It occurred to me recently that coming out as a non-believer in the bible belt is not all that different from coming out as LGBTQ. If you’re lucky you might get a “We STILL love you.” If you’re not lucky you’re disowned. I suppose I am lucky they still love me. What a horrible feeling that is. No one deserves to feel that way.
I’ve always been different from my family. I believe different, I think different, I talk different, I behave different. As they’ve told me, they still love me and would be there for me if I truly needed them… but they don’t get me. This has led to a lifetime of feeling like a fish out of water. Actually, it feels more like I’ve always been meant to fly but everyone is telling me to swim and my respiratory system doesn’t agree. It’s killing me and my lungs are on fire and it’d be so easy to breathe in and let the rush of water take me. That’s what I feel when I hear they “still” love me.
I could say that I still love them. I still love them even though they’re sometimes racist. I still love them even though they’re sometimes misogynist. I still love them even though they’re sometimes hateful. I still love them even though they’re sometimes closed minded. But I don’t say it.
It all just makes me yearn so deeply for true acceptance. For the kind of understanding that doesn’t need explaining. The kind that just is because you all are part of the same culture and belief system. What must it feel like to be so innately accepted?
Then, I think about it from their point of view and I realize, they’re doing the best they can. They’re doing the best they can and it STILL hurts like fire. They try to understand me but sometimes they fail. Can I fault them for that? My education and experience traveling has opened my mind in ways they haven’t experienced. Who they are is all they’ve ever known and it’s not their fault, either. After all, we are all just products of our experiences.
Plus, I don’t always make it easy on them. Pointing out to someone that they’re being racist, or misogynist, or hateful or close-minded takes kindness not to offend. Especially when those people strongly believe they are none of those things. I’m getting better at it, but sometimes I’m angry and it shows.
We’re all learning. Sometimes learning takes a little love.