Being sexually abused by a member of my religion acting as my mentor and guardian when I was a teenager has left many wounds that have yet to heal. Here it is some 30+ years later, they are still open and bleeding and hurting.
Over the past few years and with a lot of professional help, I have been able to begin to unravel the tangled, bloody mess of attitudes, assumptions, guilt, shame and ignorance; this giant ball of confusion that is the legacy of sexual abuse in my life.
One of the most difficult was to begin to separate out the fact that I am gay from the fact that I was sexually abused by a male authority figure in my religion. I had those two confused for a long time.
The next hardest, I guess if I were rating these, would be separating the shame I have felt as a result of being abused from the shame I feel in my faith community because I am gay, which is a unacceptable state of being in the Baha'i community to which I belong.
Yesterday I took a huge step in unravelling this rusty, barbed ligature that had wrapped itself around my soul as a direct result of the sexual abuse and my reactions to it.
I officially withdrew my membership from the Baha'i community.
This may not sound like much to many, but for a Baha'i it is a pretty big deal. I have studied, prayed, discussed, consulted, posted, cried, worried, delayed, meditated, sought and received support from many friends and family members, and tried innumerable other means to mediate this life threatening conflict between faith and sexuality in my life.
It has taken me over 30 years to come to the place where I am able to simply withdraw from a community where I am not and apparently never will be welcome because I am gay.
That says a lot about my tolerance for suffering, doesn't it? I had to wade through a lot of bullshit to get to the point of taking this simple action; separating myself from a system of belief that is harmful to me.
There is something about the survivor/victim mentality that made it possible for me to continue to accept the unacceptable attitudes of my co-religionists and to suffer the distress and discomfort of being 'defective' in their view on account of my homosexuality.
It seems to me that this is a manifestation of that same dynamic forced on me by the man who sexually abused me by which I was left to feel responsible for the abuse; as if I had done something to deserve what happened; that I had somehow caused myself to be abused, and thus that I should bear the burden, the guilt, the shame and all the hurt and sadness about being sexually used and abandoned.
I am convinced that in order to fully recover from the effects of the sexual abuse, I must also find the strength to detach from the situations in my current life where the abuse dynamic governs my relations with the world.
My religious affilition is one of the major loci of that abuse dynamic. After many years of agony and denial, it suddenly became very simple.
A health crisis, both physical and mental, forced me to examine the life I was living to see what was affirming and what was destructive. I knew that I could not continue to live with the corrosive influence of institutionlized homophobia present in my faith community.
It was killing me.
It became as simple as a friends analogy.
If I had a splinter in my finger that was hurting, causing me anxiety, limiting my abilities would I not remove it?
Or would I ponder the paradox of the existential essence of the relationship of the splinter to the tree and hence to the illogical and irrational excesses of material civilazation as delineated in the ............oh shit, you get the idea.
Just take the goddamned splinter out!!!
Now I can continue to heal the hurt, to mend the tear, to recover my faith in God and in myself.
You who know me as a overly generous user of words would be pleasantly surprised at the economy of expression used in my simple letter.
I did not seek to explain, justify, rationalize or appease.
I withdrew as follows:
To the Baha'i Assembly,
I no longer wish to be registered as member of the Baha'i community. Please remove my name from your membership rolls.
The brevity of this is a big victory for me. I have for many months struggled to explain myself in imaginary letters.
I finally decided, hell, just do the deed, get some relief and explain later, IF IT SEEMS NEXESSARY.
Thanks to all who have lent me so much needed support.
Losing my religion will I hope permit me to continue unfettered to pursue my faith, to find a spiritual path where I am not degraded. That will encourage me to celebrate the precious nature of the gift of life.
I'm scared and unsure of many things, but I am certain that I have made the right decision.
More importantly, that decision has been translated into action.
I'll let you all know how the chips start to fall.
With much thanks for the love and support of my brothers and sisters here at MaleSurvivor.
"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"
-Tony Joe White