My Changing Body, My Changing Mind: Abishai’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

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

*****

“No way, they don’t get naked! A baby is made when a Mom and Dad pray for it.”

In spite of the neighborhood kids’ efforts, I tried so hard to defend what I’d been taught. Their version of making babies by getting naked would mean three things:

1. My parents had lied to me.

2. The public school kids had been taught correctly.

3. The jumper-wearing moms in our homeschool group were doing things (naked things!) with the stern dads.

I think I somehow made it to about ten or eleven years old when my mom finally had to sit down and have her version of “the talk” with me.

It wasn’t really informative though, at least not in the way I needed it to be. She had purchased a typical Your Changing Body book through one of the homeschool book catalogs. I learned about periods and that my hips would get wider and that I should be glad I’m not a boy because they have something called wet dreams. Then came the sex part – the extent of which was that a married couple would get naked, move around, and it would be emotionally fulfilling for the wife and sexually fulfilling for the husband. She would become pregnant. The end.

As I grew older and heard more things, the info from my Mom was pretty… uninformative. Birth control and condoms were things that irresponsible people used when they were sleeping around. Those methods always failed, and because the type of people who have sex before marriage are selfish, they will inevitably have an abortion once they get knocked up… if they don’t die of an STD first. Sometimes people are confused and dress like the opposite sex – we should pity them for being so conflicted. Gay people? They choose to be that way and they have an agenda!! Oh the agenda!! Seduce the kids and make everyone gay. They will also all get AIDS. Men look lustfully at women, and as a woman I should dress in such a way so that I don’t lead them astray. God-forbid they should be in control of themselves and their thoughts.

Girls at church wearing low tops or short skirts were always referred to as sluts.

It’s hard, twenty years later, to look back at all of this and laugh about it as a coping mechanism. I can’t, it’s still too painful. I can also see now that I was very interested in sex from a really young age. Yet I was taught to feel ashamed of those feelings.

I knew that the craziest things would give me that “funny feeling down there” and I was pretty sure that in addition to liking boys… I also liked girls. Yet, I knew that not only was I suppose to not be boy-crazy (though I should pray for my future husband!) but any feelings for females meant that I was confused, and was as bad as those “dykes” who were the butt of many of my Mom’s jokes.

Oddly enough, it was those early days of AOL, it’s Instant Messenger and the chat rooms that came with it that were my sanity and my education. When I was about 16 I finally had found a place to find answers to my questions. I was able to engage in a really colorful online life where I could be myself but not have to take any risks – which was especially important given how very naive I was. It was a perfect way for someone like me to finally figure out who I was.

Now, at 30, I harbor a lot of resentment for the limited information I was given. I’m now in year seven of a happy, monogamous, kinky relationship. To my parent’s dismay, we live in sin. To my dismay, nearly all of my friends who quickly got married out of high school like they were supposed to, are now divorced or separated.

A few of my younger siblings are now married; each got married very young, to their first loves. Their speedy relationships were grounded in purity and of course won my parents’ approval. Meanwhile, I’m still told that this cow is giving her milk away for free.

Some things will never change…

None Dare Call It Education: Anna’s Story

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Series disclaimer: HA’s “Let’s Talk About Sex (Ed)” series contains frank, honest, and uncensored conversations about sexuality and sex education. It is intended for mature audiences.

*****

Hello, my name is Anna.

Like many who write stories for Homeschoolers Anonymous I grew up in a legalistic, controlling, and abusive homeschooling Christian household. When I saw that Homeschoolers Anonymous would be posting a series on sex education I knew I had to write something. My story may be appalling to some, but to others I know it will sound all too familiar. I hope that my story will give you insight and encouragement, and I thank you for taking the time to read it.

My sexual education was completely nonexistent.

I remember that there was a book on one of the living-room bookshelves entitled “Preparing For Adolescence.” I don’t know if the book was intended to prepare parents or children, but neither my parents nor I ever read that book. At 11 and 12 years of age I had long since learned to be ashamed and scared of my body; the lectures on modesty and roles of women had made sure of that.

When my body started changing I didn’t know what was going on, but I stayed silent. My parents were not people I could go to with my fears and questions. My period started without me ever having heard the word before. I had no clue what was happening, and it was probably the most horrifying experience of my life. Again, freaked out as I was, I didn’t tell a soul. My mom noticed the blood when doing laundry weeks later, and she had the only “talk” she ever had with me. Her little discourse included only what do about the “problem” and nothing else.

I got the message: another female attribute to be hidden and feared.

Because my mom seemed oblivious to my needs, my older sister gave me her old bra and bought me my first razor and deodorant, and even these items I felt the need to hide. I was always too scared and shy to ask my mom to buy me anything of an intimate nature. I would use the same razor and wear the same bra for years at a time. My fears were somewhat justified; I remember the time that my mom found a receipt for tampons in my purse and asked me severely if I had bought some. I panicked, lied, and said that I had accidentally picked up someone else’s receipt.

Mom let me know that tampons were strictly off limits.

Throughout my teenage years I gained knowledge about sex years by various covert means. I looked up words in dictionaries and read the books about pregnancy that I found on our bookshelves. I found some answers on the internet when I was able to use it without my mom monitoring me, but I always felt like I was doing something wrong. It wasn’t until I was 18 years old that I went on a research binge and learned the complete picture, including things I should have known much earlier, like the names for my own anatomy.

Though my parents never talked about sex directly, I picked up on their attitudes and beliefs, and sexual thoughts and questions were always accompanied by fear and shame. We were told to save our first our first kiss for our wedding day, that women should never make men “stumble” (I never even knew what that meant, hell, I still don’t know what it means), that dating was giving your heart away to strangers, that to Your Future Husband the most valuable thing about you was your virginity and your pure heart. A fear that consumed my life for years was how I would explain to My Future Husband that I masturbated (at the time I didn’t know the word). I knew he wouldn’t want me, and that it would always be my biggest secret.

I felt I wasn’t a virgin, I was sullied.

I was strange, surely no one else did this. Above all, I was letting God down. I began to lose my faith, because I knew I couldn’t think these thoughts and feel these feelings and still be a Christian. Almost the entirety of my teenage years was spent severely depressed and suicidal, and the overwhelming shame attached to my sexuality certainly contributed.

My mom once told me that when a woman looks at a person, she first looks at their face, but when a man looks at a person, he first looks at their crotch.

Hence, the need for women to wear skirts, (can’t let those men “stumble”). This lovely piece of wisdom made me feel even dirtier, because I began to realize how much I was noticing other people’s bodies. When I saw a person, my eyes would travel up and down their body and linger on their butt and (if a girl) her boobs.

I was clearly some sort of freak, only men were supposed to be this way.

Good grief, was I “stumbling?” I hated the girls I saw walking down the sidewalk in tight jeans. How could they flaunt themselves this way? And how could I help but stare? Deep down though, I envied them. When I was around 15 or 16 I was noticing women’s bodies more and more, and women began to enter my fantasies. In a year or two I was thinking about women in a sexual context just as much as I was thinking about men.

I now had another secret to keep, and this one was absolutely damning.

I heard the sermons and speeches; I read the blogs and articles; I listened to the conversations happening around me. Christians hated gay people. God hated gay people. I knew I could never admit my attraction to women and still be accepted by literally anyone I knew. It hurt me every time someone would talk about gay people as if they were evil beings bent on destroying everything good in America. They were a problem that needed to be fixed, and they were certainly not welcome in a church. I felt better because I knew I wasn’t completely gay; I was still attracted to boys. But then what was I? Where did I fit? Would I always be an outcast?

Today as I have left homeschooling physically as well as mentally, I finally have the freedom to discover and embrace the person that I am.

For the first time I am perfectly happy and confident in my sexuality. I am attracted to the entire range of sexes and gender expressions; masculine men and feminine men, femme women and butch women, androgynous and genderqueer men and women, and everything in between. Would I take a magic pill that could make me be attracted to only masculine men, one color in a whole rainbow? Fuck no! I love my orientation.

I don’t know if I believe in God, but if there is a God who made me, he made me the way I am and he doesn’t have a problem with it.

I have yet to tell my parents or anyone in my old homeschool circles about my more fluid sexuality. It’s really none of their business. But I feel the desire to throw it in their faces. I want to say, “Look at me! A real live non-straight person. Tell me to my face that I’m going to hell. Tell me that I am destroying the moral fabric of America. Fight to keep me from having the right to marry a woman if I wish. Shove a Bible in my face and lecture me about the morality of who I am. Give me pat answers and tell me to pray more. I’m a person, right in front of you, not an ideology or an obscure Bible verse. Do you want to cut all ties to me and keep me away from your children? Am I any different now than you always thought I was?”

But I know I can’t look back; I have to look forward. I can’t worry about how my old acquaintances might view me; I have to focus on making new friends. Vibrant, fun-loving, intelligent, creative, accepting and open people, like me.

As for what I wish to say to my mother, the cause of my thoroughly shitty childhood, “You told me what it meant to be a woman. You were dead wrong. You told me what my future would be. You were wrong. You told me what was right and how to please God. You were wrong. You told me who I had to be. You were wrong. You were wrong to deny me an education; never giving me basic information about my body and sex caused me a lot of pain for many years. You created an absolute hell and kept me prisoner there, but I have come out beautiful and strong. I am now one of those “femi-nazis’ that you spoke about with such derision. I will forever be exactly who I want to be and love who I want to love.

“I no longer follow any of your rules or subscribe to any of your ideologies, and I have never been happier.”

My sister has also written about her sexual education experience; the link to her story is here

The Reason I Despise Fundamentalist Christianity, As Revealed to Me In a Dream

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sean-Allen Parfitt’s blog Of Pen and Heart. It was originally published on August 26, 2013.

Recently there has been a series over at the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog, called “Voices of Sister-Moms”. I began reading the introductory post, but could not finish. My entire body was having a negative reaction. I mentioned this to some of my fellow LGBT Homeschooled friends, and they wisely suggested that I step away from the article till I could calm down. I was seriously angry, and had beginning symptoms of a minor panic/anxiety attack.

I was surprised at my reaction to the article.

After all, I am a male, the eldest in my family, who, in the patriarchal/quiverfull system, is in a position of privilege. It’s true that I was expected to do a lot of housework and helped homeschool the kids (see last Friday’s post), but I went to college, got a job, and was allowed to live my own life. (And by “my own life” I mean going to work and coming back home and going to church with the family and sometimes hanging out with friends.)

Well, in the last two years, I’ve come out of the closet, left the fundamentalism my family calls Christianity, meet many new kinds of people, and discovered that what I was taught isn’t necessarily the truth. I am in a relationship with another man, which is for me a clear illustration that the traditionally taught family dynamics are not the one true way. I have even begun to question Christianity itself.

But I couldn’t put my finger on either my anxiety when reading about the mistreatment of Christian girls or my strange negative reactions to other generic mentions of Christianity.

Why did I cringe when I saw a post on Twitter recommending a book about God’s love? Why do I skim past the tweets with Bible verses and references to good times at church?

I believe I got my answer in a dream I had Saturday night.

In my dream, I was visiting my father’s childhood church, which my family had begun re-attending. Mom was in a small-group discussion, and brother T was in the main sanctuary. I walked up to T, but he distinctly turned away without acknowledging me. Once Small Groups was over, Mom came back into the sanctuary. I began following her as she straightened the pews, talking to her. She was upset with me for living openly gay, and I was getting more and more angry with her as the conversation continued.

Then I exploded at her. This is very much out of character of me, as I have only raised my voice at her on a few occasions. I almost tremble is reverent fear of my mother, who has power to unleash unheard-of retribution. Or at least, that’s how I feel. So for me to yell at her actually took me by surprise in retrospect. But what I said to her showed me exactly what I had been feeling but had been unable to express before.

It was the very innermost turmoil that I had not been able to understand.

Do you know what I hate about Christianity?” I shouted at my mother, standing in the very sanctum of the religion I was at that very moment criticizing. “Do you know what it is that makes you unable to accept the fact that ‘I’m gay, and it’s OK’?” My mother just stood there, not replying. And then I said the word. Just one word, a simple 8 letters that encompass the root of my dissatisfaction with the religion in which I was raised, and which has caused irreparable pain to so many people. I opened my mouth, and with conviction, the word thundered through the church:

“Misogyny.”

According to Wikipedia, “Misogyny /mɪˈsɒɪni/ is the hatred or dislike of women or girls.” When used in a religious context, it usually refers to the belief that women are the “weaker sex” (see I Peter 3:7) and are under the authority of men (see I Corintians 11:3and I Timothy 2:12). In practice, this means that women and girls are to be humble servants to men. Girls are groomed to become wives and mothers, and should not aspire to be successful on their own. They are to submit, never questioning their fathers, husbands, or pastors.

When I awoke form my dream, I was surprised at what my mind had expressed while I slept. However, upon reflection, I realized how so very true it is. Misogyny is at the heart of much of the pain I have experienced in my life.

It is the root of the pain that countless other women and gay men have felt.

Wait, sure, you can see how misogyny has caused incredible pain and discrimination for women, but how dare I include myself and other gay men in that category? This is the question I asked myself. But even though I did not express it verbally in my dream, I knew what the answer was.

One major argument used against unions between two men is the call to remember God’s biblical definition of marriage. Thus, marriage is commonly interpreted as a union between one man and one woman. Traditionalists maintain that the proper balance of power places the man in the position of leader and the woman in a submissive position. Women are expected to take care of the home, cleaning, cooking, shopping, teaching, raising children, making life easier for men, and providing sex on demand. Men are expected to go to work, provide money and housing, spiritually lead the family, and lead the family into ministry work.

With this in mind, it’s not hard to extrapolate the effects of misogyny onto gay men. If two men are in a relationship, who has what duty? Men aren’t supposed to do the women’s work. Who leads the family and makes the decision? Which one goes to work and which one cleans the house? In short, which one is the man and which one is the woman?

So many straight fundamentalists can’t grasp the idea that gay men are still men.

A flamboyant gay man is called effeminate and looked down on. When I came out to my mother over the phone, she prayed for me. In that prayer, she cried, saying that she didn’t want me to be her daughter; she wanted me to be her son. I have had several people ask me who is the man in Paul’s and my relationship.

Besides being entirely misguided, such notions and comments are very hurtful. I have been completely cut off form my family. My old friends have told me that we cannot fellowship anymore. They see me as a deviant from the natural order and desires. Because I don’t want to be with a woman. Because I don’t want to exercise headship over my partner. Because I like to engage in “feminine” pursuits such as sewing. Because I care what I look like and plan my outfits to coordinate. Because I wear earrings. Because I am “acting like a woman”, when I am really a man.

I admit I am not sure where I stand on the issue of Christianity. The pain and hurt I have received from the church has made me very wary of the religion of the Bible. When I see others facing the same discrimination I have, I become enraged. It is hard not to be bitter against the very religion that brought me up.

It’s a world of pain, hurt, and rejection, all because of one word: misogyny.

We Liked Our Race

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on October 2, 2013.

I’ve written before that I grew up in the south, in an area intensely battling racism and homophobia. The area is odd. At the “yamboree” as we called the county fair, the Ku Klux Klan had a booth each year, and also sometimes the Ku Klux Klan would parade down town and give out candy to all the kids.

As a kid I remember reading the fifth book of Elsie Dinsmore where their plantations are invaded with the Ku Klux Klan.

I felt terror, not because our Ku Klux Klan was openly violent, but because they still so openly existed.

My university first began with trades, like many universities, and as part of their sewing club, they sewed the clothes for the Ku Klux Klan. This was 80 years ago, of course. But our university was built on an old plantation. To get in freshman sorority, the team leaders woke up all the girls in the dorms in the middle of the night, dragged them blind folded into the field where the Ku Klux Klan supposedly still meet and where the tales say blood was once shed. Although I didn’t join, my friends described it as a “terrifying” experience.

How were we ever able to make a game of such terror?

Just today I was reading the local newspaper near where I grew up. Many people found leaflets from the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan on their front porches this last week. No kidding. This led me to look up what the Loyal White Knights believe.

Here’s a few lines that jumped out at me. (I don’t feel like linking to the website. If you want to read it, just google Loyal White Knights.)

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you a little about the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and hopefully dispel some of the lies told about us by the liberal news media.

However, we do hate some things that certain groups are doing to our race and Nation. We hate drugs, homosexuality, abortion, and race-mixing because these things go against God’s law and they are destroying all white nations. But rather than focus on hate; we try to focus on the love of our race. Love for our God and Country.

Finally the Loyal White Knights are more than just a KLAN we are a Brotherhood. More like a family; we are always trying to do whats best for our members. To strengthen the bonds of Christian fellowship among our brothers and sisters.

Odd, huh? It’s always “liberal news media.” Sound familiar? Hate abortion, homosexuality? Oh, and join, and there in you have community. Oh, and this is about “God’s word,” folks, not racism. *cough*

Take out the word “white,” and we are describing Christian Patriarchy literature, prominent ideas in conservative Christian homeschooling.

That is exactly why conservative homeschooling scares me to death. This IFB church in North East Texas likewise says that it’s a sin to intermarry.

When Other Daughters And Sons of Patriarchy Are Trapped

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on August 25, 2013.

With all the ex-conservative homeschooler blogs out there nowdays, people may be under the impression that homeschool fundamentalism has viritually disappeared among homeschool alumni. To be sure, this Christian movement among homeschool graduates is dying a very slow and painful death. But it is so far from over.

I have so many friends still trapped in the ideology that I constantly feel the tension with old friends and old hangouts. 

Here’s just a few  very recent encounters I had with a few graduates.

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Story 1

The first story comes from a young girl Charis who writes of the “single homeschool girl dilemma.” After a gap year a few years too long, she had planned to finally attend college this year and “finally get away” and finally “not be responsible for anyone” (read: not be responsible for siblings, family, etc). But instead earlier this year she met Mr. Right and is now engaged.

She says she is mourning, not because she does not love her fiance (she does), but because she will never know what it’s like not to be responsible for anyone. She will never know what it’s like to be on her own. Now, she says, instead of being under her father’s authority, he will “transfer” that authority to her new husband.

I know a lot of people get married young, but keep in mind this girl will never get to live on her own, ever, not even for a year. And also, marriage in a quiverfull ideology has no “you” (as Vckyie Garrison over at No Longer Quivering says, “there is no you in quivering”). It’s only responsiblity and submission. There is no space to become your own individual thinker.

Charis is right. If she does not leave the house first, she will never get out.

Story 2

In a parenting discussion, Elizabeth writes that her parents let her color during church even when she was nine years old. She says this has damaged her relationship with God up until this day because she learned to tune out God, rather than listen to his prompting. So she says that even a one year old should be made to sit still during church, listen to the commands of their parents, and follow the instructions.

And I think of her children in the future, picking up the broken pieces.

Story 3

Andrew says that if his children come out gay, he will kick them out on the streets.  He will do this because a heart of rebellion is a bad influence to other siblings.

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Because I was once one of these people (except the putting gay kids out on the street part — I never went that far), I identify with their pain. I struggle with words to help, waiting patiently for them to break free. Breaking free is not easy because then they will likely face their families and communities looking down upon them. I have always said that in a way, I wish I could turn back the tables and just be content in my submissive role; it would be easier and less shameful.

But then I look at the great big world, and remember why I left.

Incorporating Thinkers: When Communities Are Unsafe or Unwelcoming

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on August 14, 2013.

In a series called “Homeschoolers are Out,” Homeschoolers Anonymous told stories of the life of conservative Christian homeschooling from the perspectives of LGBT individuals.

It was interesting to me that while bloggers such Libby Anne of Love Joy Feminism were used as mini props to parents who rallied against gay marriage, individuals like me and Melissa of Permission to Live were sheltered from learning that gays existed. The stories had a lot of diversity like that because our homes were all so different.

But there is always the party pooper. Not too surprising is that this series is quite controversial. This is what a group called Thinkers Incorporated said.

HA, specifically in their series of posts on the experiences of homeschoolers of alternate gender and sexual orientation, paints a picture of homeschooling that is foolishly simplistic. All religious homeschoolers do not believe that homosexuals should be stoned in the streets and bullied into oblivion. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a group of any size comprised of homeschoolers that really believes this hypocrisy.

While I do not doubt that real abuses have occurred, it is unfair and slanderous to claim that homeschoolers have some type of cultural mass objective of slamming the LGBT community. The underlying principle of home education is that full parenting control is in the hands of the parents. Thus they may choose to bring up their children however they see fit. Therefore, making any kind of generalization at all about homeschooling is fallacious. We are all different to some degree, and that’s frankly the point of the whole idea. We don’t have to subscribe to anyone else’s views on any subject.

I’d bang my head against the wall, except I need to use my head to write this. The whole point was that you don’t have to believe that gays should be stoned in order to not foster a safe environment for LBGT individuals. The point of the whole series is that bigotry is always bad whether we are talking stoning, shunning, or just not welcoming. Bigotry does exist in the Christian homeschool community. Those who do not welcome gays into their community are, actually, part of the problem.

I’m not speaking for the writer Luke Adams at Thinkers Incorporated; he may be very welcoming.

But just in general, most people I know don’t believe in stoning gays; yet, most conservatives I know are not overly welcoming gays into their communities. (Some might say it’s an oximoron for conservatives to welcome gays. But just ask Frank Schaeffer that who grew up in the 60s as the son of the fundamentalist parents Francis and Edith Schaeffer and saw lesbians kissing in their missions house. We conservatives make our bed and lie in it.)

I am not gay or bi, but I am scared to talk to old members of my homeschool community about what I believe about hell or life because I know people will judge me for it. In fact, Thinkers Incorporated themselves already judged me when they critized H.A. for their universalist bloggers, aka, me. [HA note: Lana is our only blog partner who self-identifies as a “Christian universalist”].

Homeschooling isn’t a very “safe” place to come out as anything not conservative: universalists, gay, lesbian, atheist, democrat, whatever.

This does not mean every homeschooler is bigoted or sexist or racist or whatever (although I think we all are more of those things than we care to admit – I include myself). But the Christian homeschool community is not safe for me, and I’m a straight Christian who does missions work.

Just stop and imagine what it would be like to come out gay in a conservative homeschool community, or any other religious, conservative, non-homeschool community, and then tell me we are over generalizing this, and that we don’t need to tell stories from LGBT individuals.

This is from Andrew, on growing up gay.

But from the moment I learned what “homosexual” meant, I knew that I would never truly be the person they wanted me to be, because I knew that I was inherently flawed. And as is often the case with things like this, once I knew what the word meant, I began noticing it everywhere. But in the conservative Christian circles (including homeschooling support groups) I was a part of, it was rarely something I heard in its entirety. Instead, it was like something just out of the corner of my eye, a fleeting shadow in the midst of a conversation. It was that-sin-which-must-not-be-named.

….

I did everything I could to try and “fix” myself, including looking into electroshock therapy, though thankfully I had to have a parent’s consent and there was no way I wanted to tell my parents. Eventually, after a failed attempt to turn myself straight by dating my then-best-friend (a woman) in college, I reached the end of my rope.

I fell into a deep depression, was suicidal on multiple occasions, and through it all was desperately trying to reconcile my faith (and thus the large majority of my friends and family) with my sexuality.

Now to be clear, Andrew has already said that this is not uniquely a homeschool problem. He wrote,

“In other words, I realized that I can’t blame ‘homeschooling’ or even ‘the homeschooling movement’ for the majority of my struggle in coming to accept and love the person that I am.” 

But the point is that the messages he received was that he was flawed and needed fixing, and whether that battle comes from homeschooling, fundamentalism, secularism, or internal, it is always a toxic feeling. It is always a story that needs to be told, so we can heal of our bigotry together.

Everyone who shared their stories on H.A. has a different story. Some tell stories of people who welcomed them, and some tell stories where people shut the doors behind them. The point is that where bigotry exists – even if it’s not in Luke’s church – it is wrong. This is not a generalization; it is not a generalization about anything at all.

It is just individual stories, stories that need to be heard and told.

I’m listening. What about you?

Growing Kids the Abusive Way: Auriel’s Story, Part Two — Isolation and Ideology

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Trigger warnings: references (sometimes graphic) to emotional, physical, religious, and sexual abuse.

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Auriel” is a pseudonym. Auriel blogs at Drying My Wings.

*****

Also in this series: Part One: Growing Kids the Abusive Way | Part Two: Isolation and Ideology | Part Three: Mini-Parents | Part Four: The Sound of a Sewing Machine | Part Five: The Aftermath of Childhood Abuse

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Part 2: Isolation and Ideology

 At 16 years old, I was not allowed to cross our property line without another human being with me.

Like a caged dog, I paced back and forth, crying at the injustice of it all. The bonds that held me weren’t physical. I was chained by my sheltered life. The isolation came from homeschooling.

Until high school, I only had three close friends outside of my siblings, and I only saw them once a month. Although I was involved with many extra-curricular activities, I was not allowed to be friends with boys, non-homeschoolers, nor kids whose families my parents did not know.

So, no friends.

Pop and rock ave evil beats, movies with kissing or language — let alone violence — will make you copy them, gyms make you compare people’s bodies, TV shows are so sexualized they’re evil, iPods hurt your spiritual life, and so on. At least, that’s why I was not allowed. My siblings and I snuck around, listening to Christian music here, pop music there, watching TV when our parents were gone.

I’m still trying to get caught up on movies, pop culture, and music references.

Courtship was introduced as the only method of finding a spouse. We read books like the Courtship of Sarah McLean, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl, The Princess and the Kiss, and so many more. It was like my dad was supposed to own me, and any potential mate would have to ask for my father’s permission both to be near me and to eventually own me.

It’s so damaging to think of oneself as property.

Now, I want to date to find someone to marry, but my father does not own me. I do not need to be under his “vision” for my family. I have my own vision, which does not include abuse.

"Girls were to have babies, homeschool their kids, and be dominated by men."
“Girls were to have babies, homeschool their kids, and be dominated by men.”

Mom held a sexist view of girls: they should not work outside the home. Girls were to have babies, homeschool their kids, and be dominated by men. Many Vision Forum books cemented this view in her mind like So Much More, What’s a Girl to Do, the Beautiful Girlhood books, Mother, and Joyfully at Home. Mom taught me needlework like a good Victorian girl, but I hated these activities! Just because I’m a girl does not mean I have to knit and drink tea!

I’m a person! I’m not a gender stereotype.

I was taught to be afraid of gays, Islam, and black men. It’s tough to grow up in a homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, sexist environment and come out unscathed. While it’s a struggle, I have learned to love everyone as made in the image and likeness of God.

The modesty teachings were awful. Modesty was focused more on covering skin than on ensuring the dignity of each person. I learned to watch my back for guys who would lust after me.

I heard that what I wore made me a rape target.

At first, Mom dressed me in denim jumpers or Easter and Christmas dresses from the local stores. Eventually, she forced me to sew my own dresses and skirts. When I was 9 years old, she told me that having my hair down made me look like a “lady of the night.” Even though I was a shy, modest girl, Mom constantly told me that something I did or wore was sinful, displeasing to God, and might turn on my dad or my brothers.

I was so scared that I was going to lead my brothers or dad into sin for lusting after me.

If that’s not twisted thinking, I really don’t know what is. Bleh.

I cried so many tears over how ugly I thought my body was, thanks to the baggy clothes I wore. Looking back, I was a healthy weight and my body was great. But shirts had to have sleeves and couldn’t come below the collarbone. Pants were forbidden after age 6. Swimwear was culottes that puffed full of water. The lifeguards even chided me for not wearing appropriate swim attire. I wanted to scream, “It’s not me!” My skirts had to be several inches below the knee, or else I was “showing some leg,” and that would “give guys a little jolt.”

When I finally turned 18, I had to beg a friend to help me pick out my first real pair of pants since Kindergarten. Of course, Mom called me a “slut” and a “whore,” declaring she could see intimate parts through my pants that would have been impossible for her to see. It was just to shame me.

Oh boy, here comes the scary part.

Sex.

No one in my homeschooling community talked about sex. I got the talk at 12, earlier than any of my homeschooled friends. However, I only knew about one type of intercourse. I didn’t even know people did it lying down, lol. Because puberty, sex, and all related words were so hush hush, I stopped asking my mother questions.

The first time I heard another girl even mention her period, I was 16.

I stared at her in shock! “Did she just speak of her period?” I wondered. When I turned 18, I succumbed to searching dictionaries to learn the rest of the words and meanings.

I was also incredibly afraid of CPS. Through HSLDA and my parents, I learned that foster homes are terrible places that abuse children by burning their hands on stoves, and more. Well, it worked. I didn’t call hotlines, tell the speech moms who cared about me, or beg my few friends for help.

When CPS showed up at our doorstep, my siblings and I lied for fear of being separated from each other forever.

The community that attended our very conservative Catholic church supported the sheltered, so-modest-its-frumpy, sexist views of my parents. I even was bullied at church for failing to meet up to the standards of the kids my age. In the midst of all this, I got comments asking if I was part of a cult, Amish, or Mormon. It hurt deeply that people thought I was a freak. “IT’S NOT BY CHOICE!” I wanted to scream. But I couldn’t.

When people think you’re part of a cult, they tend to ignore you or avoid you.

The few people I told about the abuse after I escaped looked at me with shock and said, “I had no idea.” The isolation of homeschooling added with the isolation of a cultic appearance equals an ideal environment for abuse to continue.

*****

To be continued.

If You’re Just Gonna Call Us Homos, Please Get In Line

If You’re Just Gonna Call Us Homos, Please Get In Line

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

People have called me fag, gay, or homo for years now.  When I was the weird, sheltered homeschooled kid, my co-workers persistently mocked me for my social awkwardness.  They usually chose to mock me by calling me some variation of a gay slur. At one point, while working at Walgreens, my co-workers created a big foam board and hung it on my locker. They decorated it with brightly-colored foam words, which read “Nick is gay.”  The managers and assistant managers laughed along with my co-workers. They only requested that it be taken down when the district management came to visit the store a few weeks later.

My Freshman year of college, roughly five hours from Walgreens, one of my new, so-called friends dubbed me “Gay Nick.”  For two years, I endured daily name-calling and shaming over my social awkwardness.  In fact, he still likes to occasionally post on my Facebook wall and call me Gay Nick.  I gave up on our friendship when he informed me that New Orleans didn’t deserve to be rebuilt after Katrina because of some racist reason.  To put it plainly, my social options Freshman year were limited.

Name-calling is the easiest way to dismiss someone. Today, another former colleague and peer resurrected this tactic and called me “homo”:

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I’ve known Josh Craddock for almost seven years now.  Josh traveled to numerous Communicators for Christ (CFC) conferences while I was interning and our team was tasked with evaluating Josh.  He wanted to be an intern, but was advancing quickly through the alumni/training programs, so we monitored him closely.  He was a hard worker, diligent, and kind.  I personally recommended him to serve and eventually he did.

It’s ironic when I consider that Josh Craddock and I were once “servant leaders” together in CFC.  We taught thousands of high schooled Christian homeschoolers how to be confident public speakers with sharp critical thinking skills.  Even HA’s other Community Coordinator, Ryan Stollar, spent three years working with CFC. In fact, Ryan was one of their original student leaders, touring with them for the first three years of CFC’s existence.  Ryan said, of his time with CFC,

“If there’s one thing I will never forget from my time with Teresa Moon and CFC, no matter how far I may “stray” from the narrow path I was prepared for, it’s to do one’s best to communicate with civility and grace, even when you disagree with someone else. This is one of the most important things I have learned — and I learned it from a conservative Christian homeschooling mom, and I am grateful for it. I am disappointed that Josh apparently did not learn the same lesson from the same individuals during his time with CFC. Even when I choose (and oh boy, I do!) to disagree with my very teachers, I hope to do so in a way that does not shy away from the disagreement but still grants the opposing side its humanity. Josh, on the other hand, is choosing the path of dehumanization. Which not only hurts what he perceives to be the side that opposes him — it also only serves to hurt “his side” as well.”

Today Josh Craddock chose to refer to us as a part of a “whiney, disgruntled cohort of self-loathing atheistic homos hell-bent on undermining the family.”  When many of the Homeschoolers Anonymous cohort (love you all!) took to social media questioning Josh, he responded with this gem:

Craddock reply tweet

For what it’s worth, I married my wife a year and a half ago in a Methodist Church in Louisiana (picture below).  But even if I was all of the things he described, that would have zero bearing on whether my message would still be worth spreading.  If you think getting a few replies is trolling, maybe you should calibrate your Troll Meter.  What you fail to realize is that Homeschoolers Anonymous, our message, and our contributors do not fit into a simple box with clear-cut labels. So if your only response to our advocacy is that I’m a homo, I’d say get in line with the scores of other people who have tried to dismiss me with name-calling.

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The “Homosexual Agenda”: Libby Anne

The “Homosexual Agenda”: Libby Anne

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on March 21, 2012.

I was (probably unwisely) perusing the conservative Catholic blogosphere, and it has started to get to me. I’ve read numerous blogs talking about the “homosexual agenda” that is taking over the country and oppressing everyone else. I remember being taught this growing up, to the exact minutia. Reading about it now, though, it makes me angry.

You know what the “homosexual agenda” is? Gay people want to be able to live their lives without threat, hold jobs without fear of being fired for their sexual orientation, and be legally allowed marry people they love. Right now, they can’t do that. The “homosexual agenda” is not about “oppressing” Christians, it’s about letting gay people be full human beings. It’s not about giving gay people more rights than everyone else, it’s about giving them the same rights as anyone else.

I think the reason reading about the evils of the coming “homosexual agenda” has been bothering me is that I have numerous gay friends. They’re great friends who are always ready to help me in a pinch, they have their own dreams and ambitions, and they have crushes and relationships just like anyone else. And so when I hear about the “homosexual agenda” and then think of my friends, I get mad. Mad, because those who speak with fear of the “homosexual agenda” want to deprive my friends of the right to hold a job without fear of being fired for who they are and the right to marry who they love. I feel mad because in some parts of this country my friends might still find their lives under threat, simply because they are sexually and romantically attracted to members of their own sex

I remember believing the whole “homosexual agenda” thing. Back then, I was afraid of gay people. They were different and scary. They were pedophiles who should not be trusted around children. I wonder if that’s how the people writing the blogs I was reading feel when they talk about the “homosexual agenda” – fear of something different, scary, and “unnatural.” But that fear does not excuse the actions anti-gay activists take, actions that seek to deprive my friends of their basic rights and to relegate them to second class citizens.

I was willing to change my views when confronted with actual gay people, and in response to additional information (for example, the fact that gay people are statistically less likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexual people). I rather suspect, though, that the individuals whose blogs I read probably aren’t ready to change their views when confronted with contrary evidence.

When reading predictions of the takeover of the “homosexual agenda,” the common theme seems to boil down to “gay people want to force us to accept them as normal.” Well yes, yes they do. Because they are. But in actuality, the actions gay activists tend to take are directed not so much at personal beliefs as at physical actions that harm them.

Remember when I said that “religious freedom is not a get out of jail free card“? Well that’s what’s going on here too. Your religious freedom is violated if someone forces you to believe that gay marriage is okay or forces your church to perform gay marriages, but it’s not violated if gay people are allowed to get married. Your religious freedom is violated if someone tells you what you have to believe about God’s view of gay people, but it’s not violated if teachers are required to stop students from bullying gay kids and to explain as school employees that being gay is not considered a disorder by the scientific community, or if people are not allowed to fire someone just for being gay just as they are required not to fire someone just for being black. What’s at stake here is people’s actions, actions that do real harm to gay people, not their beliefs. You are free to believe as you like, but if your actions will do actual harm to others, you are not allowed to act as you would like.

Now sure, I’d really like to change people’s beliefs too. I don’t like beliefs that see some people as lesser than others, especially when these beliefs are based not on any evidence but simply on specific interpretations of a stone age text. I seek to oppose misogyny and homophobia both through fighting actual discrimination and through working to change people’s minds. Wanting to change people’s minds, however, is not the same as legislating what people are allowed to think or putting people in jail for their views, though those decrying the “homosexual agenda” don’t seem to realize that.

I’ve decided not to browse the conservative Catholic blogosphere. It’s not good for my blood pressure. But will continue to fight for LGBTQ rights and I will continue to work on countering homophobia by changing people’s minds.

From Homophobe to Gay Rights Advocate: Libby Anne

From Homophobe to Gay Rights Advocate: Libby Anne

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on January 16, 2012.

I didn’t meet a gay person growing up. “Homosexuals” were talked about in tones of disgust and sorrow, and we children knew that it was wrong for “men to kiss men” and “women to kiss women,” and that the Bible condemned homosexuality, but it was all in the abstract. It was about those depraved people who were out there trying to ruin marriage and subvert youth, not about any actual people we knew.

This is the story of how I met gay people, heard their stories, realized that they were human, and changed my position on homosexuality.

I met my first gay person in college. I didn’t know he was gay when I met him. Bobby was just the clean-cut, fun-loving guy who hung out in the dorm lounge and cheered everyone up with his words of encouragement. Bobby was smart, compassionate, and encouraging, he was there for everyone and everyone loved him. He came from a good family and was extremely successful in school, headed toward a career in computers. Halfway through freshman year Bobby came out as gay. This was completely unexpected.

Growing up, the most important things my parents and church had emphasized about homosexuality was that it was a choice, and that it was a horrible, ruinous, depraved lifestyle. Bobby challenged the later of these two teachings, for I could not understand how this wonderful, loving, compassionate young man could be holding such depravity inside. I had expected every gay person I met to be sporting piercings, tattoos, outlandish clothing, foul language, hedonism, depression, and likely several incurable diseases leading him to his grave. Bobby challenged this expectation because he did not fit it, not in the least.

Later in college I met a biology graduate student, Eric, who was openly gay. Like Bobby, Eric was clean-cut and respectable. I enjoyed talking to him about evolution, global warming, and other science-related issues. Because I knew him only ephemerally, I felt comfortable enough to ask him how he first figured out that he was gay. He explained to me that when he was nine or ten a friend of his showed him a playboy magazine he had found, and that was when he first realized he was different, because that magazine was doing something for his friend that it didn’t do for him. As he went through adolescence, he was never sexually attracted to females. Instead, he was sexually attracted to other males. This was not, he explained, something he had chosen, and it was not something he could change. After all, being gay had cost him his entire family, which had rejected him when he came out.

Eric thus challenged the second thing I had been taught about homosexuality, that it was a choice. Eric explained most emphatically that being gay was not something he had chosen and not something he could change, not anymore than I could change being sexually attracted to males.

In graduate school, I had a gay coworker, Doug. His background was similar to mine, growing up in a conservative religious family very involved in the church. Doug explained that being gay was never something he asked for, and that as a teen he prayed that it would disappear. He heard the teachings of his church about the evils of homosexuality, and he came to despise himself, to wish that he were dead, to feel that he and his family would be better off if he were dead. Finally, halfway through high school, he attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle full of pills. This left him violently ill, vomiting blood, but did not kill him. In college, after years of hiding it, he finally came out as gay, and for the first time the depression lifted and he felt that he could truly be himself. For the first time, he was truly at peace, truly happy, truly fulfilled.

Meeting gay people thus threw into question the things I had been taught about homosexuality as a child: that it was a choice and that it was a depraved, hideous lifestyle. Yet even with this, I had been taught that the Bible condemned homosexuality. I knew that if this was the case then whether or not homosexuality was a choice and regardless of how nice or loving or normal-seeming gay people might be, it was wrong. Yet it was during these same years that I realized that I could not take the Bible literally, and and that I must understand it in its proper cultural and historical context. I soon learned that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality is not at all as clear cut as I had been raised to believe it, and I did not see how a God of love could create people with homosexual attractions and then condemn them for it. As I began to see God’s love as more important than his judgement, and his ways as less black and white than our narrow understandings, I reevaluated my theological position on this issue. A few years later I became an atheist, which made what the Bible says or does not say about homosexuality irrelevant.

Today, I feel completely comfortable around the gay people I meet and befriend. They are people just like me, with their own hopes, dreams, and interests. They are not defined by their homosexuality any more than I was by my heterosexuality. Today at long last I can accept gay people without any remnant of my earlier inside squeamishness or disgust.

Furthermore, stories like Doug’s have turned me into a big of a gay rights activist. Something like 30-40% of gay youth attempt suicide just like he did, not because being gay gives them depression but because the homophobic messages they receive from their families, churches, and communities make death seem more attractive than life. Last week on NPR I heard the story of a gay young man whose mother suspected he was gay when he was only ten, and took him out into the woods, pointed a loaded gun at him, and told him that this was the place she would shoot him through the head if he ever became a “faggot.” There is also the story of my bisexual friend who was rejected from her religious community when she came out as bisexual, even though she had been raised in that community from infancy.

There is also the fact that if Bobby, or Eric, or Doug wanted to marry their partners (two of the three are in long-term relationships), in the states where they currently live they could not. They would not be allowed to visit each other in the hospital or make medical decisions, they could not file joint tax refunds or have any of the other benefits that go to married couples. I hear people like twice-divorced Newt Gingrich condemning gay marriage as a threat to the institution of marriage, and I become angry inside. Bobby, Eric, Doug, and the other gay people I have befriended are not bad people. In fact, they are some of the most loving, accepting people I know. They deserve to have the right to marry the person they love just as much as I, or Newt Gingrich, or any heterosexual person can.

I understand where people like Newt Gingrich are coming from. I understand that they believe God has condemned homosexuality and that they harbor a veritable library of destructive myths and stereotypes about gay people. They are my parents. They are the church I grew up in. I get it. It’s just that I no longer agree with them. Today, I believe in equality.