I lived in a beautiful, tropical, coastal, city on the coast of Queensland, an attractive tourist destination. There were the sunny white sand beaches with palm trees and gorgeous blue water, close to some amazing tropical islands and the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. Of course, any city can be beautiful, but some are more beautiful than others. But it had its run-down, dingy parts just like any other city. It was to this underbelly of the city that I found myself quickly immersed into. Homeless culture was different, and teenage homelessness was pretty much ignored because popular tourist destinations don’t exactly want to advertise homelessness, especially when it’s kids.
I found myself in a homeless shelter that was for teens, across the street from a large, beautiful park, and several blocks from the beach. To the outside, it looked like a regular house, except that it had a Coke machine out the front. We liked that Coke machine, because if you had the right sized buttons, it thought they were coins and would dispense a Coke, or at least, it did for some of us. None of us had the $1.20 it cost to get a Coke from the machine, but it seemed that someone always had a supply of buttons. I guess that’s why the Coke machine was eventually removed.
Although homeless, church was my life. I had grown up in a Christian fundamentalist cult, where as a woman I had little value. Church was my family as I had left home when I was seventeen years old. There was a small fundamentalist church in this city that met in an ugly rented building. I was the only single young woman there, however there were two teenage girls who were several years younger than me, and no eligible single young men. The goal of a fundamentalist young woman was to find a good fundamentalist boy and get married, and I was the perfect age to be settling down. That was really the only option available to fundamentalist women, and we were more spiritual if we married young. My life revolved around the church and I was there whenever the doors were open.
While in the homeless shelter, I met Ayden. Ayden was seventeen and was suffering from a delusion that he was a satanic high priest. While that turned out to not be true, what was true was that Ayden was as committed to Satanism as I was to fundamentalist Christianity, perhaps even more so. He had an interesting life and found a girlfriend by the name of Brooke who was also in the homeless shelter with us at the time. I was mesmerized with the occult ideas, as this was my first real exposure to anything occult. I wasn’t interested in the satanic side of things, but I was interested in the occult.
However, I was a follower and when Ayden, Brooke and a bunch of others got together in the park, just down the road from the shelter, with black Nikko pens (the Australian equivalent of a Sharpie) to deface the picnic tables with “Hail Satan” and some pentagrams, I was in. It was a beautiful day, and many people used the park, although the local newspaper did bemoan the lawlessness of the groups that hung out there. We got about half the tables done when there was a commotion.
“The cops are here!” Ayden shouted.
“I bet that cunt Christy called them.” Brooke said. Cunt was Brooke’s favorite word. Christy was the miserable young girl that Brooke shared a room with. Everyone hated her, but she was good for scapegoating when things went wrong. I froze, unable to process what was going on, and Brooke and Ayden and the others certainly didn’t like me enough to try to help me when their own freedom was at stake. Apparently, the cops weren’t after us, they wanted some drunk guy on the other side of the park.
We had to be careful while we were in the park, because it was directly next door to a primary school and so the Police patrolled with great regularity. It was a gorgeous, very large park with gardens and play structures and monuments, and of course, a picnic area with bar-be-ques and tables. That said, the gardens and the large fully-grown trees provided not only shade but good places to be hidden from view. The park, although risky because of the police patrols, was the perfect place for my friends to have sex in exchange for money. Well, ok, not all of them, mostly Christy, the misery guts who wanted cigarettes and God knows what drugs, so much she would prostitute herself for them. Although it was something that all of us homeless girls had considered, we looked down on Christy, because she actually had the guts to do it. I wanted money, and I was jealous that someone as plain as Christy could get any man in the park to have sex with her, and to pay her for it, either in cigarettes, drugs, or actual money.
I was still a virgin, which was a subject of constant amusement for my friends. My roommate, Amelia, almost talked me into going into the pubs and being an exotic dancer, just like she was. But I was afraid that the people at church would find out about it. I admired her guts and was jealous of the fact that she could use her body for money. I knew I could too, because at that time I was both young and skinny. Amelia had offered to get me a job in the club she worked in. She had a gaudy, large, silver necklace that said “SEX” in large, capital letters. She wore stiletto heels and could actually walk in them. Her miniskirts were shiny and usually metallic, made out of leather or sequins or such. Her ass looked incredible in those skirts, and, because I was her roommate, I got to see her in her g-strings too. So, I enjoyed the view, and was sexually aroused, which was a sensation that I hadn’t felt much, except in those beatings my parents had administered when I was younger. Although I had felt some minor attractions to some women before, Amelia was the first one that aroused me enough for me to recognize that I thought she was hot and I desired her. She demonstrated her moves in our room, showing me how to do it, but all I saw was that lovely ass, and her gorgeous legs. I desired to hold her and have her as mine, but that was taboo in more ways than one.
But one day, all that changed. Amelia found housing, and a girl called Kylie became my roommate. Kylie had long, straight brown hair, gorgeous brown eyes, and freckles on her face. She was barely sixteen. To me she was the perfect picture of a true Australian teenage girl. Not long after Kylie became my roommate, Ayden and Brooke moved into a dirty, badly lit, top floor apartment with Christy (even though they thought she was a bitch) and a bunch of other teenagers. Kylie and I spent a lot of time there. The rooms were filled with cigarette and marijuana smoke, homemade bongs made out of 2-liter coke bottles littered the windowsills and sheets were hung in the windows as curtains. There were two bedrooms in that apartment, and about seven teens living there. Brooke, at age nineteen, was the oldest, also the only one who was a legal adult, so she was the one whose name the lease was in. Mattresses were scattered across the floor, and there was no fridge, but that seemed to be ok because it was drugs and beer for breakfast, with the sleazy fish and chips shop across the street filling in for lunch and dinner.
Ayden and Brooke’s dank lair had all the sex, drugs and occult things that anyone could possibly want. I know that they held séances regularly, but I was never invited, and always wanted to be. As much as I wanted to be with Kylie, I went to Ayden and Brooke’s apartment one day without her and began fooling around with a young woman named Kelly. Kelly wasn’t particularly attractive to me, but she was nice, and she was available, and I was sexually frustrated. I never had sex with Kelly, I was too afraid of the wrath of God. Kelly and I kissed and made out a little, but that was it. However, everything that happened in Ayden and Brooke’s apartment happened out in the open, because there was no privacy.
That bitch Christy told Kylie all about what Kelly and I had done.
“What the fuck did you do with that ho Kelly?” Kylie demanded to know.
“I promise you nothing happened.” I said.
“That’s not what that cunt Christy says.” Kylie said.
“Look, I was just experimenting.” I said.
“So, the pure virgin was pretending to be a slut?” Kylie sneered.
“Look, purity is important to me. I didn’t have sex with her.” I tried defending myself.
“So how does being a Christian and being a dyke manage to work together?” Kylie asked.
“It doesn’t,” I said. “I’m not really a lesbian I was just curious.”
“Well, the thing is, women that aren’t dykes don’t make out with other women.” Kylie said. What a rude awakening that was, it was my second slap in the face to show me I wasn’t heterosexual, and yet I still denied it, because after all, homosexuality was a sin.
During this time, I continued to go to church, every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, and whenever else the church doors were open, where the pastor, an old white man, preached about things such as homosexuality being a sin.
“We have plenty of those queer perverts right here in our own beautiful city” the pastor would preach. I would wriggle in my seat as I was starting to get an inkling that I might just be one of the perverts he was talking about.
“Homosexuality is a perversion” he would continue.
“Amen!” some of the men would shout in response.
After church, I went up to talk to him.
“My Aunty Jasmine is a lesbian.” I said. “And my parents never let us around her alone, and we weren’t taken to see her and her girlfriend very much, and in fact I didn’t know Valerie was her girlfriend until I grew up and figured it out, because my parents didn’t talk about it.” I said.
“Yes, I was thinking of your Aunty Jasmine when I wrote that sermon. Such a shame, she and her girlfriend both grew up in good Christian homes, but I guess they were set in their rebellion.” He said. “Your parents were right to keep you away from her, she could have influenced you girls to become lesbians too.”
I cried all the way home, as I drove away in my mustard colored 1977 Toyota Corolla, complete with granny sunshade flap above the windshield, in pristine condition. I had purchased it for two thousand dollars in cash a few years prior, as soon as I had my driver’s license at seventeen, and I’d had no major problems with it. I always found it amusing that my car was older than I was, having been born in 1985. I was convinced that I was a lesbian and that I was therefore on my way to hell. The pastor had said that being a lesbian meant that a person was not a Christian, because it was impossible to be involved in homosexuality and be saved.
I stole a book from the Christian club at my university. It was the testimony of a woman who claimed that she had once been a lesbian and was now healed. I took it to my friend Sally, the wife of the American fundamentalist pastor who was helping my Australian pastor plant our church and used it as a way to tearfully confess that I had once been a lesbian. I made it sound like I hadn’t fooled around with women for a long time, even though in truth it had just been a week or two since I had made out with Kelly.
“Well, God has forgiven everything that you did before you were saved” Sally told me, “but if you’re still having those feelings then maybe you need to have some counseling with Bud. These feelings are unnatural and go against who God created you to be.”
“I just feel so dirty.” I told Sally, even though I was confused because I really, really felt attracted to women. I was dying inside by “repenting.”
“God has made you clean, but you need to keep your mind clean too.” Sally told me. “What you need to do is find you a good young fundamentalist man to marry.”
“Yeah, but we don’t have any in our church.” I said to Sally.
“I know,” she said, sighing. “I wish I could take you to some of our churches in America. There are huge Independent Baptist churches there. They are full of godly young men.” America sounded like it was the fucking promised land, flowing with milk and honey, as well as apparently fundamentalist marriage material.