Drinking, random sex, and crying on Sunday nights

Got in the letter below. Following it I’ll run the letter again, but this time with my spontaneous thoughts and responses to it embedded in bracketed lovely blue.

Hello John,

Sometimes you feel a tug on your heart, a little nudge or prompt, and for whatever reason, I want to write to you. Probably because you’re lovely and kind and I feel like your blog and Facebook pages are more of my church than the one I actually attend.

I’m a lesbian and I know that’s what I’m branded as at my church. It’s the label people have attached to me. I know it’s what they think about before they say hello. I know it’s what they pray about when they say they’ll pray for me.

I hate being torn between the people I love and the person I am.

I go online and feel accepted, like God is accepting me and telling me that I was created like this. But then I leave church ashamed and conflicted. My Friday night is one where I get off with random women and sometimes do more and then my Sunday night is me crying, whether Downton Abbey is on or not. I’m living in two worlds and I want them to be brought together.

I have a personality disorder and I get addicted easily. I’ve dabbled in drugs and I binge drink like cider isn’t going to be there tomorrow. And to finish it off, I self harm. I’m in counseling yet I feel like I’m going round in circles.

I’m sorry for using the word “I” so much. It always makes me feel selfish, which I probably am, but anyway.

Please help. Help would be terrific, top notch, super duper.

Best wishes.

 

Hello John, [yo]

Sometimes you feel a tug on your heart, a little nudge or prompt, and for whatever reason, I want to write to you. [Whoa. That was pretty majorly lovely.] Probably because you’re lovely [hey! same word!] and kind and I feel like your blog and Facebook pages are more of my church than the one I actually attend. [Wow—thank you for that.]

I’m a lesbian and I know that’s what I’m branded as at my church. [Branded. That's such a loathsome phenomenon with which gay people are so painfully burdened. It's so ridiculous that gay people have to go through life knowing that about the first thing straight people think about them—and most often pretty much the only thing straight people can seem to think about them—is who they are sexually. Who wants to have their sexuality always be the main focus of who they are and how they live? It's like if I, a straight guy, had to go everywhere out in the world with my badoinker hanging out of my pants, or with a big sign on my forehead that said ... I dunno, "I dig hand jobs," or whatever. Ugh.]

It’s the label people have attached to me. [Of course they have. Ugh redux.] I know it’s what they think about before they say hello. I know it’s what they pray about when they say they’ll pray for me. [I hate your church. You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to start telling straight people, "I'll pray for your predilection for sexual perversity." (It'd be worth saying that just to see that panicked look sure to flash across their face as they wonder how the heck I know about them.)]

I hate being torn between the people I love and the person I am. [That sentiment and insanely painful reality is exactly why I collected and presented the stories I did in UNFAIR.]

I go online and feel accepted, like God is accepting me and telling me that I was created like this. [Yay Internet!] But then I leave church ashamed and conflicted. [Boo church.] My Friday night is one where I get off with random women and sometimes do more and then my Sunday night is me crying, whether Downton Abbey is on or not. [That's pretty much the greatest/most perfect sentence I've ever read: what about the human experience doesn't it capture? But writerly-art aside, I'm so sorry that Sunday nights sometimes, or perhaps even often, find you crying. That's just the saddest thing. You don't deserve that.]

I have a personality disorder and I get addicted easily. [Everybody's got a personality disorder, and everyone gets addicted easily. Just know that.] I’ve dabbled in drugs and I binge drink like cider isn’t going to be there tomorrow. And to finish it off, I self harm. [In one way or another everyone self-harms: everyone eats too much, or drinks too much, or smokes too much weed or tobacco, or in some other way facilitates their own destruction. People are just sort of designed to self-destruct: the will to death, and all that. It sounds like you, perhaps habitually, cut or burn yourself. That's not good; that's a habit you'll want to break by seeing a counselor to help you understand why you're doing that.]

I’m in counselling yet I feel like I’m going round in circles. [Well, consider getting yourself a different counselor. And to cut to the chase with all this sort of stuff: the reason you're cutting yourself is because at a very deep level you accept as true the horrible lie that someone drilled into you—and I'm gonna guess that someone was your parents, cuz it's always the parents—which is that you are bad and wrong and weak and evil and terrible and embarrassing and disappointing: that you are, in a word, a loser. You believe that about yourself; by hurting yourself you're trying to prove your parents right about you, and to show your devotion to them, your love for them despite it all. That's ... the way your parents got you, forever: whether they meant to or not, they ultimately turned your organic, ineradicable love for them into a weapon you use against yourself. For a bit more on this, read my Perpetually unhappy? Consider rejecting your parents. (And of course the terrible bitch of it is that you also—and perhaps even primarily—grew up with the universe messaging to you that because you're gay you're less than human. Thanks, world, for that vicious craziness. And thanks for daring to claim that toxic inanity comes first and foremost from God, lazy and bigoted Christians.)]

I’m sorry for using the word “I” so much. [Oh, please. That's the only word anyone ever wants to use anyway. You're just being honest.] It always makes me feel selfish, which I probably am, but anyway. [You don't sound selfish to me, at all. You sound awesome to me. I love the way you write and think. Besides, again, everyone is obsessively selfish. Your problem isn't that you think there's anything wrong with you. Your problem is that you don't yet realize that there is a ton of stuff wrong with everybody. You think too little of yourself, and way too much of others. But that only means that you are (I'm guessing) young. Time will even out for you the balance between how crazy you and how crazy it turns out everyone else is, too. The good news is that you're not special; from what I can tell there's nothing particularly wrong with you. The bad news is ... well, that ultimately balancing out/healing can be kind of ... anti-climatic, insofar as it's easy to use your "dysfunction" as a way of keeping yourself feeling unique and special. Once you realize that everyone's crazy, and therefore crazy is entirely normal, it's all kind of ... "Meh. Life. What's for dinner?" Which is awesome. But not exactly dramatic.]

Please help. [What can I do but what I have?] Help would be terrific, top notch, super duper. [Okay, well, I can definitely offer you this career advice: become a writer. I could see that being ... the new way you go, if you haven't already. You've definitely got that special and magical word thing writers have.]

Best wishes. [To you too, sweetheart. Write me and keep me up.]

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • Jan Dobson

    This is the awesomest letter and response ever. Really.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

    Beautiful, poignant letter. Her pain and her constantly breaking heart just leaps off the page. John is right. You, letter writer, beautiful woman, who I just want to hug like a momma hugs her babies, have a wonderful way with words. You need to write more… a lot more.

    John’s advice is, as usual, spot on. I hope that you discover what he and, I’m sure, others already feel about you, that you are valuable, that you are loved, that the opinions of those who can’t bring themselves to see you as a sister walking through life just as they, are of lesser importance than you give those opinions right now.

  • Patricia Anne Brush

    I don’t think she’s going to a church. I don’t think the people she sees there are Christian. I would bet that they probably think that they are and it is, but they’d be wrong.

  • Matt

    Letter Writer, you are intensely awesome. That is all.

  • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

    Letter writer,
    Thanks for your vulnerability – it’s a gift.
    Just goes to show…the human condition is not different for people who are gay. I wish certain straight Christians could get that through their tender skulls and stop behaving so hurtfully.
    Shame sucks; it’s a self-punishment for not living up to expectations. Please know that it’s the expectations that are screwed up, not you. You belong. You deserve an abundant life.

  • Jax Hill

    Letter Writer, you are a beautiful child of God — he loves you and made you just as you are! Find your identity as “Christ’s beloved” first and foremost. Believe it, and trust him to help you feel it. When you have that, it won’t be so hard dealing with what others think and say about you. And yes, keep writing. Connect with Christians who are on this path of love, love, love (Jesus, Jesus, Jesus) and you’ll find the caring community that will help build you up rather than bring you down. Stay strong darling!

    • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

      Wow, this ministers to me as well. Thank you, Jax.

  • https://elizabeth-fullerton.squarespace.com/resume Elizabeth

    God loves me just as I am. I’ve been diagnosed with 18 different disorders along the way. Everyone (parents included) wanted to ‘fix’ me.

    Then I found a mentor who uses ‘ADD’ on his business cards. And I learned ‘crazy’ is not an epithet. It’s bragging rights. We have all been there, done that. Godspeed.

    • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

      Elizabeth, you’re so cool. :)

      • Jill

        A teenager, gawky and pasty yet in a good zone, and my older sister said to me dismissively in front of my best friend: don’t try to act cool. My reply: I don’t have to act.

        I feel like I’ve known Elizabeth my whole life.

  • Judy

    To the writer of the letter, please know that God loves you and accepts you as the wonderful person He created, just as you are. Please seek professional help if you are injuring yourself, whether through cutting or substance abuse. I know you are seeing a counselor and that is great. But it is possible you might be helped from medication, even in the short term, to help with recurrent negative feelings.
    To john! I love you writings! but I would strongly disagree with your assumption that the cause of her self harm is her parents. NSSI (non suicidal self injury) is a dysfunction which appears to be heterogeneous in causality as well as best methods of treatment. While I certainly would agree that her statement of rejection from her church contributes to her pain, she made no statements as to her parents or her youth. Furthermore, there are adolescents who suffer from NSSi who have very supportive and loving parents, who would do whatever they can to help their child. One cannot conclude that the cause of NSSI or anorexia or any other mental state that has an inherent self loathing feature is from the parent. Fault does not need to be assigned in any case, just help given.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      Obviously I disagree with most of what you’ve said here, but … well, that’s why I like the comments section, in that it allows people of differing perspectives and understandings to bring to the conversation their own ideas/thoughts/experience.

      • Judy

        John, when you say you disagree with most of what I said, can you clarify? For my part , if we move from the particular to the general, I was attempting to make the point that not all persons who have NSSI have bad parents.(hers may be indeed be horrid but she does not say ) I state that from an anecdotal as well as medical literature based opinion.
        As for the writer, her anguish is palpable. My fear is that even when you and I and all the other posters on this site tell her that she is worthy and loved just as she is, and that God loves her just as she is , that it will not be enough. If that is true I want her to know there are other resources.

        • mindy

          I’m not John, but I would wager he disagrees because of the vast number of LGBTQ people who have been castigated throughout their lives by their families simply because of their orientation. No, not all self-harming people have bad parents. Many kids who self-harm have at least one supportive parent – but many of those have one who isn’t, or who negates the help given by the other. Not always out of malice, of course – sometimes out of ignorance or naivete. I will say, though, that medication can be godsend if prescribed and managed properly. I hope, if the letter writer does not find peace otherwise, she explores that option.

    • Matt

      I prefer John’s take because it’s less…clinical. And I speak as a nursing student. I love clinical. But I think it has its place in an exam room or chart, not a simple letter. I also disagree with your use of the word “dysfunction.” While technically correct, it carries some stigma. I’m genuinely sure it was not your intention to come off that way.

      • Judy

        Matt , I speak clinically because I am a physician so it is how my brain is wired. And I certainly did not at all mean to attach stigma. Mental health should have no more stigma attatched to it than physical or spiritual health does. We all need help along the journey of life in some form or another. My meaning was more to be open to the idea that sometimes medication or more intensive therapy than average counseling can be beneficial. This is no way negates the damage that others, be they parent, church or friend can do to us. Is that clearer?

        • Matt

          Yes, that is clearer.

    • Alliecat04

      Cutting is something I personally find very hard to understand, yet I’ve had to deal with a lot of it in the young people I work with, so I have tried hard to understand it, both through medical literature and through talking to people who do it. So please forgive me if I get any of this wrong.

      But it seems to me like John is making the same error that I made when I first started thinking about it, in thinking that people who self-injure do it to feel BAD, to punish themselves or hurt themselves. As I understand it, that’s not the case at all. Self-injuring triggers brain chemicals which make the person who does it feel GOOD. It’s the same sort of self-medicating behavior as being an alcoholic or a drug user, except that instead of putting a foreign substance into the body, the person is manipulating their own body’s reactions.

  • Terri

    Letter writer:
    1. Get the hell out of that “church” they will kill your spirit. Find somewhere that actually loves you and teaches the love of God. It took my wife and I awhile, but we found our home in Phoenix, finally.
    2. You are a wonderful, beautiful creation of God, he made you the way you are, accept that (it only took my 42 yrs to do this) and those reasons you hurt yourself will just go away.
    3. There are a lot of us out there in this big ol world, seek counseling and get up everyday, look in the mirror and say to yourself while smiling : I love you. You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.
    4. Last but least……..random women……use protection! And have fun :)

  • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

    Oh, letter writer, you are so perfectly fashioned, so beautifully designed. You are worthy of being seen and celebrated. I pray Gods greatest and deepest blessings for you. I pray that He surprises you with happiness and answers. Blessings, sweet.

  • Toliniega Szebora Dobrowieść

    I’m going to start from being harsh and then go to being nice.

    Honestly, I would advise you, the letter writer, to stop having random sex (if that was what you meant). It’s not good for you. And it’s adultery. If that’s not sexually immoral, I don’t know what is.

    But other than this, oh girl, I pray you’ll find a loving community right for you. I know that it can be hard now, when you go to the church to come closer to Jesus but instead you only come close to the seemingly hate-filled people. But please endure it. It’s all going to change for the better, I’m sure.

    • https://elizabeth-fullerton.squarespace.com/resume Elizabeth

      Well, technically speaking, adultery is cheating on one’s spouse. It traces back to the Judeo-Christian (and just plain human) idea that you want the children your woman bears and you feed to be guaranteed yours. I was young and reckless, once upon a time. Most recently, I was celibate for three years. Can’t say I recommend either extreme.

      • Alliecat04

        The thing is, is casual sex making her feel good or terrible? It sounds from this letter as if it’s making her feel terrible. That’s what’s important. Well, that, and protecting her health.

        If every Friday night there’s someone willing to get off with you, but none of them want to stick around (or you want them to stick around) long enough to watch Downton Abbey, then something is going awry with the way you’re picking up people to have sex with. Maybe instead of picking up someone and having sex on Friday, pick up someone and ask if they would like to come over and watch Downton with you. Just a thought.

        • https://elizabeth-fullerton.squarespace.com/resume Elizabeth

          Oh no. Casual sex is extremely unrewarding. They don’t know what to stick where or why. (Once again, thanks John. J’adore being the dominatrix here!)

          Lesbian bed death is also a very real phenomenon. I’ve seen it in people I love. It’s another form of shame. I can’t encourage it just because they’re LGBT. Sex is God’s greatest gift. He wants us to, you know. Feel good.

          • Toliniega Szebora Dobrowieść

            I don’t say that God doesn’t want us to have sex. I only say, that I would prefer my future wife to be a virgin rather than to have a rich experience with tens or hundreds of different people. I don’t criticise her here. I’m only worried about this single habit. It may give her a lot of disappointment in the future.

            Also I don’t understand how celibate is extreme (as long as it’s not forced).

            As I can see it in the letters (more specifically 1 Corinthians 7:7-9) God has for us two scenarios: either to get marry and live in a monogamous relationship or live in celibate. I can’t see any space for a casual sex here. But maybe I’m wrong. Am I? Tell me how you would read it.

          • Alliecat04

            The thing is that the technology has changed since that was written. It’s very hard to know what Jesus would have said about casual sex in an era when the failure rate of implanted birth control is so low that in testing there were zero failures. Sex in the era the Bible was written meant children, and it meant providing for them.

          • Toliniega Szebora Dobrowieść

            Hmm… I didn’t consider that.

            But still. I think that it’s not only about children. I think that when a person engage in sex with random people, that person is in the same time destroying him/herself and what’s pure in him/her.
            It’s not that celibacy is going to superpurify you but it’s in a sense a part of bigger… something. It’s like swearing is not going to send you straight to hell (as we are reconciled with God as Christians, nothing really can do this) but if your vocabulary is based mostly on those swear words it says SOMETHING about you. In the same way, there is nothing wrong in sex but this area of our life is so close to our hearts that we can call it precious, right? So if you have something precious, you don’t let everyone have it. You keep it in a safe, hide from everyone, and tell about it only to your best friends that you trust most. And if you are going to let anyone touch it, you make sure it’s the right person. Someone who will not handle it carelessly and eventually break it.
            The same goes with sex. If you respect yourself, you are not going to have it with random people. You first check. And you need at least a couple of years to do this because people are complicated.

          • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

            Toliniega.

            I think it’s hard to find support for your position about sex with strangers in premodern culture where romantic attachments were not always considered in marriage. Women were compelled to have sex with strangers who they were suddenly married to – often as one among several wives.

            With that said, I agree with your point that sex is about so much more than procreation. Sexuality is a gift that helps us live as the relational creatures God intended us to be, and sex is a gift that helps bond us to other humans. Physical intimacy is a beautiful expression of emotional intimacy, and deepens those emotional bonds.

            That’s one of the reasons that infidelity involving sex can be so painful for the betrayed spouse.

            I don’t know that virginity at marriage is the healthiest model (or morally required) in a culture that is marrying later and is more concerned with compatibility than past generations. But, ultimately, I tend to be pretty prudish in my views about sex because of the emotional consequences.

          • Toliniega Szebora Dobrowieść

            I can agree with you that the situation of marriage at that times was highly unfair but where does it says in the Bible that God approved it as it was? I think God’s ideal was lifelong closed relationships. This is how the Bible speaks to me and this is what makes sens to me.

            And about virginity – I can accept that somebody would want to check if his fiancée is “good” before marrying her, I can even understand that sometimes that person can change his mind, break up and date someone else, but those are still relationships. But in the moment when you sleep with random people just once and then sleep with someone else, don’t take me wrong but what makes it not a hedonism? And isn’t lust one of so called deadly sins?

            I don’t say that to criticize anyone. For me it was just always obvious (even in my atheist years) that sleeping around is not morally neutral and against human dignity. I also believe that when we see our brother doing something he may regret in the future we should tell him rather than saying “oh, maybe it is wrong but it’s not my business, he will figure it out on his own, after all who am I to judge, maybe I’m wrong”. Of course, maybe I’m wrong. But maybe I’m not. For me she is hurting herself badly and as I can see, no one has yet told her. So I’m telling it now to her, not to condemn her but to make her think about it once again.

  • mindy

    Leave your church. You must. Any community – even if it is one of which you’ve been a part for a long time – that leaves you feeling so very disparaged is toxic. It has nothing to do with comfort or communing with God, and everything to do with judging and excluding. You do not need that – no one does. Listen to John – he’s spot on. Connect with women spiritually and philosophically and emotionally and intellectually rather than sexually for awhile, until you realize that you have more to offer than your body. I wish you peace, friend. You have an enviable talent for story-telling. Use that to create the life you want for yourself. Hugs -

  • Alliecat04

    Letter writer, I’m going to second Mindy in suggesting that you look for another church. You’re stuck with the family you were born with, but there are a lot of churches out there.

    On that note, I haven’t been to church myself in well over a year, since my dad had his stroke. And I wasn’t a good fit at my old church – not for any overtly horrid reason like the one you have, but for the simple reason that I was in a different stage of my life and had little in common with the young couples with babies at that church. Even in a church full of pleasant people who are all trying very hard to be nice it’s easy to feel judged if you are different. Tomorrow I’m going to visit a new church. Would you pray for me, and I’ll pray for you to find people who love and accept you? John Shore’s online community is a lovely place (yes, that is the perfect word) but when it comes down to it, people need hugs, they need to exchange smiles, they need to sit down at the same table and eat once in a while. We all deserve to be loved face-to-face as well as at a distance. Praying for you, darlin.

  • harrisco

    Dear Letter Writer – That nudge has a lot of meaning–or it might. Hard to know for sure but it seems something is stirring in you, wanting freedom, reaching for light. Your church leaves you feeling shame–Oh that breaks my heart, when there is so much beauty in you. You are carrying the weight of shame, yet you are being nudged toward something better, closer to your true self. Go with that nudge. Being in the company of shame-stoking people is no place to stay. You deserve better. You were made for better. Trust the nudge. It is trying to spur you to a place that exists but that you cannot see clearly–yet. Go on faith–’the evidence of things unseen’–and trust that there is an unfolding beauty to your life, known fully to God if not yet to you. Beauty calls to beauty, deep calls to deep: That little nudge is a voice saying you were not made for shame.

  • Brent

    As a member of the LGBT community, I can certainly empathize with the letter writer’s issues regarding her church and their feelings towards her. I also appreciate John’s responses that were, in my eyes, quite supportive and humorously written. Thank you so much for this!

  • mona

    There are LGBT welcoming/affirming churches… find one ASAP. It hurts my heart to think that you cry after leaving church. I don’t know a lot but I am 100% certain that God does not mean for church to be a place where one feels shame. And God is crazy about you! DO NOT LET ANYONE TELL YOU DIFFERENTLY. Peace and love to you.


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