Since writing this, I have come out as LGBTQ+ and shared my megachurch experience.
Shortly after I moved in with my dad my junior year of high school, I befriended a sophomore/freshman (school started @ 10th grade) from a similar background as I. She lived with her grandfather and was in a committed relationship with her boyfriend of I-don’t-know-how-long, and reminded me of a middle school BFF. Her grandfather picked us up from school one day, and I stayed at her house until her grandpa took us over to my house. We hung out for a bit.
That same night was our double date: her and her boyfriend, and their mutual best friend and I. She brought a bag of clothes to change into, because she’d be spending the night at her boyfriend’s house, and we goofed off and took silly pictures with the same Kodak EasyShare I use today. It has a timer and the option to take multiple photos at once, so we really made use of it.
We went on double date, and my dad and stepmom were kinda peeved for a reason I still don’t understand to this day—but hey, as the offspring of teen parents, I guess I understand. I mean, it sucks because the statistics of a child born to teen parents becoming a teen parent his/herself is 22 percent more likely, but that’s not factoring in other contributing (or non-contributing) factors, such as autism and asexuality. We ended up going out to eat instead. I ordered a Caesar salad, because it’s the best, and embarrassingly shot salad out of my mouth and onto my friend’s boyfriend’s plate. I still cringe at the memory.
I returned home, and after answering some questions—no, she wasn’t spending the night; yes, she brought her bag; yes, she went with her boyfriend; she’s spending the night; yes, her grandfather knows—I was heartbroken and upset. She was the first genuine friend I’d made as a new person. My parents thought she was a bad influence, though.
Because she was raised differently and didn’t do things the same way.
I was pushed into more church activities, because surrounding myself with churchgoers was the utmost important thing. But then, I entered the last part of senior year. Then, I graduated high school. Then, I moved back in with my mom and her husband because I wanted a relationship with my mom, and I needed to see things for myself. Turns out, they’d planted themselves into the church I’d begged to go to and was often grounded from, when I lived with them before, and I had to be whatever my mom and her husband wanted me to be. And I owed them for things. And anything flawed I did that didn’t properly align their happy-go-lucky-family-on-the-outside agenda was used against me when justifying to other people how I was ____ or ____.
It was a mess. I began dating a guy who was practically BFFs with my mom and her husband, my former abusers and neglectful guardians. Frequently, he’d look at my phone without my consent and/or take it from me, and he got mad because I’d be talking to my male friends about personal matters. He was jealous, and at one point, I finally said, “He’s gay, but it doesn’t excuse your behavior.”
I really tried to get on with the church. I attended church and involved myself in church-related activities. But throughout my whole life, classmates and friends have been tortured because of their sexuality. In middle school, a classmate was abducted from the bedroom window he always left open and not returned until he was what people called “used and abused”. Another classmate was rumored to be a lesbian, thus many students thought she was to be avoided—because touching or talking with her meant you were a lesbian, too, or you’d…catch it? In high school, my peers were bullied. Some committed suicide. After high school, more peers committed suicide, whereas some were murdered.
When a person would rather die because they feel so unloved and fear the hate of their fellow humans, enough is enough: hate is enough. There is so much hate in this world, and all members of the LGBTQIA+ community want to do is love the people they love without fearing for their life/being hated.
That, plus a more personal reason, is why I’m participating in #ApologizefortheChurch. The church has had a problem accepting people who don’t fit into its fragile bubble for a long while, and it’s so sad it pushed me out over four years ago. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and PTSD. I’m autistic. The amount of hate in this world disgusts me, but I surround myself with so much more love that I’m not too affected by it, because I can’t fall as low as I did in 2012 again.
I experienced MDD and PTSD due to a traumatic childhood, courtesy of purely existing.
I know what it’s like to feel like people hate your very existence, just because you exist. No one should ever have to feel that way.
I grew up watching a plethora of movies and television shows—from A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story to Degrassi. I still can’t stop the sadness I feel for Gwen Araujo. It’s hard to refrain from crying as I write this on my grandmother’s desktop computer, in her room, because Gwen Araujo is who changed it all for me and I am repulsed how she had to die a tragic death for her story to be made into a movie, which then changed my life. I despise how Marco Del Rossie had to be beaten up by strangers on the street because of his sexuality.
I’m apologising for the church, because God’s love isn’t a “but…” It isn’t our place to judge and hate and tell people how they’re allowed to be. God is love. There isn’t a “but…” He loves us even if we’re autistic, gay, lesbian, asexual, transgender, orphans.
Anyone who does not know love does not know God. We are supposed to be kind to each other and love each other, and when we’re hateful to each other, we’re not showing or sharing God’s love—we’re not bringing people closer to God; we’re pushing them away from Him.
I’m sorry. I know this isn’t enough, but nevertheless: I’m sorry.
This post is a shout-out to anyone and everyone who has ever been hurt by the church. I am participating in #ApologizefortheChurch, because I believe it needs to change. We have enough hate in the world already, and God’s people are supposed to love and not be hateful—and really, living life is a complex mess of a thing enough as it is. Puberty and high school are hard enough.
Being on both sides of the community, I know one apology—or even a hundred apologies—isn’t enough. But it’s a start.
I encourage those who disagree with me to watch Blackbird.
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