Sunday, October 02, 2005

Thoughts on Religion

I hope whatever readers I may have will forgive me today, for I intend to be long winded. I wish to explore the role religion plays in our lives if we have gender issues. For me, this is part of my spiritual journey and I hope my discussion of religion will not turn some readers off.
It's so easy to blame religion or our parents for all our problems. As human beings we want to blame some mysterious, impersonal entity rather than believe we might be the problem. So, realizing our birth religion is never going to accept us as we are, we turn to other religions because of the rejection. Religion is about fulfillment, personal growth, and being a better person. Unfortunately, for many religions, being a better person means denying who we really are. I want you to keep in mind that I, like many others, am a hypocrite. I've freely ignored my own advice and preached at others. My story when it comes to religion is a bit different.
As I have already stated, I was born into a Mormon family. My father is now married to a Catholic and happy (and I think she'll have a convert on her hands, to be honest. He's found the too focused on appearances side of Mormonism unappealing.) My mother, may she rest in peace, died shortly after a manic-depressive episode. Her manic-depression was the type easily mistaken for schizophrenia.

Of all my siblings, according to my father I was the "spiritual" child. I believed most of what I was told at church until some doubts and a desire to be more "intellectual" forced me into a different pattern of behavior. I dropped it for a more enlightened agnostic stance. If you know anything about the Mormon belief system, you know it is highly patriarchal in nature. If you're a good Mormon boy and do the things on your checklist, you enter the celestial kingdom and get a harem of wives of your own. If you're a girl, you get to be married to one of those righteous husbands. Exactly how spirit children come into existence is best not speculated on. I once had a bishop tell me to know if you made it into the celestial kingdom after the resurrection to check your pants. (The fact that this bishop was a obstetrician/gynecologist disturbs me on many levels.)

Now, deep down, I knew something was wrong throughout my childhood. Donahue's illegitimate children were just getting started, and the World Wide Web was still in text form by the time I knew there was such a thing as a transgendered individual. Before that, I just knew I wanted to be a woman. I often prayed for that to happen. (Silly of me, wasn't it? If you're a Mormon all the power belongs to the men.) I even fantasized that some miracle would happen either a freak accident, an angel coming down, or perhaps some magic would be worked on my behalf. All of these were exercises in frustrations, years later I just hoped for a cure. More than that, the Mormon church left me terrified of any expression of sexuality. I'm naturally shy but did not even start dating in High school. In fact for dances, the few that I went to, the women had to approach me. I felt uncomfortable when any topic relating to sex came up and would try to change it or leave the room. How could I even tell anyone my secret when an even stronger fight or flight response than usual was engaged?

Odds are, fundamentalist religious people are unaware of the harm they inflict in the name of love. I let what few relationships I had suffer. I regret doing this deeply as it robbed me of what could have been one of the bright spots of my teenage years. That, and not dating makes people think you're gay. (I later told my friends I was celibate and did not intend to have children. This is not lying. It remains true. Someday, however...)
Sooner or later, I came to terms with this. I could not remain agnostic and explored other religions. The quest for personal growth started when I decided to actually do something about my problems. Of course, it started with confronting mental illnesses and then religious beliefs, and I think this is but the latest segment of it. The thing is, I believe we need some form of spirituality in our lives, to connect with God. Too bad in America our very religions drive people like us out or try even more harmful "cures." Many transgendered people desire a deep relationship with God, but are put off by his followers. Being preached at forces a psychological reaction similar to a siege mentality, people will retreat into what they already know. If you're a Fundamentalist who's ever tried to witness to a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness, you should be familiar with this behavior. You're ranting and raving isn't going to convince them. If however, you're someone as confused as I am, don't ask his followers what God thinks, ask Him. (Note: My use of the masculine pronoun for supreme deity is not intended to offend anyone. I do it for the sake of simplicity.) Eventually, I came to where I am at now. I've had several false starts and stops on this road thinking I've found a home, but I suppose it is the journey that matters rather than the destination.

Nor should I have ever let anyone cause me to be afraid of the person I should know most intimately -- myself. Sadly, that is not the case for many of us, as we learn to hide what we are from early ages. By the time we can express what remains of our true selves, religions like the one I was raised in and the expectations of society have done so much damage that we don't know who he or she is anymore.


At Sun Oct 02, 01:35:00 PM 2005 , Blogger Becca said...

I'm so sorry the Mormon culture messed you up so badly. I'm not sure where you are relgiously now, but I hope you know that God knows you. I hope this doesn't come across as trite sounding.

I have problems with depression, too. Life is very difficult sometimes, and I laud you for not giving up.

PS--If you want to stop some of the spammers, you can select the word verification option on your comment tab on the dashboard.

At Fri Dec 30, 08:56:00 PM 2005 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting blog. Enjoyed reading it.


Joseph Smith Jr.
Mormon wedding

At Thu Nov 30, 02:32:00 AM 2006 , Blogger Unknown said...

Wow, how much I understand and relate to what you've been through. The only dance I went to in school I started by taking two girls to the dance and coming home with three. My father thought I'd turned a corner in my life. Ha! They were all friends of mine, but not those kinds of friends.

I've been on a long and tiring spiritual search too, so much so that when Mormon's showed up at my door I followed them all the way to baptism and a quorum meeting. They thought I was special, lucky me . . . Yeah, I know about the celestial kingdom and also know I'm not going THERE!!!

I've also had to face the specter of depression from decades of suppressed anger, PTSD from almost a decade with an abusive husband, anxiety oh and more . . . I Don't want to bore you to death with it all, just that I get it and you are not alone.

Becca's right, and I see here you have turned on verification! I did too some time back. Rock on girl!


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