Thursday, February 11, 2010

My deconversion story Pt 2 - When people let you down

In this series Evid3nc3 discusses something he calls The God Concept. The idea is that what we usually call "Faith" is really a meta-concept, made up of various other concepts and beliefs. These concepts and beliefs are linked, much like the nodes in a computer network. Now if any one node goes away, the network will remain standing. However, if enough nodes go, the network will go with it. This is called graceful degradation. He walks you through the graceful degradation of his network in this video series. I'm trying to do the same, but my path will of course, be different, and so I will be sharing his videos out of order.

This is the graphic representation of the network.

About two years later Mother met J, her second husband. He was a very traditional Italian Catholic, who was also at the time married with two children. They met while Mother and his wife were serving on the PTA. After an affair lasting about 6 months, he divorced his wife and he and Mother ran off to Nevada for a quickie wedding. Oddly enough, our community approved of his divorce and their marriage, even the Priests and Nuns. See, while Mother was doing quite well in her career, she had only a high school diploma, and was advancing through her company’s in-house education system. While J ex-wife was attending college to try to better herself, now that her children were in junior high. This meant that she was getting too far above J, who only made it to the 8th grade back in Italy, and clearly was neglecting him.

Now, from what I understood of faith and morality, people were supposed to stay married forever, divorce was supposed to be bad, and an affair was supposed to be worse. Mom was divorced, yes, but she insisted that my father had abandoned her, so it clearly wasn’t her fault. This, on the other hand, was clearly at least partially her responsibility. Jesus himself spoke out against divorce and adultery in Mark 10: 1-10 and in Matthew 5:27-31. It was clearly right there. And yet everyone was saying this was a good thing. It was my first brush with the hypocrisy of Christians, but it wouldn’t be my last. At the time I thought it was just my community, and at the ripe old age of 11, I vowed I would be better than the example of my elders. I would stay sexually moral, wait until marriage, and then be faithful to my husband.

After J moved in, one of the first things he wanted me to do was to start calling him Dad. But there was something creepy about him from the start, and calling him Dad just didn’t seem right at all. Besides, I had a dad out there, somewhere. I remembered the name of the town he was supposed to live in, and I remembered from my reading that if you sent a letter to General Delivery the USPS would try to find that person for you. So I wrote him a letter telling him I wanted to meet him, hoping he would protect me from the creep Mother married, and sent it off.

Turned out that, in a way, Dad had abandoned Mom. He had come back from Vietnam with PTSD, which he was self-medicating for with an excess of illegal drugs. He had been alternating between rehab, the psych hospital, and his mother’s house up on Mount Shasta. So he wasn’t available to protect anyone, physically, mentally or emotionally. But he was able to show up for lunch one day, tell me about my family, including how my Grandmother ran a book store similar to one in a town nearby. It was disappointing, to say the least. Around then J had his first affair on my Mother, which was somehow my fault. Apparently wanting to meet my own father meant I was rejecting J, and pushing him away from my Mother. Heavy stuff for an 11 year old.

In addition, he and my Grandfather, who still lived with us, were not getting along. J was older, and had been a child in Italy in WW II. His father had worked in the civil service under Mussolini. My Grandfather had been in the US Army in WW II, and fought in the Italian theater. As you might guess, they re-fought that battle every moment of the years they lived together, and used any excuse to fight. Including any attempts to discipline me. If one told me to do something, the other insisted I do the exact opposite and whichever choice I made was choosing sides, preferring one over the other. If I did it J’s way then my Grandfather would go sit in his room and literally sob because I didn’t love him any longer. If I did it my Grandfather’s way then J would go off to his mistress, saying I didn’t want him in the family, and my Mother would once again blame me for his affairs. Something as simple as setting the table could become a battlefield, as J wanted the table set European style, while Grandpa preferred an American setting. I went to my teachers, who informed me that to Honor Your Mother and Father meant not to go tattling on them.

And while all this was going on, my body was exploding. Quite literally. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is not that uncommon in women, but I developed one of the worst cases known on the west coast at the time. My ovaries went in to overdrive, flooding my body with testosterone, the male sex hormone. Within a year I packed on close to 200 lbs, all of it bone, muscle and retained fluids from the excess of steroids. My periods became irregular and I became infertile. And I began growing facial hair. Not just a few, pluckable hairs on my chin, I grew a full beard and moustache, as well as ample chest and body hair. In addition my feelings grew even more chaotic. At one time my testosterone levels tested as high as 375 parts per measurement. What no one said, or realized, or understood at the time was that that was in the range that was desired for transgender women pre-surgery. My body was literally trying to undergo a sex change.

Rather than trying to help me navigate what was clearly a medical problem, my family about as badly as they could. My Grandfather retreated further. My Mother distanced herself from her freak of a daughter, preferring the company of her friend’s more delicate, feminine daughters who could shop and look good in clothing and makeup. And J turned out to have a secret love of transvestites. He insisted Mother cut off my waste-length curls, saying he didn’t want her spending the time helping me with them any longer. He forbid her from buying me women’s clothing, saying I was too rough on my clothes and that it was a waste of money. And he refused to let me shave, without giving a reason at all. Mother made up for that by saying that shaving was too unfeminine, and it would be better to have it waxed off. But to wax hair it has to be at least ¼ in long, which meant that I would be walking around town with a beard for weeks. I looked, and felt like a freak.

About this time I started high-school, a Catholic, all-girl school which was 2/3 boarders. The Sisters there took one look and insisted that Mother take me in for a full medical work-up. That was when I was diagnosed with PCOD, and told that I would never have children. In fact, since ovarian cancer was inevitable I ought to just have a hysterectomy and be done with it. But I was sure that wasn’t how my life was supposed to go. Motherhood was supposed to be the greatest aspiration of Christian and Catholic girls, the Bible spoke so highly of mothers. That couldn’t be right. So, I left room open for a miracle and refused the surgery. Then they offered me medication to try to lower my testosterone levels, but only on the condition that I also go on birth control, since the risk of horrible birth defects was so high, and I was in high school, where anything could happen. The Sisters informed my Mother that since the Vatican did not allow for birth control I could not take the medication and stay enrolled at the school. She decided it was better that I stay, even as I grew more and more freakish.

I suppose that decision worked out for the best, because when J found out I wasn’t going to be having his baby, the abuse started. I knew at the time that it had nothing to do with romance, or even how sex ought to be between loving men and women; I had read enough to understand that. But I also knew that he could easily carry out his threats to throw me out of the house, and given his position in the community, that no one would help me. So I managed to block it out of my mind and keep going until the day that I blacked out in front of Sister C. I woke up in the Emergency Room several hours later, and after they had discovered the rape. Between J and the sisters there was enough political pull to keep it all quiet, although CPS did get involved. A deal was worked out that I would live at the school when J was in town. During the 6-7 months of the year that he worked out of town, I could return home.

What I do distinctly remember was the local priest coming to visit me at the school not long after it happened, offering to hear my confession on the subject. I told him I didn’t have anything to confess. He said that I did, as I had seduced and tempted a good man. I was shocked by this. I told him that I had been asleep in my bed every time, that I had never tempted anyone. He informed me that he didn’t believe me, that it had to be my fault and that if I did not confess I could no longer take communion.

I didn’t give up on God that day, but that was the first time I gave up on the church and on other Christians.

No comments: