I’m tempted to delete this blog. The person who started writing here feels almost like a stranger to me. Many of her values I would fight tooth-and-nail today. She believed the world was a simple binary: there were believers and unbelievers, the saved and the lost, the sanctified and the worldly. She had very clear ideas on who belonged in what category. God saw her as perfect & holy & redeemed, but only because he was looking at himself and his own blood that he’d scrubbed her sinful body down with under the cross. So to her, shame was indistinguishable from love. Maybe I can be compassionate, then, with how easily she dismissed whole groups of people, especially the LGBTQ+ community but really anyone who had sex and cursed and enjoyed themselves doing it, and called it love.
There are so many things I’d like to tell her.
I’d like to have a conversation with her about enthusiastic consent. I wish I could say: If you’re not happy and excited to have sex, you can (and should) say no. All parties should be totally down with what’s about to happen, or genitals are off the table. I was so ashamed of “sinning” that I never asked myself if I wanted what was happening. I wish I could protect my past self from those who took advantage of that vulnerability. But I’m also so excited for her that she’ll find partners who will help her find play and healing and freedom. (While I’m at it, I might as well tell her that masturbation and porn are a healthy extension of human sexuality, and leave her a few notes on what a clit is and where to find it).
I’d like to tell her she’s certifiably insane — one badass bipolar bitch. Her depressions aren’t the result of laziness and sin, and her delirious highs aren’t the holy spirit’s quickening. Therapy and meds will help. Sometimes it feels like I’ve lost my superpowers, but most of the time I’m grateful.
I’d like to tell her when it comes to people, she’s got an embarrassment of riches. With so many incredibly fascinating and compassionate humans, she’ll make tea and smoke cigars and climb trails, binge The Office while drinking grapefruit soda, race grocery carts in an abandoned parking lot, dance around a bonfire on the beach in matching yellow rain ponchos. Their support will get her through even the most impossible decisions. I’d say: don’t worry so much about perfecting your internal world through repentance, look outward. Don’t take every thought captive. Go ahead and just be a person with other people.
I’d like to tell her that she doesn’t have to be a writer.
I’d like to tell her that she was right about the high cost of coming out as queer. It’s okay for her to wait until she’s ready. (But while you’re waiting, give yourself some positive language for what’s happening in your mind and body. Watch Nanette, read We Are Okay, keep bingeing those Youtubers and sneaking episodes of The L Word in the middle of the night).
More than anything, I want to tell her: you don’t have to feel ashamed. Or maybe more clearly, since I’m ever prepared to manipulate my own emotions: You are not shameful.
I thought Christianity was the cure for my chronic shame. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. But while one hand reaches out with “God forgives you,” the other forces you to your knees to say “even my good works are dirty rags.” I’ve left both sin and forgiveness behind, and I’m two testaments and a guilt complex lighter.
I don’t want to delete this blog. I also don’t want to start a new one and pretend the rest never happened in favor of a more linear narrative. Stories of change are important, I think. I’m not ashamed of my past self. But I’m also really fucking glad I get to be who I am today.
I’m grateful to all of you who have followed my journey. Not all of you agree with my decisions, but know that I feel your love, and I feel only love back. I think it’s our connections to each other, more than any belief system, that leads us out of shame and into freedom.
(I did weed out several old posts — oh the cringe — but I kept a representative and properly mortifying sample. Also apparently I didn’t care at all about citing images, so I’ve replaced them all from the 1900s Cyclopedia of American Horticulture)