Welcome!

WELCOME TO THE “MY CROSS TO BEAR” PROJECT

The goal of this project is to explore LGBTQ individuals’ experiences with religion in the hopes of bridging the two communities and increasing acceptance.  This series all started out as a class project, with the idea of making just one short documentary. Luckily this project grew rapidly with more and more people wanting to participate! I quickly realized I could not do justice to these individuals’ stories by taking short snippets and throwing them together in just one movie. Because of this, I have decided to start a documentary series. I will be airing a new video just like Elliot’s every two weeks, starting in January of 2016. These videos will tell the stories of LGBTQ individuals and their struggles with religion.  I will also be producing videos with interviews from pastors, priests, psychologists, professors, and members of different religious communities. With this series I am hoping to increase awareness of the beauty in our love and to make religious spaces more tolerant of individuals of all gender identities and sexual orientations.  It is time that our voices are heard and that all LGBTQ individuals are  treated with compassion and respect!

To keep up with the project please feel free to become a member of this site.

To become a member:

  1. Go to the top left-hand part of this website, where it says “Log in” and “Register”
  2. Click on “Register”
  3. Fill out the forms and confirm your email
  4. Then you’re done!

***We are still working out some minor glitches with user profiles***

After you become a member you will receive updates about the project. You will be alerted when new videos are published. You can also chat with the other members, comment, and form your own communities! This website is a safe space for all LGBTQ individuals and allies.

Questions? Comments? Interested in participating in the video series? Or just need someone to listen to your story? Please email at emily.mycrosstobear@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Dear Technology,

YOU SUCK!

So this week’s blog post may sound less interesting, but in reality, I have momentarily run out of people to be angry at. Well, that’s a lie; there is always something to fight for. But unfortunately as much as this project may seem like it should be titled “Emily’s Bitch Fest” this truly is related and created for a college course. So I do, once in a while, have to blog something somewhat comprehensible and academic. But don’t worry, next week’s blog post is going to address the big anti-LGBTQ companies and how hypocritical they are. So there will be lots of ranting and sarcasm to go around. Plus, to make up for the fact that this blog post won’t be as thrilling I decided to compensate with GIFs to help ease your pain if you’re reading through this.

I’ve surprisingly received a couple of questions about how I’m actually producing this documentary. So, I thought I would tackle the more technical side of the project for this week’s blog post and maybe still leave some room for a few moments of ranting.

In my “Applied Digital Studies” class, my professor assigned us the task of picking a digital project we wanted to pursue for the semester. I knew right away that I wanted to make some type of film since that is my area of expertise. But my original vision was a bit different. I wanted to tackle the subject of homeless LGBTQ youth, and the correlation of their homelessness to religious beliefs.

I have done a few projects in the past involving the homeless population, and one commonality I noticed was the connection between homeless LGBTQ youth and their family’s affiliation with being part of a religious community. I started by researching youth homeless shelters around the NOVA/Richmond areas. But after about two weeks of consideration I realized that traveling to Richmond/Nova to film every week would just not be plausible, and would also not look uniform or professional.

For documentaries to look professional they need to look consistent. Meaning, same backgrounds for the interviews, no outside commotion, clear audio, and so on. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to achieve this by interviewing in the homes. I considered shuttling the youth back and forth for the taping, but then quickly realized not only does that sounds super creepy (Hey you, get in my car. I just want to film you for a few hours) but also is not financially possible.

You see when I turned 16 my dad bought me a car; which was unbelievably nice. The only thing was I had a choice of choosing between a 2005 Volkswagen Jetta and a 1995 Honda. Of course I chose the Jetta, but my dad said, “Nope, they’re too expensive to fix, you’re getting the Honda.” So, that being said, I don’t exactly trust my car to get me back and forth between FredVegas and Richmond several weekends in a row.

Anyway, back to the point. So with this dream slowly circling the drain I had to reimagine what I was going to be spending my semester doing. I knew I still wanted to do something with the LGBTQ community, but I just wasn’t sure what. It wasn’t until a few bigoted Facebook posts later that I realized I could broaden the topic and just plainly explore the world of religion and how it affects the LGBTQ community.

Now the only issue was finding LGBTQ people to participate. Well lucky me, I go to one of the most liberal, gay-friendly, homofabulous schools in the country; and just have thousands of LGBTQ students to pick out of. No seriously, I always joke with people that Mary Washington has a 7 to 1 girls to guys ratio and about a 3 to 4 gay to straight population. I’m not sure if there is something in the water here or what, but we sure do love our rainbow population.

Anyway so I began with the simplest way to approach finding volunteers…I scrolled through my Facebook messenger list and clicked on anyone and everyone who I thought was or could be LGBTQ. I sent them all a general message saying something along the lines of:

“Hey, remember me? Your ol’ pal from freshman year? Remember we sat across the room from one another in history class and never spoke a single word after the semester ended? And we don’t make eye contact on campus walk so that we don’t have to be stuck in the realm of awkward small talk? Yeah, that’s me. Well I’m making a documentary about the LGBTQ community and how religion has affected it. Would you be interested in being interviewed for it?”

Most of these acquaintances responded within the hour. All but one agreed to meet for the interview that upcoming weekend. I also made announcements on various Facebook pages, in all of my classes, as well as at our school’s own LGBTQ club (PRISM), that I was producing a documentary and needed volunteers. I’ve had about 50 participants sign up so far. Which is way more than I expected, but so amazing. I’ve also been in correspondence with several pastors, priests, licensed psychologists, and religion professors at Mary Washington. They have all agreed to meet me for interviews, which is more than I ever could have hoped for. After that was all figured out it was time to plan how I was going to execute the filming.

Last year I took a “History of the Information Age” class where we produced a documentary at the end of the semester about digital identity. When the school was still poor and couldn’t afford a whole green screen room, we filmed this documentary in front of a green sheet. No literally, it was a giant green sheet. We used a decent handheld camera that captured HD video and edited the whole thing in FinalCut Pro. So I figured I would do the same for this project. Well little did I know, over the summer, our school went all out and built an “Advanced Media Production Lab.” This includes as entire room painted green, three tripod black magic 4k cameras (that’s REALLY REALLY HD cameras), boom microphones, teleprompters, portable microphones, hyperdrives, lighting and sounds panels, head sets…the whole works.

Here is a little taste of what it looks like:

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After bribing my friend Jessica to teach me how to use all the technologies, I was soon on my way to becoming a filming expert. HA! Just kidding, I can press the record button and that’s about it. But really, I just need to brag a minute about Jessica.

We’ve taken classes together since freshman year. We’ve never been particularly close until we happen to stumble into yet another history class where we were project partners for the whole year. You know those people in the movies that sit there and can code, and css, and hack shit really quickly and solve every technology problem there ever was….yeah that’s her. She’s a genius when it comes to computer stuff.

Well thankfully we started working together again this year only this time she’s actually hired at Mary Washington and I work in the same office as she does. I was telling her all about the project and she said she wanted to help. “Help” being a severe understatement. She not only taught me how to work the whole room…

(This was me the first day)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but has showed up every single Saturday to help me film. She comes in on her days off, to sit in a stuffy room and listen to people talk into mics.

Praise be to this girl!

So after the participants showed up, we would hook them up to the portable microphones, test their audio levels, and soon start recording. I have the same series of questions I’m asking everyone. Simple things like “What do you identify as?” and “How has religion affected you or your sexual orientation?” The answers I have received, so far, have been tremendously diverse, emotional, and controversial. I’ve only teared up during five interviews so far (out of about thirty). No biggie. But seriously, sometimes I don’t realize how easy I had it/have it.

My older sister, Sarah, came out before I did. So when I told my parents, they reacted so nonchalantly that I wasn’t sure if they heard me or not. My friends were all ecstatic, the kids I nannied couldn’t care less, and every one seemed to be super supportive. But I know in reality this type of outcome is extremely rare. So far, in my interviews, I’ve heard stories of one boy’s parents sending them to sexual orientation conversion therapy. One girl divulged that her mother told her it was just a phase and that God doesn’t make gay people. One girl told me that her parents won’t let her talk about it, and won’t even speak about or let her feel emotional about her girlfriend passing away last year. I mean think about that. This girl was dating her partner for almost a year when she passed away. They were in love and planning on spending the rest of their lives together. And when all of that got taken away, this girl couldn’t even turn to her mother for comfort; because her parents don’t acknowledge that she is gay. Could you imagine your significant other passing away and you not being able to talk about it to your parents? Having to bottle it up when you’re home? Not having them there at the funeral?

Yeah, this project has been kind of an emotional roller-coaster so far, but I would expect nothing less. When I’m done with all of my filming (which should be about another three weeks), I will be using FinalCut Pro to edit and produce the film. I still need to interview a few more Christians, the pastors and psychologists that agreed to come, and of course myself. I also need to collect some basic b-roll footage.

I’m still not entirely sure how I’m going to put it all together, but I’m hoping I’ll have a spark of creativity one of these nights. I just know for sure that I will producing all of this to equal a 7 to 10 minute documentary, by November. And hopefully by the end of December I will produce a “director’s cut” version that includes all of the interview footage, for those of you who want to watch more.

The only thing I do know is no matter how much I think I know the technology I still somehow always end up messing it up. For about three weekends in a row now something has gotten screwed up. The first weekend for some reason, the wrong camera was recording. So everyone I interviewed, and told to look at the main camera, was actually being recorded off to the side from the secondary camera. The second weekend I had about five people come out for interviews, only to shortly turn them away after I couldn’t get the footage to record to one of our SSD cards (after hours of trying). This last weekend I got really solid interviews from several transexuals, only to find out later when I was trying to move it on to my external hard drive, that it only recorded the audio and none of the visual. So I have a big black screen with all the audio but no footage of them…what…the…fuck. Jesus is seriously punishing me! And you want to know how I know? I also recorded some Christians the same day, within hours of each other. And for some unknown reason, both their visual and audio was recorded but not the LGBTQ people!!! Coincidence? I think not. I just picture God sitting up on his golden thrown laughing in my face.

Most people would laugh this stuff off, or call it a “learning experience” but for me it is wasted time. I have a very strict deadline as to when this documentary is due. Which means I need to wrap up my filming by October 24th. And if the technology keeps screwing with me then there is no way I’m going to be able to produce a solid/quality documentary. I not only hate wasting time due to the deadline, but I hate wasting other people’s time as well. I now have to ask these people to come back to be re-interviewed and I have to spend yet another Sunday (10AM-8PM) in the green room filming.

Okay, pity party over. Because seriously this project is so much more than a few wasted weekends and technological difficulties. This documentary has now transitioned from being just a class project to being something people depend on. It is my job to tell people’s stories (both LGBTQ and religious) and it is my job to do so in a way that it can inspire and make a difference. No fucking pressure. This is the only thing keeping me motivated. Even if it is just one person that finds hope, even if it is just one Christian that becomes more accepting, even if it is one person I make stop and reflect…I feel as though this is all worth something.

I can kind of rest easy knowing that this project has already produced some changes on campus. The campus christian organization, whom I’ve been in very close contact with throughout this documentary, has implemented some changes. I explained to them that InterVarsity (the student run christian organization on campus) was not exactly a welcoming place for the LGBTQ students at Mary Washington. Maybe because some of us already hold prejudices towards religion or maybe because of the turmoil in the recent news between Christians and the LGBTQ community (example: Kim Davis & the Westboro Baptist Church). But unless a religious organization straight up says “gay people welcome” we feel as though we are not. And I can’t speak for all LGBTQ people, but from my experience this seems to be the trend.

InterVarsity accepted this opinion and almost immediately started making changes. Mickinley, the small group coordinator for InterVarsity, created an LGBTQ friendly bible study on campus starting October 14th!Screen shot 2015-10-06 at 8.51.05 PM

If this is the only difference my project has made, then I’m satisfied. I could not be more proud of InterVarsity and their concern with making LGBTQ people feel welcome in the realm of Christianity. Even though I’m still not 100% set with Jesus, I’m going to be sure to show up and give it a try!

If anyone ever has any suggestions about the project or questions please feel free to comment below or private message me through my email (ebostaph@mail.umw.edu).

Also next week’s blog is going to include an anonymous Q&A section. I’ve created an “Ask Me” page where people can submit questions anonymously. See the link below. Feel free to ask me about myself, the documentary, LGBTQ aspects, or anything else you are curious about. It’s completely anonymous, so there’s nothing to lose!

http://ask.fm/ebostaph

Screen shot 2015-09-30 at 8.02.53 PM

Until next week!

-E

 

Smite Me Oh Mighty Smiter!

So last week’s blog post got a bit of attention to say in the least. Just 24 hours after posting “Jesus and I aren’t on Speaking Terms” I got 82 shares on Facebook, and over 200 views. I am so glad that my project is reaching so many people and hopefully I can use this wide audience to make a difference. That being said, I also received some…interesting feedback as well. As I’ve probably stated before, I went into this project knowing full and well that it was definitely going to offend a large group of people (even though that is not my intention) and that I might lose some friends along the way. What I did not expect was for so many people to message me saying I could be saved. Those were fun emails to read. Other than our lord and savor himself trying to save me in the form of his followers, I also had some rather irate people message me.

Maybe I did not make it clear enough in my first post, that this project is being used to address “radical religious people.” Maybe that isn’t the right term? But I honestly can’t think of another way to categorize people who use religion as a weapon of hate and discrimination. Now, I’m not saying that if you don’t agree with homosexuality, you are a radically religious person. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions – that’s your God-given right (see what I did there?). But if you do use religion to actively pursue the LGBTQ community in a discriminatory or intolerant way (i.e. hate mail, offensive and unnecessary hate speech, using terms like “disgusting” when referring to us), THAT is when I categorize you into the radical sect of religion

Let me make myself very clear, I believe everyone and I do mean everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and is entitled to express those opinions. But when those opinions are expressed in a way that spreads revulsion and loathing against those whose sexual practices are different from their own, it becomes unacceptable in my book.

In case this concept is still unclear to some people out there, I’m going to try my best to provide some comparative examples and see if that helps. I had the youth minister from last week’s blog…actually message me (I didn’t think he would find the blog…whoops) and he was arguing that “just because something offends you doesn’t mean you should eradicate it from your view.” This is true; you should expose yourself to varying opinions. It helps to make you a more well-rounded person; it often leads to research or discussions, or makes you feel even more strongly about your opinion. However, there are some things that, when they become personally offensive, no longer need to be shared. For example:

I have lots of friends that post pro-life statuses on Facebook. I always enjoying reading these and trying to better educate myself in opposing views. It only stops becoming enjoyable to read when they throw all rational argument out the window and start referring to acts, such as abortion, as “abominable.” You cannot talk about an issue and use emotional statements to “validate” your argument when you are providing no actual context or research other than your personal disdain.

Here is another example I’ve been trying to tell people when they tell me that I need to be more accepting of other people’s views.

I do not believe people should be allowed to own guns. I’m not sure how I came to this conclusion other than hearing the horror stories of children finding firearms and the resulting accidents that ensue. But anyway, that is beside the point. I don’t believe anyone should be allowed to own a firearm in their home. Now when I see people posting statuses on Facebook about it being their basic amendment right to own a gun I silently disagree, read the post, and move on. I would never dream of posting things on their status about how I think they are “wrong” or need to be “changed”…so why do religious people whom condemn homosexuality or other LGBTQ lifestyles feel like it is ok for them to do so?

You are allowed to have your opinions, and you are even allowed to start discussions—I welcome that. What you are not entitled to do is chase after and antagonize another person based on their lifestyle not fitting into your idea of what is “right.”

I know what some of you are probably thinking…”Jeez Emily, you are being super hypocritical right now.” I recognize that I am sitting here calling out Christians for “calling out” LGBTQ people. But there is a large difference between calling someone out for hate speech, and bashing someone based on their lifestyle.There is also a large difference between freedom of speech and oppression. I’m not telling radical Christians that they are going to hell or that they are abominations. I’m telling them that their actions are destructive and it needs to stop.

I mean just think about how your actions/speech affects us. What if the norm in the country was to be LGBTQ. Imagine having to “come out” being straight, imagine being terrified of rejection, imagine monitoring every word you say in fear that you might offend someone by talking about your lifestyle. Imagine being scared of LGBTQ people and what they might say, think, or do to you. THAT is what we go through every day. So do you think saying hateful things about us is going to allow us to be more accepting of you, your beliefs, or religion? No. It is going to turn us away. This includes telling us that our lifestyle is a sin, that we can be saved, that we can change, and that’s it’s a choice. We don’t choose to be gay, just like you don’t choose to be straight.

If “being gay is a choice,” why would anyone choose to live a harder life than they need to?

Telling someone that is LGBTQ that they can change is just like telling someone with brown eyes that if they pray hard enough they can change their eye color to blue. It is just as much a part of our DNA as eye color is to you.

Also because being gay is not a choice, it is not a sin.  Sins include voluntary acts like “cheating on a spouse” and “stealing”…you don’t choose to be gay. It’s not like we wake up one morning and says “hmm, I think I’ll try being gay today.” It is ingrained into our DNA, it is no choice, it is biological. You can’t force yourself to find a certain gender sexually attractive. That would be like me telling a straight person to just “Try being gay. It’s choice.” Either you are attracted to someone’s gender or you’re not, or maybe you are not attracted to gender at all. Yes, you can experiment and discover that you may not be attracted to the gender you thought you were, and that’s great. But once you have discovered whom you are attracted to, it is impossible to change that; and can even be harmful if you try.¹

And I know what some people will say, “But what about the gays that found Jesus and are no longer queer?” You can lie to yourselves, you can cover up your preferred gender of sexual partner, but you will never truly be who you are if you are hiding behind a blanket of religious conformity. And I don’t know, maybe those people really were just confused and thought they were LGBTQ, but later realized otherwise, and thats OK. But you have to realize this is not due to religious revelations. And you also have to realize that this makes up about 1% of LGBTQ people. So just because a neighbor told you it happened to a friend of a friend, doesn’t mean it will happen to us.

And this is where some people might argue, “Well I’m not trying to change you, I’m trying to save you.” Ummmm, did I ask for help? I don’t think so. The day I say, “I need to be saved from homosexuality by the powers of Jesus,” or am wearing a life jacket and blowing an emergency whistle…that’s the day you can offer to save me. Until then…Bye!

Okay, back on topic. So yes, I received a bunch of hate mail, some nasty comments on Facebook, some people offering to save me, and some angered friends who are trying to defend their actions. What I have not received yet is burning cross in my front yard, so I’m still looking forward to that one. BTW If I go missing, search through my inbox and interrogate those people first. And if I die in fiery freak car accident just blame it on Jesus smiting me for this project.

Along with the negative feedback I actually got an amazing amount of positivity and support sent my way. Friends that I thought would be mad or offended actually reached out to me saying things like they “understood where my aggression was coming from,” and that I’m “not an asshole.” ←which is still questionable. I also got positive feedback from some Christians on the Mary Wash campus who offered an open hand to me, actually proposing we meet up so that they can “prove there are loving, supportive, and accepting Christians out there.”

This was so sweet, and I actually met up with them, but it also had me concerned. As I’ve tried to make it so clear in this blog, I am try desperately to make people understand that I realize there is a huge difference between the Christians who condemn homosexuality and those who are accepting of everyone, no matter the sexual orientation.

These interactions with the campus Christians, the anonymous haters, and my own friends lead me to develop the concept for my “commercial” I shot this weekend.

I am also enrolled in another Digital Studies class that is called “Visual Rhetoric.” Our assignment in this class for this week involved developing a “visual campaign.” Something visual that people could look at and through their viewing be persuaded on an issue. I figured since I am investing so much time this semester in this LGBTQ vs. Religion documentary, I could use the same concept for my other, visual rhetoric, class. As I stated above, I was inspired to allow my viewers to know I do understand there is a clear distinction between the two types of Christians. But, I also wanted to use this project not only to make that distinction but also to inspire change.

I loved receiving all the feedback on my blog and especially the messages from the “accepting Christians” who said they were in full support. But it got me thinking, how supportive would they be in the realm of the real world? Yes, it was so beautiful that they were private messaging me their support, but I needed to use this commercial to say, “Spread that support visibly!” If the radical Christians are so vocal about their opinions, why don’t the supportive Christians be equally as vocal?

I came to the conclusion that the reason I was (and still over-coming) hating religion so violently was because all I was ever hearing was the voice of the LGBTQ condemning religious people. I rarely, if ever saw someone on Facebook say, “I’m a Christian and I stand with the LGBT community.” But I saw dozens of instances of intolerant Christians saying things like, “The country is going to hell,” and “It’s just not right,” when referring to things such as the Supreme Court ruling.

Maybe this is why there is such a rift between the LGBTQ and religious communities? Because all we are ever hearing is the hatred coming from the intolerant people, because they have the loudest voice.

I wanted to get this concept across in the commercial and perhaps inspire some Christians, like the ones appearing in this video, to stand up for tolerance and acceptance. The campus Christians who messaged me stating their support actually agreed to film this commercial with me, in hopes of inspiring others to follow there actions and especially in hopes of showing LGBTQ people that not all Christians are the same.

Also I wanted to point out before someone else does, I don’t just believe that the silence of the supportive Christians is 100% or even 50% of the reason LGBTQ people only picture condemning spiritual individuals when thinking of religion. I think everyone needs to have a louder voice. Including my own family and friends.

My mom tells me all the time that she sees people posting nasty stuff on Facebook about LGBTQ people, and when I ask how she responded to them, she always says something along the lines of “Oh, well…I’m not trying to start an argument.” But, why not?! Think about it this way. If someone was relentlessly posting fat-shaming content on their blogs, I bet you almost everyone would eventually speak up (in the form of online commenting) and tell them what they were doing was tasteless and wrong. So why when I replace “fat-shaming” with “homophobia” is it any different?

Just think about that the next time you ignore a chauvinistic post.

Another reason I chose to produce the video this way is because I believe that it is near impossible to persuade people of a certain mindset to change their views. This is even truer when the person trying to change them is coming from the other side of the argument. But if someone from their own belief system, someone from their own religion was to question their actions, it might make them reconsider. So having Christians question Christians on their opinions seemed like it would be a little more powerful than just having LGBT students talking about how radical Christians need to change.

Other than filming this commercial this weekend, I also continued interviewing LGBTQ people on their life experience being queer, and their interactions with religion. I’m using the green screen room at school to conduct all the interviews and I also used it to shoot the commercial. It allows me to manipulate the background, lighting, and sound very easily. Not to mention the room contains the highest quality cameras on campus.

Every single LGBTQ person I have interviewed (there have been around 20 so far) has had something emotionally moving to say. But something one girl said this weekend really resonated with me…

I had a pan-sexual I interviewed this weekend say something powerful that stuck with me. She said something along the lines of, “Every baby is born straight. It’s not that they are actually ‘born straight’ but every one assumes when a child leaves the womb that they are heterosexual.”

Even being from the rainbow community, I had never thought about this before. And it’s so true. I’m a lesbian and when I picture my little future daughters growing up I still automatically picture them being straight. WTF is wrong with me?!

So I’m leaving you with this to think about this week:

That is another important aspect that needs to be changed. We need to grow up in a society where it is not expected that a child will be one sexuality or another. We need to stop teaching sex-ED strictly heteronormatively, we need to stop asking little girls if they have “boyfriends” or asking little boys if they have “girlfriends.” We need to start a new generation of parents who don’t persuade the sexuality of their child. And we need to start encouraging exploration of other sexualities at a young age so that when some of them do end up discovering they are not heterosexual, they don’t feel so crappy about it.

Rant over.

Back to the bigger picture…

I’m hoping that this blog post helped clear the confusion. It is not in my nature to try to cover up what I initially say with excuses. But it is my job with this project to make my intentions very clear. Until next week!

 

Jesus and I aren’t on speaking terms

It was around the middle of freshman year when I first realized something was “off.” For the first time in my life I had a serious boyfriend. We had been dating about 4 months when it happened and neither of us saw it coming…

I remember growing up I was never particularly attracted to men. While my friends swooned over Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, I was busy ogling over Kate Winslet’s exposed breasts. Sure, I had boyfriends growing up but nothing that ever lasted more than a few weeks. I can recall being particularly obsessed with some beautiful female camp counselors, but brushing it off as nothing more than wanting to be like them. This all stopped when I met Dylan. Dylan and I had been friends since we were about 14 years old. My best friend’s older sister worked at an ice-skating rink near our house. So on Friday and Saturday nights, my best friend and I would join her older sister, Kacy, at the rink to help clean up in exchange for hour’s worth of free skating time. That’s when I met him.

We flirted on and off for a solid 3 years, but he always had a serious girlfriend…until he didn’t. At the start of my junior year in high school Dylan and his girlfriend were no more. I quickly jumped at the opportunity. We tried dating for a few weeks, but both of us were just not in a good place to start up a new relationship. So we settled on being friends again. Fast forward through two more years of significant sexual tension and continual flirting on and off while trying to remain “just friends”, and we once again hopped back into the “boyfriend/girlfriend” titles.

This was all fine, and seemed perfect, until I met Siggy. I stumbled into her room one afternoon during the first semester of my college career, and little did I know my life would be changed forever. Those same feelings I had when I was a little middle-schooler at sleep away camp came back and in full force. I was crushing on a girl all over again. Only problem was I still dismissed it as wanting to be “as cool as her.” Well, that, and I had a boyfriend. Siggy and I became quick friends. We are polar opposites but somehow manage to maintain an awkwardly close friendship. The closer Siggy and I became the more I started to resent Dylan.

I could not figure out what was going on. I kept thinking to myself, “Isn’t Dylan what I always wanted? I fought for him for so long, and now I have him. Why aren’t I happy?” It took about four parties with Siggy and about five bottles of Smirnoff to finally realize what the problem was. I was…in fact…a flaming homosexual. I broke things off with Dylan and took the next three years to discover just how over the top gay I am.

Now, I watched my sister go through the process of coming out to family and friends, and it seemed almost flawless. Everyone seemed to take it well, after the initial shock. She didn’t seem to lose any friends; and she was happier than ever. This made me coming to terms with who I was a whole lot easier. I think my coming out process involved me texting my three closest friends and saying something along the lines of “Hey, so I broke things off with Dylan and I think I’m going to start dating a girl now. “ And them responding with things like, “Glad you’re happy!” “Well we all saw this coming” and “OOOO! Send me a picture of her!” As for my family, I basically called up my mom and said “Yeah, so I got really drunk with this girl last night, shit happened, and I think I like her.” And her saying, “Oh, well that sounds fun. Tell me about her.” So to say in the least I did not have any traumatic experiences with the whole rainbow process.

I thought at this point everything was amazing. I was finally happy, I discovered who I was, and everyone still loved me. I was so naïve. Yes, in the safety of my campus being gay is widely accepted, possibly even considered “cool,” but the outside world can be a cruel place. I had my first experience with this with my first girlfriend. We had been dating about three months when summer came around. She was from Pennsylvania, and I’m from Virginia. So we knew the summer would be a little strenuous on our relationship. We were going to go from practically living with each other to being about six hours away from one another for two and half months. We decided we would see each other three times during the summer, she would come to me once and I would go to her twice. When it came time for me to visit her family and to meet her father for the first time, it did not go as expected. I had already met her mother, who knew we were dating, and her little sister who did not. She told me during the duration of my visit, that whenever her father was around, we were not allowed to be a couple. We had to act like friends and nothing more. This not only broke my heart, that I had to hide who I am and hide my love for his daughter, but also made me sad that she could not be who she really was in front of her own family.

Her father was from El Salvador where they live, eat, and breathe Catholicism. So for her to tell him she was gay was to basically dig her own grave. This is when I first started resenting religion as an institution. It may seem like it, but I didn’t always hate religion. I actually went to a private Lutheran school from preschool all the way up to 8th grade, and I loved it. I loved the sense of community the church had to offer, I loved the catchy songs, and I loved the stories. But after I discovered I was gay, it seemed like I was experiencing more and more negativity with religion, starting with having to hide my identity and relationship with the girl I loved. I was driving twelve hours round trip, taking off a week of work, and leaving my dogs with my parents just to spend five days pretending to be her “straight best friend.”

This trend continued for my next relationship as well. I was again put into this tiny box of conformity, having to neglect my feelings and putting on the perfect disguise of heteronormativity. While all my other friends were posting adorable pictures from date nights, and constantly writing cute things on each other’s blogs, expressing their love, I was forced to delete all incriminating photos of us together that my friends might have taken from parties the night before. I had to hide my relationship from the world of social media, and why? Because her mother was Christian. And good Christians don’t have homosexual children. I also started noticing that when I was out in public with my girlfriend, you know, innocently holding hands in line at the grocery store, we would get glares and scoffs and the shakings of several heads.

Not only was I experiencing this homophobic ritual of religion myself but I also had to help my friends through it as well. Apparently many other people at the University Mary Washington had the same revelation I did. I had at least five different occasions where friends were coming to me asking, “How did you know for sure you were gay?” And after about three more weeks they were quickly on their way to cutting men out of their lives all together. Initially they were ecstatic, sharing the same feelings of joy that I experienced when finally realizing who I was. That all came to a screeching halt when they realized they had to face their religious family members. I tried to help them through it the best I could. After watching friend after friend cry in my arms for hours while they tried to grapple with how exactly they were going to tell their parents, I finally broke down myself. That’s when I finally decided I no longer held any respect for religion.

How could I respect something that forces hours of self-mourning, shame, and fear? All because I don’t want a male involved in my sexual activities?! Seriously, just take a second to think about that…Radical religious people who condemn homosexuality are mad at me not because I’m eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:9-12), not because I’m wearing clothing of mixed fabrics (Leviticus 19:19), but because my significant other doesn’t have a dick (Leviticus 20:13). All because of some stupid passage in the bible that says “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

And if we are being literal here, then technically being a lesbian is not a sin because I’m not a man. And don’t forget what good ol Timothy 2:12 says about women…we’re not really people. So technically I win, I’m not a sinner, you’re a bigot, and I hate you.

Anyway, back to the point…If the in person experiences were not enough, I then started to experience the wrath of religion in the form of online interactions. After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, it seemed like Facebook, Twitter, Yik Yak, and other forms of social media became a battlefield. It was either a war against LGBT people or a war on religion, and you had to choose a side. I cannot even begin to describe how devastated I was when I logged on to Facebook that night after the ruling. I saw people I considered close friends and even “work family” bashing same sex couples, and LGBT rights, and any other type of heterosexual deviance.

I even messaged a woman I thought of as my adopted work mother, asking her why she was being so hateful towards people like me by posting photos like these:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/27583170@N06/21371605136/in/dateposted-public/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/27583170@N06/21371605346/in/dateposted-public/

And she responded with this:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/27583170@N06/21210939729/in/dateposted-public/

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I also had a wonderful, loving friend from community college who’s Christian youth minister husband (whom I was also close with) post a video to Facebook about a gay man who found Jesus and “turned his life around” by realizing he really wasn’t gay. You know, all thanks to Jesus. Like do people really think us lesbians are going to wake up one day after a few good prayers and be like “Damn, I really do love dick! What was I thinking? Thanks Jesus.” The video basically went on to say that homosexuality could be cured with religion. They seriously have to stop acting like homosexuality is a disease. WATCH OUT THAT HOMOSEXUAL IS BEHIND YOU AND SHE JUST SNEEZED…EVERYBODY RUN BEFORE YOU CATCH THE GAY!

That’s when I started purging. Anyone and everyone who said something hateful or derogatory towards LGBT people on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat I immediately deleted. Then I began ranting on social media myself. I posted a status stating, “If you think me being gay is a mistake, a phase, or a sin then you can delete me. The only mistake I made was pretending to be straight for 23 years.” That’s when the messages started pouring in.

I had already had a few people message me on Facebook telling me how brave I was for constantly posting pictures and videos of my current girlfriend and me. Just take a second to let that sink in. I’m considered “brave” because I post pictures of my girlfriend and me together on Facebook. Okay….

Besides those messages, I received other ones as well…and lots of them. I had several people around my age who I have either almost never spoken to, or just barely remember from high school message me via Facebook. They all said about the same thing. They told me how they are secretly gay, slowly coming out to people or considering coming out to people and it was in some part thanks to me. Now, if you haven’t picked it up thus far from reading this blog, I am a very outspoken person to say in the least. I have practically no filter and about 99% of the time I say, write, post, blog anything and everything that is on my mind. I try not to be rude in doing so. My purpose is not to hurt people’s feelings or put down others but I feel like expressing my thoughts on social media is something I was born to do. Yes, at times it can be a little much and slightly obnoxious but I figured out a while ago that I am done trying to make everyone happy. And I’m done trying to be polite all the time at the expense of my happiness.

That being said, apparently my anti-homophobic rants on Facebook inspired some people. I posted statuses like this after some fun antigay interactions and it caught some attention:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/27583170@N06/21397577495/in/dateposted-public/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/27583170@N06/20776487343/in/dateposted-public/

Anyway, this had me thinking. Why is it that when I post a witty status I get a couple of “likes” but when I post a status having anything to do with me being gay I get an significantly larger amount of “likes?” Is it because I’m so courageous for being openly gay? It’s ridiculous that people are using the same adjective to describe me as they describe soldiers who die in Iraq or children with cancer. It’s ridiculous that people have to think twice about posting a photo on social media based on the gender of the person they are dating. It’s ridiculous that children are still scared to tell their loved ones that they are LGBT. It’s ridiculous that LGBT youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.¹ It’s ridiculous that there are an estimated 300,000 homeless LGBT youth in our country, and the leading cause of their homelessness is family rejection due to “strong religious beliefs.”² I don’t understand. Why is it so deviant from “normal” society that me sharing my gayness is something to be celebrated or commemorated? Is it because I’m not showing any fear from the potential religious lash back?

All of these thoughts combined with my personal interactions with hateful religious folk got me on an anti-religion streak that has lasted for a few months now. So when my professor said he wanted us to work on a digital project for the rest of the semester, and make it something meaningful, I knew what I had to do. I want to produce a documentary exploring the battleground between the LGBT community and the religious one. I want to get to the root of the hate, document it, and use visual education to change the way the people of the world view one another.

Now I’m not expecting this documentary to blow up and become an internet sensation, but if I can change the way one radical religious person views LGBT people, then I will be happy with all the effort that is going to go into producing this. I also want my own views to change. I want my opinion of religion to be changed. I want to encourage love to all. I want to encourage acceptance. I want LGBT people, and more importantly myself, to respect religion just like religious people should respect us.