Chapter 1 – The 20’s

Chapter 1: Entering Adulthood

In the wake of my public revelation, the landscape of my life underwent seismic shifts. Relationships that once seemed firm were now fraught with unspoken tensions. The Marriage Plebiscite cast long shadows over familiar terrains, transforming my once sanctuary-like church into an arena of whispered judgments and sideways glances. The debates echoing through its halls were as cutting as the silent criticisms that now surrounded me.

As I stood amid the growing divide, my voice lost in the tumult, the urgency for a community where I could belong wholly and without reservation grew ever more pressing. This chapter recounts the journey of finding such a place—the trials of leaving the known behind, the solitude of the search, and the grace found in new beginnings.

Settling into the couch that first night at my friend’s house, the reality of my journey’s beginning settled in. Each church visited, each scripture read, and each prayer whispered wove a new tapestry of faith—one rich with the hues of diversity and the threads of shared humanity. This discovery was just the beginning, and as I closed my eyes that night, the challenges of the day gave way to a quiet anticipation of what was yet to come.

The environment at my old church, increasingly alienating, compelled me to reconsider my place within it. The decision to leave was heart-wrenching; it felt like severing a part of my spiritual lifeline. Yet, the pain of staying—enduring the growing estrangement and the constant battle to justify my identity—became greater than the fear of leaving. Driven by a deep, almost primal need for a community where I could belong wholly and without reservation, I stepped away from my church home.

As I stepped away from the church that had been my spiritual home, the search for a new sanctuary began. This quest was not just geographical but deeply spiritual—a pilgrimage toward a place where my identity could be embraced fully. The churches I visited varied widely. Some welcomed me with open arms, their inclusive doctrines mirrored in the warmth of their congregations. Others professed acceptance, yet their smiles didn’t quite reach their eyes, the chill of conditional acceptance palpable in the air.

One particular small community church became a beacon of hope. Here, the pastor preached love in its most radical form—love that knew no boundaries, love that transcended human prejudices. The congregation was diverse, a tapestry of souls each with their own stories of faith and struggle. It was here, among these fellow seekers, that the shards of my fractured spirit began to find alignment.

The healing was gradual, marked by moments of backsliding into doubt and nights of wrestling with my beliefs. Yet, through these struggles, the community stood by me—steadfast companions on my journey toward wholeness. We shared scriptures that spoke of unconditional love and redemption, and I clung to these words like a lifeline:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

This verse became a mantra, a reminder of the inclusivity at the heart of the gospel. It echoed through the darkest moments, a beacon of divine truth guiding me back to a path paved with grace.

The journey from darkness into light was laden with symbolism. The darkness of rejection and misunderstanding gradually gave way as the light of acceptance and self-realization dawned. It was like moving through a long tunnel, with pinpricks of light—each a person or a moment of understanding—guiding me forward.

Despite finding a semblance of peace in the new church, the scars from past rejections remained tender. Old wounds sometimes reopened, triggered by a word or a look that reminded me of past judgments. In these moments, the community proved indispensable. Their unwavering support, quiet understanding, and shared experiences of exclusion and acceptance acted as salves to my lingering pain.

Together, we navigated the complexities of reconciling our identities with our faith. These were not merely discussions but lifelines, each conversation a step toward collective healing. The church’s role shifted from a place of worship to a sanctuary where wounded hearts found solace and broken spirits gained strength.

Trigger Warning: The Shadows of Abuse

The way they worshipped Jesus with such liberty and freedom had been like nothing I had ever witnessed. The expression of joy and presence as they celebrated their faith had me captivated. In the darkened place it had become after leaving my home church, they presented to me like a beacon of hope. Their warmth and enthusiasm drew me in, offering a semblance of stability and acceptance that I desperately needed.

Before the abuse occurred, the relationship seemed nurturing and spiritually uplifting. Within a month of attending services at the church, I felt uplifted and had a kick in my step. I did not have an actual understanding of what lay ahead for me as they became more and more comfortable expressing a desire that had never been mentioned in my life before then.

Over the course of an evening after one service, I was invited back to the leader’s home to “watch a movie,” having had no idea what they implied or meant. The events that proceeded from this invitation presented one of the defining moments in my life, where I was met with a sexual encounter that would lead me to my first suicide attempt.

The evening started innocuously enough. We sat in the living room, the ambient light of the television flickering across the walls. As the movie played, their demeanor shifted. What began as a friendly gesture turned into something sinister. The elder’s hands moved in ways that felt wrong, their touch invasive and violating. My immediate reaction was one of shock and confusion, my body freezing in fear as I tried to process what was happening. The betrayal cut deep, shattering the fragile trust I had placed in them.

In the aftermath, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame and guilt. I questioned myself—had I done something to invite this? The weight of the incident pressed heavily on my chest, making it hard to breathe. The physical violation was painful, but the emotional and psychological scars were far worse. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone. The fear of not being believed, of being blamed, or of further alienation kept me silent.

The incident profoundly impacted my faith. I found myself questioning everything—my beliefs, God, the church. How could someone who preached love and acceptance commit such an act? My inner turmoil was relentless. Every prayer felt hollow, every scripture verse like a mockery. The church, once my refuge, now felt like a place of danger and hypocrisy.

That morning had been a morning I will never forget a day in my life. Waking up felt like a darkness had surrounded me again, the tears flowing down as they had left for work and I was alone. Here I was, alone again, without the support of a church that had loved me and had been safe.

After receiving an abusive text from the person, I left their home and decided that today was going to be my last day on earth.

There was a deep edge into the ocean not far from the home, and it seemed sufficient. As I arrived at the park area and began a running pace across the park, ready to jump and end things, I was suddenly thrown onto the ground by what felt like an invisible force, like a wall that stopped me in my tracks.

I burst out into tears, crying, unsure what to do, confused, dazed, and half-asleep. I heard a train in the distance, so I proceeded to think, “Coffee and train, perfect.” I skipped the coffee shop, and to my thankfulness at the time, there had been no boom gates—it was an open run to the platform. I waited for the oncoming train and began timing to end it all.

I started my pace, perfectly timing myself as I progressed to the platform. I passed the stairwell with passengers descending on the stairs.

An old friend of mine, Hayden, was descending and late for his university that day. In that moment of seeing me, he appeared from my left of field and grabbed me into a hug. I paused, frozen, unsure what to do, and broke in his arms, the tears flowing and his quick realization that something was terribly wrong.

That same coffee shop, Hayden took me to, sat me down, and bought a coffee. Meanwhile, he had been calling another friend, Charlie, to make the necessary arrangements for my welfare.

I told Hayden what had happened, barely able to stand. He took me, lock arm in step, to the platform and joined me on the train to Charlie.

Once we arrived at the station, Charlie was waiting. He grabbed me, and we said our goodbyes. Charlie began alerting people to what had been going on and offered his home as my sanctuary for what had been three weeks on his couch, resetting both my emotional and mental health.

It took a month to fully recover to a place where I could talk about this with other people. Meanwhile, while I went MIA, the church was nowhere in sight; there was no support from the congregation, and I was left to fend for support and care from those I was truly blessed to know.

This caused a rip in my faith, a deserting of the church and organized Christianity. It caused a ripple effect in both my faith and acceptance of the world. For the first time, I was churchless, without hope, without a desire to press into my faith; I entered a deep desert where everything became bland, without resound or joy.