A Struggle Of Identity

As many of you who have been reading my blog for the past 4 months or so know… I’ve been struggling terribly this semester. The semester ended last Friday and I’m still struggling – now this time, more fully with my own emotional turmoil and mental issues since school’s finally out.

Note: This will be a lengthy post with a lot of ramblings so congratulations if you manage to finish reading this.

This past semester, I’ve cared little about school because I recognized that school is the thing that I am willing to give a little break on. It doesn’t prevent me from feeling extremely disappointed and angry when I saw the B- for my Calculus class and an A- for my Space Planning class, but it does allow me not to spend as much time on those than I did on the care of my own mental health.

I figured, if it comes down to it, I’ll just retake a class… I didn’t really study for Calculus and yet, I made a B-. Imagine if I had studied… In any case, that’s not the point of today’s post.

Today, I want to talk about something that  has been a struggle for me for the past 30 years of my life. It has been something I’ve struggled with on and off throughout my life and I don’t think I’ve really understood what I was struggling with until now. It’s a difficult topic for me but somehow, I feel like maybe it’s time for me to talk about it. Maybe in doing so, it might give me more clarity and help me come to terms with things.

I don’t know the kind of backlash I might get from people I know over this so I’m a little hesitant to publish it as a public post. Yet, at the same time, I feel like if people are going to judge, I can’t stop them anyway and maybe by posting this as a public post, I might be able to help someone else who’s going through a similar issue. I’ll admit, I’m a little afraid of what people would say. I’m afraid of being thought of as disgusting. I’m afraid of rejection…

For the longest time, I’ve felt like I was abnormal – that somehow, I was just different (in a bad way) from other people. Growing up, I never really paid much attention to boys romantically. I’ve always just played with them and hung out with them – I’ve always thought I was one of them. I thought that I was just like a dude or a bro to everyone.

It wasn’t until 8th grade that I really felt like I needed to talk about boys more. It was then that I realized that not only have I never really talked about boys or showed much interest in them romantically, I also had girl best friends that I was really attached to. I didn’t remember this fact until very recently when with the help of S, I was able to retrieve some childhood memories. I remember feeling like I was my girl best friend’s “boyfriend”. I would do things for her, tie her shoelaces when they came undone, hug her from behind the way I’ve seen it done in movies, and just cherished my time with her. We were almost inseparable in elementary school and throughout middle school and high school, would constantly be on the phone with each other.

During my high school years, my then best friend and I would constantly talk about boys. She would always bring it up. She would always have a current/latest celebrity crush and would imagine herself dating them. We would talk about that a lot. I would then pick someone I thought was cute and pretend like I was dating him. I think during this period of time, I felt “normal” – I was doing what girls are expected to do – to fall in love with a guy. In fact, I felt so normal that I forgot all about my elementary school interactions with my best friend.

I didn’t think about this until 2016, when through S’ prodding, I finally was able to remember it again. I told him how I felt for my best friend – all the while feeling my cheeks flush with embarrassment and shame. I expected S to be disgusted or disappointed in me. After all, I expect this from everyone if they were to ever find out the kind of desires I have. Why wouldn’t they? Society, up until very recent years, has never been able to accept homosexuality or those with homosexual desires. The society I grew up in? Even less so.

I grew up in an extremely conservative environment as the country I lived in for 26 years of my life is governed by a Muslim government and even the non-Muslims in Malaysia are pretty conservative in their thinking and the way they raise their children. When I finally told my mother that I was dating someone – a man – back in 2007, she was relieved. She told me that because I’ve never talked about having relationships before that she thought I must not be into guys at all. She was worried that I was into girls instead. So the fact that I was dating a guy was a comfort for her to know. It didn’t bother me then to hear her say that.

I didn’t tell her that I have had many failed relationships with boys/men – that is, up until the man I would marry in 2008 – and that was why I didn’t talk about boys. At that time, I was afraid that my mother would scold me for being in relationships with boys when I should be focused on studying instead. I was told growing up that I need to focus on school and do great – that having a relationship should be something I save for marriage later in life. So that’s why I never told her that I was ever interested in boys or that I’d been dating since 8th grade.

The first relationship I had was with a close friend while we were both in 8th grade. The whole relationship felt forced and I would force things along. Not long after, the relationship fell apart. For an entire year, the guy I was dating would find excuses to not talk to me and would confuse me because I thought we were a couple. Eventually he wrote me a note and told me that he doesn’t think we fit together and that we’re too young to be in relationships and that was that. He told me not to ever talk to him again.

I was crushed because here I thought I could try to be normal for once and that didn’t work out. I didn’t have very many thoughts about girls during high school but every time I was friends with girls, I would feel uncomfortable. I couldn’t trust myself not to develop feelings for them. I withdrew from female friendships and made friends instead with the boys, so much so that I would constantly be treated like I was male. No one ever saw me as a girl who was growing up to be a woman.

I struggled with my identity throughout high school because I felt comfortable in male clothing and not only wore male clothing but also wanted to buy male clothing all the time. My mother called me a tomboy. I think, in part, I dressed the way I did because I felt a strong need to protect myself – protect my body – from further sexual abuse; I’d previously suffered from frequent sexual molestation as a child in the hands of my neighbor’s son. By covering myself up with male clothing, I felt that I could keep male eyes away from the parts of my body I wasn’t comfortable with.

In some ways it worked handsomely because I never got propositioned for dates or asked out for any reason. I just had great guy friends who treated me like I had a penis between my legs. The only guy who did talk to me in a more romantic way only did so because he wanted us to try sex out for the first time together. Being quite spineless and fearful of confrontations, I had nearly agreed with the arrangement. In retrospect, I’m really glad I didn’t because it would have further destroyed my perception of sex and bolstered my fear of sexual intimacy with men.

Anyway, in 2006, when I was in an abusive relationship with a man who was 20 years older than I was, the memories and feelings I’ve had for my girl best friends resurfaced when the older man I was with started encouraging me to think about sex with a woman. He told me that it would be exciting for me to do so and that he would love to watch. That was probably the first time in my life where I had felt deeply conflicted. I was a new Christian then and felt that what this person was suggesting to me was wrong.

I started to wonder why I didn’t feel disgusted with the thought of being with another woman like most people would when given a suggestion to explore their feelings for the same sex. Instead, I felt attracted to the idea. I felt like it was something I was willing to explore. At the same time, a part of me – the spiritual side of me – was battling guilt, insecurity and shame because of what I’ve been taught about homosexuality and from what I gleaned from my parents’ reaction towards homosexuals. I also tried to speak to a pastor’s wife about what this man was making me think about but she had visibly recoiled when I told her, “My boyfriend is encouraging me to think about women and have sex with them… I feel so guilty…” It made me feel even more disgusted at myself when she told me to never speak of it again because what I was feeling was abnormal.

I felt so much turmoil throughout 2006. It didn’t help that I was also sexually molested again during a party at a classmate’s house. When the year drew to a close, I buried those thoughts, feelings and memories from the times I’ve had feelings for girls or women. I didn’t think about them again until 2008 when I got married. Husbter knew about my struggle with same sex desires as that was one of the things that I made sure he knew before he signed up to be my husband. He was supportive and understanding.

I wish I could say that marriage “fixed” everything. It was something I deeply hoped it would do for me. Unfortunately, things don’t work that way. Life  has never been easy for me – it’s always been conflicted. Now 8 years since my marriage, I’m once again faced with a crisis of identity though to be honest, this crisis has never ever gone away throughout my marriage – I’ve just had varying degrees of success in pushing it out of my mind and not dealing with it.

Now, not only did the short hair that I acquired 3 weeks ago make people mistake me for a man (I can’t even number the amount of times people have referred to me as “sir”), I am also actively struggling with my same sex desires again. Throughout this semester, I battled several things all at once – things that I’ve mentioned before that I couldn’t talk about because of how sensitive the issues are. This was one of it.

Now if you’ve read up to this point, you might be wondering what the struggle is all about. Why is it a struggle? For me, it’s personal. It has nothing to do with the politics of the LGBT community or anything like that. I have LGBT friends whom I deeply love and I have no problems with the community at all. No one deserves to be judged and condemned for any reason. I disagree with bigoted Christians whose unloving and condemning words paint God in a negative light.

Yet, despite that, I personally can’t accept that I have same sex desires. Despite knowing that Christ died for me on the Cross to absolve all past, present and future sins and that by believing in him, I have eternal salvation, I can’t reconcile my same sex desires with what I’ve been taught. The guilt, shame and pain consumes me on a daily basis. There are times throughout this semester where I’ve begged God to take my life because I just can’t keep going. I begged him to end my life because I could see no point in continuing to struggle ceaselessly.

I know perhaps not many will understand what I’m going through. I don’t expect anyone who doesn’t have the same spiritual beliefs to understand how I’m feeling. I don’t expect people to know what to say to me either. And maybe some of you already have some ideas about me that you’re forming in your minds right now as you read this. It’s ok.

I can’t help how I feel – conflicted, deeply guilty and ashamed and at the same time, desiring of women. I can’t help what I believe because I have many concrete reasons to put my faith in Christ. I also can’t help what the Bible teaches me – many are fundamental and irrefutable truths, but at the same time I also can’t help how condemning some of the verses sound. I can’t help that I feel weak for not being able to deal with this better. I can’t help how conflicted my life has been since the traumas I’ve endured as a child and later as an adult, have upturned it.

S and I have been dealing with this for months now and in today’s session, I had brought it up again because of how much distress it’s caused me this past week. At one point in our conversation today, S asked, “Have you… I guess have you prayed more about these desires than just ‘Oh God, take them away’? Instead… Can you ask Him ‘What do you want me to do with this?’” I have to admit that I haven’t done that before. I’ve never considered having a conversation about this with God.

“That’s an interesting point though, I mean why, with everything that you’ve been through, why do you think it’s been… That you haven’t turned to God with this?” S asked.

“I don’t know. Um… I think… I think in some ways… I feel like… I think um… I feel like… He must be angry with me. He must be disappointed…”

“You think he must be angry. You don’t want to face that…” S iterated, confirming my fears. It’s true. I’m  afraid of the kind of feeling God has for me. Though he has shown his faithfulness to me by always being there for me, I still fear a very human fear of disappointment and abandonment from him. S describes it as a transference that I have of my parents towards God. It would make sense that I would feel that way seeing as I have such real fears towards my own parents.

Anyway… I don’t pretend to have any of the answers I need. This post is merely to bring to light something I’ve been struggling with in earnest for the longest time. I suppose I’m talking out loud – actually at this point, it’s more like rambling.  If you’ve read this far, thank you. Please understand that this is something I’ve kept a secret for 30 years and has been a terrible burden on my soul. Struggling with it has pushed me to the brink of suicide, so I really don’t want to see ignorant and insensitive comments.

S told me that he hopes that we’ll be able to work through this and I’ll be able to come to terms with my sexuality. I certainly hope, for the sake of my mental health, that I will too. At this moment though, I’ll continue to struggle.

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5 thoughts on “A Struggle Of Identity

  1. This is an honest post and, fr that reason, very moving and beautiful. I’m writing to you now with tears in my eyes.

    I know there is nothing I can say to take away your sense of shame (believe me, if I could, I would!). I do want you to know, however, that I see no shame in how you are. Homosexuality is normal. It shows up in all cultures (even in cultures that want to deny its existence).

    I love S’s suggestion that you ask God what to do with this. Perhaps He will tell you that He made you, too, and He loves you as you are.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Q. I wrote this post while being half asleep and in a state of mind where I wasn’t restraining myself. I think that’s why it came out the way it did. Usually, when I blog in the day time, I’m usually “sober” so I’d write with more restraint. And as for how I feel about homosexuality. It’s so complicated, at least in my mind it is. I’m sure once I can process it and come to terms with it, I’ll be able to not feel so bad but yeah… Thanks so much for reading all the way through. It was quite a ramble.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear JL: I agree 100% with what Q says. And, as always, I think you are very brave and send you tender thoughts. TS
    Lest I forget – fabulous calc grade for someone who didn’t study!!!! WOO-HOO!

    Liked by 1 person

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