"People are searching for a stronger person to connect with. "
Karen Gerrie has lived in Porirua for most of her life, this is her story.
"I have never heard my parents tell me that they love me or are proud of me. But in their own way, I’m sure they do. During my childhood, I discovered I was different than others and didn’t fit in."
I was in trouble all the time. I couldn’t sit still for long and I didn’t make friends easily. I had difficulty learning how to read, how to spell, and how to do maths. I played up, because I was bullied and picked on by the students and some of the teachers.
"I just couldn’t seem to get anything right. The girls, in particular, were nasty toward me - they used to reject me from their groups. In the playground, they said hateful things and made me feel ugly and worthless."
It got to the point where no one was listening to me, not even my parents believed me about the bullying I was experiencing.
"I acted up and took my revenge when I could. This only earned me more isolation and trouble - nobody could handle me and I didn’t know how to cope."
All through primary school, I hung out more with the boys, ‘cause I knew they would back me up against the bullying from the girls.
"At college, the bullying continued and my unhappiness and difficulty in the classroom got worse. I started to rebel against my parents and against all authority."
I hung around with the other kids like me; the ones who didn’t fit in. We experimented with drugs and alcohol and I’d often be at school intoxicated, with one substance or another.
My Metal and Wood-Work teacher was good to me, I remember he would allow me extra time in the workshop to work on projects; his class and Sport were the only things that kept me at school. I stayed until the end of 5th form (year 11) and then I was out.
"The influence of drugs and alcohol led me to some very dark places - I was close to becoming an alcoholic. I got myself into some risky relationships and I was dependent on substances for my peace and confidence."
Depression, Anxiety and Suicide
I was unable to stand up for myself – even as a young adult. Depression plagued me and I got really low while I was in Dunedin in 2003.
"My years of suffering from depression and anxiety were terrible, I couldn’t cope with the intensity of my feelings or the loneliness I felt."
I didn’t have many friends, and the ones I did have, didn’t know how to care for me or show me support. I ended up in the Mental Health ward in Dunedin Hospital for three weeks.
"After I was discharged, I moved back to Wellington to live, but the depression and anxiety still affected my daily life. I was deeply unhappy and mentally unwell."
My dog, Evee, was a special friend to me through all this time; she was very loyal and could tell if I was having a bad time. I believe Evee saved my life on quite a few occasions. There was no way I was going to hurt her, so I reduced my risk taking around her.
In 2003, I joined a womens’ softball team in Wellington, called Amazons - all of us were from the LGBT community. I found friendship and companionship within this team that I hadn’t known throughout my growing up.
"It was at this time that the Labour government was getting set to pass the Civil Union Bill in Parliament. We knew all about the Bill and were excited about what it would mean for the couples in our community."
We knew there would be a protest against the Bill and we wanted to stop their voice from being heard. I knew Destiny Church and Brian Tamaki would be leading the protest march and had a serious hatred for them. A lot of my friends in the LGBT community shared my hatred.
My friends and I gathered as a crowd on the day of the protest and waited for them. We were armed with eggs, flour bombs, rotten tomatoes and other stuff we could throw.
In 2015, I tried to take my life on many occasions, due to a lot of self-hate, and bullying at work. I had a lot of dark thoughts about death. I lost all hope after one of my best friends committed suicide.
I never saw any of the warning signs and never knew she was feeling that way. I felt so guilty. I thought, “what’s the point to stay alive anymore? I ended up back in the Mental Health system in October, after an attempt to take my life.
I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act - meaning that I couldn’t be trusted to take care of myself and was constantly being monitored. They could take me and lock me up in the ward if I posed a threat to myself or others.
The Power of Legacy
Fast forward to 2017, I received a text from a friend telling me about a sisterhood programme starting in Porirua called Legacy.
"I genuinely wanted to know what the Legacy Sisterhood was about. Legacy was something I needed to do at that time of my life - it was good having a positive group of people around me. As I continued to go along, and slowly opened up, a lot of hurt was coming out."
I still had a deep hatred toward Brian Tamaki and Destiny Church - but after attending Legacy for a while, and realising that the group wasn’t all that bad, I decided to check out the Church.
The service was overwhelming - I hated to be hugged, and everyone I met wanted to give me a hug - which scared me. But over a couple of weeks, I noticed how happy and genuinely friendly everyone was. People were real; it felt like a family and not just a Church. Everyone was so approachable and because of this, I gave my life over to God.
"I remember the first time I met Bishop Brian and Pastor Hannah, it was when they came down to Lower Hutt for a weekend in early 2018. I was invited to sit at their table and after talking with them, my opinion of them began to change. I realised how real and down to earth they actually are."
I gained a better understanding about the authority and responsibility they have from God - to care for this movement and its people. I totally respect them for that and respect what they do - I don’t hate them anymore.
Positive, Lasting Change
2018 was a huge year for me - I was discharged from the Mental Health System and built my self-esteem and confidence back up. I don’t hate myself any longer. I also began to facilitate Legacy in Porirua. I know that I still have things in my future to conquer, but now I just say, “bring it on!”
"I have been able to grow some great friendships that have stood the test of hard times. I have a purpose in life now, and I’m guiding others to discover their purpose through Legacy."
I want to let them know there is hope, that this (right now) is just a small part of their journey in life and there are better things for them out there.
I know that nobody is beyond the reach of change. I will always accept anyone into my Legacy group, whatever their culture, religion or lifestyle. I want to see women set free from whatever is holding them back from being their true self.
"LGBT is a lifestyle but also a label, like Depression, Addiction and Mental Health. We all need to see past these things, we are all human first, we have to learn to see the person, not the label society gives us."
I was once so hateful toward Destiny Church and its leaders, now I realise the amazing work we are all doing together. I have been a member of Destiny Church for nearly two years now, with no regrets.
"I have a heart for the lost and forgotten, also for those who have been put in the “too-hard” basket."
I am a voice for those that don’t fit the boxes of society - to push through the walls of stereotype, stigma and limitations.
"Legacy provides a space for woman from all walks of life, culture or experience to talk freely and openly about the stuff that they are going through or have survived. We can take steps forward together, learn through our mistakes and praise each other for our achievements."
Legacy is just the beginning - Iwi Tapu offers the wrap around community and support to continue. I am a member of the Tu Tangata Riders and love the work of Man Up and Legacy throughout New Zealand and Australia.