Some of my closest friends are evangelical Christians. I used to be as well. However, I always struggled with what I was subscribing to. I didn’t like that I was shamed for being gay, it’s the way I was born. I don’t agree that I was ‘born sinful as we all are.’ There is nothing that makes kindling to the fire of my anger quite like the sentiment of “love the sinner but hate the sin”. I disagree that because of my abuse I was dirty and needed to be made clean; whatever that means. I subscribed because I liked the idea of the ‘community’ that the church claims to provide, the family that they are supposed to be. I needed those things; I desperately needed a family and a safe haven. I was misled by the words people preached, but that they did not follow. I was drawn in and then dropped…the moment I spoke out against such hypocrisy. Like most of humanity the church is flawed and fallible. Understandable, since they are baited into an abusive relationship with this all knowing God of unfailing love but whom also punishes you to hell and damnation. Its contradictory isn’t it?
As a gay person, a gay woman. As a trafficking survivor. As someone whose struggled with debilitating mental and physical health issues. As someone who never had the parental guidance needed to be a successful human and as someone who’s struggled for everything I have…I have been severely judged by the church. Severely judged is putting it kindly. Yet, I was the ‘poster child’ for many things when I was part of the evangelical community. It was my story people would use, with and more troublingly without permission, as testimony of ‘God’s saving grace.’ As if I was the one who needed grace for being the victim. It was my story that got used to lead others to an alter call. It was my story of loyalty, of compassion, of resilience…nailed to the cross for everyone to see. I was the spectacle of God’s grace. The church wants to throw judgements at you and then in the same breath ask to use your testimony. It’s all a taking game with nothing to give but false hope and an insidiously abusive relationship.
This is not just one isolated incident, it has happened at every church I have ever been to. I ‘grew up’ going to a church where I was repeatedly raped inside the church. Behind the closed doors of the chapel, on the stage below the cross that shows the true nature of God’s love and forgiveness, the public murder of his only child. The symbol of an abiding love through God’s grace shown by the Roman tool of torture and massacre. That as long as the acts you commit are in God’s name, even sacrifice of the sanctity of life, that it is all for some disembodied “greater good” you are practicing in the light in the lord. People using the name of God and shouting scripture at me as they forcibly violated my innocent being. At a church I went to in high school, I was told I was dirty and dishonoring to my parents for leaving the ‘family’ which had trafficked me, sold me, and raped me my entire life. If that’s not backwards, I don’t know what is. Yet another church claims “God told them I was lying about my story.” As though God speaks to individuals. As though God would judge me. As though only they had true access to the real intent of the most magnificent creature in all of creation, while that same person raped teenage girls. Just three examples of too many churches failing at the things they are called to do, the things they claim to do, and things they don’t do. The evils that they claim to fight against are all too often found to happen behind their closed doors.
This is why I don’t go to church, because the church is a vortex of shame and abuse. The church wounds more souls than it saves. The church is lethal. Not because religion in and of itself is bad. Belief, true belief, is the most beautiful and yet the most destructive thing on the planet. Religion is the thing that often means the absolute most to people…therefore it is the thing they are willing to do almost anything for. Religion then, like any other tool, can be used for good or for evil. The most insidious thing is when it is used to commit great acts of evil in the name of good. That is the Church.
Lauren was my first love. And I believe some part of me will always love her. She was a very important part of my life…[un]fortunately that was only for a season. Things ended very badly…
I never thought it could happen to me
Not because I’m above it
But because I thought I would notice the signs
I thought I would see the subtleties
I thought my horrific past made me immune
But my past made it easier
And the subtleties were everywhere
I excused them as love
As someone who really cared for me
When things progressed beyond subtle
I was already stuck
I was already making excuses for small things
The big things followed suite
And it was easy
It was easy to be ok with being screamed at
It was easy to hide my emotions
It was easy to let her control
It was natural
And I found reasons I deserved it
I was bad
I was dirty
My emotions were irrational
I needed controlled so I didn’t get out of control
I deserved being held down
And my needs pushed aside
I was ‘paying my dues’
It wasn’t until it cost me a job that I realized
It wasn’t until she didn’t want me anymore that I realized
It wasn’t until my heart was already so in love
Yet so broken that I realized
This is not safe
This is not healthy
This is not what I want my life to be
~ ~ ~
Why does my playlist symbolize
All the good times I thought we had
What you led me to believe we were
Why did you lie to me
Why did you hurt me
Why did you give me a single red rose
Explaining that you were giving me your heart
I held it so gently
While you stomped on mine
While you drug me through the mud
And told me it was all my fault
That it was all in my head
Even the thoughts in my own head
Started to reflect what you told me I was
Though I had worked so hard to think for myself
You swooped in
At a vulnerable time
And made me believe
That I was still on the right path
You had taken charge
You placed yourself in my head
Not a single thought I had after a while was mine
You made me believe it all was
Oh, you are good at your game
You brought me in
Wrapped me tight
To suffocate most of me
Tight enough for me to release control
For one last breath
You let me keep the illusion
That you loved me
Until I wasn’t good enough
Good enough for your love any longer
And then you said “let’s be friends”
And it was downhill from there
Those three words released me into the world
But you wanted me to fight for you
So you could turn me down
You wanted me to beg for you not to leave
Beg you to stay
Tell you I needed you
When I didn’t do those things
You got angry
Had I done that
The result would have been similar
But you would have taken me back
To keep the control
There was no winning with you
I always lost
You always win your game
And when you don’t
It’s “poor Lauren”
It always happens TO you
You don’t take responsibility
And you refuse to see reality
An open letter of apology
I am sorry
For all the times I couldn’t protect you
For all the times I took the blame when it wasn’t mine to take
For all the horrible things I thought about you
For all of the times I hurt you
For all the abuse I brought onto you
For all the stupid situations I put you in
For all the unspoken words
For all of the times I left you when things got hard
For all of the times I opened my mouth when I shouldn’t have
For all of the regrets I have
For all of the times I let you down
For all of the times I tried to end the only thing you had
I am sorry
An open letter of thanks
For not giving up on me
For not leaving me
For learning to trust me
The one who knows you best
All my life I’ve had trouble dreaming of my future, which probably seems weird for anyone who knows me because I am very strong willed, sometimes to the point of stubborn, and I have such huge goals. The struggle I had was where I saw myself in my personal life, relationships, kids, home-life, etc. It’s always been something that seemed to change and be at odds with each other.
I knew from a very young age that I was gay, I was 5 when I remember my preference for women becoming something I struggled with. As a very young child, preschool and kindergarten to be exact, my grandfather and father would tease me about boys; asking me if I kissed them behind school or on the bus, or if I thought they were cute. When I would show embarrassment they didn’t understand that I was embarrassed because I felt like it was wrong to like girls in the way they were asking me about boys. They saw my embarrassment as, ‘cute,’ as a reinforcement that I did in fact like boys. – With the religious background that my fathers side of the family has, there was no way I was ever going to admit that I was gay, not to them at least. I remember times where my grandfather and father would talk, “homosexuality is of the devil. You will go straight to hell if you even think about being gay.” They thought of it as a decision….
There was a time in my life when I wanted to live in downtown Manhattan. I wanted to be a writer and have a white and silver, all glass, sky rise apartment with my cats. I didn’t want anyone in my life.
There was a time in my life when I wanted to be a lawyer, live in a big house with a big family. I wanted to somehow be superwoman and also be a stay at home mom with my kids, go to the gym every morning, and have a partner…and that is where it stopped. That part would never form, because I had this impeding thought that I was suppose to marry a hard working man, be a stay at home soccer mom, barefoot in the kitchen 9 months pregnant cooking dinner for him. Driving a minivan, running errands all day while the kids are in school, having the house clean when daddy got home.
…As if who we fall in love with is a decision we consciously make for ourselves.
And then I decided to really listen to myself…And everything changed. Literally my entire life did a 180. I started taking note of all of the things that have ever held me back. There is a saying, “Garbage in. Garbage out.” What we take in matters. – As a child I didn’t realize all that I was taking in, to many negative things to list. I was allowing the negative and horrible things that were said and done to me my entire life, to continue to ruin my life and my future. I was allowing my past to hold me back.
In the midst of this realization…Lauren walked into my life. I had only begun this journey, of undoing all of the negative and rebuilding my life from the ground up. She helped me find direction, I was wandering around a little lost and she came alongside me in the most amazing ways. She was my friend, when I needed it most. She is the woman I love. – I am starting to get a picture of what our life together is and will be, it’s so beautiful and amazing. I cannot describe the hope and peace and love and confidence I feel on a daily basis. Yes, there are days where life sucks, but I have my best friend and the love of my life by my side. I wasn’t ready for this change in life when it started, but it has been the greatest journey that I have ever been offered.
“The path to paradise begins in hell.” ― Dante Alighieri.
I have experienced the path to paradise. Suicide became a legitimate struggle for me when I was 11 years old. I made methodical plans, impulsive attempts, and accidental overdoses. My first attempt at suicide began by taking a handful of pills from my mother’s medicine cabinet. At the time, all I wanted was for the emotional turmoil I lived in to disappear; the pain to vanish. In 5th grade, the news was broken to me; my classmates never had sex before. I hadn’t experienced an ordinary childhood by any means, having sex was normal for me from before I could remember. I always recognized my childhood was not normal, for instance being shot by my mother at 7, or being beaten, starved, and sexually abused and trafficked by my own flesh and blood, my family. It was then, when I realized the sexual, emotional, and physical abuse I incurred was not common.
My best friend Emily, my only friend, committed suicide in 5th grade, after suffering abuse from her parents and being placed in foster care. The day before she was removed from her parents, by Child Protective Services, she asked me, “Has anything ever happened to you before?” I told her no. The next day, I was pulled from class to the principal’s office and questioned about the last time I saw Emily. What happened next changed my life forever; I learned, Emily shot herself the night before. I walked out of the principal’s office. My heart was broken more than ever.
5th grade was when real suicidal ideations began for me, or when I remember becoming conscious of the thoughts. Suicidal feelings were constant from the moment I walked out of my principal’s office, that May morning in 2003. I spent 9 years fighting to save my life from others, in the same turn, I thought of ways I could end my life. Following no less than 25 suicide attempts, my final attempt is an event I honestly don’t remember. My friends told me I jumped out in front of a car. The last thing I remember was volunteering at a homeless youth drop-in shelter and waking up in the hospital. After mental and physical evaluations I was sent home from the hospital. I imagine, when the hospital staff saw my name on the chart, they rolled their eyes.
Coming home from the hospital was the turning point. I decided I needed to die, and this time I would have to do it the right way, so the planning began. My plan was solid, date, time, place, and details to how I would end my own life; how I would commit suicide. I wrote letters to the people I felt would care if I died. This meticulous planning and my death would finally save me from the hell I lived in from the moment I was conceived. It is safe to assume I did not take my own life, as I planned because I am writing this today. — Recently, the man and woman, who promised me help, love, and family disappeared into the abyss, and it brought back some of those old feelings of suicide and wanting to take my own life. However, I decided suicide is not an option any longer and never will be. I am meant to be here. I have purpose, and I am loved.
“I walked through hell in to the paradise I live in today.”