[Editor’s Note: Originally published here March 5, 2004, by Mrs. Ruth Reed, © Beautiful Womanhood 2015]
The recent pull for legislation regarding gay marriages and the arguments over the fitness of gays as parents has led me to look back at my own childhood and the time I spent parented by a woman who now lives openly as a lesbian.
She and my father began dating when I was six and soon after were married. Though I hardly knew her, I was expected to treat her as a mother figure. She was unlike any woman I had met before. She was loud, crass, and very manly in dress and manner. She smoked and used vulgar language, and she constantly made sexual overtures to those around her, male and female, even in the presence of my father. She considered herself to be saucy and sassy, and she considered feminine women to be ridiculous and weak. Her marriage to my father marked the end of our attendance at church, though we had never missed a Sunday before she came along. My father remained married to her for several years after I moved away to live with my biological mother. Then, to the surprise of very few, she left him for another woman and has been having relations with one woman after another ever since.
From the beginning, my stepmother and I did not get along well, and all my days were filled with constant belittling remarks and severe discipline. Nothing I did pleased her, and she often commented that she would rather have had a little boy. We lived in a rural community, and I attended a small school. In the first grade I began to realize that I was very different from the other girls. The differences started with appearance; I was the only girl with short hair, the only girl who wore boys’ corduroy pants to school, and the only girl who never wore dresses. I was constantly called a boy everywhere I went. This was not out of unkindness, but because I truly looked like a boy. I will never forget (because there is photographic proof) that for my second-grade school pictures, I was made to wear a boy’s oxford style shirt and a tie.
My father truly believed that my stepmother knew best what was good for children, so he did not interfere. I never once felt pretty or cherished or special in any way. When I showed a desire for a feminine dress or top while shopping for school clothes, my stepmother would criticize my taste and comment on how much cuter I looked in boys’ clothing. I often asked to grow my hair longer, as it was kept cut in a very short boy’s style, but I was always told that if my hair was long, I would not care for it properly. My bedroom was masculine, as was everything in our house, and I was not allowed anything pink or frilly or pretty. I was an outcast at school, and other mothers did not want their children to play with me. I was encouraged to make sexually oriented jokes, and I was teased about sexuality before I understood what it was.
I also remember well the Christmas that I was eight years old; I had gone shopping with my birthday money in order to buy gifts for my family. My stepmother went, and she insisted that I buy a pornographic poster for my uncle. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed, because the lady behind the counter at that store clearly felt that it was inappropriate for a child to make such a purchase. I was also instructed to choose a coffee mug for my cousin (a girl of 16), which made reference to Playboy magazine. It was very awkward at Christmas time when gifts were opened around the tree, and what should have been a holy remembrance of God’s love became a testament instead to my loss of innocence.
The next year, I got “the talk.” My stepmother sat me down and explained to me how she felt that all people should be free to have sex with whomever they choose. She explained the explicit details of sexual acts, including homosexual acts. I was so confused, and I felt so ugly and ashamed of myself.
I noticed all around me other little girls who wore dresses, went to Sunday school, and had sleepovers. I looked longingly at their hair, carefully braided or brushed out smooth. It was clear that their mothers took time and care in their appearance and that they were proud of their daughter’s beauty. At least, these were the things I imagined other mothers felt toward their daughters. At home, I faced pressure to be sassy, mouthy, and sexually oriented and encountered criticism for not having enough confidence.
As I grew older and came into the preteen years, my stepmother often counseled me about sex, claiming that sex was a natural part of being young, and that I should never tease a boy, but be willing to “follow through,” as she put it, on any petting or kissing. When I was twelve, she contacted Planned Parenthood and asked that I begin taking birth control pills, for surely I would soon be sexually active. It was at this age that I finally moved home to my mother. It would be years before I felt confident enough to try on a dress, or grow out my hair, or look to the Bible for answers about what a woman should be.
Now, I am a married, Christian woman, who loves being a keeper at home. Still, I struggle with femininity at times. Although I love the traditional things that pertain to a woman–softness in clothing, lace, flowers, and pink–for me enjoying these things still brings feelings of shame. I see the scowl on my stepmother’s face whenever I try on a dress at the store or consider lace curtains for my home. I know in my mind that this is silly, but in my heart there is still a scar. However, with the support of my husband and the grace of the Lord, I have finally started to “indulge” in my womanhood. I never imagined that keeping a home, raising children, and even submitting to my husband could be so fulfilling. Finally, for the first time in my life, I feel the comfort of a male protector and the assurance that I am exactly the way the creator intended. Womanhood is not a mistake–not some silly invention of the naive or the weak. It is a beautiful gift from my heavenly father, even if my earthly father never saw it as such.
When I think of gay marriage, I think of my childhood. Do I really want a generation of girls to grow up as I did? My marriage is sanctified by God, and, for me, the piece of paper issued from the state that recognizes my marriage means little. If the state also gives a piece of paper to homosexuals, what difference does it make in my life? Perhaps none. But it will matter to so many children adopted or artificially conceived by homosexuals wanting to “play house.” Perhaps not all homosexuals will mistreat their children, but the likelihood that they will bring up their children to respect God’s holy plans for men and women is very small indeed.