Friday, February 12, 2010

My deconversion story Pt 6 - God gets another chance

Over the next two years a number if things changed. I had a run-in with a couple who taught at my school, a couple of Fundamentalist Christians who were working for a few years to save money before becoming missionaries. Either they were offended by a Pagan teaching their children, or because I criticized some of their classroom management ideas. Either way, they began going from church to church in our area, telling them that I was a transgendered witch freak who was trying to convert the children to alternative sexuality. At the time I was a newlywed, and I had never once discussed my faith with any of the children in my care. By the time they got around to discussing it at the local synagogue, where the Cantor was a good friend, who told me what was going on, the deed was done. Anyone who hadn’t heard it from J and the Italian community was now convinced I was transgendered.

This wouldn’t have mattered so much, as off-work I was part of a number of communities that didn’t care, the military, the local pagan network, and even the alternative sexuality community that ranged as far north as San Francisco, except for one problem. My husband had been discharged early from the military, so we weren’t planning to move anywhere, except for out of the house, and away from my mother.

And I managed to get pregnant.

I remember being so thrilled, so excited. Finally I was as good as anyone. I was part of the in-crowd. Life had finally come together.

Except that I couldn’t find a single doctor in town willing to provide pre-natal care to someone they just knew was transgendered. In the words of one he wasn’t treating *that*.

Two months later I lost the baby. There was no support from any quarter, the church had rejected us, and the Pagans wondered what we did to deserve such karma. We huddled together and kept going the best we could.

Over the next two years I lost four more pregnancies. My husband went to work for an ambulance service for long hours and little pay. I kept teaching, even though it meant commuting an hour each way, and dealing with the rest of the staff that had been so poisoned against me. This was when the housing bubble was starting to inflate, and seems like it started in our area. Rents doubled, and doubled again. Enron and the energy crisis caused our utility bills to go up. And then the worst happened, the economic crisis hit the state, and the schools started to pay the price. I became in imminent danger of losing my job.

My husband was on call 24/7, literally, leaving at all hours of the day and night to transport patients. We kept passing each other, sometimes not seeing each other awake for days on end. I was taking medication for anti-anxiety, and prescription muscle relaxers just to get my back, which was always seriously painful, to unknot so that I could even lay down flat in bed at night. And all the while I was grieving my lost babies. Finally one day I snapped. My principal came in with a group of parents and asked me to justify my position as the school network technician, without giving me any warning. For all I knew, my job literally hung on my ability to do so on fly. I babbled out an answer as best I could, and the next thing I knew I was in my own driveway. I had literally run screaming from the school, and driven 60 miles home, on two major highways, without realizing it.

That was when my husband and I decided, something had to give.

We decided to move to a less expensive area, where I could stay home and rest for the remainder of the school year, and we could live on his salary as an EMT. Then I could work while he went to school for his RN, and then I could retire and we could try again to be parents. We moved to Oregon, just in time for the first gas spike to hit, causing him to lose his job a month after we got here. We survived on food stamps, his GI benefits, and the only job I could get, teaching Sunday School at the Unitarian Universalist church.

It was during this time, through the UU community, that we decided to give up on Paganisim. It held nothing for us, went against what we were finding to be some of our more closely held values, and just felt increasingly wrong. It was time to give God another chance.

My deconversion story Pt 5 - The roller coaster to the wilderness

During my junior year in college I found out that the money my Grandmother had so carefully set aside for my education was gone. My Mother had used large amounts of it to pay off her credit cards, which she then ran back up to the maximum. My only option was to move out of the too-expensive condo, find full-time work, and change majors to something that was supported by grants from the state. So I moved back to my hometown, into a series of deeply awful apartments, and began studying for my teaching credential. I was temping, working two less than part time jobs, and picking up tutoring gigs on the side, and it still never seemed to be enough. I also was going without health insurance, so I was still living with pain, and still a hormonal mess. And I found when I got home that J had told everyone in town that I was a militant lesbian, and transgendered besides, which all the good Christians found so offensive that they wanted little to do with me.

I should step back and say that Italian families, at the time, were considered large. Three to four children were common; and six to eight were not unknown, which meant that there were a lot of people in their late teens and early twenties around at that time, and they were all starting to get married and have babies. It seemed like every week-end I was attending a shower for something, always invited out of politeness to my Mother, never spoken to once there. And all of these young men were entrepreneurs, starting up their own businesses or going to work for their fathers, so money was always tight and no one had insurance. Still, the babies were coming, and coming, and coming. And Mother was always out there helping, a load of groceries here, a doctor bill paid there, a new outfit or three sent to make sure a little girl had something pretty to wear. All the while privately condemning these young women, most of whom were not yet 21, for becoming dependent on men, and not finishing their educations. For being stay-at-home mothers. And yet there was not a word or dime of support for her own daughter, who was trying to do everything right.

It became clear to me that to join the club of the approved, to prove to everyone that I wasn’t really a freak, I had to have a baby. And not be dependent on a man while doing so. If I could finish my degree, start a career, buy my own house, and then have a baby, I could prove to everyone that I was not a freak. That I was fine. But I was only able to take one or two courses at a time, because I had to work so much, and so I thought it would never happen. I spend much of those years in what I now know to be a clinical depression.

Since I wasn’t finding any support among the Christians, I started attending Pagan worship gatherings, and then took an interest in alternative sexuality. On the one hand, I found myself a “freak” among “freaks”, and made close friends I cherish to this day. On the other hand, they thought my desire to be a stay-at-home mother more than a little odd, so I learned not to speak of it. If you are a part of a fertility cult, who’s guiding principal is “As I will, so it will be”, and you can’t get pregnant, you must be doing something wrong. So, once again, my health problems were all in my head, and entirely my fault. On some spiritual level, there was something wrong with me.

But they were the only friends I had, and so I stuck with them. And life got better. I finished my degree in computer science, with minors in elementary education and biochemistry, became a teacher, and finally bought my Grandfather’s house, when he became a little too frail to live that far from town. I was back in the house where I grew up, and making decent money. All I needed was the baby.

Two months later Mother finally divorced J and moved herself in. It quickly became apparent that a home with a clinical narcissist was not a place for a newborn. My depression was beginning to return when the Pagan community finally gave up its greatest gift. In the form of a young Marine with the happiest green eyes I had ever seen.

Nine months after we met, my husband and I had the first Pagan wedding ever held in an active military chapel. I was the beautiful maiden at last, all decked out in white lace and roses, while some of J’s friends stood outside and gaped in shock. It was one of the happiest days of my life.