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On Kindness and Transphobia [TW]

On Kindness and Transphobia [TW]

Someone from my past emailed me a few times this week. Claiming they were good listeners and wanted to have a relationship, “one soul to another”.

They then sent two emails following that, The first, on valentine’s day, defending my parents by saying they were merely imperfect and I’m overreacting about the abuse I suffered at their hands. The second, this morning, telling me that I will regret being trans and we should have an open discussion about my identity.

I told her to kindly fuck off, and she didn’t understand why I was mad and unkind.

When you start off a conversation with someone by saying their lived experience and identity isn’t valid, you lost the pretense of kindness and politeness and the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t matter how “nice” you are when you say people are wrong for existing, it isn’t nice, it isn’t kind, it isn’t polite, and you deserve nothing less than the full wrath of whoever you told that to.

I’ve translated today’s emails so you see what I hear when I read this.

I asked her not to contact me after the first email. For someone good at listening, she doesn’t seem to understand boundaries. And this is a real-life example of how you don’t have even footing against people who spend their time dehumanizing you.

The reason I am posting this is because it helps me to dissect it and show you what I hear/see when people send me things like this and how cruel and dehumanizing it is. How pointless it is to try to convince them of my validity when they start from the place of trying to convince me not to be who I am.

I am kind, but I will not rollover for abuse, I will fight back, and then I will post the shit and explain what it is for everyone to see.

If you start off disregarding people’s existence as valid, you have waived your right to any benefit of the doubt and subsequent kindness.

I’m not even going to unpack how cruel that first email was in the first place, anyone who isn’t cis understands that by default and anyone who is cis, should go read about transphobia and how it effects people. I’m sure someone in the comments can get you started, but also google.

NLQ didn’t “decide” to take down alumni posts, We demanded it.

NLQ didn’t “decide” to take down alumni posts, We demanded it.

Today, No Longer Quivering published a 2016 housekeeping post where they noted that they changed their focus in 2015 (which is true) to be on the mothers leaving the QF movement and as a part of that they decided to remove the voices of the adult children from their website.

excerpt from NLQ
Post excerpt.

They were not the ones who decided to remove the content – those of us who had written for them were. I was the first to ask that my posts (you can read them here) be taken down after the founder of NLQ, Vyckie Garrison, made a public Facebook post encouraging speculation of what will happen to the Duggar Family this year. It wasn’t long before things took a turn for the worst and people started commenting, speculating, and naming specifically, which of the Duggar children still at home would come out as gay.

Those of us alumni who are queer and grew up in toxic environments similar to the Duggars started posting, alerting people to the danger it puts the children at home in. Christian Patriarchy, Quiverful, and ATI parents shun even the appearance of evil, and if word gets to them that someone on the internet (or anywhere) thinks their child is gay, it’s going to make life hell for that child, or worse. Queer kids living at home are already at a higher risk of abuse, homelessness, and suicide even outside of conservative families. They last thing we need is for people posting wildly in a comment section about the sexuality of children in the public eye, in a toxic environment they did not choose, who will be the ones to pay the price if or when this gets back to them.

As a result, those of us who are queer or allies in the comments section calling out these people were harassed, stalked, and told in not so many ways to shut the fuck up and let the adults have their fun. Caring about children in the same situation we were apparently means we’re bitter and have more recovering to do.

Meanwhile, Vyckie, who decided to let this go on, eventually started liking the comments that were clearly cruel and abusive to the queer survivors of this environment and later made another public post about how she isn’t responsible for anything that happens on her Facebook wall, even though she made the choice to allow this behavior and start off with a public post that everyone in the world can see.

I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with Vyckie in the years since I wrote for her, but this was the last straw. In the last couple days she has made it abundantly clear that her only concern is not for healing and safety of all who are escaping toxic christianity and the quiverful movement, but merely the adults and militant atheists who agree with her and enjoy making the children of the movement into a side show.

I wrote to Vyckie and Suzanne on the first day to have my posts taken down. Others soon followed suit and are continuing to do so – including Love Joy Feminism, and Homeschooler’s Anonymous. While NLQ is attempting to take credit for the elimination of alumni voices on their website, I thought it was pertinent to post the real reason for the removal.

This wasn’t NLQ’s doing, it was ours. We’re tired of being used by a woman who chose the quiverful lifestyle to garner a following and fame while patting herself on the back and putting kids still at home at risk.

Giving Too Much

Giving Too Much

Ever since my family became devout, they became regular tithers and givers. Before I go further, I should point out there is nothing wrong with giving as long as that giving isn’t negatively affecting your life (or that of your kids/family).

Which, I realized somewhat recently is the case with my own family.

They started out giving 10% (the actual biblical definition of a tithe) all the time. Then, they realized that wasn’t enough, and “god told them” to give more and more and more until the last time I remember was them “tithing” 50-60% of their income and waffling with  giving more, because their faith, at one point, wasn’t strong enough to give 70% because they had hungry mouths to feed.

When I was 10, my family chose to allow our house to be foreclosed on because “god told them” to pay another families’ mortgage, and when my parents couldn’t financially afford to pay both, they decided (knowing full-well the consequences) to stop paying their mortgage instead, trusting that “god would provide” a way to keep our house, or a new place for us to live.

“god’s provision” happened at the hand of my grandparents who noticed the building next door was for rent and the landlords weren’t picky about having a family who’s house had just been foreclosed on (every other place my parents looked turned them down), renting from him. This happened the day we had to be out of our foreclosed-on house and we were looking at being homeless.

My parents refused to pay their mortgage and take care of their family because “god told them” to do that for someone else. 

Not to mention, at this time, we had another family living with us because my parents believed god brought them into our lives so this woman could get her children back from CPS.

Because my large family + this additional family who my parents payed to live with us, so she could homeschool her kids but still say she “had a job” were moving in to this house, my brother’s room was a closet, literally, he lived in a closet. My sister’s all roomed in a portion of the master suite my dad partitioned off from their room, and I shared a room with the other families’ eldest daughter, and the rest of her family had the separated off room/bathroom combination. At one point their cousin came to live with us too, and he slept on the floor outside my room, in the dining room.

My parents didn’t really mind the fact that this mother was taking as much advantage of me as my mother until I had a breakdown one day and they decided everyone should do chores and cooking, not just me. Eventually, my family had to ask the family they invited to live with us for free to leave, because the mother had started abusing pharmaceuticals again after regaining custody (which was part of the reason she lost custody of her kids initially).

At some point between these two events my parents did stop paying the other families’ mortgage, I think because they found out and asked them to stop (how they didn’t know, I don’t know, I was a kid,  this was all foreign to me).

This whole time my parents have been tithing more and more – by the time we moved to GA to live in the house my grandparents bought for their retirement, my parents were tithing close to 50% of their income. After my dad found a job that payed significantly less than the one he had previously, they tithed 50-60% of their income, fully believing that “god would provide” and by refusing to acknowledge that my grandparents are the reason we had a house, food, and shoes that fit, “god” did provide.

There were multiple times, aside from being forced out of our house, that I was worried if we’d even be able to eat, and I remember my mom talking to my grandma, and at one point, there was a series of weeks where my grandparents paid for an Angel Food subscription for us because we couldn’t afford groceries.

At birthdays, and even in-between them my grandparents would buy us new shoes and clothes (which was always really nice because most of what we wore was hand-me-downs from pitying church folk, or old clothes of mine passed down to my sisters) because, really, we couldn’t afford a lot of that either – at least not at the rate that 8 kids grow. I think it was a relief to them when I stopped growing at 15, and had only grown an inch or two between then and age 12 (stunted at the I-can-still-technically-shop-in-the-kids-section size – I’ve since grown curves, so, yay?).

But you know what we could afford? buying and donating a shit ton of everything to the Crisis Pregnancy Center, throwing extravagant donation-only christmas parties, putting together lavish packages for the Shoebox/Samaritan’s Purse group, making a ton of cookies and buying presents for everyone in church (and only keeping the cookies that didn’t come out right for ourselves after slaving in the kitchen for a week), putting together care packages for nursing homes, buying presents and making gift baskets for the entire neighborhood, and since I’ve left: creating the most elaborate easter baskets for all of the church kids (but my siblings only get the $1 chocolate and whatever is cheap and on sale or left over).

My family gets the short end of the stick because they have to support 6 kids-at-home on 40-50% of whatever my dad makes. Everything else goes to churches, people (projects), and random “ministries”, in the name of “god”.


I remember having long devotions about tithing and how you have to tithe to be a good christian (also, the more you give the better christian you are), and how if you don’t tithe, your life will be horrible and “god won’t bless it”.

I’d heard so often that if things aren’t done X way, then your life will be bad. Given my already hellish childhood, when I was a teenager I was actually scared of what would happen when I left home.

I was afraid that I would have to live my childhood all over again, on my own, but worse, because god would be after me, specifically.

Part of the reason I didn’t want to get married for so long was because I couldn’t imagine having to go back and make all the decisions my parents made and live through that all over again.

When Alex and I were getting serious I tried to get him to promise me that we would always tithe. Because if we didn’t, I knew that there would be horrible consequences – because my family was “so blessed” and doing everything right, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if we didn’t. 

I couldn’t imagine how dire the consequences of not tithing would be, after living my entire life in a house that was so other-centric it neglected their own children’s needs. I thought it would be a nightmare. I was just so so afraid of what would happen if I left home, if I didn’t tithe, if I didn’t live exactly the way my parents did, because I knew what that was like and I hoped that eventually it would get better – that they would get their 100 fold, and everything wouldn’t be so scary.

I was terrified at the thought of having to walk that path again, myself, starting from square one.


As an adult now, and learning how the world works…I was lied to so much, and so much fear was ingrained that was completely baseless. Never once have I had any cause to be legitimately worried about food (not to say that I haven’t, because an empty fridge is a huge trigger even if it just because we ate out all week instead of shopping), never once has my life been anywhere near as hellish and scary as it was in my childhood.

“god” has not come after me like the mafia for “his money”, and I have a lot more satisfaction giving what I can to who I want, than giving more than is financially wise to whatever church I’m in that day.

My family could have, at any time, started paying their mortgage, or maybe cut-back on tithe for a month so we could eat. Instead, my family decided to bring financial crises upon themselves because they thought “god told them” and it made them better christians. 

 

And that’s really all that it’s about, isn’t it?

I have something to say

I have something to say

I have a story to tell, a story that’s been hanging over my head for months and I haven’t said anything out of fear and now I just need to release it so I can feel better.

This summer, I was cornered by people I trust – put into a situation against my will that triggered an onslaught of PTSD, flashbacks, and sent me back into the past where I was 16 years old, sitting on a couch, being berated and interrogated and told I was a horrible person.  

I’ve been dealing with the psychological and emotional fallout of that since – it’s gotten better over the last month or two, but for what felt like an eternity, I couldn’t write, draw, or even use my voice for fear of it happening again.

I forgot I was an autonomous adult because the situation sent me back to a place where I was powerless, because the people who cornered me kept calling me back every time I tried to escape, because I was already in the middle of a tunneling flashback, I shutdown, which for me looks like this:

 become robotic and stoic, I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore, because I just became a shell running on autopilot, giving the answers that they want to hear as best I can without giving away more than I am comfortable with. Sitting calmly, listening to my accusers, showing no emotion, giving reasoned answers, trying to end the interrogation as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, I am hiding somewhere in a cave warding off nausea, panic attacks, and tears. Somewhere they can’t see. Because I can’t let them see, it’s not safe to let them see that I’m bothered, that will validate their point.

I am well practiced at this. I spent my childhood perfecting this response. This is what my fight or flight looks like, because I was never allowed to express emotions or explode at my parents. 

Note: if I ever become stoic, cold, and reasoned during a discussion that is uncomfortable, I am not there. In general, I can’t talk about anything in any other way than passionately or emotionally.

When that finally ended, I was sick. We went to the lighthouse – as far away from the cottage as we could – and I curled into a fetal position and bawled and screamed for what felt like an hour.

I can’t really put into words all of the ways it hurt. My mind is a minefield and they tripped on all of them. Everything exploded in a dozen different directions – trying to figure out how much is PTSD and flashbacks from the past, how much of it happened, how to deal with the feelings of betrayal from people who “are just concerned”. Even writing about it now, almost 4 months later brings back all of the complicated feelings that are still a tangle of wires.

I made a point not to give them answers to their questions, and in the process a lot of very hurtful things were said and assumed in their own right.

I threw up all night that night, after everyone went to bed, assuming I was fine.

I told them it was food poisoning, but I lied. It wasn’t food poisoning, but I didn’t want to deal with more questions and “worry” and weird apologies-that-aren’t-apologies when I just wanted to be left alone. I am good, too good even, at telling people what they want to hear – often at the expense of myself and my own preferences. You could say I was trained to do so.

I was asked questions about my lifestyle and faith from a place of fear and worry, I was asked who my friends were and if they were christian (because you don’t want to get answers from the wrong places and they didn’t know who I was friends with). As if I were a 14 year old starting high school with friends doing drugs and they (complete outsiders!) were entitled to know.

At various points, even on autopilot, I did somehow find enough mental capacity to reiterate that I am an adult and I don’t have to tell them anything and I have no obligation to them. I’m proud of that.

They admitted(?) I wasn’t obligated to tell them anything as they continued to pry and confirm whether or not I am indeed a christian (or good person) and tell me that I should have come to them with questions (they don’t know where I’m getting answers!) because they’re pastors and know all of the things.

But the thing is, I didn’t have questions – I knew the answers, and ganging up on me, forcing me into a conversation and berating me, making wild assumptions and accusations and saying things that just show how misguided and misinformed they are about the world and how it works doesn’t make me want to talk.

I didn’t expect to have to deal with this kind of situation as an adult, I wasn’t prepared to feel trapped, again, and the fact that it happened bothers me.

Silence isn't Golden

Silence isn't Golden

I’m tired of watching abuse. It happened to me, it happens around me – it’s the reason I can’t run away and escape from my past. The reason I can’t forget, the reason with every core of my being I become so angry that I lose words and start to breakdown.

In 2005, 2006, and 2007 I was a blogger, an NCFCA-er, a Rebelution moderator, a Regenerate Our Culture board member, a Student Project campaigner, and a TeenPact Alumni – if you recognize any of those (*except NCFCA outside region 8 prelims, I didn’t get far), then my name, Kierstyn Paulino (or variations thereof) will ring bells. I contributed to the amount of hurt I and many others who grew up in this radical/evangelical/conservative/christian subculture endured and continue to endure. I’m sorry for that, and ashamed. A large reason I don’t write about it here, and am vague at best is because I’m so ashamed of my past and who I used to be. I didn’t know any better, I was 15 and growing up in a spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally abusive environment. I was trying to do the “right” thing, to be a good girl, to be approved of, and I was. I was looked up to, and even World Magazine acknowledged noticed. I succeeded for a while, before it all fell apart.

I am not that person anymore. I’ve spent the last 4 years of adulthood learning things most people learn in their late teen years, trying to heal and reach a sense of normalcy, trying to discover who I am because I lived a charade my whole life just to survive, grieving for everything I’ve lost, putting the pieces of myself back together with my best friend who’s been beside me this whole time. I have grown and evolved. I’m not whole, or healed, or perfect, or awesome, or anything. I’m still remarkably borked, but my past keeps casting a shadow and I’m so tired of being quiet, scared, and ashamed. It happened, it was wrong and abusive on so many levels, and I can help it stop.

I am a geek, artist, actress/filmmaker, and activist. I am a paladin, a champion, a defender of the defenseless. I am strong, determined, defiant. I am a protector, a safe place, a warrior, a sister. I am done being silent. I will fight to help the scores of us who are coming out of the woodwork to right the (unintended) wrongs and heal the fellow broken souls. Maybe that will help me heal too.

I doubt that I’ll ever be able to be completely normal, to live a life without the pain and reminders – because my past is a part of me, and it’s the reason that I rage at injustice, and it’s the reason I’m so strong. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll get better at balance, and I’ll be able to embrace all of it and accept the things I’m ashamed of, and help the ones who need it, and live an epic life.

Right now, I just need to cry.