*Trigger Warning* If suicidal thoughts and actions are triggering you may want to skip the two triggering sections. I talk about my suicide attempts as well as self-harming tendencies. Also this article deals with the struggles of coming out. You have been warned.
What does it mean to be queer in Modern Day America? What does that existence look like?
I have three words that describe what it feels like for me, a poly, pagan, pansexual, queer person: I am afraid.
When faced with “Trump’s America” what legal protections will remain standing for me at the end of this political, fascist fever-dream?
Will my employer be able to fire me because I hold my partners hand at company functions and it goes against their religious beliefs?
Will business refuse goods and services because I fell in love with my intellectual and spiritual equal?
Will medical providers be able turn me away from needed care simply because I pursued happiness?
Will I get evicted from my home because I’m choosing to live in homosexual sin?
Will I get raped by someone who thinks that it is their sworn duty to make me straight?
Will I be in physical danger if my partner and I walk in the wrong place at the wrong time by the wrong people?
Will I get kicked out of college classes simply because my “lifestyle” goes against the deeply held religious beliefs of the professor?
Will there be a safe place for me on college campuses? Who will take my complaints of harassment seriously? What will be done about it?
Will my family and friends disown me for revealing my authentic self?
If you don’t believe that legal protections are necessary for Queer and Trans Folx, I encourage you to imagine the world above described for yourself. This is my narrative; this is what I face when I move through the world. What if this reality was the fear you lived in every day of your life. You are subjected to the whims of an administration that aims to write you out of existence. Imagine having to fight for basic human rights that everyone else never blinks an eye over. Do you feel anger? Are you outraged? Are you afraid? Do you feel hopeless? How about depressed? How strong is your will to live, when every day is a struggle to be treated with dignity and respect? How goes your pursuit of life, liberty and happiness?
My family was strict conservative Catholic. We went to church every Sunday without fail. We attended Church Choir, youth group, Sunday School, and a plethora of volunteer events. We attended every single feast day for all the saints. We had the Pastor over for Passover on several occasions. I learned all my prayers before I could read. I knew all the hymns before I could speak. I went to confession once a year and had a healthy sense of Catholic guilt embedded into my consciousness at the ripe age of 8, when I received First Communion for the first time. Let’s be honest with ourselves, what sins has an 8-year-old child actually committed?
I believed whole-heartedly in the Catholic dogma. I had never been exposed to anything else. This had become my reality. To be fair there is a lot of really beautiful things about Christian belief. There is a lot of good that comes with Christianity, that’s what made it so appealing to me growing up. I am here to talk about the ugly parts.
Sometime around Kindergarten, I remember an interaction I had with one of the Girl Scout Moms. I told her that I wanted to marry one of the other girls in Girl Scouts because she had a cool Barbie and was really nice and let me play with her often. This Mom told me that “Girls don’t marry Girls. Gods plan was for Girls to Marry boys and have babies.” I was not allowed to play with her daughter anymore.
In middle school, I began feeling attracted to people. All my friends were talking about boys they thought were cute. I agreed with them, most of the boys we talked about were cute. But I also thought my best friend was really pretty. Sometimes I wondered what it would be like if she wanted to dance with me at the school dance. One day I asked her privately to be my date. The next day everyone knew and called me all kinds of mean things. I lost all my friends that year. I ate lunch alone. At recess, I would read a book by the bleachers where the teacher would congregate so that no one would dare say anything to me when a teacher was around. I began cutting. It was at this point that I knew I wasn’t 100% straight. At the time, gay marriage and gay rights wasn’t even on the social radar, and Catholic doctrine was clear. I could never act on my homosexual feelings. At 10 years old, I became suicidal and depressed. I didn’t understand why God would be so cruel to make me this way.
When I was 16, I dated someone for the first time. Her name was *Kay. We clandestinely held hands in the orchestra room. We talked about My Chemical Romance and defeating the patriarchy. She was one of my best friends. Around the time my grandfather died she ended up breaking up with me. I was still in the closet and unwilling to come out to anyone. She was president of the Gay Straight Alliance at our school. We remained good friends. I understood that I couldn’t meet her needs. She is happily married today.
After Kay, I decided that I could only date men in the future. If I couldn’t be open about my sexuality with my family, then I couldn’t date a partner I could never bring home. I tried a few times in college to speak to my parents about Gay people. Every time I would bring it up one of my parents would rant about the “Gay Lifestyle” and its immorality and I would become discouraged. They had no idea there was something I desperately wanted to tell them. I first seriously attempted suicide at 20. I took an entire bottle of oxycodone I had received from my wisdom teeth surgery and never used. My college roommate found me unresponsive and dialed 911. I wouldn’t be alive today if she hadn’t. I entered mandatory counseling for the next three years. At this point, I had lost all faith in religion. I continued to self-harm despite progress I made in therapy.
*End of Trigger Warning*
In the Fall of 2012, I studied abroad in Austria. I found ADF and Paganism in Ireland. Slowly I began to unburden some of the Catholic guilt that had overshadowed my childhood and young adulthood. I came out to all my close friends as Pansexual. I was met with hugs and the phrase, “We knew, and we were waiting for you to tell us.”
After Gay Marriage had passed on the United States, I tried talking with my parents once more about my sexuality. We were leaving church. I was on break from college and when I stayed with them I had to attend church still. My parents vehemently denied that same-sex couples could get married. I’m not sure if they will ever change their position on it. They had softened a little from earlier in my youth from “evil gay lifestyle” to “love the sinner not the sin.”
Sidebar: For anyone that thinks “Love the Sinner not the Sin,” is a supportive stance for a queer person, I am here to tell you it is not. You are putting a both a condition on love and acceptance as well as a value judgement on another person’s bodily autonomy. Being gay will never be synonymous with pedophilia, murder, or rape. I really wish we would move away from clever rhetoric and just support people by saying, “I love you, period.”
Needless to say, I still lacked the courage to tell my family. And because I had been broken up with because I could come out to my family, I continued to date only men and cling to the lie that I could pretend I was straight. I even became engaged to a man, that later ended in emotional disaster because I was drowning in the guilt that I was more attracted to women than men.
When I moved to Ohio for graduate school, the suicidal thoughts I was feeling and the overwhelming shame and guilt I felt for being myself finally came to a head. I was living in Catholic dormitories. My dad said that the Newman center was the cheapest and safest place for me to live, and I didn’t have time to house-hunt for myself. Living there came with some stipulations about behavior and expectations, as well as volunteer responsibilities with the church. Here I was deeply pagan and living in the Catholic restraints I had been fighting with so long. All these things coupled with the stress of breaking off an engagement and the stress of being a performance major in graduate school broke me.
I attempted to end my life before the holidays. I didn’t want someone to find me, like my roommate. I didn’t want to have a chance that I would screw it up and accidently injure myself and not die. I was sure that If I survived I would be committed, which would then make it nearly impossible to die. I didn’t want someone to talk me out of it, so jumping off a bridge was out of the question. I didn’t have access to pills this time. I didn’t want to ingest poison for fear that it would take too long and be an awful way to go. I knew that cutting my arms was a bad way to go, because then someone would have to clean up the mess and I didn’t want to leave that responsibility for someone else. In my depressed headspace, I decided that I would lay on the railroad tracks at 4 am when the train would be going by, as it had every night since I had moved to Ohio. People would chalk it up to a student drunkenly passing out on the tracks and it being a terrible accident. So, I went and I laid down on the tracks at 3:45 and waited.
And I waited. 4:15 rolled by, no train. 4:30 rolled by, no train. And soon, minutes turned to hours. No train.
To this day, I don’t know why the train never came. Every day before it was like clockwork. Every day that day, it was consistent. But that day, the day I wanted to end my life, it didn’t. I am so grateful that it wasn’t there. I waited for hours. Once the town of Bowling Green had woken up, I knew that I couldn’t commit suicide. I had to live. If I was meant to die that day, I would have.
*End of Trigger Warning*
Instead I went into counseling. I got my pride and semicolon tattoo. I worked on myself. I decided what kind of person I was and who I wanted to be. I decided that I wasn’t going die because other people refused to treat me with dignity and respect. I’ve grown a lot since then. I still wasn’t ready to tell my family.
In 2017, I moved to Colorado and found the MAGpie’s nestled away in a corner of support and acceptance. From the minute I walked through the doors of the prairie home, I knew I would be okay. In the short year I’ve been here, I’ve become the Children’s Director, completed my Dedicant Work, and started my pre-priest coursework. I want to continue with Mountain Ancestors vision to create a safe space place for anyone to worship and have a safe space to pray. I was given the gift of safe space and I am now duty and honor bound to extend that hospitality further so it may grow and spread like wildfire through this toxic patriarchal fascist weirdness that is America today.
Through intense healing and a lot of therapy, and so much prayer, I began to allow myself to really become my authentic self. I have a job that I love. I have future goals that are not only attainable, but feed my spirit. I started dating a beautiful soul.
I decided that it was time to leave the closet for good. It’s been far too small in there for far too long. I first told my sister, who I knew would be the most open minded. She took it well last 4th of July. She asked me questions, and even though I knew she didn’t really understand it, she never once made me feel unwelcomed or unloved. If she had any “Love the Sinner not the Sin” thoughts, she graciously kept them to herself.
A few months later, I called my Oldest Brother. I didn’t have a strategy or a plan. I awkwardly blurted it out to him over the phone. I was met with totally silence for several minutes. I made some weird excuse to hang up and said bye. We haven’t talked since. I lost all courage to talk to my last brother.
Then my parents came into town. I was most worried about their reaction. I knew they were deeply religious. I knew at times we had a tempestuous relationship. I was scared. Would today be the day, I longer speak to my family that I loved so fiercely?
We were at dinner just the three of us. The restaurant was loud. I could feel the nervousness in my stomach swirling. I asked them about what was new in their lives while we looked over the menu. We chatted about nothing in particular. We ordered our food. They asked me what was new in my life. I knew that it was now or never. I told then I was seeing someone new and that the someone was a woman. I had to repeat myself three times. I don’t know if it was the loudness of the other patrons or the disbelief. I was asked about Why I was engaged to Fred. I was asked about if this had to do with my self-harming. I was asked about religion. I answered all their inquiries calmly and as articulately as the nerves would allow. I told them I needed support. And that I was allowing myself to pursue health and happiness. I was quickly reassured by my father that they wouldn’t disown me and that I was still their daughter and they love me.
Overall it was positive. They were somewhat upset as to why I hadn’t said something sooner. I had to reassure them that it had nothing to do with them and how they raised me and more to do with me and my psyche. Sometimes, parents, it’s just not about y’all. The things that I wished went differently was the focus on Christianity. My parents still firmly believe that gay people can’t get “married.” Call it a civil union and that’s okay. They also still believe that gay people should be celibate, because homosexuality is a sin just like extra-marital affairs or sex before marriage. They very much fall under the “love the sinner not the sin” category. I think part of me was fantasizing that me coming out would radically change my parent’s views on sexuality and gender. Some small sliver of me was hoping that my parents would suddenly become social justice warriors armed with love and acceptance for all. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Also change may not happen ever. Part of me loving my family means that I love them as they are without adding value judgment and conditions.
I still haven’t worked out all my feelings about this. I still don’t know what the future holds. I do know that I feel better, less claustrophobic. When you are cramped inside such a small space trying to confine yourself to a version of yourself that never existed, you are exhausted and hidden. I shed my mask now and enter into the light in hopes that someone somewhere will read this and feel or think differently about how we treat one another... regardless of who sleeps in our beds.