Scattering kindness…

Some days it feels like there’s so much cruelty in this world that the earth can barely contain it. From pure evil to petty meanness, it saturates our lives to the point where it’s overwhelming. It becomes hard to notice anything else. But there is something else that’s equally strong. Kindness.

Kindness grows like dandelions through concrete… seemingly impossible until it’s there. It spreads and scatters in small amounts that appear almost pointless. What can a simple smile do compared with war and starvation? But it keeps trying. It’s spreads and it grows.

Today Julie and I are protesting against the gay concentration camps in Chechnya. It is a little protest in a little city in Canada. Ramzan Kadyrov, the region’s leader, will never hear of our protest. On the surface it seems pointless.

But every person who passes us today has the chance to think of LGBTQ rights and the prejudice against us. Every person has the chance to think on their own views and perhaps modify them a bit, which then impacts their families. With each protest, more families are touched and the greater the impact. Then it’s noticed.

Politics is often a popularity game. What can a politician do to please the constituents and get elected again. A positive view on the LGBTQIA community and a desire to do something about those camps will get noticed by more and more and will, hopefully, get added to foreign policy.

Each one of us is but a simple light but together we make up all the stars in the universe. Let your light shine. It might be small but it matters. You matter.

protest

Remembrance Day revisited…

CN: discussion of violence and prejudice

I stand on my balcony and can see Lake Ontario. On a clear day we stand on the shore and look across the lake at Buffalo. This has never scared me until now.

I went online yesterday and my news feed was flooded with stories of hatred and violence. A friend of mine has an openly gay ten year old who was terrified to go to school… to the point of stress vomiting. He’s been taunted since kindergarten, this fear is something new.

Another friend of mine had a pick up truck, with a poorly shored confederate flag, nearly hit him at high noon. The driver stopped and jumped out screaming “fucking faggot” before heading into the nearby post office. My friend wasn’t sure who he was more scared for, himself or the solitary black woman operating the office. Luckily both were fine.

After my friend posted, one of his friends chimed in to say she’d just had passengers tell her to flash them in order to get a tip. Pro tip, that’s not how taxis work. But maybe that’s how they work in Trump’s new United States… if the driver is female and the passengers are male.

Yet more friends are panicking about getting IUDs inserted before January 20th or getting married before that time. One’s researching nursery schools in Canada while others half joke about marrying a Canadian citizen.

I’d expected the hatred and violence to start slow and increase. Instead it poured out as if a flood gate was opened, starting with a bottle bashed over a gay man’s head because this is Trump’s America now. It moved on to school children drawing and shouting “build a wall” while their classmates cried. To high school students scribbling racial slurs and graffiti about white pride. To grown men harassing and groping women because it’s their right under Trump.

And, through it all, Trump stayed silent.

Well, not exactly silent. He complained about people being mean to him on Twitter and placed Ben Carson, the man who thinks the pyramids were grain silos, into the position of the head of the Department of Education. The masses will now become even more uneducated but they’ll know the Bible right down to every last hate filled corner. I don’t think the more positive and altruistic verses will have a place in Trump’s world.

I’m terrified for my friends. For my black and brown friends and my gay and pan friends, for my friends who “don’t pass” and my friends who do, for my friends who hold their LGBTQ children close and hope for the next four years. And I’m scared for those of us living in the US’s shadow, because if Trump starts lobbing bombs, just because they’re there, that border is not going to hold back retaliatory radiation.

On this cold and quiet Remembrance Day, I feel like history is repeating itself.

poppies-and-full-moon

Poppies under the full moon

Seventy-two hours…

Content Note: frank discussion of suicidal thoughts

It was a gorgeous day. I carefully packed my bag for group therapy. Water, notebook, phone, sparkly pen, tissues. I didn’t usually bring Chapstick but was reasonably sure I was going to get admitted to the hospital. It went into the bag as well. I should have gone to group the day before but I’d been crying for most of the night and was too exhausted when my alarm went off. Today I was determined to go.

The therapy class was more of a holding class until space was available in the main group. Most of my classmates had already moved up (I was due to move on Monday) and only three of us were left. Everyone else was new. And quiet. My group spilled out everything in the introduction. This group shared first names and ages, nothing else. The instructor tried to start up a group conversation only to have it fizzle. Then she tried again.

“Yes?” she asked. Why was she staring at me? And when had I raised my hand? What should I say?

“I’m thinking about suicide,” I replied.

Apparently that.

“Thinking or planning?”

“Planning”

“Not every suicidal thought is serious,” she pointed out. “Sometimes people think about suicide but have no intentions of following through. Is this something you intend to do?”

Jeremy had brought in my fairy garden the night before so I didn’t need to go onto my balcony. Several nights earlier I’d messaged a friend in tears and sat chatting with her on Facebook until Jeremy came home, terrified I’d jump. And I couldn’t stop thinking that it would be like flying… and then nothing. I couldn’t keep living like that and, while I wanted to die, I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Someone was going to be hurt finding me and it was going to happen sometime soon.

“Yes,” I said quietly. Every single person in the room was staring at me.

“I can’t hear you,” she said.

Seriously? Like this wasn’t hard enough already.

“Yes,” I said a bit louder and nodded for emphasis. She informed me I needed to see her at the end of class.

Class ended, she arranged for someone to cover her next appointment, then set off with me through the back halls of the hospital… right back to where Karen and I started a month and a half earlier. Thankfully this time the waiting room speaker had been disabled. Once again we went through triage and to the nurse’s station.

“She needs to be put on a form one,” the instructor said urgently.

Form one? Oh, she’d discussed this in class. That was a seventy two hour involuntary admission. As long as there was a bed somewhere relatively quiet I didn’t care. I’d only been up for three hours at that point but I was already exhausted.

I saw a doctor next. All I remember is him handing me paperwork explaining my involuntary admission and that the number 42 was on top.

42 ~ the meaning of life. There wasn’t anyone to share that bit of information with. Security was on the other side of the room, carefully keeping an eye on me. A volunteer saw me hugging myself and gave me a sheet. A security guard told me I could have another one if I was still cold and warned me I’d lose my phone soon and to copy down any numbers I needed. I knew Jeremy’s number, and my parents still have the same number from my childhood, but I didn’t know Karen’s number.

The psychiatrist called me into a room. It was bright and had plexiglass windows in the middle and a door. She sat down and gestured to the seat in front of her. Had anything happened recently?

A madman shot up a bar.

But that was half a continent away in a different country and would bring up too many questions.

“My boyfriend and I broke up at the beginning of May,” I said hesitantly. Hesitant because I’d answered these questions multiple times before and pretty much knew what to expect.

“Who instigated the break up?”

“It was mutual,” I replied quickly. It hadn’t been but I didn’t particularly want to get into blaming. “It wasn’t a good time for a relationship, there was lots going on.”

“Like what?” she asked, leaning forward.

Great.

“We’re both struggling with mental health issues and [boyfriend] has some physical health issues too.”

“And what else? You said lots.”

“[Boyfriend]’s just starting his transition,” I replied. Maybe she would know what transition meant.

“What does that mean?”

And maybe not.

“Gender transition,” I replied.

“Oh… he’s going from male to female?”

“Umm no. He’s…” [Boyfriend] wouldn’t want to be described as female in any way but I couldn’t think of a way to explain.

“So he was born female. Did you know this ahead of time?”

I nodded and was relieved when she didn’t appear shocked like the last professional. Although leaning back in her seat wasn’t much of an improvement.

If I fall in love with a woman, would that be seen as wrong?

The questions went back to suicide and the final question, “If we released you, would you feel safe?”

It would be like flying… and then nothing. I remembered curling up in my chair, hugging my stuffed animal, scared to even go near my balcony and shook my head.

“Okay, follow me,” she left the room and gestured to a security guard, the same one who’d offered me a second sheet earlier.

This time he gave me pants, complete with a hole in the front, and a three armed shirt. I knew what the hole was for though I’d never worn pants with one before. The shirt left me baffled.

“Here,” he said as he took back the shirt and mimed putting it on. It wrapped around so that one arm went through two holes. Then he took all my belongings and gave me a pair of blue throwaway slippers with a seam across the soles.

I spent most of my time in emergency sleeping, which I’m sure relieved the guards. Actually, I know it did because one commented on it as he relieved the other.

“Whew,” the second guard said. “It sounds like an easy shift.”

One guard gave me a heated blanket when I started shaking and talked with me about books. He told me about a new movie too but my thoughts were too scattered and I couldn’t remember the title. It sounded interesting through.

I stayed in the emergency room hallway until 8pm, missing both lunch and dinner, before being wheeled to the psychiatric ward. It’s a small ward with a P shaped hallway, a TV room with plastic chairs, and a cafeteria that doubles as an entertainment room. The blinds are tucked away behind a window pane so no one can hang themselves. The mirrors are silvered metal. And there’s no bag in the garbage can. Meals are served at 8am, noon, and 5pm with a plastic fork and spoon. Have you ever buttered cold toast with a spoon before? It’s, umm, interesting. And chewy. The toast, not the spoon.

I’d been terrified of going into the ward. I knew I needed the help but had no idea what to expect other than, well my mind drew a blank. Honestly, while I hated being locked in… unable to leave, the ward itself wasn’t bad. The nurses were uniformly kind and the patients were friendly and understood “sorry, I’m getting overwhelmed… I’m going to have to go lie down”. I made three friends immediately and we hung out together, playing cards, colouring in those intricate adult colouring books, and singing. I’d been told that people don’t like to remember being in the psychiatric hospital but the other patients showed no sign of that. Multiple times I heard people conversing and reminiscing about previous visits. Remember so and so from two visits ago? He’s here now. Oh hi doctor! I was your patient during my last admission.

One thing that I love about this hospital is that the ward is mixed gender. During my stay there was one very effeminate gay young man who was much happier and comfortable hanging around the women and one young person struggling with gender dysphoria who had no idea what their gender was. Considering they commented on hacking off their long hair to buzz cut length because they’d have died if they didn’t, I think being forced into a women’s only section and female garb would have been very detrimental. And, yes, I did assure them it’s normal to be unsure of your gender and that it can take years to sort out.

some won't come and that's okay

People say that you learn who your real friends are when you hit your lowest point and that is so true. One of my friends, who I trusted completely and was positive would always be there, walked away from me completely during this time. It was a heartbreak and one I’ve sobbed about more than once. However that friend’s abrupt departure was more than offset by the number of people who walked in. The friends sharing messages of hope and love. My fellow patients who repeatedly commented on my kindness and showed me kindness of their own. And the anonymous person who left a spray of daisies on my bed the day I left the hospital.

I have no idea about the future. Right now I’m considered emotionally fragile by the psychiatric team, too fragile for the group I was to attend. But I’m feeling better now than I have in years and am ready to take each day one step at a time.

coming home

Me leaving the hospital after a week’s stay with one of my anonymous flowers.

Words kill…

It could have been me.

I’ve seen these words written so many times this week. And it’s true, it could have been me. Not at the Pulse; the chances of me being in a club are nil, especially at 2am. I’m more of the ‘cuddle and read at the library’ type (seriously, someone needs to make a cuddle and read club). But the LA pride parade was a target as well and, beyond that, where else? Is it safe to attend pride days at amusement parks? PFLAG meetings? The Trans Night of Remembrance services?

Jeremy and I were on the bus to our local Orlando vigil on Monday when zie turned to me and said, “I bet someone’s going to shoot up one of the vigils.”

“It won’t be ours,” I assured zir. “Our city’s too small.”

Not the best reassurance but it was all I had. Then we got there and zie saw the crowds. Instantly Jeremy became agitated, snapping at me for not knowing exactly what was going on and terrified I was going disappear and leave zir alone in the crowd.

“I can’t do this,” Jeremy admitted a few minutes later. “I’m scared I’m going to be too loud and stand out too much and look different. I’m too anxious. I really need to go home now. Please can I go home?”

I tried to get zir to watch videos on zir phone until zie calmed down and offered a breathing app but Jeremy was too scared. Zie blamed zir high school teachers for picking at zir every time zie stood out in some way and I agree that didn’t help. But I also blame every single person who blatantly stared at zir at the store and on the sidewalk. Every rude comment yelled from cars. Every conversation and discussion that treated zir rights as different and a bit less. Each month my peacock of a teen fades a bit more. And in this space, where Jeremy should have felt zir safest, zie was scared.

Words kill in a myriad of ways.

I have spent my whole life being labelled as different, weird, strange, odd, quirky, freak, a loner. I sat in a therapist’s office yesterday and detailed the bullying I remembered from school, from the little I actually remember about school. I’ve blocked so much of it. She’s been a therapist for years. I figured she’d heard just about everything. Besides, what I went through wasn’t that bad. I’m struggling because I’m weak. I’m sure people have been through a lot worse. Then I watched as her face registered shock and horror. At the end, she went through all the paperwork I’d filled out and tallied the results. Severe depression. Severe anxiety. Extreme risk of suicide.

“Mom, there’s only two times you’re allowed to jump off our balcony.” Jeremy told me. Zir voice was serious. “If you learn how to fly or if there’s a zombie right behind you.”

I stay because there’s family who love me and friends who care and three snuggly cats I’d confuse and upset. Maybe someday I’ll stay because I matter, maybe someday those words will mean something. But that’s not today. I’m tired right down in my soul… in the deepest part of myself. I’m tired of always being a few steps off. Even in the LGBTQ community, I don’t exactly fit. I’m ace. I got married long before I’d ever heard the word asexual and long before I’d ever fallen in love.

If you’ve never been in love, how do you know what it is? How much stronger is it than friendship? What if you’re friends and he loves you? I figured it must be love and tried my hardest… but it wasn’t. And then I fell in love with my best friend, who was non-binary at the time and then male. I always figured I was straight because I look at pictures of men and think they’re cute and cuddly but don’t feel the same urge to snuggle with women. But I also think androgynous people are cute… and friends. I’m sexually adverse to the thought of a vulva but sexually indifferent to the thought of a penis and in both cases would much rather snuggle. And how do you sort out sexual orientation when you’ve only been in love once? That’s about when I figure, fuck it, I’ll just get another cat instead of dating.

They were offering free pins for LGBTQ people and allies at the vigil on Monday. I searched through but nothing really fit me. What I needed was a “confused as hell but still here” pin. Which pretty much sums up my whole life.

Words kill in another way. Sometimes the hatred blows outwards instead of in.

People are baffled by how or why the shooter could have shot up the bar he frequented. Who knows why? Well, maybe it’s because he lived in a culture that considers LGBTQ people to be lesser and regularly talks about shooting them. I’ve lost count of the number of quotes I’ve seen this month alone that read along the lines of “If I see some freak in the washroom with my wife/daughter, I’ll shoot them!”

Maybe he felt trapped. Trapped by a society that sees gay people as different and by a state that fights for less protections… less rights. Trapped by a family who based his worth on the wife he needed to produce the son who’d carry his name. Maybe he felt worthless because of everything he read, saw and observed over the years. Countless school yard slurs, jokes, and manly put downs. Maybe he was angry because he went to the bar and saw everyone else having a good time… and how dare they be allowed to be open and themselves while he couldn’t. He couldn’t know their stories… their families… their pasts… but he could see their happiness. I have yet to see an article which talks about him being happy. He couldn’t change society or his family but he could buy a gun. And the society that taught him to hate handed him one. I don’t have much sympathy for someone who destroyed so many lives but I do want society to stop producing more of him.

Words kill. We need to stop telling people… telling children… that they need to be tougher, stronger, and braver. That they’re hurting until their souls bleed because they’re too weak. We need to fix society, just like Leelah asked a year and a half ago. How many more will die before we succeed?

vigil bags

Tears…

Jeremy loves to discuss American politics. Zie’s obsessed with the upcoming elections, watching the Young Turks every night and fervently explaining to me all the reasons why Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be elected. I’ve heard it all… voter fraud… possible indictment… media bias… I think the only thing zie’s missed is her defending a rapist back in the 70’s. Please, no one tell zir about that. I don’t need hours more of explanations.

What zie’s not understanding is it doesn’t matter who gets elected. Okay, it matters but the election will not change the fact that the United States is a dynamite warehouse covered in tar paper, situated beside a lighter factory run by pyromaniacs. It’s not a matter of if there’ll be an explosion, it’s when and how wide will the wreckage scatter.

It didn’t start with Obama being elected, the hatred of anyone deemed “different” was already there. But having a black man leading the country gave racists a focal point and a target. Those of you who want to argue that people simply dislike his politics might want to take a wander over to Malia’s 15th birthday page where people are hoping she gets raped to death.

It didn’t start with Trump either. He didn’t fabricate a culture of racist, homophobic, transphobic bigots out of nothing. They were already there, sporting their one man/one woman marriage pins and kicking their trans kids to the curb. He gave them a voice and a chance to congregate outside of KKK meetings.

Today is Jeremy’s 19th birthday. We celebrated yesterday with a 7am wake up to open zir presents, a sunny afternoon spent with family, and a gooey chocolate cake for dessert. I woke up this morning to news of the Orlando shooting. Twenty, then fifty dead. Fifty-three injured. All because one man saw two men kissing a few months ago and didn’t like it. A short while later came the news about another man being apprehended with explosives in his car… on his way to the LA Pride Parade. Half my friends are in shock and crying “there’s nowhere we can be safe”. And, once again, my arms aren’t anywhere near big enough for them all.

One fall evening, I sat in my living room and quietly cried while I watched one year old Jeremy toddling around with zir baby doll. I’d just seen the news about Matthew Shepard and couldn’t fathom how people could hate that much. Were they going to hate my child too? And I sit here today and realize that, yes, they can and they will… without even giving themselves a chance to know zir.

Jeremy doesn’t see a point in naming zir sexual orientation. Zie’ll fall in love with who zie falls in love and it shouldn’t matter to anyone else. Jeremy also uses three pronouns for zirself; he, zie, and she… while not seeing the point in gender either. Zie’d much rather discuss politics, computers, or video games. In an ideal world it wouldn’t matter. Sadly we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where Jeremy has to add “if it’s safe for me there” to zir dreams of “someday I’d like to travel to…” And, honestly, the United States is scratched off zir list and has been for a while.

Today I’m going to split the last wedge of chocolate cake with Jeremy and give zir a huge hug. We’ll face tomorrow when it gets here.

Colin and zir phone attachment

Rage…

In some ways my friend is pretty average. She has a house, three kids, a dog and a cat in small town America. Her children go to public school and are actively involved in sports. They camp, climb trees, swim, and love to get messy.

In other way’s she’s not. My friend is pansexual and non-binary, her oldest is gay, and her daughter is trans. Small town America doesn’t like them very much. And it shows. Her daughter has a diagnosis of gender dysphoria by a reputable paediatrician; she was told to follow her daughter’s lead and let her be herself. She’s bought enough clothing, from both sides of the children’s department, to open a clothing store and I’m reasonably sure she’s cleared out Target’s toy department as well. Their pantry is well stocked, the children attend school regularly, they’re clean and unbruised with that confident and slightly cocky attitude children have when they know they have a parent who is going to listen and support them. Meanwhile children’s protective services might as well have a revolving door installed on their front porch.

Children’s protective services removed her children for several months a year ago and allowed her daughter both to be beaten and have hot sauce and vinegar poured on her tongue for daring to say she was a girl. What’s a little pain now if it cures her? This preschool aged child spent months surrounded by so called professionals who berated her for saying she was a girl and insisted she had to go by her boy’s name. And now they’re back. This time claiming that if she really was a girl, she’d say so persistently and wouldn’t be scared to announce it. Once again this child, who’s biggest worry should be remembering if n comes after m, has to worry about her physical safety from the people who vowed to protect her.

My friend gets to comfort her sobbing child who wishes she could cut off her own penis and die. I don’t know what the worker gets out of it. Maybe the self satisfaction of not allowing the liberals to ruin her country.

I go on Facebook and see a veritable flood of articles about bathroom bills in various States. They all contain arguments from people who insist that there is nothing but male and female and that both are readily defined and recognizable. These people know they’re right, after all it’s obvious. There’s only been male and female forever. Won’t anyone think of the children?

Then they proceed to ignore the facts laid before them. All the various combinations of X and Y which make up people’s chromosomes. The prevalence of intersex people. All the various cultures who have and do recognize more than two genders. Studies that map how prenatal hormones shape the brain in regards to gender (most of which I’ve discussed here). They don’t need to read anyone else’s information because it’s their opinion, which they’re allowed to have, and no one can tell them otherwise.

It’s easy to shrug them off as unimportant, nothing more than wilfully ignorant trolls, except they’re not. They’re the caseworkers my friend has to deal with, the parents of her daughter’s classmates, and the coaches in their teams. They’re the people my adult friends hand their resumes to, who look at their ID then their face before filing the resume in the trash. They’re doctors and teachers and politicians. The people who won’t allow my friends to have ID that matches their gender. They’re people who have a gun and hatred and a burning need to show what they’ll do to protect the children.

They’re very eager to protect the children. Just not all the children. Not the little girl who’s being forced to hold hot sauce in her mouth until she recants and promises she’s really a boy… just please make it stop hurting. Not the six year olds with bladder infections from holding it in because they want to use the “wrong bathroom”. Not the children who get told by adults that they should kill themselves for being different. No one will miss you. They only want to protect children who were never in any danger in the first place, from a threat they made up to incite hatred.

My arms aren’t big enough to hug my friend who’s so very tired of reading articles and posts detailing society’s hatred of her… and my friend who’s positive there’s no one in the world who cares… and my friend who feels like no man will ever love her for herself… and my friends who are terrified for their children’s safety (children who are still young enough to be tucked in with a bedtime story and a kiss)… for my friend who’s growing increasingly tempted to cut off their own breasts because surgery is far too expensive in “the land of the free”… for the young artist who receives scores of hate mail every single day because she draws cartoons that depict her life.

And then some one else complains their free speech is being trampled because how dare some damn liberal disagree.

And my friend rocks her sobbing daughter to sleep.

Religion, the original gated community…

Michelle, hope all is well and I am being very kind to myself. Thank you for asking but how are you doing?

Those words might sound mild, even a bit positive, but they brought tears to my eyes. Tim most certainly isn’t being kind to himself and there’s nothing I can do about it. His life is a tragedy in slow motion and one I’ve been watching for years.

The first thing I noticed about Tim was his vibrant personality. Even though he was still in high school, his enthusiastic energy was almost palpable; his smile as bright as his hair. The second thing I noticed were his mannerisms. Everyone knows the stereotype of a flamboyant gay male. That was Tim, right there. The kid might as well have worn a t-shirt with the caption “why yes, I am very gay”. We worked together for almost five years and I’ve lost count of the number of times a customer described him as “the gay one”.

He introduced himself to me by pointing out a young man as cute then watching to see my reaction. Several months went by with him being quite openly gay then he announced he’d met a girl for dinner. Once again he watched for reactions; this time he seemed quite shocked that people had trouble believing he’d invited a girl for a date. Later he told me he didn’t know why people were spreading rumours that he was gay. I found myself unable to think of anything to say. Within days he’d reverted back to being openly gay again.

I talked to Tim from time to time about Jeremy and why I wondered if zie was gay or bisexual. At one point I told him about how Jeremy had asked me, in grade one, if it was all right for zir to marry Albert when zie grew up. Tim’s face grew wistful. He’d made a similar comment when he was that age and one of his older brothers told him never to make a comment like that again or he’d be beaten up. I began to understand his flip-flopping.

Over the next few years he did a few more flip-flops regarding his sexual orientation. I tried my hardest to be supportive and I’m sure his other friends did as well. He slowly became more positive about being gay and joined PFLAG. Several years in a row he invited me to attend our local Evening of Hope; an event similar to the Transgender Day of Remembrance but for the whole LGBTQ community (the Trans Day of Remembrance is also observed). I made sure to attend. One year his mother called during the whole service. Candles were being named then lit and carried across the stage in front of a hushed audience. Meanwhile his phone kept ringing and ringing.

Mom, this is serious. I can’t talk right now.”
This is a memorial service.”
No I can’t leave.”
“Mom, please, you have to stop calling.”
I helped organize this. I’m needed here. I really can’t leave.”

Her son was working alongside the mayor and the police to help organize a huge event with dozens of vendors and approximately a hundred people. He hurried around, well respected and busy, taking donations, directing people to the right places, and organizing the set up. And instead of being there to support him, she was sitting at home harassing him to leave. I wouldn’t know this lady if I ran into her on the street but there’s a good chance I wouldn’t like her.

I watched as he matured into his early 20’s. He wanted to be an event planner and organize weddings. I listened as he fell in love and again when they broke up. Tim didn’t want to be a secret, he wanted a boyfriend who was willing to be out with him. Then he started looking for a new religion because the Catholic Church wasn’t supportive enough. He wanted a place that would accept him as gay. I suggested my own congregation of Unitarian Universalists and got a “maybe…” in response. I get that. I’m an atheist and he’s deeply religious; I’ve had a few friends assume that the whole congregation must be atheistic if I’m there. It’s not but I backed off, figuring he needed to find his own path. Unitarians are good at that. Maybe too good.

He continued to help with PFLAG and received an award for being a person who made a difference. His posts reflected the love he had for his family and a growing acceptance of himself. Then his posts faded, he was busy at work but fine. He couldn’t attend my parties due to work but was fine and we’d get together soon. The posts he did make were less about family and more about God. And then came this post…

Tim mormon

He deleted it almost immediately but a quick peek at his about page showed his religion as Mormon and his “interested in” section set to women. There aren’t many churches out there who are less accepting of LGBTQ people than the Catholic Church but the Mormons are definitely one of them.

There is no way this can end well. He’s not straight. He’s not even (from what he’s said during quiet, honest times) bisexual. And he’s joined a church that only loves him if he lies and only accepts him if he ignores his own romantic feelings.

I understand why people turn to religion. They look for acceptance, community, support, and (for some) a greater meaning to life. At it’s best, religion can serve these needs. What worries me is when religion is at it’s worst. It’s worst leaves people shattered and broken… clutching the fragments of their lives as they watch their community turn away. It leaves LGBTQ kids on the streets, begging and selling themselves to survive. Or walking in front of trucks convinced life will never get better. It teaches children that they are the chosen ones and the “others” are the sinners. Giving them a sense of pride for being chosen and a sense of fear that they might stumble and become one of the “others”.

Get a group of atheist parents together and you’ll hear a variety of stories about their children being harassed by other kids for not believing in God. Emma used to get chased off the bus by a girl who insisted she was going to burn in hell forever. A mother I talked to recently has a child who was having nightmares about Jesus coming to get him like some sort of bogeyman. Once again it was from peer bullying.

Years ago, our congregation welcomed an older man who had left a fundamentalist church. Every Sunday, for weeks on end, he’d come to the front of the room for  the pebbles of joy and concern ceremony and cry. He could barely choke out any words, he’d simply break down in heart wrenching tears. His former church had left huge scars on his soul. It took nearly a year before he could manage to speak. He was white, straight, and cis… with a good job, children, and a wife who loved him… and his scars nearly broke him regardless. He didn’t entirely fit into their mould so they tried to hammer him in place. They damn well shattered him.

Love isn’t trademarked, it just is, and it’s there for everyone; not just the ones religion deems worthy enough. Life is not a tragedy, love is not a mistake, and if your religion loves all the little children (except if they have a penis and are wearing a dress) then you’re doing it wrong.