From a reader raised as a liberal Catholic comes this lengthy, but heartbreaking, email. It’s been slightly edited from its original version.
If you have experienced anything like this or know someone who has, please leave a comment and help her out!
I recently came out of the closet as bisexual (yes, I’m sure)… Religion was the main reason [I repressed this for 14 years] (liberal as it was, you did NOT want to be gay/bi/trans at my high school), and now that that’s fallen away, so has my main reason for lying to myself about who I am. While it feels great and liberating, I’ve also found myself feeling horribly, horribly guilty.
I’m pretty much agnostic with some occasional deistic leanings now, but I guess more religious stuff stuck deep down than I realized — because I go back and forth from being “out and proud” to feeling horrible — like I’m dirt and “disordered” and there’s something wrong with me — and like I’m going to hell even though I don’t even believe in it anymore (at least not consciously!) I’ve even felt like an abomination and considered maybe I should try to go to some reparative therapy, but I know it’s all bs, having a psych background especially. And I don’t feel I should have to — this is who I am and why is it considered so wrong by the community I grew up in??? I’m not hurting anyone. The irony is I have a double standard — I don’t have these feelings towards other GLBT people — just myself.
I’ve found a lot of warmth and acceptance in the GLBT community, but as you can imagine religion and its struggles is not a favorite topic with many of them (not that I blame them). I’ve joined the rainbow coalition at a UU church my friend introduced me to, and I’m hoping they can help. I just need some people/person to talk to that have struggled with the same issues…
In many of the GLBT/bi groups I’ve joined, people have either made peace with religion or gave up on it long ago — they tell me this is a process everyone goes through and it will pass. I think so too, but it’s really torturous. Many of my close friends are supportive (and secular!), but they don’t get why I can’t just “let it go” — it’s b/c religion did mean something to me for so long, and it was mostly a positive experience in other ways growing up — and some of it did get very deep — so even though rationally I know things, emotionally is another matter. I can’t tell my religious friends — not yet.
My parents found out — both that I’m not religious and that I’m bi. With the religion thing they oscillate between reminding me I should pray and trying to take me to church, and with the bi thing they think it’s “just a phase” and that I’ll marry some nice “normal” guy and forget about it (I guess I’m not “normal??), and as long as I don’t “act” on it it’s not a sin. I’m completely dependent on them financially (although that may change if I get disability, but even then it’s probably not enough to move out) since I’ve been chronically ill and unable to work since I was 25 and had to move back in with them, and I do need their help. I have been able to stand my ground and not go to church much, though sometimes I go just to make them happy. I think for them the bi thing is actually worse than the non-religion-most conservative catholics are quite GLBT phobic. I had a recent evaluation and there is just no way I can work now — I’m still too sick.
I know they love me and they’ve been great when it comes to my illness, but it’s really frustrating not being able to be who I am around them, and I’m basically leading a double life — I’m out to my closest friends and some new people I’ve met and my new friends in the GLBT community, so they help me out… I go out to GLBT events in DC and at the UU church… I hate having to lie about where I’m going, but I have no choice. My family wouldn’t throw me out, but they would try to cut me off from the GLBT community, whose support I really need right now. I’ve found some hotlines I can call, too. I go between happy, defiant, angry, guilty, shameful, and depressed. I’m not trying to be dramatic but I’ve even felt a bit suicidal at times, though I would never act on it. My guilt and then anger at having to lie about who I am feels like it’s tearing me apart and destroying me sometimes…