Do I like her? As a friend? As something more? Do I want to be her? Do I envy her? Do I like her style? Is she into women too? These are the questions that frequent my mind any time I feel remotely connected to another woman. Being attracted to the same sex is confusing as hell. But not only are there these constant internal struggles, but the external struggles still faced by members of the LGBTQI+ community are what I consider to be nothing short of destructive. And at the core of some of these struggles? Religion.
Just last week I was confronted with an incredibly challenging and upsetting conversation. One of my great friends is a chiropractor and she met an overwhelmingly inspiring individual during one of her appointments. After the appointment, she called me and was ecstatic saying something along the lines of, “I just met this really awesome person who does something that I think is extremely cool and interesting. Basically she interviews people and writes about their overcomer story and I thought, ‘Woah! Cool! I have a friend who I think has a great overcomer story!’ And that friend is you. When I mentioned that to my client, she was definitely intrigued and now wants to interview you!” I was beyond flattered. Not only that this great friend thinks I have a worthy overcomer story, but this individual, this stranger who I was yet to know, wanted to interview me of all people.
So my friend, with my evident permission, passed on my contact information to her client, Taylor. Before too long, Taylor contacted me and asked if we could chat for ten minutes before interviewing me. She also mentioned that there would be an overcomer get-together on March 11th that I could bring my friend to. Naturally then, I started planning attendance to this event and anticipated our interview. On the phone, she asked me briefly to explain my story, to which I asked what my friend had already told her. She mentioned that my friend had said I had overcome severe depression a couple of years ago and was now using my experiences to help mentor younger kids. I elaborated somewhat, explaining that I became suicidal due to a combination of tearing my acl, being trapped in an environment with a very selfish coach and teammates, and also being in a toxic, destructive relationship. She then asked, after confirming that I had certainly overcome adversity, how I was using my experiences to help others. I proceeded to mention how I was presently mentoring a kid who is struggling with her sexuality and how this was so important to me because of how I’ve struggled with my sexuality throughout my entire life. I mentioned that I was hoping to be to this girl what I had wished I had had when I was growing up.
She then stopped me. “Nicole, I’m going to have to stop you right there.” Here we fucking go, I thought. “I’m wondering…how central is this struggle with sexuality to your overall overcomer story? Is there any way that you can talk about your story without focusing so heavily on your struggles with sexuality?” I laughed internally. Is she serious right now? I bet she’s religious. I then calmly, despite being evidently hurt and offended, informed her that not mentioning this struggle would mean lying to myself. Given that I pride myself on authenticity, there would be no way to talk about my struggle without focusing on my sexuality, especially given the significant distress it has caused me over the years. “I thought that might be the case. I’m in a little bit of a dilemma here Nicole and I don’t want you to think I’m a judgemental person because I’m not. I’ve interviewed other gay people before and I don’t have a problem with your sexuality at all. But here’s the truth, I’m on the verge of writing a book that will be published in the Christian section of bookstores. I know that if I write your story, I’m going to lose a lot of readers. I certainly think you have a great overcomer story, but I wouldn’t want you to be upset if I interviewed you and wrote your story while neglecting to focus on what you thought was the primary issue.” Ha. I fucking knew it. Christian. Yep. That’d be right. I concluded the conversation shortly after that, not having much else to say that wouldn’t have been extremely harsh, so instead, I will write my thoughts here.
My initial reaction was, what a coward. She’s worried about losing readers because she might write something honest, something brutally raw, something real and relevant? Something that a lot of people struggle with but are too afraid to talk about because of people like her? She might actually have gained readers had she posted a story like mine. But instead, she has not only tarnished her own reputation, but that of other Christians too. And I know what some of you might say, it’s wrong to generalise based on one negative experience. But when this has been your experience your entire life, how can you blame me for generalising? Another friend recently sent me this quote, “Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God: for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice and mediocrity and materialism and selfishness that have chilled his faith.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation). I have met more close-minded Christians than I have close-minded non-believers. Those that don’t believe tend to be so much more accepting and open-minded than those who claim to be religious. Better yet, they don’t promote nor claim to be accepting, they just are. Whereas those that claim to be religious seem to hide behind this façade of “I’m a good person because I’m a Christian.”
I actually think that racism and sexism today are potentially worse than what it was in the past. And the reason is because these –isms have become a lot more discrete, subtle, and indirect; they’ve become covert rather than overt. In the past, people were openly against gays, but today, people claim to be more accepting, shit, even the law seems to be more accepting, but it’s all a façade. Because my experience above is not an isolated event, unfortunately this is a common occurrence and its effects are devastating. Why? Well because, and perhaps naively too, I believe that the world is more accepting and that I don’t need to worry about my sexuality anymore (I’m also frequently told this by many people I meet). So when presented with an opportunity to share my story, I did not consider for one second that it might be an issue. I instead, was excited, flattered, and even honoured to be interviewed. Alas, because my struggle centres around sexuality, a concept that Christians have still not fully accepted, my story could not be shared. How can I believe that we live in a more accepting society when the reason my story could not be written is because of my sexuality? “I’m not a judgmental person,” she might not be, but she’s certainly still a discriminating one.
After our conversation, despite being visibly upset and fighting back a torrent of tears, I realised the importance of the work that I am doing here. Writing my truth and sharing my story, without reservation, without fear, there’s power in that. Have I lost readers because of what I’ve written? Probably. But do I care? Not really. I’m writing for myself, not others. If I write something controversial? Good. It means I am challenging society and those within it to expand their conventional beliefs and open their minds and heck, maybe even their hearts too. Another author that I met through serving once told me, “Write like no one is going to read your material,” because the minute you start concerning yourself with offending others, your work becomes forced, filtered, and inauthentic. You start writing for others and not yourself, hence losing the real you in the process.
I know consciously that not all Christians are like Taylor. But again, as I mentioned in a former post Bury your gays, there’s only so much I can process consciously that won’t have an effect on my subconscious and henceforth affect my daily interactions. Just two weeks ago I was sharing with a couple of individuals how miserable I’ve been recently and how I’m still emotionally pretty messed up from the last girl I was seeing. One of their initial responses was, “Have you thought that maybe the reason your relationships have failed is because you’ve dated women? Maybe it’s time to consider something else.” To which I, reactively, responded, “Oh that’s a great idea, force myself to date someone I’m not attracted to because that’ll make me soooo much happier. Oh and hey, when things didn’t work out with the guys you dated in the past, did you ever stop to think that maybe the reason was because you were dating men? Maybe you should’ve considered dating women.” Don’t get me wrong, I think I can understand where they were coming from with this statement, they hate that I’m suffering and their immediate conclusion was that it’s because I’ve dated women and not men. But the problem I have with a comment like this is that it would never be suggested to someone who was attracted to the opposite sex. “Oh your relationship failed? Must be because you’re straight. Maybe you should consider being gay for a while.” Have you ever heard someone make that claim? Probably not. And it sounds pretty fucking ridiculous too, doesn’t it? This comment also highlights a fundamental belief held by many that being “gay” is still a choice, something you can override merely by electing to.
I contemplated not writing this post because it focuses heavily on an interaction with a specific person, but I realised that this post draws attention to an interaction that frequently taints my life and perception of religion. I wish I could tell this kid that I’m mentoring that the hardest thing she’ll ever have to go through is figuring out the origin of her feelings, the answers to my opening questions, but unfortunately I know that not to be true. And it’s sad. It’s sad that on top of these internal struggles, struggles that are heavily influenced by society’s subliminal message that homosexuality is still “wrong”, people are also covertly cruel with their discrimination. And because of its subtlety, its destruction becomes devastatingly painful; it destroys hope. Hope in a better world, hope in better people, hope even in a better God. So before you attempt to force your beliefs of God onto those who don’t believe, perhaps it might serve the world more if you check yourself and consider how your actions, reactions, and responses have overtly or covertly affected those who now no longer believe.
Note: The name in this post has been altered to preserve the privacy of the individual involved.