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.