Here There Be Monsters

It was my 11 year old self's favorite shirt, truly a blouse, most likely a hand-me-down from one of my older cousins. Since the year was 1975, of course the fabric was a silky polyester. In addition to the stylin' oversize pointed collar, it had billowy pirate sleeves that ended in extra wide cuffs, each fastened with a single line of multiple buttons. Fierce, if overly understated in beige.

School had always been fun up to that point and I'd felt reasonably popular, though i didn't think often about social ranking.  Every now & then some other boy would take issue with me but it didn't affect my daily experience. I preferred to hang with the girls. Disdainful of team sports and roughhousing in general, I was really good at playing jacks and jumping rope, even double dutch.

Home was a lonely, rigid, antiseptically anxious space, unless my dad was home or we had company. Lacking the natural outlet of play with other kids produced an aching estrangement. We were at church more evenings of the week than not.   I instinctively avoided my impossible-to-please mother whenever possible. Since she clearly wanted me out of sight but never beyond the range of her judgement, I learned to be quiet and to blend into the background. As desperate as I sometimes was for attention, there was seldom anything gained and always something lost by attracting hers.

Away from home I remember being outgoing, smart & talented, if occasionally bashful.  Adults referred to me as precocious, ornery, gifted and a smart mouth. I'm sure that when the first day of middle school arrived I walked with a skip in my step to the bus stop at the bottom of the hill, glad for the escape back to school and excited as well as a little nervous.

Returning to school in the Fall had always been something I eagerly anticipated. Elementary school had generally been a blast but I wanted to get going & start growing up. 

I was used to catching the bus to elementary school from the same stop though it was a bus heading away from town and toward the village of Lone Pine. As only the second or third stop of that particular bus route, for five years I had been accustomed to boarding a nearly empty bus with my pick of seats. I had always enjoyed the ride to school, eagerly waiting for certain friends to get on at various stops along the way. 

The new schoolbus turned out to be entirely different.

Unlike the bus I rode from grades 1 through 5 this one was heading in the opposite direction, toward the town of Washington. I didn't know it while waiting at the bus stop that first day but my stop was now one of the last on the new route. This bus didn't only transport little kids; it was a mix of 6th graders through high school seniors. The younger kids sat toward the front, the older ones toward the back. 

When I boarded, the bus was already full. That was the first surprise. The second was that seemingly no one wanted to make room for me on any seat. Teasing started after only a few steps down the aisle. As I moved further into the bus it got worse. My eyes sought familiar or friendly faces, but were met with either mockery or side-eyes of purposeful disinterest. I didn't like the look of the big kids who were practically grown-ups to my eyes, laughing and populating the last few seat rows. It was all very unfamiliar and confusing.

Whether someone shoved over and gave me a place to sit that first day I honestly don't recall. Occasionally kids would do that over the coming months, or there would be fewer on the bus that day and I could easily find a seat. In particular I remember one teenage girl who looked like she probably took cosmetology classes at Vo-tech. She'd take pity on me from time to time and invite me to sit beside her. I think she liked the attention she garnered when taking me under her wing. 

All too frequently I would be forced to stand in the aisle, bracing myself as best I could to keep from falling down whenever the bus lurched to a stop or around corners. Standing in the aisle usually turned out to be tacitly taunting the bullies to pounce.

It was a reasonably short ride to the middle school, maybe 4 or 5 miles with a few stops along the way. Many times I just closed my eyes and did my best to turn away from it, at least in my mind. I remember ironing on a passive expression while inside I was begging God to make me invisible or to prompt someone to make it stop.

I learned that bullying is something people found easy to ignore. Perhaps some looked away out of fear while others secretly enjoyed watching someone smaller & weaker getting abused. Maybe It triggered the secret shame a witness already carried so they felt compelled to look away. 

The abuse was a humiliating shock to me. I was ashamed to tell anyone so I did my best to deny it even while it was occurring. Toward the end of 6th grade my parents finally found out one day when I couldn't stop crying by the time I'd reached our house after deboarding the bus. Since the bulk of it happened on the bus, my dad just drove me to school & dropped me off on his way to work from then on. 

There was more bullying from older kids while in middle school but nothing as bad as it had been at the hands of the high school guys on the bus. By the time I reached high school it had tapered off and I put it out of my mind. 

For the next 40 years I would acknowledge if pressed that I'd been bullied but only in passing with no real thought. It was just "something that happened" and "in the past". I had convinced myself it didn't have any lasting effect on me. But now, all these years later, I had to start recognizing that it did. 

The bullying, and my denial of it, certainly has played a part in my 30+ years of recurring depression, compulsive behaviors, self-esteem and gender issues. Since Obamacare required health insurers to provide parity for mental health coverage I'm finally able to get the therapy I've needed but could only get covered previously when I was 'in crisis' and considered to be an active risk for suicide. 

Life, with all the usual ups & downs, is so much better now!  Throughout my adult life I have felt an irreparable loss of identity dating from the bullying. It felt as if beloved parts of myself had been mutilated or excised from my soul. Recently I've begun to see that what I believed lost is still within. That school photo in the polyester pirate shirt is now one of my favorite childhood pictures, instead of the reminder of shame it's been for most of my life.


I'll know their Christians by the...hate?

These 7 Christian leaders showed their "love" by celebrating the Orlando nightclub massacre

This article reminds me of the people I've run into online who routinely say that they don't think peaceful Muslims speak out forcefully enough against radicals who commit atrocities in the name of Islam. Funny how I so rarely see many American Christians speaking out loudly enough against those who twist Xtianity to justify atrocities. Guess it's a criticism that's only supposed to apply to American Muslims, not American Christians. Is it any wonder I'm so over American Christianity? GOPers & 'Christian' conservatives, these wackos are your own, you f'in bastards. Not that I'm expecting any of the remnant of the 'moral majority' to step up to the plate & be in any way accountable for the results of their hateful rhetoric. No, they'll just continue to breathlessly whine about how THEY're always the victims of their imagined war on Christianity.

Hate, no matter how you package it, is still hate

I've seen numerous comments being posted lately on social media by non-queer people stating variations on the theme of "disagreeing with the homosexual (gay, transgender, etc) lifestyle is not hate, it's just my opinion". I think they're partially right because I view those kinds of statements as more ignorant than hateful. But speaking only for myself as a queer person, they sure do feel hateful when I read them. I wonder if they'd understand better if I switched out the 'lifestyle' to which they're referring: "I disagree with your blue-eyed lifestyle" or "I disagree with you being white person, that's just my opinion". See how stupid that is?
Scientists have long maintained that human sexual orientation is basically fixed by the time we're five years old. Accepted peer-reviewed research has shown that trying to change someone's sexual orientation is far more harmful to them than not. So when someone says "I disagree with the homosexual lifestyle," the subtext I hear is, "I disagree with your entire life as you've lived it since you were five", or "I think you are fundamentally wrong as a human being." To which I say f**k you, that's not just an opinion, it's one being used to diminish me based upon a core part of my identity - the way my heart works when I love. And that IS hateful, whether the person running over me with their 'opinion' knows it or not.



On my agenda that morning was attending the monthly Intergroup meeting. I knew when I awoke that I wouldn’t be attending, thus refusing to fulfill my chosen obligation as the Intergroup Rep for my home meeting.

I simply did not want to get out of bed, which has been an increasing issue over the past few weeks. Eventually physiological urgency forced me to do so. I turned off the alarm system so the dog could go outside. Then, after attending to my own bodily urgency, I slowly began setting about some of my usual morning tasks. Setting up my husband’s pillbox for the day. Taking my thyroid pill. Letting the dog back in.

I sat down, feeling a sense of emotional heaviness. “I’m not going to the meeting. It’s 8:45, the meeting starts at 9, I’m not showered or dressed, and the commute to get there takes 40 minutes. By the time I get there, the meeting will be nearly over. I’ll feel embarrassed and humiliated by my inability to get there on time. Maybe I’m a failure, but I’m taking a mental health day instead.” I took my first bong hit of the day, then set the pipe aside.

“What am I feeling?” The answer came quickly: sadness, my frequent companion. “Sit with it,” I told myself; so I did. After several moments I began to get a sense of “Why?”  An answer also came quickly: emptiness. I feel sad because I feel empty. A year+ into some good therapy, and I’ve gained the perspective that I feel so empty because at critical moments of emotional development in childhood I did not get what was needed.

My mother was unable to provide what she herself never received. Never having received it when she needed it as a child herself, she was ill-equipped to even recognize there was a critical need going unmet in her own child. This child wasn’t even a person in & of himself, at least not for many years yet, not in the way she understood personhood. Instead, he was mostly an extension of herself so the very idea that he had emotional needs made her uncomfortable. She instinctively struggled for solid footing, embracing a rigid rule of life instead of her offspring.

I suspected that this was likely to be a repeating cross-generational family pattern. The recognition of from where my mother inherited the pattern inevitably followed: her mother, the very person who always seemed willing to set aside whatever tasks she had to do in order to provide me with a lap upon which to sit. My Grandma, who delighted to have me in physical contact with her, fed me chocolates, and listened indulgently to my childish chatter. One of my primary sources of emotional nurturance was herself a likely survivor of emotional neglect and had passed it down to her own children, including my mother. What could possibly be more human than that?

After some time I recognized that I still felt sad, but it was no longer an amorphous, consuming, and baffling kind of sadness. Instead, I felt sad because of the strange habits of humans, how we can love yet hurt others and ourselves for no apparent purpose. We inherit far more than just our genes from our forefathers & foremothers  we truly do inherit the stain of their sins.

Food will not fill the emptiness that chronically yawns inside my gut. Neither will any of the other compulsive behaviors in my repertoire, no matter how much energy I spend chasing the folly of “Compulsive Behavior Whack a Mole”. What CAN begin to diminish the emptiness is the persistent process of unpacking and feeling the repressed emotions of a lifetime. Shredded and compacted into a mass, they ARE the emptiness. Re-membered and felt, they will begin filling it.

The path of least resistance to survive my childhood & adolescence seemingly required me to pack away many, if not most, of the colors of life (emotions) and bury them deep. So deep that even now, 50 years hence, when I look at life I sometimes only can see a world devoid of color; an empty world. Even when I’m not actively looking, I feel a vague pall covering my experience. That’s what will continue to happen when I don’t do the work of recovery.

On the one hand, inertia and emptiness. On the other, movement and fulfillment.

The choice is mine, every day.


"You're just a liar - you always were!"

FRC Hate Group photo frchategroup.png

The Family Research Council (FRC) is a Colorado based lobbying group founded in '83 by James Dobson that always claims it advocates for conservative Christian 'traditional' family values. In reality, it's a radical right extremist political machine that in 2010 was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

FRC's current president is Tony Perkins. No, not the one from the movie Psycho; though this one is also a sociopath worthy of tending the Bates Motel. This Tony is the one you see frequently lying his PR face off as a guest on FauxNews, if you watch that drivel.

The FRC is predictably gleeful about the new bigot laws in NC, MS, and TN. They're still butt hurt that the governor of GA vetoed the similar bill there. They're also happy that with the new laws written the way they've been passed, restrictions on citizens don't just stop with LGBT folks.

I understand why the FRC continues to push the anti-trans bathroom lie. You've surely heard their lie that laws discouraging discrimination against the basic human dignity of our transgender neighbors somehow "force young girls to share bathrooms and showers with grown men."

It's a shameless lie the FRC continues to spew with impunity. In fact, it's their own beloved  'religious freedom' laws that actually do force transwomen to use men's bathrooms & locker rooms and transmen to use the women's. They're inflaming prejudice and scaring people into supporting laws that are discriminatory. I get why they do it.

First & foremost, some people will believe the FRC's lie precisely because such an outrageous claim from a group that always says they're a 'Christian' organization can't possibly be a lie. A lobbying group like the FRC maliciously continues to sell their outrageous lie precisely because they know that enough people are ignorant or prejudiced enough to believe it to make the lying worthwhile, politically.

Secondly, to the targets of such laws they communicate toxic shame. They teach those queers their place in the cosmology of bigotry. It's a coded message to the people they see as 'other' in their midst; "You're not worthy of my understanding, compassion, or recognition. I am better than you. Even if my own life sucks, I don't have to take responsibility for it so long as I can blame you for the ills of my world."

It's a campaign of bearing false witness against our transgender neighbors. So much for FRC's mission of advocacy for 'traditional Christian family values', unless one of those bedrock values is violating the 9th (or 8th depending on your preferred tradition) commandment. I also recall something the Christ said about loving your neighbor as yourself. In the FRC's case, I'll take that to mean that they lie about themselves even more than they do about LGBT citizens.

I suggest you consider taking it the same way.

For more on the FRC's anti-gay campaign & some of the other poison pills in the latest spate of 'religious freedom' laws, please check out this post on the blog Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters:
Family Research Council anti-lgbt hysteria helped cover up NC law's attack on employment, wages