Monday, December 12, 2005

I'm just a girl...

And a quiet moment while I let what I have just seen sort itself out. I feel it will be a good few months until the image of Mr Lee-Curtis (tall, middle-aged, distinguished, bespectacled, wearing a school-girl V neck sweater and a pleated skirt, giggling and occasionally coquettishly remarking "I'm just a girl...") fades from my mind.

Which brings me to "Gay people - my part in their persecution".

In the last few years I have gradually come up with a theory which links fundamentalist Christianity, homosexuality and kinky teenage sex. And a word of warning - I find it very difficult to talk about sex. I can't even "hold hands and tell", let alone "kiss and tell" or anything more lurid. But the following does contain - gasp - sexual references.

Right. Background.

When I was fifteen I was born again.

I remember the events with almost luminous clarity. The prayer meetings in the lounge rooms. The preaching and the listening. The spontaneous hour-long prayer. The immersion - and there is no other word for it - the immersion in the Bible, drowning in the Bible, the text of the Bible seeping into your flesh, every line, every word essential for salvation. The long sessions of prayer. The baptism at sunset in the Indian Ocean, coming out of the water speaking in tongues.

I have tried to explain what it felt like. I don't know that I can. There is not really any "like".

But that was what happened. And all this at a time when my emotions, most of which were primarily to do with sex, were in a fair amount of turmoil. As you can imagine, I rapidly developed a case of advanced fulminant weird-headedness.

See, what happens when you become a fundamentalist, or a member of a cult, is you have to accept a whole lot of stuff as Gospel. It apparently is not sufficient to believe, say, that Christ died for you sins, that God is in the poor and the weak and the worthless, that you are forgiven.

That stuff is important, of course, but you also have to accept this whole lot of other stuff about the age of sedimentary rocks, ape-men riding dinosaurs and where God wants you to put your penis.

(Have you noticed, by the way, how few of Jesus's geology lectures or His pronouncements on consensual anal sex made it into the Bible? Instead it's cluttered up with Him banging on about love and not judging people).

Anyway, part of my fundie package was homophobia. Overt, confidently expressed, bellowed from the street corners, sanctioned and approved of by the Creator of the Universe. Three to five years of 'God hates fags'.

This does things to your brain.

And it's not something that just stops, either. It's not like a fever seizes you, shakes your body and then breaks. Recovery from fundamentalism (and I am deliberately using the same terms as you would for any other injury) takes time.

And it's hard. The penumbra, when you're saved just enough to know you're slipping into damnation, when you retain just enough faith to fear but not enough to hope... that's the worst part.

The half-saved/half-damned period as you emerge from fundamentalism is worse than the deep shadow.

In the centre you have no doubts, no fears, because you have been told you are saved, and who can doubt the word of God?

Once you're out of it you can look back and laugh (or grin mirthlessly) and say "Was I really actually that fucked up?"

But the slow crawl through the twilight - that's the hard bit.

But (back on topic) I did get out. And I reckon I can make a case for homophobia-induced brain damage.

For a start, I don't have gaydar. None at all. This causes no end of amusement to my friends, a lot of "surely even you knew ...?". The leather-studded Obstetrics/Gynaecology lecturer who one of the students complained kept banging on about feminism instead of teaching us about the history of obstetrics and gynaecology. The remarkably clean shaven intensivist with his succession of muscular Asian friends. The politically earnest spin bowler for one of our State cricket teams. Richard Simmons, for example: didn't have a clue.

Why? I reckon it's the homophobia. I think maybe when you grow up in rural South-Western Australia, what was and remains a deeply homophobic environment, in a place and time where none of my friends really knew what "poofters" did, and then you go through this period of white-hot religious conviction... maybe the sensors get burnt out.

Second piece of evidence for FAB (Fundamentalist Associated Braindeath) is the series of sizeable group of people whose friendship I aggressively pursued in Uni, solely because they were gay. My refusal to learn why this was not a comfortable experience for anyone concerned. And my fixed false belief that the principle interests of gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. people were gay politics, gay writing, gay film. There was some echo of this behaviour as recently as a week ago.

I am sure this must have been very tiresome.

Seriously, my skin is prickling with embarrassment as I write some of this.

So, what's the prognosis? Can I ever rejoin normal society, or will I have to retire to some kind of institution?

I've been trying. I sortof have this leftie ideal (virtually the last thing I haven't sold out on) about helping the marginalised, and I reckon underneath the determination to work with same-sex-attracted people, to do something for them, is a gnawing guilt at the feelings which I suspect are still in there somewhere, the guilt at what I once believed and said about them.

And the thing is, there have been some signs of slow, halting recovery. I have friends now - Mark, Lisa, Cynthia, Morrigan - who are gay, and these are genuine, deeply normal friendships.

The reason for this, unsurprisingly, is that we became friends before I found out that each was gay.

I don't know. Maybe it's like a pendulum. Two to five years of homophobia. Ten to fifteen years of compensatory guilt, an anxious, driven urge to somehow make recompense to some amorphous mass of people who you use to make yourself feel less bad.

And then finally, some approximation of equilibrium.

Although I still cringe every time I think of what went on. Anyone reading this who knew me then, sorry.

Lastly, as promised, kinky sex. With admirable economy, fundamentalism didn't only screw up my opinion of other's sex lives. It screwed up my own sexual ... something. . I don't know, sexual development is the wrong word, makes me sound like I grew tentacles or something. But something went seriously awry.

I remember talking to my friend Algernon (in extremely veiled terms) about how me and my first girlfriend, the Methodist minister's daughter, would accompany her dad as he travelled from the nearest large (3 000 people) town to our (300 people) town, to preach every second Sunday. And as he exhorted folk to reach out to their neighbours in a spirit of true love, we would feverishly fornicate in any location we could find**. And then fall to our knees and pray for forgiveness. Twice, maybe three times per sermon, more if there was a baptism or a funeral.

So, sex and guilt, sex and damnation, sex and hellfire, in rapid, probably bipolarogenic succession. We bonked and wept, shagged and prayed, fornicated and ran to read the appropriate passages of the bible. And our distress, our guilt, our misery and sense of damnation was real. Our anguish was no less sincere because it was followed inexorably (and in those days, pretty much inexhaustibly) by further sin.

Sortof "Get thee behind me, Satan, and try it that way".

The slow disentangling of sex and guilt took vast amounts of time and energy which I am sure could have been spent better.

Anyway. I was going to write about how sex is a lot more than the cartoon that fundamentalism says it is, that it's something rich and strange that we are only starting to understand*, but I'd sound all gushy. Enough writing about all this. I have to start my novel today.

Thanks for listening,

*Believe it or not:
Author Meizner, I.
Title Sonographic observation of in utero fetal "masturbation".
Source Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine. 6(2):111, 1987 Feb.

** There were, however, compensations. And if anyone ever mentions this blog entry to me in any way, I am going to die of embarrassment.


Blogger Prom said...

I've long held that religion is a boon to taboo sex. Without religion, sex is just too normal! Just think of all the boys fixated on nuns in habits weilding a paddle or girls on crucifix shaped dildos. It is probably only second to English school masters for promoting s/m fantasies.

12:18 AM  
Blogger Champurrado said...


It's a little eerie that we share this same experience. I also remember the group prayers, the speaking in tongues ( I can still carry on a fairly long monologue if I may say so), and the uncanny access to curious 15 year old christian girls. We never prayed for forgiveness afterwards.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Chade said...

I had something similar occur to me when I was young. At age 9, I was forced to live with my fundamentalist Grandmother. It was not long after that the priest requested I not return to his church until I could find forgiveness in my heart and stop questioning catholic activities throughout history.
I later engaged in friendship with some Born Agains in high school. This consisted of me reading their crazy little comics detailing the lies of evolution, satan's great truth, and the betrayal of history. It was interesting for a while, but, like all things, came top an end when they attempted to make me join their cult. It wasn't that I was opposed to the destruction of technology, exclusion of humanity that was damned, nor that I too could learn to speak in Angel voice the word of the Lord our God. Hell, that last one had me really intrigued because it appeared they were discussing posession and detailing the spiritual benefits of letting an entity into you. It was just they bored me to tears with their closed minds.
Now, a decade and a half later I have once more encountered the fundamentalist and have come to the conclusion that: Fundamentalists are all the pawns of the Great SATAN! These people are evil incarnate regardless of their faith/cult affiliations.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

BJ: I spent my high school years in an Episcopal school with a beautiful chapel and conducted my first ever romance (no mid-sermon coitus or anything -- can't top your experience -- or even come close, just adolescent fumbling at best) in the cubbyholes of the chapel. I still find COE/Anglican/Episcopal environments damn sexy. There must brain circuits for sexuality that get set in adolescence . . . You'd know more about the biology of that than I would.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Chade said...

BJ, when I finally get all my crap out of storage I'm going to have to dredge up a story I wrote in Uni. It was about an author rising to prominence after being caught in a mid-sermon coital embrace. I'd forgotten all about that story before you wrote this.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Camilla said...

My experience of this is: there is such a thing as Anglican guilt. Took me years to get over it.

7:22 PM  

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