Family was my Everything: Alida’s Story, Conclusion
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Alida” is a pseudonym.
In this series: Part One | Conclusion
Sometime during that first semester away, one of my Facebook friends shared an article from Homeschoolers Anonymous. I’d heard the name Cynthia Jeub before in the speech-and-debate social circle, so I clicked.
I read a lot of things on HA. It was a really empowering experience. Some of it made me thankful that my family wasn’t as extreme as those in the stories I read. Most of it made me furious, especially the stories with strong themes related to courtship, purity, and financial independence, all of which are important parts of my personal journey.
I started doing my own research.
I wanted to make sure I wasn’t trading one set of evils for another. The first time I had heard about HA, it was by overhearing a conversation a few years ago between another homeschool mom and my own. They were talking about some kind of online forum founded by angry former homeschoolers who had been ‘seduced by the lies of the world’ during their time at secular college. The people behind HA, they said, wanted to bring down homeschooling and turn our young people against their parents. I was told never to visit the site.
I’m a communication major, an editor for my university’s newspaper. A major theme in our department is the importance of a journalist’s role in truthfully telling a stranger’s story. The journalist must set aside their own thoughts and opinions, focusing on what happened in their subject’s life. The journalist must truly believe in the concept that every person’s story is inherently valuable and worth telling. These ideas really resonated with me. I focused on learning to listen to someone else’s narrative. Developing a more generous, more open-hearted attitude helped me expand my ability to love people.
As I learned more and more about the broken systems and frameworks of the culture I had been raised in, I started to feel more and more at ease in society.
The strangeness of being in a different world wasn’t as bad once I learned that my little corner was the strange one after all. I learned about feminism, race relations, and LGBTQ issues in American culture. I decided to educate myself on American subcultures I had previously been shielded from.
Learning about others allowed me to learn about myself.
Discovering who I am helped push me a little closer to fearlessness in many ways.
Learning the truth about my sexuality was a big turning point for me. For a long time, I had suspected that either the entire rest of the world was lying about sex being so exciting and being the first thing on their minds or that there was something very wrong with me. I had always assumed that my lack of sexual attraction to people was some kind of unfortunate result of the way I was raised, that maybe after trying for so many years to not think about sex (because that’s “wrong”), I had somehow gotten really good at doing so and lost the ability to function normally. But as I got to know myself more, I came to be at peace with the fact that I just have a different sexual orientation. I’m Asexual. (check out http://www.asexuality.org/home/?q=overview.html to learn more).
As I struggled to understand more and more about the details of myself and the people I was meeting, I tried to decide if it was worth coming out to my family. I knew what they would say. All my life, I had been told that no other sexual orientations existed aside from being straight. Everyone who “said they were gay” was just confused and “lost in the ways of this world.” So I said nothing.
The research hours I was putting in toward learning about everything from religious cults to feminism to minority relations and beyond was all starting to take shape. My views on social issues shifted, and I found myself re-considering the anti-LGBT systems I had been taught to believe. I’m now pro-marriage equality. How had I believed for so long that it was OK to legislate the behavior of our entire country’s population based on the religious beliefs of one sub-group? I channeled all the Libertarian arguments my speech-and-debate friends had repeated over and over and decided to really follow up on my belief that everyone should have the right to pursue happiness on their own terms as long as it doesn’t harm others.
By second semester, I had started dating someone, and after a while, we discussed that we were both interested in forming a longer-term relationship. So I told him about my sexuality. For me, deep emotional and intellectual intimacy was not inherently linked to sex, I said. I wanted to make sure that before we made a bigger commitment, he knew I didn’t want to have sex with him, and my desires probably wouldn’t change. He told me that sex was really important to him in a relationship, and he just couldn’t see anything long-term working out without it. It hurt, but I guess I knew what I was in for. We decided to stay friends. As time has gone on, our friendship has somehow managed to persist; I even slept over at his house once when I was having roommate trouble. We are affectionate and still kiss, but my feelings toward him are platonic now. And we still never have sex.
My dad called and said he was worried about my moral conduct. Through my brother, he had found out about the time I slept over at the guy’s house. He demanded to know if I had had sex, and I told him the truth. No, no sex was had. To myself, I wondered for the first time — was it really any of his business? He kept pressing me for answers, so I came out to him and did my best to explain asexuality as I sobbed on FaceTime. I don’t think it was fair that I wasn’t able to have this conversation with my family in person, in my own time, and on my own terms.
The academic year ended, and for athletic reasons, I spent most of the summer away from home. I wasn’t near my family when Marriage Equality became legal on June 26. I was so happy, but knew it was important to pick my battles, so I didn’t post anything on Facebook about my support for the ruling. I hardly even commented on my friends’ posts.
All I wanted to do was have a peaceful relationship with my family.
But they knew.
By the time I came home with just under three weeks of the summer left, one of my siblings had already told me that I “didn’t belong in this family anymore.”
It hurt so much, especially after having sacrificed what felt like everything, over and over, in the name of family.
I didn’t know what to do. I noticed that living at home was different than it had been. Early on after my arrival, we had a confrontation about our now-differing political opinions. Even though the confrontation sucked, I was glad we had clearly articulated our differences and could move on. But we couldn’t move on, apparently.
My mom found ways to make so many daily interactions and normal tasks into opportunities to remind me how wrong my opinions were. I felt so trapped, like I couldn’t take a step in any direction without setting her off. Within the week, my parents and I got into yelling matches that covered everything from suicide rates in LGBT kids (who are up to 400% more likely to attempt taking their own lives as straight kids), to the Facebook incident from the year before.
I remember so clearly the moment one of those nights when my mom told me that I didn’t have a right to privacy.
I hate the way I screamed back at them; I hate the way I had absolutely no control over my response to the situation. I felt like a separate person. I was out of control. Something about being cornered, not being accepted, being talked down to over and over had triggered intense anger problems I thought I had gotten over years ago. “You need professional help,” they told me. They wanted to take me to see a pastor for counselling.
I immediately said no to that. I was open to getting help from a professional psychologist for my anger, but there was no way I wanted to sit down with someone who would speak with me from only a religious perspective, trying to ‘correct’ the fact that I had a different political opinion than them. We compromised and found a psychologist who was a Christian but also had a formal education in mental health, etc. Talking with her was really good for me.
We talked more about my anger and sadness. She didn’t tell me that I was evil or give my any of the fear-mongering rhetoric I somehow expected.
She listened to what I was feeling and affirmed that I wasn’t crazy for thinking things on my own.
She said it was ok that I was mad when my mom said I didn’t have a right to privacy. She said I was correct in having switched my Facebook password last year. She said it was ok that I have my own opinions, and while it was nice that I was still was on board with Christianity as a whole, my family still would have no right to make me feel like shit if I wasn’t. It felt so good to have someone say that I’m not crazy or a bad person for doing and saying and believing and acting the way I choose to.
And that’s where I’m at now. With one year of school left, I’m doing my best to figure out how to become financially stable as quickly as possible so I can complete my transition to adulthood by living on my own after graduation. I still believe that my family is the most important thing in my life, and I want to find a way to live at peace with them. But I think all this stuff I have to experience is a good thing. I’m ok with it.