Isolated By Religion

By A.R.D.

My life in the “Message” is not what you may expect. My parents were very sincere in their beliefs, and they tried to teach us girls what they thought was best. My mom was born into the “Message”; my dad converted to it before they were married. We went to a “Message” church four hours away from where we lived. It was the nearest one to us, and we went there every month. Wednesdays we would listen to a tape. Saturdays and Sundays the pastor was online.

When you're raised in something, you never consider what life outside it could be. Whenever I would complain about how long my hair was and how I wanted to cut it, my mom would say a woman's hair was her glory. I would rebel and cut my hair. Then later I would try to cover it up due to the shame I felt from others. I was blessed with a dad who did not take advantage of the “Message's” bias towards men and use it to control his wife or daughters. He was raised Catholic and had a more liberal upbringing.

Being a homeschooled, skirt-wearing, rural-living kid with a speech impediment was not always easy for me. Absolutely no one around us looked like us or believed what we did. We couldn't play sports in the homeschooled group because we wore skirts, and I couldn't go into dancing because my parents thought it immodest. Once we were called freaks by a girl my age. We would almost always get side-eyes whenever we traveled in a group. I made a silent promise to myself that I would eventually get out.In 2014, our pastor made the announcement that he would no longer preach from the “Message” but strictly from the Bible. Never being very religious myself (in fact, I'm more a hippie than anything), I didn't really care. In 2015, we officially came out. I almost cried when my mom bought me my first pair of pants and earrings. Things didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped, though. We lost church friends, and relatives became resentful. People who we thought wouldn't mutter an unkind word turned self-righteous on us. I felt pain mentally and physically. The isolation didn't help. While I was in the “Message,” I was satisfied because I didn't know any other way of life. After leaving, my anxiety skyrocketed, and I went to a counselor for six months. I'll never forget the counselor telling me she had never seen anyone like me in her 13 years of work. She was appalled by the religiously abusive statements about women in the “Message.” I had to accept the fact that while I was in the “Message” I was an outsider to the world. When I got out, I became an outsider to the “Message” and to everyone I knew.

My hair has been cut, my face is now accustomed to make-up, my legs have pants around them, my ears are pierced, and I'm planning on getting a tattoo soon. I got out when I was just fifteen. In the end, though, I have stories to tell and the sweet taste of freedom on my lips. My childhood was very unusual, and I'm very wise for my age thanks to it. You can learn to forgive the people who hurt you and move on, but you'll never forget. I'm trying to put the past behind and look only to the future.