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

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?

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

“Just come hang out!” she said. “You don’t really have to do much.

“I would 100-percent support that.”

I love Eva. I love Eva and Joey and Porcha and Alex and the rest. I want to make sure that Eva knows she has a family– that Porcha knows God loves her just the way she is. I want to help Alex along a journey, towards a destination I have no particular answer to, but I want them to know that they are made in the image of God.

I want them to know that when the world abandons them, God will not. And I wont either.

Growing up I had people try to do that for me. They helped me so much. They were my confidants when I had nowhere else to turn. They were my therapist, hearing the records of my anxieties and grievances. But they all fell short. Humans do that.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

They see me in the praise band on Sunday. I make sure to ask them about their weeks and listen. I make the tough conversations easy to voice. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have the answers. I just want to make sure they’re all doing okay.

I want them to know that I’ve been there. I see you. I know how you got those scars. You can show me or tell me and I will understand because I have them too. You don’t have to explain. I know how many questions you have, how complicated identity seems. You can skip the explanations, which often are not easy. I get it. I see you. You’re my younger sibling, my little bird.

My God. If I had someone, even one person, tell me that I was beautiful, that “same sex attraction” wasn’t an abomination, that I was made in the image of God–No exceptions!–it would have saved me countless moments of hating myself. If one person took the time to listen, to hold me tight, to tell me that my feelings were valid, I maybe would have less scars. Maybe I would stand a little taller.

I just want to make sure the kids are alright. I don’t want to leave them. I want to be the person I never had.

I’m not sure anyone else wants me to become a youth leader.

Me? Who refuses to dress up, despite playing in the band every week. Who comes, frail and pale, with dark circles and makeup clearly from last night. Who jokes during the church service. Who can’t pray out loud anymore. Who is perhaps too open about her drinking habits.

No. They don’t want that.

Even if they do, I can’t become a youth leader with a clean conscious because I am gay. I am gay. What if the parents decide that I am unfit to lead their kids? What if I bare my soul, my identity, to the church leaders and they decide I am unfit for everything? Could I still play in the band? Could I still hang out with the youth?

I don’t want to be a problem to be solved. I don’t want to be an issue to be fixed. I just don’t want to leave them–the kids. I just want to make sure they’re doing okay. Because God, life is hard.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader. I do too.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

A tale of fake high school crushes

High school is tough. Four long years of trying desperately to both stand out and fit in. What do I like? What am I good at? Who am I?

I grew up in an area where homosexuality was just not an option. It wasn’t even considered. And when i finally learned about gay people, I thought ‘being gay’ was just something you did that was bad, I didn’t know relationships between gay people were an actual thing.

So anyway!

Starting in middle school, as is extremely normal, all of my friends started having crushes on people of the opposite sex. My guy friends started becoming interested in the pretty girls (who somehow managed to be ALWAYS the same 5 girls) and my female friends would spend lunch hours talking about their crush of the week or month or day.

In those days there was a check list of traits that you had to have in order to be considered crush-worthy. We were kids, emulating Tigerbeat magazines and Nickelodeon Stars, channeling every bit of pop culture that was surrounding us. If Tigerbeat said Zach Effron was the the it-boy, then it meant those boys in class with shaggy skater hair and a wide smile were also the it-boys.

The it-boys were fairly easy to identify and therefore easy targets for my fake crushes. I remember sitting in the cafeteria with my girl friends as they once again had the discussion on who was crushing on who. I had so far avoided being roped into these discussions, but today I couldn’t escape.

“Lily, who do you have a crush on?”

I thought and thought, but couldn’t muster an answer. What boy did I have a crush on? I was friends with Jake, but I didn’t want to kiss him. I liked spending time with James, but I didn’t like like him. As the time passed and I stayed silent, I began to blush, embarrassed that I was the odd one out.

“She’s blushing! She does like someone!”

“Awww who is it?”

I didn’t want to tell them, because it would be lying. I never gave guys much thought in that way. I was a tomboy. I was one of the guys. They didn’t make me nervous or shy. The only person in school that made me speechless was Joanna.

But I couldn’t say that because we weren’t talking about girls. We were talking about boys. To satisfy my friends, I looked around at the photos on the cafeteria walls. The boys soccer team. I picked a guy–Jackson–an it-boy. I had known him for years. It would probably be believable.

“Jackson?” It wasn’t. “You like him??”

I couldn’t spare myself the teasing, but it was better to fake a crush on Jackson than it was to admit to myself that the reason I was faking in the first place was that Joanna was my first crush. Blonde, kind, gentle and talented. Every time I spoke to her it lit up my heart. I could feel the butterflies, and my world would speed up and slow down at the same time.

But thank God for Tigerbeat. Thank God for Cosmo and for TMZ. Thank God that young women are so predictable. I faked it for years. The it-boys were always easy to spot and required no further explanation from me.

And I could save my butterflies for the blonde girls, the girls with tattoos and quiet smiles.

A tale of fake high school crushes

She sent me a symphony

via Daily Prompt: Symphony


She gave me a smile in September, and I saw what couldn’t be.

Love was the impossible. Quite genuinely.

And in January she gave me comfort in a blizzard.

My heart raced through my parka and I hoped she couldn’t feel it.

She told me in February that her heart was racing too.

I was different, I was love.

I had never been love before.

My light, my sunshine, my absolute heart.

Nine months of gentleness and the promise that I was

Adored.

She was my sunshine and I was her northern lights.

And in the New Year she gave me a goodbye.

It seemed premature. We hadn’t even fought. Hadn’t told the world

that we were each other’s peace. Hope that our world would see

and understand.

But you can only send so many kisses from nine hours away.

But you can send music.

I was in darkness and she sent me beauty when I was alone.

Divenire.

She sent me a symphony

and I saw colors in the dark.

She sent me a symphony

Dissenting views are not productive

Everything is political. Life, by very nature, is political. Every choice you make is political.

But here, for a minute, please understand I am not talking about American political parties, or socialism, or communism, or any other mainline political system. I’m not talking about propaganda from the top government.

Lets talk about religion–American Evangelicalism to be specific.

Dissenting views are not helpful to our cause.

The church I grew up in was the strict conservative type of Evangelical, rather than charismatic. The congregation was full of academics and theologians–very smart people.

When I was in high school, I was encouraged to think critically about theology and what I believed. Discussion was actually lively in our high school Bible studies and groups. However upon graduating into the ‘adult’ world, I found that studies suddenly became much more like lectures; one side presenting a view point and leaving it at that. No one argued. No one questioned. A few times I wanted to say something in response to what had been presented, but I felt that, being a young person, my views would not be valued, especially if I happened to disagree.

Unfortunately, it only seemed to get worse as I got older. The teachers of these adult classes seemed to always want to “invite discussion” but couldn’t figure out why no one was discussing.

For instance; I had come come from college once to class where an elder had just presented a rousing lesson on the tenants on marriage, ending of course, with the condemnation of homosexuals and harping on the slippery slope that this country was going down.

“Questions?”

“Opinions?”

I had sat there, quite full of opinions. All of them dissenting. But as I looked around at the older, politically conservative crowd, I realized that my voice would be a whisper at a Baptist revival; swallowed by the noise and quite powerless to reach anyone.

I couldn’t fight all of these people. I could’t argue my opinions–my feelings– against church elders, seminary graduates, and teachers.

Whether or not others felt a similar way, I would never know. The environment that had unfortunately been created was a spiral of silence.

 The spiral of silence theory is a political science and mass communication theory proposed by the German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, which stipulates that individuals have a fear of isolation, which results from the idea that a social group or the society in general might isolate, neglect, or exclude members due to the members’ opinions. This fear of isolation consequently leads to remaining silent instead of voicing opinions.  [Wikipedia]

 

This theory is not only proven in Evangelical circles time and time again, but this spiral of silence is detrimental to any semblance of diversity in a group. It forces conversations on the hard-hitting issues out of the church’s doors.

If church is supposed to be a family, or at very least, a community, then I find it very sad that these conversations cannot be held within the community.

I had to go elsewhere to talk about depression, anxiety, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights… hell, even education in any type of depth.

The fact is, God influences the way I think about all of these issues. The love of my Heavenly Father and the grace I have been shown affects the conclusions I’ve come to and the questions I still have about all of these things.

Christ impacts my worldview. So why can I not discuss my worldview with my brothers and sisters in Christ?

Perhaps if I were braver, I would have stood up and said that same sex marriage isn’t what’s dragging the country downhill. Perhaps if I had more confidence, I would have stood up, as a young woman, and stood before the gray-haired elder, asking if he would still say these things with a gay person in the room.

But I’m not brave. Fortunately, the responsibility doesn’t lie solely on my shoulders. We can all do our part (conservative and liberal alike) in embracing differences. We can have grace for one another. Have grace for one another’s viewpoints.

We’re all human and we all arrive at different conclusions because we all walk different paths in life. But these paths have led us to each other; to a community of fellow believers who have come together to fellowship and worship our creator.

If Evangelicals are truly Calvanists and truly believe in predestination, then they are predestined to having this diversity in the room in which they’ve found themselves. And if my Evangelical brothers and sisters pride themselves on their theological education, I pray that they can be confident enough to listen to another’s viewpoint. After all, John Calvin, in his day, was just a man with an opinion.

Dissenting views are not productive