Updated: May 11
5/9/2020 - Explicit
The language of religion triggers me. The “Thy, Thou Art, Lord, Savior, Jesus Christ, Resurrection, Repent, Redeem, cast out, abomination, rebuke, believers, sinners…” these words stab me in the stomach, act like a tightening vice grip around my chest.
They produce sweat on my upper lip and anxiety in my knees. They represent anger and deceit and my heart's incompatibility with God. With family. With the world that is good.
These words are very, very powerful and they built a fantasy world before my eyes that I was not welcome in. I wasn’t ever sure I wanted to belong in it because it said nice things like welcome but seemed like members only.
I learned through the endless parade of heterosexual examples and the lack of Queer folks. I learned by watching my minister father and mother fight at home and smile at church. I learned by witnessing the Presbyterian service end before the Baptist service began. I learned by reading history books where ugly faces, contorted and twisted in the ugliness of their own pain-turned-rage, held ugly signs citing God as the author of their hatred.
I learned in person, from a man holding a Bible beneath his arm, outside of an LGBTQ gathering. A statue, draped in Christian Artifacts, with a sign that said “God hates Faggots” and he just stood there. Holding it. Among others who displayed the words “sodomite, sinner, pedophile“. Each stood stoically.
I moved in. I was terrified and sad and I wanted to cry - and I know God in my heart so I found the momentum to approach him, stand a respectful distance from his front with my hands behind my back to avoid seeming aggressive and I asked him, “who made your sign?”
To my surprise, he merely shifted his gaze further above my eyes then they’d been, tightened his lips, and said nothing.
“Who made your sign, sir? Do you believe what is on your sign? Can you tell me more?” He moved his body aggressively to un-face me and stepped a few steps away. I did not move closer.
“I love God“, I said.
“You are fucking sick” he said to me, not meeting my eyes.
“Sick how? Tell me more.” My heart was turning inside out and I was on the verge of throwing up from shame and nerves and fear, but my faith allowed me to see his inability to face me. His anger at my approach was turning his temperature up and his sign was all he had to say. I could see that he didn’t have words or proof or more. He had those letters, arranged that way, and usually that was enough.
When I read it, it said “God Hates Faggots”, but to him I believe it said something more along the lines of “What about Me?”
Abandoned eyes refused to meet mine. I could sense his bodies tension from 3 feet away, every muscle strained in fear and anxiety that he is not good enough, loved enough, and making someone else an ‘other’ made him be able to stand himself.
It’s human nature. We don’t hold ourselves accountable to the ways our "signs" impact others. We don't feel like we add up somewhere in our life, and we find a group of "others" to leak our pain onto.
We build community and loyalty around the ignorance and fight to belong. Sometimes the rules we build manifest addiction, depression, in signs, policies or the perpetuation of oppression.
Jim Crow in the south pitted poor blacks and whites against each other so they'd stay distracted from the poverty they were not receiving help with. These folks felt in competition with each other due to different treatment and public facilities… poor whites thought they were better than someone, and poor blacks were accustomed to the bullshit, I imagine. Whatever the case, it provided a focus for both groups other than the governments responsibility to enact systems that provide equity and access - or in simpler terms, the fact that they were all poor. Politicians "used" getting rich to treat the pain of their personal "I don't add up".
That man wanted me to yell at him, to say, “Get out of here! I hate you!” His inward anger and his personal pain came out to fight. To get some relief, to scream at people who were worse than him, to use the white water fountain while he held a sign that judged those needing to use the one labeled COLORED.
My faith met him with love and it exposed him.
I told him I don’t agree with him but I love him and I wish he would find a more kind way to be part of the community. It was then that he met my eyes.
I held his gaze. Tears welled up but never travelled down his cheek. He held them as an act of willpower. He spoke slowly.
“Fuck you pervert. An abomination! Repent! Repent! Repent!” His face was purple. My entire body went hot and a parade of words that are always connected to his ran through my mind.
The language of religion triggers me.
His expression morphed into the same face I saw holding signs in black and white pictures of America’s history. A pronounced smile crept in beneath nearly fallen tears and declared, “You’re fucking going to hell.”
He stood sturdy in his perceived victory and I walked away. I know when my existence helps someone else feel better about themselves. But at what cost?
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