I Was Meant To Be An Arrow

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kieryn Darkwater’s blog. It was originally published on July 12, 2016.

We would scoff at the idea that people wanted to have well-rounded educated children. I was meant to be an arrow to pierce the darkness and pop all the well-rounded bubbles. << actually a thing that was said.

I watched the news nightly from the time I was 8, I listened to Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingram and Sean Hannity religiously as a teenager. I saw Bill O’reilly speak, Ralph Reed recognized me and said hello at TeenPact. I went to a video conference that Newt Gingrich did, I attend the FRC Action convention with TeenPact twice, I met Bobby Jindal, Zell Miller, and Sonny Perdue knew who I was. I had a name in the Republican circles in GA. I campaigned for countless religious right candidates. My first sign waving venture was during the 2004 election and I caught the bug. I spent time in local campaign offices putting together phone banking scrips that worked really well, I traveled and campaigned for people in Alabama, Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire – as well as being thoroughly involved in the political scene in Georgia.

My blog was relatively well known – as well known as a teenager’s commentary on politics can be, anyway. I lived and breathed political activism from the time I was 13 until I was just shy of 18 when the burnout set in.

Politics is interesting where it overlaps with religion – and sexism, and gender roles. I’ve talked a bit about TeenPact and the sexism and queerphobia there is just as rampant in the republican party. My political involvement was a bit of a paradox. On one hand it was the only thing that was encouraged besides being a homemaker and I latched on to it for dear life. On the other, we acknowledged that a woman’s place was not in politics unless it was under a man in some way, so my activity was limited to ensure I was always under some kind of male authority – training to be a political helpmeet (my husband or son(s) could be the president someday, after all).

I am keenly aware of the amount of hate and fear of others that runs rampant in the christian conservative-republican communities. I was inundated by messages from all sides that being queer, liberal, compassionate, and seeing The Others as just as human as we are was wrong. Damning, even.

I was told by every authority figure to fear anyone who was different from what I was, what we were. The lack of compassion never set well with me, but I had nothing to compare it to. It was all I knew. I was warned of being too learned, too knowledgeable, too educated lest I become one of those man-hating feminazis. We shunned education in favor of the blissful ignorance paraded as enlightenment by right-wing pundits and preachers.

There wasn’t really a dramatic turning point. The burnout happened when I was close to 18 while my legs were infected and I couldn’t keep up physically or emotionally because life in general was taking it’s toll. I dropped out of politics and into relative obscurity – I was married, so it was expected. Quietly re-evaluating the things that were important to me while working really hard to be the kind of wife I was supposed to be (until self-acceptance became a thing and our relationship was healthier for it).

I wasn’t raised to be an independent person. My mother literally said, of my independence and desire for it “what do you think God thinks of that?!” I was 17 and a half and just stared at her blankly, and quietly mumbled something along the lines of “I think he’s probably okay with it?”. I was raised to obey whoever is above me, it’s something I’m still trying to un-learn.

While campaigning, I wasn’t campaigning for things I truly believed in because I wasn’t allowed to have my own beliefs, I was campaigning along the Paulino Party Lines – because that was accepted and encouraged. As long as I followed the rules, campaigned for those my parents approved of, and didn’t get any independent thoughts in my head, I was free to travel for short periods of time and feel like I was making a difference.

Toxic religion and conservatism permeated every fiber of my existence and my very confused and hyper closeted self. Being told day in and day out that you’re wrong for not being X or Y enough, burying all the thoughts and feelings that don’t line up with what you’re supposed to be…ignoring the things that feel wrong because technically they’re right. I learned that politics is corrupt as fuck and the GOP isn’t better than anyone else, and the reason they can organize and come out in droves is because they use hate and fear as their motivators.

Over time I reclaimed my independence, and I couldn’t let fear and hate dictate my actions anymore. I accepted that the person I am and the person I am becoming is the opposite of the person I was supposed to be. I am everything I was supposed to be fighting against.

Here I am, 2016, actively working to make the world better, to be an arrow to pierce the darkness, to bring light and compassion and empathy into the world any way that I can.

They succeeded, I suppose, just not in the way they meant to.

I Was Raised To Be A Conservative Culture Warrior. Then I Jumped The Political Fence.

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog. It was originally published on July 11, 2016.

I grew up in a conservative homeschool family and religious community firmly ensconced in the Christian Right. I was raised to be a culture warrior. I was raised to create change, to be a mover and a shaker. But only for the conservative side of things, of course, and there’s the rub, because I’m no longer conservative. My mother recently told me she thinks I should write historical children’s books—she’s always suggesting careers that she thinks would allow me to work from home and homeschool my children—but she had a caveat. “Just so long as you leave religion and politics out of them,” she said. I almost laughed out loud.

As a young teenager, I enjoyed writing fiction, including historical fiction. The story I developed most fully was set in the present. It was about a teenage boy who finds an island off the coast of the United States. In my story, this island is inhabited—I’m not even kidding—by a community of large conservative Christian homeschooling families that fled the wickedness of the United States to establish a secret colony of sorts on an island that had somehow never landed on people’s maps. I cringe when I think of the book, because its content consists primarily of painfully obvious religious and political platitudes.

Still, there was a reason the book looked like that. I was raised to change the world. I was explicitly taught that I, and my fellow Christian homeschoolers, had a mission to “retake” the United States for Christ. I was taught (by Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association, among others) that our parents were the Moses generation, taking us out of Egypt and homeschooling us in the wilderness, and that we were the Joshua generation, tasked with retaking the promised land. When Farris founded Patrick Henry College, he strategically chose the majors he did so that we, the products of the Christian homeschool movement, could infiltrate and target key areas of government and culture in our battle to remake the country in a Christian image.

My parents were political as far back as I can remember. I walked in more parades than I can count, put up yard signs, worked the polls, attended rallies, and staffed phone banks. I spoke with reporters and we ran campaigns out of our home. My parents counted my work on various political campaigns for high school government credit on my homeschool transcript. One year, I was a delegate at our state convention for the Republican Party. Conservative officials at the state capital started referring to us as their local welcoming committee, because we were always there ready to show our support when they visited our area. I assumed I would always be in politics, most likely as the wife of a political candidate.

This was not accidental. My mother sometimes told me that the reason she and my father weren’t out changing the world as missionaries, pastors, or politicians was that they were instead investing their time and energies in raising me and my burgeoning collection of younger siblings to do those things. We were to go out and change the world as missionaries, pastors, and politicians, with multiplied impact. But we had to be trained and prepared first, and that, of course, was why we were being homeschooled. Some of my siblings grumbled at this expectation, and checked out at an early age—though they were still required to attend functions and participate in political activism. Me? I was excited. I was motivated. I was passionate.

As a teen, I attended a number of conservative summer camps that touched on politics. I went to one anti-government summer camp that consisted primarily of lectures on the evils of environmentalism (a trumped up plot to control the world) and the failed socialism of programs like Social Security. We used pebbles to form slogans like “Get the U.S. out of the U.N.” on the ground outside of our cabins to gain cabin inspection points. I also attended Constitutional Law Camp at Patrick Henry College. At one point during a session, Farris pointed to various sections of the room, waving his hands over us, and declared that those students over there would be Congressmen, someday, and those up in the front would be Supreme Court Justices, and so on. The messianic vision was strong and our mission was clear.

It does something to you, when the weight of the world is put on your shoulders. You can no longer just stand back and let things happen. You feel responsible to fix injustice and actively work to make the world a better place.

At this point, you can probably see why I almost laughed out loud when my mother suggested that I write historical children’s books, but only if I included no mention of religion or politics. She would never have suggested such a thing to me when I was a teen, nor would I have considered it if she had. I did think about writing, sometimes, even about writing historical fiction, but my writing would have been religious and political of necessity. I was taught, after all, that I was to use my talents and skills to change the world—to win converts and to sway the public, to restore the United States to its (at least partially fictional) Christian, small-government past. To write a piece of fiction, especially historical fiction, without any mention of religion or politics would have been almost blasphemous.

In 2008, the Obama campaign somehow ended up with my parents’ home phone number. I was no longer living at home, but it’s theoretically possible that I may have put that phone number on a form I filled out with them. I got a cell phone comparatively late, and was still in college at the time. And so it happened that the Obama campaign called my parents’ home and asked for me. And that is how my parents learned that my politics had changed. In the eight years since then I’ve become increasingly willing to voice my progressive politics on social media, and, sometimes, in conversations with my parents. I’ve also informed my parents that I attend a Unitarian Universalist Church (I wouldn’t have told them, except that they had to keep asking about church attendance).

It seems my parents’ desire that I be a culture changer was conditional on my sharing their view of what our culture should be. I’m not surprised, really. Still, it’s fascinating to see it laid out that way—we know we raised you to be a culture changer, but now that you’re all progressive and such, we’d prefer that you stay silent on religious and political issues, thanks. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

I still have the weight of the world on my shoulders. I still feel responsible to fix injustice and actively work to make the world a better place. I can’t just turn that off.

Republicanity (Or, When Politics Is Your Religion): Savannah’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

TW: Religious/Political Indoctrination, Religious Trauma, Fundamentalist Politics, Cults, Slut-Shaming, Abortion.

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Savannah” is a pseudonym.

“A liberal Christian is an oxymoron.” The sentence garnered applause and amens from Baptist churchgoers in suburban Georgia. Like many Southern Baptist churches, mine was primarily composed of staunch Tea Party conservatives, people whose pastime was gossiping about Obama’s birth certificate, the liberal media’s war on Christians, and homosexuals shoving their lifestyle down our throats. Whatever the preacher said the Bible said about a particular issue was what our beliefs must align to. Forget thinking it through for yourself if the conclusion you’d come to differed from the platforms of McCain in 2008 or Romney in 2012.

Here, political conservatism and true Christianity were inseparable—indistinguishable.

I can’t remember the preacher going more than two sermons without bringing up some hot conservative topic. The liberals want to kill unborn babies. The liberals want to jail men for acting on their natural desires when a slut prances around them with her tits out. The liberals want to squash Christians’ free speech and arrest us for calling out sin. He pointed to cases like lawsuits brought forth by same-sex couples that were refused services. How the media and internet vilified the poor business owner just trying to practice her beliefs in peace. How she could go to jail for her faith.

All of it proof that the era in which we’d enjoyed the luxury of a persecution-free life in America was coming to a terrifying close.

I remember being taken to a walk-through drama in sixth grade. The theme, “End Times.” It wasn’t particularly political, which, looking back on it now, was rather unusual for the denomination—and the topic. I don’t remember much about this drama (it was traumatic for a number of reasons), but I do recall that in this near-future, fictional but supposedly soon to be non-fiction setting, Christians were being slaughtered. I saw one actress play a young woman who stole bread from a garbage can because Christians were not allowed to buy food. She was discovered, and given a choice, just like all the others: abandon her faith—conform—or die. The stage lights went out as we heard a gunshot and her scream.

This was where we were headed, my pastor said. If we continued to let the liberal world win, it would come sooner—but if we resisted, we might be able to push it off long enough for us, and our children, to live in peace.

This was our culture war, and our side of the fight was not only divinely sanctioned, but vital to our own survival. The trademark of a cult is an aversion to the outside world. We and only we are your friends. We keep you safe.

Everyone else is the enemy. Everyone else will kill you.

Many places foster this mentality, but this church’s (and I have no doubt that many churches share this idea) was doubly potent. While failing to comply with the liberal world could result in being declared a bigot—or, if the world kept going to shit, death—rejection of conservative Christian principles had a much more serious consequence. The strong stance of anti-abortion, anti-LGBT rights, and pro-everything Republican was much more than a political alignment or a voting guideline.

It was delivered to us by God’s spokespeople, the pastors and spiritual leaders of our time, and to disagree with it was to disagree with God himself.

Over the span of many years, I heard more messages than I can count about what constituted a “true” Christian. Most of the characteristics on the list involved some kind of community service, particularly volunteer work with Christian non-profits or within the church itself. However, the one thing that was always consistent—and perhaps most important—was an adherence to conservative values. One could not be a “true” Christian if one did not hold to these.

A person who called themselves a Christian and held even one liberal political view was misguided at best, but more likely a fraud.

Oft-repeated passages that referred to false believers as “goats” or “tares,” and phrases like “going through the motions,” served to further cement the idea that failure to conform to the conservative ideal was a prime indicator of one’s placement on the path to Hell.

As I grew up and branched out of the sheltered homeschool world, I was met with things that challenged the political views that were beaten into me as a requirement for Heaven—and this experience terrified me. At times it made me suicidal.

I was not only worried about maintaining my acceptance by the cult (when a group convinces you that everyone outside the group wants to kill you, you believe that acceptance by the group is essential to survival), but also about the fact that I now was drifting down the road to damnation.

The more progressive the world gets, the fiercer conservatism-worshiping Christianity lashes out. The cults grow tighter. The bigots come out in full force, and become leaders within the pack.

Some adults may genuinely believe that the rest of the world is out to persecute them, and the rest may just be bigots, but children—children are oblivious. Innocent. Children are told what to believe and they believe it until they learn to question when they are older, if at all. When you tell a young child that a certain kind of person wants to kill them, they do not have the ability to think it through and weigh the evidence. They simply trust you.

I cannot speak for all people raised in such an environment. While I learned to abandon my conservative ideas in favor of what I thought was right (which will never include discriminating against any kind of person), I’ve mostly kept my faith—and reconciling these two things is nigh impossible. I still have panic attacks. I’m still afraid.

It’s been three years since I left the cult, but I’m still suffering.

Rallies and Reason: Nastia’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Nastia” is a pseudonym.

I often tell people that the three most important subjects to study are math, physics, economics.  Math gives you a logical mindset.  Physics allows you to understand the natural world.  Economics allows you to understand people and the social fabric that makes up a human civilization.  All other academic topics – perhaps with the exception of basic language and literacy – stem from these.  Physicists are keen to point out that chemistry, biology, and engineering are applications of physics.  Likewise, history and other social sciences are largely founded on economics.  

While this was never an assertion made by my parents, it is unsurprising that I have developed this point of view.

Throughout my homeschooling years, economic principles served as the basis for in-depth studies of history, government, politics, and current events, just as physics and math were the foundation for our science curriculum.  In middle school, my brother and I – with supplemental explanations from our mother – worked through Teaching Company courses on basic economics, the great economists, and the economic history of the 20th century during long car rides to ballet classes.  We argued about the Invisible Hand and Keynesianism, parsing difficult language slowly and gradually building a repertoire of arguments and scenarios.  It was an invaluable lesson in cause and effect.  My mother would often stop the cassette and we would analyze case studies, working out problems verbally and then resuming the course to see if we had come to the same conclusions as our professor.  

It makes me laugh now to remember my sibling and me, at ten and twelve, carpooling with friends who had no idea what GDP was or why we were so passionately discussing it.  

This approach to learning was a cornerstone of my education and the aspect I am most excited to talk about now.  I want to stress how extremely privileged I was to grow up in this environment; at the same time, I feel that this is a successful homeschooling model that should be encouraged in our community.

My parents both have multiple higher degrees – my mother a Bachelor’s in economics and an M.B.A; my father, a Master’s in engineering and an M.D.  Thus, critical thinking and building evidence-based arguments were highly stressed from an early age.  At no point did my education feel like indoctrination.  There were times we disagreed with our course materials, and times we disagreed with each other.  Intellectual honesty was paramount and lively debate was encouraged.  

This was reflected in our approach to politics.

Of course, my views were shaped by those of my parents, but they worked hard to provide evidence for why these views were credible.  Of my own volition, I read extensively from a wide variety of sources – everything from Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals to the Federalist Papers.  An enthusiast of both Russian music and anything related to space travel, the Soviet Union was particularly fascinating to me; it is largely because of my studies of that regime, which my grandfather escaped, that led me to lean more towards libertarianism than my conservative homeschooling peers (or even my parents).  

While I remember both the 2000 and 2004 elections (I was five and nine, respectively), the 2008 election was the first in which I understood the issues at hand.  Naturally, we were conservative Republicans, though not particularly active in politics.  However, many of our homeschooled friends were.  It was one of them (whose father was involved in the campaign of a local candidate) who invited us to join them at one of the first Tea Party rallies in our area.  We attended a few of them, waving signs and marching with thousands of others.  At no point did my parents compel me or my sibling to participate; rather, we were more likely to petition for a day off school to explore this new and exciting world of politics.

Whatever controversy surrounded them, I have only pleasant memories of the Tea Party rallies I attended.

It was an excellent way for me to voice my opinions and try out my somewhat newfound political savvy.  I think it pleased my parents to hear me discuss and debate with fellow Tea Partiers as well as the counterprotesters that inevitably showed up; my sibling and I had vehemently turned down their suggestion that we join the homeschool debate team, so this was a rare opportunity for exposure to differing views.  These events also gave us all a sense of belonging – in my very left-wing city, conservatives tend to lay low, and it was comforting to feel that there were others who held the same principles that we did.  Furthermore, as a young teenager far from voting age, it gave me a way to be involved and feel like I was making a difference in events.  It was of great frustration to me that I couldn’t actively participate in the process I had studied so much about, but at least I could make my voice heard.  

In August of 2010, my family attended the Restoring Honor rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – perhaps the pinnacle event of the Tea Party movement.  It was exhilarating.  We had traveled cross-country to Washington, D.C. with two other homeschooling families whose children were close friends of mine.  We camped out overnight on the National Mall, where in the morning, tens (perhaps hundreds – the number is highly disputed) of thousands gathered to listen to Tea Party leaders talk about politics, values, and faith.  It felt like we were a part of history, and besides that, everyone we talked with felt like an instant friend.  Coming from an environment where politics was not discussed outside the family simply because it would inevitably lead to conflict, this was profoundly affirming.

Looking back now, I can’t help feeling somewhat ambivalent.  It was all a very emotionally-driven experience.  While I still agree with most of the principles that we fought for – I remain a constitutionalist and favor laissez-faire economic policies – I realize now that most issues are not as black-and-white as they seemed back then.  When reading my old journals, I cringe at how awkward, underdeveloped, and often painfully naïve my views were.  (Then again, so was I – a quirky teen trying to fit into a world that I wasn’t old enough to fully contribute to.)

Since then, my experiences in community college and university have also caused my views to shift significantly towards social libertarianism, a “live and let live” philosophy that would make many of my fellow evangelicals uncomfortable.  I have made close friends with people of different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities.  As a bioengineer, the improved health of marginalized groups and developing nations has been a focus of my higher education, and female representation in science has been a goal of my volunteer activities.  These developments have lead me to be more aware of the people I align myself with.  Especially as many of the people involved with the Tea Party have recently gone in directions that I can’t support, I have felt disillusioned with the Republican party and significant aspects of the conservative movement.

Despite my current position as an outsider to movement politics, I still credit my involvement in the Tea Party as a beneficial experience that imparted in me an interest in politics and commitment to values.  It’s something I’ve learned from and outgrown, rather than discarded.  Perhaps in contrast to many homeschoolers, the most important thing I took away from my political involvement was the importance of critical thinking, summed up aptly be Thomas Jefferson:

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blind-folded fear.”

It’s a lesson that has served me well as a researcher and as a citizen.  It’s become my personal mission, to sort fact from fiction and seek the truth, even when it’s complex and goes against my presumptions.  It’s caused me to constantly reevaluate my knowledge, my faith, and my relationships, and back up my conclusions with reputable evidence.  In the meantime, debates with my mother about the future of the GOP and late-night discussions of economics with my father remain grounding pieces of my life.  In an education style that often results in indoctrination and control, it is a massive credit to my parents that both my sibling and I came away with a scientist’s obsession with logical reasoning.

I Grew Into A Culture Warrior: Lauren Wood’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Lauren Woods” is a pseudonym.

When I saw the call for stories about homeschool families and politics, I immediately thought of the article “I Lost My Dad to Fox News.” As a person who likes to stay politically informed as a result of my upbringing, I don’t often trust Salon, but that article echoed many of my feelings towards my own father.

Before I can continue, it’s helpful to understand that, as a kid, I had a lot of anxiety, which follows me to this day. While I attribute some of my anxiety to my deep-seated fears about the wooden rod with which my parents spanked us, I’m not a psychologist and can’t say for sure if that was the cause. I did attend a small, fundamentalist high school because my mom recognized that she couldn’t teach things like chemistry and algebra, but my parents still held many of the homeschooling circle’s beliefs, such as courtship.

The first time I can remember an awareness of politics in my family was the pro-life march that our Southern Baptist church organized every October.

Perhaps it was called the Mile for Life, but I believe my first appearance was as a seven-year- old.

Basically, we formed a long line down the main street in my hometown with signs with slogans like ABORTION KILLS CHILDREN, ABORTION KILLS WOMEN, and I can’t recall the others. It scared me deeply to think that thousands of people in my own hometown were killing babies. I didn’t know about sex until at least nine or ten, and considering that there was no abortion clinic in my county (and I believe there’s only one in my state), this fostered a deep paranoia that millions of babies were being killed all around me for some inexplicable reason. I also didn’t understand why women were supposedly dying too. So even though I didn’t want to go, I was very scared about all this death, and I did hope that maybe my sign might convince someone not to kill a woman or child. Refusing to attend the Mile for Life would have absolutely warranted a spanking, because defiance was the quickest way to the rod.

My dad often listened to Rush Limbaugh in the car, and watched the usual cast of FOX and co. When the Gore/Bush election happened, I heard a lot about a conspiracy called global warming, and how Gore would destroy America. Again, I was terrified. I didn’t want my whole country to be devastated. The nail-biting voter counts in Florida were all I heard about, and I sat on the edge of my seat hearing about it, petrified that a single vote would destroy the nation.

A few years later, I also learned that a few states were allowing men to marry men, and women to marry women. I didn’t have the vocabulary for the word “lesbian” or “bisexual”, but I did hear about homosexuals, and my only exposure to that “lifestyle” was from the pulpit of First Baptist. My pastor taught that homosexuals hated God, the nuclear family, and America.

I had no idea why, and I didn’t consider myself “homosexual” because I was not an adult, I didn’t hate God, and I didn’t America.

The thought that I was gay never crossed my mind. Rush Limbaugh said that homosexuals would lead to America’s destruction just like the fall of Rome, as Rush Limbaugh said, and it scared me. Slowly, I began to realize in middle school that it was not in fact acceptable for me to want to hold a girl’s hand or kiss her.

While homeschooled, I learned that evolution and global warming were liberal conspiracies. I learned to fear liberals and how they wanted to destroy my family.

I learned that even though racism didn’t exist, except possibly reverse racism, I was probably not ever supposed to date a black man.

I spent a long time on message boards (probably due to my lack of interaction with other kids) arguing for conservative politics so that they wouldn’t become liberal leaders and run the country into the ground, similarly to how many former fundies express a need to witness to everyone so that they don’t go to Hell. In some areas, that wasn’t too difficult due to the amount of sheer racism and misogyny on the internet. It was always nice to meet other people who agreed that reverse racism was definitely a huge issue and feminists were evil.

Like many homeschool children, I repeatedly heard the phrase “Honor your father and mother, and your days will be long.” They often told me that if I dishonored them with disagreement, I would not have a happy life, and they tell me that to this day. My father made it clear that he was God’s representative to us on earth, and as such, it was his job to let us know right and wrong.

Throughout high school, although I was not homeschooled then, I quashed any budding “liberal” ideas. This included any acceptance of my “homosexuality”, a word I have come to hate. My father’s bookshelf was peppered with Dr. Dobson’s and Charles Colson’s latest, and I read all of it at his suggestion. Both have a lot to say on political issues, and I knew that since my father agreed, I would too. In an effort to change myself so that I might not accidentally end up an atheist at a pride parade, I watched straight or male-male sex scenes in the hopes that I could rewire my brain to associate men with pleasurable feelings. It never worked.

We ate dinner together every night, a blessing and a curse. While my father didn’t rail about politics on a nightly basis, he did bring it up often, complaining about how an anti-American Muslim was now president of the United States. We saw D’nesh D’souza’s conservative propaganda films about how Obama wanted to let immigrants take over this fine nation.

It was a heartbreaking thing to finally realize in college that I could like women, just like those Fat, Ugly Man-Hating Feminist Lesbians who were all going to hell.

I’m not sure why their appearance mattered, but it was usually included in a criticism of lesbians.

I still struggle with my weight, even though I am naturally tall and skinny, out of fear that I might resemble the caricature my parents despise.

They found out a year and a half ago that I am gay, in my senior year of college, my father threatened to pull me out of university. He only didn’t because my major is very uncommon and can’t be found at any more conservative schools. I attend a Southern Baptist university, now in graduate school, although it’s a moderate one that doesn’t care (too much) that I have a girlfriend. My parents now consider it an evil, liberal institution for not somehow stopping me, and now say they don’t care whether my little sister attends a Christian university or not, “because it didn’t help Lauren.” In political discussions, they are often interested in my brother’s thoughts, because they consider him “on the same page” while I am “rebellious”.

My parents also expressed great paranoia throughout my life about what they were certain I told my friends about them. When my father found out I was gay, he said, “I know that you’ve told all your friends and teachers that I’m a close-minded bigot.” I didn’t think I had, but he shook my confidence, so I called my best friend asked if I’d ever spoken disrespectfully of my parents. “No,” he said. “You’ve only ever spoken highly of them.”

Again, defiance is the number one way to get on the wrong side of my parents, and they tell me that my identification as a Democrat/liberal has dishonored them.

On their anniversary, my father tweeted, “25 years together—THIS is ‘love wins’.” He also tweets things such as a girl with a shirt saying, “I’m not going to let Muslims rape me to prove how tolerant I am.” My roommate has encouraged me not to look at his Twitter anymore so that I don’t get outraged; my father tells me he doesn’t have Facebook because he is afraid he will get in too many political debates. I said, “But you don’t have any Democrat friends, do you?” He replied, “Oh yeah, you’re right.”

I can tell for sure that my mother believes I am simply rebellious and want to be a Democrat because I resent my strict upbringing. I don’t think she will ever be able to get over from the fact that a liberal lesbian could have come out of her home—ironic because I am the only one of my three siblings that attends church regularly. My father sees me with a few more dimensions, I think, because he still often tries to engage in political discussion with me, but still holds that anyone with my political views is either willfully defiant or simply ignorant. My sister tells me that my parents wish I wasn’t “so political,” but really, I feel like my upbringing has forced me to stay aware so that I can back up every belief.

The last time I visited home, he asked what news sites I read. He downloaded The Atlantic app at my suggestion, because it seems to be a fairly moderate source, much more moderate than his usual outlets. It’s the biggest accomplishment I’ve made towards nudging him away from the Matt Walsh types that tell him I hate God, I hate men, I am stupid.

I laughed at hearing how my parents think I am too political, because they raised me to be so involved in current events.

Except as a kid, I was raised to be a Culture Warrior for the Religious Right. Of course I am still politically active, because I am still defending myself against what I believe to be dangerous ideology. It’s just that it’s theirs.