Tag Archives: sexuality

processing thoughts on girls

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My sexuality goes through phases. Since acknowledging that I was bisexual about five years ago or so, I’ve noticed that I go through times when I feel more into women than men. That usually happens when I don’t feel as close emotionally to Chris, so I don’t explore it at all or look at it as anything more than just a passing thing. My interest is also always on a celebrity or other person who I don’t actually know, so there’s never any temptation to act on anything.

Lately though, the “gay phase” has lasted longer than usual. I’ve been confused by it. Chris and I have been very emotionally close lately, we’ve been through pretty intense counseling, worked very intentionally on communication, and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything in the romantic area of my life. What’s the deal?

Yesterday, as I was watching interviews with my latest celebrity obsession, I realized that none of my thoughts were sexual. I was honestly just daydreaming about hanging out, having tea with this person, being gal pals. Okay…so this really doesn’t have anything to do with being bisexual. This is something else.

Studies have shown women are “hard-wired” for friendship. When women become stressed, their instinct is to seek out other women because of biological factors like hormones and oxytocin. They don’t seek out men because men’s brains handle stress differently. Harvard Medical School even showed that women with a close group of female friends develop less physical impairments as they get older. Not having friends is bad for your health, and can have a similar effect on the body as smoking.

*None of this is to say that men don’t need friendships. The studies are also obviously pretty black-and-white in terms of gender, which gender is not, but I think the point is true: humans need friendships. I’m just especially interested in the girl-girl dynamic, because I’m cis, and that’s what I know and experience.*

None of this is surprising to me. When I was in counseling and struggling with my sexuality, one of my counselors suggested it was just because I didn’t have girl friends, so I had started seeing them like I did boys, as unfamiliar, and that triggered my brain to believe it was a sexual thing. I know that wasn’t what it was, but I’m sure it was part of it. I’ve always been more interested in girls than boys; most of my crushes have been girls. I’m sure some of it was sexual, and some of it was just wanting that close friendship.

I think that need for female energy and company has become especially strong because I’m pretty isolated here. I work from home. I’m building friendships from scratch. I have one close girl friend here, but one person can’t be everything, and I have a lot of close girl friends who are further away who I miss a lot. The last few attempts I’ve made to make more friends have not been successful. I think I’m discouraged. So I turn to interviews and TV and movies and music to hear female voices that I like, watch interesting women and imagine they’re talking to me. It sounds really pathetic when I write it out, but it hasn’t been a conscious thing, so there’s not much I can do about it.

Eh. This was a really personal post, and maybe no one else feels this way, but I wanted to put it out there, mostly to process. Thanks for reading.

With Unexpected Speed

I did not expect to be dealing with all this so soon.

I had recently passed my two-year anniversary and was looking out the car window at the blur of fields and barns. Occasionally we would pass clumps of trees, but they would fly by so fast, it was like they had never been there at all. When I tried to focus on a small detail like a single branch or house in the distance, it would immediately bleed into the oddly-linear hues of gray, green, yellow, brown, and blue. My mind was wandering. It had only been two years since I signed a piece of paper, said goodbye to my dog as he left for his new home with my in-laws, and woke up a married woman. In a lot of ways, it seemed like yesterday. However, it also seemed like forever ago. In those two years, me and my husband have dealt with mental breakdowns, horrendous medication withdrawals, a crisis of faith (ongoing), employment turmoil, sexual identity questions, loneliness, relationship doubts, and looming financial challenges. I was not naive when I got married. I knew all this and more was part of the deal; I just didn’t expect it all to happen so soon and so quickly.

Isn’t marriage supposed to have a honeymoon period? You know, that brief time when everything is rose-colored and you’re just happy to wake up next to your person every morning? I’m not saying I’m unhappy to be waking up with my person, but there was never a time when that happiness wasn’t mixed with anxiety and questions chewing on my brain like termites.

Is my unemployment a burden to this clear-eyed, optimistic, occasionally goofball-ish man I’ve yoked myself to?

Will the pharmacy screw up my medication again and disrupt my entire week with crippling muscle pain, headaches, and frantic doubts about everything? Are those bone-shaking doubts just symptoms of an unstable mind, or legitimate concerns I should be listening to?

Should I have gotten married when I did? Am I too young and immature? 

Will I ever be in a place to have kids? Do I even want kids? What happens to us if I don’t want kids? 

Even before we got married, we were faced with having to give up our dog Yoshi and the distinct possibility he would never be adopted. Thankfully, Chris’ parents took him back to Indiana with them, but that raises its own issues, like feeling the self-inflicted internal pressure to make enough money to get a place where we can take him back.

Do other married people have these problems? I’m sure they do. And I’m positive that couples have faced worse unemployment, worse debt, worse mental illness, and so on. I want to always be aware of the privilege I have, but I’m selfish and self-pitying. I see other couples with Instagram-perfect lives and go between feeling glad I’m not a fraud, and then furious that we’re not them. I see other couples having or planning babies, and I’m flabbergasted that they aren’t freaking the f*** out every minute of every day. I envy identity/orientation confidence. I envy white-picket fences and Tuesday date nights and dishwashers. But mostly, I fear.

I fear I will never be happy at the same church as my husband.
I fear 9-5 jobs and “work shoes” and imperfect bosses.
I fear eternal debt.
I fear little pink capsules and inefficient pharmacies.
I fear loneliness because I don’t dare get close to other women.

I fear God and His timing, which is so unlike our own, that to Him nothing is “unexpected, “too soon,” or “too late.” 

How To Not Compliment Caitlyn Jenner

If you’ve been online at all in the past few days, you know that Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner) is the big topic of discussion. Instead of writing about the polarizing reactions I’ve seen – which range from applause, to collapsing on the fainting couch in horror – I want to write about something that Laverne Cox discussed and what is a common thread in conversations by people who do support trans people and trans rights.

This is from Laverne Cox. The emphasis is added:

A year ago when my Time magazine cover came out I saw posts from many trans folks saying that I am “drop dead gorgeous” and that that doesn’t represent most trans people. (It was news to be that I am drop dead gorgeous but I’ll certainly take it). But what I think they meant is that in certain lighting, at certain angles I am able to embody certain cisnormative beauty standards. Now, there are many trans folks because of genetics and/or lack of material access who will never be able to embody these standards. More importantly many trans folks don’t want to embody them and we shouldn’t have to to be seen as ourselves and respected as ourselves . It is important to note that these standards are also infomed by race, class and ability among other intersections. I have always been aware that I can never represent all trans people. No one or two or three trans people can. This is why we need diverse media representstions of trans folks to multiply trans narratives in the media and depict our beautiful diversities.

Caitlyn Jenner’s appearance has been a huge focus of her big debut. The quote (from a supportive Demi Lovato) that I was most troubled by came from the singer’s twitter:

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The problem with focusing on how attractive a trans person is or pointing out body parts, and saying things like, “So-and-so looks more like a woman that I do,” “You could never tell that so-and-so wasn’t born a man,” or anything that breaks down to objectifying their appearance, basically says that how someone looks is what defines a man or a woman. I don’t think Demi Lovato is aware of what her statement suggests, but it boils down to beliefs like, “The better the boobs, the more woman the woman.”

Why is this a big deal? Because it facilitates a culture of violence against trans people. Extreme? Unfortunately, no. Beauty and appearance play a huge role in how people are viewed, and trans people are no exception. There are way too many stories about trans women being assaulted or murdered because a straight cis man has felt she has “tricked” him into finding her attractive. The term “trap” is used to describe a transwoman who hasn’t had surgery, but is still conventionally “hot” for a woman. People often get extremely confused – even enraged – when they can’t identify the gender of complete strangers they see on the street because that person doesn’t fall into conventional appearance standards for “male” or “female.” In July of 2013 from Canada to the United States to Central and South America, trans people were being murdered at a 50% higher rate than gay and lesbian people, who outnumber trans people 6 to 1. Think about that number for a second. And let’s not pretend their murders were not almost assuredly connected to their trans identity.

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Society is obsessed with appearance. To keep focusing on that, especially in the case of trans people where that type of focus leads to violence – is dangerous and unfair. Trans people are people, first and foremost, with stories and interests and fears and doubts and dreams. As Laverne Cox wrote, trans people – like any person – want to be seen for who they are as themselves, not for their appearance. They shouldn’t have to embody certain standards of beauty to be seen as who they are. To reduce their journey to whether or not they “pass,” is not a compliment.

A New Year

Sometimes the reason we keep secrets isn’t because we’re ashamed of them, but because we’ve been conditioned to believe that we are supposed to be ashamed. Sometimes certain things seem like a big deal not because they play a large role in our lives, but because others will inflate what the thing really means and draw conclusions beyond the reality.

For as long as I can remember, I have been more drawn to girls than to boys. With the exception of Chris and a few others, all of my intimate interests have been women. I was never satisfied with my female friendships and always felt confused about why. Was I expecting too much? Demanding too much attention and affection? When I started having best friends, I devoted myself to them like a lovesick puppy. Every love song meant more. I couldn’t imagine life without that particular person at that particular time. When the friendship inevitably ran its course, I felt crushed, like a person does when they go through a breakup. I always seemed more hurt and lost than the object of my affection and it troubled me.

When hormones made their grand entrance, I rarely fantasized about men. When I did, it was always in a situation where I was being rescued by, or rescuing, a woman from an assault committed by a male. Even when I was in my first relationship and had more sensual feelings towards him, the fantasies about women never lessened. I was confused. When I went to a spiritual counselor, she led me to believe that these fantasies were driven by a fear of men, not a predisposition for women. I accepted it. She also told me that the fantasies were a demonic manifestation. I was afraid of my thoughts. And my dreams. I couldn’t control my dreams. It was exhausting.

When I had addressed the reason behind my fear of men (a negative childhood experience) and became interested in having a relationship again, I expected the “lesbian spirit” to go away. It did not. It was becoming increasingly sexual in nature. Hadn’t I done everything right? I had gone to various deliverance ministries and prayed against demons till my head ached. What was left?

When I left my hyper-spiritual ministries and backed away from long, exhausting prayer sessions, I started to feel more at peace with myself. Maybe it was time to just accept my sexual feelings as a part of me that wasn’t going to change, and that wasn’t some spiritual oppression polluting my soul. It wasn’t like my desire was hindering me in any way. I wasn’t even actively pursuing a relationship with a woman, rarely did my sexual thoughts even lean towards girls that I knew, it was all actresses, musicians, or people who have passed quickly through my life.

The reason I’m opening up about this isn’t because I feel like it’s some big revelation that shatters my current life. Sexuality is not composed as simply “straight” or “homosexual.” Most people fall somewhere in a spectrum, and it isn’t always the same for each individual person either. I definitely don’t fall in the straight category and I don’t think it’s a big deal. I don’t “struggle” with homosexual desire, because I’m perfectly fine with it. I’ve chosen the person I’m going to stay faithful to, and I’m just as likely to leave him for a woman as I am to leave him for a man (not likely at all). I happened to fall in love with a man. I could have just as easily fallen in love with a woman. Honestly, the thought of that possibility kind of terrifies me, because the consequences of that happening are unimaginable to me, in terms of how people would react. It was very convenient that Chris is a man.

I’m opening up because I’ve been open about a lot of things, and keeping this back made me feel like I was ashamed of it, or at least, that I should be ashamed. It’s a part of my life, so why should I censor it out? Why should I just sit back and stay quiet about my personal experience with homosexual desires while people argue about it in a purely theoretical fashion, treating it like something that can be prayed away, or like a bad habit that if ignored or fought against, will fade away? People cannot control their desires. What we can control is our actions, and that is a uniquely personal journey. This has been mine.

It’s 2014 in two days, and I’m done keeping this secret.

Uganda Just Made Homosexuality A Life-In-Prison Crime

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Yesterday was weird. My blog post on Phil Robertson got me over 150 views, ignited several discussions, and by the end of the day, I had seen so many posts about it that I wanted to set my eyes on fire.

Today, Uganda passed an anti-gay bill that expands on the country’s homosexual lifestyle ban; a person could face life in person for being in a gay relationship. It also outlaws advocacy of gay rights, gives incentives for citizens to turn in people they know who are gay, and anyone who officiates a same-sex marriage could be put in prison for seven years. This is a modified version of the original bill, which was called the “Kill the Gays” bill by its detractors because it called for the execution of gay people.

Both of these events are significant and they are linked. Here, Christians often play the victim and are confused about how their views on homosexuality could be seen as “hateful.” They defend politicians and celebrities who oppose gay marriage and a gay lifestyle. It’s not hate, it’s just “Biblical truth.” That is not how it is playing out on a global scale.

The Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill was not born in Africa – it is a Western export. One month before the bill was introduced, three Christians who were presented as “experts” on homosexuality held an event that drew thousands, including Ugandan politicians, police officers, pastors, and teachers. The experts gave talks on how to turn gay people straight, how gay men assaulted teenage boys, and emphasized the “evils” of the “gay agenda.” When the bill was brought forth, it was by a Ugandan politician who used his friendships with various evangelical American Christians as part of his platform.

Every year, hundreds of Evangelical Christian groups and other disciples travel to Uganda to spread the heterosexual message.This includes The International House of Prayer, a mega-church organization that has poured millions of dollars into Ugandan churches that are promoting an anti-gay ideology. This group and its forebearers especially has been a major force in fostering the anti-gay sentiment that exists in Uganda, having established themselves right after the fall of Idi Amin, who outlawed Charismatic Christianity. A few years ago, evangelical pastor Lou Engle held a rally that included authors of the bill when it still included the death penalty. American politicians like Jim DeMint continue to supply funds.

Here in America, we have a government that is layered with multiple voices and countless groups dedicated to protecting essentially every interest. We freely discuss sex and are able to express extreme views without much consequence. That is not the case in Uganda. There is a history of not being open about sex and the influence brought in by the West and Western money is extremely prevalent. This is not to say that Uganda is some child-nation that just follows what the United States tells it to do, the Ugandan politicians and pastors are just as accountable for their messages, but when you have Americans with money flying in to try and create a nation in its own (idealized, hetero) image, there will be consequences.

Parliament passed the bill (despite the prime minister’s objections to the life in prison punishment). The government is allowing publications to issue lists with the names of gay people who then fear for their lives. One man who successfully sued the magazine that outed him was then mysteriously killed. Filmmaker Roger Ross Williams (“God Loves Uganda”) was outed before his trip to Uganda to film his documentary “God Loves Uganda,” and was threatened by people who included pastors.

No one on Facebook got upset about this. No one called out evangelical Christianity for its role in establishing this bill.

 

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/africa/04uganda.html?_r=0

http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/07/evangelicals-gay-rights-ihop-god-loves-uganda-sundance

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/21/inside_ugandas_anti_gay_evangelical_crusade/

http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/12/20/3093931/uganda-passes-kill-gays-anti-homosexuality/

Why I Don’t Call Myself “Pro-Life” (As Defined By A Google Image Search)

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I’ve been sitting on this blog topic for a while now, because I have a lot of thoughts and it’s controversial. I like to work through things when those two things collide. First of all, I’d just like to say that I do not like abortion. I don’t like to really think about the process of abortion, because I do not like it. In my perfect world, no woman would ever want or need one. But the world isn’t perfect. So we make due. I would also like to say that this post is about the movement as a whole, and not individual people whom I know. Most of the pro-lifers I know are genuinely kind people. However, there are aspects of their beliefs that I do not understand. 

I cannot buy into the whole pro-life stance because it confuses me on a couple of different levels. It’s inconsistent. It contradicts itself. It approves of certain people who should not be approved of. It lies. It manipulates. 

I have two main issues with the pro-life movement and its numerous organizations: 1) Its emotional manipulation and 2) Its inconsistency.

  I’m not sure when the emotional manipulation began for the pro-life movement, but I’m betting a lot of it was sparked by “The Silent Scream,” an anti-abortion film made in the ’80s that is famous (or infamous) for its graphic visuals and videotape of an actual abortion on a sonogram. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a former abortionist, was behind the film. During the showing of the abortion, he says, “We see the child`s mouth wide open in a silent scream. . . . It is moving away in an attempt, a pathetic attempt, to escape. . . . This child senses the most mortal danger imaginable.” This is just horrible, and not because it’s true. The fetus was 12 weeks old. Other medical experts denied the fetus’ ability to move with purpose and it’s unlikely that the part of the brain that perceives pain was even formed yet.  It does not sense danger, it doesn’t know emotions. Don’t mistake my skepticism of Dr. Nathanson as callousness about abortion. Like I’ve said, I do not like abortion. I am not “pro-death.” I also do not like being manipulated. “The Silent Scream” is not an unbiased presentation of facts, it has an agenda, and could be called propaganda. This is why I am wary of pro-life and its aggressive attempts to hit upon my emotions; it has a very specific purpose and will not present ideas that contradict that purpose. Like the idea that fetuses can’t feel pain until a certain stage of development.     

This is my problem: I don’t like child prostitution. I think it’s horrendous. Do I go around waving pictures of a child being raped? No. Why? Because it’s unnecessary and is more disturbing than anything else. It shocks people. It doesn’t necessarily move them to action. Now, this isn’t a great example, because pretty much everyone who isn’t crazy also doesn’t like child prostitution. Abortion is different, because a ton of people don’t think it’s that bad or that fetuses aren’t people yet, so pro-lifers wave around pictures to show that, yes, this is actually a pretty violent thing. I get it. A better example would be if I was protesting what happened in Abu Ghraib and other enhanced interrogation techniques, and had signs with pictures of soldiers and prisoners. Images like that mostly just shock people and don’t actually change anyone’s mind. It’s especially troublesome when emotional manipulation involves children. Lots of children are involved in pro-life events, and it disturbs me. I don’t think a six-year old boy who doesn’t know what a vagina or sex is should be holding a grotesque sign of an aborted fetus. That’s just the worst. Even those Pro-Life Across America signs with cute babies saying cute things bother me. People who get abortions rarely have problems with babies themselves. It’s the whole being pregnant and changing their entire lives thing. Seeing a sign with a baby is not going to convince them about anything; it could even have the reverse effect and harden their hearts further. Because they know they’re being manipulated.

      This December, a suit was filed by the ACLU against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops because of a situation where a woman received improper medical care from a Catholic hospital. After 18 weeks, her water broke and she went to the only hospital in her county, which was Catholic. She was given medication for her pain and sent home. She returned the next morning with bleeding and was again told to go home. The third day, she went back yet again, where she miscarried and the baby died. Medical officials reviewed the case and concluded that the hospital should have informed the woman that her baby had next to no chance of surviving and that removing the fetus was an option. The hospital’s actions could have resulted in the woman developing a fatal infection. The ACLU decided to file the suit against the Conference instead of the hospital because this is only one of many cases where religious policies put upon Catholic hospitals has resulted in dangerous medical practices.

      This is just one example of where the pro-life movement (especially in situations involving the Catholic church) is inconsistent in its claim that it values all life. Doctors have been excommunicated for performing emergency abortions to save the life of the mother. In Ireland, one of the strictest countries in terms of abortion law, a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant was told she was miscarrying baby, but was then denied an emergency termination. Despite the woman’s severe pain, the doctors said that they had to wait until the baby had no heartbeat. When they determined the baby had indeed died, they removed the fetus. Savita Halappanavar died four days later of a blood infection.

      In the Dominican Republic, where all abortions are banned, 16-year old Rosa died after her cancer treatment was delayed 20 days because the chemotherapy could have terminated her pregnancy.  The ban in the Dominican Republic made headlines in 2009 when it was put in place and received support from American pro-life groups. LifeNews, a popular pro-life website, quoted one of the Americans involved: “We have witnessed firsthand the grievous slaughter of innocent children in America, and we are committed to helping our friends in the Dominican Republic to avoid the same mistakes.”

Was he thinking about the women who might be affected by this ban? What about their lives? It’s easy to justify outright bans by saying how rare Rosa’s circumstances are, and even how rare pregnancy by rape or incest is, but that’s dangerous thinking. It erases all the women it does affect, which number thousands in the US alone. Each life is important, isn’t it? Or does that only apply to the unborn?

     It’s been a criticism of the pro-life movement for a long time, that they only seem to care about fetuses, and as soon as that kid is born, it’s on its own. We’ve got pro-life politicians voting to restrict abortion and then in the same day, voting to cut food stamps and arguing against minimum wage. I’ve seen people mocking those who want higher wages by saying they deserve what they have, because they aren’t “skilled” enough to get more. So you’ve got a sixteen-year old girl who drops out of high school to raise the baby YOU wanted her to have, and then you’re saying she doesn’t really need those food stamps, and that she shouldn’t be earning more per hour at McDonald’s because “McDonald’s was never intended to be a career.” Oh, the compassion. Again, I’m not saying all pro-lifers are cold-hearted monsters. Most of the people I know would want to help the 16-year old mom and wouldn’t be jerks about it, but what I am saying is look at who you are voting for and look at the inconsistencies. They may wear the Pro-Life badge, but what else are they wearing? Do they actually care about people? Or are they just spouting some emotional tirades about thumb-sucking ultrasounds to get your check mark?

    Another area where the pro-life movement is glaringly inconsistent is when it comes to sex education and contraception. Over and over again, abstinence-only education has been proven to fail. The idea that sex education promotes or hastens sexual activity among teens has also been proven false. Many Christian pro-life organizations continue to push for it. Face it: if someone is going to have sex, a teacher telling them not to is not going to change their mind. People also make mistakes and compromise their values. They need a safety net. You can’t just say that kids should learn about sex from their parents and that it’s not the school’s business, and then when the parents fail at that and a teenager gets pregnant, suddenly leap in the ring and start telling everyone what to do. Why so interested now and not before? Again, is it worth your time just because there’s a fetus involved?

       Most people are also misinformed about contraception, and pro-life groups calling morning-after pills “abortion pills” (which do exist, but are not the same as morning-after) does not help. Christians all too often also promote (or at least passively approve) the idea that women who use contraception are “sluts.” A woman only needs to be having sex with one person to need birth control. So, relax. It’s not like every woman who gets her hands on birth control is going to lose her mind and start having sex with anything that moves. There aren’t some libido-boosting chemicals in those things. People also get upset at the idea that insurance will cover birth control and recently, that Obamacare will cover more women than ever before. Isn’t that a good thing? More birth control means less unwanted pregnancies means less abortions. This ties into the inconsistency thing for me – people get all red-faced about paying for birth control and then get super mad about abortions. One thing could have prevented the other, and if you really believe that abortion is murder, then paying for birth control is waaaaay less morally objectionable than having taxes go towards abortion (which they do not), so what is the real issue here? Is this really about saving babies, or is it about sex you don’t want women to have? It sounds like it’s about sex, especially when people say that getting pregnant is a “consequence” of having sex, so women should just deal with it and not get an abortion. I thought a baby was a blessing, not a punishment. Make up your mind. This is confusing to me. If I’m going to call myself pro-life, I don’t want all this extra “NO SEX FOR YOU” and “NO BIRTH CONTROL EITHER” hanging around.

    Abortion should not be banned. Number one reason: it does not actually stop abortion. In Africa and Latin America (where most countries have very tight restrictions), abortion rates are about 29 per 1,000 and 32 per 1,000. In Western Europe (where abortion permitted on “broad grounds), the rate is 12 per 1,000. In countries where the restrictions are the most strict, abortions are also the most unsafe, so more women die. Now, these numbers are not to be blindly taken as truth (the Guttmacher Institute faces a decent amount of criticism because of its number-gathering methods in certain countries, though I found only one legit source that criticizes them, and then the rest are all pro-life/Christian websites and blogs, soooooo a little biased there), but I’m inclined to believe that in countries that are considered “developing” – where there’s a lack of modern medical care in rural areas, high poverty rates, little access to birth control, and very strict abortion laws – there are going to be a lot of abortions done unsafely (either self-induced or by non-professionals). If a woman wants to have an abortion, she will get an abortion. And she might die in the process.

     Reason two – The women who are the most vulnerable and most at risk will be the ones to suffer most. I’m talking about pregnant women with cancer, rape victims, women at risk for infections, women who can’t bear the thought of their child being born only to suffer for a few hours and then die, women whose babies will be born dead….this is not emotional manipulation, these are facts. People can try and dismiss the statistics, and just focus on a teenager who made a mistake and wants a “quickie abortion,” but the reality is there is no one type of person who would ever want an abortion. That’s important to at least think about, to look at their stories, to hear their reasons, and not to just shame them and write them as “baby killers.” Who is that helping?

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Side Bar:

I also come across this thing where people are all like, “You care about this typhoon in Indonesia/any other horrible thing in the world? Well, babies are dying! Isn’t that worse?” Like it’s some kind of competition. Or this has happened a couple times, where I say how sad those polar bears commercials make me, or that Sarah McLachlan ad about the animals, and I get this aggressive “Abortion is the new Holocaust!” thrown in my face. Yesssss, that is also bad. Which is why I support more birth control, comprehensive sex education, and less shaming about children outside of marriage…what exactly do you think? And, as a head’s up, don’t go around calling things “the new Holocaust” or saying things are “like the Holocaust.” Because it’s not. It’s not the systematic extermination of a certain race and faith by a dictator, and yes, I do in fact know that Margaret Sanger was into eugenics, but did you know that organizations can change and not hold to every wacko idea that their founders had? Henry Ford was way into eugenics too, but we still buy Ford. Calm down.

Also, google “Pro life” and look at what comes up. A LOT of emotional appeals there. And shaming. Like that nice little bumper sticker that says, “The root cause of abortion is selfishness.” Really? Is it? Every time? Ok. I’ll stick that on the car of the politician who said that abortions in situations where the mother’s life is at risk are about “convenience.”

 

Sources:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-03-17/news/8501150835_1_fetus-dr-bernard-nathanson-abortion

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/us/lawsuit-challenges-anti-abortion-policies-at-catholic-hospitals.html?_r=0

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/08/world/europe/ireland-abortion-controversy

http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/18/world/americas/dominican-republic-abortion/

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/11/07/study-finds-abstinence-only-programs-fail-to-reduce-teen-sexual-behavior/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/23/brian-nieves_n_3640587.html

How Can I Be A Christian

I was recently asked how I could be a Bible-believing Christian and believe what I do about homosexuality. This is not the first time I’ve been asked this. It’s kind of becoming a thing for me. The sting gets less sharp each time, and I’m really praying that my heart doesn’t harden further either. This isn’t in a response to a particular person, but it’s something I think about a lot, because like I said, this question is brought to me frequently. I’m not judging whether people who ask me this are really Christians. I really want to express an answer to them. I can see how some people find my beliefs and my faith to be in competition. 

What people don’t understand is that I can be a Christian and question the Bible and how it affects people’s lives. It’s the same as looking around a world filled with murder, rape, disease, and death, and question if God really is love. The questioning doesn’t mean I’ve stopped believing. It means I’m wrestling.

The Bible is not easy to swallow and even harder to digest. Sure, there are parts that are sweet, but there are others that are as bitter as gall. I can’t just numbly accept the fact that God frequently ordered His followers to commit genocide, and I can’t just accept the excuse that “Things were different in the Old Testament.” Was God just pissed off back then? Took a few hundred years to cool off and then sent Jesus, who was all nice and loved everyone? No. God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and so I wrestle.

What people don’t understand is that there are different ways to interpret the Bible. I personally don’t think that it’s “Biblical” to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Knowing Jesus, I just don’t see him shutting an oven, crossing his arms and being all, “Sorry, bro, no homo.” People keep saying that Jesus “offended” people with the truth, but they always neglect to clarify who Jesus offended. He always offended the Pharisees. Today, those would be pastors, evangelical celebrities, members of the 700 club, and the Religious Right. He wouldn’t have looked at a woman who had gotten drunk and been raped and say, “Well, I’m sorry, but if you didn’t dress like that…” He wouldn’t respond to a new restriction on abortion by tweeting a picture of a coat hanger. He wouldn’t stick pamphlets about gay marriage into kids’ Halloween bags. He would do things that surprise the people who claim to know Him best. That’s where I want to have “an open mind.” I don’t want to miss Him because I have this preconceived notion of where He walks.

People used the same arguments against gay marriage for racial discrimination, and while I’m not saying sexuality and race are equal in every way, the point is the Bible has been misread before and I’m just very interested in figuring out what the heck certain parts of the Bible are talking about, even beyond sexuality. Religion and “Bible-believing Christians” have caused centuries of injustice so I want to be cautious before I claim a specific opinion is God-breathed and infallible.

I can be a Bible-believing Christian while still questioning everything because being a Christian never depended on one’s certainty of doctrine. It depends on love. I can be a Christian because at the end of the day, after oceans of doubt and questions have washed over me, I still choose to swim towards the horizon towards Jesus. Very rarely are people brought to Christ because they heard a Christian saying things like, “That’s just how it is. It’s not me, it’s the Bible. It’s sin, plain and simple. I’m just telling you the truth.” People are brought to Christ because of love.

I Kicked “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” Goodbye

ImageI was around twelve when I encountered Josh Harris for the first time. He was quite the thing at the Northwestern Bookstore. OMG, ya’ll, this young kid wrote a book about not dating, he’s going to start a revolution! The premise was dating was “practicing divorce” because the more you date, the more pieces your heart breaks into and the less you have to give to your future spouse. Josh was also very focused on physical and mental purity. Very focused.

As a young girl who developed early, this book terrified me. Using very specific stories, Josh Harris wove a hideous tapestry of what dating and premarital hanky-panky (which included full-body hugs, playing with a guy’s hair, and kisses) led to. My memory is a little blurry, but I believe it led to the spiritual equivalent of living on the street and training cockroaches to dance for nickels to pay for the porno theater, a fate so dire that only the sweat brought on by the spotlights of abstinence conferences and WOW concerts could possibly heal your soul.

I resolved to never date. I had already held hands with a boy at this point and after confessing my sin to both God and my parents, braced myself for the pure life. Being fixated on school and cats, and possessing what I believed was a holy fear of my own body, sensuality and dating never really came up again until I was fifteen. My resolve wavered. I imagined going on dates with my crush, holding hands and running across the beach. However, he was also a kid raised up in the tradition of Josh Harris, and so as is fitting for a young man, first approached my father to ask to court me. Yes, court. Because dating is for people who can’t commit. I still remember getting into the car after my crush scuttled away and having my dad look back at me with the strangest expression. It was somehow both a mixture of amusement and horror. 

Thus began my first foray into romance. Since we were “courting,” more was to be expected. My boyfriend (we did agree to use the term because no other term seemed to fit) even wrote up a plan for what his intentions were. Courting meant intentional dating, the intention being marriage. By the way, I was sixteen years old. I’m pretty sure my parents only agreed to this because I had been madly in love with this boy for three years and to deny me would result in World War III.

My dreams had come true. I was holding hands with a boy. I had my arm around a boy. As our relationship progressed, my Josh Harris-planted fear followed. What was ok? Could he touch my leg? No, that was too close to “that area.” Ok, taking note from Josh Harris’ other book, “Not Even a Hint,” anything that led to sexual thoughts was to be avoided at all costs. Soooo….being in the same room as each other? Instead of barricading ourselves in separate rooms, I decided that anything I wasn’t sure about, I should ask my mom. She essentially confirmed most of my worries and I spent the rest of my romantic relationship going back and forth between what was allowed and what was heading into cockroach-training territory.

Only once did I really falter. Toward the beginning of what would be a catastrophic breakup, I asked the boy to kiss me. He would not. My ego a little more than bruised, I retreated, and the relationship dissolved shortly after that. Looking back, I’m very glad that he wasn’t my first kiss, but we’ll continue with that story a bit later on.

Now being single, I had time to think about how Josh Harris’ plan for my purity had worked out. Honestly, not very well. It was exhausting and saturated with guilt. Trying to keep track of all the things we could or could not do sucked the life right out of the relationship. If, as Josh Harris says, anything that makes you feel turned on is bad, then yeah, you probably should just leave the room. When has the suppression of natural physical responses ever worked out? I’m not saying to just let natural physical responses  run wild, either. Obviously, there is a line. It’s different to hug your boyfriend/girlfriend goodbye and get a twinge than it is to make out for two hours. The twinge is not the devil poking you with his pitchfork. The feelings you get after making out for two hours will be a little stronger, and if you’re trying to attain a certain level of purity, you’re certainly not helping yourself, but I’d say you’re still not bathing in hellfire.  And people’s bodies and hormones and twingy things are different. Josh Harris acts as if everyone is the same, which they are not.

Since the boy and I begun with the intention of marrying, or at least thinking about it, the breakup was truly like a divorce. If we had casually dated, as Josh Harris discourages, the breakup would not have hurt as much. “Dating” doesn’t have to be like a mini-marriage. It can just be going to movies or out to dinner. To say that when you stop doing that is a divorce, is saying marriage is nothing more than a series of Olive Garden visits and rollerskating some Friday nights. It also implies that anyone who has dated a lot and doesn’t feel especially devastated, should be ashamed. Josh, just because you feel bad that you had a few casual girlfriends before meeting your wife, doesn’t mean everyone in the world has to feel the way you do.

It took me a good three years to get over my first love. When I met Chris, I was concerned (though wary is probably the better word) about the physical aspect. Now knowing that my body was not the devil’s playground until it was sealed in marriage, I was less terrified. It had just been a while since romance had played a part in my life and I was not sure how I would respond. On our first “real” date, Chris held my hand. I did not burst into flame. On the third date, he put his arm around me, and after leading me to my dorm, tried to kiss me. I panicked and stealthily turned the kiss into a hug. It was pretty awkward. I immediately ran upstairs and typed up an email that explained that I was saving my first kiss for when I was engaged. I hadn’t actually been planning that, I just sort of wrote it. The funny thing is, the minute I wrote it, I knew that Chris was the person I would probably end up kissing. A few weeks later, he was.

Chris was my first kiss. I was not Chris’ first kiss. Guess what? It was just as special for both of us! Because it isn’t just “the kiss” that’s significant, it’s the person you’re kissing. Josh Harris makes kissing seem like the equivalent of sex (he actually uses the word “penetration” when describing it), but it doesn’t have to be. He has made so many kids afraid of their own bodies and urges, that if they do so much kiss someone, their hormones erupt like a volcano and pretty soon we’ve got pregnant teenage bellies popping all over the place. It’s all or nothing. 

The problem with all or nothing thinking is that it is hard to fit grace into the picture.