I started on a post over a year ago, in response to a question a friend asked me: How did you go from a conservative Evangelical to a progressive bisexual woman married to a non-binary person. How did I decide to come out at 29, and marry my then-girlfriend less than 6 months later?
The short answer is: Very painfully.
The long answer is really long and will probably take more than one post because there are so many different pieces that all covered into one moment when I was 26 that totally threw me for a loop and set me on three years of soul-searching and study.
I'm going to start with my childhood and adolescence, mostly because we're packing up our office today and I just had to go through a bunch of old notebooks, so I'm reminded of some key points.
First of all, I was always a really spectacularly terrible girl, at least the type of girl that's valued in conservative Christian circles. I was the quintessential tomboy of the 90s, baseball caps, t-shirts and jeans 100% of the time if I could help it, and deeply offended by any instance where I had to wear a fancy dress. I would just be uncomfortable and get it dirty.
This was the mid-90s, early 2000s, the era of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" in its heydey, "True Love Waits" conferences and purity balls, Rebecca St. James singing "Wait For Me", and the beautifully terrible lyrics of "all the boys in the band want a valentine from a Barlow Girl. Boys think they're the bomb, cause they remind them of their moms." [Seriously, all love to Superchick because a lot of their other music was hugely pivotal in my life, but that one didn't age so well]
But I mean, I grew up in the Bay Area, and I had basically unfettered access to the local library, where I read widely about people who were different than me. The most I ever thought about it was when I had a massive crush on one of my guy friends, and wondered if we ever were together in public, whether people would think we were a gay couple because I was consistently mistaken for a boy with my baggy t-shirts, cargo shorts, and backwards baseball cap (God Bless the early 2000s). So I knew that gay people existed. I even knew, in whispers, that a few of my mom's relatives were gay. I just didn't think it was an option for myself.
Today, I would call this being somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum and still call myself a woman, but with like, an asterisk for now. Back then, I just called myself weird and moved on with my life. Like many other queer people, as a teenager, I would develop very intense friendships that would eventually fizz as one or the other of us moved on. When it happened with boys, I recognized it as a crush. When it happened with girls at the same level, I repressed the hell out of it.
I am not one of those people that takes my beliefs halfway. So once I got the first "make a list of the qualities you want your future husband to have and don't even consider a guy until you're an adult and he matches ALL the items on that list!" talk and went to my first "True Love Waits" rally and signed the little pink pledge card they gave girls (boys got a different one that was not as flowery), I was fully dedicated to this lifestyle. Still insatiably curious about sex, but it was approved curiosity somehow if I was just "researching" to make sure that I could head any and all such inclinations off at the pass if they were to dare come into my life. I even dated Jesus for most of my high school years, and then proudly declared that I was not going to a Christian university to get my MRS, I was going to learn about GOD.
Cue the journal entry I just found from a poor "freshman in college" version of myself, who was feeling some sort of way about one of the girls in my wing that I wasn't even that good of friends with. I was freaked out to no end, and I think I even wrote about it in one of my papers about dreams because it popped up there. My prof at that time assured me that it was just some issues with my upbringing (cringe) popping up in weird ways.
On top of all this, despite being undeniably butch for most of my life and mostly hating the fact that I'd been born female, I was absolutely and totally against any sort of rights for LGBTQ+ people because I thought that was what good Christians did. I voted against Prop 8 in California when I was in college. Every time I had an inkling of deeper feelings for a girl, I went to great pains to be Very Into Guys so I might one day fulfill God's plan for my life. This never happened because I was also really spectacularly good at pushing away any sort of relationship like that with guys, but there were a couple that I secretly longed to break up with Jesus for.
You know. As any good Christian girl does at that age. Hang on to Jesus until a guy comes along to dedicate your time to. Totally solid plan for life-long faith.
But I digress. I never did date any guys. At first, I reasoned that it was because I wasn't even looking. Then I was actively looking (on and off dating sites for years) and I reasoned that it was because I wasn't "traditionally" feminine, that it would take a really understanding guy who wasn't super attached to gender roles to work with me. Then I just worried it was because I gained weight right as I hit puberty and just shot all my chances at finding love out the airlock with my trauma and mental health fueled eating habits (gotta love patriarchal fatphobia bullshit).
I was confused, I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with many other core tenants of the system I'd been raised in, and I was frustrated that no direction I turned seemed to have an open path. There was no way to be sexual and still be a Christian in my mind and I couldn't fathom how others could reconcile the two, so I just went on "exploring" in the shadows, and in shame-filled romance novel binging until I "got convicted" and tried to stop. And round and round the vicious circle went until something else drastic happened.
In 2013 my sister and her two boys died in a car crash. I've written about this in detail in other places, so I'll just stick to how it relates to this story. In my desire to find something, anything, concrete to hold onto while I was spinning out I threw myself into the life and teachings preached at my home church at the time. Suddenly I was there for every women's Bible study, actually dragging myself on their retreats despite being allergic to cutesy crafts, and signing up for the Nikao School of Leadership which was more or less the church's take on a ministry school at the time (ala Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry) but with more of a focus on skills that were transferrable between the sacred and the secular realms. The thing that drew me to it was the desperate need for a community that could help me hold my head above water and the focus of the first year on the idea of finding your true identity in Christ.
How did this tie into my sexuality? (Besides the idea of identity, in all of its facets.) Sometime before this happened, I'd already begun to doubt that the ideas of the Purity Movement were all that. This was largely due to the general lack of boyfriends that God was miraculously providing, as I had been told that He would if I kept myself totally pure and unsullied by another man's touch.
So in 2013, in the midst of all this other emotional upheaval, I distracted myself by obsessively researching all the little facets of purity culture and the harm it could do and how it messed with people who had been raised in it and gotten to adulthood only to find that reality didn't really actually work that way for a whole variety of reasons.
The journey of that period of my life will have to be for the next post because I have to get back to my extensive chores list.