Monday, July 29, 2013

How I grew up a smut-nosed little heathen in a fundie family

I'm thinking about starting two series (at the same time because I never do things reasonably), one on storytelling, one on my coming out story (which is basically my life story up until this point, and probably forever. That's the thing about coming out, it never ends.).

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

An Answer to Prayer (I am being sarcastic)

Yesterday was orientation. Oh. My. God.

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

One Year

In honor of filling my journal with almost an exact year of hard, beautiful, liberating life (my first entry was June 25 of 2012, my last was July 11 of 2013) here are a few of my favorite pages. Most of them have flowers on them.

Poppy petals from the California poppies in the yard

This is the page where I hedged around describing my first kiss (I promised I would never write about it as long as we were in the closet. Yeah. We were paranoid and had issues)

Maple leaves from the trail between dorms at Corban University

A list of "what ifs" about God. What if God is a woman?

A daisy from Point Defiance

My favorite mandala, I doodle a lot of them

The first draft of "Subtle Murders"

Souvenirs of a trip to California to see my brothers!

My dad taught me all about plants. He brought me these pressed flowers he picked in China as a gift.

Just some doodles

Rose petals from the arbor at Point Defiance.

So there it is, a pictorial homage to the last year. I turn twenty-two tomorrow, and in many ways it feels like twenty-two will be the first year of my life. I tried to be someone I wasn't for so long, and now I'm free. Liberation is a glorious thing.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I Don't Understand

"How could anyone do that?"

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.