And You Call This Family?

photo by jcdauphinais

Let’s all pull up a chair and do some Annie Sprinkles time around my vagina, shall we? Why not? The fundamentalists in my extended family are totally obsessed with my vagina, its comings and goings, particularly its lack of reproduction, and it’s been a repeated topic of conversation at parties over the years. In the past, it’s caused for some really off-centered, out of bounds, harassment. I figured my firm yet somewhat humorous warning signs would alert folks to leave impregnation off the list of things we’d talk about, but instead it’s only ramped up, oncoming hostility and perpetuated a view of my husband and I as nascent and capricious sub-members of the family. (For some reason, when they talk about it in a religious context, it’s OK, but when I speak from a place of empowerment, it’s off putting.)  Most recently, I was made privy to some concerns as to whether or not there was “still hope” for my being swayed to finally do God’s work and deliver a long-awaited child to the family. I came to the family party armed with a list of potentially disorienting one liners, just in case anyone had the actual nerve to direct their petition to me face to face, but instead the casting of stones were tossed behind my back, in whispers, and gestures of comfort to disappointed, would-be grandparents. At the same time, my husband and I continue to be excluded from any of the qualitative stuff, the invitations, and the meals. Instead, we have been incrementally ostracized for being perceived as strident, and have been put upon by scrutiny for our “lifestyle”.

My concern is that the ultraconservatives haven’t thoroughly sorted through all of the evidence. If they did, they might analyze my lack of procreation from an aesculapian standpoint using my medical records, procedural history, and genetic inheritance. They could cross-correlate that with an environmental standpoint using population density maps, resource distribution, and projections for ecological sustainability over time. Next, everyone could grab a box of tissues and wade through a traumatic perspective of my life typically reserved for the privacy of health care professionals. Finally, they could use a Venn diagram to draw in some comparative data from my spiritual memoirs chronicling a desire for monastic life, blanketing over the call of motherhood, mixed with a longstanding conflict toward living in society. We could finalize the report with an examination of my professional resume to determine if I, the defendant, have provided enough due service to pay back my debt to the Almighty by advocating for equitable services for children of all creeds within our local community. Barring the mock trial, I was sent home without the touchy feelies, without the hugs, the handshakes, and the inner circle nods put on display by those”chosen” to do God’s work.

I joked with my husband about holding my dress up over my head like a three year old, asking everyone to take a look up my floo to see what the problem could be. I thought about a Sex Pistols re-enactment, chanting “I Wanna Be Child Free” (to the tune of Anarchy in the U.K.), while astride decorative banquet tables. But my tongue and cheek demonstrations only mask an underlying sadness generated by the demonstrative rejection such extremists enact when one of the pack is out of line. It illuminates a strange contradiction of love and sanctity when someone is put on the outside of family for living as they believe. This kind of rejection can be so powerful in some cases that it forfeits our ability to speak up, living assorted iterations of closeted lives, and costing many life itself. Yet, these are the folks who brandish pro-life rhetoric. Then why put in such effort to ex-communicate, punish, and reject others?  Why are these believers, speaking in the name of a loving Father, so truly loveless?

Later that evening, I was intrigued to find a recent article in The Atlantic reviewing a book of similarly themed essays entitled, Shallow, Selfish and Self-Absorbed The article comments on the Pope’s recent over-generaltization of the choice not to have children as selfish, and I was automatically brought back down to the same pit in my gut, at that party, feeling the heat, sensing the sizzling words hit the back of my neck, hearing their lips smack with contempt. Selfish, self-centered, empty…These are the harsh words our society chooses as the cultural discourse for those of us who are not parents. People either feel bad for us, seem to be mad at us, or meet us with an undercurrent of envy (especially if they are parents of young children). These are the words that only ripen an already growing tension between my family and I, even if these words came from a man who himself, consciously chooses not to have children. And you call this family?

I get it. When you’re conditioned to do believe what you think is right, you’ll put up a good fight. Here I am doing that now. But when does my role as activist turns toward a role as tresspasser to imprint my “truth” at cost of pain or assault to others? When does family love become abuse because we feel we are quelling our own unrest in the suppression of others “wrong doings”? At the same time, when does doing God’s work move from generosity and mercy and become missionary manslaughter? This isn’t an issue of whether or not I am comfortable enough in my own skin with my decisions, because quite frankly, that’s no one’s business. And the campaign to persuade me with coercion through a separation from the very fabric, that which humans rely on to thrive and develop, social and familial interdependence, is being wielded as a weapon against my benevolent character. This is why we give people so many chances, this is why it’s hard to let go, why its such a big deal when we get kicked out of the house… because we know a vital legitimacy in staying connected. We should be wary of these intolerances should they come our way, the ones that start to separate us, the ones that make us choose sides, the ones that isolate. The point is, these believers act as transgressors, and their inquiry and judgment of my way of life, and yours, is a total violation.

I’m left to question what these folks consider to be a “private life”. Should or could I have any space outside of the unrest of those acting on God’s behalf? What part of my life doesn’t qualify for their scrupulous examination and judgment? I often hear complaints of too much sin being put “in their faces”, but they are the one’s digging up dirt, holding the shovels and rope. These are the folks holding up the picket signs to God’s face denying all facets of his creation, rejecting “his” will and “his” work. Their shaming diatribe provides as much exhibitionism as anything else. And I think they know full well. I believe they rely on the power of rejection to instill enough discomfort and disconnection toward others to enforce their sentencing in one harsh act or another, and that’s the biggest injustice of all. It’s absolutely inhumane.

*feedback and edits pending


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