I was born the eldest of five children, four girls and one boy. I became the product of an extremely dysfunctional, co-dependent family of alcoholic parents who physically and emotionally abused me. Also, I was sexually molested many times over the period of my childhood by different relatives.
My mother was the dominating parent whom I grew to hate because of her verbal and physical abuse. I made many inward vows that I never wanted to be like her. My dad was the submissive one who was away at work during the week and drunk every weekend. Even though I now believe my parents did not mean to hurt me, I felt rejected and began to shut them out. I made up my mind early in life that I certainly did not want to grow up to be like my mother or my father and I feared men because of the molestation. I felt insecure, had a sense of shame and no value which led to isolation from my peers. Therefore, I did not have any friends. I see now how the things that happened to me affected my sense of who I was, both as a person and in terms of my gender identity and sexuality.
I longed for love and acceptance and began experiencing sexual desires toward my female friends as early as fourteen or fifteen years of age. Those perverted sexual desires manifested into experiences and by the age of eighteen, I had already been involved in two different homosexual relationships. After I was permitted to date at the age of sixteen, I dated many different guys, trying to find the right one who would change the direction of my affections. I was constantly tormented by the same-sex feelings. Somehow I knew the feelings I was having were wrong but did not know how to get free; therefore, I suffered much pain and shame while feeling like a freak.
I even dated my partner’s boyfriend trying to break them up. She found out and ended our relationship which was devastating. In order to survive my broken heart, I dated every guy I could. And in so doing, I met a guy on a blind date and he asked me to marry him. Marriage appeared to be the answer and a way out. I told my fiancé about my previous same-sex relationships and he promised he would be the one who made me forget about them. I believed this to be the answer to my troubled life. We married in 1961, and he became a good provider. When I discovered marriage was not the answer, I decided to visit a psychiatrist hoping he could help me find the answer. Of course, he could not. I then decided if I had a child this would bring fulfillment, so we soon had a beautiful daughter. After 8 years of marriage that was not filling the void in my heart, my husband and I divorced. I met a woman in the city and had same-sex feelings for her. I decided in order to go on with my life I needed to move into town. There, I could get lost in the crowds and pursue the attraction I was having and accept my sexual identity.
I searched for love, acceptance, and my sexual identity in all the wrong places which led me into alcoholism, drugs, prostitution and many toxic promiscuous relationships with men; one right after the other. My emotional pain became so great I decided to find another psychiatrist to find the answer to my desperation. Sure enough, what he told me was what I had heard before, “Whatever you do behind closed doors is your business”. His answer justified the horrible lifestyle I was living and gave me a temporary feeling that it was okay.
I found a job working at a straight bar as a barmaid where I met a woman and immediately started a friendship with her. This led to a love affair which seemed perfect and lasted for fourteen years. Even though I was living a life of lies and deception, I was the happiest I had ever been, or so I thought. We bought a home together and did everything together. We knew no other women or men who had same-sex attractions until my partner met a couple where she worked. We connected with them and began to have home parties and attend gay bars. The acceptance we received felt really good. Despite this, our lives continued downward into alcohol and drugs. We both became alcoholics.
I attended Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and checked myself into two different psychiatric units. I was not serious about being free so this accomplished nothing except a time for temporary detoxification. Then early one morning before daylight as I was sobering up from being drunk the night before, Jesus visited me in a vision. I was still in bed and I saw Him standing in my bedroom doorway beckoning me to come to Him. He was so real standing there dressed in His pure white glistening robe. It was so vivid. I saw the same Jesus I had seen in pictures when I was a child attending Sunday school. I will never forget saying, “Help me, Jesus.”
Two years later after being told by my partner I either had to quit drinking or move out, I decided to get serious and start attending AA meetings once again. Through this time of recovery God was working in my heart. One night as I was returning home from AA in 1985 I looked up into the clear beautiful sky where there were millions of stars, and a peace came over me I had never experienced before. This was my Damascus road experience. I know now that was the night God totally delivered me from alcohol because I have not had a drink or even a desire for a drink since then. This was the beginning of turning back to God. You see I had been reading AA’s 24-hour prayer/mediation book for about a year. I know it was the Word of God that had been planted in my heart that set me free. Because the bible says in John 8:32, “if you continue in my Word, you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.”
Once free from alcohol and its numbing effects, I was able to sense the wooing of the Holy Spirit. He led my partner and me to watch Christian television. One night, while watching an evangelist, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I found out later my partner also had gotten saved about the same time.
The Holy Spirit convicted us both of the lifestyle we were living. We began to search for a Christian counselor in the yellow pages of the telephone directory hoping once more to find the right answer to our hellish lifestyle. We found one, made an appointment, and were told once again, “What you do behind closed doors is your business.” The Holy Spirit within us did not agree with this counselor’s beliefs and He led us in search of another Christian counselor.
I developed a hunger for the Word of God and started going to church. I began to see in the Bible that homosexuality was a sin. I justified the lifestyle I was living by convincing myself that if God was a God of love then the love we had for each other had to be acceptable to God. My church attendance started to fall off because I was not being fed the Word of God which I desperately needed.
Then through an acquaintance my partner and I found a Spirit-filled church, Whole Life Ministries in Augusta, GA where the uncompromised Word of God is taught and where we both felt accepted and loved from the very first night that we walked into that church. By the power of the Holy Spirit and washing my mind with God’s Word, I entered the path to healing which was a long and difficult course to full restoration but extraordinarily fulfilling. Through the process of God’s precious grace, I was given the ability to give up cigarettes and be healed of low self-esteem, self hate, co-dependence and many emotional hurts that stemmed from a life of abuse.
I have been serving the Lord faithfully for almost twenty-two years now. God has given me such a desire for Him and His Word that I have served in almost every area of ministry within the church, including being an assistant to the Minister of Counseling and facilitating support groups. I earned a Doctorate of Ministry degree in 2003. God has opened doors for me to become an ordained Minister of the Gospel, a licensed Christian counselor, and a Chaplain.
God placed the desire within my heart over 15 years ago that I was to help other hurting women to become free through one-on-one Christian counseling and support group therapy. I began StraightForward Ministries in February 2008 specializing in ministering to those who have un-wanted same-sex attractions. Since I was not told the Truth when I was seeking Christian counseling, I know God placed it within my heart to be a counselor so that He may use me to impart the truth of the Word of God to those who are searching for it, as the Holy Spirit leads. Since He healed my hurting soul and set me free, by His grace He will do the same for all that truly want to be free and pay the price of obedience to His Word.
Elsie Odom is the director of StraightForward Ministry in Augusta Georgia.