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:
And she responded with this:
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:
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.