Saturday, December 21, 2013
I didn't really expect my deconversion do make Christmas more fun, but it did. The performance pressure is gone. I suppose some of it has to do with the fact that I never really believed, and always felt guilty for my spiritual indifference. Through Christmas pageants, bible readings, advent candle lightings, and ardent prayers for the true meaning of Christmas to touch my life I just wanted the fun and the presents. I felt so guilty for that. I loved being around my family, and I liked singing the carols and lighting candles on Christmas eve. I used to convince my family to go to my grandparent's Lutheran church for Christmas eve because the service was prettier. That's what I really love about Christmas, the beauty of it.
And now, as the queer heathen I really am, I get to enjoy that beauty. I can focus on being with people I love and who love me, I can focus on making delicious traditional foods and giving gifts and making the darkest days of the year merry and bright. All the guilt of not feeling "religious enough" has disappeared. And you know what, it's the best!
I get kind of upset, thinking back on the all the Christmases I felt guilty for not feeling the weight and import of the season. Why was it so important that I felt the weight of our guilt that brought baby Jesus to earth? Is it so bad to let your kids enjoy a holiday without tying the guilt strings to it? Apparently not.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I can sleep ten more minutes.
I should call my doctor's office.
I'll do it when they open.
Who am I kidding I won't do it.
I should do homework
School isn't worth it.
I have the face of a teenage boy.
I have the acne of a teenage boy.
I really want Cheetos.
I really want Savanna.
I'm not going to school today.
Put your pants on motherfucker you're going to school today.
I'll just skip my first class.
Put on your shoes you're going to school goddammit!
Wow, I left on time.
A text message I'm so special!
I wanna get her a billion fluffy cats for Christmas
I could fix this printer, but I won't.
People are idiots.
I look damn good in this sweater.
Curly hair remembered the coffee I like, does she like me?
Baristas are cute.
Curly hair is cute.
People are cute.
I can carry on conversations now, I'm getting better!
Don't call me a girl.
I'm not a girl.
Am I a girl?
I look really good in maroon.
I look like shit.
I need to stop eating junk food.
I'm scared I need junk food.
Maybe they're not shitty parents maybe I'm a shitty daughter.
Thanksgiving is a stupid idea.
If a fairy queen and a goddess of war got in a fight, who would win?
I am really annoyed with these people asking me to do their work for them.
I should probably smile when I tell them I don't mind doing it.
Why am I the only one on the train platform, did the train stop running?
Can I get Jack in the Box on the way home?
I need to stop eating junk food.
My eyes are tired.
I should write a blog post.
I have nothing to write about.
I'll write about my thoughts.
Shit this post got all meta.
Gotta get off the train.
Fuck, it's cold out here.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
So when I was about eight or nine I watched The Wizard of Oz at my grandparents' house. My family didn't have a television at the time so it was always exciting to go over to grandma and grandpa's and watch a movie. In fact I distinctly remember going over there (they only live five or so miles down the road from my parents) to watch TV on 9/11.
Anyway, my parents were not pleased that I had been exposed to The Wizard Of Oz. To be honest I didn't really like the movie then and I still don't really like it now, but I wasn't about to admit that and lose my chance at some real honest to god rebellion by liking a movie with witches in it.
I got a talking to, not about how I should not have watched the movie, but about witches. Witches. My parents sat me down and told me that witches were not actually good like Glinda, and that The Wizard Of Oz was not a good movie because it showed witches as good and beautiful.
Throughout this entire talk (which was very kind and well intentioned, my parents weren't angry at me at all) I kept thinking to myself "but, movies aren't real..." Now, I was (and still am) a total geek. I love fantasy, I adore mythology and folklore, and I read an old book on necromancy for fun (apparently alder wands are the best for raising the dead) but even at eight I knew The Wizard of Oz wasn't real. Yet here I was getting a lecture about evil witches as if I might meet one on the street and be.... I don't even know, turned into a toad?
But this odd obsession with fantastical things is the very reason my home school co-op demonized Harry Potter (good witches! And kids might try those magic spells!) and Pokémon (mumble mumble demons or something) and in some cases even more Christianish books like The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings (those were usually okay because Christians wrote them).
There are two problems with the actions my parents and their community took, one, questionable material usually got a free pass if the parents enjoyed it when they were kids (so I got to see Star Wars despite the Eastern paganism befouling it). And two... It's rather unnerving when an eight-year-old has a better grasp on reality than full grown adults. But then again these are the people who tell their children to pray if they feel like there are demons in their bedrooms. Nothing like telling a kid the monsters under their bed are entirely real and out to possess them. But hey, you've got the sword of the spirit and the power of prayer on your side! Go get 'em champ, and sleep well.
Friday, October 4, 2013
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
I ride mass transit for part of my commute to school. It's really cool, besides running for the train and looking like a total dork, I also get to meet people I would never had a chance to meet before. Like today this older woman in an electric wheelchair came zipping onto the train. She then leaned back in her chair, gasped and said "whoop! I had it set on fast!"
So I said "you're a speed demon!"
She laughed and laughed, and I laughed. It was a short uplifting interaction that I would never have experienced if I hadn't recognized and responded to the human next to me.
I'm kind of a shy person, but I'm getting more and more outgoing since my deconversion and coming out. I think part of it is the layers of shame and fear I was taught, not just as a Christian but also as a middle to upper class white person, are dissolving. I'm living on my own now (yep, my move was successful and my new place is great!), I'm working and going to school at the same time so my financial status has changed (I'm still really well off compared to most people), I'm openly queer, I am one of the people I was taught to be afraid of. So, the old fears fade as I realize their bigoted origins. Also, my "enemy" (for lack of a better term) is now the people who taught me I should be afraid, not those they taught me to fear. I am far more threatened walking into a church then onto a bus.
I don't really know where this post was going, I guess I'm just happy I can recognize the people around me as people, and engage them as equals, rather than living in a world of potential threats.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Thursday, September 5, 2013
It was years ago that I first learned about Koko, I think it was in a National Geographic magazine. I remember, distinctly, reading about Koko pointing out a red piece of lint on a towel, signing "red" over and over to the confusion of her human companions until they realized she was pointing to the lint. Maybe she was pulling their scrawny homo sapien legs.
Reading about Koko was one of the first times I truly experienced doubt. Now, on my journey from Evangelicism to Atheism was almost subconscious. Maybe most people don't wake up one day and think "hmmm, I guess I a gay atheist now" but to be honest, that was pretty close to my experience. A lot of it had to do with the incredibly narrow culture I grew up in, I just had to grow out of my childhood indoctrination. I'm digressing though, the point of this is that Koko caused me to experience profound doubt. Or, in less loaded terms, she caused me to reevaluate the way I saw the world and non-human animals. The reevaluation raised huge questions about Christianity's treatment of the environment and non-human animals (particularly mainstream American Christianity as it is linked to conservative denial of human impact on the planet).
And Koko scared me Because if what I saw here was true, if the so called "lower animals" were capable of human emotion, and even acquisition of language, what did that say about god? What did that say about creation? I had the profound feeling that I was no longer alone, that maybe humans aren't as special as we like to think we are.
Today I read about great apes and other self-aware highly intelligent non-human animals with voracious curiosity. Koko doesn't scare me at all (when I saw a picture of her on her 42nd birthday I felt incredibly happy for her). When exploring the world of animal cognition and the several long term studies that have been done, I feel more connected to the world. One of the major parts of my life that has changed since letting go of my old ideas is an intense connection to the world and everything in it. Many religions have a focus on the afterlife, and as a child, I spent so much time focused on what would happen after my death that I couldn't live in the present. Now I experience every moment as it happens (at least, I try to). And with that awareness and ability to be present come empathy and desire for understanding. I want to understand and respect all living things, human or otherwise.
Here is some more cool stuff because I'm a geek for animals:
A Quick Video About Alex The Parrot
Susan Savage-Rumbaugh Talks About Her Work With Bonobos
A Super Cool Study Finds That Very Young Human Infants Respond to Lemur Calls
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
I don't believe in virginity, I don't believe in it as a concept. I think there are a lot of really interesting and misogynistic ideals wrapped up in the whole virginity thing, and I'm just going to start at the top and unpack. But to start with, here's my ultimate favorite quote on virginity (aside from the one I used as the title, which is by the inestimable Kurt Cobain):
“I think the concept of virginity was created by men who thought their penises were so important it changes who a woman is.”
(I found this lovely quote on tumblr, here, where the page background is a bunch of vulvas, which is cool ^-^)
So, virginity. What is it? Lets get specific for a minute, Merriam Webster considers virginity to be "the quality or state of being virgin; especially maidenhood". What's maidenhood you ask? Back to Merriam Webster we go, " the quality, state, or time of being a maiden". Maidenhood is also an old euphemism for the hymen (along with maidenhead), but we'll discuss anatomy in a moment.
So, essentially, a virgin is a woman who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. Wait, what, men can be virgins too? But the word is almost exclusively used on women and is feminine in origin*. Virginity is a lady thing, I'm going to explain why.
Here's where we return to the hymen, in ye olde days (and today) an intact hymen was considered the proof of virginity. A woman could be (and still can be) examined by a doctor and presented with a certificate of virginity. Vaginal bleeding on the wedding night is also considered proof of maidenhood. This actually still happens among some intensely patriarchal cultures, and hymenoplasty (reconstruction of the hymen) is more common that you would expect. And it doesn't only happen way off in wherever you think patriarchy still happens, because, yanno, patriarchy still happens everywhere.
So, if the hymen is how we tell who is and isn't a virgin, people with penises are incapable of being virgins, and people with vaginas who engage in penetrative anal sex are still virgins. Obviously there's the whole "letter of the law vs. spirit of the law" but that's the problem, we don't even know what "sex" constitutes. If a girl masturbates, is she still a virgin? If she gives a guy a blowjob, has she lost her virginity? What if she has sex with another girl?
The point is, virginity is meaningless. It is a socially constructed ideal that upholds women's sexuality as a commodity for men. That is what certificates of virginity are all about, proving that a woman is unsullied, not damaged goods. The entire concept of virginity is based in women being objectified.
*the word virgin is descended from the Latin word for "young woman". The constellation Virgo, for instance, is "the young woman". Not "the virgin" as English would use the word now. She's been linked to fertility goddesses, so not a virgin. Also, consider how virgin is a compliment and an expectation when applied to an unmarried woman, but an insult when applied to a man. Now keep considering it. Go on, think hard. And while you're at it, think about what that says about our culture.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Wednesday night involved cupcakes, the friends of my siblings, and a viewing of The Italian Job. After the movie I got to chatting with one of my younger brothers, and his friend. For some reason, we started talking about self defense (probably because my younger brother and his friend are oddly obsessed with legal violence). I chimed in, since I work at a warehouse and am occasionally there alone and therefore actually have a reason to think about self defense (although, granted, not much of a reason). The conversation escalated until we were hypothetically choosing weapons to fend of hypothetical attackers. Something about it galled me, but I wasn't sure what.
Then, from across the room a friend of my sister (T.) broke in "do you guys have to keep talking about violence?"
He was genuinely disturbed by our conversation. Then I realized why I was so unnerved, while the conversation had disturbed me as well I felt that somehow I could not back out of it. I was having a man-off with these two dudes, and you don't back down from a man-off. I had to defend my manhood (womanhood? Whatever) or else admit to dishonor. I held on for a few more minutes, then decided that defending whatever the hell I was defending by not being the first one to leave the conversation wasn't really worth my time. I went across the room and talked to T. about musicals. It was much more edifying.
Manhood and manliness are weird. For some reason my younger brother has always treated me more or less like "one of the guys" perhaps because of my intense disgust with "girly things". In fact, we talked about what actresses we found most attractive way back before I even considered coming out. He's given me a glance into the world of manliness, and I don't really like what I see. The whole thing seems overly complicated and constricting. Gender roles are confusing, I think I'll stay queer.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Saturday, August 10, 2013
Note: I know my experience isn't everyone's experience, but my experience is important and adds another facet to something this author has cast as a very two-dimensional issue
Alright, here goes. Yoder starts of with some talk about how he takes kids out to coffee and gets them to spill the beans on why they left the church (get it? Spill the beans! I'm hilarious.). While he claims to have heard a lot of stories, his conclusions make me wonder if he actually listened, or if he just heard what he wanted to hear.
Reason 10: the church is trying to be too relevant
We’ve taken a historic, 2,000-year-old faith, dressed it in plaid and skinny jeans and tried to sell it as “cool” to our kids. It’s not cool. It’s not modern. What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize to.Well... I don't actually care how people dress, and I'm pretty sure the Judeo-Christian faith is older than 2000 years, but I can agree with one thing--it's not cool, and it's not modern. However, the reason I left the church wasn't because it was trying to look cool and modern... the reason I left is because it WASN'T modern. The problem goes deeper, and the church isn't addressing it.
Reason 9: We just went to Sunday school, not "real" church
many evangelical youth have been coddled in a not-quite-church, but not-quite-world hothouse. They’ve never sat on a pew between a set of new parents with a fussy baby and a senior citizen on an oxygen tank.Well, to start with, this was really, really, not my experience. I was always excited when I went to a church where I got to sit in the service with my family, and most of the churches we attended were like that. I know that this isn't everyone's experience, but it was mine. I held that fussy baby, and helped that senior citizen pass the communion platter, so not being in real church didn't make me want to leave. Being in real church is what made me want to leave, because in real church I was exposed to the toxic beliefs that changed the way I see the world. This argument sounds dangerously close to the "you just didn't understand the Gospel" argument, which is complete BS and a total cop-out. Do not demean my experience. (the you-just-didn't-get-it argument is a major pet-peeve of mine).
Reason 8: Non-Christians don't dumb things down for us
Rather than dumbing down the message, the agnostics and atheists treat our youth as intelligent and challenge their intellect with “deep thoughts” of question and doubt.Well, Yoder sort of gets it. But what I don't think he understands it that those deep thoughts he sticks in quotations are actually important. The origins of the universe, sexuality, gender roles, scientific ethics, where personhood begins, these are all very important questions. And a community that trivializes questioning what one has been taught, and considers doubt a problem is not a community I want to be in, point blank. I left the church not because they treated me like an idiot, but because they told me questioning and doubt were sinful. I'm sorry Mr. Yoder, but the atheists and agnostics got it right on this one.
Reason 7: We were not properly indoctrinated
Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not?Once again, this was not my experience. I knew (and still know) the basic tenets of the judeo-christian faith inside and out. I started out Lutheran moved to different fundamentalist and more mainstream evangelical churches, and became deeply Calvinist for a while. I read the works of church fathers, went through the AWANA program until I was in eighth grade, and attended a week long worldview training camp before graduating high-school. It wasn't because I didn't know my stuff that I left, it was because I knew and understood, I saw the ideology for what it was. I could not have come to that point if I had not been taught so thoroughly as a child.
Reason 6: We got too emotional
With nothing solid to hang their faith upon, with no historic creed to tie them to centuries of history, without the physical elements of bread, wine and water, their faith is in their subjective feelings, and when faced with other ways to “feel” uplifted at college, the church loses out to things with much greater appeal to our human nature.Oh dear, the old feelings are bad spiel. The argument here is that the church sold feelings not truth, so when us kids realized we can get fuzzy feelings elsewhere we left the church. I'd like to express that this is actually the opposite of my experience, after years of being told my feelings were untrustworthy, sinful, and to be ignored in favor of the truth I said "to hell with it". I am an emotional being, and I will embrace my emotions. My emotions and thoughts are important, and a community that ignores them and tells me they are evil is no community I want to be part of.
Reason 5: Something about community?
When our kids leave home, they leave the manufactured community they’ve lived in for nearly their entire lives. With their faith as something they “do” in community, they soon find that they can experience this “life change” and “life improvement” in “community” in many different contexts.Once again, Yoder makes a good point. When I left home, I (to some extent) left that manufactured community. And you know what, I found better communities, friends, more uplifting worldviews, and more compassionate service opportunities. I'm not really sure what point Yoder is making here, since faith is a community activity. I mean, the later part of the New Testement is all about community.Maybe Yoder doesn't think community actually exists, since he stuck it in what my Freshman year English teacher (a devout Catholic and a wonderful man) called cutie quotes. I think he's trying to say that faith isn't something people do, it's something else. I disagree, faith is, and always has been, a community of believers acting in relatively the same manner and believing relatively the same things. Faith=community. And if he's trying to say that people should not find satisfaction and joy outside their faith community, his religion is starting to sound like a cult.
Reason 4: We got too emotional II
When they leave home, they realize that they can be “spiritually fulfilled” and get the same subjective self-improvement principles (and warm fuzzies) from the latest life-coach or from spending time with friends or volunteering at a shelter.Following on the heals of faith-isn't-something-we-do this is an odd point. Because Yoder seems to be arguing that faith is external, not an internal emotional something. Since we can get the warm fuzzies helping our fellow human beings and bettering ourselves, why go to church? That's a really good question, when we can feel fulfilled and spiritually whole outside of the church, maybe we don't need the faith. I think Yoder's point is a true statement (although I'd call warm fuzzies something a little less demeaning and trivial, like you know, satisfaction with life or maybe, happiness?), I found out I didn't need church, because church only beat me down. Why stay somewhere that makes you feel like crap?
Reason 3: We got tired of pretending
In the “best life now,” “every day a Friday” world of evangelicals, there’s little room for depression, struggle or doubt. Turn that frown upside down, or move along.This is very true. Unfortunately, Yoder seemed to say earlier that he does not think the church has room for the deep questions like those Athiests and Agnostics ask, since they're really not that deep anyways. Here's what I got tired of hearing, I got tired of hearing that God had a plan, that I didn't understand but He did. I got tired of a petty God who would play with my life because I didn't really matter. It's not that the church has somehow stopped making room for depression, struggle and doubt, it's that the room was never there in the first place.
Reason 2: We couldn't be nice enough
But their diet is Law, and scripture tells us that the law condemns us. So that smiling, upbeat “Love God and Love People” vision statement? Yeah, you’ve just condemned the youth with it. Nice, huh?Oddly enough love God love People is what kept me going through years of frustration and pain. Once again, it wasn't the rules that made me leave the church, in fact I didn't realize all the shaming and legalism was going on until I was out. It wasn't the rules. It was the THEOLOGY. It was the faith itself. Until the church understands that, they'll just keep going in circles.
Reason 1: We didn't feel guilty enough
As we jettisoned the gospel, our students were never hit with the full impact of the law, their sin before God and their desperate need for the atoning work of Christ. Now THAT is relevant, THAT is authentic and THAT is something the world cannot offer.I think it's very interesting that Yoder ends with this. So, I'm going to give it to you straight, this is why I left the church:
I don't believe it anymore
I don't believe in total depravity
I don't believe in giving unconditional love and worship to a cruel and petty deity
I don't believe in a six day creation
I don't believe in man's headship over woman
I don't believe there is anything wrong with being transexual, bisexual, homosexual, poly-amorous, monogamous, heterosexual, or anywhere else on the spectrum
I don't believe my purpose in life is to convict and convert others
I don't believe my depression will get better if I pray more
I don't believe in consciously destroying my self-esteem for a deity
I don't believe the judeo-christian tradition is superior to other traditions
I don't believe it
I do respect the historical significance and beauty of the judeo-christian tradition, but I do not believe it. There is nothing that made me leave the church but my own journey through life. I think the church needs to let go of its lost children, because they aren't lost, they're just in their own place now.
Friday, August 2, 2013
Because of my isolation I didn't know how different I was until I was about ten or twelve, and started attending a homeschool co-op for the first time. I am naturally introverted, and had a hard time making friends, but I was used to going it alone and co-op only met once a week anyways. It was in that first year of co-op that I had my first crush on a flesh-and-blood girl. She was the only goth girl in the entire co-op, and took a lot of crap for it (apparently self expression is a form of rebellion against one's parents. Only immature and ungrateful children do it, you know.). And she was gorgeous. I think she was of Latino descent, she had caramel colored skin, and waves upon waves of shimmering black hair that fell to her hips. She was always wearing black and red, and decorating things with safety pins. She was an artist, and did cool, edgy things like drawing on her arms and listening to rock music (my childhood culture was pretty narrow, okay). I had a class with her--despite the fact that she was a few grades ahead of me--and sat in the back corner constructing scenarios in which we would talk and she would be so impressed by how awesome I was. I never talked to her.
If only I'd figured it out then, but I still had a long way to go before I muddled through all the confusion. In part two, I'll talk about my junior high friends, the party where I got jealous, loving too hard, and purity culture!
*I really, really, love my family no matter what dysfunction we share and despite all the crap we've put each other through. Unfortunately, one of the things about spending your entire childhood in the near constant presence of the same five people is that you take them for granted.
Monday, July 29, 2013
This is the story of my childhood self, and how I fell in love with story itself, which is a pretty good introduction to both series.
So, let me tell you a story.
There was a library down the street from my house, I spent a lot of my childhood there. In many ways that library shaped who I am more than anything else on the planet (except the planet itself I suppose). On the third shelf up, conveniently at my eye level when I was small and impressionable, were all the picture books on folklore and mythology.
I'm not really sure how it started, a pretty cover, an eye-catching title--no matter the cause, I was soon obsessed with mythology. I knew how Loki killed Baldur, I knew how the Aztec gods created men from corn and and how Anubis weighed the souls of the dead, I could retell "Coyote and the Butterflies", "How Grandmother Spider Stole the Sun" and "Saint George and the Dragon". I had a white stuffed horse named Freya, and knew Rule of Names.
These stories were fundamental to my understanding of the world, in fact, it would not be a stretch to say I was probably a pagan child. These stories made sense to me, I understood fickle gods and goddesses with human motivations far better than I understood an impersonal and wrathful God. I wove myth and Christianity into an odd shroud that I wore through my childhood as I went looking for kitsune and fauns in the swamp, and hiding under the covers from demons and seraphim at night.
As I grew older Christianity began to overshadow the paganism of my childhood understanding, myth was relegated to my writing, my safe place. I still read a lot of fantasy (something I was actually scolded for by folks at my homeschool co-op at times. My parents didn't really pay attention to what I read), and wrote even more of it, but the fear of God banished the goddesses, gods and heroes with whom I had shared so many adventures.
I am now an atheist, but mythology still formed the basis upon which I built my understanding of the world. It gave me respect for all life, it gave me understanding of peoples from vastly different times and places with wildly different values and ideals but who were all human. It gave me power, compassion, and courage. It gave me a sense of wonder. Honestly I've probably read twice as much mythology as I have Christian scripture.
What's the moral of this story? Well, it's something I'm going to continue to return to over and over, because the moral of the story is really what my aspirations are built around. Story is powerful, use it well.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Why did I decide on conservative colleges for my first two tries?
School number 1 was not actively harmful, but left me no wiggle room. School number 2 almost killed me.
School 3 is like coming home. I had a conversation with a professor of Ethnic, Gender and Labor studies afterward. I told her about my vision to write and to publish stories outside norm, safe places for kids who don't have safety. And she got it. She more than got it, she got behind it.
For the first time in ages I had affirmation. I had worth. I had something to give. I have been self-editing so much at home lately I had forgotten that there's a whole world out there, and some of it doesn't hate me.
Before I left for orientation, as I was racing to get ready since my alarm was set for the wrong time, my mom told me "I don't know if you want it, but I'm praying that you meet a friend today at school. A strong Christian friend who can encourage you in... life" I mumbled a thank you, tried not to be offended, remembered how it felt to fear for people's souls.
I guess the prayer was answered, because I made a friend. Or maybe it wasn't, because she sure wasn't the sort of friend my mom was hoping for. But I don't live for her, not anymore. I love her, and always will, but it's my dream I'm chasing. I'm going to catch it, too.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Saturday, July 6, 2013
I was angry, and I was grieving. I was hurting for "the babies", that nebulous idea. After all, who can't be sad about babies dying? It was my first experience with the militant pro-life movement. I was at a Bible camp, and on the first evening, after much doom and prophesy about how America was the new Rome drowning in licentiousness and other fun stuff they showed a short film. It was about abortion, and it was graphic. The pro-life movement caught me, and they shoved my head under rhetorical water stained pink with innocent blood.
I didn't understand. I didn't understand how anyone could hate babies so much. I mean, I wasn't a huge fan of babies, they were kind of annoying. I wasn't one of the girls cooing over the newest addition to the congregation, I kept my distance, if I got any closer someone might hand the thing to me and I'd be stuck carrying it around until it barfed or started screaming.
But nobody wants death, do they?
For about three years after that, pro-life was my calling. It was a cause I could get behind, it was a place where I (a woman) could be a warrior. I could loose that righteous rage without shame or censure, because apparently women are allowed to fight for babies, probably because motherhood, you know? So, despite my very un-motherly desire to stay single forever to avoid having to marry a man, I fought for the babies. Because I'm a fighter, and here was a battlefield I was allowed to stand on.
In my junior year of highschool my mom and I decided to volunteer at the local crisis pregnancy center. For those not familiar, our pregnancy centers provided free pregnancy tests and STI screening (as long as you went through a counseling session) and advocated "showing women their options" which meant "shame them out of having abortions and bring them to Jesus". We went through a three month training, through which I doodled kanji in my notebook (I was taking Japanese) and only paid attention when people started talking about sex (I never had any sort of sex-ed. Literally everything I knew about sex came from breeding sheep. No. I am not kidding.).
I started as a receptionist at the pregnancy center, and something happened. I started to meet real live women who were real live pregnant. My worldview was on shaky ground already, I was in the advanced stages of denial about my sexuality and my religious beliefs, but you can't deny the woman who is standing right in front of you with her eyes puffy from crying. She's trying so hard to be brave, and you know it, so you smile and welcome her. You don't think about the nebulous baby at that moment, you think about the woman. I had never thought about the woman before. The pro-life movement is really good at showing the uterus rather than the person.
That is when I began to listen, and listening is the way to understanding. I listened to stories, stories of poverty, of rape, of fear and of shame so toxic it destroyed lives. I heard them through the literature, through the women who walked past my desk, and I began to understand. More than that, my anger left me, replaced by compassion.
Today, I am conflicted on the issue of abortion. I think that's a good thing. It's a tough decision, not one anyone should make lightly, but it's a decision people should be able to make. I don't understand what it feels like to be in that situation, and I hope I never have to, but I understand this--you are here, and you are worthy, and I love you. I don't understand is the beginning of the conversation, not the end.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Reading her stories made me remember something from back when I was around sixteen. I was the nanny for a family, and became very close to the kids. One of them was a young boy who I'm going to call Jordan. Jordan was a hard kid to handle, sometimes he got really angry or aggressive, and his moods were more unpredictable than the average six-year-old. It was hard on me as a teenage babysitter, but I was really fond of him too, and wanted understand and empathize with him.
Jordan loved to play elaborate make-believe games, and I loved to play along. I'd done the same thing as a kid, building imaginary worlds and roaming through them. To be honest, I adored getting a chance to be six years old again, playing pretend with no one to judge me. In those games, Jordan was always a girl. I guess I didn't think it was weird, which is unusual considering the homophobic culture I grew up in. Jordan loved being "a baby girl dragon" or "a baby girl dog", and romping around having adventures. Sometimes I was the mom dragon, sometimes I was the kid coming to the pet store to get a puppy, sometimes the puppy got kidnapped because she was magical. One of his favorite "girl" names was Daisy Top. I have no idea where that name came from, but he loved it.
I distinctly remember one of the first times Jordan and I played make-believe. "I'm going to be the mom," Jordan said, "you can be the dad."
It made me laugh, "but Jordan, you can't be the mom."
"Because you're a boy. Boys aren't moms." I cringe now, thinking of how easily those words came, and how I didn't give them a second thought.
"But why not?"
"Because..." why not? I was stumped, aside from explaining sex to a six-year-old which I wasn't about to do. "You'll have to ask your mom why not."
I don't think he ever did.
I got to talk to Jordan's older sister recently, and she told us an anecdote about finding out her brother had been wearing her underwear to school between gales of laughter. And I laughed, and I started to wonder.
I'm not around Jordan at all anymore, and I'm not in any place to make definitive assessments of what sort of identity he has. What I do know, is that when I realized Jordan might be gender nonconforming I started to cry. Deep, gut wrenching sobs. Because I know what he's going to face. Because I know he's going to grow up in an atmosphere that could leave him hating himself. Because I told him he couldn't be a mom. Because he has nowhere to go, and no one to turn to. Because when I was told a story about what in all likelihood could be a struggling child trying to express his identity as best he can, I laughed along, rather than standing up for him, because I was too scared of what they would think of me.
So, if there's any way for my thoughts to make their way across the air to find their way to you Jordan, be Daisy if you want to be Daisy. I will never think less of you for being so brave.
Friday, June 28, 2013
There is a trend among Quiverfull circles (and other Christian circles to a lesser extent) to view children as objects, that is--as should be glaringly obvious--to objectify them. Blank slates, fruit of the womb, arrows in the quiver, a man's seed, even the soldier analogy is objectifying in its premise of conformity and hierarchy. Of course objectification does not rely purely on language, but language is a powerful indicator of where ideals lie. And these phrases are indicators of how the people who use them view the roles of children and parents.
Calling children "gifts" is one of my least favorite terms, because it is so objectifying, and possessive. One does not give a gift for the gift's sake, but to bring pleasure to the receiver. A gift is an object, a tool, a non-entity. The one given the gift can do whatever he or she wishes with it. Of course, no gushing parent calling his or her child a "precious gift" is really trying to say "look at this baby. It's mine, all mine and I will do what I like with it so it grows up to be exactly who I want it to be or else", but again, language is an indicator.
The soldier or army analogy is even worse. Comparing children to soldiers is sick. Child soldiers are a tragedy. The militarization of Christianity is a subject unto itself so I'll leave it at "Comparing children to soldiers is sick". That rather sums it up I think.
A huge problem with this sort of objectification is that it feeds into one of the most important underlying concepts of fundamentalism. Control. Objects and soldiers are things that the parents can control. By reducing children to "blank slates" waiting for the "way" to be carved into them, children are made easy to control ("guide", "mold" or "raise up" are preferred terms).
I wonder if this is why so many Quiverfull "success" stories focus on pregnancy, babies, and young children. Because there comes a day when children aren't children any more, and some of them decide they don't want to wear the uniform. When you subscribe to the idea that children are given to parents so that their parents can turn them into soldiers, if it doesn't work out the child is counted as a failure. This failure is usually seen as the child's fault. They "aren't spiritual enough", they are "hardhearted", if they had only listened when they were young. Generally no matter how happy or healthy the child turns out to be, if he or she isn't a soldier for the Lord, it means failure.
It's a recipe for pain, and sometimes even abuse. Children are simply people, treat them as anything else and hearts are liable to get broken.
Friday, June 21, 2013
Friday, June 14, 2013
Now don't get your panties in a twist, I mean sex as in the people we are, not the fun stuff. Discussing the Doctor regenerating as a woman is important from a feminist angle, but it seems even more important from a queer angle (note, I'm using queer here to describe all forms of what is traditionally considered "deviant" sexuality, that is, encompassing LGBT and anything else out there. I know it's not a perfect word, and it can be controversial, but for the purposes of being able to explain what I mean in a hopefully clear and concise manner I'm going to use queer as a catch-all).
If the Doctor were to regenerate as a woman it would do more than give the show a powerful female lead, it would give it an opportunity to explore and challenge conventional ideas of sex, gender, and sexuality. After all, isn't that what Doctor Who is all about? Exploration?
I wonder if some of the "The Doctor can't be a woman, it's not canon" and "The Doctor shouldn't be a woman the show would suck" responses come from people who don't want their ideas of what it means to be a gendered being pried into. When taken head on, sexuality becomes a hard thing to pin down; it's not as cut and dried as some folks want it to be.
Doctor Who has the potential as a piece of storytelling, to push people out of their comfort zones, to challenge their ideas of gender and sexuality, and do it in a way that is accessible to people with heteronormative view of the world.
One of the ways fiction, particularly speculative fiction, is effective is its ability to expose us to new ideas, to challenge the way we see the world and to do it in an empathetic and non-threatening way. I think that Doctor Who has a chance to do that, and the result would (if written well and handled correctly) be incredibly powerful.
More than anything, I would love to see a lady Doctor because it would blow traditional ideas about gender and what it means to be gendered out of the water, and explosions are fun.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
If the doctor in a female body can no longer be a positive role model to boys, that is a sign of sexism just as telling as if the doctor must remain in a male body. Story is important, it is more than a form of entertainment it is a form of communication between people, and between individuals and themselves. How we interpret story is as important as how we create story, and if young boys grow up in a society where they cannot interpret positive female role models as people to be admired and emulated that is a problem worth addressing. There is a truism in publishing, girls will read books about boys, but boys will not read books about girls. This has often been construed as something more damaging to boys than girls, and while I am not undermining the troubles sexism has brought down on men, I think when we look at the ideal behind "girls will read books about boys but not the opposite" we see that the issue is more subversive and dangerous than perhaps it appears.
Girls seen emulating traditionally "male" qualities are often seen as strong and independent, and quite often praised (of course, this is not always the case). Boys seen emulating traditionally "female" qualities are seen as weak and confused, and generally discouraged from this sort of play. The ideal behind "boys won't read books about girls" is that girls' things are of less worth than boys' things. This is an ideal that feminism actively works against, as it is the basis of too many unhealthy assumptions and practices in society.
In the end, the reasoning behind "The Doctor is a good role model for boys, therefore should not be a girl" seems to me to be an inherently sexist idea and ultimately perpetuates a culture that devalues "women's things" (which, apparently, means their bodies too). The Doctor can be a role model for boys, and for girls, in a male or a female body.
I'd like to address this issue from the Queer side of things as well, since I think that was a point of view the article completely failed to see. Check back for that, I might have it done Thursday? Only a day late!
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Today I woke up early enough to stretch, and eat breakfast before I left; that was a great success.
Today I bought mini-bagels.
Today I wrote for half an hour outside a coffee shop; I am a productive person.
Today I had yakisoba for lunch.
It was the little things that carried me through the hard times. Some days you move from breath to breath like climber moves from handhold to handhold. For almost three months now I have been breathing and living, without struggling to keep my head above water. When I think of the little things, I remember when those things kept the water from closing over my head. It reminds me of the final lines of "Wild Geese", by Mary Oliver:
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things
Sunday, June 2, 2013
When I was small I was told--blatantly in some cases, subtly in others--that girls did not do these things. Girls were not supposed to do these things. In fact, the ideology seemed to suggest, girls who did these things were somehow wrong. Unnatural. To be pitied, and even feared.
My family was certainly conservative and--although they did not follow the ideals of the Christian Patriarchy movement or the other movements that permeate the Christian homeschool community as religiously as some--the ideas nevertheless seeped into me. There were nights whenI cried into my pillows, asking God why he made me with such a thirst for adventure and a passion for justice and put me in a woman's body (never did I wonder why my body had anything to do with my role in life in the first place).
I crushed my fighting spirit, beat my desire for change into submission, and tried to conform my unruly wanderlust to the pigeonhole of "biblical womanhood". Outwardly, I made it work. I was already beginning to feel alienated from the homeschool crowd as I moved into junior high, but that was the only crowd I had. I made it work, even though I was miserable. There were a lot of things that brought me to severe depression in my last few years of high school and my first few of college (genetic predisposition being a major factor), but the fact that I was in all facets of my being living a lie did not help at all.
There was one place though, one place where I was safe being the hero, one place where I could be a woman and warrior and not be ashamed of it. That was where I waged my ballpoint rebellion. I fought with stories. I fought with vibrant, violent heroines, system smashing girls who carried swords, slew tyrants, smoked and swore and saved the day. I kept the person I wanted to be alive in words until the day I felt brave enough to let her out.
I chalk up my fairly easy acceptance of my homosexuality and painless (for me) break with Christianity to the freedom I had in these stories. They were more than stories, they were the world as I wanted it to be. My swordwielding ladies were more than characters, they were images of the me I wanted to become. When my courage caught up with my heart, I loosed the lioness.
Words are powerful, sometimes in very unexpected ways.
Monday, May 27, 2013
Friday, May 24, 2013
Thank you Fyodor Dostoevsky, for restoring my faith in stories, and in people.
Thank you Neil Gaiman, for a lot, but particularly for the version of Neverwhere you narrated. I fell asleep to it many times. Thank you for making a place where I felt safe, even if it was only the inside of my head.
Thank you Lori, for writing "the world needs your words" at the bottom of six lines a confused seventeen-year-old wrote in a moment of clarity. She has come very far since then, and some days only kept existing because she knew that somebody out there believed she had something worth living for.
Thank you Robin McKinley, for allowing me to carry a sword, and for my first crush (oh those redheads...)
Thank you Summit library, for the section on folklore. That's where it all started, when I was hardly tall enough to reach the third shelf. Now let's see where it goes from here.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Things I'm Afraid Of That I Shouldn't be:
-Finding a corpse in a public restroom or walk-in freezer
-Never being successful enough to move out of my parent's house
-Books going out of style
-Rusty medical tools
-The sun not rising
-Being forever alone
-Serrated knives (not using serrated knives, just the idea of serrated knives. I use them all the time.)
-The possibility that I don't actually exist
-Millipedes (but not centipedes)
-The mail service disbanding
Things I'm Not Afraid Of That People Tell Me I Should Be:
-Walking next to moving traffic
-Going to hell (or, the afterlife in general)
-Snake and spiders
-Walking through dark parking lots and alleyways
-The denizens of said parking lots and alleyways
-Drinking too much coffee
So, there you have it. Do you have similar irrational fears? Or are there things you're not afraid of that people tell you should be scary? And is that good or bad?
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
I've been writing, slowly but surely getting back into the world of stories. It's a good feeling, even if I can only get a few sentences out a day. I'm still terrified of doing something wrong, of my writing being trite, unimpressive, or boring. Maybe it is, but I'm trying to cultivate an attitude that doesn't give a damn, because if I'm perpetually worrying about whether or not I'm writing a masterpiece, I won't write anything at all. Not to mention, any sort of debut is bound to suck. Might as well do it with style.
Shut up, perfectionism. Shut up, shut up, shut up.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Anyways, when I was a kid (eight or so) I took a pretty bad spill on my bike. I took a corner too sharp on the track at the school next to my house and slipped in a patch of moss (we have dangers like that in the northwest). Somehow I ended up with my hand stuck in a chain link fence. I'm really not sure how it happened, I mean, how did I manage to jam my hand through a chain link fence while crashing a bike?
That's not the point though, the point is that for weeks after the crash every time I got on my bike I could only ride a few feet before getting so shaky and scared that I had to stop. Even when I got riding again, it took months for me to get my courage back. I walked my bike around that corner for quite some time, even though I knew it looked dumb.
Right now, I sort of feel like I crashed my writing. I'm scared of it, really scared. I haven't written in over a month. I don't know what has caused this bizarre phenomena, but I'm pretty sure it has to do with getting dumped. I used to share all my writing with my ex, it was what first brought us together. So, writing is a painful reminder that I don't have her love or her friendship anymore.
The solution? To hell with fear. I'm going to write an amazing book, because my words are mine, and they're important, and I want the rest of the world to see them.
Take that rejection. I'm going to turn you into a masterpiece.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Today, when tragedy reminds me that my little troubles are only a thread in the tapestry of mankind, my dad hugged me and asked me if I was okay, and I was a person again.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
That's not the point of this post at all, I'm just curious.
Here's the point, I cut my hair. Then I dyed it.
No, that's not the point. What is the point of this? I'm so confused...
Aah, yes, I went to the grocery store. That's not the point, but it's on the way.
Because I have a quite alternative haircut now, I get some interesting looks. You know the sort, that judging look people give when someone makes them uncomfortable. I personally enjoy making the general populace uncomfortable. Somebody has to do it.
That said, I stop by the grocery store near my house two or three times a week and get plenty of looks. It really interests me, seeing how quickly people form opinions of each other based on first impressions. Today as I was heading out of the store, I grabbed my two bags of groceries and went to put my cart away (I used to work at a grocery store, I try to make life easier for those unlucky enough to still work at grocery stores). A portly older woman headed toward the row of carts--the type who generally gives me those looks--turned around and said "oh, if you're not using that, I'll take it honey".
She called me honey. Yes, hard hearted cynical soul that I am, that made me smile. I told her she was welcome to it, and to have a great day.
It's good to realize that there are kind people in the world too.
Monday, March 11, 2013
It was a good writing day. There are good writing days, and bad writing days, but as long as all days are writing days I feel like I'm making progress.
Now I've settled down and I'm watching "The Secret of Kells". I absolutely adore this movie. The animation is stunning, the duality of the story is something I've always loved about Celtic tales--and mythology in general.
It's the sort of movie I get lost in, so beautiful it makes me want to cry. Someday I hope to create stories as beautiful as this one.
A good writing day ended with a good story, good all 'round.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
I am certain though that being brave does not mean getting rid of fear. Perhaps being brave means trusting myself. Perhaps being brave means trusting myself enough to stand up again, to walk on, walk on, walk on. If that's the case, then being brave is the only way to get anywhere.
Be brave, whoever you are. Be brave.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Sometimes, when life is really hard, it feels like you're shipwrecked in the dark. No matter how dark it gets though, there are always islands of light. I'm learning, slowly but surely, to trust the light. To trust God. To trust love.
I've been abandoned before, I've been let down and I've given my heart away to people who could never return my love (haven't we all?). It can be hard to trust--even somebody I love and who loves me back--but I'm learning.
This whole coming out experience, keeping love alive under fire, dealing with hate and homophobia, learning to trust, learning to forgive, learning to let go of what I can't control-- it feels like I'm stumbling from one small island of light to the next. As time goes on and people come to accept us, the shadows will be fewer and further between, and for now I'll hold on to what I can.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
I'm very bad at looking forward to things. In a reaction to the fact that I am a dreamer and a really unrealistic optimist I have trained myself to cut down all expectations for things I desire. When I want something, I tell myself over and over how I'm never, no how no way ever at all going to get it.
So for the past few days I've been running over all the horrifying ways in which this date could go wrong. Again, and again, and again. Letting go of anxiety is not really one of my strong points either. Now, to be clear, this date going wrong has nothing to do with the relationship between me and my girlfriend. Mostly it's my fear of sitting in my car waiting for her to appear while certain folks keep that from happening. I'm bringing "Ash" by Malinda Lo to read during that harrowing wait (haha! Take that iron curtain. I'm not passive aggressive at all).
A while ago, the sun was going down. The sky was clear to the west, and the sun was almost painfully bright, but in the east a heavy blanket of cloud was rolling in over the trees. It's an oppressive sight. I felt like the clouds were coming to crush me, and with all the anxiety mingling with my excitement over the date tomorrow and everything that could go so horribly wrong.
Then I saw a rainbow, stretching between two of the trees. Suddenly everything a rainbow stands for in the gay community crashed into everything a rainbow means in Christianity, equality, pride and the promise of peace and protection. Most of my anxiety just drained right out of me.
I'm still a bit of a mess, but, I'm hanging on to that rainbow.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
But, you know what, I'm not feeling super uplifted right now. I can't write. I haven't been able to for almost a week, maybe more. There's too much turmoil in my life right now. I hear a lot about artists and their melancholy dispositions, but writing takes serious mental effort and unless I can get myself to a place of relative calm I can't do the basic work of putting one word after another.
I've made the tiny goal of one sentence a day. I have to keep going, despite the turbulence in my personal life right now.
"She got to her feet and shrugged."
High art, isn't it! Next thing you know I'll be hanging up my Nobel prize (do you hang those up?).
What about you? How does your mood and personal life affect your art? Are you like me, where the artistic work needs calm and detachment? Or are your masterpieces cathartic outpourings from the depths of despair? Or can you work anytime, anyhow?