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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex Basics and Sexual Health » Bound by religious past

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Author Topic: Bound by religious past
melisma
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Hi all,

So I'm a 24 year old lesbian who started coming out and left my religion about two years ago. For most of my life, I struggled to try to fit myself into a conservative Christian culture that never really accepted me because my family wasn't Christian enough (they were themselves emotionally abusive, but I digress). I constantly fought against myself and my sexuality, trying to keep myself from having "those feelings" at all because Christian girls were supposed to be innocent and asexual until "awakened" by their husbands. I never succeeded, but I did do a good deal of damage to myself that I seem to be incapable of undoing.

I was cursed (you might say) with a high libido and an insatiable curiosity. So, starting when I was 13, I kept masturbating and/or looking at rather unsavory material, then feeling really guilty and asking God to make me pure and trying whatever psychological trick I could think of to keep myself from screwing up again... and then repeating this. Again and again and again. (Part of me still thinks there's something wrong with me because the longest I ever managed to go without masturbating was three weeks. Seriously... how much self-control should it really take? Anyway...)

I constantly made vows to myself that I would remain chaste, that I would not do anything beyond kissing until I was married... and as the rhetoric I heard got more and more extreme, the promises I made did too. I would not date until I was 18, then until college, then until I was in a position where I could get married. I would avoid any physical contact until marriage. I would not date or do anything romantic at all, but wait until God magically showed me the person I was supposed to marry. Now, in retrospect, I'm sure that one of the main reasons I did this was to come up with "virtuous" reasons to avoid romantic contact with boys; but it still feels like those promises are binding. I'm afraid to go on a date, or to kiss, or to do anything beyond kissing, because I feel like I need to hold on to as much "purity" as I have left, just in case "purity" is actually a valuable thing, or just in case there are some kind of intangible negative consequences for losing it, or... I don't even know.

I don't intellectually think that there is such a thing as purity (or that it's valuable if it does exist), or that it's wrong to be gay, or that sex of any sort is immoral if all parties involved consent. I don't intellectually believe in any supernatural entity that could dictate such a moral code (or believe that one that did would be worthy of obedience). I have not believed these things for two years.

But I'm still afraid that God is real, and is the stuff of my worst nightmares, and that he hates gay people and thinks women should be put in their place and will punish me eternally because I'm rather fond of giving myself orgasms while thinking about some cute girl. I'm even still afraid to think blasphemous thoughts.

So, you might say, I'm just not ready to date or do anything romantic because I still have religious hangups, and I should just wait. But I don't want to. I'm lonely and I would really like a girlfriend; and I've been stuck taking care of myself for eleven years and I'm frankly tired of it. Or maybe bored is a better term. I would like the "real thing" Real Soon Now.

So how do I get past my past? How do I break the promises I've kept for so long, and really start to accept the person that I've become?

And to top it off, I'm afraid that in having waited so long, I've basically closed off the possibility of any future relationship for myself - that dating is like job hunting, where you need experience to get experience, or that people will look at me and think "There must be something wrong with that if it's been sitting on the shelf for that long and no one has wanted it." How much truth is there to that, and if there is some, is there anything I can do about it?

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EVivian
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If you are no longer really concerned with the religious aspect but just trying to get over the baggage it left you with, don't worry that it's not an overnight process. Fear and shame instilled in one's self since childhood can be a hard thing to get over.

You won't be unable to have a partner because you're inexperienced or had an unsupportive time growing up. Plenty of people wait until their 20s to start dating. You certainly haven't waited too long and there's no age at which one's possibilities close and there's no more hope (as my friends keep reminding me!).

I hope this helps a bit; some other members may be able to help you more with some of the emotional aspects and such.

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melisma
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I'm not worried that this didn't get fixed overnight... but it's been two years and nothing in this area has really changed. I'm really wondering whether there's anything I can do to expedite the process. (If you're going to suggest therapy, I have a therapist.)

I don't think that waiting necessarily makes it impossible to find a partner, but it sure seems like my chances go down the longer I sit on the shelf and gather dust. And from what I've seen on online dating sites, lots of lesbian/bi women don't want to date "first-timers" because they're afraid that they're just "bi-curious" and looking to "experiment" with the same gender.

I'm sure if someone Really Loved me, they'd be able to get past that, but it might make them dismiss me at the initial superficial stage before they could know if they Really Loved me. (Plus I don't think I'm attractive enough in any sense for anyone to actually love me; anyone who settled for me would really be slumming...)

Sigh. Sometimes it looks like I have more issues than could be dealt with in twenty lifetimes.

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Heather
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I wonder if it might be of help to bear in mind how very common it is -- even now, when homosexuality and bisexuality are more accepted overall than in the past -- for people, especially women, to come out and start same-sex dating later.

For sure, you are going to find some women who, for any number of reasons, don't want to date someone who's on a first-time-out. I'd leave some allowances in your head for that one, though, per knowing that isn't always just about fears that a woman stating she isn't straight is.

I wouldn't say that on a first date or two anyone divulging their whole sexual/interpersonal history is needed or even particularly apropos unless two people find themselves on those kinds of dates which turn into all-night, in-depth talking. So, don't bring all that to a first date: really, there's no need. I'd also inject that, overall, queer women don't tend to be as focused on appearances as straight men are so often conditioned to be, so I'd suggest ditching that worry, too.

Can I ask where you've been getting most of your ideas and feelings about dating women from? Has it only been from online (which is its own culture in many ways, obviously)? As well, have you started to seek out queer community in terms of friendships, not just thinking about sex or romance? I ask that because for most of us, having a queer community bigger than a dating pool often tends to be a pretty big deal for a list of reasons so big I'd have this page scrolling for miles. [Smile]

Lastly, I want to suggest a book to you, "Bulletproof Faith," by the (lesbian) reverend Candace Chellew-Hodge. She's pretty amazing, and I think her work might help you a lot when it comes to working more through your issues and concerns with your spiritual beliefs and religious upbringing and your orientation.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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bluejumprope
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[I see now Heather responded as I was writing, but I want to post my thoughts too even though there's some overlap]

This is really hard stuff you're dealing with, so any slack you can cut yourself, I'd really encourage you to take.

Since it seems clear you intellectually don't believe in the God of the bible, I don't know how useful it would be for me to critique that God idea more. Like, I'm sure you've already thought about it a lot, but it is helpful to remember the other stuff the bible says:

(from The Bees and...the Bees: A Homosexuality and Bisexuality Primer)

quote:
If you are basing the concept of what is right and what is wrong on the Bible, you need to bear in mind that it is a very old series of texts, in which some things that could be considered RIGHT and acceptable(and sanctioned by the old testament) then, such as:

* a child being killed if they cursed their parent
* a woman being stoned for not being a virgin on her wedding night
* incest
* slavery
* the domination, rape or abuse of women
* a person guilty of adultery (cheating) being killed
* and child abuse

...are things we consider very wrong now.

Some things considered wrong then, such as:

* charging interest on a loan
* shaving or getting a hair cut
* sex during menstruation
* the cross-breeding of animals
* sex outside of marriage
* eating certain animals
* and women wearing pants

...by general opinion most of us think are okay now.

The things listed above are all addressed in the Bible, just as premarital sex and homosexuality are, and are parts of biblical rules and laws, but are often overlooked or ignored by those insisting homosexuality or premarital sex is wrong, though they are all considered just as important Biblically.

But being afraid of a God who hates you and will punish you eternally is completely terrifying, and if you don't have a satisfying alternative belief system, knowing this rationally isn't enough.

My therapist sometimes does something with me, which I think is a little fruity, but it helps. When I'm feeling overwhelmed with thoughts that I'm worthless or terrible or whatever, she asks if in the presence of that self-hating voice, I feel safe and seen. The answer is always no, and she then suggests that that voice is not my "highest self" or the voice of reality. And that encourages me to seek out a larger, and more loving voice inside of myself that sees a bigger picture.

So, it occurs to me to ask, when you think about the God you're afraid of, do you feel seen and safe around that being? If not, then in my opinion, that is not the truest or best voice for you to listen to.

quote:
So how do I get past my past? How do I break the promises I've kept for so long, and really start to accept the person that I've become?
I don't think promises made, when you have no choice but to make them, are at all valid. As a child you were not able to give consent to adopting this belief system; it was forced on you.

How are things going with your therapist? Are they gay or gay and Christian, or very familiar with those issues? Have you interacted with any other gay people who had similar upbringings? Or are you acquainted with any other gay people? I think going to GLBT community stuff would be really helpful. You can also meet more potential partners that way.

[ 04-16-2009, 03:10 PM: Message edited by: bluejumprope ]

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without tenderness, we are in hell. -Adrienne Rich

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melisma
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A lot of my ideas about dating do come from online - I don't know where else I would learn about it, really, except from books, and I don't know where else I would be able to find someone to date.

I've made acquaintances with some queer people and have joined a GLBT-and-friends chorus (which happens to be one of the best choruses in my area [Smile] ). And my chorus especially has been a very validating and refreshing environment for me - it's cool to be in a place where most of the people are like me and I'm not an invisible minority. But I haven't really become friends with anyone there. It doesn't seem... like the thing that's done... for people in the chorus to become more than warm acquaintances. (And most of them are significantly older than me and/or are not single.)

I don't know where else to meet people. I'm not interested in going to bars or clubs, and there isn't really a GLBT community center or anything like that in my area (even though one would really expect there to be; I live in the Boston area). Also, I'm at a weird in-between stage of life: I'm not in college anymore and so I don't have that source of community, but I'm not quite a full-fledged grown-up, so at events for the general community of adults, I'm often the youngest one in the room by like 10 years.

I also don't really know how "dating" works, in general. Both in the community where I grew up and in my community of friends now, people don't really "date"; they meet someone through their circle of friends and get closer and closer to them, and then they decide to let the friendship become a Relationship. But that doesn't seem to apply to me because none of my friends know anyone available.

quote:
I don't think promises made, when you have no choice but to make them, are at all valid. As a child you were not able to give consent to adopting this belief system; it was forced on you.
Wow. I never thought of it this way.

I always thought of my adoption of that belief system as my own choice - because that's how the conversion narrative is framed - but in a very real way, I was forced into it. No one held a gun to my head, but I did have to adopt it to avoid being utterly rejected by the only "friends" I had.

I'm going to have to do a lot of thinking about this.

Things are going well with my therapist; in a lot of ways, we really click. But she is straight, and while she's intellectually familiar with GLBT issues, she doesn't have a lot of practical advice for how to navigate life as a queer person.

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bluejumprope
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Forgetting whether or not it's what other people do, is there anyone in the chorus that you'd like to spend time with outside of the chorus?

They don't have to your age, or single, or someone you can imagine as a partner. A lot of older queer people are happy to be friends or mentors to younger folks. Most people would love to have a new friend.

And through new friends, all sorts of new connections and nice things can emerge. You could ask if they wanted to have lunch sometime, or go for a walk, or just hang out.

Heather might know about more resources, but I found this list of GLBT groups in Boston: http://boston.about.com/od/glbt/a/GLBTgroups.htm

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without tenderness, we are in hell. -Adrienne Rich

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Jill2000Plus
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Even if you could somehow have been said to have chosen it... I may be missing something, but breaking a promise does not seem like something that is actually wrong. Just because you said you'd do something doesn't mean you have to do it, I understand about things like turning in assessments on time and phoning a friend if you agree to meet them and then will be more than a minute or five late or can't make it, I understand that if you are in a relationship and agreed to be monogamous (in the sense of not sleeping with anyone other than your partner and yourself, I don't think that asking that your partner not masturbate is acceptable) and then you end up not sticking to that or think it's something you really don't want anymore then you should tell your partner straight away, but I don't see why you're obligated to keep a promise made to a being that there is no evidence exists, or that says you no longer have ownership of your own body or the freedom to make friends and date and not get married. Promise is just a word, it does not magically validate whatever you're promising to do, just like a contract that sells you into slavery is invalid.

Generally, making friends is something most homosapiens love to do, age gaps don't have to mean you can't form meaningful platonic relationships, I actually have two gay older mentors/friends myself (I also attend an LGBTU youth group, is there one you could look into locally?). Even if nobody else has made close friends in the chorus you're in, I'm sure that plenty would like to.

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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Heather
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quote:
I've made acquaintances with some queer people and have joined a GLBT-and-friends chorus (which happens to be one of the best choruses in my area [Smile] ). And my chorus especially has been a very validating and refreshing environment for me - it's cool to be in a place where most of the people are like me and I'm not an invisible minority. But I haven't really become friends with anyone there. It doesn't seem... like the thing that's done... for people in the chorus to become more than warm acquaintances. (And most of them are significantly older than me and/or are not single.)

I don't know where else to meet people. I'm not interested in going to bars or clubs, and there isn't really a GLBT community center or anything like that in my area (even though one would really expect there to be; I live in the Boston area). Also, I'm at a weird in-between stage of life: I'm not in college anymore and so I don't have that source of community, but I'm not quite a full-fledged grown-up, so at events for the general community of adults, I'm often the youngest one in the room by like 10 years.

bluejumprope touched on this, but I wanted to mention that nearly anyone older and queer knows what it feels like not to have real community. In other words, if you're finding it tough to strike up friendship with or through people in your chorus -- which is a great place to find community -- just SAYING to a few people in the chorus that you are without any real queer friends to talk to outside the chorus really should do the trick.

And I'd reiterate that the age gap is not a big deal when it comes to friendships. Too, you'll likely find out that the older you get, the more mixed your friendships tend to get in terms of age. I'm in my late thirties and I have close friends who are pushing 60 and close friends still in their twenties. As well, whether or not people are single also tends to be pretty irrelevant in terms of friendships.

Extra bonus of forging community? Given the queer dating pool tends to be thisbig pretty much anywhere, when you're connected with a good platonic community, people will often know who is and isn't single and help you forge dating relationships, too.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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