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.


Cool new thing: the Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

7 Jun

Through cross-promotion and collaboration, the Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network is a powerful way of supporting and promoting spiritual abuse survivors in our individual blogging efforts.  We are working together toward a shared goal of increasing awareness of this issue of spiritual abuse – the control, the confusion, the devastation, our struggles, our triumphs, our survival and recovery.

Rather than being territorial and sectarian (as was the modus operandi of the abusive religious groups from which we have escaped), the Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network employs the proven, non-abusive strategy of teamwork to gain more visibility for all the individual survivor blogs – in this manner, we make more of a collective impact on Google’s radar so that the search engines direct more people to read about this issue of spiritual abuse.

Obviously it’s not just me who relentlessly tracks these blogs down and spends hours reading archived posts. I love the idea of making this information and these stories more visible and accessible, so yes. A+, people. A fuckin’ +.

Aaaaand that’s all the energy I can afford to expend tonight, so join, if so inclined, and maybe find another writer or two who’s been flying under your radar. And GROW THIS LIST, PEOPLE.

The case for destroying the family

24 Apr

[TW for homophobia, religious propaganda]

The Religious Right’s problems with civil rights aren’t news. Gay marriage, if and when legalized, will tumble their structures; marriage equality, they say, is an attack on the family. Queer activists and allies respond that one couple’s marriage cannot cause the delegitimization of someone else’s, that gay people are part of families themselves, that maligning gay people hurts families–by tearing them apart, by teaching them to turn on one another–and of course all of this is true. Yet defenders of “traditional marriage” continue to insist that recognizing the validity of gay relationships will alter the fabric of society by destroying the institution of the family.

They’re right.

The family is a very exclusive club, and only the favored–the similar–are allowed in. To join, you have to be a core member of a small group of blood relatives (with one or two exceptions); there must be a mother and a father present, and they must be legally married. The rest of the family is composed of these parents’ (usually biological) children. The tried-and-true nuclear family unit.

Under this model, which has come to be seen as “traditional” (and therefore inherently worth saving, somehow), one size fits all. The family is comprised of individuals, but instead of those individuals’ unique needs informing the needs of the family, each person is expected to sublimate themself for the benefit of their family unit. And the “family unit” is indeed a unit, operating as one, sharing one goal and one set of beliefs. The family is not only inherently exclusive, but also restrictive, as it limits the ways people can interact and connect with each other and whittles down their list of options to include only things that benefit their family group as a whole.

To clarify, I am not referring to families who happen to consist of married heterosexual couples and their children (although these families certainly enjoy their share of socioeconomic and legal privilege), but to the mythical Family that’s placed on a pedestal. To the expectation that a group of people will always magically get along with each other simply because they happen to share some genes. To the persistent idea that there is one correct way to have a family, to be a family, and that the many “family” groups who fail (for various reasons) to measure up are merely imposters, clusters of deviants with a universal, sinister plan to undermine the one true Family.

Under the model of the family, it’s not just gay couples and their loved ones who go unrecognized. It’s young people abandoned by their parents. It’s orphaned children. It’s single parents. Anyone who doesn’t meet the stringent requirements has no hope of belonging, of finding their place in a family that our culture will acknowledge. The blow is made especially bitter when society insists, over and over, that nothing in life could be more important or fulfilling than family.

Fortunately, the family is a myth. There are many ways to form families, and people have embodied the diversity of family groups throughout history. A daddy and a mommy and their children can be a family, but so can two daddies and their children, and so can two mommies and their children. Grandparents or aunts or uncles or other relatives raising children can be a family. A collective of caring adults raising one child can be a family. Parents who choose to live unmarried, single parents, divorced parents, remarried parents, polyamorous parents, trans parents. Children can have more than one set of parents. Parents can have children not naturally born to them. Extended families. Blended families. Broken families. Chosen families. Child-headed households. Households with no children at all. People with pets. Platonic partners. All of these are real families, and I’m sure there are more.

Fundamentalist Christian culture sees gay relationships–really, most (if not all) less-conventional partnerships and families–as a serious threat, if not directly to their own marriages, then to the future marriages of their children. For if two men can marry each other, what happens to the tired gender roles they impart as immovable doctrine? If two women can function in a loving relationship just as well as a man and a woman, what does that say about their carefully constructed formulas for a happy marriage, about the things each partner is “supposed” to want and need, about human nature large-scale? It becomes no longer necessary to see humanity as yin and yang, two separate but complementary halves. Each person is equal–not the same, no, people are not the same; but we are equal. And children might come to believe that, if people of every gender are equal, gay relationships might not be so sinful and harmful as their parents would have them believe. If women and men are equal, the “natural” right of a man to lead his family (including his wife) as head of the household dissipates, and he is left as simply another member of a family group who must work hard to understand and be understood, who must earn respect and appreciation instead of demanding it. Christian men are terrified of losing their “god-given” authority, and they are right in assuming that broadening the definition of family will eventually challenge their position as little gods in their tiny universes.

So yes, we aim to crumble the family. I can think of no better result of legalization of gay marriage than the widespread broadening of the definition of family to include everyone, everyone who wants in. Everyone is equal, and everyone deserves to be valued as such.

Self-fulfilling threats of isolation.

23 Jan

“You think you’ve got issues? Adding a boyfriend* into the mix doesn’t solve anything, it just means you have triple the problems to deal with now. Your personal crap, his personal crap, and an entirely new class of problems that crop up as a result of your relationship. Don’t even consider the possibility of a significant other until you can stand up all by yourself.” That’s the message pushed onto youth in the Christian bubble by respected evangelical leaders, everyone from [female] purity-obsessed heart-throb Chad Eastham to Shannon Etheridge, coauthor of “Every Young Woman’s Battle.”

*because everyone is cisgender and heterosexual hahahaha

So you can’t turn to lovers. And you have to be careful with your friends, because they’re fallible and could lead you astray. Christian friends are susceptible to gossip and exclusivity, and you should take particular care to avoid becoming close to any “nonbelievers.” You should always be primarily concerned with maintaining a good reputation. Your parents are necessarily your parents, not your friends (and not both). People in general will fall, will fail you, will leave you empty and broken and needing more. Where can you go?

The answer, obviously, is Jesus. Jesus is your one and only, Jesus is your best friend. Jesus will heal your hurts and give you strength and be your refuge. In fact, Jesus is the only one who can do these things for you, the only one who can meet your needs. The only right answer, whatever the question. Whoever you are.

You know what, if you find purpose in the Christian tradition or another religion, that’s wonderful, good for you. If the promises of Jesus offer you some comfort and stability, okay. But taking those very personal experiences and applying them cart blanche to everyone isn’t just absurd, it’s harmful. I remember countless Sunday mornings spent studying the congregation, wondering how many of them actually felt the connection they claimed they felt, and how many of those actually had one. Because I tried, I did everything I was “supposed to” do, and it was never there. Jesus was never my friend and confidant, he never answered my prayers, and he never gave me peace. He never made me feel less alone. The religion never came alive for me as it seems to do for some. Jesus was a dead end. Jesus is dead. Talk about high expectations.

Instead of beating it into kids that no one will ever understand them or love them as much as a controversial philosopher from an ancient age, can’t we just teach communication skills? Can’t we teach our children how to value themselves and each other? Yes, I realize that hooking up with someone or making new friends can’t fix all your broken parts. (I’ve never heard anyone outside the evangelical subculture even hint at such an idea.) But how is anyone supposed to learn how to stand up or grow at all without trying and making “mistakes”? How are we supposed to ever be ready to love people if we’re trained to mistrust the love and acceptance other people have for us? Pair my stunted self-awareness and connection to others with a sense of the utter deadness engendered by the failure of the only “legitimate” vehicle for finding meaning and happiness, and all you get is separation. I can’t escape the deep, dark isolation by tunneling down even further.

No, one person can’t fix me, but loving and being loved is healing, especially since so many pains originate from being loved too little or too poorly in the first place. Even the shock of realizing that other people consider you lovable goes a long way. If I wait to form bonds with people until I know how to stand up by myself, I never will, because it’s the relationships I’m forming now that are helping me figure everything out. A little scary, yes. With all the stops and starts and false alarms and plot twists you’d expect in human interaction, I guess. But I’d rather try and incur the occasional damage than never gamble and never, never win.

Nothing is as you said.

18 Dec

You’ve kept me closed indoors under surveillance for such a long time, under the guise of “protection,” that I now doubt my ability to survive outside on my own. If that’s what it takes for you to add members to your flock, if the only way you can keep your young at home is by clipping their wings, then goddamn, that’s desperation. Nevertheless, I’ve still managed to make a few observations.

You told me the world is full of uncaring, cold-hearted people, but I keep meeting lovely people. I suppose they’re all exceptions to the rule.

You said I’d find the working world full of minority lazy-ass (but you won’t say ass) drifters who take every opportunity to slack off, leaving the few honest, white hard workers like myself to cover for them, but I’ve found that my coworkers work as hard as I do, and sometimes I’m not the poster child for industrious labor. (And thirteen of our group of fifteen are white to boot.)

You assured me that everyone who disagrees with your political views is either lazy or on a mission to take away our freedoms, but you’re the ones with a lousy work ethic and the anti-choice protest signs stashed in the closet.

You said that thanks to my fine home education and the godly instruction of my parents and church authorities, I was well-prepared for anything life might throw at me, in fact, better prepared than my sad little public school counterparts, but now it seems they’re the ones who know how to do things, and I’m the one scrambling to catch up, fill the gaps.

You taught me that people who put their faith in other gods are dangerous and evil, and that atheists (despite having more faith than anybody) are sad, lonely people at heart, but you forgot the part where you make excuses for violent Christianity and avoid meaningful relationships yourselves.

You warned me about spurious organizations and Strangers who are only interested in exploiting me for my admittedly limited supply of money, but I’ve found that a little common sense goes a long way, and there are so many generous people–people who don’t necessarily have a lot of resources at their fingertips but think nothing of giving you a ride home when you’re stranded, buying you ice cream when you’ve had a long shift and you’re tired, people who’ll chip in to help cover your expenses in a pinch.

You’ve drilled into me that I can’t go anywhere, can’t do anything, can’t survive on my own–not that it’s forbidden, just that I cannot–but miraculously, armed with a GPS, the internet, and several libraries, I’m discovering that you’re incredibly wrong about my ability to do these big and frightening things by myself. I think I’ll get there.

You warned me that people out there are untrustworthy, but you’re the ones going through my personal belongings and searching my internet history. You’re the ones blacklisting my best friends.

You made sure I knew without a doubt how alone and unhappy I’ll be if ever I forsake the path you chose for me before I was born, but nothing has filled me with more despair and self-hatred than trying to walk this road for you.

You told me I am easily swayed from my principles and led astray, but you have no way of knowing how laughably untrue that is. After all, you’ve been trying to shake me from my sense of myself and the world as far back as I can remember, and though you may refuse to accept it, I’m still myself, for all your efforts.

“The Cult Song” – Shannon and the Clams

18 Dec

“25 – You Only Get What You Give”

14 Nov

Girl knew she would have troubles.

The church handed her womanhood

on a silver platter. They said:

“Make sure everyone is served.”

Will the Vague