Category Archives: Thoughts

THE WORST PARTS OF MR. PETTIT’S “BE A MAN” SERMON

On January 28, 2019, Mr. Steve Pettit, President of Bob Jones University, preached a sermon called “Be a Man,” in which he exhorted his listeners vaguely and with nearly no guidance as to particulars, to be kind of like the Marlboro man, but not really. Tough, but not so much. You know, Christlike, but without content. Here are the worst parts.

In India, men hold hands walking down the street. In Russia, men kiss each other on the lips. Here we don’t do that—even with Dr. Horn–because it’s gay. Don’t walk, talk, act, or dress like a woman. Don’t let anyone confuse you with a woman. Cut your hair, son.

He could have stopped with those tidbits. But he preached a whole sermon. I have the transcript, and I wrote a full treatment of it, but it’s too long, so I’m editing it down to The Ten Worst Things He Said. (Edit: Thirteen worst. There were thirteen worst things.)

1. Manhood is comprised of what man is and what he should do
.

This is not true. Manhood is a state of being. “What he should do” is not encompassed in what he is. Manhood, according to Mr. Pettit, lies in whether he has a “male part” or a “female part.” (College students are too young to hear the word “wee-wee.”)

2. Spirituality is the highest aspect of manhood. Nothing else about creation can commune with God like man can.

This is false. Women also commune with God, as do little boys and little girls. It is no use his saying, “of course I’m speaking of humans generically,” because he isn’t. He’s speaking specifically about men in this sermon, so we understand that in the absence of qualifying the word as generic, he means the word man to indicate male humans.

3. Sin affected our spirituality and marred the image of biblical manhood as God intended it to be.

This is no one’s interpretation of Genesis 1. Rather, it is the Image of God—that is in view, and this Imago Dei applies equally to men and women.

4. Jesus came so we can be transformed into the Image of Perfect Manhood.

This is false. Jesus came to atone for the sins of humanity (or “his people” if you’re a Calvinist) and to preach the Kingdom of Heaven. I have been alive for 58 years, in church for long decades (mostly fundy churches) and “the image of perfect manhood” is a thing I have never heard.

5. Men and Women are differentiated at birth by whether they have a male part or a female part.

Leaving aside the silliness of his terminology, this is not always the case. Though a small minority, there are people for whom this is not true, wholly beloved children of God, their ambiguous genitalia notwithstanding. My husband, who has been a NICU nurse for over twenty years, has been in the delivery room a number of times when neither “It’s a boy!” nor “It’s a girl!” could be said. Where parents were told, “We can’t tell yet. We’ll have to do more testing.” In some cases, it has happened that even testing proved inconclusive as to biological gender. Mr. Pettit is either cruel or thoughtless in being dismissive of those few people among his listeners who are among the intersex community.

6. Men and women should maintain proper gender distinctions so that there is no confusion of the sexes.

Excuse me? In my 58 years (did I mention I’m 58?), there have been only a very few times when I have encountered someone whose presented gender was so ambiguous (to me) that I could not conclude whether they were presenting male or female, if either. Not everyone chooses to present gendered. I use the terms I use to make sure you are aware that the person you are encountering is the boss of how they present themselves in a particular context. Their genitalia is of no concern to you unless you are considering a more intimate relationship. That is, gender confusion is an individual concern. Whether you are confused about someone else’s gender is your problem. Step back, sir.

7. Man is the lord of the Creation.

The Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1 was given to both Adam and Eve. It is not gendered.

8. (Delivered in a raised voice) All men are to be leaders. If you don’t feel like it, you don’t understand what it is to be a leader or you need to be a man. To reject leadership is to reject manhood. Men are charged to be in charge.

This is false. Jesus calls his followers to follow. To be servants. Nor does Mr. Pettit explain what all this leading is about. He mentions no specifics. He gives no guidance. “Cultivating relationship” is a non-gendered activity. “Producing results” is a non-gendered goal. There is nothing he mentions that is specific to men, let alone godly Christian men.

Furthermore: Not all men are leaders. It’s okay, gentlemen, if you are a quiet non-leader. Jesus doesn’t care. If you never give a sermon. If you never give your testimony. If you decide, along with your housemates or partner or wife to split up the income earning responsibilities or child-rearing or homeschooling or budgeting, it doesn’t matter. You do you. Jesus doesn’t care. Jesus does not put these burdens on us: How manly is manly enough? He doesn’t address it. He doesn’t care.

9. Biblical masculinity is not for the immature children, but only for grown men.

Haha, no. If there is a thing called biblical masculinity, it would be for all male people, not just the adult ones. Otherwise, you would not tell your son, “Don’t run like a girl. Cut your hair.” If you do not believe this, put your infant son in a flowered, pink onesie next time you take him to church nursery.

10. Christ is the goal of all true masculinity. Jesus is the perfect man, and in him and through him we can have the grace to be like him.

No. Jesus is the role model for all his followers, girls and boys, women and men. There are zero examples of Jesus doing anything specific to his maleness that women and girls cannot emulate in being like him. There is no differentiation by gender when looking at Jesus.

11. Manhood is a calling from God to be like Jesus.

No—and more stridently—no. Because you have a penis, God wants you to be like Jesus? Come on, now. The calling from God to be like Jesus is for all of us without respect to “parts.”

12. Manhood is a calling where he has opened up the way for us to follow in his steps.

No. Following in the steps of Jesus is not gendered. It is not gender-specific. It is not distinctly male. Your manliness is distinct from your faith. You are not more manly or more correctly-male if you are particularly devout. The flip-side is also true. If you are more traditionally masculine than other men, you are not somehow more a man of faith than others by virtue of that gender presentation. These two aspects of your life are distinct.

13. Manhood does not come naturally, and it does not come easily.

Oh, come now. Do you have a male part or don’t you?

There is so much here. So much to unpack. So much conflict. So much burden of not being able to perform in public what one has been taught is the correct amount of manliness. Manhood is a state of being. It is not a performance. Or is it?

Mr. Pettit missed an opportunity to exhort the men in his audience to respect a woman’s sexual and emotional boundaries, to stand in solidarity with the abused and oppressed, to speak truth, to give to the poor. To reject racism, rape-culture, misogyny, child abuse, and domestic violence within the church and the wider community. He missed an opportunity to exhort single men to study hard and get ready for their vocation. He missed an opportunity to tell fathers to play ball with their children and teach them about Jesus and love their mother and visit their grandma and invite in the unloved, the marginalized, the different. He missed an opportunity to talk about missions and Gospel and living for the good of others—giving money and time to good causes that help people. He focused on vague ideas of Christlikeness that apply to both men and women and then yelled at men who don’t see themselves in leadership roles. Let’s face it, a lot of men in leadership roles shouldn’t be there. He could have prayed more than “help us be more loving, gracious, good, strong, brave, and courageous”—traits that apply to both men and women.

But he didn’t say any of that, most of which would apply to any man regardless of faith. Just don’t walk like a girl. Don’t talk like a girl. Don’t act like a girl. Cut your hair. I wonder what he’s thinking exactly. And I wonder why they are always thinking about that.

No, of course I don’t have to do this sort of thing, but Brian said, “Write it up,” and what could I do? I’m all submissive to my lord and master.

OPEN LETTER TO Bob Jones University’s LGBTQ+ STUDENTS ON THE OCCASION OF THE CONFERENCE ON GENDER AND SEXUALITY

You are not alone.

Yes, I’m talking to you. Hiding in your dorm. Lurking over at Starbucks. I see you in all your beautiful gayness, queerness, transness, or whateverness that makes you the wonderful person you are. I know you’re wondering if you can be gay and still love Jesus. You can. A great cloud of believing gay witnesses cheers you on, especially next week as you walk around the Bob Jones University campus during the “Sex, Gender and the Church” conference, wondering whether your L or G or B or T or Q or I is obvious to everyone and whether you’ll fall apart at the seams if you have to go through much more of this.

You are not alone this week when the arrows of Scripture and Culture have been sharpened and aimed at you. You’re right. You’re standing there, and they are aiming, but you are not alone. We are here. We stand with you.

We want you to know that when you were formed in your mother’s womb, you were gay. You have always been gay or bi or trans or a- or whatever you are that makes you you, try as you might to change your orientation to straight or your gender identity to your assigned birth gender. You may have tried over and over to fix yourself. You couldn’t. Not because you’re weak or sinful, but because you aren’t broken. There’s nothing to fix.

As a Fundamentalist, you might not be aware that there are helpful books by LGBT Christians that will help you in your growth toward wholeness and authenticity. When you are safe and have time, read this book and this book and this book by Christians about gayness. Read and realize that you’re not the first person to walk this path. Others have come before you. You are not alone.

The truth is there are a lot of gay people in the BJU world. Students, faculty, staff, alumni. It’s no secret, for example, that a number of BJU administrators have gay children. Tweak the settings on your gaydar and look around. You’re not stupid. You’re not blind. And you’re not alone.

But wait, you say, those people my gaydar has homed in on aren’t Actually Gay. They are “struggling” with same-sex attraction. That’s called being gay. If you’re a girl and you are same-sex attracted to other girls, you’re gay. If you’re a boy and you get the hots for your roomie, you’re gay. If you’re also interested in “Opposite Marriage” (otherwise known as “Traditional,” though it’s far from traditional if you get right down to it, historically speaking), you may be bisexual. Bisexuality is a thing, lots of people go there, and you might be one of them.

I wasn’t always an affirming ally. In my time, I’ve done a lot of “Gay People Are Rebelling Against God” and “You’re Not Really Gay, You’re Just Trying to Hurt Your Parents” and “Don’t Run Like a Girl,” and even, “You Can’t be Gay and Saved,” but the time came when I could no longer simply repeat what I’d been taught in Fundamentalism. I was a grown adult, a mother, a teacher, a lawyer, and I simply had to educate myself. I had to learn. I had to reach out to people who had walked this path. I found gay Christians and gay former Christians who were gracious enough to share their stories with me. I discovered BJUnity. I listened. I learned. I changed my mind. People in your life may eventually change too. Hope and pray for that while moving forward with your life.

It’s particularly hard now, because you’re a student or an employee of BJU, but the day may come when you realize that the people teaching you are, by and large, academically incestuous (BJU grads taught by BJU grads taught by BJU grads), and the people running the place are scraping the bottom of the ultraconservative barrel to find enough paying students to keep the lights on. Most Fundy colleges have closed up shop, and BJU’s enrollment has been in steady decline for many years. Conferences like the one you’re suffering through now, are efforts to market the school to whatever demographic is left that might think, “You’re right, I need to keep my kids away from gay people for four more years.” The problem this demographic faces is that today’s young people have opened their hearts to their gay friends, and because of this I’m confident you are among the very last gay people who need to hide their authentic selves. People are coming around.

Which is not to say that BJU as an entity will ever become affirming or even tolerant of gay people. Because of this, never EVER out yourself at BJU to anyone, but if you do, possibly because someone guilts you into “honesty” or “openness” or “accountability,” let it be a trusted friend, not ever a member of the Administration, who, although their own children, or their friend’s children are gay, will out you to your family, your home church, and then, in “love” and “Christian charity” expel you.

They’ll ship you, possibly days before final exams, possibly without any warning, leaving you with no credits, but all your student loan debt. On your way off campus, they’ll make sure you hear them when they call your orientation sin and abomination and corruption and perversion, but you are not broken. You are fine. You are who you are, and that is okay. Things are going to get better. You will not long be in an atmosphere that stifles your expression, others your identity and condemns your biology. You’re going to make decisions that are in your own best interest as a functioning adult in American society. BJU is a byway on your journey to adulthood and independence. It is not your destination. It is not your life’s template for godliness.

Don’t put yourself in a situation that leaves you without food- or housing-security. Living in the dorm and eating in the Dining Common are probably better than being outed to your family, shunned by your church, and crashing at a shelter. Closets are small and dark, but they can also be cozy and safe. It’s not wrong to be closeted. You don’t OWE other gay people your story or your honesty right now. Later you can go there. Later you can be loud and proud and no one will hurt you. (By the way, sit for a moment and ask yourself why you are at a college that frightens you into obedience with threats of expulsion. Just sit there. Just ask that.)

When someone at school asks you “Are you gay?” or “Do you struggle with same-sex attraction,” feel free to say, “Gurl, no way!” or “Of course not, Mr. Jones. Why do you ask?” It isn’t lying if you’re hiding Jews in the attic, and you, my friend, are fine and fabulous if you need to hide yourself in order to be safe.

Remember, these are people who will expel you from grown-up college if they think you are gay. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never even held hands with someone of the same gender. It doesn’t matter if you tell them, “Yes, I’m gay, but I’m committed to living a life of celibate abstinence for the glory of Jesus.” They will expel you for being gay. They will expel you for being gay. They will expel you for being gay. Am I clear?

Let them say otherwise. Let them say, “As long as our gay students follow the same rules our straight students follow—not to engage in pre-marital sexual contact—they are welcome here.”

They aren’t going to say that, are they? No, probably not. But be aware that the people who are making your life so difficult right now are not important people. If you’re a legacy student, you may have grown up hearing their names. You may have come to think they are Somebodies. But they aren’t. They are nobodies, just like the rest of us. They are employees at a small (and getting smaller by the year) increasingly irrelevant school you happened to stumble into for whatever reason. You can leave at any time. Get a job, get an apartment, and go to Greenville Tech. Or just go home. No one can keep you at BJU against your will. The people telling you to stay and to have sexual feelings you don’t have (but heavens! don’t act on those feelings!) are underpaid, overworked teachers and administrators who somehow acquired the entitled notion that it’s their right and duty to tell you that God can’t love you or save you if you finally—after years of praying and anguishing about it, and maybe even submitting to barbaric “treatments”—give in and say, “That’s it. I’m gay. I am so very very gay.” On the other hand (see above), don’t leave if it would put you in a position of being without food- or housing-security. Right now, that’s probably more important to you. Don’t put yourself in danger.

Until you can leave (when you graduate or sooner), know that you are not alone. BJUnity (see below for our contact info and mission statement) is here in compassion and outreach. We can help with counseling. We can put you in touch with those who have gone before you who now live authentically, joyfully as Christians (or not) in the big wide beautiful world. Your communication with us will be private, confidential. Unlike Jim Berg, who “wasn’t aware” that he should keep sexual abuse survivors’ information private, we are careful to do so. Your time at BJU is short. A few years at the longest. Be safe. Be closeted. Until you are ready. And then, my friend, BE YOU.

(And here’s a note to those of you who are reading this who aren’t gay, and who are struggling with whether you should affirm your gay kid: Affirm them. Love them. Reach out to BJUnity–read the testimonies there. Consider. Think. Jesus is not going to send you to hell for reading. The ground will not open up under you for taking a long, considered look at the books mentioned above. Take a breath. Open your heart.)

If you need us, we’re here.

Web site: BJUnity.org
Email: unity@bjunity.org
Phone: (864) 735-7598
Mailing Address: 4768 Broadway, No. 911 · New York, NY · 10034

BJUnity provides a safe harbor—a network of people and resources—for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and straight affirming people affected by fundamentalist Christianity.

BJUnity affirms and empowers lgbt+ people from Bob Jones University and other Independent Fundamental Baptist organizations.

BJUnity confronts homophobia and transphobia in compassion, dignity and love, with the objective to promote dialogue and change.

REPLY TO MOM WHO GIVES HER SON TO THE DEVIL: Why are you talking to Satan, Madam?

Yes, this is long, and yes, it’s pointed, and yes, the woman at whom it’s directed will be offended if she sees it. But she’s the person who put her business all out there on the interwebs, and when you do that, sometimes people read it and get all huffy at you, especially when you write what she wrote. To which I react:

Recently I became aware of a Christian mother who is bemoaning the loss of her son to the quicksand of sin that is taking him inexorably to Hell. Turns out he’s gay and Mom cannot even deal. In fact, she used the occasion of his supergay wedding to release a blog post in which she details her agony. You see, son’s gayness means she can never ever see him again. Because Jesus.

Jesus says (apparently) if your kid goes all gay on you, you have to yell at him all the time, or at the very least litter the house with “Gay Blade” Chick tracts when he comes over. Which he doesn’t. Because Chick tracts are gross and porny.

“I pray,” this mom says to her readers, “that you never have to make such a sacrifice, but I also pray that you love the Lord enough to choose Him over your children. This is where we find ourselves. This is our life.”

It’s their life not to be pleasant to this adult man who happens to be gay. No, they must lob Gospel bombs at him. Also, crying a lot is required. All the time and everywhere, but most especially it’s necessary to publish a hate-piece about his gayness on his wedding day. Awkward!

Speaking of choosing your children over Jesus, what does that even mean? Does that mean we won’t hang with our kids if they take to drinking? Or will we turn our backs if they are preggers-sans-marriage? What if they embezzle? What if they speed? Of course not, you judgy thing you! Not just any sin will do. It’s just the creepy gay sins that break the ties that bind, amirite?

Cuz, seriously, gay sex is so gay, she can’t even.

“In spite of our all our attempts, he refuses to repent.” What this means is simply, “He won’t stop being gay, so we’ve washed our hands of him,” which allusion doesn’t pull up images of Pontius Pilate with her, no one knows why.

I wonder if this dear lady has read any of the literature. Any of the testimonies of tormented gay kids who strive with all their hearts to please God, who beg God to make them straight, toggle the hetero-switch, fix them. No one gets fixed. Gay people stay gay same as hetero people stay hetero and bi people stay bi. You is who you is, all your parents’ “attempts” (translate: screaming, hauling you to pastoral counseling, various invasive therapies) notwithstanding.

What Mom should do here, of course, is realize that her son is an adult, adult enough that one of the 50 states granted him and his husband a marriage license, and she should treat him like any other adult with whom she comes in contact: with civility and pleasantness. There’s no need to be super-duper-closies, but by the same token there’s no need to vomit your sobbing broken heart all over the internet on your son’s wedding day. Why not just send a card?

“We have no fellowship,” Mom continues. “Fellowship” is a churchy word that indicates hanging out. They used to hang out. Now they don’t. Cuz son is too gay for words. They don’t even text! He’s so gay she can’t even trade emojis with him!

“Our son has turned his back on everything he ever believed.” This is likely true. He used to believe in his foolish little-boy heart, “Mommy will always love and accept me no matter what.”

“He has no respect for the Lord or the church.” Don’t worry, Mom. He’ll find a supportive, affirming church. Rest easy. It’s okay. It won’t be your church, but since you can’t even stand to text him, you’re probably relieved.

“He has chosen a life of sin rather than the hope of salvation.” Please. There are lots and lots of gay Christians. Don’t believe me, ask around. More importantly, if he’s concerned about this, he will ask around, and the biggest obstacle to his joining a group of affirming believers, Madam, is you and your hateful wedding day rant which even I—who have no relation to you and have never heard of you and only just happened to hear about through friends of friends who were all equally appalled—happened to read!

“Do we overlook his practice or sin . . . or withdraw ourselves from him as the Lord instructs?” Here, you’re just looking for people to pat you on the shoulder and say, “Well, honey, you’re right. You’ve got to separate from him. Here, have a special hug.” But the fact is, if you look around carefully, you’re going to find that all sorts of Fundamentalist and Evangelical and WhateverDenominationYouAre people happily include their LGBT relatives in their lives. They may rant away in the pulpit, but the kid comes home for Thanksgiving.

I could give you names on that one, but I’m committed to not outing people. But here’s a morsel of info: I know an administrator at an uberfundamentalist school whose kid is like yours—maybe even gayer!—and the parents do Thanksgiving and even (I know, it’s shocking) Christmas with this kid!

Speaking of other people’s kids, I’m always amazed/horrified when people take to the Internet to shame their kids. You know those parents who post pics of their kids wearing the “Get Along” shirt or standing on the street corner holding some sign that says how bad they were. These sorts of parents deserve what they get from these kids. When you shame a child in public, serves you right when the grandkids don’t know who you are and don’t care.

She goes on: “I know the pain of ‘giving our son to the Devil.’” Seems to me he gave himself, in your estimation, a long time ago.

More importantly, are you aware, madam, that he’s not yours to give, and that, anyway, the Apostle Paul is speaking figuratively here? His meaning is quite clear, if you think about it—leave the person alone who isn’t behaving as you’d like, and let things shake out on their own. You realize, don’t you, that you don’t have the authority to allow Satan authority over your son, right? I mean, seriously, who do you think you are? And besides, even if that were the case, what could Satan possibly do more to him than make him gay, and you yourself did that by bringing him into the world all gay and stuff.

Would you have aborted him had you known that fetus was one gay fetus? I mean, from what you’re saying, it seems that sometimes we have to separate from our children when they make these “choices”! It’s reminiscent of Andrea Yates, that very disturbed woman who drowned her five children before they could reach the age of accountability, or that man I once saw on Forensic Files who killed his family because they were becoming worldly. Ironic!

Speaking of choices, have you ever talked to 50 or 100 gay people? Asked them when they chose to be gay? Did you imagine, Ma’am, that your son, in some pubescent moment of Shakespearean indecision—To be gay or not to be; that is the question!—made a list of pros and cons, took a survey of his friends, or otherwise deliberately determined his sexuality by making a decision, as you might decide whether to have toast or oatmeal this morning? Rather, did not his pulse quicken when he laid eyes on a cute boy, and did this and other experiences not continue to happen without his consent merely because he is gay? He has always been gay, your son. You could not have stopped this. You could never have stopped this. You should realize then that you are absolved from the incredible guilt you are obviously feeling and flinging all over the internet, and which your friends in your comments are soothing with their kind words of “oh, how awful for you.”

“Until now, I have only shared with a couple of close friends . . .” But today on his wedding day, you’ve decided to go full Pentagon Papers and tell the entire world. Good on you, gal!

Some days you shed only a tear. Other days are full of gut-wrenching cries of despair. I wonder if sonny-boy has this same experience. Maybe you should ask him: “Hey, Buddy, some days I am gut-wrenchingly despaired that you’re not in my life, but other days not so much. You?”

Many days she drives into her driveway with tears blinding her eyes, literally screaming and wailing in grief, desperate, hopeless. Ummmm, he’s not dead, Ma’am. Pick up the phone and give him a call if you don’t believe me.

“I’m devastated by our loss; his loss.” Oh, you are, are you? Are you devastated by his loss—that his mother won’t speak to him? That his mother chose his wedding day to issue this global emotional rant about her embarrassment about his life? That his mother has chosen not to speak to him for the past three years? To remedy this, bake a pan of brownies and go over there and apologize for your obtuseness. Say sorry.

Does everyone in your life have to live by your religious rigors? Or is it just your son? Do you distance yourself from every LGBT person (your barista, for example), or is it just your son and his husband? Indeed, do you distance yourself from everyone who is involved in a “life of sin” (your neighbor who lives with her boyfriend and their respective children, for example?) or is it just the sinning fruit of your own womb you can’t bear to have in your life?

“I don’t know this person I once thought I knew so well. Was I blind to things that I should have seen?” Yes. You were. You didn’t notice your sweet boy was gay. And once you were apprised of this, you were blind to the fact that it wasn’t your business. And now that he’s married, you’re blind to the fact that you have on purpose tossed him out of your life because he’s not sexually attracted to girls.

You made this all about you. Indeed, you know that. “I feel embarrassed by what my son has done.” And there it is—we have a winner! Admitting the problem is the first step to recovery. You’re embarrassed. It’s so gay, after all! How could a gay child have come out of your womb, your home, your faithful teaching of the Bible? How could anyone, brought up by YOU possibly be GAY?

“I believed our relationship was so close. I adored this child. Was the love our son expressed to us all a lie? How does one go from being a respectful obedient child to flagrantly disregarding everything we taught him and everything that we stand for?”

Holy crap! Do you even hear yourself? You’re saying that because it turns out your son is gay he was lying about his love for you. Wait wait, there’s more. You admit that he was such a perfect respectful obedient child who went all gay and flagrantly so. This respectful, obedient, loving child—so it happens!—is gay! That’s all! He’s a good boy. He’s a loving boy. He’s a respectful boy. Who, as it happens, is gay.

All the anger and animosity and hate and wailing and tears and hopelessness and anger and blasphemy and nontexting and never-see-ums are not because he’s gay; they’re the results of your response to his being gay. He’s a respectful, loving person. You’re the one who freaked out. You’re the one who wasn’t prepared for the news and went loony tunes when you heard it. You’re the person who lost it.

He used to help you peel potatoes and now he’s all gay. He used to look at you all adoringly and now he’s gay. He used to stir ingredients into the batter. MOM! He grew up! Do you really want him to stir the stew and adore you now? Really? Sounds like someone needs to get a life, and I have three sons and know whereof you speak. Stir your own stew already. The boy is grown.

As to your inability to sleep through the night, maybe get a prescription. I mean, there are mothers whose kids are in San Quentin who are coping better than you are.

“I try to picture where my son is now and what he may be doing . . .” Okay, did you just say that? Stop with that nonsense. Do you want him to imagine what you and his daddy are doing right now? No, because that’s gross. We do not go around imagining the sexual habits of others. We just don’t, because that’s creepy and stalky. Ask Miss Manners if you don’t believe me.

And speaking of stalky, you can’t keep yourself from lurking his social media. Stop that, too. Not your beeswax, okay? If you can’t even text him or send him a Congrats on Your Wedding card, you don’t get to stare at his Facebook all the time.

“I remember singing harmony together in the kitchen. I remember the pride I felt when he led singing or gave a talk at young men’s night at church. Those memories are all I have left now. There are no more to make.”

Sure, but that’s your choice, Mom. It’s way more your choice than it is his. He’s gay. He can’t help that. But you’ve chosen not to see him, and every day that you don’t see him you are choosing that.

By the way, that thing about the singing and the men’s talks—seems like maybe you were super invested in his ministry potential. You need to let that one go. There are lots of things about our kids that we don’t get to choose. Whether they’ll be pastors and whether they’ll be gay rank among those.

“He was such a handsome boy, an excellent student, a talented musician.” What? Did his gayness make him ugly or stupid or cause him to forget the notes?

“He was so kind and thoughtful of others.” And now he’s a monster?

“He loved his siblings.” And now he hates them? If so, whose fault is that?

“We used to receive the most precious cards” on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. And now you don’t? Go Figure! I just can’t imagine why he isn’t handmaking cards for you right now! Maybe it’s the bit about how he’s going to hell and the part where you’re wondering about his sexual habits. Gross, lady.

“I remember his infectious laugh.” Now he just grunts.

“Now any correspondence from him are filled with anger, blame, hateful words. Even worse are the sarcastic and blasphemous words used toward his heavenly Father.” Aside from your syntax freaking me out (is correspondence plural?), I have an inkling of an idea why he might be angry. For starters, he was the perfect child—he sang harmony with you in the kitchen, for crying out loud—and you tossed him out for being who he is.

You’re the loser here, you realize that, right? You missed his wedding, and you’re going to miss his children, his successes, his hopes, his dreams. He would have participated in your family memories if you’d been kind, but you weren’t kind. You decided God didn’t want you to be kind. You decided Satan was at your beck and call to “take over” the life of the son you birthed out of your own body, and you made the call.

I mean, seriously. What kind of spiritual clout do you imagine you have: “Yo, Satan, my son is gay. Can you whack him around a little?” Seems Satan is a little too busy these days to deal with your son, or maybe he’s waiting til after the honeymoon. And anyway, why are Christian people talking to Satan? What is up with that?

“Self-evaluation, guilt, despair, fear . . . I know we were good parents. We loved our son, spent time with him, encouraged him, and taught him God’s word.” Yeah, sure, and good job, Mom! But this isn’t about you. I think we’ve covered that.

“I don’t know what the future holds for our son or our family.” Oh, but I do. He’s going to be fine, and you’re going to be fine, and what is keeping you from being fine together is your insistence on being separate, on being unwilling to talk, on hating his gayness so much that you refuse to see the sweet, caring son who adored you and sang harmony with you in the kitchen.

Your belief that God wants you never to see your son again unless he stops being gay (he won’t), is what keeps you from peeling those potatoes with him ever again. Keeps you from hearing that infectious laugh. Keeps you from making those memories.

The empty place at your table is there because you haven’t invited him to sit there, and frankly you don’t get to now. Unless you put out two chairs and say, “Come, both of you. We love you and want you in our lives.”

Or cry in your driveway. It’s your choice.

Fundamentalist and Affirming: Your Guide to Loving LGBT People

Of course you can.

Of course you can be a Christian Fundamentalist and still affirm the LGBT people in your life–your friends, your relatives, your neighbors, your co-workers and yes, your fellow worshipers.

By “affirm,” I don’t mean “tolerate.” I don’t mean standing at a distance and attempting a sad sort of alternative wave that could be mistaken for your flicking a stray lock of hair out of your face. I mean walking up, shaking hands, and saying loudly enough for others to hear, “Hey, Mike, how’re you doing? And how’s Roger?” I mean not being embarrassed. I mean putting yourself out there as someone who loves the underdog, the minority, the “other” in the way Jesus told us to: as you love yourself.

The reason you don’t currently do this is simple. The voices telling you to be unaffirming are louder than the voices begging you to affirm. Pretty much the loudest anti-affirming voice is that of your pastor who has likely been rather insistent that your affirmation of your neighbor’s existence, relationship, marriage, and adoptions is somehow to participate in these activities, and that such participation will land you in hell.

Do you get how silly that is? Let’s say my neighbor is Sikh. Am I participating in his Sikhism by not railing against it every time I see him, not asking pointed, invasive questions about his turban, not stealth-witnessing (with candy!) to his little Sikhlings when I catch them minding their own business playing at the neighborhood park? Am I participating in my other neighbor’s paganism by buying essential oils from her? I’m just saying. Being nice to people is not participating in their lifestyle. You do not become gay by being nice to gay people. Rest easy, none of this is your fault, if fault there is, which there isn’t, but just to let you breathe a little easier.

Another reason you don’t currently affirm your niece’s marriage to her wife is that you are simply embarrassed by it. You don’t want to be called a gay-lover. Sit with that and ask yourself, “Why not?” Why would you not want to be known as someone who loves and affirms people who are in the minority? See two paragraphs above for the answer: you don’t want to hear from your pastor that you are going to hell, because somehow, a Christian pastor is going to tell a Christian believer (perhaps even a tither!) that affirming her son’s marriage to her son-in-law–an affirmation that will bring her close to her son and allow her more interaction with the grandchildren who may enter this home–that she is going to hell for her kindness.

It is time, my friend, that you exercise a little strength with your pastor and perhaps others at your Fundy church. Not by leaving, if you enjoy the church and are happy there, but by simple verbal clarity. “This is my son Mike. This is his husband Roger. Roger is a forensic odontologist.” When confronted later, as you surely will be, it is enough to hold up your hand to stop the speaker and say, “I have determined to love my son with kindness,” followed by, “And how is Calliope’s eating disorder?” You know by now how to converse with your friends in such a manner that you come out on top socially.

What’s needed is out loud affirmation. Not outing someone. That’s different. It is never your business to out someone who is closeted. But when the person opens the door and steps out into the light of day, having decided no longer to deny who she is and whom she loves, then you do the out loud affirmation: “This is my daughter Jayne and her partner Bea. They are graduate students. We’re very proud of them. Bea, tell the Morrisons about your dissertation topic.” The Morrisons can and will talk about this later, possibly with smelling salts. Whatever. You don’t care. You care about Jayne and Bea.

WON’T THEY THINK I NO LONGER THINK HOMOSEXUALITY IS THE WORST SIN IMAGINABLE?

I know. I know. There, there. It’s okay. I’m patting your back now, if you can’t tell. It’s true that some people, when you affirm your nephew’s husband and their three adorable children as a real family who can sit with you in church or sit by you at the family picnic, will gasp in horror and believe down to their marrow that you have “sold out” and have climbed the steps of the slippery slope ladder and are ready to don a boa yourself. You are going to have to take this. You can calm yourself by realizing that there are a lot of bad things in the world–African famine, ISIS, the opioid epidemic, and North Korean nukes–and that Joe and Johnny and the three little J’s (Jaye, Johnzy, and Jax) are just a normal American family.

WHAT ABOUT THE CLOBBER PASSAGES?

The “Clobber Passages” are those very few sections of Scripture that can be read in a way that might indicate homosexuality is sinful. But, as you very well know, you Fundamentalist you, lots of passages can be read to make all sorts of things sinful. For example, Ma’am, do you keep a menstrual chart with the days marked off so your husband knows which two weeks out of the month he may not approach you to lie with you? You do not, Mr. Gothard’s insistence notwithstanding.

The “Clobber Passages” are those about which I get books in the mail when I write an article like this. People imagine I haven’t read the Bible, or, having read it, have specifically ignored those passages. What’s being ignored, however, is that there may be unexamined context. I’m not going to exegete anything here, but I will say, as an example, that when the Apostle Paul notes that it is wrong to visit the ritual prostitutes at the pagan temple once one has professed Christ, I would agree with him. Indeed, were I to find that my own husband was frequenting ritual prostitutes at pagan temples, I would take issue with it, and you can hold me to that.

WHAT ABOUT THE PART WHERE MY PASTOR GETS TO TELL ME WHAT TO BELIEVE ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY?

What about it? Why is he even talking about it? And why so often, and why in front of minor children? Why is the Christian church so obsessed with this topic? Why are they not, for example, working to positively impact their local communities? Who even decided that a young man gets to tell you what to believe about anything? Have you not been taught about the priesthood of all believers? Do you not read the Bible? Have you not read, “Love your neighbor as yourself”? Have you not read, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples–that you love one another”? The poor man is just saying what others have said to him, but maybe someday someone should mention to him: “Yo, Pastor Jared! Do you realize you’ve preached on the fictional Gay Agenda twelve times this year and only three times on how we can impact our neighborhood for Jesus? Dude! What is even up with that?”

BUT SHOULDN’T I WITNESS TO THEM?

If you want to talk to the LGBT people in your life about spiritual things, of course, certainly do that, but don’t do it based on what you believe is their failing. And don’t try to tweak their Christianity, if any. What I mean is this: if you start your finely-honed witnessing tactics with the old, “If you died tonight, do you know for sure you would go to heaven?” and the person answers, “Why yes, I do! I’m a born-again believer in Jesus Christ who died for my sins and is my risen Savior, sitting at the right hand of God, interceding for me!” then your work here is done and you can say, “Praise Jesus,” and grab the coffee-cake. No need to push further by (for example) asking “but WHICH Jesus are you trusting, the lame one who lets sodomites like you off the hook without obedience, or the strict Old Testament Jesus in whom I trust but actually I still go 70 on the freeway because some sins are not as bad as others, especially in Texas.” Don’t press onward into that well-rutted road of Lordship Salvation and/or Easy Believism. Just don’t. Have your coffee and ask about Jaye, Johnzy, and Jax and their potty-training, science project, and first crush, respectively. Also Johnny and his CPA business, especially if it’s near tax time. In fact, if it’s March or early April, wrap up the coffee cake and send it home. Johnny’s going to need it later.

WAIT, I THINK YOU’RE MAKING FUN OF ME

Ya think? Okay, I’m busted. Because, yes, I am. Fundamentalism was about “whatever the Bible says is so.” We’ve got the word of the Chief Hoo-Ha himself, Bob Jones, Sr., on that: “Whatever the Bible says is so.” In his inimitably simple style, he lays it out and even says, “We might disagree on what the Bible means, but we agree that whatever it says is so.”

It’s so that Jesus wants us to love each other.
It’s so that Jesus wants us to be kind to one another.
It’s so that people who confess with their mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in their hearts that God has raised him from the dead can be called Christians.

It’s your job to affirm the LGBTQIA people in your world, especially as to those who are in your church and your family.

WHAT ABOUT TOUGH LOVE?

Stop it already. On this issue of sexuality, you need to stop.
Stop asking your minor child if he masturbates. What is the matter with you? Are you crazy?

Stop telling your adult child anything about sexuality and how he or she should conduct his or her sexual life. It is not your business.

ATTEND your gay child’s wedding. Bring a lovely gift. Hug everyone. You are not going to hell for this. You are going to a party.

WHAT IF I REALIZE THAT I’VE BEEN HORRIBLE AND JUDGMENTAL TO MY GAY RELATIVE?

I know (more pat on the back). You’ve been horrible. You’ve gone after her with Romans 1 and I Corinthians, all the while ignoring true problems like the increased desertification of Africa and the annexation of the Crimea by Vlad the Invader. You’ve made your son cry. You’ve made his husband cry. It’s partly not your fault. You were misled by well-meaning people who told you it was your duty in the Lord to be cruel. That somehow, when you yelled, “Get outta my house, you faggot!” It would translate in your son’s mind to, “I love you so much it hurts, oh my god, I’m going to die because of this, I love him so much, Martha, help me.”

You might even be one of those awful people who has prayed over your child thusly: “God, whatever it takes for Mike to turn from this lifestyle . . . ” when what you mean is you’d like Roger the forensic odontologist to drill a hole through his own eye in a fit of remorse, or even that you’d like Mike himself to be hit by a car, as if God Above runs into people with vehicles to get their attention. Didn’t we learn in kindergarten Sunday school that God speaks through His Word and not necessarily via the neighborhood Mercedes Benz?

Indeed, why is it that people who pray that God will use “whatever it takes” never stumble onto the thought that the loss of a parent might be just the thing to get a child wondering about the hereafter? No one ever prays, “Lord, kill me if that’s what it would take.” No, it’s more like, “Lord, and could you rearrange Mike’s sexuality fast because Robert and I are going to renew our vows this August, and it would be so great if all the kids could be there? I’ve planned the loveliest luau, Lord. There will be roast pig if it’s Your will!”

You’ve been awful, okay. Here’s how to fix it. Say sorry. Call or go over there with a pan of brownies and say sorry. If your own spouse doesn’t want to go with you, who cares? Tell him or her, “I’m going to Mike and Roger’s to say sorry. I want them in my life. Are you coming or not?” And then just go. There’s no need to have a long conversation with anyone about this anymore than you would if you wanted to say sorry for anything else. You’ve been horrible. Go say sorry. If he gets all huffy and throws a fit over it, remind him about the upcoming luau. Does he want the roast pig or doesn’t he? Then go see the boys, share the brownies with them. And then never ever again be unaffirming.

A MODEST PROPOSAL

A problem has arisen in America. We’re divided. Philosophically, religiously, and culturally, between those who celebrate diversity, multi-culturalism, and an expanding electorate, and those who long for the simpler days of America First. We need unity of purpose, religion, language, background, and culture.

To accomplish this, we need a national registry, a big beautiful wall, strict guidelines for who can come and go, how they should comport themselves while here, and of course, an undergirding principle of Us First.

First, registry and self-deportation

English-speaking White Christians who wish to self-deport to the new nation, which we will call The Enclave, need to register their intentions with the United States department tasked with handling the internal migration. Once resettled in The Enclave (which will be located in the central part of the “Red Wall”–think Louisiana Purchase, roughly, but pushed slightly west), they will be safe from Muslims, Jews, atheists, LGBT people, feminists, and liberals in general.

Think the Pilgrims here. They are your muses and guides. They self-deported from England, then Europe, then England again for their own religious purposes. Be like them, but be cautioned that no non-Christian Native Americans or other pagans will be allowed in The Enclave to help when times get rough and famine or disease looms.

Of course, while safe from rubbing shoulders with actual Jews, the White Christians of The Enclave will be required to support the State of Israel financially and philosophically against all her enemies, being particularly careful to teach their children that the Dome of the Rock mosque must be destroyed before Jesus can come back.

Clearly, in order to provide enough room for the self-deporting White Christians, a great number of people will need to leave what is currently known as the American Heartland and themselves be resettled in coastal “Blue States.” Simple trading may make this easier than it sounds, the self-deporters being eager to get away from “the Others” (as they like to call the rest of us).

Second, build a big beautiful wall

The big, beautiful wall will keep you safe by keeping others out. Once your insular culture of isolationism is intact in The Enclave, no one else will want to be there, and at that point you can dismantle the wall, though you won’t want to. Its presence will be comforting to you by then. You will need it surrounding you, keeping you in.

Third, make sure you’ve said good-bye to all your LGBT friends and relatives. You won’t see them again.

No LGBTQ people are allowed inside the wall. You and your children will be safe from their harmful agenda.

Furthermore, electrocution sites will be set up to shock the gay out of any young person (or indeed older person) who comes to believe his or her “chosen” sexual orientation veers from heterosexual or whose gender identification varies from the traditional binary understanding of male and female based on visual inspection of genitalia.

Other sexual rules will include (but not be limited to) the following:

Men may use porn. Men may seek divorces. Women who are sexually assaulted will be charged with immodesty and with “causing their brother to stumble.”

Fourth, make sure everyone is armed. Concealed carry will be required in the new nation.

Peaceful protest isn’t allowed inside the wall–protesters will be given a chance to “stop whining and go home,” but after that will be investigated and jailed. Nor may a free press operate if there is any hint of disrespect of or disagreement with the ruling powers within The Enclave.

Fifth, in addition to keeping out all Muslims, no Muslim invention or procedure will be permitted. This will remind the young people of the superiority of all things White and Christian.

The children will appreciate this, since Algebra will be outlawed. There will also be no Universities, since the first Universities were started by Muslim women in the late 9th century. Surgery, first developed by a Muslim doctor, Al Zahrawi (whose 1,500 page book became the go-to surgeon’s how-to for centuries), will be outlawed. Coffee will not be available.

Sixth, no woman may terminate any pregnancy for any reason ever.

There are no exceptions. The Enclave is exceedingly pro-life, therefore any woman or doctor circumventing this rule will be executed for murder. A man assisting his wife in this crime–for example, if he foolishly believes he is saving her life by so doing–will be charged as an accessory to murder.

Last, all residents of The Enclave shall wear a special signification–a noticeable patch of some kind, or even a branding–when they have occasion to travel outside The Enclave. This will aid in identification by others who wish to avoid them or refuse to serve them during their short times on the outside, that is, the United States of America, that progressive, liberal place founded on the simple and radical notion that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

THOUGHTS ON LOSING 108 POUNDS

People who have not warred against obesity will not understand this post any more than a woman who popped out babies without effort or thought would understand the agony of infertility, any more than a woman who married her high school sweetheart at eighteen would understand the desperation of the forty-something who always longed for the husband who never appeared.

This is for those who understand.

The ones who go to bed each night thinking tomorrow they’ll do better, not overeat, not choose the fries with that. The ones who make notations in their calendars marking how much they weigh today and if they lose two pounds a week they can fit in the size fourteen for the event happening in six months. The ones who look in the mirror at their naked bodies and think how did this happen, how could this have happened. The ones who have resigned themselves to dying fat. The ones who are ashamed, who hide behind others in family photos, who cringe internally when they order something sweet because they know they’re being judged by the waitstaff, the barista, the checker at the grocery store, who really is thinking, “Seriously, lady, a hot fudge brownie? Are you freaking kidding me?”

Fat women suffer. They know that in every social setting they are The Fat One. They are visible, obvious, conspicuous. Vertical stripes don’t help, and yes, that dress does make them look fat. Because they are.

When I first was told I was fat, it was a lie. I wasn’t. I was eight years old and 75 pounds. Little bit chubby, sure. Fat, no. By junior high, I was mired in full-time and full-blown body hate. I weighed 110 pounds in 7th grade, but there were girls in my class who weighed 95, so I felt fat. There were girls in my class who weighed more than I did, but I didn’t compare myself to them. I compared myself with the little tiny girls who probably hadn’t begun menstruating or wearing bras and whose families hadn’t seen womanly hips in generations.

At home, I was told I was fat. Every day. Every meal. “You’re really going to eat that?” I started to starve myself. In 8th grade, I went on my first fast. Two days. Forty-eight hours without food. At 12. TWELVE. That seems like a good time of life to deny your body nutrition, amirite?

I was the Fat Sister. I have only one sister, and since she’s always been small, I was never going to “win” the title of Thin Sister. Bizarrely, in our late teens we could share some clothes (not all, as I had bigger hips and boobs), and it never ever occurred to me (I am only realizing it this moment as I write this!) that if we could wear the same clothes, we were basically the same size. This “Fat Sister” identity was consistently pointed out to me (but not by her), and I wore it like shame for decades, even when my sister and I lived thousands of miles apart. Bizarre, yes. Pointless, yes. Irrational, yes. (I was the Smart Sister, also ridiculous, since my sister is no dummy and never has been. How stupid comparisons are, how unhealthy, how crippling.)

Here is where the Not-Fat Reader will say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have listened to them!” or “You should have realized.” Yeah, yeah, whatever, Skinny Minnie. I’m talking about How It Is, not how you think it ought to have been.

Moving along.

I felt fat through college and my first marriage. I believed I was huge. My highest non-pregnant weight during these years was 150. Enormous, I know. If only someone–anyone!–had said to me, “You are perfect. You are beautiful. Don’t ever diet again,” but alas, the message I heard continually was, “You can do better, you should do better, not to do better is sin for you.” And so the nightly “tomorrow I won’t” routine ground on, solidified, became unbreakable.

Throughout my 20s, I routinely starved myself, engaged in every self-destructive diet known to womankind. Repeatedly. There’s no need to list these. If you’ve read this far it’s because you get it and you’ve been on them all too. The foolishness of Atkins–meat only and fruit is bad. Fruit! That God made and said “it is good” and packaged in “serving size: one.” The foolishness of liquid diets and hunger suppressants and one-cheese-sandwich-per-day and the insane idea that you can stuff yourself on sugar-free non-caloric foods and be satisfied. You can’t be. Your body will eat. It will get the nutrition it needs. And you will gain every pound back you starved off. Plus more. Starve-binge-repeat. You know the drill.

I lost large amounts of weight quite a few times. Once I even taught a class called “Fifty Pounds. I lost it, so can you!” which brought in a little bit a money and quite a few hopeful (and probably disappointed) fat women longing to find the magic cure. These particular 50 pounds were lost because the infertility doc I was seeing told me that losing 50 pounds would be the trick to get my hormones in balance and start me ovulating. Liar, liar, pants on fire. Point being, we’ve all lost weight many times. But it’s hard. It’s harder than anyone can imagine. It requires ongoing physical hunger, 24/7 deprivation. It’s not something that can be done casually. It requires intense effort and concentrated, unwavering focus, and the whole time there’s piles of food sitting there being all in your face appetizing and your body is screaming for it and inevitably, your body will eat it. Anyone who says, “Just eat right and exercise” has not the tiniest clue what we are dealing with here.

What we are dealing with here is a society that says you have to be feminine, but not too womanly. Boobs are good, but really big boobs are disgusting. Hips are okay–if you must have hips–but if they’re over 40 inches, you are disgusting. Toss in some strict Christianity, and not only are you disgusting, but you’re also sinful. You are basically living in sin, dontchaknow, because gluttony and fatness and disrespecting your husband, no wonder he looks around, can you blame him, you fatso? This is all very destructive to the pious Christian woman who IS TRYING. She is trying her heart out. She cries and stresses over this without let-up, without reprieve. She knows. She doesn’t need your judgement, your advice, doesn’t need you to send her stories about how your friend did it. Heck, she doesn’t need to read this blog about my weight loss. She’s sick of hearing it. Maybe she’s resigned to it. But I promise you, she wants to lose weight. She would give anything to lose weight. She can’t. Leave her alone. Tell her she’s beautiful. Tell her you love her.

Don’t say, “I love you even though you’re fat.” Just say, “I love you.” Just “You’re beautiful,” not “You have such a pretty face.” Whatever you do, don’t say jolly. Don’t use faux words like chubby. Don’t comment on what she’s eating. She knows what she’s eating. Leave her alone. Or join her and talk about how amazing the food is and how great it tastes. Validate her eating and enjoyment of food. Allow her the liberty of eating without feeling guilty and horrible and fat.

But I digress. Back to it:

Over time I did get actually fat. By 31, I weighed 200 pounds. I lost 50 pounds at 34 (the attempt to achieve ovulation), but over a couple of years, gained it back. There’s this thing called hunger and it demands feeding. After Tommy was born (I was 43, and miracle of miracles, no fertility doc was involved.), I settled in at about 230, finally edging almost to 250. On 5 feet 2, this is a lot of weight to carry. I wore size 24 jeans and size 2X ugly Wal-Mart t-shirts and sweat pants.

Finally, I said, Eff This. No more trying and praying and anguishing and dieting and starving and hoping and planning. No more. It was time to realize there was No Way for me to do this on my own. I needed help. The kind where they cut you open and fix it.

They took out 90% of my stomach and gave me a nice little banana-shaped one. It’s called a “vertical sleeve gastrectomy.”

They say it’s nothing more than enforced portion control, but for me, it’s far more than that. Portion control is nothing if you’re hungry all the time. If you’re experiencing deprivation and restriction. If, when you eat to satisfaction you hate yourself because you know you’re going to weigh more tomorrow. The sleeve allows me to eat to satisfaction, because it takes so little to fill me up. I’m not hungry. I’m not deprived. I’m full. And frankly, full Sharon is happy Sharon.

Of course, there’s a cost. No more caffeine. No more sugar. No more french fries. On the other hand, no more Lane Bryant.

I went into Lane Bryant the other day, stood in the middle of the store, looked around and said, “Awesome.” When the saleswoman asked me if I needed help, I said, “No thanks, I’m just looking.” Just looking. I didn’t say the obvious, “You don’t carry my size.” If I had been less concerned about alarming anyone, I would have stood there and cried. Cried in Lane Bryant for the decades of sneaking in there all fat, having to shop there. (By the way, if you don’t know what Lane Bryan is, please go away. This blog is for fatties who know.)

Weight-loss surgery isn’t for everyone. Not everyone can afford it (mine was free through Kaiser, our HMO). Not everyone’s family is supportive. Not everyone will be successful even with the surgery. Some people still overeat. Some people take up alcoholism when they find they can’t eat enough to quiet their emotional pain. Some people go off plan and eat all day long in small quantities, thereby consuming too much. Some people’s families (usually husbands) sabotage them: expect them to keep making “regular” meals for them, which puts them in too much temptation. Or expect them to keep going out to dinner. Or keep asking (evilly), “Are you sure you don’t want some? Surely one bite won’t hurt you.” (Think one cigarette, one drink, one toke, one line.) I knew my family wouldn’t do any of that. I knew Brian would be 100% in my corner, not because he hated my being fat (in fact, he never mentioned my weight ever), but because he’s supportive of all my efforts, whatever I’m working on at the moment. He’s a sweetheart like that.

Again, it’s not for everyone, but for me, surgery was absolutely essential. Because I was not going to starve myself anymore. Not going to live in the land of plenty and be hungry all the time in one more failed attempt to restrict myself into thinness. I got to a place where I knew I had had enough french fries for a lifetime, enough movie popcorn, enough blue cheese dressing, enough already. It was time to take control, take my body and make it over so that it would work for me. My body and I needed to work together. Some people need their arteries cleaned out. Some people need knee replacements. Some people need donor corneas. I needed a smaller stomach, end of story.

My surgery was December 4, 2014. It’s been 13 months since then. I’m up to eating about 1,000 calories a day, which completely satisfies me. I don’t go to bed hungry. I no longer wear large voluminous clothing. I no longer think about “someday” being thin. I weigh 134 pounds (down from 242), wear size 8 jeans, and just tonight was at Wal-Mart saying far too loudly, “Do they not have any size small sweat pants in this entire store? What is wrong with these people!” I am full three times a day and never get really hungry.

A lot of people in my support group say they wish they had had the surgery years ago, but I don’t. Years ago I wouldn’t have been ready. I needed to be all the way to the place where I knew for darn-tootin’ I couldn’t succeed any other way. But at 53, I’d tried everything so many times and failed consistently and inevitably that I knew the situation wasn’t going to change. No amount of sheer effort was going to be effective. I needed someone to come along and remake me.

To those who say, “You took the easy way out,” so what? Is it a contest to see who can overcome the greatest odds? Does it not count that I’ve lost the weight because I didn’t do it by main force? Are my size 8 jeans somehow invalidated because I didn’t suffer in agonizing hunger pangs for a couple of years to fit in them? Is there some nobility in staying fat rather than getting thin with the help of a surgeon? Remember, I’m not just losing weight; I’m adding years to my life, adding activity to my day, adding health, adding self-confidence, adding social acceptance. If I “cheated” to achieve these things by having surgery, who cares?

Easy way out or not (some people argue it isn’t easy, though for me it’s been uncomplicated and simple), it’s been the successful way out. It’s easier to grab the life preserver and float ashore than to say, “Nah, I can get there on my own,” and try to battle the ocean. Or, to go back to the infertility analogy (since I’m an expert in that too), it’s easier to get embryos implanted than it is to try month after month after devastating year and heart-breaking decade with inevitable failure. Sometimes you need help. Sometimes that help is surgical in nature. It doesn’t always work. There aren’t any guarantees. But it might work, and sometimes it’s worth a shot.

For people struggling with being fat, I have no advice. Surgery was helpful for me. That is all I can add to the conversation. God be with you and give you the answers you need, but whatever you do, don’t hate yourself. You are beautiful and wise and good and no amount of extra weight impinges on that.