Thoughts From the Crossroads of Self Identity and Religion

 

NOTE: Today I will be broaching some very serious, potentially triggering subjects. Read with caution lovelies.

If I somehow haven’t made this clear before, I’m really really gay. I mean, really gay. Ellen Page in this video gay. But I’m also a Christian. Specifically, my congregation is a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, though of course I believe religion is interpretational and not exactly the same from person to person. Both these parts of my identity are very important to me but do not define me, as with anything else, but sometimes, people from both communities try to make them.

I was in fourth grade the first time I really believed in God. I’d been struggling with anxiety to the point where I couldn’t go outside without hyperventilating, and I spent my days feeling like I was fragile enough to shatter into a thousand pieces at any given moment. Whenever my parents left me at home alone for a quick run to the grocery or to pick up my brother from a friend’s house, I’d sit in the same place the entire time, shaking, still. Unmoving because the creaks and noises I heard didn’t just sound like burglars and monsters–they were burglars and monsters. The scariest kind. If it wasn’t that, I’d be afraid my body would give out on me with no one around to keep it from falling apart.

Our culture prioritizes hiding, and I knew I’d have to keep these things hidden deeper than anything. What I didn’t know was how to hide.

So I started praying, not as a means of hiding, but to calm myself down. It worked, mostly. I found myself truly believing the things they told me in Sunday school about a God who loved me, who looked out for me, who held me accountable to myself. I prayed to Her whenever I felt too afraid to continue. I’d hear a storm outside and tell Her I would helpĀ save the environment one day if the thunder and lightning passed. When I felt a pang or ache in my side and worry it meant my inevitable decay I promised Her I’d write those books I’d always wanted to. It helped me breathe again and get through my day. Eventually the pain would pass but the fear lingered. To this day it lingers.

My faith has since come in phases, like the waxing and waning of the moon. I’ve had many moments of doubt and I never stop questioning my beliefs, but I think both doubt and questioning are integral to the understanding of one’s faith and oneself. I have had more moments than I’d like where the world has gotten me so down, when I feel so guilty about the things people of my faith can do, that I have stopped believing, or tried. As I grow older I find it harder to rationalize my faith as the world screams “religion defies logic” with one fist and “religion promotes hate speech” with the other.

It’s true. Religion is not logical. Some people use it to condone vile actions that I will never uphold and never support. That is most of the reason I am writing to you today.

Leelah Alcorn was a teenage trans woman who committed suicide this week because her conservative Christian parents could not accept her for who she was and, among other brutalities, isolated her from her friends and sent her to conversion therapy. I won’t go into detail because I do not know all the details and do not believe they are mine to comment on, but her story needs attention, as do the stories of hundreds of thousands of others. Roughly half of transgender people will attempt suicide before they’re 20. And some people, some Christians, are perfectly okay with this, or are in denial about it. Leelah’s parents claim their daughter was caught in an accident.

So many people have so many better words than me about this, and I invite you to read them (tumblr is a start because many people have thoughts on this issue & links to charities you can donate to and helplines, some of which I’ll link below). I am not transgender, and I am not Leelah, and therefore I have no authority to speak on this other than to report what I know to be the facts and send all the love I have to Leelah, to transgender youth, to all who struggle with being someone the world tells them they’re not supposed to be.

Many things about both the facts and the response trouble me. No parent should put their child through that. No one should put any other human through that, or drive a human being to take their own life. And no one should do all this in the name of a religion based on love and acceptance.

I’m lucky. I have lived in a setting where I have not needed to fear my parents’ reactions to my sexuality, nor my friends, and where in fact many of my friends are queer themselves. My church openly accepts members of any sexuality or gender identity. I am so fortunate, and so grateful, and thus the things I write come from a place of privilege. Remember that. The queer community has always been accepting and is one of the first places I felt a true sense of belonging. Yet I find it harder to come out to my queer friends as Christian than I have found it to come out to my Christian friends as queer. I don’t know many religious queer people, and many of the queer people I associate with make remarks on a regular basis about how the planet would be better off without religion or how the Bible should be banned. I understand that these things do not come from a place of intentional maliciousness. It’s easy for us to blame religion as being the root of the problem because it means we don’t have to blame the culture we’ve helped to create. Religion may be that root some cases, but does that really mean it is inherently evil and should be wiped out?

I am not with any of this saying that religion in general does not have flaws, because like any system it is full of them. I am not excusing the actions of people like Leelah’s parents, or religious organizations that proudly promote discrimination. I am saying that religion is meant to help, and it is people who use it to hurt, and therefore we shouldn’t dismiss all religions as worthless. If you can say with confidence the world would be a better place without religion, you are saying that the world would be a better place without me, and others like me.

I struggle with my faith. I struggle with believing in a God who could let what Leelah’s parents did to her happen, who could let any number of atrocities in this world happen. But the God I believe in is not the scary condemning monster of a God the rest of the world presents to me.

My God is more of a force than a concrete being floating on some cloud while the world burns. My God is loving above all else. My God works in tandem with science and logic; She but another facet to these explanations. My God creates the perfectly flawed, because our flaws bring destruction but ultimately they bring us beauty. My God accepts all and does not condemn people to hell for who they are. My God does not condone actions of hate made in Her name.

The time I felt the closest to God I’d ever been was this past July. It was my fifth night at summer camp, the last before I had to return home. I was surrounded by teenagers of diverse sexualities and gender identities who were Christian like me, for the first time in my life feeling like the queer community accepted me for my religion and my religion accepted me for being queer. That week had been a slice of paradise–dance routines and music and gluten-free food and joking around with friends and in-depth discussions about God and gender and sexuality. I’ve never been able to grasp the idea of heaven in the contemporary sense of the word, but for the first time, I could see how a place like it could exist. By the dying embers of our last campfire, I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed before or since. And now I pray again.

I pray for LGBTQ+ teenagers who feel alone, because it is so easy for teenagers in general to feel isolated, particularly when half the world is telling them they’re wrong. I pray for trans women, and that cis people will truly, genuinely listen to trans people. I pray for the parents of Leelah Alcorn, because they live in ignorance of the grievous injustice they have done. I pray they will stop denying their wrongs and start to live with open hearts and open actions. And I pray for Leelah. I pray that she will find the peace the world didn’t grant her.

Praying may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It doesn’t have to be. But prayer has helped me in the past, and I’m not going to stop. My faith gives me strength.

These are my thoughts, based on my personal experiences. Some people have different experiences that cause them to hate religion because of brutal things very religious people have done to them. I am in no way trying to discount or delegitimize that. But I do urge you to think before generalizing all religions and religious people as the same, as hateful and worthless. It is a strong belief of mine that a vast majority of religions are meant to promote love, and it is us people who use them instead to promote our own discriminatory agendas. And not having a concrete religion, or any religion? Perfectly okay. Demonizing religions practiced in peace? Not okay. I say do not ban religion. Ban hate speech people make on behalf of a religion that in all likelihood would be appalled at that behavior in the first place.

As always, I am not an expert, only a girl with a keyboard and some thoughts. Please call me out on any inaccuracies you see.

~Links~

Organizations to support/donate to:
Trans Lifeline–http://www.gofundme.com/TLLCreatingChange
Trans Youth Support Network–http://www.transyouthsupportnetwork.org/
Trans Women of Color Collective–http://www.twocc.us/
Trans Student Educational Resources–http://transstudent.org/
Kaleidoscope Youth Center–http://www.kycohio.org/

Support Groups:
Pathways–http://pathwaystg.org/
Other Trans Support Groups–http://iamtransgendered.com/SupportGroups.aspx

Helplines and resources:
LGBTQ Hotlines–http://www.glbtnationalhelpcenter.org/ http://www.lgbt.ie/get-support.aspx
Transgender Helpline–http://www.transgenderzone.com/transpanic.htm
Gender Support Lines–http://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/gender-identity.php

 

 

The Night of the Doctor: An Analysis

If you are a Whovian (translation: Doctor Who fan) like I am, you’ll know that the minisode The Night of the Doctor aired a few days ago (it can be watched here, and I reccomend you do so to be able to understand this post). It features the Eighth Doctor, and as someone who has not yet seen his only other onsceen appearance, his movie, it may be a bit presumtuous of me to post an analysis without more of his character to go on, but I have really been wanting to write this. I have not yet seen Eight’s movie for lack of trying. I would like to take a short moment to glare at whoever decided to damaged the library’s only copy.

I wasn’t sure whether to just dive right in wih my feelings or go frame by frame, so I think I’ll do some of both. And again, as I have not seen Eight, some of my interpretations could be totally inncorrect, but bear with me.

I’ve been hearing quite a lot over the past few months about Eight fans’ worries about Moffat entirely messing up Eight and getting his character wrong, so I was relieved to hear that many of them were satisfied with the minisode, because I am too. I thought it was very well done and I was very happy that Eight finally got a regeneration. But more on that later.

0:09 Is it just me or does the computer sound rather smug here? Just a thought. Computers can have a way of sounding exraordinarily smug.

0:18 EIGHT!!! When I watched this minisode for the first time, that was also the first time I’d seen/heard the Eighth Doctor, and I immediately loved him. Maybe I’m biased because I know so many wonderful Eight fans, but I really like his opening lines in this, and the way he says them. “I’m a Doctor. Though probably not the one you were expecting.”

During the theme, more fangirling over Eight ensues. I sorely hope the movie will be ready at the library soon because I want to see it now more than ever.

0:38 As a side note, I like the way Eight walks here. That sounds strange, but it puts me in mind of brave adventurers and Shakespearean swordfights. Perhaps that’s the costume. I love Eight partially because of the costume. (Which I am not entirely sure is the same as his in the movie, so if you know, comment?)

0:46 When the Doctor says “Welcome aboard” and Cass says “Aboard what?” with so much longing in her voice, the way she smiles hopefully after she says it because she sees an escape, it’s heartbreaking. Especially considering what happens shortly afterward. I find the Doctor’s ability to instill hope in people so wonderful, it’s part of what makes the show so powerful, and that as well makes this moment particularly sad.

I love the music that plays while they’re running back to the TARDIS. Very dramatic and adventerous.

1:04 “I wanted to see the Universe.” The words spoken by so many throughout time and space by many a wanderer. Often in scenarios that sooner or later result in death, injury, destruction, or heartbreak. Every time I hear this line I like to think about how huge the Universe is, how dangerous, and how beautiful. And how we can none of us fully comprehend any of it.

1:06 “Is it always like this?” “If you’re lucky.” I love that brief little exchange. It’s so Doctor-y, and for me a touch nostalgic too. It makes me think fond, happy thoughts of a certain Time Lord and all his regenerations.

1:13 We’re starting to build up to it…

1:20 …and BAM! The pure and utter loathing in her voice when Cass says “Don’t touch me” is still moving to me. A few seconds ago he was her salvation, and now she couldn’t hate him more.

1:22 Oh Eight…”I’m not part of the war. I never was. I swear to you.” And then later he says he’s one of the nice Time Lords. I would love to see Time War episodes of Doctor Who to analyze Time Lords before, after, and during it to see how they change.

1:31 “Well look on the bright side, I’m not a Dalek!” “Who can tell the difference anymore?”
Oooooooooohhhhhhhh. Thses lines. These two lines are so, so powerful every time I hear them. The implication that the Time War has been so corrupting that the Time Lords are morally no better than their enemies, the Daleks, is staggering. This is part of why I’m okay with Eight being relieved of the burden of the Time War. He already gets hurt an exponential amount in the EDAs alone, I’d hate to think of him having to go through the entire war, especially because the Doctor has always been just that–a Doctor, a healer–and the war would change that.

1:37 Though I’m mad at Cass for hurting the Doctor, I can see why she does it, and I admire her dedication. She seals the door. She would rather die than associate with a Time Lord. Again with the power of the Time War.

1:41 “Go back to your battlefield. You haven’t finished yet. Some of the Universe is still standing.” Again. How terrible, how truely, utterly, horrifically brutal the Time War must be. And I don’t think Eight could have withstood all that evil as the Doctor. The Doctor is strong, but that much bad changes a person.

1:49 “I’m not leaving this ship without you.” Oh, Eight. Valiant to the last.

2:14 When I first heard them mention “Karn” I thought they said “Khan”, which led me to immitate Captain James Tyberious Kirk in a long, dramatic scream of “Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!”

2:24 I think the music that plays here is part of the episodes The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon, though I forget what the track is called at the moment.

2:31 I’m not dead yet!

2:32 I think the music that plays here is what the siren sings during The Curse of the Black Spot in season six.

2:52 “Four minutes? That’s ages. What if I get bored, or need a television, couple of books, anyone up for chess, bring me knitting.” I love you, Eight.

3:13 “Keepers of the Flame of Utter Boredom.” “Eternal Life.” “That’s the one.” Have I mentioned how much I like Eight? This quick exchange gives very good insight into the Doctor’s character.

3:45 I love the whole exchange with Eight saying it isn’t his war, and the Sister of Karn (I don’t know her specific name) countering that he can’t avoid the Time War forever, because I think it applies well to real life. Wars are inescapable, no matter what you do or where you live.

3:52 “Because you are a good man.” “I call myself the Doctor.” “It’s the same thing in your mind.” “I’d like to think so.” These lines are wonderful food for thought. What is good, and bad? What is the Doctor? Doctor means healer, but is it ever anything else than that? (Also I think the music playing here is Space 1969 from series six.)

During the whole part where the Sister of Karn is trying to convince Eight to join the Time War, I think she sounds very much like Galadriel. Not here voice, but the inflections, the tone, the way she uses volume and rhythm and whispers.

4:26 “You’re a part of this, Doctor.” “I would rather die.” “You’re dead already. How many more will you let join you?” Death as a theme is always very interesting to analyze in Doctor Who because the show has a lot to say on the subject about death and who’s responsible and its impacts.

5:05 Eight makes the decision to become a warrior.

5:09 “I don’t suppose there’s any need for a Doctor anymore.” *sobs* This minisode is riddled with powerful lines.

5:24 The music that begins here is more from series six, but again, I’ve forgotten the track.

5:34 There’s been lot’s of discussion about why he only mentions certain characters, and not Grace, who was his companion in the movie, but the one I like is a sad, spoilery one so SPOILERS FOR THE COMPANIONS MENTIONED IN THE MINISODE with the exception of Molly, whose story I believe isn’t finished yet, these are the companions that have died, which is so powerful and so interesting. OKAY SPOILERS DONE NOW.

5:48 “Physician, heal thyself.” EIGHT!!! He finally gets a regeneration. Not only that, but he gets a regeneration with beautiful, chilling, heartbreaking last words. I cried, and I haven’t seen Eight apart from this minisode. The fact that he’s casting off his title as Doctor, that he’s trying to cure himself of helping others because there’s a war on, is powerful and staggering and tragic and heartbreaking and so many words I could fill a page with them. I love his last words so much, and in my Doctor Who book it lists them as “unknown”, but now I have crossed that off and written in the words the fandom has waited for for 17 years.

6:21 Still more series six music.

6:36 “Doctor no more.” I just…I can’t.

Comments? Critiques? Questions? Thoughts?

Plans for NaNoWriMo 2013

As I have previously mentioned, for the past two years I have participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. This year I also participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. Well, it is that time of year again, where the month of November quickly approaches and I frantically make last minute preparations of characters, plots, settings, and stock up on junk food (how convenient that NaNo begins the day after Halloween). I thought I’d post my plans for this year’s NaNo on my blog.

I’ve always been rather partial in my writing to the genre of fantasy. The four novels (as well as a couple on the side) I have previously written have all been fantasy, and this year’s novel is no different. However, my novel this year takes a bit of a different shape than in years previous.

In every fairy tale I’ve ever heard, the main character is always insurpassably lovely, “the fairest maiden of them all”. Even in most of the books I’m currently reading, and certainly in nearly every YA book I’ve ever read, there is always something beautiful about the main character or love interest. But what if there wasn’t?

Meet Cinder, a teenage girl who isn’t beautiful, pretty, lovely, exquisite, graceful, poised, charming, or in any way possessed with the graces of a fairy tale princess. Her mother died when she was a baby, her father not long after he remarried, and now she lives with her arrogant stepmother and vane stepsisters. And they are beautiful.

So, if you can’t tell, the main plottline of the story is based off of the story Cinderella; I’m actually planning on titling my book Cinderugly. But I’ve changed up the traditional tale and added in quite a bit, including a corrupt government system, a prince she loathes but somehow still keeps having to save his life, Death as a characters, mysterious black envelopes appearing in many kingdoms leading people on various missions, subplots that are really other famous fairy tales, LGBTQA+ relationships, and a team-up of princesses, princes, commoners, and age-old characters that may just have to save the world.

I’m really excited about my idea and have already started prep work for it. I hope to draw up a map of all the kingdoms, and if I do, I’ll try to post a picture here. In addition to Cinderella, I’m also using plots based on Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I’m also referencing countless other stories in the book.

And that is my plan for NaNoWrimo 2013. I’m a bit apprehensive this year because I’ll probably be in rehearsals in November, and it’s my first time trying to write 50,000 words, which I’ve never even come close to before. And I’m writing by hand. So that’ll be scary.

What about you? Have you ever tried or wanted to try NaNoWriMo, or even just written a novel before? Got any survival tips for this third-timer so she won’t keel over with exhaustion halfway through the month?