Guest Blog, from the son of a Preacher Man
Procreation may indeed be a mandate for most animals, but does it have to be so for people?
I was raised in a very conservative household, far below what they call the “Bible Belt” in America. This meant not only that the weather was hot but it was also extremely intolerant of alternative lifestyles, LGBTQIA individuals, and that traditional Christianity was exalted as the only legitimate way to live your life.
This meant that not only were certain behaviours proscribed but your life had been all but planned from the start.
You went to school. You graduated. You got a job. You met someone of the opposite sex. You got married.
Nothing so literal as a planner was used in enforcing this lifestyle. It was romanticised and depicted in nearly all forms of media as resulting from destiny. Even most fairy tales and other children’s stories, portrayed the idea that everyone had a “soul mate” and that it was supposed to be the dream of every good girl and boy: to get married and have kids.
Who was I to question the order of things? I was the son of a preacher, still deeply religious in the first half of high school. That started to change as I got older, though. My father stopped preaching. I stopped being ruled by religion.
I also stopped being a son, and became a daughter. I didn’t know that last part for a long time, but let’s save that retelling for another article.
Having come from a religious home, I, didn’t exactly have a wealth of world experience under my belt and it showed. If you belong to a Christian church in America, chances are you live in a world with only two genders and only one kind of romantic relationship.
Sex outside marriage was STRICTLY forbidden.
How am I supposed to know what I like?
Why do I have to make all these legally-binding and ceremonial gestures just to find out what sex is like?
Thank goodness for the invention of cable television.
Looking back, I suppose there had to be some suspicion as to the nature of my viewing habits, considering I started asking some rather embarrassing questions about sex as a child. Then again, my mom and dad were simple folk and I don’t think they had any knowledge, at the time, of just how naughty late-night cable television was. It was a new medium, after all, and there was no such thing as an internet.
Pornography, of course, has a long and lush history going back to antiquity, but never before in the history of mankind had it ever been so easy to deliver into someone’s home.
I knew only about romance, growing up but I was soon introduced to the concept of an orgy with the premiere of “Serial” on Showtime.
What was this? People who weren’t even married having sex. People who weren’t even well-acquainted were getting that way by having sex, and I wish I could remember the exact thought processes going on in my head upon learning of such things. Because to preacher’s kid, this was like a blessing from Prometheus.
When I first saw people have sex on television, I already knew about masturbation but this was like the entire garden of earthly delights had just been opened up in my brain and I wanted to know more about what people could do together to feel good and have fun.
I learned very fast about all sorts of new terms. “Sensuous.” “Brief nudity.” “Adult situations.” I was ten years old and, already, a fan of Ursula Andress.
How could I be expected to marry someone and pretend that none of that stuff was fun?
Everything and everyone around me were screaming about romantic love like it was all there ever was and all you had to get, because it was supposed to be like magic. Like a fairy tale. Like a movie.
I knew that movie very well. It was, basically, almost the only movie I was permitted to see. Here though, was this amazing machine that let me see what grown-ups really did for fun. I saw movies where people had fun and didn’t need to have kids or get married.
I wanted that…but how did a person get a life like that? It was all just fiction, wasn’t it?
From what I saw in film, and in the world around me, most marriages ended in divorce and those that didn’t seemed to drive the participants to cheat, be miserable, or both. What was this need people had to declare belief in an idea that ran contrary to their nature?
This is not to say that I never latched onto someone, desperately hoping that they were the “One” and that all my problems were solved, but the process, the behaviors it entailed, and my observations of others made even the idea of marriage and parenthood exhausting.
To be sure, there are many people well-suited for monogamy and family but it started to seem to me that people stopped trying and living when they got married.
The one problem overlying all of these dashed hopes and broken promises seems to be reductionism.
“True” love. Finding the “One.” Meeting your…my personal favorite…”soul mate.” Tempting as concepts go, they don’t really let people just be themselves. Worst of all, they follow in the long-standing tradition of people trying to define complex systems and solve life’s problems with one belief, one system, one person, or one idea.
Looking back now, I realize that I was not mature enough or experienced enough to get married and have children in my youth. Hell, I wasn’t even well-suited for either marriage or children even two years ago.
Do I wonder, “What if?” Of course, I do. Like any human being, I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had gotten married and had a family, but considering that I have recently begun to identify as a woman, I can only imagine the wounds that could have been inflicted on everyone as my repressed sexuality and identity crisis festered under the surface of whatever idyllic life I had tried to construct for myself.
I’m not pretending to have an easy answer to my own questions, but it seems to me that people could benefit from giving up on some ideas regarding love and sex that have only entered their head at others’ behest.
The one religion that seems to be the most insidious and has done the most damage to people’s lives, in my opinion, is the Cult of Romance. The idea of possessing people. Keeping them locked away from others like some sort of currency or wealth. These are things people can do without, I think.
I’ve come to the conclusion, after decades on this Earth, that romance is like the color blue. There’s many different shades. Thankfully.
It’s time to redefine our expectations, and stand by our needs as human beings and individuals. Because, right now, it seems that the status quo is only serving the needs of the status quo.