I'M A RECOVERING BIGOT



Fact: I'm a Recovering Bigot, or an ex-bigot if you will.
I used to be a real meany-head.
You would never guess it looking at me, now wouldja? 

I normally stay away from the specifics of any religion, but sometimes policies and doctrine inevitably overlap. Especially when it comes to LBGTQP rights, race/minority discrimination, and family planning. The details of the culture I was raised in is irrelevant seeing as many many many religions share the same traditional bigoted views and practices. Because of these beliefs founded around a historical figure before the middle ages we have things like pro-life vs pro-choice, the civil rights movement, "novelty" same sex marriages, and the word "feminism"; among a million other things of course. I DO have a clear understanding that not all Christians believe that blacks have dark skin because they weren't valiant enough, gay is a choice, science doesn't mean anything, and women are merely helpers to men but the sad reality is that the majority does. And good fucking god I was raised as part of that blasted majority. It's been an interesting journey, this path to believing in equal rights and acceptance of diverse people. Fasten your seat belts kiddos, it's a bumpy ride.

From a political view, it was gay acceptance that started the ball rolling. I attended a religious university for several years and there I met Keith*. Keith was a "devilishly" handsome, artistic, musical, snarky, creative genius majoring in animation/design. And he was also totally gay. This isn't a subject of interest to us now, but then it was the most defining factor. Gender issues aside, we has SO much fun together... making fire hydrant tape sculptures and then having the police called on us, rubbing paint on our faces and rolling them on paper, covering my entire wall with murals, writing music together, star watching, cooking fancy meals, staying out past curfew, and other euphoric activities. But that could only happen when he wasn't suicidal due to depression. Going to church was a struggle for him and seeing as he was described as an abhorrent sinner that was to be despised by all sitting around him, well... it was understandable. The kicker was having to be silent about your preference, because if anyone found out, Keith would be expelled from school indefinitely. It became our not so little secret, and we vowed to guard it with our lives. I guess I was always meant to be a boat rocker, but even still, whether I liked it or not my core was founded on discrimination. Blech.

I remember very clearly going over to Keith's apartment and sitting on his bed (TOTALLY against the rules) with another guy friend and watching "Dancer in the Dark". Somewhere in the middle of the movie, I recall looking over at Keith and said guy friend and through the darkness of the room I could see them holding hands. This was just too much for my godly self and I silently but disdainfully stalked out of the apartment. He apologized later for making me uncomfortable, but the fact that I felt like he owed me an "I'm sorry" makes me regretful even today.  He was a marvelous human being but my seperatism hindered my ability to recognize this fully. Ultimately, it was his emotional torture caused by unjust hatred that caused me to question what I was taught my whole life, and thus began my slippery slope down to what they call hell:)

Fact: reserving your place in hell is SO fulfilling.

Of course, this is only one blip in a life of pitying and passing judgement on everyone who did not look or act like me and my community. That is what I was taught, that is what I taught others, and that is how I lived. I am most certainly not proud of this; it's unfortunate that I didn't know any different. 

Keith now lives in alt friendly Seattle with his boyfriend and has the ability to live whatever life he wants. I now live in Tucson with my boyfriend and I have the ability to live whatever life I want. I've chosen a life that centers around making the world a safer place for  "sexual deviants", "feminists", "immigrants", "fags", "black folk", "fatties", "sluts", "beaners", "homeless", "retards", "crazies" and all other groups that are slandered, hated, shamed, oppressed, and feared.

I often wonder what I would be like today if I was raised without a religious construct wherein morals and ethics were synonymous. If I wasn't given a strict scale to rate others on. Would I be apathetic towards change? Would I be as dedicated to equality? I dunno. What I do know is that I was reared in a culture that mirrors our society to the extreme and has (interestingly enough) generated a well of passion, motivation, determination, tenacity, and courage inside of me that has and will change others lives. Our pasts may always be a part of us, but I have broken up with bigotry all together. It wasn't me, it was It. I no longer discriminate against skin colors, brain functions, residences, jobs, weight, hair color, sexual preference, clothing, or opportunity. No one is less important, nor more important because we are all. Fucking. Humans. I want the right to chose who I love, who I want to be in office, what medicine I want to take, what happens to my body, what school I go to, what street I walk down without fear, what wage I earn, and the option to change my mind at any given second. And I want everyone else to have those rights as well. Equality is not an aspiration, it is a fact that society chooses to reject and tries to abolish. And I can't help but find it funny that this unyielding conviction is partially accredited to the intolerance I learned and my indefinite deviation from it. Thank you religious leaders for making me the proud disappointment I am today. I owe you one.

Can you relate?

*Totally not his name.

32 comments

  1. Such a brilliant post, Jes! Not only hilarious but also very brave. I love your honesty in this post and, of course, I love how open-minded you have become.

    It's fantastic that you managed to shake off those perceptions that were fed to you.

    Keep rocking lady!

    Becky
    xx

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  2. I would have never in a billion years imagined you were once a "bigot". I guess there is hope!

    Great post! Your blog is constantly thought provoking and inspirational for me.

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  3. I think that it is extremely difficult to go against what you were taught as a young person. That's why lots of people just don't bother. Now I think that its not apathy, but a real desire to belong to something bigger. A group that can help you forget how insignificant you are as a "meat bag on a rock hurtling through space."

    Even though my family lived in the bible belt, I come at this from the other side. My family also has a history of civil rights activism in North Carolina, and we talked about hate and prejudice for as long as I can remember. I never knew what it was like to hate someone because they were not like me, because there were a lot of people not like me. I grew up bi-racial, and never could get my head around why people hated difference. I couldn't decide if they were afraid of it, or that they were taught to hate, and just didn't bother to ask why?

    So thanks for shedding some light on how people get to that point of "hating" others.

    Stephanie
    www.bassability.blogspot.com

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    1. AND...

      It take guts too get that out there. But its totally an important point of view to add to the discussion. We're always learning. You are not the same person you were yesterday, let alone years ago.

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    2. I have no personal shame attached to my past (except for the shame the religion personally gave me)... but you get the idea... I don't own that religion anymore because it was just that: a religion. I am me, and I'm an entirely exasperated thing. I just happened to be the lucky bitch who was born into it;) So guts? Yeah, I guess so. But not really. If anything I feel strong and brave to have started out in an oppressive culture and have somehow made it far enough to fight the good fight and help other girls do the same. Its a lot of distance traveled and THATS something to be proud of;)

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    3. But dude, it does take guts. It takes a lot to go against the grain. We shouldn't diminish that.

      S

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    4. True dat. Swimming upstream can be exhausting;)

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  4. Soo I'm really tired of the term "christian" because it means jack-all in this day and age. I do love.follow JESUS and that's because of His unconditional love that sought and found me. You may recall He was the one found caring for the 'rejects' of His time: the prostitutes, the lepers, the tax collectors. He was gentle with the broken, and hard on the religious 'bigots' calling them 'white washed tomb's.. appearing clean outside, but full of death/decay inside.

    All that to say - Jesus gets a bad rap from the group in the world who use His Name to validate their ignorance/anger/fear/judgment. Let's remember that many also did much GOOD in this world as they followed His teachings... those who fought slavery/served the poor/fed the hungry/created schools. etc.

    That is all... you got me 'started'! ;o)
    I appreciate your openness and candor, I just fear the delight in 'reserving a place in hell'...

    thanks for hearing me out.
    Mel :o)

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    1. "I DO have a clear understanding that not all Christians believe that blacks have dark skin because they weren't valiant enough, gay is a choice, science doesn't mean anything, and women are merely helpers to men."

      You must be one of those I was mentioning;) Which is great because it sounds like we both agree that people are individual and have their own beliefs. There is still an negative influential majority, however, and that's just too bad. C'est la vie.

      And don't fear for me, I'm doin' just great! Just out and about supportin' equality and shit... Never been happier:)

      xoxo

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    2. OH. Also, I wanted to make sure it was clear that I was writing specifically from my own experiences and culture and not in reference to anyone else's. This must be known, or i forsee everyone getting all up in arms and taking it personally and I reeeeeeally don't want to have to delete a bunch of hateful comments.

      Savvy? Good;)

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    3. Melissa, I think you would love this post: http://www.danoah.com/2011/11/im-christian-unless-youre-gay.html
      Very much one who shares your beliefs, I think. :)

      Jes, I've been wondering about that lately... What percentage of Christians are actually bigoted? Of the ones I know, none are racist, most disapprove of promiscuous behaviour (in more of a pitying way than a mean way, which is common of non-religious people also), some are concerned about homosexuality (because they believe the Bible says they should be), very very few disregard science (although where I grew up, there were a few evangelical kids who would call Darwin an "idiot" haha XD, which I'm sure was mostly due to adult influence. Even though I was raised to question evolution, I was taught to respect Darwin), only the fundamentalists felt that women were to be submissive to their husbands, and yeah... Anyway, all that to say, I am curious. :P

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    4. Kait, I loved that article you recommended:)

      And if I'm going be honest, I don't know what the percentage is... I only have my own observations from both my personal life, and from what is represented in the world to society.

      My own experiences in the world have been varied. The majority of people that I have met do not believe that others should live their life the way that makes them happy if it doesn't correspond with their beliefs. These are acquaintances, co workers, family members, strangers at the grocery store, etc etc etc. Now what I can't quantify in the least is how much they express their disapproval. It could range from thinking it to hate crimes. Of course its only the hate crimes that end up on the news. So, that part is skewed. But those hate crimes happen, either way. There is NO way I can speak for anyone else and how they feel, but I have noticed that when you believe there is only one way to live/be saved there is sub-sequentially judgment on those who are not living said life. Case in point: being concerned about me reserving my place in hell.

      That being said, my best friend is a devout Christian, and doesn't even judge me a little bit. I love that about her.

      The bible is rife with bigotry and inaccurate information, and so there is that fundamental part. As Melissa pointed out, Jesus, who according to historical evidence DID of course exist, taught kindness love etc and no matter who said that... it is wise, and I believe it would behoove anyone to follow it!

      I grew up in extremes, so I am probably more sensitive and keen on picking up on any form of intolerance. That's just me, this is my perspective, I am no professional... just an intuitive, introspective, critical thinker who has found what is right for me.

      I fully support anyone living ANY life they would like... as long as it does not hurt someone else. Policies are a passive way to do this, and is what I am always on my soapbox about. Blah blah blah policing legislating etc.

      Long story short, I don't know what percentage... but even 1% is too much in my humble opinion.

      xoxoxoxxoxoxoxxo

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  5. This is such a great post... I've recently been able to come out of the closet as an atheist. It's been liberating and exciting and amazing. I also was a former bigot, too. I used to tell people that I was Mandy Moore in Saved! because I was bossy and wanted to fix everyone and everything around me.

    Sexual freedom was also something that got the ball rolling for me on my way out of the religious realm. I've never been happier in my life.

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    1. I am so happy that you're happy!!! Nothing quite like it. I also, have recently discovered that I am an athiest, which to me feels like instead of subscribing TO a belief system, I rather opt out of all of the offers. Not to be confused with Agnosticism. I feel like this literally translates into what I already believe and am now learning about feminism so this is ALSO exciting. Its all cohesive and starting to make sense to me. I've come so far:) So glad you commented:)

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    2. I just "came out" as an atheist too. But more of a humanist than atheist.

      Atheist high-five!

      Steph
      www.bassability.blogspot.com

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    3. HEY!!! THATS EXACTLY WHAT IVE BEEN SAYING! Ever since I read "God Bless You Dr. Kevorkian" by Vonnegut I've been saying that I'm a humanist. Athiest is what you don't believe in: gods. Humanist is what you do believe in: being a decent human and doing good.

      Fav quote from the book:

      '"About belief or lack of belief in an afterlife: Some of you may know that I am neither Christian nor Jewish nor Buddhist, nor a conventionally religious person of any sort.

      I am a humanist, which mean, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I'm dead.

      My German-American ancestors, the earliest of whom settled in our Middle West about the time of our Civil War, called themselves "Freethinkers," which is the same sort of thing. My great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut wrote, for example, "If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?"'

      I was really trying to stay away from "name calling" any particular religion/non-religion and stay focused on equality and policies but this "Humanist" definition is just proof that morals and ethics/politics and beliefs do overlap whether we want them too or not.

      I need to read more Vonnegut.

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  6. So here's a little something:

    How can you reserve a seat if there may possibly be no hell?

    I always thought of that, but that's a whole 'nother story. ;D

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    1. Oh, and I love that picture SO much. I've seen it float around the internet before and I think it is so goddamn hilarious!!

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    2. right? i thought that was a given;)

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  7. yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. that's all I have to say. you KNOW i relate.

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  8. I just found your blog via Eat.Enjoy.Live. I am so glad I found it. I loved this piece. I am a non-believer. I have issues with all religions but I also know that there is good in religions as well. For example, I think the teachings of Jesus are great teachings - love one another, accept others, don't shun those less fortunate than you. I have a few Christian friends who are great - they don't judge others and they don't try to convert those who don't believe as them.

    Anyways, I am following you via Blog Lovin (I didn't see a GFC follow anywhere so I've got you there!) and I've added your blog to my Blogger reading list. Have a great day!

    Julie
    www.jamscorner.com

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  9. This post is awesome. :) But gosh, I had no idea any University would kick someone out for being gay. O.o Education should be largely about learning how others view the world, and developing understanding for those different from us. It's really ignorance that causes bigotry.

    Well that, and our affinity to belief. :P It's a lot easier to believe something, to have the whole world set out for you in a tidy volume titled "How Everything Works: All the Answers You Need To Navigate Life", than to walk through life with an open mind, full of wonder, embracing mysteries with gentle questions, but being content if mysteries they remain.

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  10. woot woot! you rule! my family is religious but not insane so I didn't grow up with those bigoted ideas, but my husband did and i'm so glad we met when we were 16 and were able to grow up together and question things and now we are both humanists wondering how to break it to his parents when we start having kids and don't want to take them to sunday school. haha. i wish i was as brave as you! i think sometimes you have to know what hate and bigotry is before we can really resist and fight it.

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  11. Can SO relate! Found you through another blog and loved this post. I'm in a similar place in life after walking away from the same crazy religion where I too, gained a "strict scale to judge others on" and I wonder how I could have bought into the things I "believed" and taught others. Refreshing to hear other recovered bigots say the same things out loud I've often felt!

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  12. I can relate! So so so so much. I was raised Catholic and then got into the Christian scene in high school. I went to Christian rock shows, missionary trips, etc, etc. I started dating the mister when we were 16 and we went to church together. But as we got older, married and moved out, we stopped going and began to question things. I am not sure what I would call myself now. Humanist? Atheist? I don't know. Anywho, I knew a guy that was gay but was trying to change for the church. It was super painful to watch. The way people talked about him made me sick. I was like "Holy shit guys! He is gay. Leave him alone!"

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  13. Hey, I know I'm commenting on an old post here but I just wanted to add something I guess
    I'm British and a Christian, I have been pretty much since I thought about it for myself. I've been a member of different churches and Christian groups in a number of different cities here in the UK and also in Egypt, Ghana, Burkina Faso and India while staying in those countries
    I feel I have a fairly good global view on Christian identity
    I'm really sorry that you grew up in a religious situation that spoke hatred and judgement and I'm glad that you've been able to move beyond that
    I was a little put off by your use of the word majority.
    I have never encountered the type of hate and fear you describe
    There are people in the church I grew up in who would not be positive about gay people or promiscuity but would not be terribly negative, I think that might be quite common with a lot of people in the their 60s and 70s, at the same time there is a gentleman in his early 70s who is out and a valued member of the church
    The Church in which I worshipped in Ghana had several members who were HIV positive and who were not hated but loved and who celebrated with the church when they were able to have ARV and other medications.
    I really don't feel it is the majority of Christians who are bigoted
    maybe it is in the USA, I don't know, what I read and see on the news from US politicians there are some funny ideas of what it means to be Christ like but please know that is not true around the world
    Helen

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    1. Helen, thank you for bring a global view point here:) I would have to say that you are correct in saying that not everyone is like this. Absolutely.

      And, looking back, I would have to question my choice of "majority".

      I would say a large amount, now:)

      <3

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  14. Hi Jess, I love this post and I an glad I've found you. I too write about these things on my blog. I have recently(2 yrs) started to question my religion. And its so difficult to get away from social conditioning. Sometimes I get scared that I am going to piss people off and get nasty comments. People strongly subscribing to religions are so devoted to defending it that they shut down their common sense sometimes. I too do not know what to call myself but I know for a fact that religion doesn't work for me... Its made me feel miserable my whole life.

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  15. 100% identify and understand. So glad to find your blog today. YOU are powerful, inspiring and AMAZING! love it!

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  16. Ive recently found you blog and have to agree with you about this post 100%. I have also left, 'the church' back in 2007. Previous to that time i was brought up in a world of accepting anyone with an alternative lifestyle. I officially came out as a lesbian in 2007 and had a horrible experience losing friends who i honestly thoufht were real but just turned out to be practically brainwashed. thank you for opening the door for people to learn a dofferent side to being Mormon.

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  17. Did you ever make up with your friend Keith-not-his-real-name? I'm actually... I'm actually really worried about this.

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    1. I forgot to wrap around his story. Were still good friends. He lives in seattle with his partner and is adorably happy. I plan on visiting him soon:)

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