This is the second post in a series of Discussions on Conservatism.
Part I | Part II
Recently there has been a series over at the Homeschoolers Anonymous blog, called “Voices of Sister-Moms”. I began reading the introductory post, but could not finish. My entire body was having a negative reaction. I mentioned this to some of my fellow LGBT Homeschooled friends, and they wisely suggested that I step away from the article till I could calm down. I was seriously angry, and had beginning symptoms of a minor panic/anxiety attack.
I was surprised at my reaction to the article. After all, I am a male, the eldest in my family, who, in the patriarchal/quiverfull system, is in a position of privilege. It’s true that I was expected to do a lot of housework and helped homeschool the kids (see last Friday’s post), but I went to college, got a job, and was allowed to live my own life. (And by “my own life” I mean going to work and coming back home and going to church with the family and sometimes hanging out with friends.)
Well, in the last two years, I’ve come out of the closet, left the fundamentalism my family calls Christianity, meet many new kinds of people, and discovered that what I was taught isn’t necessarily the truth. I am in a relationship with another man, which is for me a clear illustration that the traditionally taught family dynamics are not the one true way. I have even begun to question Christianity itself.
But I couldn’t put my finger on either my anxiety when reading about the mistreatment of Christian girls or my strange negative reactions to other generic mentions of Christianity. Why did I cringe when I saw a post on Twitter recommending a book about God’s love? Why do I skim past the tweets with Bible verses and references to good times at church? I believe I got my answer in a dream I had Saturday night.
In my dream, I was visiting my father’s childhood church, which my family had begun re-attending. Mom was in a small-group discussion, and brother T was in the main sanctuary. I walked up to T, but he distinctly turned away without acknowledging me. Once Small Groups was over, Mom came back into the sanctuary. I began following her as she straightened the pews, talking to her. She was upset with me for living openly gay, and I was getting more and more angry with her as the conversation continued.
Then I exploded at her. This is very much out of character of me, as I have only raised my voice at her on a few occasions. I almost tremble in reverent fear of my mother, who has power to unleash unheard-of retribution. Or at least, that’s how I feel. So for me to yell at her actually takes me by surprise in retrospect. But what I said to her showed me exactly what I had been feeling but had been unable to express before. It was the very innermost turmoil that I had not been able to understand.
“Do you know what I hate about Christianity?” I shouted at my mother, standing in the very sanctum of the religion I was at that very moment criticizing. “Do you know what it is that makes you unable to accept the fact that ‘I’m gay, and it’s OK’?” My mother just stood there, not replying. And then I said the word. Just one word, a simple 8 letters that encompass the root of my dissatisfaction with the religion in which I was raised, and which has caused irreparable pain to so many people. I opened my mouth, and with conviction, the word thundered through the church:
According to Wikipedia, “Misogyny /mɪˈsɒdʒɪni/ is the hatred or dislike of women or girls.” When used in a religious context, it usually refers to the belief that women are the “weaker sex” (see I Peter 3:7) and are under the authority of men (see I Corintians 11:3 and I Timothy 2:12). In practice, this means that women and girls are to be humble servants to men. Girls are groomed to become wives and mothers, and should not aspire to be successful on their own. They are to submit, never questioning their fathers, husbands, or pastors.
When I awoke form my dream, I was surprised at what my mind had expressed while I slept. Upon reflection, however, I realized how so very true it is. Misogyny is at the heart of much of the pain I have experienced in my life. It is the root of the agony that countless other women and gay men have felt.
Wait, sure, you can see how misogyny has caused incredible pain and discrimination for women, but how dare I include myself and other gay men in that category? This is the question I asked myself. But even though I did not express it verbally in my dream, I knew what the answer was.
One major argument used against the union between two men is the call to remember God’s biblical definition of marriage. Thus, marriage is commonly interpreted as the union between one man and one woman. Traditionalists maintain that the proper balance of power places the man in the position of leader and the woman in a submissive position. Women are expected to fill the roles of taking care of the home, cleaning, cooking, shopping, teaching, raising children, making life easier for men, and providing sex on demand. Men are expected to go to work, provide money and housing, spiritually lead the family, and lead the family into ministry work.
With this in mind, it’s not hard to extrapolate the effects of misogyny onto gay men. If two men are in a relationship, who has what duty? Men aren’t supposed to do the women’s work. Who leads the family and makes the decision? Which one goes to work and which one cleans the house? In short, which one is the man and which one is the woman?
So many straight fundamentalists can’t grasp the idea that gay men are still men. A flamboyant gay man is called effeminate and looked down on. When I came out to my mother over the phone, she prayed for me. In that prayer, she cried, saying that she didn’t want me to be her daughter; she wanted me to be her son. I have had several people ask me who is the man in Paul’s and my relationship.
Besides being entirely misguided, such notions and comments are very hurtful. I have been completely cut off form my family. My old friends have told me that we cannot fellowship anymore. They see me as a deviant from the natural order and desires. Because I don’t want to be with a woman. Because I don’t want to exercise headship over my partner. Because I like to engage in “feminine” pursuits such as sewing. Because I care what I look like and plan my outfits to coordinate. Because I wear earrings. Because I am “acting like a woman”, when I am really a man.
I admit I am not sure where I stand on the issue of Christianity. The pain and hurt I have received from the church has made me very wary of the religion of the Bible. When I see others facing the same discrimination I have, I become enraged. It is hard not to be bitter against the very religion that brought me up. It’s a world of pain, hurt, and rejection, all because of one word: misogyny.