What’s this all about?

Hello!  My name is Evan, and I’m an Astrophysicist, transgender man, husband, cook, and former Sheltered Evangelical.  In an attempt to process and recover from some of the strange parts of my upbringing, I am writing about them in a semi-humorous fashion.  This is a list of some of the amusing, strange, painful, and ugly ways that my sheltered and religious early life affected me as a teen and as an adult.

Some background:

I was home schooled K-12 by my stay-at-home mother.  She was an excellent teacher and I received a top-notch education in most things academic.  Real-world experience, on the other hand… well, that’s what this blog is about.  I don’t want to spoil too much for you.  I will say that, although I was socialized with other homeschoolers, I was most certainly not socialized with a heterogeneous group.  Middle-class, conservative, Protestant, homeschoolers were my entire social experience.

My religion during my early years was Pentecostal.  Full-blown, charismatic, slaying-in-the-spirit, ankle-length-skirts, speaking-in-tongues Pentecostal.  Unsurprisingly, we were taught to isolate ourselves completely from modern culture, eschewing television, avoiding any modern music (even Christian rock), dressing in skirts and never cutting our hair and refusing to wear jewelry (for women, obviously), to name a few things.

Sometime when I was a teenager, my parents left the Pentecostal church (ironically, because it was too legalistic) but still held onto much of the conservative doctrine.  Purity, patriarchy, cultural isolation, and standards of godliness were still my entire reality.  Years after leaving home, I am still trying to make sense of the peculiarities of my upbringing.  This blog is my platform to vent, share stories, and perhaps offer some solace to others who have been through similar indoctrination.

Warning: This blog will tackle a lot of awkward subjects like sex, masturbation, developing bodies, etc.  If you are easily offended by such things… I have no idea why you’d be reading a blog critical of sheltering.  All the same, you’ve been warned.

13 responses

  1. Hi, Anna. I wonder if you have discovered CGN, Christian Gay Network, founded by Justin Lee. It is a place of good community for LGTBQ folk looking for community and a safe place. Blessings.

    1. I had not seen it before, so I went and checked it out. It is a pretty cool idea and I think I can support it. However, I do not think I could yet feel comfortable and safe in such an environment where my same-sex relationship might be open to criticism. Perhaps it is not that sort of place, but I just feel uneasy about it. I get enough condemnation from my family without having to wonder if my “safe space” is about to tell me “you should be living a life of celibacy.” You know? Thank you very much for the heads up though!

  2. […] guest posts from Anna.  Anna blogs about her experiences leaving the fundamentalist subculture at Signs You Are a Sheltered Evangelical.  She holds an M.Sc. degree in Astroparticle Physics and currently lives in Virginia with her […]

  3. Anna, hope you are doing well. What’s your take on this subject:

    The Gender-Neutral Language Controversy
    http://www.bible-researcher.com/inclusive.html

    “Gender-neutral Bible versions originated as an attempt by feminists to transform both the language and the beliefs of Christians. They were welcomed in liberal circles, but were met with strong resistance among evangelicals. The creators and defenders of these versions have suffered a loss of reputation among evangelicals, and publishers are not likely to market them successfully among evangelicals in the near future.”

    My take: There is no such thing as a perfect thing, which is THE thing.

    -b

    1. I’m sorry I took so long to get back to you. Things in my life have taken an ugly turn in regards to my family and it’s been a bit of a struggle to just get by. I’m feeling a tad bit better today, so I will answer your question. Personally, I don’t care for the idea of gender-neutral Bibles. It isn’t because I feel a need to protect the patriarchal version of God presented in Judeo-Christian narratives. Rather, the book was originally written with very patriarchal viewpoints and, as a historical point, I prefer not to censor that part out.

      I do not personally believe that God is either male or female. Such trivial distinctions wouldn’t seem to matter much to a god who does not need to reproduce. I believe that writing God in as a man was a reflection of the values of the time. I don’t need to rewrite the documents in order to form my own opinions about the text. In the same way, I do not feel racial slurs need to be edited out of old books in order to read them. I instead accept that they were written in a different, less enlightened time, and I use that language to inform myself about the author and his culture. To me, the Bible is exactly the same.

      Now, I don’t think it is WRONG to write gender-neutral Bibles. If you wish to make a point that your sect has rejected the old patriarchal ideas, I’m sure it could be a good selling point and is pretty harmless. But, from an academic standpoint, it seems a bit pointless and even a little dishonest to rewrite an ancient text to suit our modern sensibilities. Even though we are more enlightened now than the older authors were, their words were not written to cater to us and I am not completely comfortable with altering them. Just my two cents!

      1. [ge] “I don’t need to rewrite the documents in order to form my own opinions about the text.”

        Great solid answer, thx. Lately, I’ve been studying the Gospel of John several times over with diff translations. I never realized how much woo-woo & mysticism permeates supposedly rational theology. Could you imagine the president/somebody-with-the-nuke-codes sounding like John? Bible study can change your life, just not in the way they’d like it 🙂
        Sorry to hear about your folks, thats just the way it is unfortunately for us ‘higher-cognitive’ animals. Could you imagine a dolphin being shunned because of hanging out with the wrong sorts of fish? Only men make computers that purposely won’t run other people’s programs.
        Keep up your great posts Anna.
        -b
        ps. oh the reason I asked about types of bible translations is because I came across a hardcore bible review site. The guy can’t stand it when the OT doesn’t support christology, when you can read the bible in dynamic equiv, when Mary isn’t a virgin, etc.
        Life is funny that way.

  4. […] science as a kid.  Anna blogs about her experiences leaving the fundamentalist subculture at Signs You Are a Sheltered Evangelical.  She holds an M.Sc. degree in Astroparticle Physics and currently lives in Virginia with her […]

  5. […] fundamentalism.  Anna blogs about her experiences leaving the fundamentalist subculture at Signs You Are a Sheltered Evangelical.  She holds an M.Sc. degree in Astroparticle Physics and currently lives in Virginia with her […]

  6. Anna, thank you for sharing your story in a public forum. I found it very interesting. I hope you continue the series of guest posts you’ve started on ILYBYGTH, which is where I discovered you. There is a sense in which your journey is unsurprising to me – a very sheltered but in some ways intellectually stimulating upbringing, an interest in science, an eventual recognition of homoerotic attraction, secular friends and an education in science at a secular institution, coming out to your family and experiencing rejection. Finally coming to reject much (all?) of the underpinnings of your childhood fundamentalist faith because of the cognitive dissonance caused by the discrepancy between the abuse that you experienced when you came out vs the love and respect which you felt you had a right to expect based on that faith. I get all that. I get the cognitive dissonance between your love of nature on the one hand, and the anti-environmental protection stance of your YEC curriculum on the other hand as well. I hope that in future posts you explore some of the mind-shift that occurred in your science classes. I hope to get a better idea of the time-frame over which this unfolded. How many years it took, and some of the twists and turns.

    Full disclosure (not to puke my entire story out, uninvited, in a public forum, but a few salient points, and I’ll answer your curiosity on any point if I’ve raised it) I’m in the enemy camp, so to speak. I’m a quasi-fundamentalist, YEC-embracing, home-schooling dad. I love science. I consumed science fiction voraciously as a kid and that probably led in part to my studying electrical engineering at Kansas State University. I obtained an MSEE and have worked as an engineer for the Air Force for many years, and I still love doing science (in the sense of applying the tools to discover what was previously unknown) and I still love reading technical publications in and outside my field. I’m still a science fiction fan, although it’s certainly different consuming it as an adult. I have ten kids ranging in ages from 2-24. The four oldest are out of the house at this point. Three of the younger ones are homeschooled. Everyone has to walk their own path. Each of my kids has faced or will face difficulties and trouble, will make decisions good or bad, will suffer some, and hopefully will experience a lot of happiness as well. But my hope is to be as little a source of difficulty and trouble, and as much a source of comfort, stability and happiness as I can. What I’m saying here is that in some ways I’m probably somewhat like your parents, but it’s my desire to not be your parents in the ways in which your parents caused you harm, and I hope to learn something about that from your story.

    My second-born daughter, Ivy, is now 20. I think she’s a good artist. I think she may become a great artist. If you google emiline_art you’ll find some of her work on instagram. It’s obvious that she adores the female form and I’m sure her work would have been condemned by your Pentecostal community. I don’t see it as my place to condemn it.

    And when I say I’m quasi-fundamentalist, well, the truth is that I had a pretty fundamentalist upbringing, but I drank a lot of beer in college and took up pipe-smoking, and had pre-marital sex with my fiance and stopped going to church for awhile, and joined a cult, and left a cult and eventually joined a mainline protestant denomination that is not really very fundamentalist. Our parish is not big on looking down on people for how they dress or whether they watch movies or what kind of bourbon they drink or who they’re attracted to. One of the priests in our parish has a transgendered daughter. And one of the young men in our parish came out as gay a couple of months ago and I hope our parish has proven in the past few months that it’s a safe place for that revelation to occur. And that may sound to your ex-pentacostal ears like I’m not a fundamentalist at all, but I think it’s a matter of perspective, and there are some ways in which I think I still fall into that enemy camp, although it’s not my intent to be anyone’s enemy.

    When Ivy was 17, I overheard her having a conversation with my second-born son on the topic of whether I was homophobic or not. It was a slightly disturbing conversation to overhear.

    Kids and parents live in different worlds in a lot of ways. As a parent you share different aspects of yourself with your kids as they grow, but they never knew you back when, and you share what you think is age-appropriate, and your primary job is to be a parent, not a friend (my kids are not there to fulfill my emotional needs) and there is much that they just assume. I’ve worked for a gay boss. I’ve worked with gay co-workers. My wife had a close friendship with a gay man before we were married, and I sort of inherited that friendship in the way friends sometimes get inherited when you get married. I’m an engineer, in some ways, a stereotypical engineer – high percentile smart and also socially awkward. I’ll always seek to fit in by being competent; I’ll always assume that my quirks are just as quirky or more-so than anyone else’s in the room; and I’m never going to join any kind of clique that excludes anyone on any grounds, particularly grounds that have nothing to do with your competence as an engineer. My kids don’t know anything about any of that. I mean, they know I’m weird, but all kids think their parents are weird.

    Anyway, I thought perhaps I should inject myself into the conversation, since it was about me. I knew that Ivy had been reading some homo-erotic anime fanfics (it’s obvious from looking at her art that she’s way influenced by anime) and that she had drawn some explicit homo-erotic art (real porn – not like what’s on her instagram account) since she was around 15. So although I felt like I should say something, I also felt like it was perhaps a delicate subject to broach with her. I wanted to tell her something about who I am – something that I hadn’t ever directly shared with her before – but I wanted to be careful to do it in a way that she wouldn’t take as rejecting her.

    You’re obviously a much different person than my daughter – she’s all about art, you’re all about science. She has a personality that’s all about having fun, and I see you as being more serious, though with a sense of humor. But, if you had been in my daughter’s situation, what would you have wanted me to say?

    I apologize if this is too personal or of too narrow an interest. The opportunity to talk to someone in your particular situation seems fairly unique, however, and so here I am taking it. Thanks, and best regards.

    1. Hello, and thanks for checking out my blog! I am quite happy to see you asking questions like this because, in the Christian homeschooling community, the majority of reactions that I see are rejection and animosity. Many parents do not want to hear from former homeschooling grads about some of the problematic behaviors that we saw. As such, I commend your willingness to talk and listen to my experiences.

      Regarding the question about your daughter: I can only guess at an answer to your question since I do not know the specific situation. I also could not entirely gather from your discussion whether or not you have a moral opposition to homosexual acts and how serious of an opposition that may be. What I do seem to gather is that you do not find the possibility that your daughter may be gay or bi to be worth losing or damaging your relationship over. I also gather that you are concerned about the impression she may have about you and her fears about what you might think.

      You are right that children and parents live in rather different worlds. As such, you are also right to be concerned about her fears of homophobia. Adults often have very nuanced opinions about things, but unless they make those explicit to their children, their children will never realize how nuanced your opinions may be. There are many things that I gathered from the conservative-Christian culture around me when I was a child that I now realize my parents did not fully support or place much importance on. However, as a child, I had no way to know this and I assumed that they fully supported these ideas. Parents are not mysterious beings to children. They are very plain and black-and-white. What you say and what you accept into the home, they will believe is fully and utterly approved by you unless you state otherwise. I find that this is an especially strong effect in conservative homeschooling culture, because many children are aware that /outside/ influences are bad/unapproved, so /inside/ things must all be good/approved. If your church culture is morally opposed to homosexuality, you daughter probably believes you are too. If you have ever voted for a candidate that said bad things about homosexuals, your daughter may think that you agree with him on that. If your friends have ever talked about the “gay agenda”, your daughter may think that you believe there is a “gay agenda” as well. If members of the church have ever spoken ill of the gay young man or transgender young woman behind their backs, your daughter may worry that you would agree with them.

      If you do not agree with these things, it will be important for you to be very, very vocal about it in order to alter those preconceptions. If you want her to feel safe in the family if she is gay or bi (which she may or may not be… impossible to tell) then you should mention it. You can mention that you had a conversation with me, if you like, or mention that you read my blog about the problems faced by LGBT people in conservative circles. Tell your family that this concerns you. Tell them that you feel that everyone in the family and in the church should be welcomed and respected. Be outspoken when political things come up. If you vote for conservative candidates, do be careful if any of them have said anything highly offensive towards gay people. Openly condemn these sayings to your family and friends. Consider voting for a different conservative candidate (libertarians are often better about this, for example) to show that you actually take this slander seriously and you don’t think it is a non-issue. If LGBT issues come up in the news (like the recent Arizona discrimination bill) be vocal in your support of LGBT rights.

      These sorts of things will make it clear that, whatever your moral stance on homosexuality, you consider human respect and the safety and comfort of your family to be more important. Even if Ivy is not gay or bi, if you have 10 kids, chances are one of them will be! 😛 It will be best for them if they grow up knowing for certain that they will be loved and respected. Kids (and adults!) can hold a lot of fear and self-loathing inside if they think that they are objectionable or less worthy than the rest of their family and society. You don’t want to take that risk.

      Speaking from experience, things can get a lot worse than you realized long before you see the warning signs. I’m not trying to scare here, but considering the epidemic of LGBT suicide attempts, I think it is something that needs to be thought about VERY seriously, and I am very glad that you are doing so. My own family could easily have lost me as I struggled with overpowering suicidal urges for several months, and I even asked them to put me on anti-depressants to help curb them. Despite the fact that they knew I was suicidal, they still had no idea how much danger I was in because I would always try to downplay my feelings and assure them that I was “under control” so that they would not feel I was manipulating their emotions with threats of suicide. FYI, there is no such thing as “under control” if you are feeling suicidal. If you have ever been there, you know what I mean. The moment that you feel you need to end your life, you are not capable of thinking rationally. You are in a weird, altered state and feel detached from reality, and you could easily do something that you would otherwise have dismissed as a poor decision.

      Now, it’s quite possible that none of this is applicable to your situation, but it’s just SO damn important, that I feel it is worth putting out there in case you ever see any warning signs. If you ever want more information about that, you’re welcome to write me and I’ll share what I can and refer you to any resources you might need. I am more than happy to help in whatever way I can.

      Anyway, I hope that was somewhat helpful. You are welcome to continue to talk to me. You can also contact me by email at: galacticexplorer314@yahoo.com if you want to talk more privately. Just let me know before hand so I can check my spam folder in case you end up there. I hope that Ivy is doing well with her art. Is she going to school to pursue it further?

      I think that Ivy and I would probably get along quite well. I’m surprisingly fun-loving, despite having a serious side when it comes to communicating things that are important to me. I also enjoy doodling a little bit (although I am not particularly good). My fiance is actually a professional artist. If Ivy is interested at all or has any questions about careers in art or art schools, etc, I would be happy to put her in touch if my fiance agrees (which I feel quite certain she will.) You can look at her work here if you are interested http://chelseytyler.com/ and her hand-made jewelry is here https://www.etsy.com/shop/shiningdarkly . If Ivy is interested in a career in art, she might find these interesting.

      Anyway, I wish you all the best. Please don’t hesitate to contact me again if you want to talk more or have more questions!

      -Anna

      1. With regard to your fiance the professional artist, I checked out the link you provided, and I think Ivy might find Chelsey’s artwork interesting (I liked it) and she might be motivated to have a conversation about the pros and cons of pursuing an art degree and she might be curious about what it’s like to work as an artist. She’ll be at my house tomorrow for a birthday party, and when I see her, I’ll share the link, and if she seems interested, I’ll e-mail you a link to her facebook. I could give you her e-mail address, but that’s old-tech and the chances of her ever checking it are pretty slim.

        She was not strongly (or even weakly, really) academically inclined in high school. Some of her friends went to college or are taking classes at the universities in town. She didn’t see value in the art courses she took in high school and doubts that she would get much from college. I’ve told her that a college education, in addition to providing you with skills, knowledge and a diploma, also broadens your mind and deepens your appreciation and experience of the world. But obviously there’s no way I could know what I’m talking about because I’m the dad. I’m kidding. She listens to some of what I say. But I think she would benefit from and might be interested in a different perspective.

        I don’t (now) think that Ivy is gay or bi. I think when she was younger she was going through a phase where she was just interested in or curious about sex in general, and expressed it through her art. But when she was having the intense conversation with her brother about my likely views on sexuality, she was dating a guy who was bi. Who I didn’t particularly approve of. For reasons unrelated to his sexual orientation. Every dad probably feels like no guy is good enough for his little girl; but this guy really wasn’t good enough for my little girl. Now she’s with a guy who might be.

        You said, “These sorts of things will make it clear that, whatever your moral stance on homosexuality, you consider human respect and the safety and comfort of your family to be more important.” I agree that’s the message I want to convey, to all my kids, and clarity and repitition are key.

        You also said, “Even if Ivy is not gay or bi, if you have 10 kids, chances are one of them will be!” Well, yes. And I don’t think that discovering they were gay or bi would be a trivial event for any of them, and I’m not discounting your warnings about the potential deadly results that might follow from a young person carrying a heavy burder of fear and self-loathing, and a feeling that they’re somehow of lesser worth. But in the list of things I’m dealing with or worried about my kids suffering or experiencing, there are a few others that are even higher.

        Once upon a time there were four children: Rose, Josiah, Justice and Ivy. They lived with their mom and dad in a house with hardwood floors and a fireplace and old elms covered in ivy and a twenty acre wood in the back yard. And while their dad, who was an officer in the Air Force, was working late at the labs getting his graduate degree, their mom kept an eye on them at home while she painted portraits in her studio. Lovers or parents with young children would come over to have their portraits done, and she would pose them and take pictures of them in different light and settings and then tack up the prints all around the sides of her easel and capture the essence of her subjects in oil on canvas.

        But in between painting portraits of her clients, she painted herself and her family. There was, hung above the fireplace mantel, a gorgeous 36×48 oil on canvas of the four children which had taken a few weeks to execute. Whimsical, composed from actual photos of the children, but magical: Rose, with her long red hair and fair skin, was pictured with an artist’s brush in her hand, painting butterfly wings growing from her sister Ivy’s shoulders.

        When Rose was six and Ivy was not quite yet two, their mom fell very ill. Over the course of the next year, crazy things happened. Spinal surgery. chemotherapy. A trip to Massachusetts General for special radiation therapy. And then mom was gone.

        During the next three years, as their dad tried to come to terms with his own grief, and work to provide for them, and yet be present for them (but wasn’t quite present enough), Justice was sexually abused by a boy in the neighborhood. And Rose and Josiah were sexually abused by an older teenage girl who was a friend of the family and sometime babysitter. If you are nine years old, who do you tell about something like that? If your mom is gone? And your dad seems pretty distant and consumed in his own sadness? It’s one thing to hear about good-touch/bad-touch from a teacher, and I like to think that if it had been a stranger, an adult, if there had been violence, they would have said something. But when it’s an older kid. Who you look up to. Play with. You don’t tell anyone. Although some of what has happened to you may come out in your art. Because although their mom was gone, the house was still full of paintings, and every one of those four children seemed compelled to create art.

        Is one of them bi? Is one of them bi-polar? Is one of them in prison now for a sexual offense? It’s not possible for me to stop loving them, caring for them, worrying about them.

  7. Thank you for your long response. I don’t think I can reply to all of it adequately in one shot, but I wanted to say a few things now, and perhaps I’ll take you up on your offer of an e-mail exchange later. I really appreciate that; I don’t mind sharing about myself in a public forum but I have some definite qualms about spilling a lot of details about my kids in public.

    First, I’ll definitely be following your blog. I came through it the long way around by following a link on an article about recent allegations against Bill Gothard which led to a blog by a recovering sheltered evangelical which led to another blog which led to ilybygth which led to you. I’ve read the militant fundamentalist and militant atheist blogs before, but the space in between where people from outside fundamentalism are attempting to understand fundamentalists as people (every bit as human as atheists, and atheists every bit as human as the fundamentalists) and people who have left fundamentalism (and reject its abusive aspects) but nonetheless will take the time to defend it from some gross mythical mischaracterizations, is entirely new to me. Never seen it prior to a week ago.

    I can definitely sympathize with those who have been seriously harmed by fundamentalism. I feel like I grew up with it and was harmed by it in some ways, but not seriously harmed, and grew out of it, and still see some value in some of it, although I have to honestly reject some of it. I appreciate your point of view. I hope to see more of your story. Because I see some harm in some of it, I want to avoid inflicting that harm on the next generation, if possible. And I’ve wanted to do that for the last 20 years, although practise is more complicated than theory, and I’ve felt like a pioneer in some ways.

    Second, you said, “What I do seem to gather is that you do not find the possibility that your daughter may be gay or bi to be worth losing or damaging your relationship over.” That is exactly right. I might say more about that later, but here let me just affirm that you’ve nailed it.

    Third, I think you make a pretty insightful observation about the homeschooling home environment being particularly susceptible to the black-and-white interpretation that children may put on what parents allow/disallow in the home. I had this conversation with my eight (soon to be nine) year old daughter with regard to watching Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse on Netflix. Which I had allowed her to watch. But which, after discussion with my wife, I decided to not give her carte blanche to continue to watch over and over. “It’s not that Barbie is evil. It’s not that the cartoon is poorly done or stupid. However, Barbie presents an unrealistic body image: real girls don’t grow up to look like that, and that’s normal. And Barbie is pretty materialistic – her whole life seems to revolve around her stuff, and the truth is that pursuing lots of stuff actually seems to make people less happy. And the show is kind of a commercial – it’s point is to make you want to buy Barbie and all her accessories, and your mom and I think there are other things we should be spending our money on for you. So we’re going to let you watch some other stuff, but not more Barbie at this point.” Which is nuanced, but not too nuanced for an eight-year-old, if my evaluation of the way the conversation went is correct. I don’t want her immersing herself in Barbie. But I don’t want her to think watching Barbie is intrinsically bad, either.

    There is some trickiness in this. But I think there is some goodness in what I would take to be your advice to talk more, rather than less, about what is allowed/disallowed and why and how important I think it is or isn’t, and particularly with regard to reactions to actors/celebrities/political leaders and their public pronouncements on LGBT issues.

    Thanks.

  8. It’s in your in-box. Or possibly spam folder

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