Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bible Belt Blasphemer

If you're a Southern freethinker, this post is probably going to resonate with you. If you're not a US Southerner or from the US at all, strap in. This post is not an attempt to complain and ask for pity, but to draw attention to the dire need for support from other freethinkers.

I'm North Carolinian. I wasn't born here, but it's been my home for 17 of my nearly 22 years. North Carolina is in the heart of the Bible Belt, a term associated with the American South. The Bible Belt is comprised largely of Protestants, with some exceptions. There's churches everywhere you look, frequent disputes over separation of church and state (especially in public schools), and a high concentration of anti-gay, anti-abortion nut-jobs that justify their hatred with the Bible. Our science scores continue to suffer some of the worst rates in the country. I'm not saying that you can't find situations or people like this anywhere else, but the South is the unofficial headquarters of United States religious bigotry.

Unsurprisingly, the Bible Belt is the area least receptive to freethinkers here in the United States. When I first came out as an atheist in my teens, a few of my peers were convinced I had a black heart that belonged to the devil. I'd have laughed if they didn't take what they said so seriously. Dislike of atheists and other secular individuals is common due to ignorance, and here, outright hatred of atheists is acceptable and sometimes encouraged. 

Secular Southerners are often discriminated against at the legal level. Take North Carolina's State Constitution, for example. The Preamble is "We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings to us and our posterity, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution." How can the constitution be all-inclusive if it deliberately leaves freethinkers out? Not all North Carolinians are grateful to the "Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations."

Article VI, Section 8 clearly states that "The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God," even though people being sworn into office are allowed to swear an oath OR the secular equivalent, an affirmation. Most of the other states with constitutions discriminating against freethinkers are Southern, such as Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

The presence of so much religious bigotry here calls for extra reinforcements. There are plenty of freethinkers here in the South, but many of us feel outnumbered and alone. 
We can't put up an atheist billboard without it being vandalized within a couple days, much to the delight of other local residents. Our complaints typically go ignored by our peers and state officials. No one wants to help "those atheists." When even our leaders won't help us, it's hard to feel like we have any power. I encourage my fellow Southern secularists and secularists everywhere to speak out against the injustices that occur here. We need it desperately. 

The South has never been known to be a leader in social progress; it's known for being the most resistant to comply. Using religion to subjugate others was unacceptable when we held slaves, it's unacceptable when it's used to deny rights to women and the LGBT community, and it's unacceptable when it's used to deny rights to anyone who isn't Christian. 

I'm a Freethinking Female, a Secular Southerner, a Bible Belt Blasphemer - and proud. Let's fight these injustices, together. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Voting "other"? Oh, brother.

"Get out and vote!"

It's something that anyone living in a democratic society has heard, especially in the heat of the election season. I voted in my first presidential election this year. I was incredibly excited to finally take part in this rite-of-passage of sorts. I was a few months too young to do so in 2008 and couldn't wait to do it in 2012.

I have a big issue with the "Get out and vote" message. I wonder how many people really want you to vote when it's not for their preferred candidate. Campaign volunteers have been all over my campus in the past month to ask students if they're registered to vote and who they plan to vote for. Some clearly supported Romney, others Obama. Several of these volunteers stopped me and were excited when I replied I am indeed registered to vote. However, some of them lost their enthusiasm when I announced support for a candidate that was not theirs. A couple were outright hostile. It seems the real message is "vote, but only when it's for who I want."

If you EXPLICITLY verbalize you want me to vote for a particular candidate, I'll understand your disappointment if I politely say I'm not interested. However, it does piss me off when the message is to simply vote and the response to my choice is "People like you shouldn't be able to vote if that's who you support" or "Don't bother voting, then." Thankfully, not many have been this rude. The most common negative response to my presidential choice has been "you know that voting for him won't matter, right?" I don't care if you think my vote was "wasted," so long as you agree I had the right to vote in the first place. I exercised my right to vote and that's better than not voting at all. A dissenting opinion still carries more weight in the political world than nonparticipating indifference.

I'm Christi, I'm 21 years old, and I voted for the libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. I'm happy that most of the campaign volunteers and friends of mine expressed respect for my decision, even if it wasn't one they supported personally.

I encourage all citizens in the US of voting age to vote as well, no matter what candidate you support. I've made my presidential choice known and you're free to disagree with it and/or my political beliefs. At least there's discussions to be had.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Permanent Pride

On September 20th, 2012, I got my first tattoo:

It reads "Love is never wrong," and wrapping around my ankle are 3 sets of couples holding hands - 2 men, 1 man and 1 woman, and 2 women.

As a matter of luck in scheduling, September 20th coincided with the one-year anniversary of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the policy that kept LGBT members of the United States military from being open about their sexual orientation.

 LGBT equality stands as the human rights issue closest to my heart. I have endured harassment over the years because my bisexuality does not fit the typical Southern American's definition of acceptable. It took me until this year to completely accept my orientation. I display my tattoo as a badge of pride in that accomplishment.

I live my life as a relatively quiet individual. I have strong opinions, but neglect to share them out of fear of intimidation. My dislike of conflicts with people holding strongly opposing viewpoints leads me to shy away from wearing my political t-shirts. When I do gather up enough courage to wear the tees, I frequently hold my arm or purse in front of the message in a paranoid attempt to avoid controversy. I realized this pathetic display had to stop. So what if some moron comes along and disagrees with me? That's life. It's a complete disservice if I stay silent about an issue I claim to hold dear. LGBT equality's importance to me far outweighs any future harassment I might receive. I smirk knowing there's nothing bigots can do about the tattoo anyway - it's not going anywhere, no matter how much they hate it. I could cover up the tattoo if I so wish, but it's not like a t-shirt I can remove at the end of the day. It's literally and figuratively a part of me now.

It's obvious that my sexuality played a substantial role in my decision to get this tattoo, but I was not the only person I had in mind. I would not be here today without the love of my friends of all sexual orientations. "Love is never wrong" is a simple but straightforward message to let friends and other equality supporters know that they are my brothers and sisters. I was supported with love; this is my way of returning it. Good friends taught me that their first concern about a relationship I'm in is not the sex of my partner, but my happiness. They've compelled me to continue spreading this message wherever I go, carrying their support with me every step of the way.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Love it or Leave it - Why I Stopped Accommodating

When I revealed to the world on Myspace five years ago that I was bisexual and not religious, my mother became upset. She wanted  me to take the information down because I was "flaunting it." My persistent refusal to comply resulted in no computer privileges for months. It took her a few years before she completely understood why I wanted to be open. She feared for my safety, living in a place not very welcoming to different folks. I understand her now, although I did not at the time. Her phrasing of "advertising" my atheism and bisexuality made me angry because I didn't see why everyone else was able to list themselves as straight and Christian. I knew I deserved the same freedom. I kept insisting I was not "advertising" because advertising involves spamming people with a message over and over again. I described my actions as a declaration of honesty. I never forced people to acknowledge my differences. The information was simply there for those who cared enough to know. It was and never will be a "HEY EVERYONE, LOOK AT ME" type of affair.

It's the same today with other social media (and in real life). My mother was right in that some people who view my information will not like what they see. Some have made it a point to tell me so in a hateful manner. Thankfully, a secondary function of listing this information about myself is weeding out people I don't need in my life anyway. I find it easier for others to see who I am up front. If they're too close-minded to befriend me, I'll have saved myself valuable time and effort. Should someone choose to complain about my identity after having access to the information in plain sight, I am not at fault for their ignorance.

Trying to accommodate others to avoid making them uncomfortable is no longer a part of me. When a friend or potential dating partner has asked me not to reveal my sexuality or religious beliefs to other friends or their parents, I make no promises. I refuse to lie or stay silent if an offensive comment is made by the person or people whose good side I'm "supposed" to stay on. A person either likes me or doesn't. I'd personally rather find out sooner than later if someone doesn't want my company.

The request I've received most often by casual friends is "So and so's super religious, so don't mention being an atheist around her." Unless the religious person asks me where I go to church or whatever, I have little reason to discuss the subject in the first place. It's not my style to incite controversy. I simply warn the friend in advance that bringing me along to meet someone new means they acknowledge I won't shy away from who I am in any way.

I'm out because I've worked so hard to accept myself that it would be a detriment to my progress to publicly deny any part of who I am. I'm an atheist, a bisexual, and a former cutter (among many other things). It's not my responsibility to coddle people I make uncomfortable. The issue lies within the person with the objection. While these aspects of my identity have indeed scared (and pissed) some people off, I am at peace knowing that these qualities regularly filter out ignorance I have no time for. I refuse to let anyone rob me of the happiness I deserve.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cutting Out Self-Injury

Another special anniversary has come about - I've reached one year of not cutting today. I have lots of dates special to me personally (such as the five year anniversary of my coming out that I posted about a month ago), but rarely do I feel compelled to share what I call my "Christi holidays" with the rest of the world. This warrants exception, as my journey overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and depression are not yet over.

Those of you who have read my post "Neurotic No More" know that my cutting began at age fifteen, when my sense of individuality was emerging. I began to realize I was "different" when I adopted a vegetarian diet, came to terms with being an atheist, and when my sexuality awakened. I hated these parts of me and wanted to literally cut them out. I honestly believed at the time that my peers' disapproval meant I was a failure. I wondered incessantly why these struggles chose me because I felt incapable of handling the social stigmas. I cut myself as punishment for allowing these "defective" qualities to stay, though I tried my hardest to ignore them. It didn't matter that I was old enough to know that problems simply don't just go away. I thought cutting would teach me a lesson until I effectively got rid of these parts of me.

I see my most prominent scars on a daily basis, especially the deep 1" stab wound I inflicted on my wrist with scissors when I was 16. I never went more than a few months without relapsing. Any time I felt overwhelmed with stress or insecurity, I'd pull out the scissors, knife, or razor. I refused to talk to friends, fearing they'd tell on me. I didn't think they'd understand.

The mental breakdown that occurred on August 25th of last year resulted in my being escorted of my dorm by campus police for a mental evaluation. I'd cut myself due to an increasingly rough week, an argument I got into with former friend (who by the way no longer associates with me due to this cutting incident) being the final straw. I was starting a new school after spending two years at a school I loved. I didn't want to transfer, but my family couldn't the foot the bill to continue my education out-of-state. The stress of being in a new place took a toll on my social anxiety, as I'm not exactly a social butterfly. Someone loosened the handlebars on my bike, my financial aid came in late, and I was slapped with a $45 charge for losing my keys. Nothing went right that week. I had no idea what to do except punish myself for my incompetence. Out came the steak knife.

My former friend, resident adviser, the campus police, the counseling center, and the Dean of Students office were all involved in assisting me. It didn't matter to them that my injuries were hardly worth attending to (they didn't give me enough time to do much more, thankfully). I basically went through the process listed here. I was deemed fit enough to return to classes after a day off.

They recommended "behavioral therapy," which essentially means attending more than the typical ten counseling sessions a year most students can't exceed. My guess is I received around twenty-five sessions from August 2011 to May 2012. Those sessions really inspired me to make serious changes. I started by apologizing to my body for hurting it. I now view it much more respectfully, grateful for all it does for me. The hardest mindset to change was not asking for help. I always knew there were people who loved me; my stubbornness and fear of wasting their time kept getting in my way. To my surprise, quite a few friends were going through similar ideals. We bonded over our pain and kept each other strong.

 I dedicated myself to attending every appointment with the counselor and psychiatrist, being honest about where I stood on my progress. My goal was to eliminate cutting as a legitimate coping mechanism. I slowly started to see change. I learned to say NO, STOP and keep my word even though cutting was my first instinct. Couple months later, cutting popped up as an option...but it was no longer my first idea. Then I ended up the point where I am now. I'd be lying if I said I didn't still think about it. The difference is I'm able to completely dismiss it without a second thought. One look at my scars tells me that much. I realize now that blaming myself for matters beyond my control would kill me eventually. A year ago, I'd have said I deserved to.

So here we are, August 25, 2012. I am one year strong and I couldn't feel better. I found things in my life to love. I engage in regular exercise. I live a healthy lifestyle. I surround myself with loving people. I involve myself in my university's atheist club and its events to be the change I want to see. I've developed hobbies such as Gensei-Ryu karate to keep me strong. I became more open about my life in the hopes that other people in my situation wouldn't feel so alone.

I'm not out of the woods yet, but I can see the end. Excessive anxiety bothers me frequently, enough to interfere with my daily life. Out of all the stupid things that run through my head on a daily basis (mostly about insignificant worries), I'm FINALLY able to say cutting is no longer one of them. Accomplishing this much gives me the determination to keep going. I've done what I used to think was impossible. Taking things one step at a time, I know I'll reach my final destination someday.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Write on Target

I'm only days away from starting my fourth year of college. These past few years have taught me more about myself than any subject I've learned while there. I started out as a nutrition major, inspired by my loss of thirty-five pounds when I was thirteen years old. I knew it would require a heavy math and science curriculum, two subjects I'm not crazy about. I pushed forward anyway, knowing I'd likely struggle with my typically average performance in both subjects. My family gently reminded me on a regular basis that I needed to make money when I graduated, so studying English, my best subject by far, was not encouraged even though they truly wanted me to be happy. It didn't matter that I never got less than a 90 in an English class in my life; I was convinced that it wasn't a viable career path. Even my English teachers told me it was a hard road.

I figured I could live with making English my minor. I knew deep down that wasn't true. I wanted it to be my main course of study. I kept trying to concentrate on nutrition, but the thought lingered in my mind. My dream was to become a librarian, which not many people understood. Why be a "boring" librarian who writes on the side when I could make good money as a dietitian? I kept this state of mind until I discovered some pretty good answers to my own question throughout my first semester.

Based on a college placement test known as the ACT, my score on the English section placed me into the freshman honors English class. It was the only honors class I was taking. As part of the class' requirement, I had to bring one piece of my work to the library's writing center, a place for undergraduate students to receive help and/or feedback from graduate students. The graduate student helping me that day read it halfway through before asking, "Are you an English major?" I answered no and she exclaimed, "well, why not? You're a talented writer!"

 That right there was the first time I'd seriously considered taking up English. My second biggest indication was completing the class with a 98 while getting a C in math and failing chemistry (re-took it later and received a B-). I knew what I had to do. Yes, nutrition was interesting to me...but it wasn't my passion, nor did I perform well enough in the math and science fields to be considered competitive. Only one subject could evoke such strong enthusiasm. I switched to English and said to hell with money. My battle was not yet over, however. Let's fast forward to one year ago, once I transferred univerisities.

I again became worried about the massive debt I'd accumulated from spending two years at an out-of-state university, plus the debt that was yet to come from finishing my education here in North Carolina. I called my mother in the middle of September 2011 to inform her that I'd be a nutrition and English double-major in the Spring. I convinced myself I'd given up too easily on nutrition. I thought I could try again without abandoning English. HORRIBLE MISTAKE.

I scraped by in the next level of chemistry with a C and had to drop out of physiology mid-semester because I was failing. My graduation date was bumped from 2013 to 2015. Whereas English offered flexibility in what classes you needed and when you could take them, nutrition required a specific set of classes that were only offered certain semesters. Nutrition's strict scheduling wouldn't allow me to fit in an English class for two years. I decided yet again that the suffering was not worth it. In April, I officially re-declared English as my sole major with nutrition as my minor. As it turns out, I'm great at the actual nutrition classes. With nutrition as my minor now, I can still enjoy the healthy living aspect of the field without all the tough science classes.

The combination of being a transfer student whose credits didn't all transfer and making the mistake of double-majoring now puts my graduation date as Spring 2014, pending I don't mess anything up. It's a year later than expected, but it's better than the two years later (at minimum) it would've been had I continued balancing two majors!

I'm a writer at heart. I will spend hours upon hours on a paper without complaint, whereas doing chemistry homework for five minutes causes my brain to scream in agony. Writing ignites such a fire in me that nothing else is capable of causing. I know damn well I might end up poor. My loans continue to pile up, but selling my dreams to pay them off won't happen. I'm in the field where I belong. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Neurotic No More

I'm going to tell you from the beginning that this isn't a post on one of my general topics. It's about a subject I rarely discuss, my battle with anxiety. Like my struggles with accepting my atheism and sexuality, my disorder has long inhibited the development of a positive outlook on life. I won't detail everything here, but it's a rundown of how I've been at my worst vs. my best (right here and now)!

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) has been the bane of my existence. I started showing signs of serious issues when I was eleven (my sixth grade year), although I wasn't diagnosed with it until I began cutting in high school. My extreme shyness led me to do things such as fake illness when running late for class - not because I wanted to avoid infractions for tardiness, but because I couldn't stomach the thought of my classmates turning around for half a second to see who walked in the door. Being stared at terrified me.

 During that year, I became a top pick for the bullies' cruelty. My weight, short stature, lack of athleticism, and introverted personality made me a perfect target for ridicule. On top of that, I was new. I'd attended an elementary school on the other side of the county until that year. Though no one ever beat me up, boys and girls alike would mistreat me in class, on the bus, anywhere they could. My books were shoved off lunch tables I wasn't welcome at. Anytime I'd receive praise from a teacher, it was met with snickers and "who cares about her, anyway." Shoes were chucked at my head in gym class. I could go on and on.

One of the worst days of my life was exam day at the end of the school year. I felt incredibly nervous because the tests were to be taken in homeroom, the place where some my worst tormentors were. Everyone seemed too busy to bully me that day, but that didn't stop me from having my first major panic attack. All eyes were on the shaking, sweating girl that I'd become after completing my tests. The stress of the staring resulted in incontinence. The nickname Pissti followed me for the next year.

My cutting problem started my sophomore year of high school. My identities as a nonbeliever and bisexual were emerging, met with much resistance. I tried to literally cut these parts out of me by slashing up my arms, leading to the beginning of what was to be years of counseling. I never experienced any serious breakdowns during these years, but I lived in a constant state of unease that blocked my ability to pay attention to anything other than what people must think of me. I had no moment free of my exaggerated paranoia. This unrelenting anxiety and self-injuring continued into college.

My most serious panic attack was last year - August 25th, 2011 to be exact. My first week of school was not yet over. A junior in college then, I had to transfer schools due to monetary issues. My self-esteem had improved a bunch, although my ability to manage stress left much to be desired. In that first week, my bike was vandalized,  I lost my keys to my dorm and room, I got into an argument with my first friend there, and knew no one else to turn to. I broke down and cut up my arm, causing my friend to tell the resident adviser, who was required to call the police. The police coaxed me out of my room for a mandatory mental evaluation. I was a sobbing, bloody mess. The woman who assessed me "heavily suggested" counseling with medical supplementation.

Here we are almost a year later. August 25th will mark one year free of self-injury. It'll be the longest I've abstained since first attempting to stop. I am taking fluoxetine (generic Prozac) and receiving behavioral therapy during the school year. My treatment has progressed so well that the frequency of my therapy is being decreased to half the visits I required last year, an accomplishment of which I am proud. Don't get me wrong - I need to work on not letting little insults ruin my day and not looking around nervously all the time when I wear politically charged t-shirts...Still, knowing these are the most serious issues I have to work on as compared to controlling the urge to hurt myself speaks volumes about my success.

I don't know what the future brings other than an end to my disorder. When will it be? I have no idea. And you know what? I won't worry about it. ;)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Just an Atheist?

"Fine without faith, good without god, and decent without dogma."

The above quote was one of my most recent tweets that sums up how I see my life. I strive to do good, even when I can get away with wrongdoing. If you're a D&D buff, think of me as a Neutral Good character. If you're not, it essentially means I'll do the morally right thing, regardless of whether it aligns with existing rules/laws or traditions.

The word "atheist" carries connotations that are largely negative.  Fellow students I interact with curl their lip in a disgusted snarl at the very mention of the word, such as when they see it on our group table during outreach in the student center. It happens several times a day: someone stops to see what our table's banner says. He/she sees the words "Atheists, Agnostics, and Skeptics." His/her face twists in recoil, then the person resumes walking. It saddens me because I'm about the most harmless-looking person you'll see. I'm five feet tall, smiley, and soft-spoken. I'm perfectly approachable...except no one wants to talk to an associate of "that atheist group."

I regularly do volunteer work that benefits the community (such as blood donation), and that's an honorable act...until it's known I'm atheist. I MUST be doing it for personal gain.

Truth is, not many religious folks stop to think that the people in the hospital bed don't give a shit who gave them another chance at life - they're just happy to continue living. Atheist blood is no different than religious blood. Considering how a pint of blood can save up to three people,  I've saved around two dozen people I'll probably never know. I don't know their religious preferences, but I want them to be alive anyway. I realize the value in everyone.

Should I die young, any working organs are to be donated to a living recipient in need. I've returned decent amounts of money to people who have dropped it when I could have just as easily pocketed it for my own needs (I am a broke college student, after all). However, that's not what I want others to do to me. Maybe the person I helped will one day pay that kindness forward. I don't expect any reward for these things; knowing I've helped another is satisfaction enough.

My new "This is what an Atheist looks like" t-shirt will serve as a filter toward people I know aren't worth associating with. I'm so much more than just an atheist. I'm a sister, a daughter, a writer, an animal-lover. I love life, I just don't need a god to guide it. Snarky comments and repulsed faces in response to one word on my shirt should tell me all I need to know about that person.

If you don't approve of my atheism, that's fine. I'd probably still help you - not to make you like me, mind you - but it's what a good person does. The difference between us is that while we both have hearts, only mine is working.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Special Day for Christi

July 21st, 2007. I'm sixteen years old, sitting at the family computer on my Myspace blog. I was afraid of what I was about to do because I knew that I might lose friends. I grew tempted to back out and deal with my anguish longer so that my peers wouldn't have yet another reason to bully me. I knew deep down that if I wanted to move forward, I MUST go through with this. I typed up what I needed to say and hesitantly clicked "post."

Waiting was unbearable. How would people react? Surprise? Confusion? Hatred? I just didn't know. All I knew was my secret was out and turning back was now out of the question.

So, what did I say, you might be wondering. Well, I actually saved the post from all those years ago, storing it my email when I stopped using Myspace. I have changed a lot from this original message (when I still wanted to be straight and pretended to prefer men), but the core lesson  I took away from it remains the same - I'm bi, and you don't have to like it.

This is what I posted:

"So I've finally decided to..
Come out.

I am bisexual.

Before you go, "ZOMG, whaaaaaat?!?!", I want to explain.

Please leave all of your bisexual stereotypes at the door. I'm going to tell you all right here and now, that I:

1. Do NOT  believe in dating both a guy and girl at the same time.
2. Am NOT "unsure".
3. Am NOT pretending to like girls to get guys' attention or because it's "trendy".
4. Did NOT choose to be this way; in fact, I wish I wasn't.
5. Am NOT attracted to both sexes equally (I'm about 70/30 actually, with a preference towards guys.)

If you have a problem with this, please delete me off your friends list now.

I don't have the time or patience to deal with anyone's anti-gay bullshit.

I know some people who think it's just a phase, or that bisexuality isn't real. I know I have feelings for both sexes, and I'm not going to hide it from the world anymore just because some people think it's "gross", "just for attention", or that it "doesn't exist".

And just for the record, I did not "turn bi". It wasn't a choice. I've known that I was for awhile now- since my freshman year.

As for me not, "looking bi," let me tell you, there is no such thing.

This may be the end of some friendships, and I'm ready to face that now. I'm ready to see who my real friends are, and those who are blinded by stereotypes. I hope that those close to me will realize that I'm the same Christi and nothing's changed, except that I'm open now about my feelings.

@ guys who think this is hot, get this: I'm not trying to impress you or anyone else, so kiss any hopes of watching girl-on-girl goodbye.

@ straight girls who are afraid I'm going to hit on them: I won't."

 Most people who were negative took my advice and deleted me. Through the negative shined some positive examples of real friends. They were mostly surprised, but supportive nonetheless. I was commended for my bravery and received offers of "if you get picked on, I'm there for you." They touched my heart. With my increasingly understanding parents and friends like these continuing into my years of young adulthood, they give me inspiration and hope. Without them, I don't know where I'd be today - possibly not here at all. To those of you who support me, thank you. Your support means a lot, even if you've not known me very long. I can only go forward from here. <3

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Honest Herbivore

I noticed I've not made any posts on my vegetarianism yet. It's certainly time for that, although it's not going to be about my reasoning for why I chose to go vegetarian. It's more of a confession.

It's no secret that human beings aren't perfect. I've claimed to be a lacto-ovo vegetarian for six years, which for those of you who are unfamiliar with the terminology means that I avoid meat, poultry, and seafood but consume dairy and egg products. For most, this also means excluding animal-derived products such as gelatin (found in marshmallows, Poptarts, and of course, Jell-o) and broth made of chicken or beef.

In times of need, I make exceptions. I don't have access to my expensive meat substitutes on a regular basis due to lack of transportation (and sometimes funds, as a college student). There are times where I have to buy the $2 box of Poptarts over the $4 box of my favorite Cracklin' Oat Bran cereal. What's cheaper - my $5 "chicken" strips from Harris Teeter or some ramen noodles? Sometimes those are the choices I have to make. I know some vegetarians would rather go hungry than to compromise their diet. I respect that. Even more interesting is that I consume meat (always chicken or turkey) a few times a year if  the situation becomes desperate. I come from a struggling family that doesn't have the luxury of turning down what I'm offered if I hit a difficult time. I won't feel guilty for needing to eat.

Albeit, this happens very rarely. Those who adopt vegetarianism for animal rights reasons have in general been less tolerant of my "relapses," as opposed to vegetarians who choose the diet for other reasons (that's not to say I've received criticism from JUST animal rights activists or that all animal rights activists think this way). I don't experience guilt for consuming meat or products with trace amounts of animal in it because I'm a vegetarian because, for the most part, I just don't like meat. Sorry if that's not a political enough reason for you. Growing up, I ate hardly any meat except for chicken and turkey (which are my only meats of choice in times of weakness).

I've never had issues with picking pepperonis off a pizza or the chicken out of my lo mein. I engage in this behavior fairly often while I'm at college. Would I rather have a veggie or cheese pizza? Yes, of course. I'd certainly prefer not to pick meat out of food, but I will if that's what I have to do. I reject the label "flexitarian" - one who is primarily vegetarian but occasionally eats meat - because it describes someone who prefers to keep some meat in their diet. I do not. I'd choose the 100% meat-free option every time if I had that luxury.

Why bother even posting this if no one's caught me or those that have haven't said anything? Well, because I value honesty. 95% of the time, I AM a vegetarian. No meat, no chicken broth, no gelatin or whatever else. I have no one's values to compromise but my own. Hopefully this causes no rift between me and my vegetarian/vegan friends; if it does, then I'm glad I was honest now rather than later.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Should Know Bi Now

A very special anniversary is coming up later this month. Nope, it's not a relationship or anything like that. It's the fifth anniversary of my coming out as bisexual. I'm going to post a commemorative post then, but since I'm already in the mood for celebration, I want to talk about how I came to accept my sexuality since coming out.

I didn't always identify as bisexual. From the ages of 15-18, I did. I began to question if I was a lesbian near my 19th birthday. I came out as lesbian for a few months before I met a great guy, then suddenly my understanding of my sexuality was skewed again. We dated for 11 months, ending due to us growing apart. Not long after this, I came out as a lesbian again at age 20. This time I held onto that label for a good 9 months before meeting the wonderful person I'm now with - another male. By this time, some friends of mine were extremely confused. I was by far more confused than any of them.

I'm a bisexual that prefers women but am dating a man. That's a mouthful to say, but a common misconception of bisexuals is that we like both sexes equally. Some of us strongly prefer the opposite sex, some strongly prefer the same sex, some like both sexes equally, and some feel a slight pull toward one sex more than the other. It depends on the individual. I feel the need to describe my type of bisexuality so that I can convey this message. 

It took me ages to realize that I hated the term "bisexual" so much that I was desperate to call myself anything else - lesbian, queer, fluid....just not bisexual because of it's generally misunderstood nature as a half-way house between gay and straight, or the metaphorical "fence" we supposedly sit on. There's also the assumptions bisexuals are slutty, unfaithful, polyamorous,'ve heard them all. I was afraid of the word. On occasion, lesbians and straight men rejected me on that label alone.

I thought I'd primarily date women, so I figured "lesbian" was a close enough description. Yet, when I called myself one, there was that feeling in the back of my mind that I was right the first time: I'm bi. I'm no longer scared to use the term because its stigma is exactly why I SHOULD use it - to educate others until the stigma dissipates.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Coming Out Gaytheist

Lately, I've observed a number of tweets likening coming out LGBT to coming out atheist. I find this interesting because I've come out as both and know the similarities and differences. Both coming outs require careful consideration and tremendous courage. However, the biggest notable difference is that there was never any question about my sexuality. I knew I was bi when my feelings for women surfaced at age fifteen, the problem was accepting AND appreciating it.

My discovery of atheism was a much longer process. I didn't "just know" when I began doubting religion in my preteen years. It took years of attending various churches and studying religious doctrines before I concluded that I believed none of it. I didn't want to be isolated from my peers, a common fear of thirteen year-olds. Like my sexuality, I hid it until I was sixteen.

This resistance to acknowledge these integral parts of my identity took a toll on me. At fifteen, when I was still not publicly out yet, I became a self-injurer. By this time, I'd accepted myself but hated who I was. I thought that cutting would be an adequate punishment for the defective person I must be.I came out as bisexual a year later. I thought this might ease the stress of hiding my identity, only to discover the hostility of my peers. I no longer hid who I was even though I was disgusted that my sexuality could not be changed.

Part of me itches to believe in a deity. No worries my fellow atheists, I'm not turning on you. Living in a religiously over-saturated area exerts tremendous pressure to adopt religion, namely Christianity.  Your religious beliefs are more of matter of choice than sexuality will ever be. I struggled with my beliefs years longer than my sexuality because, again, I knew of and hated my sexuality but knew it could not be changed. I thought I could somehow force faith in Christianity. Not so. I researched Buddhism, Wicca, Islam, Hinduism, and more. None fit me. I was under the delusion that people would accept me as long as I believed in *something*. I grew tired of this game of pleasing others so they could feel comfortable.

Throughout the rest of my high school years, I dated only men to avoid scrutiny of my "gay side," much like I tried to believe in some religion, whatever it was, so I wasn't shamed .Unsurprisingly, this repression led to more self-hatred and cutting. I harmed myself until I was twenty because I hoped I'd be "normal" someday.

I'm now twenty-one and accept and appreciate both my atheism and bisexuality. Neither "needs" to change. My discovery of these parts of my identity occurred at differing paces, but the core of the matter remains the same:  both made me feel inferior until I stopped thinking about what others wanted. There's no doubt that coming out as either atheist or LGBT can result in loss of support from ignorant friends and family. I happened to be born as both. I lost some people I loved, but I gained peace of mind from freeing myself from their restrictive ideas on who I "should" be. That's not worth trading for anything.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Being a SHEretic - why atheism empowers me as a woman

It's hard to accept that we live in a world where women are stoned to death for being raped, admonished for expressing their thoughts, and denied the right to control her own body (to name just a few injustices). Why is this happening with all the progress has humanity has made? The biggest threat to progress, of course: religion.

The bible serves as a women-oppressing manual. Women are cursed from existence alone (Genesis 3:16).  No matter what, women are doomed to fail. We're unclean because of menstrual periods (Leviticus 15 19-23) and from giving birth (Job 14: 1-4). We can be sold into slavery (Exodus 21: 7-11), sacrificed (Judges 19: 22-29), and raped (Genesis 19: 1-8, Deuteronomy 21: 11-14 and 22: 28-29, Isiah: 16-17). It never ends. We must behave as obedient servants to our husbands, submitting to his every whim without complaint.

The Koran fares no better. Female slaves are sexual property (Sura 4:24). Not only that, but older men may marry a young girl who hasn't even entered womanhood (Sura 65:1,4). What the fuck? It's bad enough that men are allowed to subjugate their wives. Taking a wife that's still a young child enters unforgivable territory, as does genital mutilation.

I did not write this entry merely to throw out a bunch of anti-woman verses. An account from a friend who was tabling for my university's atheist club recalls a Southern Baptist woman approaching the table to have a discussion. When asked why she accepts the subservient roles she's prescribed, she shockingly said women deserve it. Despite my friend's attempts to tell her that her opinions were of just as much value as his, she backed down and said "I don't want to argue with you. I'm not supposed to." How incredibly sad.

My own personal experiences as a woman led me to embrace a secular worldview. I know I have a brain, and I will see to it that it's used. Wasting the brains of half the world's population simply because members of said population have vaginas never made sense. The lone girl among two brothers, I felt pressured to stand out. My brothers are indeed very smart; but of all three of us, I consistently perform the best academically. I continue to further my education so I can complete my own dreams. Religion only hinders these goals, as women are discouraged from pursuing their interests. No one stands in my way because I don't allow them to. Being an atheist lets me decide for MYSELF what I'm capable of, not dictating what I "should" do.

Abandoning religion allowed me to rid myself of the double-standards placed on women's behavior. It's okay to wear boys' clothes if you're a girl, but not for a boy to wear girls' clothes. Men who engage in sex frequently and with many partners are regarded as manly, where women who participate in such behavior are promiscuous and shameful. It's fine if a man belches, but it's impolite for a lady. These restrictions make it to where women can never win. Men being called a pussy or a little bitch implies femininity is inferior, whereas telling a woman she needs to "man up" is considered sage advice. No way, dammit. I'm acting the way I choose. If that's manly, okay. If that's lady-like, that's also okay. So long as I get to be me. Wearing men's clothes, belching, and having sex are all very fun things. Shameful they are not.

I'm excited to see more and more women come out as atheists. It shows the world that we demand to be treated as equals. I am not a baby-making machine, an obedient wife, or property. I'm a human being that seeks to reach her full potential, wherever my life leads.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

FFRF College Essay Contest Entry

This is the entry I submitted to The Freedom From Religion Foundation's 2012 college essay contest. The topic was essentially "Why I am An Out of the Closet Atheist" and why others should be, too. A full description can be found here.


"Gladly Godless"

Follower of Christ- that’s what my name, Christiana, means. Contrary to the definition, the path I choose to follow is my own.  Admitting my atheism to the world opened my eyes to the possibilities. Many people still fail to understand how my life can possess meaning and happiness without believing in a higher power. Religion instills its own meaning into a person, not allowing her to think for herself. Atheism is the cure for that poisonous indoctrination. I’m an out atheist because I want to serve as a living example that a humanistic worldview makes for a more fulfilling life. I strive to show nonbelievers in the closet that coming out unifies us, telling believers that reason prevails.                                                                                                                       
 The coming out process always begins with a seed of doubt. I ignored mine at first. I thought attending various churches during my preteen years would somehow convince me of a god’s existence.  It occurred to me at fifteen that I didn’t need religion to guide my life. I refrained from telling the world until I turned sixteen in fear of my small North Carolina community’s hostility. Coming out as bisexual soon afterward made this a very delicate time in my life, helping me learn the type of friends worth keeping. The disparaging comments I heard then mirror the comments I still hear today: my heart’s a black hole, I worship Satan, and I possess no sense of right and wrong. I refuse to let anyone tell me who I am. I waste no time trying to convince ignorant people of their misguided opinions about atheists and let my actions speak for themselves. Some of my so-called “evil” atheist activities include regularly donating blood, campaigning for better treatment of animals and LGBT people, and practicing martial arts (which I hope to never use on anyone). The religious right’s monopoly on morality needs to end.                       

Religion planted in my head that my bisexuality made me worthy of death. I believed I was a defective product of God that deserved punishment. I owe my recovery to discovering the horrors of religious texts while perusing them for advice. Although my realization that religion oppresses the mind was unintentional, I can’t apologize where that knowledge led me. No prayer ever gave me answers, but taking action in searching for them opened my mind.                            

  My actions as an out atheist demonstrate to this religiously oversaturated society that nonbelievers can (and often do) live moral lives. A deity need not tell me suffering is bad or murder is wrong; common sense equips me with all the tools I need to make good choices. The more nonbelievers that out themselves, the more ground religious zealots lose with their ridiculous claims of atheist immorality. Too many religious people claim they’ve never met a nonbeliever and nothing would challenge their ideologies quicker than seeing us helping others. We nonbelievers use our two hands to help heal the world’s ills while the believers waste time praying with theirs. The nonreligious community’s biggest issue is working alone; coming out brings us closer to unity.                                                                                                                        

 Attacks from the religious right frequently entail nonsense about the erosion of America’s religious freedoms. Banding together to fight back against these claims shows that we refuse to shut up, like believers want us to. By increasing the amount of nonbelievers who come out, we’ll decrease the isolation we experience. Atheist groups continue to sprout up everywhere, from national organizations to high school and college clubs. The choice to tell others remains a deeply personal one because of potentially hostile reactions from those around us. Living in a Bible-belt state, I know the struggle of weighing the pros and cons of such a decision. Declaring to the world that you’re religion-free brings an intensely liberating feeling. You no longer have to hide or lie about what you believe (or don’t believe)!  Too often, people of a religion can’t even agree on what THEY believe.                                                                                                                    

  Religion only results in division; just look at the countless Christian denominations. No religion avoids the schisms that result in differing factions, schools, and denominations. Religions thrive on forcing followers to obey their version of morality. It’s capable of turning good-hearted people into rabid simpletons that defend even the most abhorrent dogmas. Atheism demands nothing and commands no one. Atheists look to make progress, not hinder it based on outdated beliefs. Theists who assert that no good deed means a thing without believing in their deity probably won’t disappear anytime soon. Thankfully, a humanist’s life isn’t centered on pleasing anyone (especially invisible friends in the sky). Even non-theistic religions pose a threat to one’s mind because they still reinforce rules and restrictions. The tools humans need to succeed in life require no supernatural assistance. Our innate curiosity of the world and ability to reason serves us more than well. We help others because it brings us great satisfaction to do so and not because we want to earn brownie points toward a favorable afterlife. Common sense is sufficient to tell us that acts such as murder and rape are wrong. Asking questions and taking action changes the world; prayer and accepting beliefs on nothing except blind faith get us nowhere.                                                                                                                                                       
 I am an atheist, therefore I am free. Religion sentences the greatest human treasure, the mind, to prison. Secular humanism enables us to use our minds to better ourselves and the world as a whole. Humanism encourages the pursuit of knowledge instead of squandering it. With my confidence in humanity’s potential to better the world without religious influence, I proudly say that I’m an out atheist. What about you?


Hi, everyone. Chances are you've stumbled across this new blog by way of my Twitter. 

For those who didn't or just want to know more about me, I'm Christi. I'm from North Carolina and I attend college for English. I'm an avid gamer that loves fighting games (the Tekken series being my #1 favorite). I enjoy electronic music, my favorite genre being trance. I'm a GAD and depression sufferer that's getting progressively better.

I've been an out atheist and bisexual since 2007 and a vegetarian since 2006. Most of my posts will be related to these topics, as my blog title suggests. They won't necessarily be about me, but the issues behind them as well. There will of course be the occasional entry about my life in general.

Hope you enjoy!