No Longer Afraid: A. Drake’s Story

Content Warning: Descriptions of child abuse, sexual abuse, animal abuse, and transphobia

It was 5am. I woke before dawn and got ready for work in the dark. I went outside into the cold fall air, my breath visible. I went around the side of my car and my heart stopped. My father was kneeling in the frost and gravel next to my driver’s door. He didn’t say a word. I quickly ran back into my house, bolted the door, and woke my boyfriend. “My father is outside,” I said, my voice shaking. “I think he’s here to scare me or kill me; I’m not sure which one.” He jumped up and went outside, but my father was gone.

In the aftermath of that day, I broke family scripts: I called the police.

His behavior alone was creepy and stalking. But the more disturbing thing was that he shouldn’t have known where I lived. Unbeknownst to me, my younger brother had disregarded my concerns about my safety and told my father where I lived. The day before, my older sibling had mentioned to my parents that I was working early the next day. And my father was waiting for me that morning.

It’s been 5 years since that day. For the first 2 years, I left my house every morning for work, prepared to do battle with a spook, a stalker that may or may not be there. And every day he wasn’t there in body, he was there in spirit. I lived my life with the knowledge he might be around the next corner. I wouldn’t know if he was empty-handed or if he had a weapon. Or even worse, I might never see him coming.

Growing up, I worried a lot about the day when my father would snap and murder all of us.

One day, us three older siblings sat my youngest brother down and said “Nathan, what do you think would happen if mom tried to leave dad?” He thought about it for a second. And then without missing a beat he said “I think he would try to kill all of us.” We looked at each other and said “Even he sees it, even he knows.” He was 11. We lived with that reality from birth.

I worried. I worried so much. I worried that if my mother spent too much money on groceries, my father would get angry. I worried that if I didn’t read the Bible long enough each morning before breakfast, my father would get angry. I worried that if I wasn’t contrite enough in spirit, my father would get angry. I worried that when my father got angry, he would hurt us.

Like the Sunday morning my brother went to church with my father’s hand-prints bruised around his neck because he had the audacity to try and walk out of a room when my father was angry. The youth pastor teased him about the bruises being hickies from his girlfriend.

Like the night at the kitchen table when my father became angry. He reached under the kitchen table and pulled out the 60-pound dog lying there. He picked the dog up by the throat with one hand, and threw him down the basement stairs, closing the door in a calm, controlled manner.

See, some people think anger is an explosion. Sometimes, it is. And sometimes, it is the coldest thing you will ever experience.

And sometimes, the anger wasn’t the scariest thing. Sometimes, it was the sound of my bedroom door softly sliding across the carpet at 2 a.m. It was the sound of my breathing as I tried to regulate it so he wouldn’t know I was awake. It was the feeling of his rigid cock pressed into my lower back as I hoped he would leave without raping me.

Sometimes it was the existential agony of knowing that my abuse was either sanctioned by god and I deserved it or god didn’t care enough to intervene.

It was the soul rending pain in my heart, knowing my father was right – I was worthless, useless, and unlovable. It was the bone-searing rage that wanted to tear apart all the people who saw the signs of abuse and turned away. It was the trapped animal in my brain, trying to cut me free from this torturous captivity through the surface of my skin.

And my father was the good Christian who sang hymns at church, chatted with the teens and deacons, and made small talk with everyone. So at the end of the day, if I said something negative about him, I was told I was a bad child, a rebellious teenager. That I must stop speaking ill of my parents, that I must stop lying.

I was raised in a conservative, fundamentalist Christian household. I was homeschooled kindergarten through 12th grade. And somehow I escaped.

I wasn’t supposed to.

My life was not built to prepare me to fly; it was built to contain me in a cage with my wings clipped, never thinking for myself, never dreaming any bigger than the bars that held me.

My narrative is similar to many others who went before me and will come after me, though it is complicated in some ways by the fact that I am both queer and transgender. Neither of those things blatantly came to the surface growing up. I had far more pressing things to worry about, like survival of my physical body and preservation of my mind and spirit, and so I buried my gender and sexuality as best I could. But I couldn’t bury them deep enough. Even if people didn’t often target me directly, they spoke with derision and scorn about queer and trans people in general. My parents and the church I grew up in were homophobic and transphobic. I knew from a young age that who I was, deep inside, was an abomination, anathema, and abhorrent. Those attitudes heavily impacted my internal self-concept; I still struggle with feeling broken and shameful regarding my queerness and transness.

My younger brother did not escape; he left but his wounds were infected with my parents’ poison. He was my best friend for years but he became increasingly racist, homophobic, transphobic, controlling, and abusive as time passed. A few years after I helped him leave my parents’ house, he cut me out as I set boundaries around his increasingly abusive behavior. He made it clear he reviled my gender and sexuality. My youngest brother is still at home with my parents. He has not escaped either. The minimal contact I had with him through text stopped completed after I came out to him as trans.

My older sibling has escaped; they live an hour away from me. They are queer, just like me. We support one another. We have an adult relationship now; we have worked past the experience of our parents pitting us against each other. We are able to affirm for each other what childhood was like.

With time, I found myself wondering if I imagined things or if I made them out to be worse than they truly were.

After being a victim of [gaslighting] for so many years, it’s hard to believe your own brain. But having a comrade to tell you “oh no, I remember that. Do you remember this?” is validating and bonding. It is family. I have begun to build my chosen family of partners and friends, people who love and respect me.

I am 28 years old. I left my parents’ house when I was 19. I have not returned. They still live in the 4 bedroom colonial where I was raised. They still send me mail to a PO box I set up when I moved. I didn’t want them to know where I lived because I was afraid of being stalked and killed. I did not register to vote at my new address for 3 years because I was afraid: voting information is public record.

But there came the day when I had a dream. Until that point, my dreams had always involved my father trying to hurt me or someone I loved. In the dream, I would be too slow, like was I stuck in molasses, or I would hit him and it would do nothing. I would be a helpless observer to abuse, as I had been throughout my childhood. But there came the day when I had a dream. And I beat the shit out of my father. I knew then I had really and truly escaped.

I am no longer afraid of my parents. I have not just survived; I am thriving. I know myself and what I can endure. I am no longer afraid what would happen if my father showed up. Because I have grown and know now that I am stronger than he is.

New Age Neglect: Rabbit’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, andrew and hobbes.

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

I don’t… I don’t know if I’m ready to really talk about all of what happened to me. But I feel like maybe I should say something about my experience with homeschool because it had zero to do with Christianity and I feel alone, and maybe the reason I can’t find any other secular neglect homeschooling stories is because I need to write one. So this is, in brief, my story. Maybe I will write more someday, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay talking about it in a language anyone but me and my husband understand.

Now, in 2016, I have discovered the following things about myself, things that I feel should be known, in order to give context to this account: I am an intersex woman with PCOS. I have EDS, a collagen mutation that causes chronic pain. I have been homeless and because of those experiences became a communist. I am a bisexual pagan witch. I am severely disordered, impacted by schizophrenia, autism, and two personality disorders (borderline and dependent) as well as extensive PTSD and anorexia, both of these latter from my childhood abuse and neglect, and the further abuse and neglect they set me up to face.

My mother neglected and emotionally abused me, as did literally every other member of my extended and immediate family, including my younger sister, who was also homeschooled for a time.

When I graduated from a very good and positive Montessori school at the age of eleven (5th grade) my mother put me in yet another private school for 6th grade and then, in the summer after, quit her job and pulled me and my sister out of school. She got a license to homeschool us (or… whatever that is, the registration that keeps the truancy officers showing up).

She bought all the sparkly accessories for homeschooling, made a few desultory efforts, and then got bored (she always got bored) and just started… ignoring our education.

She said, she always told people, that ‘oh, she’s so smart, she reads all the time. I can just leave her alone and she learns by herself!’

When I said I wanted to go to high school, she said ‘ok but you have to be in charge of that’ and then did absolutely nothing, forcing me to ask my friend, another 13yo girl, about how to enroll in her school. We were thirteen!! I had to go through this other friend of mine, on the phone, not even given the internet or anything, and print out the applications on my grandmother’s computer during Christmas.

She continued her sterling record of doing absolutely nothing, not even feeding me adequately or taking me to see a competent doctor when I was very clearly having severe medical problems (other than my orthodontia, because heaven forbid her child have crooked teeth), through the one and a half years I managed to limp along with zero parental help or support in a public (well, charter/magnet) school–the first time I’d ever been to public school.

And then, when I failed out of that school, she acted like I didn’t exist.

Again, she reasoned that she didn’t have to pay attention to me, because I could read and ‘read all the time’. She seemed to dutifully ignore the fact that what I was reading was fiction.

Anyway, later on, when I started talking about homeschooling with other people, I got very confused when they assumed I was Christian, and fundamentalist at that. I simply had never been around that kind of homeschooler–I’d only briefly been around any other homeschoolers, but the ones I’d met were all New Age. Scientologists, Pagans, etc. And all abusive in the same way, similar way to what I’ve read about from Christian survivors, but with that New Age ‘rebel’ twist that makes it hard to… well, rebel against it visibly (how are you supposed to rebel against an atheist or pagan? Go Christian??).

I still feel alone. Whenever I hear about survivors, or meet them (I live with two others–my husband and our roommate), they’re from horrific Christian cults. I feel like the only one that was from a secular or New Age philosophy or cult.

I guess this isn’t a full story so much as a call to others.

Where are my fellow secular survivors, where are they? Please speak up, please let me know I’m not alone. I’m here. You’re not alone.

I found out all of my conditions and illnesses in my adult life–most of them in the past year–and am learning more about how to live with them. My husband and I have been together for 9 years this April. I have been in recovery from anorexia for nine years. I am no longer homeless. I am able to buy items that ease the pain and lack of mobility from my EDS. I have some support cats. I am at a point where I can laugh derisively at my mother and my relatives and their abuse and neglect of me. I am recovering. There is hope.

You–and me–we’re not alone.

I love you. You can do it. We can do it together.

How the Daughter of a Focus on the Family Executive Came Out as Gay

Editorial note: Amber Cantorna’s story is reprinted with permission. It was originally published as a Facebook note on December 26, 2015. 

I was 27 when I had finally mustered every last bit of courage to have “the talk” with my family. I had been pondering, planning and praying for months. My heart weighed heavy and anxiety took my mind down every possible outcome. I knew, as the daughter of a Focus on the Family executive, the results of my truth could be devastating. But I had reached the point where living a lie was worse than whatever lay on the other side of truth. After much counsel, preparation and prayer, I felt the time had come to tell my truth. So on April 14th, 2012 I invited both my parents and brother over and we all took a seat in the living room of my split-level apartment. I told them the journey I had been on over the past several years and then, spoke the 3 short words that would forever alter my future…

* * * * *

Though I was born in Kalispell, Montana, by my third birthday we had moved to Glendora, California where my dad had accepted a job offer at Focus on the Family. When the company then relocated to Colorado Springs in 1991, my family did as well and that is the town where I grew up.

With the values and teachings of Dr. Dobson at the core of our family’s foundation, my parents decided to home-school both my brother and I from start to finish. They made daily devotions and cultivating a relationship with God a priority from a very young age. With programs like AWANA, we memorized Scripture frequently both in the program and as a family. A typical girl, I grew up playing with American Girl dolls and having frequent tea parties. I believed that my knight in shining armor would come for me, if only I would wait for him. At my thirteenth birthday, I even had a “Purity Ceremony” in which I signed a vow to stay chaste until marriage and was given a ring that was to be worn on my finger until it was someday replaced by a wedding band. I had been taught all these grandiose ideas of what love and traditional marriage were supposed to look like and innocently embraced them all as truths.

My mom came from a musical family, so (almost from the womb) she trained us as well, investing a lot of time into fostering our musical talents. We frequently sang at retirement homes and for Christian schools; we did full concerts at smaller churches and were always ready to perform for visiting family and guests. I was very blessed to be given 13 years of classical piano training as well. By the time I was 14, I was touring Europe with a youth choir and soon after, with the Young Continentals. Performing was a huge part of my life, and I thrived on it. As a very high-achieving perfectionist, I constantly put pressure on myself to rise to the top.

However, not all of that pressure came from within. As I moved more into my teen years, I began to feel the outside pressure of upholding my family’s reputation as well. As the daughter of a man who held a high profile position at Focus and whose work was known and loved around the world, being his daughter caused me to feel the weight of maintaining the appearance of that “perfect Focus family.” Friends would often comment to me how lucky I was, but behind the mask of perfection, I found myself struggling with depression and anxiety coupled with a need to keep all those struggles hidden behind a facade.

By the time I reached my early 20s, I still had never dated a guy. I admit at times I thought maybe there was something wrong with me, but mostly I just believed what I had been taught: if you prepared yourself spiritually and wait sexually, the right man will come along at the right time. The fact that I might be gay really never crossed my radar. I truly believed that God was just shielding me from the heartache of high school romances like the ones my friends were having, and that somehow the first man I would meet and seriously date would just magically be “the one.”

But at the age of 23, things in my life took a drastic turn when I suddenly found myself falling in love with my roommate…who was a woman. What started as a simple friendship, over time morphed into what was clearly becoming more than friends. I was so aghast the first time we kissed, I wasn’t even sure what was happening. My head was spinning, in more ways than one as I tried to figure out this mysterious attraction. Though I didn’t know it at the time, that experience ended up being the beginning of a deeper wrestling, the beginning of searching and eventually, the beginning of coming out.

I knew I couldn’t just sweep this “problem” under the rug, but I was terrified. I was terrified that in studying and digging deeper, I might find what I had been taught all my life to be true: God disapproved of homosexuality and, therefore, He disapproved of me. Focus on the Family teaches that marriage is strictly between one man and one woman and I was equally as terrified that in digging deeper I might find that belief to be false. Because if God did indeed make me this way, I would become part of a minority that is stigmatized, especially in Christian circles, and that too would be life-altering. So either way, my life would never be the same.

But, as I sat one night with my journal in hand, heartbroken over the loss of my first love and all together confused as to how and why it all happened to begin with, I gathered my courage and told God I was ready to start walking the difficult road ahead. I prayed, studied and researched for months allowing everything I had believed up to that point to be re-examined. I talked to people on similar journeys and, in doing so, found those who were both completely in love with their same-sex spouse and also completely in love with God, without any conflict between the two. That was when I began to realize that there didn’t have to be a dichotomy between my faith and sexuality, as I had been led to believe. Finally, after a long and difficult climb, the Scriptures in question settled in my heart, I found the answers I needed and knew that in God’s eyes, I was not only accepted but also loved for exactly how He made me.

The odds were high, however, that my family would not feel the same. Anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares swelled as I approached the day where telling them my truth would disappoint and break the illusion of that “perfect Focus family”. As I mustered every ounce of strength I had on that chilly April day, I looked my family in the eyes and said those three small, but life-altering words, “I am gay.” With my exposed heart hanging in the air, I awaited their response. To my deep dismay, the only response that came out of my dad’s mouth was, “I have nothing to say to you right now,” and he walked out the door.

From that moment on, things went from bad to worse. In a follow up conversation we had at my parent’s house several weeks later, they compared me to murderers and pedophiles, told me I was selfish for doing this to the family without thinking about the impact it would have on them and asked me to turn in my keys to my childhood home. Over time, because of their unwavering belief in Focus on the Family’s teaching and interpretation of the Scriptures on this issue, I was quietly pushed aside and shunned from the family. Only in my worst nightmares were the consequences as drastic as what they proved to be in real life. I lost not only my immediate family, but also my relatives, my church, many of my friends, and essentially, even my hometown. Because of the toxicity I felt living in a city where it seemed my every move was being watched by some degrading eye, I ended up moving to Denver. Even though almost four years have passed, I still feel anxiety every time I drive to Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, though many of my loved ones claimed to have unconditional love, what I discovered is that their love actually came with strings attached.

My world felt as though it were spiraling out of control. I’d never felt so lost or alone in all my life. Consistent nightmares and self injury reared its ugly head in my life once again and for the first time ever, I truly could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Suicide became a viable option in my mind.

Over the coming months, there were several key people who invested in me and added value to my life and in turn, rescued me from that dark place I was in. I don’t remember an exact turning point when I decided I wanted to live, but about 10 months after coming out, the tides had turned and I was sharing my life story at community hour at the Denver church I was attending. Though I didn’t know it at the time, that day was the day I met the woman who would one day become my wife.

I didn’t pay her much attention at first, but she noticed me from the start. After several months of intentional pursuit on her part, we started dating. We both quickly knew that each other was “the one” and about a year and a half after we met, we were married.

Amber and her wife, Clara on their wedding day.
Amber and her wife, Clara on their wedding day.

Somehow along the way as my relationship with her solidified, my relationship with my parents became even more bleak. When we got engaged, my parents realized this wasn’t just a phase that would pass and the gavel came down. We cut all ties.

Not having any family at my wedding was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through, and yet, it was still the best day of my life. In front of the people who stood by me when it mattered the most, I got to consecrate my love to my wife in a sacred covenant before God. In that moment, all the labels washed away and I was able to be fully myself, completely in love with my wife and also completely in love with God. It was the perfect day.

We’ve been married a year and a half now and our journey continues forward. There are still bumps in the road and hard days where I miss my family. The truth is, I still cherish my family values just as much today as I did growing up, but I’ve just had to learn to re-focus my family. I truly have so much to be grateful for. God has given me beauty for ashes and is continuing to be true to His promise and make all things new and beautiful in His time.

In their free time, Amber and her wife, Clara enjoy traveling as well as spending time in the Rocky Mountains with their two furry babies.
In their free time, Amber and her wife, Clara enjoy traveling as well as spending time in the Rocky Mountains with their two furry babies.

By Amber Cantorna
Beyond: Renew Your Faith, Restore Your Hope, Reclaim Your Love

To learn more about Amber and follow what she’s doing or to book her for an upcoming speaking event, please visit her website at and “Like” her on Facebook at

Amber now speaks and writes, sharing her story to help bridge the gap between LGBT and faith communities.
Amber now speaks and writes, sharing her story to help bridge the gap between LGBT and faith communities.

Announcing HARO’s 2016 Scholarships for Homeschool Alumni

Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO) is excited to announce our 2016 scholarship opportunities for homeschool alumni!

In 2015, HARO gave out the first scholarship of its kind–a scholarship funded by homeschool alumni, for homeschool alumni. Thanks to two members of our community, we awarded a $500 scholarship to a homeschool alumna pursuing a degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field. Our 2015 scholarship winner was Mary Menges, and you can read her winning essays here.

Thanks to multiple donations from our community, in 2016 we are offering two $500 scholarships to homeschool alumni. We will be awarding another $500 scholarship to a homeschool alumna pursuing a STEM degree. We will also be awarding a $500 scholarship to an LGBT+ homeschool alum.

Click here to learn more about the scholarships and apply!

Why Public Speculation about the Duggar Children’s Sexuality Should Be Off Limits

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog, Love, Joy, Feminism. It was originally published on January 5, 2016.

When Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar signed on with TLC, they put their family before the public as a form of entertainment, and that is how many Americans seem to view the Duggars—as entertainment. I’m not surprised, then, to see people publicly speculating about the Duggar children’s sexuality, but I am concerned. To be clear, I’m not talking about noting that the odds are one of the Duggar kids is going to be gay. I’m talking about public speculation about the sexual orientation of individual Duggar children. I’ve seen fans and critics alike analyze individual Duggar children’s dress, bearing, and other details looking for indications that this one or that may be gay, and then gleefully trumpeting their findings.

There are some very serious problems with public speculation about the sexual orientation of individual Duggar children, particularly those still living at home (whether or not they are minors). First, while Jim Bob and Michelle chose to sign with TLC, thrusting their family into the public eye, their children have never had a choice in the matter. Second, while it may not be obvious at first glance, speculating about the Duggar children’s sexuality is actively dangerous.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a teenage child growing up in a fundamentalist Christian homeschooling household. Imagine, now, that there are rumors circulating that you are gay, rumors based on your appearance or bearing, or your interests or likes. Think for a moment about how such rumors would impact you—because you better believe they would. These rumors might make your local homeschool and church community standoffish and suspicious, and they would certainly lead your parents to crack down on any sign of failure to toe the party line.

Your every move would be scrutinized. 

This is not idle speculation on my part, either. I know of homeschool alumni who experienced exactly what I described above. As rumors swirled in their communities, or as their parents became concerned that they might be showing gay tendencies, they faced consequences—whether or not they were in fact gay. They were shunned by their communities, or had their parents treat them with suspicion and quick judgement or even try to “cure” them of their tendencies. Speculation about a fundamentalist child’s sexual identity isn’t just harmful, it can be outright dangerous.

Roughly 40% of homeless teenagers are gay. Where do you think all those gay homeless teens came from, exactly? There are fundamentalist Christian families out there who respond to having a gay child very very badly. Remember Leelah Alcorn, the transgender teen who walked in front of a truck a year ago? Her parents were fundamentalist Christians whose efforts to “cure” their daughter’s gender identity ultimately led to her death. There are other stories too. Homeschool alumni Susie writes this of coming out to her parents:

After a few weeks of gay therapy, I was still gay so my parents did the unthinkable. They both, in my opinion, totally slipped over the edge of reason. I had gone to my therapy appointment and when I came home, as I was pulling in the driveway I realized my driver’s license was not in the console of the car where I usually kept it. So I went inside and asked my mom if she knew where my driver’s license was. Long story short, in an effort to “protect me from myself,” my dad had taken my driver’s license, passport, social security card, birth certificate, credit card and debit card and put them all in a safety deposit box at the bank. I had no legal identity!

I am trying to share enough details to paint the picture, without boring you. So I am going to cut to the chase.

My mom ended up driving me two hours away, in my car, with some of my things and dropped me off with $7 to my name. Tough love is what they called it. I was lucky enough that a friend had a house with two of his friends and they let me stay in an open room. I had no bed, just a pillow and a sleeping bag with some clothes. I didn’t even have a blanket.

Tough love.

Leelah and Susie both chose to come out to their parents, on their own timing. Engaging in public speculation about the sexuality of children living in fundamentalist Christian homes risks forcing those children’s hands, which, again, is actively dangerous. Being a gay teen in a fundamentalist Christian home is a risky proposition even without having to worry about public speculation forcing you out of the closet, especially when the consequences can be astronomically high.

But wait, you say! Speculation about the Duggar children’s sexuality will never actually get back to the Duggars themselves! This is not at all clear to me. It’s fairly clear that the Duggars follow what the media says about them. After the news broke that Josh Duggar had molested four of his sisters as a teen, the girls themselves spoke of feeling re-victimized by the media. The Duggar children still living in the home do have internet access, albeit with certain restrictions. And even if such rumors never make it to the kids themselves, the same is unlikely to be true for the Duggar parents—or for others in their communities.

Perhaps you would still argue that the Duggars signed on for this when they signed with TLC? Public speculation about your personal life is just one more consequence of leading a public life, yes? First, let me repeat, again, that the Duggar children didn’t have a choice in the matter. And second, do you truly care more about your “right” to publicly snark and speculate about the Duggars than you do about the Duggar children’s safety or autonomy? I certainly don’t.

Yes, it is likely, given the sheer number of Duggar children, that one of them is gay. But we need to give that child the space they need to decide when and how to come out, on their own terms, and without having to worry about public speculation about their sexual orientation. This isn’t just about privacy, though it is about that as well. This is also about basic personal safety. Growing up gay in a fundamentalist home is hard enough without the risk of being forced out of the closet by rumors fed or created by public speculation. As homeschool alumni Andrew Roblyer put it:

I often equate growing up gay to growing up in a warzone, where bombs fall all around you day after day after day.  Eventually the abject terror you feel when one lands nearby fades into a constant clenching in your stomach that you don’t even realize, because while you can’t entirely relax, you can’t afford to run at full alert at all times.  I saw and heard so many gay people attacked and condemned by the people I grew up with that my stomach was perpetually clenched, terrified that their rhetoric and doctrine would be used to attack me if they ever found out.

How can we make things better for children like Roblyer? And, presuming that at least one of the Duggar children is gay, what can we do to support that child?

To begin with, we can stop making children’s sexual identities a thing of snark or speculation or a “gotcha” against fundamentalist Christian parents and instead demonstrate our support for LGBTQ youth wherever they are found (and that includes respect for their self-determination of when and how to come out). We can prove ourselves safe people by being safe people. And while we’re at it, we can deconstruct myths about homosexuality or queer identities and criticize the Duggar parents’ anti-gay rhetoric without putting their children in the firing line.

If we care at all about the safety and wellbeing of the Duggar children, and not just about the entertainment value they provide, we need to end public speculation about whether this or that one may be gay.

Family was my Everything: Alida’s Story, Conclusion

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


In this seriesPart One | Conclusion


Sometime during that first semester away, one of my Facebook friends shared an article from Homeschoolers Anonymous. I’d heard the name Cynthia Jeub before in the speech-and-debate social circle, so I clicked.

I read a lot of things on HA. It was a really empowering experience. Some of it made me thankful that my family wasn’t as extreme as those in the stories I read. Most of it made me furious, especially the stories with strong themes related to courtship, purity, and financial independence, all of which are important parts of my personal journey.

I started doing my own research.

I wanted to make sure I wasn’t trading one set of evils for another. The first time I had heard about HA, it was by overhearing a conversation a few years ago between another homeschool mom and my own. They were talking about some kind of online forum founded by angry former homeschoolers who had been ‘seduced by the lies of the world’ during their time at secular college. The people behind HA, they said, wanted to bring down homeschooling and turn our young people against their parents. I was told never to visit the site.

I’m a communication major, an editor for my university’s newspaper. A major theme in our department is the importance of a journalist’s role in truthfully telling a stranger’s story. The journalist must set aside their own thoughts and opinions, focusing on what happened in their subject’s life. The journalist must truly believe in the concept that every person’s story is inherently valuable and worth telling. These ideas really resonated with me. I focused on learning to listen to someone else’s narrative. Developing a more generous, more open-hearted attitude helped me expand my ability to love people.

As I learned more and more about the broken systems and frameworks of the culture I had been raised in, I started to feel more and more at ease in society.

The strangeness of being in a different world wasn’t as bad once I learned that my little corner was the strange one after all. I learned about feminism, race relations, and LGBTQ issues in American culture. I decided to educate myself on American subcultures I had previously been shielded from.

Learning about others allowed me to learn about myself.

Discovering who I am helped push me a little closer to fearlessness in many ways.

Learning the truth about my sexuality was a big turning point for me. For a long time, I had suspected that either the entire rest of the world was lying about sex being so exciting and being the first thing on their minds or that there was something very wrong with me. I had always assumed that my lack of sexual attraction to people was some kind of unfortunate result of the way I was raised, that maybe after trying for so many years to not think about sex (because that’s “wrong”), I had somehow gotten really good at doing so and lost the ability to function normally. But as I got to know myself more, I came to be at peace with the fact that I just have a different sexual orientation. I’m Asexual. (check out to learn more).

As I struggled to understand more and more about the details of myself and the people I was meeting, I tried to decide if it was worth coming out to my family. I knew what they would say. All my life, I had been told that no other sexual orientations existed aside from being straight. Everyone who “said they were gay” was just confused and “lost in the ways of this world.” So I said nothing.

The research hours I was putting in toward learning about everything from religious cults to feminism to minority relations and beyond was all starting to take shape. My views on social issues shifted, and I found myself re-considering the anti-LGBT systems I had been taught to believe. I’m now pro-marriage equality. How had I believed for so long that it was OK to legislate the behavior of our entire country’s population based on the religious beliefs of one sub-group? I channeled all the Libertarian arguments my speech-and-debate friends had repeated over and over and decided to really follow up on my belief that everyone should have the right to pursue happiness on their own terms as long as it doesn’t harm others.

By second semester, I had started dating someone, and after a while, we discussed that we were both interested in forming a longer-term relationship. So I told him about my sexuality. For me, deep emotional and intellectual intimacy was not inherently linked to sex, I said. I wanted to make sure that before we made a bigger commitment, he knew I didn’t want to have sex with him, and my desires probably wouldn’t change. He told me that sex was really important to him in a relationship, and he just couldn’t see anything long-term working out without it. It hurt, but I guess I knew what I was in for. We decided to stay friends. As time has gone on, our friendship has somehow managed to persist; I even slept over at his house once when I was having roommate trouble. We are affectionate and still kiss, but my feelings toward him are platonic now. And we still never have sex.

My dad called and said he was worried about my moral conduct. Through my brother, he had found out about the time I slept over at the guy’s house. He demanded to know if I had had sex, and I told him the truth. No, no sex was had. To myself, I wondered for the first time — was it really any of his business? He kept pressing me for answers, so I came out to him and did my best to explain asexuality as I sobbed on FaceTime. I don’t think it was fair that I wasn’t able to have this conversation with my family in person, in my own time, and on my own terms.

The academic year ended, and for athletic reasons, I spent most of the summer away from home. I wasn’t near my family when Marriage Equality became legal on June 26. I was so happy, but knew it was important to pick my battles, so I didn’t post anything on Facebook about my support for the ruling. I hardly even commented on my friends’ posts.

All I wanted to do was have a peaceful relationship with my family.

But they knew.

By the time I came home with just under three weeks of the summer left, one of my siblings had already told me that I “didn’t belong in this family anymore.”

It hurt so much, especially after having sacrificed what felt like everything, over and over, in the name of family.

I didn’t know what to do. I noticed that living at home was different than it had been. Early on after my arrival, we had a confrontation about our now-differing political opinions. Even though the confrontation sucked, I was glad we had clearly articulated our differences and could move on. But we couldn’t move on, apparently.

My mom found ways to make so many daily interactions and normal tasks into opportunities to remind me how wrong my opinions were. I felt so trapped, like I couldn’t take a step in any direction without setting her off. Within the week, my parents and I got into yelling matches that covered everything from suicide rates in LGBT kids (who are up to 400% more likely to attempt taking their own lives as straight kids), to the Facebook incident from the year before.

I remember so clearly the moment one of those nights when my mom told me that I didn’t have a right to privacy.

I hate the way I screamed back at them; I hate the way I had absolutely no control over my response to the situation. I felt like a separate person. I was out of control. Something about being cornered, not being accepted, being talked down to over and over had triggered intense anger problems I thought I had gotten over years ago. “You need professional help,” they told me. They wanted to take me to see a pastor for counselling.

I immediately said no to that. I was open to getting help from a professional psychologist for my anger, but there was no way I wanted to sit down with someone who would speak with me from only a religious perspective, trying to ‘correct’ the fact that I had a different political opinion than them. We compromised and found a psychologist who was a Christian but also had a formal education in mental health, etc. Talking with her was really good for me.

We talked more about my anger and sadness. She didn’t tell me that I was evil or give my any of the fear-mongering rhetoric I somehow expected.

She listened to what I was feeling and affirmed that I wasn’t crazy for thinking things on my own.

She said it was ok that I was mad when my mom said I didn’t have a right to privacy. She said I was correct in having switched my Facebook password last year. She said it was ok that I have my own opinions, and while it was nice that I was still was on board with Christianity as a whole, my family still would have no right to make me feel like shit if I wasn’t. It felt so good to have someone say that I’m not crazy or a bad person for doing and saying and believing and acting the way I choose to.

And that’s where I’m at now. With one year of school left, I’m doing my best to figure out how to become financially stable as quickly as possible so I can complete my transition to adulthood by living on my own after graduation. I still believe that my family is the most important thing in my life, and I want to find a way to live at peace with them. But I think all this stuff I have to experience is a good thing. I’m ok with it.

Family was my Everything: Alida’s Story, Part One

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

Moving from Homeschool to College was a lot tougher than I expected. I’m currently in my final year of undergrad, and I think I’m still adjusting.

I was one of those homeschool kids that took college classes in high school, which made me assume I’d have college totally figured out. Of course I was wrong.

Seven years after my first college course, I’m still struggling to find where I make sense and figure out the process of growing up.

Freshman year, I went to a private Christian university, along with a handful of kids from my homeschool, speech-and-debate social circle. I hardly grew as a person at all that year.

Sometimes I can look back at experiences and point out something that started a trend in my life, or a particular moment that was eye-opening in a way that isn’t identifiable until I link it to other events that happened later. There are only two instances like that from freshman year I can look back at.

The first is when I chose not to sit next to these two students in math class. In all honestly, it was because I thought they both looked weird. Those two ended up becoming my best friends at that school. We’re still in touch, and one of them I still consider my best friend.

The second is when I made friends with a person who identified as lesbian at the time. I remember deliberately trying to integrate into a different friend group so I would have an excuse not to hang out with them. As The Bible had been paraphrased to me so many times, “you become like the people you surround yourself with.” The gay agenda was very evil and very real to me at the time. We somehow ended up staying friends, which I attribute wholly to their kindness, tolerance and understanding, not mine.

During this time, I also was suffering from anorexia and bulimia.

When I was growing up, modesty culture influenced nearly everything around me.

I remember all the rules about how I was supposed to dress, talk, behave, and have friends. My shorts had to be at least a certain length. No clothes could be too snug. I shouldn’t speak so loudly now that I was a young lady. I was always to keep a “pleasant countenance” by smiling. Once I turned 13, it was no longer appropriate to have boys as friends.

My mom and dad told me all of these rules were very important because “men function differently than women,” and I might “cause them to stumble by my conduct” if I wasn’t careful enough. I never had a sex ed, but I attended a purity class, went to one of those father-daughter dances where you sign a paper about staying pure, the whole shebang.

For sophomore year, I had to move home and go to Community College for a while. I lived at my parents’ house. Again, I didn’t see myself changing much. I couldn’t see it from there.

And aside from what some covert internet searches had told me, I still didn’t know what sex was, even as a second-year college student.

This was also the first time I joined a sport since Tee-ball.

One day I was stretching with my teammates before a race, and I asked to trade places in the circle with someone else so I could move to the opposite side. When the girls asked me why, I explained that my back had been facing the men’s team, and “I didn’t want them lusting after my body” as we bent over to stretch our hamstrings. All the girls laughed at me. The girl who switched places with me laughed too and said something about how the boys could lust all they wanted- her booty was on fire!

I remember going quiet as my face turned red; I had never been in a situation before where saying something like that was weird or abnormal. But I also remember feeling self-righteous, thinking about how much holier I was than them, how much better of a person I was. I wasn’t the same kind of girl they were, I told myself. I was saving my body in every way for the man it would one day belong to.

Being around those girls was good for me. I slowly recovered from my eating disorders. Looking back, I’ve been able to identify the reasons I developed them in the first place.

All the modesty and purity-related messages I heard for so many years had internalized into the theme that my body was something wrong, something negative, something to be covered, something to be ashamed of.

Something to be hated.

As I started to get more involved in the sport, I started to see my body as something amazing. I lifted weights for the first time, and my body was something strong, something capable. My team started winning races, and my body was something useful, something functional. My body, to me, was no longer something exclusively sexual and therefore inherently sinful. My body was now something I could command to be strong, to accomplish a task, to fight for my teammates every day during practice and during races. I had motivation now to take care of my body, to be the best athlete I could be.

I said I would only ever date Christian men.

Over the years, I had been told many times that it was wrong to be in any kind of emotional relationship with someone who wasn’t also a believer, whether it be romantic or just a friendship.

So I dated a Christian guy from my social circle. After a little while, my parents forbade me from socializing with him, pointing out his “flaws” and “undesirable character traits,” saying we weren’t a good enough match. At the time, I experienced sadness but still firmly believed that as an unmarried woman living under her father’s roof, it was my duty to obey him. It was “scriptural” that I allow him to be my authority, they said.

Looking back on the situation, I see three things. The first is that my parents ended up being right about this guy. The second is that my they felt the need to exercise absolute control over my relationship. The third is that even though they were right about him, they should not have controlled my relationship the way they did.

But at the time, I didn’t know any better.

The next year, I started dating a good friend from my academic program. Tyler was the first man I fell in love with. I knew that he wasn’t religious, so we went to great lengths to see each other at times when my parents wouldn’t find out about our relationship. I made up lies about having to stay late at work or lead a study group at the library. We kissed a lot but never had sex, even though he wanted to. I remember being very proud of myself for that.

The entire time though, I experienced crippling guilt, especially when my mom and dad started to ask questions.

I eventually told them the truth, and on the same day, amidst tears, promised I would break up with him.

But I didn’t break up with him. We talked about getting married one day. As an “informed agnostic,” as Tyler called himself, it was difficult for him to understand the emotional and psychological toll that deceiving my family had on me. He didn’t have 21 years of homeschooled Christian culture and expectations weighing down on him. Family was my everything.

That summer, I fought with my mom more than I could ever remember. Multiple times, she threatened to kick me out of the house. Finally, I couldn’t handle it anymore. It was him or my family. I chose my family and prayed it would be worth it. My brother went into my phone and Facebook, blocking Tyler on both. Even though I knew how to disable the block settings, I didn’t. I told myself that abiding by my family’s wishes would help me.

For my fourth year of college, I earned an athletic scholarship and was able to transfer to the university I currently attend.

I moved to the opposite coast, and it was my first time not living under my parents’ roof.

One day, about a month into the semester, I was messaging a classmate on Facebook about studying for a quiz together. We decided that he would come over to my dorm to study and then watch the Avengers. A few minutes later, I got a call from my mom. When I answered, she started asking me how the day was going, if I had any plans, etc. So I told her about my day, and said that “I was actually about to study for a quiz, so I can’t really talk for long.” I wanted to end the call so I could go let my friend in.

Mom kept pressing me for details. “Are you sure there’s not anything else you want to tell me?” Nope, there wasn’t anything else I wanted to tell her. I couldn’t identify why I didn’t want to tell her that I had a boy coming over. We weren’t planning to do anything ‘bad,’ but for some reason I still felt very uncomfortable. Facebook dinged again. He was waiting outside the building. I felt annoyed with both mom and myself that I had to rush her off the phone.

The next day, mom called me again. “I know that you were hanging out with a boy yesterday, and that you didn’t tell me about it when I asked you point-blank,” she said. She had the password to my Facebook? I’d changed it multiple times through the years since I made it when I was 16.

Even from 3,000 miles away, she still had to control my interpersonal interactions.

She told me that I had sinned by omission and that by hiding important details, had caused her to doubt my spiritual health. I didn’t know what to say. Half an hour later, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably to my roommate, not understanding why I felt the way I did, feeling embarrassed that a situation that felt so stupid had evoked such strong emotions. My roommate told me that I had a right to privacy and that it was ok to keep some things to myself. No one had ever told me that before. I changed my password later that day, hating that I had to do it.

How to Become Disillusioned with Everything in Just a Few (Not) Easy Steps: Fidget’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

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

One would think that my lightbulb moment would have been when I realized I was bisexual, but that would be incorrect: I realized I was bi and then became the literal vision of sin in my own mind. I was valueless because I wasn’t straight, because I was a liar, because I hurt myself, because I was so vain that I had an eating disorder (that was genuinely how I viewed myself).

Despite secretly being trash in the eyes of the people that I looked up to, I still clung to the ideals I was taught and tried to box up all the wrongness in me and still be perfect.

Thusly, I didn’t really have one lightbulb moment; I had a steady brightening, punctuated by a few flashes of further clarity. It started perhaps with panties (I wrote about that already though), but it might well have started with anime (though, embarrassingly enough, that was kinda more of a sexual awakening than a political one), but the most light was shed by a few people in my life when I was a teenager.

The brightening was started by the youth pastor at the very ‘progressive’ church my family went to (progressive like they sang three hymns instead of six). The youth pastor, Mr. C, was a kind, intellectual man who really listened to people when they spoke, who made you feel real, and respected, and human. I was totally unused to anyone treating me the no-expectations way he and his wife treated me and totally unused to being part of a group that wanted me there. I was not popular in my youth group, since I was awkward, and other, and aggressively conservative, but even though none of the kids wanted me there, Mr. and Mrs. C certainly did. More than just my presence or attendance, they wanted my company, wanted my friendship, wanted a real relationship with me. It stuck with me so much as a young teen because every other man in my life– and every other authority figure for that matter– ultimately did not give one shit about me as an individual. Sure, my mom loved me, but when it came to opinions, if mine didn’t match hers, I received an eye roll and a question about the morality/biblical-ness of my idea (it’s incredibly difficult to admit that now that she is dead, but at the time it was painful and constant).

Co-op and Sunday School teachers thought I was clever when I parroted their ideas, but when I asked hard questions or even just asked about the purpose of certain rules, I was being a troublemaker, or disrespectful.

Mr. C didn’t condescend, didn’t shush, didn’t simplify or gloss over, and he didn’t herd us to conclusions in his sermons like I was used to. He was a pacifist (which was unheard of to me at the time) and a liberal (according to my father). He didn’t water down biblical ideas, and he didn’t buy into a James Dobson Gospel. In homeschool world I was a worker bee with no defining traits and no voice outside of the carefully scripted narrative of the leaders, but with Mr. and Mrs. C my voice was sought out and listened to, even when it faltered and even when I was confused or ‘disrespectful’. Over my six years as part of that youth group, I learned from Mr. C that God didn’t hate me because I was bisexual, that God didn’t hate me because I was a freak, that God didn’t hate me because I cut myself, and most importantly, that I ought to be listened to. As I learned from him, I started to pull away from the idea that the Only Truth™ came from conservative evangelical sources, I started relying more upon what made sense to believe and less upon what I had been told to believe. In the end, he and his wife were the first adults I came out to as a teenager, and the only adults I ever told about my cutting.

They cared about me for more than my obedience or loyalty, and that taste of realness set me searching for the truth they seemed to be borrowing from.

The next flash was provided by Tumblr– and the watered down version of feminism I found there. The flash culminated the night of Texas Senator Wendy Davis’ 2013 Filibuster of Senate Bill 5. As I watched the livestream something in my heart smoothed itself out at the sound of the multitude of people literally crying out for reproductive choice, and all my questions about abortion were made irrelevant. That sounds so stupid, but that’s exactly what happened. I was sure that these people, and Wendy Davis, were right, and that everything I had been taught about abortion (standard “it’s murder/the fetus cries/it’s the most violent medical procedure known to man/women are chattel literally put on the earth for breeding purposes” lies) had to be wrong. I started reading up on the issue, and soon I answered for myself all the questions I had on the subject.

Luckily for me, I had been prepared for this kind of self-education by several years of educational neglect, and so I didn’t even begin to doubt the new opinions I was forming.

The last two flashes were my best friend in high school and Emilie Autumn, a gothic industrial musical artist. Emilie Autumn sang about being objectified and fighting for her sexual agency and being treated like property and sexually mistreated (Thank God I’m Pretty, Marry Me, Mad Girl and Gothic Lolita, especially) all of which fed into the anti-patriarchy, fuck-the-rules-my-father-made, consensual-sex-positive attitude I was fostering, and gave me a soundtrack to ‘rebel’ to. My best friend was an outsider to homeschool (not even a Christian– oh the scandal), the first friend I chose without my parents’ permission (directly against my father’s will, in fact) and a boy my age who didn’t try to lure me into sex, despite being sexually attracted to me. He– like Mr. and Mrs. C– treated me like a person and actually listened when I spoke. He was the rock that my new normalcy built itself upon. Following that metaphor, the sandy foundation that my parents had piled their beliefs on began really and truly crumbling when I enrolled myself in public high school for my junior year, and with the help of a few more teachers who really listened to me, it had disintegrated entirely by the time I graduated.

Now as a liberal, feminist, goth, (mostly out of the closet) bisexual, agnostic college student I’m still blinded from time to time as new lights come on to show me other lies and agendas I was raised believing. I honestly don’t think that these lights will stop coming on for me, because this stuff tends to follow people, but that’s a good thing. My mom was wrong about a lot, but she did teach me one thing that means almost too much to bear at times: never stop trying to learn.

So here I am, trying to learn– and sometimes trying to unlearn.

When the Bible Wasn’t Enough: Sage Lynn’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

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

Content Warning: Suicidal Thoughts

“God is real,” I confidently asserted. “There’s indisputable proof, and his existence and saving us from hell is the only thing that makes life worth living.”

A girl about my own age countered, “God is a myth. Evolution is scientifically proven. God doesn’t exist.”

“Actually yes, he does. He created the world– science has disproven evolution over and over, but people don’t want to believe it. I believe in God’s sovereignty. I believe that he takes all the terrible moments of our lives and changes them into something beautiful, something worth having. Otherwise there’s no point in living.”

“I can find a purpose in living without God. No one really needs him. If you have to believe in a pretend deity to find meaning, then that’s not such a great way to see things,” she replied.

“Without God, nothing makes sense,” I replied. “People have been trying to find meaning without him for ages, and it just doesn’t work. He is the only one who can redeem the messes of our lives, the things we wish we hadn’t done and the things done to us. Without him, all the suffering in the world is meaningless, including ours.”

“You can believe that, but God doesn’t actually exist and life does have meaning without him,” the girl stated.

Thinking of this exchange makes me cringe. I am sick to my stomach, want to throw up and shove the memory of it far out of my head. But it’s important to me to remember. I was eighteen at the time, suicidal, depressed, starving myself to death, in the hospital because I had overdosed–at that exact moment I was sitting in a psych ward with six other teenage girls and two psych techs, in some group for coping skills or the like. The techs intervened at that point, bringing the group back on point, but I spent the rest of the group writing notes that bolstered my worldview that believing in God was the only thing that made life worthwhile and possible.

A few days later, after the 72 hour hold the emergency room physician placed me on expired, I checked myself out of the hospital. As a semi-minor, I had to have a meeting with my parents and the treatment team before I was released. My parents’ pastor and the biblical counselor I was seeing came along too. At that meeting, the treatment team asked me why I thought I was safe enough to leave the ward. I answered with more of the above, about having purpose because God was working everything together for good and it was all going to have a higher purpose, and I would continue to cling to that and draw strength from that and use it to fight the suicidal urges. The pastor and counselor and my parents all told me how proud they were that I defended my faith against psychological attacks. “You have the right beliefs,” the counselor told me. “That is what makes life worth living. We just need to help connect your head and your heart so that your beliefs guide your actions. God wants that for you–keep studying the Bible, praying, and asking the Holy Spirit to work in your life.”

After we left, I remember looking at the sky and being so relieved that I was out of the psych ward–yet so terrified because inside I didn’t know if the worldview I so stoutly defended was really enough to keep me alive.

And this is the story of my disillusionment with conservative Christianity. It wasn’t so much a lightbulb moment as a rocky path plagued by fits and starts, trying to go back, trying to believe, and coming up dry. Meeting people my religion condemned to hell and realizing they had a better outlook on life than I did.

Understanding that my parents’, pastor’s, and counselor’s approbation showed their overarching concern: that my soul’s security was more important than my body’s survival, that my ability to argue apologetics or memorize whole books of the Bible or “get my heart right before God” was more important than my ability to stop cutting or dreaming of death.

In fact, when I first started seeing the counselor, the first thing she said to anorexic, cutting, suicidal me was, “Before I even try to help someone with their life issues, I want to make sure they’re saved. Otherwise, dealing with the other issues will be ineffective.” When I ended up in the psych ward–again, and again–I would leave with resources to use, groups to attend, but the biblical counselor and pastor would tell me to quit them, to turn to their approved Bible studies and “counseling,” to pray more and make my life right with God. Over and over, this never worked. All the “right answers” just left me broken and battered, more wounded than when I’d begun to seek them.

Eventually, I went left home and started college. I was incredibly lucky to meet several therapists–ones with a degree who didn’t read me Bible verses for every session–who began to help me untangle the webs of lies and confusion I had been told. They affirmed my worth and value, and the priority of dealing with my depression and other issues, all without bringing the Bible into it or mentioning God or telling me my behaviors were sending me to hell.

As I healed, my parents expressed concerns about my salvation. In their eyes, my turning to secular psychology evidenced a rejection of the Bible and principles they wanted me to embrace. I spent hours trying to convince them–and myself–conservative Christian beliefs could be reconciled with reality in the world. I came up dry.
I also watched the way conservative Christianity treated people. I saw much talk about doctrine and scripture and grace and judgment and holiness and righteousness–and I saw an inability to listen to real people, real stories, real pain. From abortion to LGBT* people (before I had figured out I was one myself) to healthcare to immigration, I saw a plethora of articles and words about what should be done, what the Bible said about things, and precious little attention given to people who had lived these things.

Leaders my parents followed seemed to be more concerned about figuring out a doctrinal formula and backing everything up with Bible verses than they did with engaging in the pain and hurt in the world.

They were too quick to offer the “solution” that would fix some problem and prescribe the correct theology–talking–while refusing to listen or love.

A few months after I told my parents that I was queer, we had a conversation that had become commonplace. “I know you say this is how you feel,” my mom said, her face lined with concern. “But I ask you, who is Jesus to you? Do you call yourself a Christian? How can you back up that you are a Christian from the Bible?”
My voice trembling, the pull of religious fundamentalism that will always be in my blood tugging at my heart, I replied, “I can’t do this anymore. I won’t defend my faith to you. I don’t have all the reasons and all the answers and all the doctrines–and I don’t want them. I will never be able to justify my faith or lack thereof or uncertainty thereof to you. It only ends up hurting me and not answering you. My God, when I believe in them, is not the same as yours. They never will be. I am done. Defending my faith, defending conservative Christianity, almost killed me. I can’t go back. I am sorry, but this is not a conversation I can have anymore.”

That day marked a turning point for me. I gave up trying to reconcile my beliefs with conservative Christianity. Even though my heart still longs at times for the familiarity and rules that defined life for me for so long, I know I can’t go back. That bridge is destroyed, and it is for the better. If I remain a Christian, it will be in spite of conservative Christianity. In the end, love, truth and knowledge will win, defeating the hate-mongering, fear-mongering lies sold to people to modify their behavior. Until that day, I choose to live in love and acceptance, even if that means I don’t have all the answers

Farris and Co. Declare War on SCOTUS; Members Erupt Over HSLDA’s Statement on Same-Sex Marriage

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

Editors note 1: Story updated to include more information on HSLDA’s advocacy.

Editors note 2: Edited to include Michael Farris’ additional commentary on the Supreme Court published through Patrick Henry College.

Ed note 3: Added Farris’ question about tribal annexation.  

Today, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association made a press release regarding the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. As they have consistently asserted, they believe homeschooling will be negatively impacted by the court’s ruling. HSLDA has even advocated their anti-LGBTQ agenda in Russia, at the Kremlin, after many conservative organizations pulled out of a “family” conference. In 2006 , the group lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. HSLDA’s website claimed that “[s]ame-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in western civilization,” and is an “attack on parental rights.” You might also remember when Michael Farris threatened to sue QueerPHC, a blog run by queer students of Patrick Henry College, using his personal Facebook account.

Despite this record of public advocacy, HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations Will Estrada told ThinkProgress in August 2014 that HSLDA no longer lobbies on the issue of same sex marriage and he did not know why HSLDA had done so in the past. Mike Donnelly spoke at the Kremlin Conference in September 2014 – a month after Estrada denied HSLDA’s advocacy on the issue. Michael Farris set the doubt aside this afternoon when he adapted a Facebook post from his personal page and released it through HSLDA’s official PR channels.

Text of statement [image]:

Supreme Court marriage ruling

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

This morning, the Supreme Court declared that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. This decision has the potential to affect the rights of parents, families, and others. 

We believe the right to homeschool is for everybody.

Families can teach their children what they believe is right about marriage, according to their conscience. And we will defend their right to do so.

The legal and social pressure from this decision is going to be extraordinary, most likely starting in the areas of business and public education. 

What might this look like? Public schools may be forced to be philosophically compliant with this decision. Children will be taught that there is only one way to view marriage and the family. We believe that families are going to seek educational alternatives that allow them to teach their children according to their conscience.

Consequently, homeschooling will grow. And as it grows, those who wish to impose philosophical restraints on homeschooling will increase their efforts to force us to comply.

Ramifications of this decision will include pressure on businesses and private associations, including homeschooling support groups, to conform.

HSLDA will fight to keep homeschooling free from philosophical controls, and maintain the rights of families to teach their children according to their conscience.
Mike Farris

Many HSLDA members responded in an admirable fashion. Many of the top comments on HSLDA’s Facebook post with this statement are criticizing them and pointing out the logical fallacies.

In response to the decision, many conservative politicians are attacking the institution of the Supreme Court. Michael Farris led the pack this morning on his personal Facebook [image]:

My response to today’s ruling in a nutshell… We must stop letting the Supreme Court exercise legislative power.

..We must fight judicial politics with grassroots politics. The only solution is the Convention of States. Four states have voted to call a Convention that can address this issue.

If we want to preserve American self-government, we have to push harder to overcome the naysayers and leftists who want to stop us…

All other alternatives are spitting in the wind. We have lost big time. The only solution is a big time reversal of judicial power.

Farris expounded on his Facebook post and HSLDA press release on Friday afternoon with an additional press release through Patrick Henry College that evening. [full text] The morning of the the ruling on ACA, Farris called John Roberts Judas through a “30 pieces of silver” illusion. Farris continues to hammer on the illegitimacy of the court’s decision and adds the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ruling to his argument:

The Court—not the Constitution—has legalized same sex marriage. No one can legitimately contend to the contrary. This occurs one day after the Court rewrote the Obamacare legislation to save it from a pragmatic death.

In the marriage case, the Court rewrote the Constitution. In the health care case, the Court rewrote a federal statute…


Our solution today requires this same general approach [that FDR used when he threatened to pack the bench]. We have to figure out a way to beat the judicial politicians with superior political tactics.

The core reason that the Supreme Court has this much power is revealed by the Court itself. In multiple opinions, usually in dissents, the members of the Court have acknowledged that there is no realistic check on the power of the Court other than its own internal sense of self-restraint.

If we want to preserve American self-government, we must impose additional restrictions on the power of the Supreme Court. Checks and balances need to be real, not merely theoretical.

Of course, Farris’ policy answer will determine your corresponding level of outrage. Everything he proposes would fundamentally change the nature of the Supreme Court because he disagrees about their decisions on abortion, same-sex marriage, and ACA. His Convention of the States project is his best chance to codify his interpretation of Christianity into the Constitution.

There are many ideas in circulation on how to do this. Term limits could be imposed on the justices. We could add “deliberate failure to follow the original meaning of the Constitution” as grounds for impeachment.

We could give the power of impeachment to state legislatures.

My favorite is to follow FDR’s court-packing idea but with vigor.Every state should be allowed to appoint a member of the Supreme Court. They could serve for a brief term, perhaps eight years. Removing Supreme Court appointments and confirmations from Washington, DC, is the only realistic way to ensure true judicial independence. Otherwise, you get the power cabal that we have in place which was clearly in play in this week’s Obamacare decision.

Continuing his theme of separation from US Federal Government power, Farris posed an open-ended question about having a tribe annex a state – presumably for him and others to escape certain federal laws.



Presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal echoed Farris’ institutional distrust of the Supreme Court as they position themselves to court the religious right. Apparently, they think the religious right desires Theocracy.

New presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, linked to Michael Farris and his ideology directly through his chief of staff, strategist, and confidante Farris’ protegee Timmy Teepall, will make “religious liberty a cornerstone” of his campaign. Jindal balked at the court’s decision on marriage and claimed “[t]he next step on this is the left and (Democratic front-runner) Hillary Clinton are going to be waging an all-out assault on our religious liberty rights.” In the same vein as Farris, Jindal advocated abolishing the entire court:

Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that… If we want to save some money lets [sic] just get rid of the court.

Huckabee and Gothard at a presidential luncheon Mike Huckabee, linked closely with the Duggars, Bill Gothard, and theocratic dominionism, took the most aggressive tone today:

I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat. 

Why is homeschooling linked with the same-sex marriage decision? I suggest reading about Michael Farris’ central role in crafting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and HSLDA’s strenuous advocacy for Virginia’s religious exemption rule. The fear of homeschooling parents is a weapon wielded by Michael Farris, HSLDA, and now an increasing roster of politicians who are threatening the United States’ democratic institutions because the Supreme Court has ruled their religious views cannot overrule marriage equality.

Homeschooling, and homeschoolers, deserve better than to be co-opted into resistance against the Supreme Court. And I’m glad many of HSLDA’s members have spoken out boldly today. Pulling their membership from HSLDA and defunding their efforts is the best way to send a message to HSLDA that homeschooling should not be about attacking our democratic institutions to further “religious liberty.”