, a “new creature in Christ.” I can be loved just because I’m his. In the past, there were many masks I hid behind to protect myself from being hurt again. But now I see that they only stood in the way of God’s love reaching through to me. In Jesus Christ I’ve found the love and acceptance I was looking for all along.
No Easy Way
If you’re someone whose emotional and sexual attractions are clearly towards people of the same sex, life is going to be tough, no matter what. Consider the options:
You can pursue the gay lifestyle. For most people, this means pursuing that person who will satisfy those deep inner longings-a pursuit that never seems to end. For others, the pursuit turns very sexual, and the other person becomes merely a warm body, a sexual object who can ease the pain and longing temporarily, but who meets no lasting need.
There is a second difficult road you can take: withdrawal. Knowing that the gay life will not satisfy, or perhaps sensing that it is somehow wrong, but believing that you have no other option, you can withdraw. At best, you can deny your emotional and sexual feelings, stay away from relationships that could cause you pain.
There is a third way, also difficult, that many have found-the way of freedom and real change. Right now this might seem like the most difficult option, even an impossible one. However, through a relationship with God it is possible to experience a new life… a genuinely changed life. God can free us from things in our lives that we have absolutely no power to change on our own. He has changed the lives of many homosexuals. Usually, it’s not instantly, not overnight, but steadily.
The Way Out of Homosexuality
Homosexuality is overcome by building a relationship with Jesus Christ and letting him heal the underlying root issues. Our deliverance comes from a person, rather than from a method. Therefore, it is important that we build a relationship with God, our Deliverer. We must know him better than we know those around us. And in fact, for true deliverance, Christ must become the most important person in our lives. How can we come to know Jesus Christ?
Agreement with God
To begin with, if you are seeking the truth, you have already been touched by the Holy Spirit. One of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction of sin.
The first message Christ gave was one of repentance. Through the Holy Spirit, we have been given an awareness that homosexuality is not pleasing to God (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). So the first step is to agree with God that homosexual activities are sin.
Receiving Jesus Christ
John 1:12 gives us the next step: “To all who received him [Jesus Christ], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” In order for Jesus to work in our lives, we must not only agree with him that homosexuality is sin, but we must trust in him for the forgiveness of all of our sins, including homosexuality.
The Bible says that, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus Christ was crucified-nailed to a cross until death-for our sins. He died in our place: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, God looks upon us as if we’d lived the same perfect life that Jesus lived. That’s God’s grace. No matter what activities you’ve been involved in, God offers you his forgiveness.
After receiving Christ, we enter into a love relationship with him…the God of the universe. This is an eternal relationship and we no longer have to worry and wonder how we are going to know him-he will reveal himself to us daily in many ways. We are now his child.
A New Life
Upon receiving Christ, God says that we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). He changes us on the inside and gives us new desires. We find ourselves making decisions to live a more upright life. We experience a new freedom to say “no,” with a motivation to please God. Satisfying our sexual urges becomes secondary. God brings new priorities into our life-living according to the truth, living with self-respect, living with greater concern for others’ welfare, living a less self- centered life.
Also, God gives us a peace we never had before. This doesn’t mean a “rose garden” from God or from the world. We will pass through many struggles and the change may come painfully at times and may be very gradual. However, we are not struggling alone. In the midst of our troubles, we have the peace of Christ in our hearts.
This peace is something the world knows nothing about-only someone who belongs to Christ can know the comfort of his peace. Through Christ living within us, we become adequate for any trial. He asks that we give all of our anxiety over to him, because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Submission to Christ
In spite of the change God will bring in our life, we still have a will that often will want to slip back into our “pre-Christ” ways. Therefore, the height of victory over homosexuality is directly related to our willingness to submit ourselves completely to God.
To experience the most abundant life, we must relinquish all control of our life to God’s love and power. Our own plans and desires must come second to God’s plans and desires for us. To come out of homosexuality, we must be submitted to Jesus Christ as our Lord, and we must do this on a daily basis.
Many people, after a length of time, believe that they are sufficiently out of homosexuality to once again take control of their life. This is a serious error-the commitment we make to Christ is for life. When we take back control of our life, we ask for trouble. The results can often be disastrous.
Role of the Church
Once we enter into a relationship with Christ, we become part of his body, the church. As part of a body of many members, we are interdependent with others. That means attending a church. Admittedly, many people have had painful experiences with the church, yet we must be involved in the lives of others, and allow others to be involved in our life, in order to grow.
No body of believers will be perfect and there will be things that we don’t like. Still, we must join a church and become a productive part of that body of people. Therefore, contact an ex-gay ministry who can suggest a good church in your area.
Christ speaks to us in many ways, including through his Word (the Bible) and through others who know him. If we are not involved in a church, we will be missing many messages that he has for us, as well as the privilege and joy of being a blessing to someone else.
Talking with God
If you don’t know how to talk with God, follow the example set forth in the Disciples’ Prayer (often called the Lord’s Prayer; Matthew 6:9ff), which the context shows to be a daily prayer.
Thank God for his goodness, for his mercy, for him being your Father. Understand that he is worthy of your complete trust. Ask that his will would be done in your life. Ask him for your needs. Ask him for forgiveness for your going astray and not listening to him. Ask forgiveness for your treatment of others.
Ask for his protection against temptations and whatever strong feelings come your way. Close your prayer again with praise and thankfulness. Whatever you ask of God the Father, ask in the name of Jesus Christ (John 15:16).
The Word of God
Experience the benefits of obedience to Christ. To do this, we must be familiar with his Word. Start by reading the book of John in the New Testament. Then try reading one of Paul’s letters, such as the book of Ephesians. As you begin to study God’s Word, start by asking him to reveal to you what you need to hear from it.
The Bible will be your road map to a new life. Use it and study it. Set aside time every day for prayer and Bible study. God is faithful. Do your part, and he will do his. Reading his Word will allow you to grow closer to him day by day.
There Is Hope
God created you for a purpose, and is able to bring wholeness, a sense of rightness, and fulfillment to your life. And he is the only one who can accomplish that full depth of transformation. Allow God the opportunity to enter your life. Receive his forgiveness. Know his love.
The following is a suggested prayer (the words aren’t as important as is the attitude of your heart):
God, I confess my sin to you. Thank you Jesus, for taking all of my sin upon yourself on the cross. I want to receive your forgiveness. I want to enter into a relationship with you. I ask you to come into my life right now. I want you to make me into the person you created me to be.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
[Special thanks to the following persons and ministries who contributed to this article: Anne Paulk, John Paulk, Bob Davies, Exodus International, Love in Action, Regeneration, and Frank Worthen.]
This article may be reprinted without permission.
© 1996 Campus Crusade for Christ