Everyone I spent time with looked like me. I didn’t have a non-white friend until high school, and was hard pressed to think of anyone I knew who didn’t consider themselves to be a Christian. And definitely not Jewish or Muslim. Or even atheist, for that matter. Those terms were abstract ideas to me. My beliefs were never challenged, and life was good and safe that way.
So when it came time to decide which college I would attend, I was adamant that it would be a Christian college. And luckily, my home state was filled with plenty of options within a 50 mile radius.
I chose the one with the best Theatre program, since that was going to be my focus.
College is supposed to be the place where you branch out from your normal child-self and learn and explore new ideas, things, and people.
But I just kind of slid into more of the same old crowd.
This school, according to current racial demographics is as follows:
White Students: 82.8%
Hispanic Students: 7.5%
Black/African American Students: 2.5%
“Non-Resident Alien” Students: 2.5%
Mixed Race Students: 1.9%
Asian Students: 1.6%
“Unknown” Race Students: 1.2%
Soooooo….still pretty damn homogeneous.
And many of the students who didn’t self-identify as Christian were there because their parents would pay for college only if they attended a Christian one. But those were few and far between.
But the theatre department was kind of different from the rest of campus. It was a more open, dare I say “liberal” haven away from the rest of the school. Both the professors and many of the students had much more open and progressive views about the world, and I was surprised and slightly scandalized.
In our acting scenes, students chose pieces with swearing, various types of “adult subject matter,” and even sometimes implied nudity and…HOMOSEXUAL THEMES.
Whoa. This was a far cry from my theatre group for homeschoolers, where they refused to do Fiddler on a Roof while I was in high school because it showcased disobedient daughters turning their backs on their families. Where, when I played Zaneeta in The Music Man, I was told to exclaim “Jeepers!” instead of her trademark “Ye Gods!” for fear of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Or acknowledging plural gods, as it were?
It was in this little department that I began to have my beliefs challenged. I read different plays on themes very different than I was used to. My professors talked about history and current events in ways that I wasn’t used to. And my fellow students sometimes swore. Sometimes drank. Sometimes doubted their religious upbringing, or flat-out rejected it.
And I made My First Gay Friend.
He still wasn’t out to his parents…they were missionaries to Africa, and that would be quite the undertaking. But he was low-key out to most of the department.
When I first found out, I was kind of astonished. He was an amazing artist, and was always sketching naked women with huge breasts and butts, so I always thought he was just a perv.
He liked dudes, huh? And he was brought up as the kid of missionaries in Africa.
I was always taught that being gay was a choice, but, with that sort of upbringing, that sort of family life, how the hell would he have chosen to be gay?
This was one of the catalysts for The Liberalization Of Amanda.
If this thing I had been told wasn’t true, what else was I completely oblivious to, or in denial of?
My first two years of college, I was dating a guy who didn’t attend my school. (He’s known on here as The Guy Who Is Legally Banned From My College Dorm and you can read the whole story here.)
He was your stereotypical early 2000s “emo kid” with tight pants, band tees, and dyed black floppy hair with various terrycloth wristbands with band pins attached to them.
Yeah, I went through an emo/goth kid phase at this point too…
And he definitely didn’t look like the kids I went to school with.
One day, he was waiting outside my building until I got out of class. When I next saw him, he was pretty upset. He told me that one of the students called him a “faggot”, while he was just minding his own business. And apparently, that wasn’t the only time it happened to him. (While I doubt a lot of what this fella has told me, I wholeheartedly believe this happened.)
There was also an instance in which this boyfriend and I were going through a rough spell and we ended up crying and hugging on the street outside my dorm, in front of the campus ministries building. A girl walked by and scoffed at us, remarking, “In front of the campus ministry building?! God is watching you!” I was so pissed for a variety of reasons. 1) We weren’t even making out or anything. 2) I was having a rough night 3) Who the hell was this girl to pass judgment on whatever we were doing?
My close friend and her roommate were both Asian, and at one point, there were things written on their dry-erase board on their door that referred to their “tight Asian pussies.” Other people of color on campus also had various hate speech written on their doors at this same time.
Then there was the assault of an openly gay student on campus. According to an article written in the campus newspaper in the spring of 2006, when I was a Sophomore, he said that his two attackers said “There’s the faggot who speaks in classes.” They punched him in the stomach and ribs before he was able to get to safety. They said, “Go ahead and run fag, we’ll get you anyways.” This article also wrote about how his car was keyed and the words “Fag” “Queer” and “Die Faggot”, and how he was called a “fag” at least weekly while walking to classes. One of his roommates moved out on him because he was gay, and this roommate’s parents also harassed him.
This attack came shortly after an openly gay faculty member who had consistently received excellent reviews was denied tenure without solid reasons.
And in the spring of 2006, I attended my first protest, demanding justice and awareness for the LGBT community at my college.
This was not Christ’s love.
People who were anything else but obviously straight, white, and Christian were threatened with death or, at minimum, disgusting hate speech. At my school. My Christian college.
If that was what Christians were like, I didn’t want to be a part of that community anymore.
Starting in 2006 when I was 20, I began to throw off my long-held beliefs.
I didn’t know exactly what I believed anymore, but I was going to explore life for myself. I was newly broken up with that emotionally abusive asshole, and I was free to do whatever I wanted.
I relished this freedom.
I embraced swearing…I found it fun and enjoyed shocking people.
I became the person who would say The Most Inappropriate Thing. I enjoyed boys a great deal. Sure, I still only drank alcohol a couple of times before I turned 21…hey, I couldn’t go completely wild, right?
I gained a reputation as the shy wild child of the department. The enigma who no one really knew, but everyone knew about. I never did anything with any of the boys I went to school with (until my last week of my senior year, once…that was weird) but I was still assumed to be promiscuous. I was known for squeak-yelling out “MotherFUCKER!”
Oh, how far this sweet little goody-two-shoes had come.
Yeah, perhaps I swung a little bit too far in the other direction, but I was making up for lost time.
I kind of leveled out once I hit grad school, though I still loved the menfolk.
But I did find a church that was open and loving towards the LGBT community that I attended when I had the chance. I was beginning to realize my own queerness, and it was refreshing to be in a place of worship where I was welcome and validated. It was possible.
So that was my journey. Now I’m just kinda floating along, still not quite sure what I believe and how I fit into organized religion, but, at any rate, I’ve been fully liberalized.
Which leads me to some discussion about this upcoming election. The first I’ve really done, and the only thing I will post. I hate debate and dissension.
In 2004, I was 18 and a freshman in college. I voted for Bush because that was what everyone I knew was doing and I wasn’t gonna vote for no baby killer.
In 2008, I voted for Obama. I championed LGBT and womens’ rights and the rights of people of color. My world had opened up.
And in 2012, I voted for Obama because I wanted more than anything to marry my girlfriend. I pleaded passionately to my entire family to consider doing so, if only for my sake.
And here we are. 2016, on the verge of what is undoubtedly the most polarizing, brutal, and life-altering election in our nation’s history.
In 2014, I used my federally-recognized right to marry my girlfriend.
And this spring, we used our federally-recognized right to get a divorce.
Here we are in 2016, on the eve of change. Change that could come in the form of continuing the progress that Obama has started, making life better and more equal for all types of people. Or change that could attempt to strip these rights from anyone who is not straight, white, male, and wealthy.
You know, the demographics that my fellow students in undergrad had issues with.
I’m queer but have the luxury of dating men if I want to.
I’m female, but I’m white.
I’m definitely lower income but I have never had to go hungry.
Sure, my stake in this election is partially for me, but it’s even moreso for my brothers and sisters and those in between who are scared to go out in public for fear of what those might do to them.
For my brothers who could get shot just for being a young black man.
For my trans friends who are getting murdered or committing suicide at alarming rates who are told they are unacceptable human beings not fit to use a public restroom.
For my gay friends who can’t adopt a kid they so badly want.