Hey. So I know like the whole world thinks everyone would be interested in hearing about their personal life experience because it's so WILDLY different from everyone else's. And I guess me writing this kind of seems like that's what I'm doing too. But I don't care if it's entertaining. I just kind of want to share my journey.
Mattie Jo in Missouri
So I grew up the youngest of four children, preacher's daughter. But not like evangelical, slain in the spirit, my father is terrifyingly aggressive about chastity and modesty (although I did go to Pentecostal summer camp once with a friend. They used to keep us in the chapel for so long at night I finally just pretended to pass out for Jesus so I could get some fucking shut eye. I was 9). My parents were and still are very happy, healthy human beings. Their grocery shopping habits are questionable and my mother definitely owns way too many antique sewing machines, but like. They're sane, very happily married, and incredibly honest. A rare combo in the subculture in which I grew up. So most of my fuck-upedness about religion, sex, and the gays didn't come from my parents. It came from Jesus culture.
As I mentioned earlier, I wasn't surrounded by Duggar-style Christians. I lived in a subculture of Cool Jesus followers. The kind of followers who were really good at sports, could afford $42 NIKE Tempo shorts as their entire wardrobe, and joined Greek Life at their colleges as a sort of mission. They were all also really attractive. I'm not sure how my specific part of Missouri lucked out on that one. But the girls didn't wear makeup. And they were always really pretty. Not me. My ass wore the shit out of some Dream Matte Mousse. Anyways. Being a Christian was appealing. We always had awesome concerts at my church and we were like SO non-traditional. We served coffee FO FREE, had cushioned seats, and mad Powerpoints. To top it off, I lived in Branson. So our worship team was chalk full of "professional" performers. And somehow we managed to have a better sound system than my University theatre (no offense MSU). Having a purity ring was pretty standard. And if you didn't have one, well, we all knew how you were spending every weekend. Not overeating cupcakes from the local Country Mart and discussing your most recent church crush. No. You were most likely drinking and having sex with everyone. Ruining any chance at a healthy marriage. Obviously.
Having a purity ring was pretty standard. And if you didn't have one,
well, we all knew how you were spending every weekend.
Okay so now that I've painted the picture pretty clear, I think, let me share how I fit into all of that. I was always outspoken. Like, ask my mom stories. I'm pretty sure my filter never developed. And especially not in high school. The beginning of high school was a little rough. I went through this pretty terrible thing called anorexia. For the first time ever I felt as pretty as the makeup-less girls in my small group (that's a reference to groups in churches that sit around and use words to describe their experiences that no other person would ever use. Christians are very good at making everyone feel very weird around them. That's called alienating by the way). My thighs didn't touch. I could be a skinny white girl like everyone else! And maybe all the cute Christian boys who were really good at sports would finally think I was pretty! Maybe I would look good in NIKE tempos. The dream. I hated standing out bc my body had...substance. And boys in church didn't seem to like it either. Maybe they didn't notice at all. Well now my ass has been featured in the New York Post. I'm glad I learned not to care about being a vanilla white girl.
Left to right: Church, field pyramids with jocks, donkeys on the side of the road. TANEY COUNTY Y'ALL
Anyways, eventually I started eating again. And gained a lot of weight. Whatever. We're gunna brush over that. What's important is that I was very active in my high school. I was president of Honors (Beta!!!) Club, on Student Council, cross country state qualifier, on the track team, volleyball team, valedictorian, Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor, and I had a part time job. In essence, I was a total badass. A total badass who was always being told "Sssshhhhh. Like, Mattie. You can't say that stuff. Sarcasm isn't welcome (girls can't be funny). You're so boy crazy (that's the Christian high school version of slut shaming). Can't you talk about anything other than boys?"
Like OF COURSE I could talk about something else. But I was 18 and not having sex. Or even kissing really. What else did you want me to do with boys? I can't even talk about them? I seriously felt like no matter what I did, I never fit in the Circle of the Cool Christians. But I liked God. And I felt like God liked me. I mean, I wasn't having sex after all. Did he have a reason not to like me at that point?
Then I went to theatre camp.
Mattie Jo Goes to Theatre Camp
I learned a lot of things at theatre camp. For example, there are actually families in the world who pay more than my 4 years of college tuition to send their 11 year old to theatre camp for the summer. I now nanny for those families. Anyways...
Most importantly I learned that I wasn't weird at all! OH JOY! There are other people in the world who are funny like me! Who question things. Who aren't BORING AS SHIT. Who sing lyrics to songs whenever Inspired to do so. And like to wear other clothes besides NIKE tempos. I really found my home. These people get me. I get them. And...and they like me. And they don't think I'm boy crazy?! Wow. Staying. But...but a lot of them are...gay? Gay. I'd always been taught being gay was wrong. A certain degree away from bestiality before God floods us or some shit. Like The gays would be the decline of our civilization. Not all the evil human exploitation involved in Wal-Mart or other corporations the Midwest loves so much. No. The gays. Man on man action. Because like. Ew.
Well I liked my gay friends a whole lot. So, I was nice to them. It kind of bothered me that they had to be gay. Wouldn't they be happier if they just chose to be straight?
Then I went to college. For Musical Theatre. And dated a Catholic.
Mattie Jo Gets her BFA In Musical Theatre and Falls In Love with a Catholic
YES FREEDOOOOOOM!!!! I was finally in theatre camp for always. My home. These outspoken weirdos were my forever comrades. I didn't have to hang with the cool Christians anymore! Although my heart still had a pull towards them because, as I mentioned earlier, I liked God and wanted to hang with him still. Could I do that outside of Cool Christian-ville? But I mostly hung out with the theatre weirdos. And most of them, the best of them, were total homos. My favorite was my 6'7" ballerina boyfriend. We'll call him Emile. He treated me better than any straight man ever had (and still does). He was hard working, intelligent, talented, considerate, and just plain wonderful. He cried to me one night. Cried a lot. He told me he prayed so hard to not be gay. And then in the midst of all that, he lost his father. God took the only example of masculinity he had in his life. If he wanted so badly to not be gay, why didn't God do that for him? Emile was right. And not just Emile. But my many other gay friends who made my life and still make my life....colorful. :) So I started believing that God made gay people just like he made African people and dyslexic people. He made people to color my life's pages with their stories, experiences, and joy.
So I started believing that God made gay people just like he made
African people and dyslexic people. He made people to color my life's pages
with their stories, experiences, and joy.
In my first year of college I started seeing how dangerous growing up in such a homogenous culture and mindset can be. It limited my ability to connect and learn from this amazing WORLD God created. I never wanted to isolate myself so as not to experience that world (And at this point, I hadn't even met a Jew. Now thanks to living in New York City, I accidentally date them all the time). I wanted to experience people to the fullest and realized I couldn't do that in the culture in which I grew up. Anyway, I began to see that sexuality was/is not an identifier. It did/does not define a person. Their heart and intentions and character do. It would be a few more years before I found that to be true about my own sexuality. But we'll get there...
Then I met a Catholic.