Here's an old family recipe i've recently uncovered. Take two broken people and let them have children. Once the children are born, stir in the unmet needs and expectations of the parents while blending in the hurts and disappointments of their pasts. Pour the batter into a deep baking dish and place in the oven, which is fueled by the ups and downs of the household and of life. Recipe yields enough dysfunction to serve a family of four, or more.

For me, the dysfunctional yield of that recipe was a search for a home and a name, a place where I could feel like I belonged. That search led me down many paths, including the path of lesbianism. But I found a fork in the road and took it. What I discovered was a way of hope and healing that I never thought possible. My healing has come first by making a decision to give my life, including my sexual orientation, over to God; and second, by beginning to deal with the wounds that left me with an intense desire to connect with a woman. One area I've had to come to terms with is misogyny. The hatred or devaluation of women shows through sexual, physical, emotional, verbal, or spiritual abuse, pornography, and the ideology that women are less than men.

I grew up in a home where this was the case: both my mother and father favored my brother. He excelled in athletics and was an above-average student. It is said that children are the best recorders, but the worst interpreters, of information. I interpreted this favoritism to mean that my brother—and not me—was the one who was supposed to succeed. As I watched my parents pour their hopes and dreams into him, I felt like I was on the sidelines. I could either cheer him on or sit back and watch. I chose to cheer.

Cheering for him meant that I gave up on myself. I developed patterns of not following through with commitments and giving up on anything that was difficult. I was never taught how to persevere, how to handle pressure, or how to set and achieve a goal. I didn't learn how to compete, how to win, or even how to lose. I lived in a vacuum I created with self-destructive behavior that included drugs, alcohol, and self-mutilation, and I have battled the effects of depression for many years. Over time, misogyny eats away at the core of women's souls and leaves them feeling unprotected, ashamed, vulnerable, and frightened. That's how it left me.

I remember a time when, as adults, my brother and I, living on opposite ends of the country, both bought computers. As I was telling my father about my computer, we soon found ourselves in an argument as he insisted that my computer wasn't as good as my brother's. It was ludicrous: The two computers had the same amount of memory, same speed, same software applications, same everything. I could only conclude that mine was inferior just because it was mine.

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Then there were the college degrees. My father said to me one day that my master's degree wasn't as good as my brother's master's degree because his was an MBA and mine was just an MA. He didn't say that his was more useful in the marketplace or that it would yield more money, but that mine was just not as good.

Cut Off And Alone

Little girls need a strong masculine presence as a covering and as a protection, but also to call us out to take risks and to make us feel comfortable in our girlishness so that growing into a woman won't feel unnatural, uncomfortable, awkward, or unsafe. Our fathers are the ones who are supposed to do this for us. Mine didn't.

As I watched and listened to my mother and father interact and comment on my friends, my brother's friends, their friends, and even movie stars, I, too, began to form a low opinion of women. The messages I received from my father were that women are weak, stupid, supposed to look sexy, and that they are to serve men. One of his favorite sayings was that my mother couldn't find her way out of a wet paper bag. Because she didn't learn to drive until she had children, she read maps poorly and wasn't as good at finding her way as my father was.

Misogyny isn't always meted out by men. The messages I received from my mother were that women are only as good as they look, and they are manipulative and unpredictable. She once told me that the reason I didn't have a man was because I was too independent. She said men don't like independent women, and that I should learn how to play coy so I wouldn't overpower men. If our mothers are full of self-hatred or feel inferior to other women, are not comfortable with their own femininity, or "bend into" men, they can pass down their brokenness to us, their daughters.

Mary Beth Patton, a psychologist, counselor, and researcher of same-sex attraction who is on the board of Portland Fellowship, an Exodus International-affiliated ministry, so described what happens to women like me: "Women who deal with same-sex attraction often possess a history of dis-identification with their mothers, and therefore with their femininity. This leads to a longing for connection with the feminine that becomes sexualized in adolescence."

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Girls disconnected from their mothers often begin to hate their emotions and all the other things that make them women. I don't necessarily mean those things that make us look feminine on the outside, but those internal characteristics that actually make us feminine beings. For example, I was always comfortable wearing dresses, getting my nails done, and wearing lots of jewelry, so I didn't see those as contemptible qualities in my mother. But when I saw her let herself be a victim of my father's verbal assaults, I vowed that I would never be like my mother. I'd never be under the control of a man, never be dependent on a man, never be weak or admit my vulnerability. Psychologists call such feelings of children toward their parents "defensive detachment." In not allowing my mother to influence me, I walled myself off, not just from anything negative she could have instilled in me, but also from anything good she could have imparted to me as a woman.

Of course, misogyny doesn't always lead to lesbianism. In my case it fostered same-sex attraction because it cut me off from men, from women, from God, and even from myself. I hated men. I hated women. I hated myself for being a woman. I had no more value for women than any women-hating man does, and yet no one was more surprised to discover that I, too, was a misogynist. And I've had to confess that sin to God. My detachment from men and women left me walled off from being able to receive anything good from either men or women.

The first time I noticed I was attracted to women was when I was in the sixth grade, but I didn't act on any of those feelings until well after I completed high school. I did have a number of boyfriends growing up, and I hate to admit that I was very promiscuous. With each relationship, I hoped that he would be "the one." I would have done almost anything to feel accepted, but each relationship ended either with my boyfriend cheating on me or with him telling me in one way or another that he wanted to move on. Each ending left me feeling less and less like I was able to please a man.

My first encounter with a woman gave me the most intense sense of belonging and connection I have ever felt. It is hard to explain just how enveloped I felt during that first encounter. I felt a sense of relief I had never felt before. I felt like I had finally found that sense of home within my soul I had been missing.

What I really had fallen into was an emotionally dependent relationship that had nothing at all to do with love. I was trying to fill my need for connection on my own terms. If love means honoring people, then is it loving to have them participate in what the Bible says alienates them from God? I realized that if I truly loved a woman, I could not sleep with her.

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Aborted Femininity

Perhaps one of the most significant manifestations of misogyny I know of came at my own hands. I've already said that I had been promiscuous with men. One of those relationships led to an unplanned pregnancy. I was dating a guy, and we had been together for a few months and I thought we were getting along fairly well. That is, until I got pregnant. When I told him about it, he told me to do whatever I wanted, keep it or have an abortion, and then walked out. I never saw him or talked with him again. When I telephoned him, he hung up on me, and when I stopped by his house, he didn't come to the door. I ended that pregnancy with an abortion.

I honestly don't know what the commitment level is supposed to look like in a situation like that, but I'm quite sure that it shouldn't have been abandonment. Abortion is one of the ways we, as women, assault our femininity, and it is a sign that says, loud and clear, that our society is not meeting the needs of women.

I wish I could say that I've been able to free myself from the effects of misogyny with my determined self-effort, but quite the opposite is true. The most I could ever hope to do in my own strength was to keep myself walled off from further hurt. Left to my own efforts, I would have had to settle for existing instead of living. And I wanted to live.

I've had to surrender those past hurts to God. I've had to confess my weakness, self-hatred, and my hatred of women. I've had to choose to keep myself present to the larger body of Christ and be willing to enter into transparent relationships with people. Healing comes in community and by being in fellowship with other believers. Isolation is one of the greatest enemies of the soul. We kid ourselves into believing that we can meet our own needs, but the truth is, we don't have that much power. My healing continues, but the healing that's already occurred has come through inner-healing prayer, professional Christian counseling, and participation in a program called Living Waters, by Desert Stream Ministries, and run by Regeneration of Northern Virginia, an Exodus International-affiliated ministry. I have put off the labels of victim and lesbian and betrayed. I have had to be willing to let God define me as a woman and to show me how to be comfortable with my true femininity. Whereas once I dreaded women's fellowship groups for fear that everyone could see the little girl I felt I was in a grownup body, I am now learning to participate confidently, as a woman. I've had to ask God to break the power of those vows I made to protect myself. I've had to grieve a lot of what happened in my past. I've had to let God into some deep places of pain.

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While divulging some of my past makes me feel like I've just been on the Jerry Springer show, I know there are women reading this who want to believe that they are not hopeless cases or damaged goods. There are women who want to find another path than lesbianism and emotionally harmful relationships. To them, I say there is hope.

Diane Mattingly works for a major U.S. daily newspaper. As a volunteer with Regeneration of Northern Virginia and leader of a small group for the Living Waters program, she assists people coming out of homosexuality.

Related Elsewhere:

Cheated by the Affirming Church | Contrary to what some churches teach, it is homosexuality—and not its suppression—that enslaves people like me.

Exodus International assists people who desire to leave a homosexual lifestyle.

Setting Captives Free offers help and online courses for sexual impurity of any kind.

Other Christianity Today articles on homosexuality and sexuality include:

Thirteen Bad Arguments for Same-Sex Marriage | Why the rhetoric doesn't stand up under scrutiny. (Aug. 26, 2004)
Why Gay Marriage Would Be Harmful | Institutionalizing homosexual marriage would be bad for marriage, bad for children, and bad for society. (Feb. 19, 2004)
'Get Mine, Get Yours' | Sexual swagger and slang do not mask a generation's loneliness. (May 07, 2003)
Stretch Pants, Beer, and Other Controversies | A New Testament professor discerns the relative from the timeless in biblical texts on slaves, women, and homosexuals. (July 08, 2002)
No Easy Victory | A plea from a Christian husband and father who, day by day, resists his homosexual desires. (March 08, 2002)
Ex-Gay Sheds the Mocking Quote Marks | The retiring head of Exodus says gay transformation ministries are more respected and effective than ever. (January 7, 2002)
Walking in the Truth | Winning arguments at church conventions is not enough without compassion for homosexuals. (Sept. 4, 2000)
Building a Bridge | A gay journalist and evangelical pastor correct their mutual misperceptions. (July 13, 2000)
The Jerry We Never Knew | He hangs out with liberal pundits and gay activists. Is this the same Jerry Falwell who founded the Moral Majority? (May 2, 2000)
Sex and Saints | A new vocabulary for an oversexualized culture. (Apr. 3, 2000)
Building outreach and friendship with the homosexual community | What Jerry Falwell really said at the Anti-Violence Forum. (Nov. 5, 1999)
Just Saying 'No' Is Not Enough | How should Christians address homosexuality? (Oct. 4, 1999)

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