Genesis 3

27 Feb

One day there came a serpent, little brother of the agrarian goddess–more intelligent than any animal that Eve and Adam knew. “Is it true that the war god forbade you to eat from the fruit trees?” the serpent asked curiously. “What a waste!”

 

“Well,” Eve replied, “there’s one tree we can’t harvest from; even the bark is poisonous, and if I were to touch it, I would die. The war god told me so. But there are many other trees here, a whole orchard where I can eat my fill, and isn’t that enough?”

 

The serpent laughed, for as the little brother of the agrarian goddess, he was well-acquainted with the unique properties of the taboo tree. By its fruit had his own people learned to farm and plan cities; they had accumulated knowledge, and were respected for their brainpower the world over. “It won’t kill you, I can assure you,” said he. “What it will do is open your mind and empower you to make informed decisions. The war god’s afraid of how strong and smart you’ll be if you eat this fruit–think of it! The great big war god, afraid of little you!”

 

Eve spent a great deal of time mulling this over. It was true that the war god had warned he was jealous and egotistical; was it possible that he would go so far as to lie in order to maintain the upper hand? She thought all day and night, but could not decide which course of action was best. First she sat in the shade of the tree, and did not feel wicked; then she ran her fingers along its trunk, and did not fall ill.

 

When morning came and still nothing had happened, Eve made up her mind to pick the best fruit from the tree, and she ate it. “Adam,” she called, and she offered some to him. The fruit was delicious and satisfying, and they were amazed to find that the world seemed to expand with every bite.

 

When both Eve and Adam had eaten their fill, they found themselves in possession of a new self-awareness. “Look at our beautiful bodies,” said Eve, “look how capable we are!” With a fresh admiration for their frames, the prototypes sewed wonderfully creative decorations for themselves from flowers and leaves, and donned them proudly, like parade marchers.

 

Then Eve and her companion heard the war god’s heavy footfall–he was storming through the garden as the crow flies, heading straight for the clearing where they stood. “Where are you?” he bellowed. “Where are you hiding?”

 

“Here we are!” called Eve and Adam, and they looked up to see the war god staring down with an angry expression, teeth bared.

 

“Why are you wearing those ridiculous garments?” the war god cried. “You must have disobeyed me and eaten that poisonous fruit!”

 

Frightened, Adam took a step back–both his feet and his mind. “Eve has done evil,” he said. “Eve is to blame. None of this would have happened if she hadn’t wanted to discover new things.”

 

Before the war god could get another word in, Eve confessed. “I did eat the fruit, and you were wrong: it doesn’t kill. The serpent told me the truth, and now I see everything differently.”

 

So the war god summoned the serpent, little brother of the agrarian goddess, and said, “Thanks to your interference, I’m cursing you low! I will send drought and fires to destroy your crops, and there will be nothing left for you to eat but dust. You and your people will be smashed underfoot, and I’m glad.” And he sent the serpent away and turned to Adam.

 

“You listened to a woman and look where it got you,” the war god snarled. “The whole planet is doomed, and it’s all your fault. I have no choice but to destroy you and every living thing; you’ve driven me to it. I hope you’re happy.”

 

And then the war god looked to Eve. “You’ll be punished with pain of all kinds. You’ll be sorry you rejected my protection. You both have long, hard lives ahead of you, and when you’re in trouble don’t come crying to me. You’re going to die, and you deserve it, fuckers.”

 

And the war god, in a fit of anger, slew some animals–particular friends of Eve and Adam they had been. He skinned them and from their pelts fashioned bloody wardrobes for the prototypes, grumbling all the while. “You think you’re as smart as me, but you can’t possibly be as powerful,” he said. “My strength is violent; no one voluntarily consents to my plans. Now get out of here, and don’t forget how merciful I was to let you escape.”

 

And so Eve and Adam were banished–they were the first ever kicked out of home by a self-righteous parent. As they passed through the gate, they were singed by the flaming sword of the man from the underworld, hired to kill trespassers and keep the garden empty. This was the first pain the prototypes had ever felt, and it would not be the last, but Eve was not sorry.

 

When she glanced behind, Eve was startled to see for the first time that the garden was encircled by a reinforced wall, so high as to be impossible to scale. She had been in prison without knowing it, and had escaped its confines by choosing something for herself. Now the whole world lay before her, open and green, and she went out to meet it.

Genesis 11:1-9

27 Feb

Now the whole world was one community, one big family. There was only one language, and that was enough. Ideas flowed freely, everyone had a chance to be heard, and no one was left out. The people began to migrate East, but their shifting circumstances could not sever ties between them. Some found a good place to settle in the Shinar plains and began to build a new home base there. 

Someone knew how to make bricks, and some others were architects and designers; they pooled their resources, and each person shared whatever specialized knowledge they had cultivated. “Work with us!” said the skilled laborers to the rest. “We’ll build a city for ourselves; its strength and beauty will remind us of how hard we worked to get here and how much potential we have. We’ll build a tower taller than any before and our future will be bright.” The people gladly pitched in together, sharing responsibilities and growing their skill sets. Brick and tar foundations set firmly and promising.

But the war god came down to examine their work, and he found it offensive. And the war god said, “No. These people cooperating and investing in each other are building more than just a city. When people work together this honestly, they are surprisingly powerful! With this much faith in each other, they have no lasting discord and they have no need of me. Let me destroy their togetherness, and then they’ll welcome me. Let me clip the cords of their throats–when they lose all ability to communicate with understanding, we’ll see how fast they turn on each other.”

So the war god punished the people for binding together. Some suddenly found themselves speaking new tongues, the very sounds of which were unfamiliar to their own ears. Some became deaf, and were made to rely on the inventive use of their hands and body language. Some could no longer form words at all, as though their tongues had been severed, and perhaps they had–who can say?

It was just as the war god had hoped: once they felt the bewildering pangs of verbal disconnection, the people could no longer keep a grasp on the close-knit community they had invested so much in. Suddenly split, the newly-formed factions clung tight together for fear of losing even the few they had left, and they began to view the others with suspicion and hard eyes.

The people, now identifying as self-interested tribes rather than a universal family, scattered in all directions–staking private claims for themselves and marking their territories. The dreaming was over, and the city remained unfinished and uninhabited. And the magnificent tower, half-built, came to be known as Babel, because it marked the place where Us-vs.-Them thinking was born.

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More to come.

LOL: A Response to Fred Butler

26 Jun

It recently came to my attention that my open letter to Christian/homeschooling parents has attracted some negative attention. Hip and Thigh blogger Fred Butler has thrown down his fucking glove, so to speak. A friend who read this post before I did strongly urged me not to read it, as it had upset him and he suspected I might find it triggering as well. So naturally I read it right away, and while I completely understand why some find it difficult to read (take care when reading; TW for hatespeech), honestly? I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. A real live homeschooling mother has already responded, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to do the same. Quotes from Butler in bold. 

Butler, of course, is obviously extremely well-versed in the art of mature conversation, as you can immediately see when visiting his blog. (“Smiting theological Philistines with a great slaughter” was always my favorite way to share the love of Jesus, that’s for damn sure.) The first way he reaches out to us black sheep is with the title he chose for this piece: “7 Truths LGBT Kids Need to Hear from Homeschooling Parents.” This is a nice counter to my own post’s title (“7 Ways Christian/Homeschooling Parents Can Support LGBT Kids”); in that where I invoked action, Butler makes grandiose truth claims. It works because when faced with things like facts, and the faces of individual queer kids, and attempts at human connection, he’s now able to simply say, “Fuck you, I’m right.”

He also takes a hell of a lot for granted. Seriously, there are so many personal assumptions about me in his piece. In Butler’s mind, I must be gay; I was raised in the IFB denomination, but am now traveling on some kind of woo-woo “faith journey” (and it is necessarily false, even though he doesn’t know what it is); my parents are “wacky” and I not only hate but shun them; I’m ashamed of and embarrassed about my religious childhood; my life is ruined and I blame it all on the “twisted” things my parents did to me in the name of religion; I have a poor understanding of Christianity; &c, &c. It’s hella ad hominem, and while I don’t feel the need to justify my existence in any way to Butler, I would like to clarify that I am not taking some kind of “faith journey.” (I have completely left my parents’ religion. My post addresses Christian parents from my position as a formerly-homeschooled child in a similar setting, not from some kind of “superior” understanding of Christianity.) 

Butler also attempts to discredit me by dismissing my work as “one of those cathartic rants dripping with emotion that complains” about my homeschooling experience. In fact, I spent several days writing that post, taking great care not to infuse it with irrelevant emotion or backstory. I do write more cathartic, personal pieces sometimes–Butler may find them disgusting, but both writing and reading them can be valuable in the healing process. Anyone insinuating that “emotional” people’s voices don’t belong in debate, or that highly expressive people (or, tellingly, personally-involved people) are less capable of rational thought, can simply go fuck themselves as far as I’m concerned. 

There is also this honest-to-fuck gem“The Homeschool Apostates, I mean, Anonymous blog […] cross-posted it…” I can understand why a guy like Butler–high on control and suspicious of compromise–might feel angered or threatened by the Homeschoolers Anonymous collective. But there is no way in hell he’s getting a free pass on equating it to an apostasy blog. In the first place, the HA bloggers are many and varied; our backgrounds are diverse, and our numbers continue to grow. No one claims to speak for the others. Some of us have changed religions or abandoned it altogether, but some hold onto their Christian faith, and to call us all apostates is incredibly irresponsible. The second (and I believe more problematic) implication here is that to speak critically of any aspect of homeschooling is apostasy. Guess we can pack up and go home now, a Christian home educator’s just admitted it. Christian homeschooling has become an unofficial cult. 

I’m going to step over a lot of patronizing bullshit–there’s simply too much to address–to focus on the more trainwrecky parts of Butler’s seven “truths.” (He warns that they “will sting,” which is, I think, a little too self-important for my taste. You can shove some word vomit in my face and call it “the truth,” but I am not obligated to accept your argument.)

Consider the fact that you may be wrong–fatally so….You believe your shunning of your parents and their ways is sophisticated, so if they shun you…the feeling is mutual….[Y]ou are just as equally wrong….[Y]our rebellion against your parents’ form of Christianity extends to rebellion against the genuine truth: that homosexuality is a damnable sin against our Creator.”        

One of the biggest differences between myself and my parents is that I am open to change. I actively seek information, instead of running from it and covering my ears. I try to listen thoughtfully, and sometimes I revise my views in light of newly-acquired knowledge. That’s why I am where I am today. So telling me, a deconvert, that obviously I would believe as you do if only I were less afraid to examine my beliefs is ridiculous. Furthermore, I reject the rebellious/obedient dichotomy. It hurts children and it has no place whatsoever in adulthood. 

Declaring homosexuality as sinful and being pro-family values is NOT bigoted. I know you probably would say you would never think a Christian is a ‘bigot’ for standing against homosexual sin, but you do. When you are by yourself with your friends, you all sneer at those ‘stupid Fundies’ and those ‘family values ret*rds’…[s]o don’t act all self-righteous when you tell homeschool parents, who you hate to begin with, to ‘prove’ their love to you.”   

Fuck that. I absolutely do think of you as a bigot, Fred Butler, and I’m not afraid to say it. You don’t get a free pass on discrimination and inciting hate just because you’re religious. You also don’t get to own “family values,” because the values you preach are explicitly and violently against many, many families. Queer people grow up in families and then form families of their own. It’s also quite telling that you think of (and apparently use) mental challenges as an insult, and I’m not afraid to call you on that either. It’s offensive and ableist–dare I say, bigoted. And although your entire post is a flaming trainwreck of “divine” hatespeech, this is what I most want an apology for. Apologize for using our developmentally disabled and mentally challenged brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, children, selves, as pawns in your disgusting argument against human rights, and apologize for publicly associating the use of this reprehensible slur with people who believe that absolutely everyone has human rights.  

If you believe your parents are wrong about textual criticism, do your own research into textual criticism. You’ve probably gathered around yourself a bunch of apostate textual critics like Bart Ehrman…who provide you with intellectual comfort for your re-reading of the Bible and its dismissal as God’s infallible revelation….[S]uch men, as smart as they may be, are dishonest frauds….Their warped take on the discipline has been soundly answered and refuted by capable men.”

This is hilarious. First, my parents are not “wrong” about textual criticism. They don’t know what it is. They have been led to believe that seeking any kind of deeper understanding of cultural, contextual, linguistic, &c issues inherent in any ancient text is highly suspect, and they become angry whenever their beliefs face intellectual challenges. In my open letter, I ask parents in this situation to open themselves to the fact that there are countless interpretations of the text and to read some academic work on the subject. To, god forbid, entertain the possibility that they might not actually know everything for once. Researching a topic means sifting information, weighing evidence. It does not mean rejecting out of hand any information that conflicts with your presuppositions. Second, while I enjoy Ehrman’s work, I’m perfectly willing to concede that it isn’t perfect–on the grounds that all of us are subject to criticism and our views to refinement. You seem to think, Butler, that there are “capable men” on one side, and Ehrman & Cohorts on the other–but actually, this is an entire field, and Ehrman has (very enjoyable) secular critics as well. Do you read, and give equal weight to, these secular writers? Take your preconceived ideas and shove it.

If you are actively involved with a ‘faith community’ now, you are blindly being led to the destruction of your soul…Biblical Christianity does not, nor cannot affirm homosexual behavior as normative….Homosexual sin has never been affirmed as normal by any genuine Christian body of believers, nor will it ever be….Only liars and deceivers tell you that being gay is normal….The leaders [of gay-affirming churches] are heaping upon you massive amounts of spiritual abuse the same as your Fundamentalist parents may have heaped when you were homeschooled.”

Wow, fallacy alert. It’s almost like you’re saying that your narrow definition of Christianity is the only possible right answer, is that it, Fred Butler? Yeah, not interested. You know who tells me that being gay is normal (for gay people, obviously)? The American Psychiatric Association. The American College of Pediatrics. The American Psychological Association. Do you want me to go on? Because it’s a fucking long list. And it includes scientists who once contributed to the conversion therapy myth, or whose findings were twisted to support an agenda they simply don’t. And the accusation you just leveled against them, against everyone who’s simply committed to not hating, is truly staggering. To conflate affirming, respectful, kind behavior with the vitriol and the long-term damage inflicted by the religious right, on both personal and political levels–to claim that those who treat us well are “in reality” more damaging to us than those who want us dead or dehumanized–is outrageous and beyond offensive. And I guess that shows exactly where your priorities as a Christian lie. As a wise, wise dog once said, “If this is torture, chain me to the wall!” 

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

“When you began your new ‘faith journey’ you probably secretly read gay revisionist literature that told you the Bible mistranslated specific passages that condemn homosexuality….Just because an author has “Dr.” in front of his or her name, or graduated from some Ivory league school, does not mean the person is a scholar and thus competent with handling the biblical text. The person has an agenda….[Their arguments have been] shown to be propaganda rather than genuine scholarship. [Links to external apologetics sites.] Just make sure you don’t smugly go away falsely believing no one has offered any response.”

Again, I am absolutely not interested in Christian apologetics or in being proselytized. I was a Christian once, and trust me–I studied this shit. A lot. But I don’t buy into it anymore, and it’s not my responsibility to stand here and let someone talk down to me in the name of Jesus. Now: “The Bible” can’t mistranslate anything (it’s just an inanimate stack of pages), but it does contain mistranslations, thanks to innocuous errors, ignorance, and pointed agendas. It’s rampant. The Bible’s anything but “clear” on…anything. And yes, unfortunately some do claim the title Dr. unearned…but in an academic setting, where writers tend to disclose their field of specialization and the nature of their educational pursuits, “Dr.” does in fact point to scholars. It’s okay for you to accept that; I’m not sure why you find it so threatening. Scholars can publish clumsy papers or come to inaccurate conclusions or write bad books, but none of that disqualifies them as “specialists in a particular field” or “highly educated people.” If I had to guess, I’d say that your words here represent a much larger distrust in the educational system in general and universities in particular…which is sadly unsurprising. It’s just that for some reason I always hope homeschoolers would value knowledge more than that. But no. 

And LOL, “Ivory League.” Talk your way out of that one.

Treat the Evangelical Christians in your life with mutual love and respect....You cannot hypocritically suggest [Christian/homeschooling parents] treat you with love and respect, yet at the same time demand they overturn what historical, biblical Christianity has fundamentally taught concerning gender, marriage, and sex, so as to embrace your false revisionistic version that confirms homosexuality.”

I’m not sure you know what the word “mutual” means. It’s impossible for one person to direct “mutual” anything at another. Mutual love and respect by definition means love and respect that people feel and express towards each other. You seem to be having a massive vocabulary crisis, Butler, because it also doesn’t sound like you’re too familiar with the definitions of either of those qualities. Love is not participating in oppressive efforts to strip away our civil rights. Respect is not clamoring for our silence and conformity. I wrote my post to parents who don’t want to lose their children, and I think it’s safe to say that many, if not most, of us find the possibility/reality of losing our parents to be very painful. We would rather not be alienated from the people we care about or forced to cut off valued relationships for the sake of our own mental health. But we will. Nobody’s asking Christians to give up their faith. This is not a mark of persecution. We do demand to be treated as adults with the right to make our own life decisions, and we ask you to make an actual effort instead of beating your chest and yelling about how right you are all the fucking time. 

Don’t interpret any pointed criticism as an ignorant, bigoted attack against you. Stop wearing your feelings on your sleeve. The people who are offering pointed challenges to your new found ‘convictions’ don’t do it because they think gays are ‘icky’ or they are attempting to shut-down some social iconoclasts that are rocking the boat of tradition. You alone have chosen to stir up your inordinate affections and rush headlong into a lifestyle that will not only lead to the physical destruction of your health, but also the spiritual destruction of your soul. Moreover, you insist that the entire Christian worldview…be overturned and done away with all for the purpose of soothing your hurt sensibilities.”

Okay, some criticisms are valid and lead to interesting conversation (and hopefully, greater equality across the board in the future). “I’m right and you’re wrong because the Bible!” is not an intellectual argument. “You’re wrong because you have feelings and they’re girly!” is not an intellectual argument. And good luck playing the classic “It’s not that we hate social instigators” card and then trying to sneak the “How dare you challenge tradition” thing past us. Your paradigm? Rejected. We don’t play by your rules. We want to honor the humanity in us, not beat it into a bloody submission. Those of us who remain in the Church look to the egalitarian values espoused by Jesus and to a long history of gender equality and empowerment in the early Church, now largely covered up by bro culture and boss culture. 

“’For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.’  (Matthew 10:35-38) And if regrettably, that means you may chose to continually be our enemy in spite of our best efforts to bring our restoration, then I decide to follow Jesus.”

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

7 Ways Christian homeschooling parents can support LGBT kids

25 May

Some background for consideration: I am a homeschool graduate, now in college. I identify (right now) as queer and trans*. I no longer practice my parents’ religion, but I grew up in a conservative-evangelical Christian community. Certain aspects of that culture have not only made it difficult for me to understand and accept myself, but also deeply harmed my relationship with my parents.

I realize that Christian/homeschooling parents may not be eager to take parenting advice from someone like me, someone who turned out very differently than my own parents expected and hoped I would, but…my parents did their best to give me a Christian education. To raise me to serve Jesus. I became who I am anyway, in spite of their efforts to control my future. I hope that parents in this culture can try hard to listen to the stories my peers are bravely sharing, so they can learn healthier ways to love and parent their kids.

Speaking as a member of the LGBT community, a child of evangelical Christians, and a homeschool grad, the best advice I can give parents struggling to come to terms with their child’s differentness is to listen without condemning. Even if it goes against what you’ve been taught. If you want to maintain a relationship with your kid, you’re going to have to learn how to let go of your expectations for them. They’re going to be who they are anyway, with or without your acceptance.

 This is in no way an exhaustive list of things you can do as a Christian/homeschooling parent to actively support LGBT youth in general and your kids specifically, however they identify…just a few things that would have dramatically improved my self-image and my relationship with my parents.

________________________________________________________________________

Create an environment of approachability. Employ positive parenting techniques so we can learn how to be confident and capable from a young age. If you teach us to conform or else, you’re teaching us to shut ourselves off from you in order to protect ourselves from what we perceive to be a real threat, regardless of your actual intentions. Our relationship with you will suffer, and we may also suffer long-term emotional consequences.

When you tell us that you love us “no matter what,’’ prove it. Don’t undermine our trust by simultaneously expressing hateful views of others. If we catch you lining up at Chik-Fil-A to protest federal protection of LGBT employees or cracking transphobic jokes, we will determine that your love for us is very conditional indeed.

If you want to raise us with a knowledge of Christianity, do some research into textual criticism. Catch up on the latest theological scholarship. Educate yourself so you can distinguish between what’s good and helpful, and what’s overly simplistic, lacking in nuance, or downright harmful. If this is uncomfortable for you, remember that many Christians–in fact, entire denominations–have found that being open to new information has led to a richer, more vibrant faith.

If attending church is important to you, make sure our church home is a loving, accepting community, in theology, theory, and practice. If it’s not consistently encouraging you to love more, if it’s sending mixed messages or advocates a systemic hierarchy wherein queer people are “rightly” treated as subpar humans, even in subtle ways, it’s not a safe community for us.

Thoroughly research Christian textbooks before you purchase them. Don’t blindly accept curricula just because it has “godly” and “biblical” stamped all over the cover. (This might require you to confront other assumptions, like theories of origins or structures of society.) Unfortunately, many of the big names in Christian-homeschool publishing are pushing a very specific political agenda that does kids a big disservice by discouraging and suppressing critical thinking skills.

Treat other LGBT people in your life with kindness and respect. Make our home a safe zone for our queer friends. Stand up for us. When we’re bullied, when we’re discriminated against, when “authority” figures in our world act with arrogance and hate. Be proactive in supporting political policy, at all levels of government, that seeks to protect LGBT people from discrimination and hate crimes.

Don’t interpret any point of divergence as a personal attack. We love you, but we are not you, just as you differ from your own parents. Everyone has the right to express themselves and make their own life choices. If we grow into happy, healthy, functioning adults, you should see that as a sign of success! You’ve done your job well.

HOW DO YOU STOP ASSUMING PEOPLE ARE BAD

11 Feb

I mean, since infancy I was taught hardcore that humans are inherently evil and that only with Jesus’ help can we Change™. The only other option was to live a life of sin, hurting everyone around you while you destroyed yourself with not only your own selfishness and fundamental inability to ever do anything without mucking it up, but also with thoughts/feelings/actions that are generally understood as natural and healthy. And because I took this message so much to heart, accepting as true everything my parents/church/revisionist textbooks offered me, I grew up despising myself. Not just because I was bad, but also because of the many occasions on which my sobbing mother demanded I ask Jesus to change me and of course he didn’t. I despised myself because I was irrevocably bad.

In addition to turning never-ending bitter cynicism inwards, I also developed a super unhealthy interpretation of criticism, disagreement, general fuck-ups, and the other people in my life/people I didn’t know/fictional people presented in media. I don’t actually believe it, on a conscious level, but I don’t know how to kill it either. Sometimes I can’t help myself from asking another person if they think I’m bad because fill-in-the-blank (and “no” is still surprising). And when I hear other people fight or hurl insults at each other, my first reaction is, that’s bad. That person is bad and they just ruined a relationship forever and now no one will love them because they’re bad.

I’m knee-deep in a 1990s sitcom right now and I think part of the reason I’m so enthralled with the serial portrayal of interpersonal relationships is that I’m up to episode 56 and nobody’s been abandoned or disowned. Nobody’s said, “Oh my god, I can’t believe you said that about me. If that’s how you feel, I’m out of here.” I’m ridiculously fascinated with this mysterious world in which petty insults in the heat of the moment are not assumed to be the best indicator of a person’s real feelings, disagreements are fucking dealt with, and relationships develop/shift/end organically according to the needs and desires of the people involved. Do normal people really take this shit for granted.

DANCE, PUPPETS

14 Oct

My performance as an artist and an individual is something that has evolved over an extended period of time. As a young child, I fell into a social role already established for me by my parents and their religious community. I was supposed to be a sweet girl, respectful of authority and quick to obey with a smile. My early artistic endeavors were indulged as a kind of play suitable for a little girl. I played my part with sincerity, believing that I was “being myself” despite having had little opportunity to construct much of a self.

Adolescence and a growing sense of emotional separation from my parents, fueled in part by newly divergent ideological positions, shifted my awareness of my place in my family structure. I became a much more cynical performer in the presence of any audience which included a family member or fellow congregant, as I neither believed any longer in the front under which I was operating nor felt able to express a truer version of myself around anyone with the exception of close friends. At times when I attempted to drop the pretense and answer questions honestly, talking about my actual interests and goals, my audience would note, alternately amused and suspicious, that it’s “rare to meet a conservative artist.” My inability to admit to being different, even as I failed to conform to the expected formula, led to an anxious and short-tempered manner that belied my accommodating appearance and eventually to a great deal of poor communication, resulting in frustration for everyone involved.

Claiming more emotional and functional independence over the course of the past few years has enabled me to address aspects of my own performance and to begin to alter it until it feels more honest. I can now give people sincere answers about my beliefs and my goals; I can dress eccentrically (as artists are apparently “supposed to” do) if I choose without my “modesty” or gender presentation being policed–or not, if I don’t feel like it. I am free to devote a large amount of time to furthering my artistic pursuits and to take part in impassioned conversation about the value of art to society without once being demanded to financially justify access to the arts in the midst of a recession.

Yet setting still plays a large role in the ways in which I interact with people. While physical distance from my family affords me the freedom to present myself as I am, or wish to be, most of the time without fear of immediate repercussion, I find myself relapsing into the role of cynical swindler during routine communication with them, subconsciously censoring everything from the ideas I want to share to the language with which I express them. In a way, this continued self-editing often affects the rest of my everyday performance, causing me to revert to old habits of secretiveness, despite believing that such suppression is neither healthy nor necessary.

Follow that bird.

25 Jun

Or, in other words, be sure to check out the new series Sierra of The Phoenix and Olive Branch is running on religious fundamentalism and sexuality! She’s posting the stories of nearly thirty people (including mine) in a number of installments. And she’s still accepting responses, so if you’re interested in participating but missed the initial deadline, you’ve still got time! Questions and general information here.

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