I’m sorry my story is pretty long. Please feel free to edit as you will. I sent the wrong one yesterday. If you’re going to upload this please use this instead. Thanks!
Title: Yes I am, Undo Me and Ghost
My name is Sheelagh. I was born and raised in the Philippines. I grew up Christian with a mixture of Catholicism. My family is well-known in the Filipino-Chinese community. Both sides of the family are well-to-do. My grandparents built a Evangelical church next door because of his faith. Among my family’s businesses, we distributed Christian music in the Philippines. My Christian upbringing was certainly a very important part of my life.
My story begins in Kindergarten. This was the first time I felt the feeling of “being different.” I had a crush on my teacher. The older I got, I would always notice the girls in my class. However, I did not understand any of this. I didn’t know if there was a word to describe who or what I am.
When I was 5th grade, I remember being in a car with my entire family. My older sister asked my parents the pivotal question that kept me in the closet for the longest time. She asked: “What is something your children would do that you would not be able to forgive us for?” After a long pregnant pause, my mom replied, “If I found out one of my four children is gay/homosexual.” I went to the dictionary and found out what the word homosexual meant. Okay, now I had a word to describe who I and what I am. If I come out, my parents will never forgive me for it. I remember thinking to myself, “that’s great. I will just keep this information to myself.”
In 7th grade, I walked into a music store and asked the salesperson if she had any recommendations for me. I wanted something new, alternative and different. She introduced me to Melissa Etheridge. Something in the lyrics of her songs spoke to my soul. I was able to come out to myself and say “Yes, I am a lesbian. Yes, I am a homosexual. Yes, this is who I am.” For years, I went to sleep listening to all her albums at night.
When I was a Sophomore in high school, a friend came out to me. I stopped talking to her after that conversation. I stopped hanging out with her. She eventually left school and went to the US to finish high school. I still feel bad about this. I hurt her because I was not ready to face that part of myself.
My parents were very strict. We were not allowed sleep-overs. We were not allowed to go to parties until we were 18.
By college, I became active with Campus Crusade for Christ. I was at church almost every day of the week. I attended a prayer group on Tuesday. I joined a Bible study on Wednesday. I attended youth group on Friday and Saturday. And I was in church on Sunday.
In 2004, I watched the movie, “Saving Face” starring Joan Chen, Lynn Chen and Michelle Krusiec. For the first time, I saw myself on screen. It was my first exposure to positive lesbian representation on film. I wish I had the courage to say the words, “妈妈，我爱你. 我也是gay.” In English, mama, I love you. I am also gay.” But I didn’t. I was too scared to have that conversation with my family or with anybody. I came out by not coming home one night. I totally regret not having
that conversation but I just didn’t know what to say or where to begin.
Things began to not go well for me after what I did.
My family got me connected with an ex-gay ministry affiliated with Exodus International. I was not allowed to go anywhere by myself. I was driven to Bible study with this group every week. My family started a Bible study at my home. When my family realized that Bible study and family discussions were going nowhere, my mom gave me an ultimatum – change now or leave the house. I was also told that if I left, I would be cut off from the family and disowned.
I chose to leave with my girlfriend at the time. My family hired a private detective and tracked me down. My parents said they wanted to talk to me. When I came to see talk to them at a hotel room, I felt trapped. I felt I was being interrogated and coerced to go the US and think about my actions. This went on for hours until I broke down and said yes. Within less than a week, I was on a plane to Florida. My parents made arrangements that I was going to stay with family there.
After 6 months, my relatives realized that after numerous discussions, things were going nowhere. I was given another ultimatum – change now or go back home. In my mind, I pictured my family was either going to lock me up/throw away the key or I was going to be forced to marry a guy.
Neither scenario was acceptable to me. I thought about what I was going to do. I realized that for me to stay in the US, I needed to give my parents an acceptable proposition. I went online and found that Exodus International had a live-in ministry/program in Wichita, KS. I figured since they want me to consider changing who I am, I think they should pay for my expenses.
I found myself in Wichita. I got accepted into the ministry. I regret my participation (about 5 years) with this organization. The people running the ministry may have good intentions. Perhaps they were concerned about the well-being of my soul. However, there was no social worker on staff or anyone with religious training in their background. I was not allowed to interact with anyone outside the ministry and the church. I was not allowed to listen to music that was not pre-approved. I was not allowed to watch any television that was not pre-approved. For about half a decade, I was asked to not question their authority and just receive their message.
It totally went against everything that I believed in. I always questioned things. This really threw me off for a loop. I feel like I am still suffering from the mind games of being in this program. I went from being comfortable in my own skin to having a complex about who I am.
My only saving grace during this time was Jennifer Knapp’s music. I discovered her music while I was in the program. Her lyrics are so honest and moved me to remain open to God. The song “Undo Me” is my favorite from her album.
Undo Me became my prayer for many years. I went from being comfortable in own skin and not having any issues with my sexuality to praying that God take this away from me. I know the only way to please my family is for God to change me. There is no way I can do it on my own.
Luckily, because my family distributed Christian music in the Philippines, I was able to get all her albums sent to me. Her music gave me life while in that program. Without it, I do not know if I would have survived those years.
When I finally left the program, I was angry at God. I became promiscuous. I stopped caring about my faith. I went on downward spiral for a few years. I put myself in situations that were not healthy or positive. Fortunately, nothing bad happened to me.
Two years prior to meeting my wife, I realized this was not the life I wanted for myself. I stopped going to bars. I stopped having casual sex. I made a promise to myself. I will only consider sharing an intimate moment with somebody who I can see myself being in a serious relationship with.
Luckily, a wonderful and beautiful woman came into my life. She is now my wifey. We have two pugs, a son and a great life together. I have never been happier.
When Adaline decided to help others who have suffered religious trauma, I was excited. I am on this very journey. I need help in this area.
However, religious trauma is painful. I have not opened the Bible since leaving the ex-gay ministry. However, amazing human beings out there like Adaline and Jennifer Knapp are giving me hope. Who knew that Wynonna Earp and the community of Earpers will grow into something beyond the show and the fandom?
I am completely estranged from my family. They think the only way I can be acceptable and welcomed into the family is if I marry a guy or stay single/embrace celibacy for the rest of my life. It hurts when we talk because they always ask me how I am doing as if I am unmarried. When I share information about my life they act like I didn’t say anything.
Being part of this community has been a great source of hope and healing for me. I feel so blessed and honored to have read all your stories. Thank you for sharing because you make me feel like I am not alone.