This concludes the answers of first group of participants in the Religious Fundamentalism and Sexuality Project. You can read the full list of questions here and the posting plan here. Let’s have a hearty round of internet applause for Melissa, Haley, Lina, V, Latebloomer and Katy-Anne for their honest, heartfelt responses!
You might want to bookmark their blogs, too!
And right now, I want to personally thank each of you. Melissa, I have really enjoyed the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of your responses. Haley, I am thrilled that you are finding yourself more and more free to express who you are. Lina, you have cracked me up throughout this whole series – you should seriously try stand-up comedy. V, it’s been such a pleasure to “meet” you and hear your story; thank you for being so frank. Latebloomer, you and I were separated at birth – I loved learning more about your experiences. Katy-Anne, I’m honored that you were willing to share all that you did and I hope that the process has brought some healing to you.
In the next few days, I’ll introduce the next six participants. The Sexuality Project is still open if you or someone you know would like to join in. Thank you all for reading, commenting, sharing and making this project successful!
Life Outside the Bubble
5. What, if anything, would you tell your younger self about sexuality and life outside fundamentalism?
Melissa and Haley
I would tell my younger self that it is OK to be who you are. That life is a really good thing. That it’s OK to ask for help. That sexuality is normal and not some scary thing to be boxed up and hidden and surpressed. That your body is yours, and you can do what you want with it and you always have the power to say no to anything you don’t want. It is hard to imagine life outside of the religious world you are in, but people are generally good, and you can define boundaries to command respect of your person. There is so much to discover and learn, and all of it is waiting for you. You are a fantastic person, and you have nothing to be ashamed of.
It gets better and life gets easier. Being out and proud as a transwoman is incredible. I love being alive, whereas for years you suffered depression and contemplated suicide on many occasions. Don’t invest as much in trying to please people who will not accept who you are. They won’t be there for you later. Why invest in relationships built on a foundation of conditional love based on doctrinal and lifestyle conformity? You can find love and accepting people, they are everywhere, you just have to free yourself from the lies of fundamenalism that you are bad and that everyone is just as bad. No, young Haley you are awesome and fabulous just the way you are. They are so many good people waiting to meet you. Stop pretending, be the vibrant woman you are!
Lina and V
That my mindset, in fundamentalism, is a very narrow one. It took me a long, long time to fully realize just how small a segment of the population holds the beliefs I was raised with. Even though it was my entire world, that world was just a tiny slice of the bigger one. Experience more, do more, try more. Live all of life, not just a sliver. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Also, you’ll end up gay, so study up now.
That masturbation exists! For the love of God. I didn’t know what masturbation was until I was a junior in high school (public school fail), and it gets worse. I didn’t even know that girls could masturbate until I was a sophomore in college. The church had only ever addressed the guys when it talked about active sexuality. I had no idea that girls were actually sexual beings, too.
For fundamentalism, I would say that life outside of it is a breath of fresh air. You don’t realize how stale it is inside when everyone is breathing the same air and spitting it right back out again. Get out and experience the world for what it truly is.
Dear Younger Self: There is no guarantee to happiness and no formula for goodness that everyone needs to follow—look at how much diversity of experience there is in the Bible. There is that same diversity around you in your own life. Christians and non-Christians get cheated on and cheat. Christians and non-Christians get molested and molest. Christians and non-Christians are abused and abusive. Sexually promiscuous people can end up happily married without regrets. Pure and modest and committed people can struggle to make a marriage work. So, younger self, don’t focus so much on rules, but rather deal with God directly; think about who you are and what you want, and do your best with what you have.
Oh, and one other thing: LGBTQ people are quite alright. One day you’ll have some of them as friends and find out how much you have in common.
I would just tell myself to run in the opposite direction to fundamentalism, that fundamentalism is a cult that destroys lives. Not that I’m sure my younger self would listen, but that’s still what I’d say. Thanks for letting me answer these questions, it’s been great and I can’t wait to read the responses of others.