People like to say that I’ve lost my faith, but I don’t know how you lose something you never had. I grew up in a conservative, densely Evangelically populated, town. I went to church for as long as I can remember. I was baptized in the Lutheran Church as a baby, then again as a teenager in the Evangelical church I attended.
I did everything I was supposed to do. I showed up to Sunday school every week, and as I got older youth group. I joined student leadership, volunteered in the church nursery, prayed all the time, talked to the pastors when I started struggling. Everything.
I “had faith” more out of obligation than anything, and as I got older, out of fear. The more I became aware of my identity, the more I threw myself into doing things for my church. I knew everyone’s stance on LGBTQ+ identities before I even fully knew I was queer.
In junior high, my youth group had a series called “The Elephant in the Room” where we were told the “unpardonable” sins of adultery, having sex before marriage, practicing other religions, and homosexuality. I knew that if anyone found out, it would not be taken well. So I tried to bury it, I prayed that it would just go away. I researched how I could “cure” this sin, sometimes until 3a.m.. Everything I found just made me feel worse.
But as with everything in a small town, people started guessing I was not the straight girl everyone thought. I tried to date boys, I tried to dress “more feminine” hoping that if I tried hard enough, I would be OK. But I never was. I grew more depressed, and more anxious as time went on. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I came out as bisexual to a few people at school, and it took less than two weeks for word to get back to my church. I was talked to by the senior pastor, reminded that it was a sin, and told that if I continued to say that I was queer, I would be asked to step down from leadership and no longer help with the children’s services. I was put into counseling to try and fix me. I was devastated. My whole life as I knew it, was changed in an instant.
I eventually caved and went back in the closet. Making everyone believe that I had changed. But all I had done was start down the road of self-harming, misusing opiods, and planning my suicide. I no longer saw a future, I internalized everything that happened. At 13, I had given up. I believed I was going to hell, that I was an abomination, that I was alone. I no longer believed in the “loving” God, but I still did everything that I was supposed to. I faked my way through sermons, still helped with children’s services. I went back to being the “perfect” Christian teenager that everyone had seen for years.
When I left Idaho at 17, I left everything behind. I stayed as far away from the church as I could. I cut off contact with my old friends, my leaders, the church family who watched me grow up. I joined in on the atheist conversations at my new school, in my new friend group. I threw away my purity ring, my cross necklace, my Bible. I decided that I would rather be who I am and go to hell, than stay in the closet and hate myself.
As I got older, I felt pulled back to the church. I walked into a service and had to leave because I started having a panic attack. Even though the church had a rainbow flag in the sanctuary and a sign out front that said “All are welcome” I felt completely out of place. I still felt as though I would be seen as the abomination that I had been told. For a while, I started to lean back into attending church, still not really sure what I was doing.
I’m still not sure where my faith stands. Most weeks I dread stepping foot inside, but my kid likes to go, so I do, most of the time anyways. Most days I am still mad at God, for many reasons. I still don’t understand how “come as you are” could translate to “Come as you are as long as you fit our mold. As long as you leave part of who you are behind. As long as you are straight, cisgender, and follow our rules.” My obligation of having faith has faded, I no longer pray, I no longer see God as a loving being. I don’t know where I stand. I’m not sure I ever will again.
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