Essays

Revisiting 2017

Please note that this essay addresses religion and the 2017 Same Sex Marriage Plebiscite.

A little over a year ago on a website that looked very different to this one, I posted a muddling and slightly incoherent essay in which I came out publicly as a bisexual woman. I say publicly because a few days previously I had come out to my parents and one of my housemates, and about a year before that I had come out to my closest friends (many of whom also belong to the LGBQTIAP+ community). The essay was entirely driven by emotion, and one of those emotions was grief.

I’ve had a year now to process my grief, and I’ve barely begun. I’m still discovering people who have discarded me from their friendship without warning or explanation, I still relive the night – shortly before I wrote the essay – when my housemate became verbally abusive towards me and I felt unsafe in my home, and I still experience constant anxiety that one day I might run in to a member of the church that condemned me and receive that condemnation again.

Which brings us to today, and the return of this essay.

The space in which I used to host the essay is gone, because I soon realised that it was not viable for me personally and the limitations of my web design skills. The essay that you can read below is adapted from the one I posted over a year ago, but I’ve tidied up my sentences, clarified my emotions, and hopefully made my experiences easier to understand.

I want to write more one day, about my history of depression and anxiety, about the night that my housemate became my abuser, and about the period of my life in which I’ve been so paranoid that I was afraid to look any of my friends in the eyes. That day is not today, but for now I can be brave enough to keep a sliver of my trauma on display.


September 2017.

I’m going to talk about religion. Or I’m going to talk about religious people. Specifically; I am going to talk about my experiences in a predominantly white, Christian community in Western Sydney. When I talk about this community I am talking about a widespread group of people, I am not speaking of a specific congregation, church, or locality. If I speak of anyone who I have interacted with on a personal level I will not reveal their identity or any information that could identify them.

Okay, now that we’ve got out of the way, here are some truths about me.

I am twenty-four years old, I have grown up in a Christian household, I went to a Christian school from kindergarten to year 12, and I have worked for multiple Christian organisations and companies.

I am bisexual.

Once upon a time, the Australian government decided to spend an obscene amount of money on a public opinion poll to find out the answer to a question that they could have learned from a Buzzfeed article. The ugly side of human nature came out to play, and several people suddenly became stressed every second of the day. The week the forms began arriving a man I did not know told me that he had voted no, but that it was “a soft no, I don’t care either way.” Complacency is its own evil, but that’s not what I want to talk about, because it wasn’t the comments of strangers that hurt me, it was the comments from people I knew and trusted.

I received an email from a Christian community that I was involved in reminding us all to vote no because a yes result would threaten our freedom of speech. It wasn’t like the time that I went to a marriage equality conference run by my church and when I anonymously asked how Christians should respond to people with LGBQTIA+ orientation who wish to learn about Christianity the answer was that we shouldn’t bother because they can never be real Christians.

Now, my church didn’t know that I identify as bisexual, but even if I didn’t; to stand in front of a couple of hundred people and say ‘We shouldn’t bother with gay people because they can never be real/valid/relevant to us’ is an incredibly hateful thing to say. That was over a year ago and I still feel anxiety because a community that I trusted had openly and completely invalidated my entire identity.

My personal journey with Christianity has involved coming to the church and falling away, and my ultimate commitment was linked in with the Depression and Anxiety that I have had since I was young. I have always attributed Christ with being my reason for pushing beyond the suicidal mindset that dominated me as a teenager, in more ways than one; He’s the reason I’m alive.

As time went on, I realised that many Christians in the community shared this opinion, and some of them were people who I had hoped would support me if and when I ever came out. The fear that they wouldn’t sent me hiding inside myself, consumed by the shame of being ‘wrong’. Meanwhile, I tried to be outspoken in support of the LGBQTIAP+ community, while pretending that I couldn’t be counted among them. A big part of me believed that I didn’t deserve to be counted among them, because I hadn’t received the direct hate and discrimination that others had received.

In a grand scale, my struggles are significantly smaller than others, but on a smaller scale; I felt betrayed by a community that claimed to support me.

Christians are big on community. They’re big on looking after each other and talking as though we all belong to the same family, in a way. I couldn’t tell my Christian family that they were pushing me away, so I left without a word, and suddenly I stopped feeling like I was choking every time I shared a room with them. As much as I wanted to stay in the community that I had called home for five years; they were tearing me to pieces without even trying.

It was the microaggressions of the community that were wearing me down, the voices that said “we’re not homophobic we’re just saying that same sex attraction is unnatural and evil”, while ignoring the fact that action and attraction are different things, and ignoring the fact that they were condemning fellow humans. It was the impatience directed at me from people who thought I was wasting my time, as I tried to argue that we should respect people with different views to us. It was the exhaustion of having to view every conversation on the issue as something I had to either fight or abandon with the knowledge that it would be another pebble on the mountain of pebbles that were keeping me pinned to the floor.

Now I’m not a theologian, but there was this guy called Martin Luther who had the mad idea that everyone should be able to read the Word of God for themselves and, you know, make a decision that was informed and not just fed to them by religious officials. We’ve come a long way since 1517, and a lot of that progress has been damned good because it brings the opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ to all sorts of people. You may have heard of Jesus Christ, he’s the guy who hung out with prostitutes, thieves, and other criminals to demonstrate an attitude of love and respect.

The golden rule of Christianity is ‘treat everyone as you want to be treated’, and I want to stress that I know a lot of Christians who have actually been entirely respectful in their disagreement. They’re the ones who don’t think that same sex action is right in the eyes of God, but knowing what they now do about me they’ve still told me that they love me and support me. These are the friends who still reach out to me, and who still cheer me on, even though we rarely talk about issues of sexuality and the church. Unfortunately; those respectful voices are being drowned out by Christians who hold the same views as the ones who hurt me.

Christianity to me is a life in service to an all-powerful being who loves indiscriminately, and who will always have a plan for His people. It’s not about passing judgement on our peers, because all people are inherently flawed, and though we can try to live according to the rules laid out for us we’re never going to have full comprehension of the mind of God. It’s about accepting that we’re not always going to be right, or good, and even the best intentions can go horribly astray, but that despite our differences we should never try to stop anyone from sharing in the certainty of love and eternal life that we are afforded in Jesus Christ.

I rarely go to church anymore, because I struggle to step over the threshold without having a panic attack, because of the people who claim to be Christian but who operate against the culture of love that the bible preaches. I want to feel right with God one day, but His people keep getting in the way… with their judgement, and their claims that God is a God of love and forgiveness but don’t forget. The ones who claim that people who can’t control the things they feel are wrong and should be ignored. The content of Christianity has never pushed me away from being a Christian, but other Christians have certainly done their best.

 

Please note that this essay addresses religion, depression and the 2017 Same Sex Marriage Plebiscite.

A little over a year ago on a website that looked very different to this one, I posted a muddling and slightly incoherent essay in which I came out publicly as a bisexual woman. I say publicly because a few days previously I had come out to my parents and one of my housemates, and about a year before that I had come out to my closest friends (many of whom also belong to the LGBQTIAP+ community). The essay was entirely driven by emotion, and one of those emotions was grief.

I’ve had a year now to process my grief, and I’ve barely begun. I’m still discovering people who have discarded me from their friendship without warning or explanation, I still relive the night – shortly before I wrote the essay – when my housemate became verbally abusive towards me and I felt unsafe in my home, and I still experience constant anxiety that one day I might run in to a member of the church that condemned me and receive that condemnation again.

Which brings us to today, and the return of this essay.

The space in which I used to host the essay is gone because I soon realised that it was not viable for me personally and the limitations of my web design skills. The essay that you can read below is adapted from the one I posted over a year ago, but I’ve tidied up my sentences, clarified my emotions, and hopefully made my experiences easier to understand.

I want to write more one day, about my history of depression and anxiety, about the night that my housemate became my abuser, and about the period of my life in which I’ve been so paranoid that I was afraid to look any of my friends in the eyes. That day is not today, but for now, I can be brave enough to keep a sliver of my trauma on display.

September 2017.

I’m going to talk about religion. Or I’m going to talk about religious people. Specifically; I am going to talk about my experiences in a predominantly white, Christian community in Western Sydney. When I talk about this community I am talking about a widespread group of people, I am not speaking of a specific congregation, church, or locality. If I speak of anyone who I have interacted with on a personal level I will not reveal their identity or any information that could identify them.

Okay, now that we’ve got out of the way, here are some truths about me.

I am twenty-four years old, I have grown up in a Christian household, I went to a Christian school from kindergarten to year 12, and I have worked for multiple Christian organisations and companies.

I am bisexual.

Once upon a time, the Australian government decided to spend an obscene amount of money on a public opinion poll to find out the answer to a question that they could have learned from a Buzzfeed article. The ugly side of human nature came out to play, and several people suddenly became stressed every second of the day. The week the forms began arriving a man I did not know told me that he had voted no, but that it was “a soft no, I don’t care either way.” Complacency is its own evil, but that’s not what I want to talk about, because it wasn’t the comments of strangers that hurt me, it was the comments from people I knew and trusted.

I received an email from a Christian community that I was involved in reminding us all to vote no because a yes result would threaten our freedom of speech. It wasn’t like the time that I went to a marriage equality conference run by my church and when I anonymously asked how Christians should respond to people with LGBQTIA+ orientation who wish to learn about Christianity the answer was that we shouldn’t bother because they can never be real Christians.

Now, my church didn’t know that I identify as bisexual, but even if I didn’t; to stand in front of a couple of hundred people and say ‘We shouldn’t bother with gay people because they can never be real/valid/relevant to us’ is an incredibly hateful thing to say. That was over a year ago and I still feel anxiety because a community that I trusted had openly and completely invalidated my entire identity.

My personal journey with Christianity has involved coming to the church and falling away, and my ultimate commitment was linked in with the Depression and Anxiety that I have had since I was young. I have always attributed Christ with being my reason for pushing beyond the suicidal mindset that dominated me as a teenager, in more ways than one; He’s the reason I’m alive.

As time went on, I realised that many Christians in the community shared this opinion, and some of them were people who I had hoped would support me if and when I ever came out. The fear that they wouldn’t sent me hiding within myself, consumed by the shame of being ‘wrong’. Meanwhile, I tried to be outspoken in support of the LGBQTIAP+ community, while pretending that I couldn’t be counted among them. A big part of me believed that I didn’t deserve to be counted among them because I hadn’t received the direct hate and discrimination that others had received.

In a grand scale, my struggles are significantly smaller than others, but on a smaller scale; I felt betrayed by a community that claimed to support me.

Christians are big on community. They’re big on looking after each other and talking as though we all belong to the same family, in a way. I couldn’t tell my Christian family that they were pushing me away, so I left without a word, and suddenly I stopped feeling like I was choking every time I shared a room with them. As much as I wanted to stay in the community that I had called home for five years; they were tearing me to pieces without even trying.

It was the microaggressions of the community that were wearing me down, the voices that said “we’re not homophobic we’re just saying that same-sex attraction is unnatural and evil” while ignoring the fact that action and attraction are different things, and ignoring the fact that they were condemning fellow humans. It was the impatience directed at me from people who thought I was wasting my time, as I tried to argue that we should respect people with different views to us. It was the exhaustion of having to view every conversation on the issue as something I had to either fight or abandon with the knowledge that it would be another pebble on the mountain of pebbles that were keeping me pinned to the floor.

Now I’m not a theologian, but there was this guy called Martin Luther who had the mad idea that everyone should be able to read the Word of God for themselves and, you know, make a decision that was informed and not just fed to them by religious officials. We’ve come a long way since1517, and a lot of that progress has been damned good because it brings the opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ to all sorts of people. You may have heard of Jesus Christ, he’s the guy who hung out with prostitutes, thieves, and other criminals to demonstrate an attitude of love and respect.

The golden rule of Christianity is ‘treat everyone as you want to be treated’ and I want to stress that I know a lot of Christians who have actually been entirely respectful in their disagreement. They’re the ones who don’t think that same-sex action is right in the eyes of God, but knowing what they now do about me they’ve still told me that they love me and support me. These are the friends who still reach out to me, and who still cheer me on, even though we rarely talk about issues of sexuality and the church. Unfortunately; those respectful voices are being drowned out by Christians who hold the same views as the ones who hurt me.

Christianity to me is a life in service to an all-powerful being who loves indiscriminately, and who will always have a plan for His people. It’s not about passing judgment on our peers, because all people are inherently flawed, and though we can try to live according to the rules laid out for us we’re never going to have full comprehension of the mind of God. It’s about accepting that we’re not always going to be right, or good, and even the best intentions can go horribly astray, but that despite our differences we should never try to stop anyone from sharing in the certainty of love and eternal life that we are afforded in Jesus Christ.

I rarely go to church anymore, because I struggle to step over the threshold without having a panic attack, because of the people who claim to be Christian but who operate against the culture of love that the bible preaches. I want to feel right with God one day, but His people keep getting in the way… with their judgment, and their claims that God is a God of love and forgiveness but don’t forget. The ones who claim that people who can’t control the things they feel are wrong and should be ignored. The content of Christianity has never pushed me away from being a Christian, but other Christians have certainly done their best.

Categories: Essays, Writing