I Grew Into A Culture Warrior: Lauren Woods’ Story
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Grufnik.
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Lauren Woods” is a pseudonym.
When I saw the call for stories about homeschool families and politics, I immediately thought of the article “I Lost My Dad to Fox News.” As a person who likes to stay politically informed as a result of my upbringing, I don’t often trust Salon, but that article echoed many of my feelings towards my own father.
Before I can continue, it’s helpful to understand that, as a kid, I had a lot of anxiety, which follows me to this day. While I attribute some of my anxiety to my deep-seated fears about the wooden rod with which my parents spanked us, I’m not a psychologist and can’t say for sure if that was the cause. I did attend a small, fundamentalist high school because my mom recognized that she couldn’t teach things like chemistry and algebra, but my parents still held many of the homeschooling circle’s beliefs, such as courtship.
The first time I can remember an awareness of politics in my family was the pro-life march that our Southern Baptist church organized every October.
Perhaps it was called the Mile for Life, but I believe my first appearance was as a seven-year- old.
Basically, we formed a long line down the main street in my hometown with signs with slogans like ABORTION KILLS CHILDREN, ABORTION KILLS WOMEN, and I can’t recall the others. It scared me deeply to think that thousands of people in my own hometown were killing babies. I didn’t know about sex until at least nine or ten, and considering that there was no abortion clinic in my county (and I believe there’s only one in my state), this fostered a deep paranoia that millions of babies were being killed all around me for some inexplicable reason. I also didn’t understand why women were supposedly dying too. So even though I didn’t want to go, I was very scared about all this death, and I did hope that maybe my sign might convince someone not to kill a woman or child. Refusing to attend the Mile for Life would have absolutely warranted a spanking, because defiance was the quickest way to the rod.
My dad often listened to Rush Limbaugh in the car, and watched the usual cast of FOX and co. When the Gore/Bush election happened, I heard a lot about a conspiracy called global warming, and how Gore would destroy America. Again, I was terrified. I didn’t want my whole country to be devastated. The nail-biting voter counts in Florida were all I heard about, and I sat on the edge of my seat hearing about it, petrified that a single vote would destroy the nation.
A few years later, I also learned that a few states were allowing men to marry men, and women to marry women. I didn’t have the vocabulary for the word “lesbian” or “bisexual”, but I did hear about homosexuals, and my only exposure to that “lifestyle” was from the pulpit of First Baptist. My pastor taught that homosexuals hated God, the nuclear family, and America.
I had no idea why, and I didn’t consider myself “homosexual” because I was not an adult, I didn’t hate God, and I didn’t America.
The thought that I was gay never crossed my mind. Rush Limbaugh said that homosexuals would lead to America’s destruction just like the fall of Rome, as Rush Limbaugh said, and it scared me. Slowly, I began to realize in middle school that it was not in fact acceptable for me to want to hold a girl’s hand or kiss her.
While homeschooled, I learned that evolution and global warming were liberal conspiracies. I learned to fear liberals and how they wanted to destroy my family.
I learned that even though racism didn’t exist, except possibly reverse racism, I was probably not ever supposed to date a black man.
I spent a long time on message boards (probably due to my lack of interaction with other kids) arguing for conservative politics so that they wouldn’t become liberal leaders and run the country into the ground, similarly to how many former fundies express a need to witness to everyone so that they don’t go to Hell. In some areas, that wasn’t too difficult due to the amount of sheer racism and misogyny on the internet. It was always nice to meet other people who agreed that reverse racism was definitely a huge issue and feminists were evil.
Like many homeschool children, I repeatedly heard the phrase “Honor your father and mother, and your days will be long.” They often told me that if I dishonored them with disagreement, I would not have a happy life, and they tell me that to this day. My father made it clear that he was God’s representative to us on earth, and as such, it was his job to let us know right and wrong.
Throughout high school, although I was not homeschooled then, I quashed any budding “liberal” ideas. This included any acceptance of my “homosexuality”, a word I have come to hate. My father’s bookshelf was peppered with Dr. Dobson’s and Charles Colson’s latest, and I read all of it at his suggestion. Both have a lot to say on political issues, and I knew that since my father agreed, I would too. In an effort to change myself so that I might not accidentally end up an atheist at a pride parade, I watched straight or male-male sex scenes in the hopes that I could rewire my brain to associate men with pleasurable feelings. It never worked.
We ate dinner together every night, a blessing and a curse. While my father didn’t rail about politics on a nightly basis, he did bring it up often, complaining about how an anti-American Muslim was now president of the United States. We saw D’nesh D’souza’s conservative propaganda films about how Obama wanted to let immigrants take over this fine nation.
It was a heartbreaking thing to finally realize in college that I could like women, just like those Fat, Ugly Man-Hating Feminist Lesbians who were all going to hell.
I’m not sure why their appearance mattered, but it was usually included in a criticism of lesbians.
I still struggle with my weight, even though I am naturally tall and skinny, out of fear that I might resemble the caricature my parents despise.
They found out a year and a half ago that I am gay, in my senior year of college, my father threatened to pull me out of university. He only didn’t because my major is very uncommon and can’t be found at any more conservative schools. I attend a Southern Baptist university, now in graduate school, although it’s a moderate one that doesn’t care (too much) that I have a girlfriend. My parents now consider it an evil, liberal institution for not somehow stopping me, and now say they don’t care whether my little sister attends a Christian university or not, “because it didn’t help Lauren.” In political discussions, they are often interested in my brother’s thoughts, because they consider him “on the same page” while I am “rebellious”.
My parents also expressed great paranoia throughout my life about what they were certain I told my friends about them. When my father found out I was gay, he said, “I know that you’ve told all your friends and teachers that I’m a close-minded bigot.” I didn’t think I had, but he shook my confidence, so I called my best friend asked if I’d ever spoken disrespectfully of my parents. “No,” he said. “You’ve only ever spoken highly of them.”
Again, defiance is the number one way to get on the wrong side of my parents, and they tell me that my identification as a Democrat/liberal has dishonored them.
On their anniversary, my father tweeted, “25 years together—THIS is ‘love wins’.” He also tweets things such as a girl with a shirt saying, “I’m not going to let Muslims rape me to prove how tolerant I am.” My roommate has encouraged me not to look at his Twitter anymore so that I don’t get outraged; my father tells me he doesn’t have Facebook because he is afraid he will get in too many political debates. I said, “But you don’t have any Democrat friends, do you?” He replied, “Oh yeah, you’re right.”
I can tell for sure that my mother believes I am simply rebellious and want to be a Democrat because I resent my strict upbringing. I don’t think she will ever be able to get over from the fact that a liberal lesbian could have come out of her home—ironic because I am the only one of my three siblings that attends church regularly. My father sees me with a few more dimensions, I think, because he still often tries to engage in political discussion with me, but still holds that anyone with my political views is either willfully defiant or simply ignorant. My sister tells me that my parents wish I wasn’t “so political,” but really, I feel like my upbringing has forced me to stay aware so that I can back up every belief.
The last time I visited home, he asked what news sites I read. He downloaded The Atlantic app at my suggestion, because it seems to be a fairly moderate source, much more moderate than his usual outlets. It’s the biggest accomplishment I’ve made towards nudging him away from the Matt Walsh types that tell him I hate God, I hate men, I am stupid.
I laughed at hearing how my parents think I am too political, because they raised me to be so involved in current events.
Except as a kid, I was raised to be a Culture Warrior for the Religious Right. Of course I am still politically active, because I am still defending myself against what I believe to be dangerous ideology. It’s just that it’s theirs.