Heaven is not a place on earth

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San Junipero won an Emmy.

There’s so much to unpack about this episode of Black Mirror. I’m certainly not the best person to critique the show, at all really, because this episode is the only episode of Black Mirror I’ve seen. Reason being, mostly, I don’t have cable.

My girlfriend, however, did.

Six years my senior, she held the 1980’s closer than I could ever. The colors, the costumes, the music… she would have loved the episode anyway.

The episode was extra special for her because at the time of the episode’s release, she was in her first lesbian relationship. And the two characters mirrored us perfectly.

It was spooky. She sat me down in a you-must-watch-this-now fashion and I didn’t object. Watching the episode was gut-wrenching, heartwarming, and ultimately just fucking sad. I held it together (barely) while she sobbed uncontrollably into my chest. I’m not sure if she knew at the time that we wouldn’t last, but seeing a mirror of our relationship played out onscreen, ending literally in eternity… we both knew it was too good to be true.

It was the painfully true elephant-in-the-room that neither of us wanted to bring up. Our relationship had always felt volatile and fragile all at the same time. Perhaps if things were different… if I was not from an unaccepting family, if she were not struggling financially, if we both weren’t fucking crazy… perhaps then we could have had our heaven on earth forever.

San Junipero was perhaps the happiest episode of Black Mirror ever to air. For us, and for many other gay viewers, I suspect, it was all too bittersweet. Heterosexual couples get their happy endings in countless stories. Lesbians get San Junipero; a bizarre alternate reality that can really only exist through the strangest of circumstances, and no matter how eternal the ending, it’s never quiet happy.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but there has to be something to the fact that literally every lesbian I know who has watched this episode has had the same reaction. My girlfriend sobbed into my shirt and deep down I think we both knew, it wouldn’t last. This wonderful, amazing thing, wouldn’t last. Because in reality, heaven isn’t a place on earth. At least, not for most of us.

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Heaven is not a place on earth

A funny thing happened on the way to the dispensary…

Ahead of tomorrow’s post (spoiler alert, it’s really angsty) I thought I’d share a bit of a humorous story.

(I may turn this into a longer work, depends on if I can articulate things well enough)

This week I’m staying in Maine in the middle of nowhere in a much deserved week of solitude. As a parting gift, a good friend of mine (a FWB, lets not sugarcoat it) gave me the coolest pair of vibrant rainbow shoelaces.

Heck. Yes.

I’m not really one for rainbows, but I have nothing wrong with wearing something that loudly proclaims “HELLO I AM GAY; ASK ME HOW”, especially when going to bars, potentially alone. And I would be traveling mostly alone (see: solitude).

In order to arrive at the aforementioned solitude, however, I had to make a stop to see an old friend in the city of Portland. Portland has legalized the recreational use of marijuana over the past year and I thought maybe it would be time for me to finally try some, since I wouldn’t be breaking any precious rules.

I hadn’t seen my friend in over 5 years. In school, we had unspoken crushes on each other. So naturally, nearly the first thing I asked was: “how’s the weed situation?”

Smooth.

She said she could call up some people. I said okay, lets see where the night goes.

She told me she had a crush on me back in school. I told her I was gay as hell.

“I saw your laces,” she said. “They were the first thing I noticed when you arrived. Well, besides your face.”

A funny thing happened on the way to the dispensary.

Burgers and several beers later, we went back to hers.

“You know,” I said, “If you had asked me out in college, I would have said yes.”

She handed me a packet. “There’s not a lot in here, but there’s enough for one good high.”

Free drugs. Or maybe it was the beer getting to me. Maybe it was just her, standing there, reminding me of why I had a crush on her in college in the first place. But I felt bold.

“Can I kiss you?” I said.

She looked taken aback, but said yes, with the cutest smile.

I didn’t know I had it in me. I kissed her in the hallway of her place. I left in a position of power, saying goodnight and goodbye before I could make it weird. Who am I? Where did this confidence come from?

All of that disseminated quickly when I realized it was too late and I was far too tipsy to drive. Embarrassed, I walked back to her door and she let me back in.

“I just can’t stop thinking of you,” she said, laying on her back in bed, looking up at the stars through the skylight in her room. “You… kissing me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No, you’re great, I just wasn’t expecting it.”

“I’m not usually that impulsive,” I said.

Silence.

“Well… we could continue it, if you wanted to, while you’re here.”

“I’m really not impulsive.”

“I’m not either.”

“Do you want me to kiss you?” I asked.

“Yes.”

A funny thing happened on the way to the dispensary…

Social Tips for Introverts: Part II: Youths

Hello fellow introverts! Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you are the oldest person around? Do you ever find yourself surrounded by scary teenagers and you’re expected to *shudder* socialize with them? Not hip with the lingo? Don’t know what to talk about with these darn Gen Z’ers?

I have a solution for you!

Ask the youths: What would you do in the event of an apocalypse?

It’s nearly fool proof. Here’s why:

  1. Because it’s a hypothetical situation, everyone can contribute. There’s little concern of one kid dominating the conversation. And if you can take the time to listen to each kid, everyone will feel included.
  2. These kids have grown up with doomsday stories. It’s such a part of the collective culture of young people that they have a whole arsenal of ideas to incorporate into their hypothetical plans.
  3. You don’t have to do the talking.

It seriously hasn’t failed me yet.

Forced to socialize with younger relatives at family gatherings? Talk about the apocalypse! Roped into helping with a church youth event? Ask if they have a plan for a zombie invasion! Want to avoid talking about mortgages with the real adults? Hang out with the youths and fear no more.

And have a plan in mind. Just in case.

Social Tips for Introverts: Part II: Youths

Hi John Piper. I’m not evil, I’m just a girl.

This week I spent a bit of time on John Piper’s website. It wasn’t a decision I consciously made–I found my way there via the twitter page of my former pastor.

I remember studying John Piper in Sunday school and in sermons. The church I grew up in held him in the same respect that they hold the apostle John: In addition to believing that the Bible is the direct Word-From-God, we were also supposed to believe that John Piper had it all right. 100%. Anything he published was as good as gold. And yeah, he’s a smart dude. He’s a great writer and a compelling speaker.

But after years and years of attending church, I got a little fed up with John Piper. Not so much Mr. Piper himself, but rather the way my church (and others in the evangelical world) held his work in much the same light that they hold the Bible.

I’m sorry, but I don’t worship John Piper.

Since breaking with my former congregation, I haven’t sought out the works of John Piper. But this week, I decided to click around the website.

There’s a Q&A section where “Pastor John” as he’s called takes questions from people (who I am assuming are his readers) and answers them in a much more casual setting than a sermon or a book. As is typical, the questions deal with the hot button issues; homosexuality, abortion, homosexuality, the sanctity of marriage, homose…. you get my point.

A nice little thing I read was commending a state official for her “brave” decision to refuse to marry a gay couple. I’m personally of the opinion that if you are hired to do a job that conflicts with your morals that strongly? you probably should not have that job. Mr. Piper is not of that opinion. In a particularly excellent section, he calls gay marriage an “evil” of the world, by association then, calling LGBTQ individuals who seek to get marriage evil as well.

Below are some passages from the specific article I was reading. Notice the language used to describe LGBTQ individuals, particularly “Evil” & “Destruction”.

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That made me quite sad,  so I want to do something here:

Hi, Mr. Piper (I hope you don’t mind being called Mr. Piper). My name is Lily. I’m 25 years old. I’m a Christian. I was saved at the age of 8. I play in the worship band at my church. I volunteer with the youth group. I believe all life to be sacred. I like learning and listening to other people’s viewpoints. I have a heart for teenagers; I just want to make sure that they’re okay in this crazy world. I’m not evil. I swear to you, I am not evil. I really try so hard to show the love of Jesus to everyone around me. And my witness only improved in the midst of inner and external adversity: I am a lesbian.

There’s no argument I can make or revelation I can give to make you change your mind; I don’t actually care about changing your mind. I will however, encourage you to think of the young people especially when you use words like “evil” and “destruction”, and other common words like perverse, unnatural, or abomination. Whether or not you believe that people can be “cured” of their gayness is beyond the point. This is a human issue.

Due in part to the rhetoric listed above (and in your writings and the writings of other evangelical leaders), I have a very poor image of self. I’ve struggled with eating disorders, cutting, alcoholism, and suicide attempts. I’ve been told that who I am at my very core is despicable not only to people here on this earth, but to my Creator. At times when I was at my most vulnerable, it was the words of my brothers and sisters in Christ that came to me and convinced me that I was indeed a mistake, broken, worthless, an abomination, and irreparable. On top of that, where others are encouraged to love, I am required to reject the romantic love I yearn for. I want to give my love away, and I am told that I cannot.

It sucks. Hi Mr. John Piper. I’m Lily. I promise you I’m not evil. I want to build up God’s Church. That Church to me includes the trans-boy at my youth group. It includes the lesbian couple down the street. It includes room to listen to these stories and make sure that everyone’s needs are met. This is a fragile demographic, and I encourage you to consider especially the LGBTQ youth when writing about this topic.

Hi Mr. John Piper. I’m Lily. I love God. I’m gay. I’m not evil. I’m just a girl.

 

 

Hi John Piper. I’m not evil, I’m just a girl.

Dear Mrs. Betsy DaVos:

Hello Mrs. Betsy DaVos,

I know by the time I’m posting this, this is old news. I’ve been a little busy. I’ve been doing a lot of work at my church; playing in the band and becoming a youth leader. I’ve been fostering kittens and helping my friends move house.

Not to brag, but this is the type of person I am, and I hope you understand this, Mrs. DaVos. Like the white evangelicals you stand for and support, I am also a sheltered, good Christian girl. I was raised evangelical. I’m 25 and I have never had sex with a man. A man has never even gone to second base with me.

Except for one. On September 2nd, 2016, I was sexually assaulted by a man. It was not rape. It was not violent. But he groped me under my clothes and held me by my hair after I had said to stop. He pressed his erection against my body, just to let me know he was hard, as if it was some sort of flattery. He was a stranger.

Let me tell you the result of that experience. For the next 4 days, I didn’t speak to anyone. For the next month, I starved myself because the man had said “I should gain some weight.” I was jumpy and paranoid; scared of my own city. I relapsed back into self-harm.

Why didn’t I go to the police? Well, Mrs. DaVos, there’s no proof at all of my assault. Even if they find the guy, it’s my word against his. There’s no DNA, there’s no bruising. The only marks on my body are ones that I gave myself.

I knew then that no one would believe me. There’s no court process that would prove him guilty. But the fact is, this event did irreparable damage your poster child: a young, pretty, white, evangelical girl.

Look, I know it’s a complicated issue. I know it’s not black or white. But when you make statements and legislature protecting the oppressor, it sends a clear message; you don’t stand with your sisters. You don’t stand for the weak and the ones who feel powerless. Because of statements and legislatures like this, people who have been violated will be even more afraid to speak out. It further silences voices that are already whispers.

I knew you, Mrs. DaVos, already didn’t have my back in general, but this is just one more nail in the coffin. So thanks for that.

Yours,

Lily

Dear Mrs. Betsy DaVos:

On having faith and swimming with sharks:

This is an account of a sexual assault I wrote in September of 2016, one week after it happened. I have never posted it, until now. It’s been a year, and I’m releasing it now as a cathartic thing.

CONTENT WARNING: Language, Sexual Assault, and Sharks. 

In April 2016, I wrote a piece chiding my coworkers for being paranoid. They’re scared of their own neighbors, which I saw as being small minded and faithless.

Have some faith in your fellow men. Truly, it is not likely that you will be attacked, especially in your own backyard. Just as the danger of sharks is wildly overestimated, the danger of being attacked is as well.

There aren’t any sharks in your backyard.

The fact is, as I’ve learned rather heartbreakingly, there are sharks. There are sharks everywhere.

The fact is, that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

The fact is, no matter how much self-defense and self awareness you have, the preparation isn’t always enough.

The fact is, your city isn’t safe. Because there are goddamn sharks. Everywhere.


I want to have faith in the world around me. Faith that the man behind me on the street is going to mind his own business. Faith that strangers are safe. Faith that strangers are just like me; out for a walk at night, trying to live, not trying to cause issues.

I want to have faith that people are good. At their core.

Growing up in the church, I was taught that people are flawed at their core. Slightly more harshly, I was taught as a teenager that people are despicable. You should deny yourself — hate your sin, which is all you are — and follow God.

That’s another topic, one that put me off. I didn’t think that type of thought was productive, especially since so many young people (like myself) struggle with depression and other things. No matter how flawed humanity is, I couldn’t stand the thought of looking my friends in the eyes and telling them they were vile at their core. I made up my mind then make an effort to see the good in everyone, no matter how difficult it was.

My mission wasn’t to save people or make excuses for bad behavior, but rather to expect the best in people. Expect that people, in general, wouldn’t bite.

It’s like swimming with sand sharks. They can bite, technically, but more than likely, they won’t. I expect that outcome to occur.

I didn’t want to walk around paranoid of being hurt, especially since I had no prior experience to warrant that type of thought. But facts are facts. And the fact is, people aren’t good at their core. And sharks bite.


I was sexually assaulted on September 1st, 2016. I was physically unscathed, but my worldview changed.

My mistake, my entire mistake with this situation was that I put entirely too much faith in a strange man.

I went to the square because there are people in the square always. It’s well lit and it’s often patrolled by police.

I went to the square because i was too drunk to drive home. I needed about a half an hour yet.

I went to the square because my other friends went to a club and I didn’t want to.

My friends usually walk me to my car, much to my annoyance. I’m a bit stubbornly independent. I didn’t take all those self defense classes for nothing! Plus, this city is safe.

I want to believe the best in people, so when a man approached me in the square, I didn’t immediately freak out. I also know that it’s better to talk with people instead of trying to avoid them. Humanize yourself to them.

He was a short, built Indian man. Dressed oddly, but well. He was wearing a red and white striped sweater. I had seen him at the previous bar.

“Hey, I don’t mean to freak you out,” he said in s heavy accent. “But you were at the other bar, right?”

“Yeah,” I said, still buzzed and outgoing-feeling. “Yeah I was.”

“Where are you headed?”

“Right here, man. I have to sober up.”

And we talked. We talked for a good 20-30 minutes. Just about basic stuff… where he was from, what his ambitions were, what I did for a living.

He talked about his family and I like it when people talk about their families. It reveals a lot about their character. He has sisters.

“I’m sorry… Can I touch your hair?” This question wasn’t out of the ordinary. At least he asked– I’ve had strangers caress my hair before without so much as a ‘hello’.

“Yeah I guess.” I began to formulate my exit from the situation. My brain was still working slowly.

“You have the coolest hair. My sisters… they love it when I braid their hair.” I  thought that was sort of sweet. He obviously missed his family. And he seemed to have a respect for girls.

Then he asked the dreaded question. “So are you single?”

I laughed. Of course. “I am yeah.”

“Really? Because I thought one of those guys you were with was your boyfriend?”

“No. Not to freak you out,” I said cautiously, “But I’m actually gay.”

I don’t usually play the gay card. I just don’t think it’s anyone’s business. And I’m not even sure it’s 100% accurate. But he didn’t seem to want to leave me alone, and I had to try something. I didn’t know if it would work. He was from a different culture, one that doesn’t treat LGBTQ individuals kindly. He was also currently attached to my hair. He was strong. What if he attacked me?

He didn’t. But it didn’t make him leave either.

“So, you’re a lesbian, then?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

That was a stupid question. I don’t remember my answer because at that point it became apparent that he wasn’t going to stop touching my hair. His hands were tangling and scraping my scalp… the back of my neck. They reached around my throat.

“What’s your name?” I asked, turning my shoulders to him, dislodging his hands from my neck.

“True. Like true or false.”

I lied about my name. “Nice to meet you.” I shook his hand, and had my out.

“I’m going to head home,” I said. “It was nice talking to you.”

He wouldn’t leave me alone. He clung to me as I walked, leaning heavily and wrapping his arms around my waist. I just wanted to go home. My brain was now racing; what if he jumped in my car? What if he abducted me? Who could I call? Where could I go instead of my car? My friends lived across town. My guy friends were at a club and wouldn’t hear their phones ring.

Luckily there were people standing on the sidewalk not half a block from my car. They looked suspicious as well, but at least they were unlikely to all stand by in the event of something tragic.

I made eye contact with a few of them. Trying to signal that something was wrong. They did nothing. They were ugly.

He was touching my stomach and my thighs through my clothes. My shirt was cropped and soon he was touching skin. His hands drifted over ribs and hip bones, slipping under the waistband of my pants. Fuck no.

“You don’t feel like a woman,” he said in my ear. “Your skin is soft but you have muscles and bones. You’re more like a boy, right?”

“I guess.”

“That’s why you’re gay, right?”

We were at my car. Thank God. I reached for the door handle and he wouldn’t let go of me. He was a lot stronger than I thought. He was pressed uncomfortably close to me, and his hand was still under my shirt.

“Can I touch you?”

“What?” His hand was under my bra. What the fuck. What the fuck. “I would prefer if you did not.”

“Oh,” he withdrew his hand momentarily, only to put it under my bra again, groping my breasts. “You know what this does to me? You make me so happy. You make me hard.” Yeah, I know. I could feel it. Repulsed I finally forced my way out of his grip. He still had hold of me. “Can’t you feel anything?”

What was I supposed to feel? Desire? Fuck no. Repulsion? Yeah.

“You don’t get turned on?”

“No.” I said firmly. Finally, I had my car door open. I wedged it between his body and mine.

“What do I do if I see you again?” He said. “You make me so happy. Thank you for making me so happy. I’m really drunk.”

“Get home, sober up,” I said, closing the door and driving away. I wasn’t buckled. Wasn’t sober. Wasn’t staying there.

My skin was crawling where he had touched me. Motherfucker. Mother fucker.

Why did I let him do that? Why didn’t I stop him? I should have done something more.

My friends left me.

I was very cold. I turned on the heat.

I hate this. This week has been shit.

I hate this. I hate that this is even a problem. What do I do with this? I don’t let people touch me. Only one person. One girl. Ever.

I had something loving briefly. And everything was wonderful and happy and good. I have a lot of love in my heart. I don’t understand why someone would take advantage of a good conversation.

I don’t understand how you can say you love me, and leave me. Cheat. Everyone leaves. Everyone always leaves and I don’t know what to do.

The world sucks. Men are rude. I don’t want to go to the club. I don’t want to speak to anyone this week. I need about 8 showers.

I know it could have been a lot worse. I just…don’t have a great ratio on sexual encounters. I’m half scared of guys anyway. I’m incredibly slow to trust and I thought I was getting better at that.

I’m not angry at him, I’m mostly angry at myself. I had the power to leave the situation and I didn’t until it already was bad. I should have been more careful. Should have swallowed my pride and gone to the club with the guys, even though she was there with the guy she left me for. I’m so fucking good to her. She comes to me about everything. I can’t tell her about this. It’ll come across as desperate for attention. And she’s already very protective of me, and this won’t make it better.

I haven’t come out to [male best friend] yet, but I told him about this. His reaction was not what I expected. He didn’t take me seriously. He’s not a serious guy, but for fucks sake, I’m his best friend. I was scared. I know when I come out as gay to him, he’s going to correlate the two. This didn’t help the gay (I’m going to make that joke as long as possible) but it definitely didn’t cause it. I hope he gets that. I hope he understands.

This whole week has been whiplash. People being absurdly kind when I didn’t expect it, and people being uncharacteristically cold when normally they are the sun. I’m trying to not dwell on things, but an event like this has shaped my worldview. I don’t trust the streets of Lancaster, I don’t trust her when she calls me wonderful. I don’t trust that I can have a nice conversation with a strange man. I don’t trust myself to act appropriately in a stressful situation. I don’t trust that I can go to my oldest friend about serious life stuff and have him respond appropriately.

Fuck. I need a damn break.


Five days later, I caved. I sat on her porch and told her everything.

She sat with me and listened. Took me seriously. Made me smile. Held me when I cried.

“People are good. People are good.” I repeated those words over and over, trying to convince myself.

Her hand moved to my back in a gesture of comfort. I wasn’t crying. In fact, I was trying to put a positive spin on things. But she knew better. She sat with me while I fell apart. She pulled me close, rocking me back and forth on the front porch until my walls crumbled and I sobbed silently into her chest. She held me still.

“People are good,” She affirmed. “You are good. You are so good.”

“I don’t get why I’m so upset,” I said.

“You have a right to be. Be angry.”

“I don’t want to be.”

She stroked my hair. Kissed the top of my head. Her heart was racing. I wondered briefly what was going through her head.

“We’re friends, right?” I said quietly.

“Of course. Why?”

I was silent. She didn’t press the issue. I composed myself. My heart was too full. I couldn’t just keep saying ‘you’re the best, you’re the greatest.’ My words needed to reflect my feeling. In whatever way that was.

“Because I tell my friends I love them. A lot. But I don’t want to make it weird.” I raised my eyes. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she returned. I heard her clearly this time; it wasn’t whispered or slurred. “I love you so much.”

On having faith and swimming with sharks:

@ Nashville Statement Signers: What’s your plan here?

I’m not the first person to write on the Nashville Statement and I won’t be the last. However, as someone who has been directly affected by the language and the mentality behind the language of this letter, I know it will be helpful to me personally to write down some thoughts.

The beliefs behind this letter are what I have been taught my entire life. Not only that homosexuality was a grievous sin, but that those who hold affirming views are lost and cannot be true Christians. I’ve seen families torn apart because of this. I’ve seen friends leave the church and reject God. These type of beliefs, in my experience, do more harm than good.

Hearing this rhetoric growing up has not done wonders for my mental health. If I can go to hell for even questioning if marriage can include same-sex partnerships, how much deeper into hell will I go because I fell in love with a woman? Is it irredeemable? Can I be changed? If not, will I be alone forever? Is it better to kill myself than to be gay?

Your religion should not drive you to question the value of your life. Your religion should not drive you to self-harm and suicidal intentions.

Instead of hearing this from my church, the people who vowed to love and support me as I grew up, I had to hear it from a stranger on the internet in my time of need. Therefore I ask you, signers of the Nashville Statement:

What do you plan to do with people like me? Where do you plan on going with this?

Attempts to make people change are largely unsuccessful and have been shown to do more harm than good. In the interest of not harming  your brothers and sisters in Christ, what is your plan?

If you damn us to hell, what then? Do you just say “We tried, it’s no longer our problem.” You cannot behave this way and then wonder why American Evangelical Christianity is shrinking.

This is a larger problem that extends well beyond the LGBTQA community. Many people have been excluded, shunned, and wronged in the name of Evangelical Christianity. What’s your plan for dealing with this? Instead of closing doors to the ones you hurt, why don’t you do what your name says and evangelize? Tell people the good news: That they are God’s Wonderful Creation and they are beloved.

In Sunday school I learned that people like me were an abomination, perverted, and irredeemable. My first girlfriend was the first one to tell me the truth; I am made in the Image of God.

To slightly shift gears, not only do you, white evangelical community, ignore those who have been hurt, you defend the abusers.

I think that’s truly the reason behind much of the outrage against the Nashville Statement. Let’s be honest, this isn’t anything that hasn’t been said before. But what makes it news is that this letter comes in the midst of so much turmoil in this country. Signers, where is your lengthy manifesto condemning white supremacy? Why do you publish something like this in the midst of a natural disaster in Houston? Where is your letter condemning your dear President on his crude words and sexual actions towards women? Send your energies elsewhere. 

Where is your aid to the synagogues? The mosques? Your compassion to the victims of hate crimes and speech? The condemnation of fucking Nazis?! Why does Trump get a free pass for his abhorrent actions? You guys, sexual assault is not a joke. It’s hugely damaging to victims–when you refuse to hold the predators accountable, you tell every girl, woman, boy, man who has been sexually assaulted that you don’t stand by them either.

Maybe it was my fault. It’s probably because I’m gay. Just like it’s the gay’s fault for Hurricane Harvey.

Evangelicals, Signers, what is your problem? Have you lost this much of your humanity? This manifesto doesn’t just speak for your “traditional views on marriage”– it speaks volumes about your priorities when it comes to the world. If the oppressed are not your priority, then who’s call are you abiding by? Because I believe Jesus was pretty clear.

@ Nashville Statement Signers: What’s your plan here?