Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Don't Tell.

I’m a coward.

I’m also a liar — but only due to my cowardice.

I am a bisexual deist liberal lying coward living in a smallish city in southern Alabama.

I always thought I was pretty brave, actually. I was born and raised in Alabama, though not in this particular city, so I am no stranger to conservatism. There’s not a single Democrat or Independent in my family (aside from myself), and I have a ton of Republican friends. I think I get along with conservatives pretty well, all things considered. I have a lot of practice. I talk politics with the ones (like my dad) who can stomach a bit of spirited debate and not walk away sore about it, and I gear conversations toward other topics around the ones who can’t (or simply won’t) handle it. But despite all my experience in expressing myself amongst conservatives, I now find myself consistently struggling to hide my true self from those surrounding me.

I began identifying as “bisexual” when I was 14, and was not shy about sharing the information with my friends. I was an atheist at 11, an agnostic at 12, and a deist at 13 (yeah, took me awhile to settle down), and I was not shy about sharing the information with anyone who would stand still long enough to receive a lecture on the ills of organized religion. My political beliefs had never meshed with those of my Republican parents, and as my views trended increasingly Leftward, I was not shy about sharing the information with anyone within hearing range of my green, pseudointellectual, anti-Right rants. I vocally defended the oppressed, railed (sometimes a bit overenthusiastically) against Christianity, and loudly barked about the evils of the Right wing.

And all that in the middle of Alabama!  Damn, I thought I was brave.

Now, as the years went by, my views and words were tempered by experience and common sense. I didn’t go out of my way to antagonize those around me. Nor did I go out of my way to make everyone comfortable, though — I always stood up for my beliefs.

Until recently.  

Born and bred in Montgomery, Alabama, I really thought I knew the Deep South. How could I not? It was the first capital of the frackin’ Confederacy! Can’t get more Southern or conservative than that, right? Well, as it turns out… yes, you can. Oh, we may still love squash and fried okra in the capital city, but we are not the Montgomery of yesteryear. Our population is now over fifty percent African American. You are more likely to find CNN or MSNBC playing on a public TV than Fox. Obama stickers easily outnumbered McCain/Palin 2 to 1 last fall. As a teenager, I had plenty of openly gay and bisexual friends, and to my knowledge, no one was ever harassed at my school. You’ll meet plenty of atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and other individuals of non-Christian religious persuasions. And every four years, my home county turns brilliantly blue. All in all, by the time I came up, Montgomery had become a pretty safe place to be a liberal.

But I don’t live in Montgomery anymore.

I moved to my current location just over a year ago, and I discovered pretty quickly that I wasn’t as brave as I’d always believed myself to be. This town has a different “feel” about it. I could feel it the moment I first set foot here. And it really is just a “feeling” you get, rather than something you see on the outside. Yeah, there are visible signs that this is GOP territory. Every public TV is set to Fox. Sure seem to be a lot of gun racks (gun boxes?) in the beds of trucks. I have seen one Obama sticker so far, aside from the one on the back of my car — that means I have seen more bumper stickers supporting Michael Savage for president than supporting our current president. Still, the impression of outrageous conservatism is more felt than seen. Intangible, but powerful.

And I am a pathetic coward.

It’s stifling, the level of conservatism. And for the first time in my life, I am afraid of what those around me will think. I am afraid of what my professors will say or do. My first day of class last fall, my professor (the department head) asked the class what sort of clients we didn’t think we’d be able to work with. I expected to hear “pedophiles” — that’s what I’d always heard in undergrad. Most people don’t think they can work with pedophiles. And I heard that from a couple of people this time around. But the more common response?


They don’t want to work with gays.

The professor listened to them — heard their complaints about homosexuals — and didn’t tell them that they’d lose their licenses if they discriminated. Instead, she launched into stories about how she had counseled people away from homosexual lifestyles. The head of the psychology department at my university believes you can cure gay. I sat there with my head spinning. Maybe if it had just been the students, maybe then I’d have spoken up. I don’t really know — I was outnumbered, so maybe I’d have kept my mouth shut even then. But it was my professor. She works at a Christian counseling center and cures teh queers. Statistics and quotations from other textbooks I’d read in undergraduate school began zipping through my head. Depression endured and suicides committed after homosexuals enroll in those horrible gay-curing programs: The guilt and anguish which comes along with the belief that one’s sexuality is a disease that needs curing, and the deep sense of failure and helplessness that accompanies one’s inability to change something inborn, innate, and fundamental, something which should never be “fixed” or changed. I listened in horrified outrage as my professor extolled the virtues of the counselor who could cure a homosexual and bring him to a godly, Christian lifestyle.

And I just sat there.

With my fucking mouth shut.

Knowing good and goddamn well how wrong she was, how wrong all of them were.

And I said nothing. I knew I had a chance to correct a misconception, to invalidate faulty information, and I didn’t say a word. I sat there seething — my stomach churning, my heart pounding in my ears — and I kept my silence. For the first time in my memory, I didn’t stand up for what I believed in. I caved to fear. What would happen to my grade? How would my classmates and my professor look at me? Would they know I was not a heterosexual? Would I give myself away? Would they be disgusted? Would I be penalized? Why did I suddenly care?

I came home to my apartment. I sat here on my laptop and read your words — the words of other bloggers. I visited all my regular sites, read the words of people who stand up for what they believe in, people I’d felt I had a kinship with only hours before. But suddenly I knew myself to be a coward, and not at all like so many of the people I had admired for months. In a moment of clarity, I knew it: That when push comes to shove — when I am truly alone and outnumbered and uncertain — I am a coward. That knowledge did not lead to any great revelations, really. And over time things got worse. I don’t discuss religion or politics or social issues with my classmates, even those I now count as friends. They think I go to church when I am in Montgomery. They think I am straight. When asked about my relationship status by my Marriage, Sex, and Family Therapy professor last summer, I told the class I was single to avoid admitting that I am currently in a same-sex relationship. Publicly, I identify as an Episcopalian because that was my childhood religion, my parents’ religion. I answer class surveys and assignments as a church-going Christian. I capitalize “god” now. When I end a discussion with my department head, I don’t just hide my lack of religion, I go the extra mile — I say “god bless you,” as fake as press-on nails.

Want to see something really embarrassing that sricki did? Maybe some of you know how adamant I am about there being no divine intervention — no interfering deity — and for over a decade I’ve been st
eadfast in that. But here’s an excerpt from an email I wrote to that professor:

I have to admit, I was upset and disappointed when I first got the news from Dr. ***, but one of my best friends quickly reminded me that there was a reason. And I do believe everything happens for a reason. Maybe the stress would have been too much, but I don’t guess the reason really matters. What I was trying to do obviously wasn’t what God had planned for me, and I just have to trust and have faith that everything will work out even though I’ll have to spend an extra semester here in ***.

I’m not just a coward, I’m a fucking liar — because it helps me hide.

It’s a different breed of conservatism down here — one that’s not open to debate or compromise. I thought I knew conservatism. My parents are conservative Republicans. They watch O’Reilly and Hannity. My dad listens to Limbaugh and Savage and reads Coulter and Libby. They think Obama is a socialist. But… they are not completely irrational about every issue. They understand why Roe shouldn’t be overturned, even though they’re “technically” pro-life. They don’t think Sarah Palin should be Commander in Chief. They are tolerant of other races and of different sexual orientations, including mine. They never felt Bush was a good president. They think Glenn Beck is “crazy” and “a jerk” even though my dad will occasionally tune into his show out of curiosity. They don’t automatically get angry when people challenge them, and even if you can’t convince them of something, they listen. They let you make your point. They don’t automatically cast judgment. And they wouldn’t think any less of any of you for being moderates/Democrats/liberals/progressives.

I have very little “evidence” to support my assertion that things are different down here — that these are different kinds of conservatives. I just sense it. And my lack of proof makes my fear all the more embarrassing.

Regardless, the fear is there.

My girlfriend visits me here far more often than I visit her in Montgomery. I have a “thing” about waking up in my own bed, so I’m not overfond of spending the night out of town. We celebrated our six month anniversary in June. When we go out in public here, I do not touch her. I do not look at her “the wrong way” or say “the wrong things” to her aloud. God forbid anyone should know that we’re together. I didn’t canvass for Obama. I didn’t do a thing for him locally, except cast my vote and drive a car with a bumper sticker — a sticker I would not have placed there, had I been here when he became our nominee. I left it there though. It’s the bravest thing I’ve done all year. I haven’t done anything for healthcare reform locally. My number one issue during the primaries and the GE, and I haven’t made any effort here at all. As time passes, the feeling of malaise only deepens. I write ever fewer diaries as the months go by, and those I do write are lifeless cut-and-paste jobs. My passions wane and fizzle out.

This diary isn’t an apology — my mom always told me that an apology without an accompanying effort to change isn’t a real apology. And I have no particular intention of rectifying this situation. I’m still too afraid — and of what, I’m not even certain. So this is mostly just a confession. A confession which will make me no new friends, and which will probably disappoint a few old ones. I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this. I just feel led to go. Maybe this will be cathartic somehow.

There is an oppressive quality to deep-seated conservatism that I am only just now experiencing and fully coming to understand, despite having grown up in a conservative household in a conservative state. If nothing else, this experience has given me a very new appreciation of the efforts of those of you who have truly sacrificed for your beliefs and for the opportunity to live openly. But for all my admiration for your bravery and your personal struggles, I still lack the courage to follow your examples in this environment. For now, I will probably just toe the line and keep my head down.

In the shadows.  


  1. NavyBlueWife

    I know nearly exactly where you are coming from and what you are feeling…though I will not pretend to have walked even a foot in your shoes.  The intimidation that the conservatives you wrote of is something I recognize…and yet can’t ever seem to understand.

    No amount of cliched responses will suit because you are one damn smart woman.  I have lost my voice too…on a number of occasions…and often feel it faltering now…but in the past, your words – here – have been tremendously supportive in my deep red neck of the woods…we often don’t know the power of our words for good and change in the world…but you have been and continue to be an inspiration to me…particularly with your honesty in this post…

    I hope that you will one day find the freedom to be yourself, to say what you feel even with a shaky voice, regardless of where you live, what you believe, and whom you love.

  2. HappyinVT

    Louisiana and Mississippi, dealing with conservative and liberal folks.  I know what it’s like to feel quite out of place and lonely in a room full of people.  And we all cope the best way we know how.  For some people that is confronting those with whom we disagree.  For others it is not.  You have to do what is right for you.  I certainly won’t think any less of you.  As far as you know, you are one voice in the midst of many opposing voices.  We’re all much braver with allies on our side.  And, speaking for myself, a lot of folks on blogs talk a good game but when push comes to shove we’re sometimes cowards, too.

    Do you really care what these people think?  Are they folks with whom you can have a reasonable debate?  Is there a chance to change some minds?  Will you have long-term and/or special relationships with any of them?  If you can say yes to any or all questions then maybe there will be an opportunity to have such a discussion.  If not, really, what’s the point?  It’s kinda like yelling at teabaggers.  We ain’t changing any minds although it makes us feel better.

    People often move (like I did) to be with like-minded people.  Chances are you will, too.  I might suggest checking out OfA to see if they have anything going on in your area; you may be surprised.  Again, though, with healthcare you probably aren’t going to change any minds.  But you could write a LTE under an assumed name.  🙂  There’s some anonymity there.  I wouldn’t be so involved if I was still in Mississippi.  It’s easy in Vermont ’cause I’m in a huge majority.  Not much fun in the minority.

    I’ve rattled on and probably not said much.  Bottom line, I guess, live your life how you want; confront those morons if you choose but if you don’t I, for one, won’t think less of you.  I probably wouldn’t bother with them.  Asshats.  🙂

  3. before giving it some thought. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this once I’ve had a chance to think it through. But there is one thing I want to say right now. Whatever it is I’m feeling, and this definitely got to me, it isn’t disappointment in you. Not one tiny bit. More like respect that you can see so clearly into yourself.

  4. Hollede

    Safety first! I have been out for 28 years (longer than you have been alive I think) and there are still times I know I must be careful. Sometimes living in the boondocks sucks. Hang in there sweetie and move to a BIG CITY when you can.

  5. …and the news of Senator Kennedy’s death.

    But I’m going to come back this amazing insightful confessional again and again I can sense. And when I have something worthy to say by way of response, I’ll post it.

    Hugs and kisses  

  6. sfnhltb

    I suppose this is the flip side of the same thing that can marginalise bigots in other places – free speech can effectively be limited by the community if a critical mass is reached (or rather a lack of a critical mass of the opposing view, so anyone speaking out can be individually targeted for retribution) – except for those that think they have nothing to lose anyway, or are already ostracised.

    One practical thing you might do is look up the voting patterns of the local district – watching for bumper stickers might be misleading because in a situation like this, as it probably marks the car out as a target for “pranks”, whereas the vote is anonymous and might let you get an idea if there is actually a fair chunk of people just keeping quiet and playing along, or if it really is wall to wall GOP.

    For all you know, there might even be a number in your class, but to them you are part of the problem – they could be on some other blog making very similar complaints. This is why I would try not to play along unless you feel you have no option – not challenging them is perfectly understandable in the situation, as the risks doubtless outweigh the odds of actually making people like that change their views.

  7. DeniseVelez

    You are sanely dealing with the reality of your environment.

    Struggle against oppressions does not mean having to become a martyr.  I fought strongly in the 60’s and 70’s against my friends embracing concepts of revolutionary suicide.  I lived watching my grandmother work as white (which she was) and live in the black community.  You might call that living a lie. I call it self-preservation. She was able to go on and become a block buster, buying homes in all white neighborhoods and “innocently” sell them to black families.

    Re-examine what you can do from your vantage point on gender/LGBTQ issues.  That doesn’t mean you have to be “out” in your neighborhood, or job.

    A big hug for this diary.  You shared how you are feeling, but don’t beat yourself up with such a big bat.  Try a feather, and then sit back and see how you can be an effective “mole” in a homophobic world.

  8. louisprandtl

    your diary for past 20 minutes and time fly by. I’ve a meeting to attend in 10 minutes and there will be colleagues who are openly gay, bisexual, straight et al. And nobody cares or atleast not openly. And this is not a liberal office environment, we are part of the warmachine which makes F22s, F35s and rockets! I guess we are lucky in the NorthEast. I’m sure I’ll have something more coherent to say this evening.

  9. incredibly powerful diary sricki.

    and your story, albeit so alien to me on so many levels is exactly what ‘progress through politics’ is all about. we must not forget that we are all but ordinary people who would like to see a better world and that is why we are here writing, talking and debating.

    and it seems to me that if we approach our world and the issues with humility rather than aggression, we can be a part of making things better.  as someone said to me yesterday,

    Not solved.  Not fixed.  Better.

    as to your cowardice, far from it. i believe its called knowing your audience and sadly in 2009 we have towns, cities and countries where people are fearful to just be themselves. just know that there are people the world over that not only disagree with small-mindedness but accept you just the way that you are.

    this diary will remain with me for a long time bbb – xoxo.

  10. anna shane

    they were scary.  You fell into a surreal swamp.  Do you have a therapist?  And a lawyer?  

    Don’t waste a minute being hard on yourself, you were effectively silenced by a mob.  There is really no chance that this prof had no idea there might have been someone in the class she was intimidating.

    I don’t know what state you’re in or what the licensing rules are for psychologists, but in California she’d be investigated, and she’d likely lose her license.  

    Can you get someone to make a call to the Board of Behavioral Science or whatever the licensing agency is in your state, and get a copy of their regulations?  

    If you are in therapy and you tell your therapist what happened, your therapist might be obligated to make the complaint for you.

    In the mean time, keep warm and comfortable, drink tea, comfort yourself, you’ve just been ‘gang-banged’.  

  11. fogiv

    this diary is just blowing me away.  I’ve read it four times already, and still can’t figure out what to say.

    you’re no coward, that much I know.

  12. I find it to be an open, honest, direct examination of the effects of fear, hatred and malice perpetrated via mob thinking and action.  This bisexual atheist salutes and embraces you for giving your truth to us all, which I believe is our greatest gift.

    Please cross-post this at SexGenderBody.  There are many over there who would love this.  I’ve already tweeted it here at the Moose.

    Awesome stuff, really.


  13. One thing that struck me while reading it was that it is an  incredibly well-written diary. I think it is the piece de resistance of everything I’ve ever read by you.

    The reason it took me so long to comment on this diary is because this is one of those subjects where fools rush in where angels fear to tread. It is far too easy to jump to one side or the other. My liking for you makes me sympathetic to your situation. My personal feelings about speaking out and confronting bullies makes me want to push you to stand up and be counted. Both of those responses rest on flawed thinking.

    What I or anyone else might do in this situation is irrelevant. I am not you. You are just starting out in life while I am in the latter part of mine. I have far less to fear than someone much younger than myself. As someone mentioned above, it is easy to fight back when you have nothing to lose. That is the quintessential ‘cornered rat’ scenario.

    The differences in our ages, personalities, and circumstances are quite significant. That definitely has a bearing on how we react to similar situations.

    While I can’t really think of a time when I was in the same situation as you are facing now, I did live in MS for a couple of years, as you know. The area wasn’t quite as deep red as where you are, but it wasn’t far off. Maybe some of what I experienced is relevant.

    What I found in MS was totally different than anywhere else I’ve lived in my life. I was a liberal atheist living in a conservative Christian enclave. The people in that area were the kind that put up giant replicas of the Statue of Liberty in front of a church holding a Bible instead of her torch.

    The one time I visited a doctor while I was living there, I found myself in an awkward situation with a true believer. My fiancee was in the hospital and very weak. I’d gotten a sore throat and was afraid to go visit her until it was cleared up. This was the first time in months that I hadn’t been at the hospital every day. I was understandably upset. This was also only a few weeks before she passed away and I was facing up to what was coming. Although I’d kept up a brave face in front of everyone else involved, including my fiancee, I admitted my fears to the doctor.

    The doctor turned out to be a true believer. The sign on the front of his practice mentioned Christianity. There were religious brochures in his office. When I explained my situation to him he offered me a brochure for a bereavement group at a local church.

    That’s when I told him I didn’t share his beliefs. I told him I didn’t really care about his beliefs as long as he wasn’t going to write a prescription for prayer instead of an antibiotic. We actually had a good discussion about the situation I was in and I found myself telling him things I hadn’t been able to admit to anyone else down there. In fact, I cried real tears in front of another person for the first time during that whole ordeal.

    Before I left his office, he offered a kind ear and his sympathy. He gave me some sleeping pills to help me with the insomnia that had become an every night thing and said he’d rush through the tests to find out if I was contagious. He called the next day to say it was safe for me to visit her in the hospital.

    There is a point behind this anecdote.

    I could have stayed silent about my beliefs while talking to him. I could even have bowed my head and pretended to pray when he offered to join me in a prayer for Gina. But if I had done that we wouldn’t have connected in the way we eventually did. My silence would have been a negative judgment about his ability for tolerance and compassion. Only by speaking out did I find out that he was not the rabid Evangelical that I assumed him to be.

    The same is true of the people you are interacting with on an everyday basis. How do you know they would be so intolerant? How do you know for sure that some of them, maybe many of them, aren’t hiding their true feelings, just as you are?

    You can’t know unless you open up a little bit.

    That doesn’t mean getting on a soap box in the quad and raging against hypocrisy. It can be something as little as dropping a minor comment into a conversation.

    There are gay people who are so deep in the closet that they become anti-gay. Ted Haggard is a perfect example. If someone says something like, “Homosexuals make me sick” the closeted gay feels like they have to add something like, “Yeah, those fags are disgusting.” I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but even I know this has to be emotionally and psychologically harmful.

    You are doing something like that to yourself when you pretend to share their religious beliefs. I’m not saying you should speak out against them or even do what I did with the doctor. Silence would at least allow you to avoid feeling like a liar or hypocrite.

    What I try to do when confronted with statements I find offensive is to say something that I hope will make the person think about what they just said. In the situation I described above I’d probably say something like, “I try to follow the Bible’s advice on this and judge not lest I be judged.”

    All of my family and most of my friends know my religious beliefs, or lack thereof, yet I bow my head if I am in a group that feels the need to pray. At a funeral, for instance. I don’t see that as hypocrisy, I see it as tolerance for the beliefs of others.

    Ultimately, whatever you do is something you will have to live with for the rest of your life. Only you can make these decisions. What is right for you isn’t necessarily what would be right for someone else.

    I have a lifetime’s supply of regrets. Anyone who doesn’t must have led a very shallow life. While many of my biggest regrets are from those times when I failed to speak up or take action, many others are from times when I should have held my tongue. I guess that comment isn’t all that helpful to you in this situation.

    One thing you might do is to search for a freethinker group in that area. You might be surprised to find there are like-minded people all around you. I was feeling isolated in MS and I found a couple of groups in the area. They can be found everywhere by searching the web. You could stick with the mailing list or, if you felt brave enough, go to one of their get-togethers. I had dinner with one of the groups a couple of times and met some of them for a cleanup project at the local city park. It was a welcome relief to find people who felt as out of place as I did. Many of them were transplants like me, but many of them were also lifelong residents of the area.

    Here’s one in northern Alabama – I’m pretty sure you can find a similar one in any university area.

    We all love you, sricki.

    All of the above can be summed up in four words – stay true to yourself.

  14. Kysen

    I waited to comment….did not really know what to say….or how to say it.

    Most of what I would say in person, has already been voiced by other Moose.

    You are well loved here, sricki, and we all have your back. We, to the best of our abilities, each want to lend support in whatever manner we can. Be it our words, our ears, our shoulders…you are a vital part of the Moose family and we are in your corner.

    What I most want to reiterate, though, is that you are NOT a coward. I think John makes a very astute point here:

    I have a lifetime’s supply of regrets. Anyone who doesn’t must have led a very shallow life. While many of my biggest regrets are from those times when I failed to speak up or take action, many others are from times when I should have held my tongue.

    It isn’t always best to speak out. In fact, a wise man (woman) learns when it is to the best advantage to do so….or not to do so. Would you go to your parent’s church and stand in the pulpit and extoll the superiority of atheism to the congregation? Of course not, for it would do not a lick of good and possibly would do harm. Like someone upthread said, it is knowing one’s audience. You are, unfortunately, in a place where your audience would not ‘hear’ you…they would just ‘see’ you differently. And the difference they would see would put you at potential risk…not just socially, but also physically (and, in this situation, could very well affect your grades in school).

    It is a situation that requires a risk-benefit analysis. From my perspective….based on your diary….I would have say that the risks of speaking out in your situation far outweigh the benefits. That is not cowardice….that is logic and rational thought.

    I wish I had more ‘original’ content…but, not surprisingly, my fellow Moose have already said it far more eloquently than I could have.

    That having been said…my heart goes out to you darlin’. I hope that you soon find your way out of the redder than red area you find yourself in at the moment…until then, I think I can speak for everyone here when I say that you have the ears and the shoulders (and whatever other support we can provide) of the Moose…you have long had our hearts. We love you, kiddo.

    Hugs your way, sweetheart….

  15. louisprandtl

    You’re a powerful person and a brave soul. Your piece is a powerful indictment of the situation you find yourself in and in general of the contemporary society in the so-called Heartland of Real America. What is surprising that you found this in a University. This is absolutely apalling. Please don’t feel that you have anything cowardly. This dairy is the pièce de résistance of any of the blog diaries I’ve ever read. This is a big step of your protest.

    Today is another yet day that I’m glad I get to read this blog. I sincerely wish we can play this song of Archive to that professor! I’m sorry but she is a great shame to any academic institution.

  16. creamer

     I think it takes a great deal of courage to live your life your way when you know your walking a different path than those around you. I think you do more to change hearts and minds by suceeding in your goals than by trying to straighten out every asshole you meet in this world. Just follow your dream. When you have arrived at your goal, be it your own practice, research job whatever. You can sit on the porch of your house, embracing the partner of your choice, and know that you were not deterred or sidetracked by those with smallminds.

    If you have your own practice you might find yourself counseling some of those who now would treat you with disdain.

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