As long as I remember, I was different and in South Africa where I grew up, there is a myth: if you walk under a rainbow it will change your sex. I tried running under every rainbow I saw! My parents once admitted to me they had wanted a boy; when I came out as a girl, they often treated me as a boy. I wasn’t angry with this because I actually wanted to be a boy.
As a child, my parents fought a lot. My dad was easily angered. I was told I pushed my father away since I was four. Growing up, I always felt uneasy around men.
We attended church on Sundays. Our church didn’t teach salvation through belief in Jesus, but rather that Jesus would punish me if I did something wrong. Jesus was God to me, but not a gentle God. He was a big man with a stick in his hand, ready to whip me.
Nobody ever told me Jesus loves me just the way I am!
I started having gay relationships when I was 21. I had no clue what I was doing, as I was also dating men at the same time. I was hungry for attention and love. Dating women did not feel right, but at the same time having sex with a boyfriend seemed wrong too! I never wanted to be in a gay relationship! I tried so hard to change myself. I tried so hard to feel attracted to men. I could not change myself!
In 1990, I attended a women’s Christian retreat where Jesus was described as a loving God who cares about me, wanting me to belong to Him. I was asked, “Do you know if you died tonight you are going to heaven? I couldn’t answer “yes” and I realized I needed Jesus. Immediately, when I gave my life to Jesus, my heart softened and I felt sorry for everything I had done wrong.
But, despite my new relationship with God, I continued meeting (without seeking them) gay women. My spirit was willing but my flesh was weak! The moment I entered into a gay relationship, a wall would go up between God and I and I would feel separated from Him. Isaiah 52:9 says “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”
I tried to read my Bible, I attended church, I tried to pray, but the separation created a dryness in my soul. I would also lie to my family, people at church, and else where, about being gay, never having the courage to talk about it. I wanted to quit this lifestyle, but my longing to have somebody care for me was so overwhelming it consumed my thoughts and my life.
In 2001, I ran away to the U.S.A. where I wanted to start fresh and have a new life, where nobody knew about my past. Little did I know, but I would be in my next gay relationship within four months! What I did not know then was that our problems go where we go! Immediately, I felt that wall between God and I go up again and I felt separated from Him!
This separation and dryness in my soul brought me to a place of desperation and a longing for God’s unhindered presence. I asked Him to please change me as I could not live without His full presence in my life any longer. If I had to choose between physical love and the presence of God, I desperately wanted God more. This may be hard to understand, but for me, in order to move forward with God, it seemed a choice had to be made.
Things changed in 2005 when my working permit was denied in the U.S.A. Forced to move back to South Africa, I started a new job and fell in love with the first woman I met at my new job! This time, however, by God's grace and mercy, I was able to keep Jesus as my focus. But, it did bring me to a total emotional break down, though she never knew I had feelings for her. I knew at that time, if I entered into that relationship what would happen; the lack of the presence of God in my life. I was devastated my same-sex attractions had not gone away, as I had asked God to please change me! I so deeply desired to sustain my relationship with God, it was more important than the relationship with this woman.
I became desperate and for the first time in my life, I reached out for help. My pastor and his wife did not judge me when I shared with them my deep secrets and the fact that I experienced same-sex attractions. Through much prayer, loving support, God-centered counseling from my pastor and his wife, lots of tears, and hours of praying, I can say today I have never felt attracted to any woman since that time. Though I am not attracted to women any more, I can’t say at this time that I am attracted to men either. I know and believe if attraction to a man is God’s plan for my life, He will change me to be able to love and care for a man!
Though I received help and God started to change me, people continued to ridicule and judge me for who I once was. Fear, and my own silence, kept me in bondage and on the run. I arrived in Canada in November 2006 to start fresh again. I am totally amazed how God’s plans have started to unfold.
Not long after my arrival in Canada, I went through extreme lonely times. One day, I received an e-mail from my best friend announcing her engagement. She had recently gotten divorced for the second time. Though I wished her all the best, her e-mail brought me to a complete standstill. I started fighting with God, telling him how unfair it is that my friend can divorce and find another man in less than six months. I had tried so hard to change, to be accepted as normal, or straight! I desired to be accepted by family, friends, and society for who I was and to not always have to hide that I experienced same-sex attraction. I desired to also have somebody I could at the time unashamedly love without the need to hide my feelings and my affections. This state of frustration went on for weeks, until I got to the point of just throwing the towel in. See, until then, I had never realized who I was. And then one morning, the thought struck me: Wilna, you are gay and you have been your whole life. First, I was shocked, but then the freedom came; the freedom to understand myself and why I acted the way I did, why my relationships never worked, why I am not attracted to men. I got instant answers for some lifelong struggles and questions I had. This was huge for me. It was as if weights were lifted from my shoulders. I finally understood myself. It took 44 years to get to this place.
I needed to get to this place of acceptance. I needed to acknowledge myself as gay and be content with this facet of my being. I needed to acknowledge I was born into sin and one of my primary struggles was refraining from the gay lifestyle. I knew from the first gay relationship I had that practicing and living a homosexual life was/is wrong and not God’s will for my life.
Not long after my “aha” moment, I attended a Women's Journey of Faith (WJOF) conference and the speaker (who was a murderer once) talked about being the bride of Christ. I completely understood this for the first time. I thought, if God could love her, a former murderer; then, He could love me as a lesbian. I realized He wanted to satisfy all my needs and I did not need to be married to experience this satisfaction. Two weeks after the conference, I shared my story with my home group. I wrote it out, told them I was going to read it to them and I would leave right away because I thought they would despise me once they heard my testimony. They did not shun me, and the unconditional love, care, and acceptance I received from them I will never forget. Their response stunned me. It had taken me so long to be honest, open, and authentic about my life. Their response gave me the courage to share my story with others.
Since then, God has opened many doors of opportunity. God has given me a platform. I have been speaking to large audiences about the topic of homosexuality for the past five years. God has blessed me and challenged me with the courage to educate, equip, and enlighten through teaching and training the body of Christ not only on the topic of homosexuality in a seminar I wrote called: “When Gay Comes Home” (http://wilnavanbeek.com/resources.php), but also on “Abiding in the Vine”, “Getting Dressed for Success: Putting on the Full Armour of God”, “Who is your Master?” and “Holy Sexuality”. These opportunities are the beginning of the fulfilment of a prophetic word I received 18 years ago. The prophetic word spoken over my life was this: "One day you will stand before pastors and leaders, training them”. I certainly disregarded it back then. Today, I travel around Canada speaking to many pastors and leaders of many different denominations.
Part of what God has called me to do is, in His power and strength, take back territory Satan has stolen. Revelation 12:11 explains, we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony!
Nothing is too big or beyond the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. My life has been transformed by God. No man, no psychiatrist, nor self-help books, nor my own efforts to change myself could do for me what the Holy Spirit has done!
People ask me this quite often: Wilna, how do you identify? Who are you now? Today, I can say with boldness, I do not self-identify as being gay any longer. My true identity today is: I am a daughter of God Most High! I was formed by His hands, dreamt up in His heart, and placed in this world for a purpose! God created me ". . . for such a time as this. . ." (Esther 4:14). I am compelled to share about His redeeming love, and also to, openly and honestly, address this very controversial topic; in order for people to understand, learn, and show compassion and love towards others like me. I share my story so God can get the glory!
"I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well" (Psalm 139:14).
The truth of God's Word has not changed, my perspective has. How can I keep silent any longer?
Wilna van Beek
Educate – Equip – Enlighten