It is Christmas time and, as is tradition, queers across the land are preparing to go visit their terrible suburban home towns. Suburbia is the haven of the nuclear family; a white picket fence, and 2.5 decidedly heterosexual children. However, you don’t always get what you want, and every Christmas queer kids go home and get told they’re going to hell and/or are better off dead by people who claim to love them.
To be honest, despite the relative safety of suburbia, none of us enjoyed it past the age of 11. Hell, Green Day had an entire album about it. Part of growing up in the white bread ideal that is suburban America, was getting dressed up and going to church on Sunday (hey, look, Green Day again). I used to put on my little white gloves and my fancy hats, and go to church with my sisters and parents. And, like the rest of the closeted kids, I listened to an old man tell me I was going to hell.
I was a fervently religious child. Every night before bed I said my prayers and constantly sought guidance from Christ. My grandmother was superintendent of the Sunday school and my mother was a sunday school teacher. I was at church multiple times a week. Heck, the first time someone tried to explain evolution to me I was so upset and adamant they had to call my mother. Religion was a huge part of my life, so being told I was going to hell was, to say the least, a little bit rough.
I got older, we got a new minister, and for a while my inner turmoil subsided. I was blessed with a minister who was current, understanding, and had a female partner. She kissed another lady on the mouth, in church. My little mind was blown. Suddenly, I loved church again. Rachel, without realizing it, was solely responsible for my continued belief in god. My budding romantic thoughts were no longer at odds with my religious beliefs and it was a staggering load off of my shoulders. I stopped praying for a Christmas miracle to make me straight. But as with many wonderful things in my life, this was ruined by old white people. The lovely woman who kept me believing in god was suddenly replaced by a bitter, middle-aged woman who would wreak havoc on my cookie cutter suburban life – right as I met the first girl I would struggle with wanting to come out of the closet to.
We left the church I had grown up in and my mother found a new church where the music was cool and modern and the people sounded like Rachel. The congregation was growing, not dying, and everyone was so young! There was even a youth group that went on trips and did things, and I was so excited for about a week. Then, suddenly, I started hearing a phrase I would come to hate: “It’s not our place to judge but God will judge them.”
This new school bullshit was everything I hated about my last church covered in a shiny new package. The fun youth group trips were about saving people and avoiding the threat of homosexuality, the minister likened self harm to worshipping Satan and last, but certainly not least, I came out to a girl and she offered to perform an exorcism. This church tried to pray the asthma out of my older sister. It was the worst.
Now, I am 25, and this year as the holidays approach I find myself doing something I haven’t done in many years, looking at churches. For years, I have had the attitude that I didn’t stop believing in God I stopped believing in Christians. Ever since Rachel was ousted from her position, in the church I grew up in, I decided it wasn’t God’s fault. God didn’t make people preach fire and brimstone, God didn’t give people an excuse to be intolerant, Christianity did.
We all hope that someday our family will act right. We all pray that, one day, our shitty relatives will stop posting awful things on Facebook and that seeing them at Christmas will stop being it’s own special hell. We all hope that one day the people who raised us will be as awesome as the families we have all found along the way.
Religion is not a reason to hate. Your relatives are not awful because Jesus came down in person and was like “Hey, you know what? Fuck the queers”. I spent a long time learning that lesson. Your relatives are in fact probably shitty because they grew up in the same suburban hell and decided it was easier to hate than to try. Sorry.
This season many people are girding their loins and preparing for battle. They are standing in front of a mirror wearing clothes that fill them with dysphoria, or practicing calling the person they love their roommate. Suburban Christmas is a battlefield. So put on your war face and remember as you are all packing up your bags, wrapping up your presents, and internally screaming about the awful mess that is your suburban horror story, God made you a creative, wonderful, good person; he made them afraid of seeing two boys kiss. Who do you really think he loves more?