This is an installment of the Religious Fundamentalism and Sexuality Project. You can read the full list of questions here and the posting plan here. The first six participants whose stories I’ll be posting are Melissa and Haley, Lina and V, Latebloomer and Katy-Anne.
2. How did your friends, family or church respond to your questioning? Did you talk to people or keep your doubts secret?
Melissa and Haley
As I began questioning, at first I talked about it. I talked about perhaps sexuality not being a choice, and people in my life responded ok to that idea being a possibility, as long as those people always made the choice to ignore those attractions, and I believed the same way myself at first. As I started asking if LGBTQ persons should have the same rights as straight people instead of religiously founded laws restricting their lives, this was met with much more hostility and even anger. My spouse was out to me by then, but I still believed it was not OK to act on those desires, I just was starting to feel that laws shouldn’t be biased based on religion. But after those reactions from people I knew, I stopped sharing my thoughts and questions with family and friends, it felt too risky.
Some friends and family have been awesome, others not so much. The church condemns me.
Lina and V
Living away from home made it easy to keep things from family. My dad also gave up pastoring during my sophomore year, and moved to a different state, so that change mixed everything up. I had a few friends whom I spoke to, but it was mostly secret; something like questioning religion or beliefs was too big a deal to spread around. The crowd I knew at school, though, was a combination of the Honors students and the English majors: we were all pretty much at some stage of questioning or another, and slowly “came out” to each other about it. And started sleeping in on Sundays.
The only person I talked to about my questioning was the aforementioned boyfriend, and my best friend at the time, Lina. He was incredibly accepting, as he fully supported me moving away from the church and finding my own happiness. Lina was also incredibly accepting as she was currently working her way through the exact same process. The more we began to work our way into our real identities, the more our relationship changed. We moved from best friends to, “you can find women attractive, in a purely appreciative way, right?,” to “platonically in love,” to in a relationship, to “lesbians from the waist up,” to being completely gay (or rather, between a 4 and a 5.5 on the Kinsey Scale on any given day). At the time, we talked to no one else about our questioning. Our families would definitely not approve or understand, and our university, which we were one year away from being rid of, would kick us out for being actively homosexual.
Most of my questioning happened when I left home to attend an out-of-state Christian college, and after college I did not return to my hometown. Since I was no longer associating with that fundamentalist community, communicating my new ideas and hearing people’s reactions were not important to me. However, over the years I have heard from many other teens from my church that they have also questioned and left that culture.
In my family, my mom is the only remaining fundamentalist. I tend to not discuss my new opinions much with her because she doesn’t handle it very well, and because our family dynamic has never really involved open discussion or conversation, even on things we agreed on.
I was still attending a fundamentalist church at the time the Tina Anderson case hit the news, but the day it hit the news I knew I could never go back. We had been unhappy and thinking about looking for another church but not quite sure. People responded to my questions very negatively. I lost my best friend just like that because she could not handle that I would question fundamentalism. I didn’t “lose” family, but family has alienated me, and that’s hard too. Some people have been so offended that I have chosen to just hide most of my changes in belief a secret, but I do blog about the changes so if they really want to find out, they can. I lost pretty much all my friends, and faced about six months of very intense loneliness which now I can see as a blessing because then I didn’t have anyone influencing my beliefs while I was questioning, God gave me time to work things out for myself without pressure from others to believe a particular thing. And when I was in fundamentalism, I usually had one best friend and just a few “good” friends, but God has blessed me and now I have many best friends and many good friends and they are amazing people who help me grow.