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Bathrooms and Tiki Rooms

I spent part of this week at Disneyland! It was great. I love that place. :)

The trip was very special to me for a couple of reasons. One, it was great to spend time with a friend I don't get to spend time with much because we live on opposite coasts. The second is a bit more personal.

The last time I was at Disneyland, in Feb of 2013, I was still presenting male, and hadn't started toying with the idea that, to be happy, I needed to transition fully. At this point I had already come out as trans to my friends, and they were all very respectful and were doing their best to make me "just one of the girls," but I hadn't decided to transition all the way yet.

As most people know, I'm a kidfur. My character is a seven year old bunny rabbit. (I'm not a babyfur. I can use the potty all by myself, thanks!) Part of this is having a family that I'm connected to, including a Mom. I was out in LA to visit with them, but especially my furry Mom. While I was out in LA, they did their very best to let me be one of the girls, even if at that point I didn't really look the part, and I love them for that. <3

My furry Mom and I went to Disney together. We spent time in both parks over the course of two days, and I remember it very fondly.

It was my first time in LA, and I didn't know that once the sun goes down, it gets cold. It gets cold fast. Because of this I wasn't prepared for sundown at all... once the sun went down I started shivering because I was cold. (It's Southern California, for sure, but it was also February!)

Well, my furry Mom did her best to be all Mom-like and tried to give me her coat. I wouldn't take it at first (chivalry is a hard thing to unlearn!), but eventually she got all Mom-like and was like "Bunny, take my coat. Now," and then more-or-less made me take it. I begrudgingly took it.

Here's the thing... it was a lady's coat. I didn't think much of it, other than it was a purple hoodie and it was warm and I was cold.

Not long afterwards, we stopped at the restrooms inside the Enchanted Tiki Room area. (Right by the entrance door. Most people don't know they're there, so they're very private.) When I was in the bathroom, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

I was kinda shocked at what I saw. I looked... female! The coat did a good job of making me look kinda curvy. I was also holding a white light-up rose, too, so that helped as well. It was just sorta magical to me because I'd never really seen myself that way. I was all like "Wow, I don't look all that bad!!"

That moment in the Men's room there at Disneyland was the first time I'd ever even _thought_ "wow, I look okay!" in my life. It was... amazing. I felt so awesome that night. It was the first time I'd ever "cross dressed" in public, and I was doing just fine. :) (I'm careful to use the term "cross dresser," because I'm not one. I'm a lady and I dress correctly as one.)

This trip, I presented female. I had zero issues passing. I used the lady's restrooms without so much anyone even looking up, I got gendered correctly the whole time, etc. Kinda awesome to me.

But... I made my friend that I was at Disney with go use those hidden bathrooms at the Enchanted Tiki Room. Not because I had to go, really, but I just wanted to go back to the place that really "started it all" for me.

I got all teary-eyed as I walked up the steps towards the bathroom, only this time, instead of going into the Men's room, I went into the Women's room. (And yes, I was wearing that same purple hoodie as before!)

I'm all teary-eyed as I write this. I cried a bit leaving the restrooms that night. It was just so emotional... I... don't really know what else to say.

The magic that happens in the Enchanted Tiki room is amazing, but the real magic that happened that night in the restroom next to it... that will live with me for forever. <3

Amazon's Transparent and Fear

I've been trying to watch Amazon's Transparent. I was a little nervous at first, as shows on transexual issues are usually pretty bad, but they've done a really good job with it. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go look at the Wikipedia article on it... it describes it well.

The way they've done the show is really gut-wrenching if you're trans. They've got a running story line, but along the way they have flashbacks to various times in the lead character's life, and it's so easy to see myself. Some of those flashbacks are things that actually happened to me before coming out.

Last night I attempted to watch the fourth episode. There's a little bit of a spoiler here, so if you care, you might wanna stop reading now.

In this part of the story, Mora (the father) is out in public for the first time with her two daughters. She's 70 and her daughters appear to be about my age. (Late 30s.) The kids are struggling with how to address their father, but that's all understandable.

While out at a mall-like place, Mora needs to use the restroom, so her kids lead her to the the Women's restroom. When they get inside they flub a bit and keep saying "Dad," and it draws the attention of a transphobic loudmouth.

The transphobic loudmouth goes off on her, and threatens to call the cops. (I started freaking out here.) When I turned it off, they had left and had found a porta-potty at a construction site for their Dad to use. I don't know what happened next, I couldn't go on.

This impacted me very deeply. I constantly live in fear of getting chased out of a restroom. There are times when I just hold it for way longer than I should out of fear of using the restroom in public. (I survive by having found a few places I know are safe - my apartment, the restroom at work, and the private bathrooms on the ferry.)

What I was seeing played out on the screen is my worse fear. It was being acted out very well, in vivd detail, and it just scared me badly.

I've been thinking about why this impacted me so much. I mean, I sometimes watch scary movies, or things like The Walking Dead, and it's not that big of a deal, really. What I think it comes down to is that I know the odds of the zombie apocalypse happening are pretty small. The odds of me getting trapped in some unknown house, late at night, with a stranger that's out to kill me is very small.

But the threat of getting yelled at because I have to pee? That's real life. That's something I deal with every single day, whether I want to or not. It's not fiction to me, it's my every day real life.

I'm really happy Amazon made Transparent. I hope it's eye opening to people that have never had a transsexual loved one, or are trans themselves. But for me, it's just too much like real life to enjoy it. Maybe in a few years when I'm on the other side of transition, but not today.

Reflection: Leaving the Church

[I've had something on my mind a lot, so I'm gonna write it down in hopes of flushing that buffer to disk, as it were.]

Leaving the church was a hard experience. The Baptist church was the only world I'd ever known my entire life, and when it was gone, it created a giant hole.

When I was in my dark days, dealing with coming to terms with being transsexual, I was seeing a very good therapist (as I encourage everyone to do). To start I was seeing him three times a week, then twice, then once a week, and finally we got down to once every two weeks. A good therapist never tells you what to believe, they simply encourage you to think about things in a different way and let you discover for yourself what you actually do believe. This was very valuable to me.

I had been dealing with a lot of guilt and shame over feeling the way I did. (That is, that I was born in the wrong body.) My therapist helped me to dig into this and I discovered what the root cause of it was - I had let the church define my inner core foundation, and I was at conflict with what I had been taught.

It seems obvious now, but what I learned about myself was telling. I let the bible be the foundation for all of my worldview. I still think about how I view things as something like the OSI model (sorry for the tech reference) [1], where everything is built on everything else. I had let the church be my layer one - the facts on which I had based everything else. Why did I feel guilty about being transsexual? Because it conflicts with the foundation of my core - that is, that God doesn't make mistakes.

I remember very clearly when this worldview shattered. I had just finished up a very rough therapy session and was sitting in the parking lot in my car trying to regain my composure. I started driving off, and a light went off in my head that said "the bible is just a book."

That was earth shattering to me. The book that I had based all of my beliefs on at my core, was just a book. It had no power over me. It only had power because I let it.

I got super emotional on the drive back to the office... so much so, that I stopped at a small store, got a Coke Zero, and texted my manager and told him I was going to be late getting back to the office. Instead of going to the office I went home, grabbed Miss Bunny [2], and laid in the bed and cried for a while.

I started reeling for a while as I tried to put the pieces back together again of what was my life. I started questioning everything. It was a rough few weeks. I was very thankful to have a good therapist helping me with this dark time.

I was left with a giant hole. I'd just proven to myself that the thing I left be my core, I shouldn't have.

Instead, I've replaced that core with what I should have been believing in the entire time anyhow, science and technology.

With science at my core, being transsexual is just fine. It's "just a weird birth defect" as I like to say. I have a female brain, but (had) a male body. It's a birth defect with horrible social and physical implications, but one that medical science is getting better at fixing every day. The deep inner conflict is now gone.

Once I started realizing that I'm not going to hell for being transsexual (because hell isn't even a thing), things started making a lot more sense. I'm a lot happier now, for sure.

The months following this epiphany were kinda rough. It happened late in the fall. On Christmas Eve that year I drove by a large Baptist church in Texas and saw that it was overflowing with people, and it made me quite angry. I'm not sure why I got so upset, but it did.

I'm still struggling. It's hard to overcome so many years of programming.

For example, the church tried really hard to instill homophobia in me. It never really took (thankfully), but there are still times when a little bit of it reaches the surface. Luckily I've gotten very good at catching it and I quickly remind myself "that's what you were taught, but it's not what you actually believe," and stamp it out, but fighting against that is hard. Very hard. :(

Things are, of course, getting better. It takes a long time to overcome having your core foundation shaken up, but I'm recovering. I'm a heck of a lot happier now. Things make a lot more sense because I base it on science, not just blind faith in something that never really clicked anyhow.

Thanks for listening! I feel better after writing all of this down. :)

[2] Miss Bunny is my favorite plushie in the world. We've been together 18 years now. She is, quite literally, the most important thing inside of my apartment. She has magical powers to make me feel better when I'm sad.

First Earthquake

So I've felt my first earthquake!

I'm fine. I'm on Alameda Island, which is in the East Bay. As far as I know there's no reports of damage in the East Bay. (Or San Francisco, eithers.)

It woke me up! Never felt anything like that before. At first I was like "I have a vibrating bed??" and then I realized it was the whole building instead. It was a rolling motion by the time it got to my house. I could hear a rumbling sound outside unlike anything I've ever heard before.

Nothing of mine is damaged. I heard some plates rattling in the cabinet, but nothing fell. I got on Twitter, we had a furry slumber party talking about it, and then I went back to bed. It took me a while to get back to sleep, but I did.

Napa looks like it got his pretty hard. They have a lot of old brick buildings that haven't been retrofitted for earthquakes... the things I can see on TV and Twitter look pretty bad.

But I'm fine. I appreciated that a had a bunch of people checking in on me!

The Voices Outside my Head

Two weeks ago I started something that's kinda neat! I have been seeing a Speech Pathologist to help me learn how to train my voice to sound more feminine. I had to hit a long cycle of referrals from the insurance company, but I got approved at every stage along the way, so my health insurance is paying for it. Neat!

This is one area where I'm really benefitting from living in San Francisco. My doctor did a little bit of research and ended up sending me to a really highly recommended doc. The ladies in the front office were like "just to warn you, he's really weird, but he's usually able to get great results," and I was like "it's okay, I'm weird too." :)

I've been three times. The first session started out with him recording me say something like "Hi! My name is Bunny. Today is July 1st. I live in San Francisco. I am working on my voice." We keep repeating this before and after each session so we can compare how things are progressing.

He uses a computer very heavily, which I think is really neat. He's got an application on it that does real-time analysis of the data coming in off the microphone. Most of the time it's on a screen where it shows one chart with two plots on the X-axis... one showing pitch and the other showing volume. He also uses this computer to make notes and record things so we can play them back later.

The first session was mostly my auditioning for him to see if I'm trainable or not and worth him taking on as a patient. I think I passed with flying colors, he was very happy to have me come back. He had me do a range test (I can do 2.5 octaves without straining), and made sure I understood that results are not promised and sometimes it just doesn't work. I said I understand.

The second session was about establishing a baseline for my pitch. He had me do a series of noises (mostly weird grunts) while recording it on the computer. Then he was able to look at the data at determine that I have a natural harmonic in my voice around 250Hz, so we decided to use that as the baseline. 250Hz is pretty high - most female voices are closer to 200Hz and 250Hz is nearing the child range - but I can do it quite easily. At the end of the session he had me repeat the "My name is Bunny" thing and we were both O.O at how good it sounded. Yay!

The session this week (third session) we are starting to get into tone quality and color. Just simply raising my pitch only makes me sound like a male speaking in a falsetto, and that's not at all what I want. This is where the real work is. I'll be working at this part for a long time to come... years I bet.

This weekend I have been playing with some software he recommended. I'm recording things, experimenting with resonation, and playing them back. It's a harsh reality for me just how poor my voice sounds right now, but at least I know it's an issue and I have the tools to change it. I also grabbed an tone generator app for my phone and I have it make a 250Hz tone, which I play into my ear and humm along with to center my pitch back up to 250Hz. That helps as well as I can do that anywhere - even at work before getting on a call with a coworker.

The good news for me, at least, is that I know my voice can do it! That makes working at it worthwhile because I know the goal is obtainable. Yeah, it's gonna be a lotta work, but hopefully there will be a good payout at the end.

Oh, remember when I said I got called Sir at McD's? After my last session I went back there, at night, and did the best I can to order at the drive-thru. I used all of the things I had just learned at my lesson and said "I would like one ice cream cone, please." and the person on the other end said "Is that all, Ma'am?" :) :) That was the first time I'd ever passed on voice alone. :)

I can't keep that up for more than a few sentences right now... but there's a light at the end of the tunnel!! :)

Jul. 7th, 2014

I got called "Sir" yesterday. This is meaningful to me because I actually noticed it.

I was trying to remember the last time that happened (other than talking on the phone, which is a huge issue still), and I can't remember the last time it happened. It hasn't happened since that one time yesterday, eithers.

I noticed it yesterday because it never happens anymore. Yay. :)


Things are Pretty Okay!

Looking back at my most recent series of posts I was little embarrassed at how I only seem to write about bad stuffs! I guess that's correct, most of the time, because lately I've been using writing to work out emotions.

But it kinds gives a bad impression of me! I am not an unhappy person at all! In fact, things are actually going pretty well. :)

I am very quickly settling into my new life here on the West Coast. My budget is finally starting to recover. I'm not there yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, at least. It's still going to be tight for the next 12-18 months or so, but after that, things should start getting better. I'm very happy about this.

Transition stuffs are going very well. I'm still not up to the full dose of HRT yet (my doctor starts you off slow and works you into it, to make it as easy on you as possible), but I think we're getting close. Every four weeks I go into the office and she takes some blood work to see how I'm doing. My meds are adjusted based on the results of that blood work. It's a lot more scientific than I thought it'd be, and that's pretty cool. (And quite comforting! Yaaaaay for data driven decision making!) Even more of a surprise is that she does NOT monitor hormone levels directly - she uses my Prolactin levels instead. [1] As of three weeks ago I had finally left the male range, but I'm still a ways away from the normal female range for a non-nursing female of my age. This stuff takes years, after all. :)

Today I wore a dress outside of my apartment for the first time in my life. I figured I'd just test the waters and try it when I went to make my breakfast run (there's a bagel shop I go to so much they greet me by name when I walk in). I figured it was a really safe place to experiment with. Well, that went so well that I didn't change clothes the rest of the day. It's an amazing feeling to me! Both in how people react to me (I'm no different than any other lady in the place), and that I'm so comfortable with myself at this point. At lunch I accidentally spilled my drink and the manager at Taco Bell was all like "Oh, it's okay Miss, we'll clean it up! Here, let me get you a new drink!" It was a nice feeling!

Last Friday I wrote a skirt to work, again for the first time, and it also was a total non-issue. I even went on the Muni train to see my therapist and took the ferry to and from downtown San Francisco... looks like the thing that was holding me back was me... which is kinda normal for me, I think.

The emotional side of this is very different than I figured it would be. Both in the timeline and how strong it is. I'm already becoming a very different person. Here's an example... last week I went to see a foot doctor about a constant pain I've had in my right foot for many years. (It was never a problem, really, until I moved here and started walking a lot.) I showed him the back of my shoes and how it's all torn up inside and he was kinda shocked. After that he looked at my feet and quickly determined that I have Achilles Tendon Bursitis on my right foot. [2] He mumbled something about "need to get a drop of steroid in there" and told me to flip over on my belly, which I did.

He then injected my foot with a cortisone shot. OMG did that hurt. Like, really, really, really hurt. I was hurting so bad that I just started crying right there in the office. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of "I need to cuddle something," but I didn't have a plushie with me, so I just cuddled with my purse. (It was the only thing I had with me. I didn't know this was coming, or else I would have brought a friend with me.) The doctor could see I was hurting (duh), and was like "It's okay sweetie. Take as much time as you need to recover. When you're ready, get your shoes back on, and let me see you walk around the office a bit so I know you're okay." So I sat there in the doctor's office, cuddling a purse and crying for a few minutes. It wouldn't have gone down that way before... I would have just walked it off. Nor do I think it would have hurt so much, testosterone is good at covering up things like that.

I am _totally_ not complaining here! I like the new me! Very very much so. It's just very different than before, and I know I'm roughly three months into a 24 to 36 month thing... so there's still a lot more to come.

My new job is going great, too. We just wrapped up a really big project that's pretty much been my whole world at this company. (It kicked off right as I was getting there.) I'm excited to see what comes next, as there's a lot of things coming in the future, and all of it is going to need support from Ops in some way.

I talked with my team lead for a few minutes this morning. I said that when I knew how big of a project this was going to be (a few months into my employment), I decided to step back and focus on the things I'm good at, and then pick up other holes in my knowledge later. My goal was to take the day-to-day heat off the rest of the team so they could work on the project work. He then told me something that, to me at least, is a really big compliment. He said that one of the things they saw in me during the interview process is that I'm a really good Production Engineer. They knew they'd be able to drop me into the Production environment and thrive right away, which I have done. The holes in my knowledge are over project work - things that happen before something gets to production - but the actual part of running services in production is my thing.

I'd never really thought about it like that, but yeah, that's exactly right. I do thrive in a production environment. I understand very well that my customers are the company's customers, and that we want them to give us money... and they do so with the machines I'm running. I kinda find some project work to be really boring, while other people thrive in it. (And other people hate the pressure of working on the front lines!)

Needless to say, I know without a shadow of a doubt I'm in the right job and that I love what I do. It's a small company, so who knows how long things are gonna last, but for right now, while the band is together, I'm really enjoying it. I'm doing my best to savor it while it lasts, because it may not last for forever!

I could go on and on here. :)

Lots of things are going very well. I'm sorry that the last few months of posts were completely negative... it's not actually like that! I guess things are so good that when bad things come along they seem reeeealllllly bad and I turn to writing to work out my emotions.

Lop lop lop! :) <3



Bunny vs the DMV 2: The DMV Strikes Back

Today I finally got my car re-plated with a CA license plate. It was a horrific experience no trans person should ever have to endure.

A little bit of background. I moved to California December 30th, 2013 from Texas. I had just re-registered my car in Texas before I moved. My Texas plates did not expire until December 2014. The CA DMV gives you 20 days to have your car re-registered in CA after moving to the state. I knew this. [1] What I also knew is that every time I've registered a car, about a month later I'm hit with a flood of advertisements in the mail, phone calls from telemarketers, and "your car warranty is about to expire" scammers.

A few days after arriving in CA I filed to have my name legally changed. I filed the paperwork with the court on Jan 3rd, 2014. My court date was not until March 28th, 2014.... way after the 20 day mark.

I decided that I'd just suck it up and pay whatever fines I might be hit with from registering my car late because the _LAST_ thing in the world I wanted was for the flood of mail, telemarketers and scammers to come at me using a name I was trying desperately to get rid of. It was gonna cost me, but I just didn't want to have to deal with the agony of mailbox full of junk to my old name. (And mind you, I had just paid the car tax in Texas. My car was still legal for a whole year.)

Fast forward to today. My name's been legally changed, I've updated all of my accounts everywhere, and even my drivers' license is now correct. I made an appointment about a month ago for today with the DMV.

I got all prepared. This morning before I showed up I went to the DMV's website and downloaded all of the forms I'd need, filled them out completely on my computer (I even had to call the Credit Union where my loan is to get some information), triple checked it all, and the printed out the forms and shoved them into a folder. In that folder I also had the car's bill of sale, a certified copy of my name change court order, and my Texas birth certificate. Everything needed to prove that I'm me.

I got to my appointment a bit early and waited for them to do the vehicle verification and all that. No big deal. When it was time for my appointment my number was called. (They called me at exactly the time my appointment was, which was cool.) I had no idea what was about to happen next; I thought this was going to be a really quick five minute thing.

Immediately there was a problem. The name on my car's registration isn't my legal name. (It's my old name, of course.) I handed the clerk my certified copy of my court-orders name name and my birth certificate. She went and make photocopies of them (with my permission) and to talk to her supervisor about what to do.

I'm told that they have to process the registration with my old name and I'd need to sign for it that way. I refused since 1.) I don't like that name, and most importantly 2.) I'd be committing fraud if I did since that's not my name anymore. At no point did she explain why this was the case, only that that's just how it was. (I only figured out what the issue was hours later after I'd calmed down and thought about it.)

After I refused to do that she went to talk with her supervisor again. She came back wanting me to sign this "Statement of Facts" saying something like "I, ______, am legally changing my name to ______." I also refused to sign this because it's also incorrect. I'm not in the process of changing my name, I've already done so. Finally I had to sign another "Statement of Facts" that said "I _______ and ________ are the same person," which I did sign, because at least _THAT_ one was true.

I was humiliated. I had to sign a document basically outing myself right there in the DMV. I had already handed then a certified copy of my court order - THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH. In this country a court order from a Judge is about the highest "Statement of Facts" there is, right?

But, it gets worse. This is where the dehumanizing part comes in.

Back to the fees for registering late. From looking at the DMV's website, I thought it was going to be about $30-100. Wrong, it was closer to $250.

I was really upset at this point. I'd just had a bombshell dropped on me that not only is my car's registration going to be in a name that'd left in the past, I owed them more money than I had in my checking account at the time.

Completely upset and emotional, I tossed my credit card onto the clerk's computer keyboard when she wasn't looking at me, rather than hand it to her. She got really, really mad at me for "throwing things at her," and proceeded to lecture me on how she's "being respectful" and that she expects the same from me. I got overridden with guilt and started saying "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I shouldn't have done that" over and over again. I felt like I was 6" tall. I was just really upset and not trying to hurt anyone.

I showed a tiny bit of emotion and got yelled at for it. Well gosh lady, I'm sorry, but I was really upset right then. I just was not allowed to show any emotion at all. :( :(

So after my scolding she hands me the credit card back and tells me they don't take credit cards. If she'd give me a few minutes I'd transfer some money into my checking account and we could use my debit card. She said okay. So I grabbed my phone out of my purse and moved $300 from savings to checking and paid my bill.

At this point I did what I normally do when overwhelmed with emotions... I started to tear up and just recessed deep into my shell. I quit talking completely and refused to make eye contact with anyone. :(

I don't know what happened after that, really, because I was just so upset at this point. I know I now have CA plates and all that, so I'm guessing it all worked out okay, but the name on the registration I have is my old name. :(

Before I left the parking lot I texted a friend and just said "call me please." She did like 20 seconds later.

I broke down while talking with her (using the handsfree thingy built into my car radio). I got into a full-on cry and was yelling things. The phone call didn't last long because I was so choked up I just couldn't speak.

I was so upset and emotional that I wanted to pull off into a parking lot so I could cry my eyes out without risking hurting anyone. I drove for quite a bit looking for a parking lot, but this is the Bay Area and free parking lots are no where to be found... and I sure as heck was not going to pay $5 to sit in my car and cry.

Since there was no place to park I just drove home in that state. I have no idea how I got home, but I did. (Because, hey, THAT'S safe, right?)

Here's how this should have played out.

The moment the clerk noticed the problem, she should have said something like this:

I'm sorry ma'am, but you're not the owner of your car right now, your Credit Union is. I can't issue you a new registration with your name changed because you don't own the car, they do. They're the ones that need to get the title changed first.

...and then presented me with a couple of options. Things like, maybe if I pay the fees I've racked up, she'd give me a 60 day temp plate so I could work things out with the Credit Union and then try again. Or maybe offer to contact the Credit Union.

But what shouldn't have happened is the ask me to break the law by forging a document. And something that should have never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever happened was making me sign that "Statement of Facts" outing myself. I handed them a court order signed by a Judge... what more could they possibly want? The DMV is not above the law.

To me, as a transexual female, my identity is very important. I've worked very hard to get where I am. Its cost me a lot of time, money and heartache to get here. The DMV needs to train their employees just how vital this is to us and learn how to be "respectful" to us, as well.

So what did my desire to not get flooded with junk mail and scammers calling me my old name get me? $250 in fines, total humiliation, and a wasted day. It's past my bedtime right now and I'm still extremely broken up over this. It didn't work, either, since my car is still registered in my old name. (How exactly they were able to issue a car registration to someone that doesn't legally exist I have no idea. I guess the DMV has magical powers.)

I'll work out the title name issue with the Credit Union. And the fines suck, but I know they apply those to everyone and I wasn't being singled out.

But the humiliation of being forced to sign a "Statement of Facts" admitting I'm trans? Or getting scolded for showing emotion? Those two things should never happen to anyone. Ever.



More on the Church

Note: If you are an Evangelical Christian, skip this post. It's only going to make you mad. Either you'll be mad at me for writing it, or you'll be mad at the churches I attended for putting me in this position. Either way, you're going to find it upsetting.

[Read On]I have been thinking a lot about the church lately. I'm not sure why, it's just been on my mind a lot.

I spent the first 28 years of my life very deep in the church. Really deep. I have family members that are graduates of the Southern Baptist Seminaries and everything. It runs really deep in my family and has been since I was born.

Now that I'm a few years on the other side of it and have had a chance to start sorting out my own feelings from the ones I was taught as a child (and then over and over again as an adult), there is one thing I keep coming back to: the concept of Hell.

Southern Baptist churches are independent churches that elect to join the Southern Baptist Convention. Each church is otherwise independent, but they share a common doctrine, the Baptist Faith and Message.

Section X ("Last Things") of the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message states: "The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment." [1]

The more I think about this statement, the more messed up it seems.

If you think about what this is really saying, it's saying "Do what we tell you, or else God will punish you so bad not even death itself will save you." What a messed up idea that is... the idea that if you don't do what the church tells you, you're going to be burning in a lake of fire for all entirety.

This idea helped shaped my entire life up until the point I left the church. I was so scared of being true to myself because I didn't want to get tossed into the everlasting bonfire. I'd heard this since I was a kid, to the point that I just believed it to be true without giving it much thought. (Today I believe that religion has no place around children. Let them make up their own mind when they are older.)

The picture the church paints is "Hell is a horrible place! We love you, let us save you from it!" Which... just makes me mad, now, thinking about it. There's this horrible place that we made up and we're going to save you from it! :(

There's a traveling show that goes around Baptist Churches every now and then called "Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames." Take a few minutes and watch the trailer for it on their website. [2]

This show came to my church when I was in high school. I'm still trying to recover from it. It's just amazing that churches use fear of being punished even after death as a motivator for their message.

I feel like I let fear of a fictional construct called Hell rule my life for so long. Being able to be punished so hard that not even death will save you is.... horrifying.

I let something designed to help churches win over people from being true to myself for over three decades.