Being a teen is hard. Sometimes just being is hard.

Question from Anonymous:
Hi, I’m a six on the Dawkins scale, I’m lesbian, I’m 15 and I have religious fundamentalist parents. I am forced to go to church, my parents always force me to do things I don’t want to do. My mom tells me that when I grow up and get married to a woman, she will object to it, and I will be disowned. Currently I’m going to be a junior in high school, and this past year I took the SAT for fun (something a nerd would do, I know, I know). I turned out to score 2300 on the SAT. When I showed my mom the results she quickly dismissed it, and said the following:
“Are you sure you scored that much? Are you sure that a lesbian who is also a heathen can be that smart? You know what, you begged Satan for that score didn’t you?”
She also says I pray to Satan for my weight loss (in the past year and a half I lost 90 lbs after being diagnosed with PCOS). My mother is still waddling around at a hundred lbs overweight. I just got five pounds to lose. She says “God told me to diet using (starchy) soups and (overly drenched in ranch) salads!” She turns around at me and says, “You little devil worshipper! That’s why you have that damn PCOS!”

Recently, she got diagnosed with type two diabetes.

My question is, is why does my mom do this? Why does she deny my SAT score, deny my realistic weightloss, and yet she is nowhere in life? Why? I never went into arguments with my mom about the existence of an upper phenomena. I just say “Well, we have a difference of opinions, Mom. I respect yours though I don’t agree with it. And let’s just agree to disagree.”

In her reply: “Its not an opinion, it’s fact, it’s proven in the Bible!”

Now, most of my friends are Christians, and we just never eat into the debate of religion or spirituality.

So why does my mom?

Answer by SmartLX:
Firstly, that’s all pretty awful, and I feel for you. It’s not fun when you’re fundamentally and irreconcilably at odds with your parents while still officially in their care. I regularly hear from people in such circumstances, and it’s never a happy description. I’m reassured by your academic aptitude and your taking the initiative to test yourself; your circumstances aren’t seriously interfering with your ability to learn and to focus, and that will get you far along whatever path you choose to take in life. (On a side note, my wife has PCOS and I know that’s not much fun either, but there are treatments.)

Think of your mother’s worldview (which is probably even more simplified internally than the doctrine which was initially preached to her). In that view, God is the source of all goodness, all strength and all ability, and not only are all things possible with Him but nothing good is possible without Him. Prayer is a prerequisite for literally everything, because humans are worthless and hopeless without their Lord. There may be some sexism in there too, adding the idea that a woman needs both God and a man to function.

And then there’s you. Smart, capable, independent and getting steadily healthier and more confident despite a chronic condition, while consciously denying God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and having sworn off men for good. If she were to accept that at face value she would have to admit that there is a flaw somewhere in her worldview since it does not reflect reality, and examine the principles upon which she bases her whole life. Some of those principles are held as sacred by her congregation, so she feels a threat to her place in the community as well as her own identity. (How the congregation would actually react to some doubt on her part depends on the type of church, so you’d know better than me.)

So what does she do? She clings to the idea that you’re managing without God with help from the one entity with any power to challenge God. People have attributed abilities they did not understand to Satan for centuries, which for instance has led to many people being burned as witches. The devil is like a bucket into which Christians can throw anything they don’t comprehend rather than leave their comfort zone…and some will throw in a lit match too. It’s a simple coping mechanism that not every Christian uses but is nevertheless available to every Christian. Your mother seems quite fond of using it, sadly.

Some of your friends might possibly indulge in this behind your back, depending on how devout they are and how old-fashioned their theology, but they have the luxury of not thinking about you when you’re not around them for long periods of time. You’re a big part of your mother’s life on the other hand, so you’re there as a constant challenge to her worldview that she feels she needs to combat for her own peace of mind. That’s why she’s the one who accuses you openly.

Based on what I’ve written so far, I’m inclined to think that your mother will be less hard on you after you move out some years from now. It will give her long breaks from having to internally justify her dependence on God in the face of your independence, so there won’t be that constant struggle that reignites when she sees you, and she’ll be able to just see her daughter again. This is purely a guess on my part, but I think one of my better-made guesses. And to address one thing specifically, it’s one thing to be revolted by the very idea of a same-sex partner, and another entirely to get to know the actual person. The mother of my best friend referred to my friend’s girlfriend as “it” from afar for a long time before finally building a relationship with her.

In the meantime, the onus is not on you to hide who you are and how you live for your mother’s sake. She needs to come to terms with the woman her daughter has become. That’s hard for many parents, but the focal point of religion will figure heavily in her process and you both may suffer for it. Be patient with her, answer any honest questions she has, engage whenever you feel it’s right to. Don’t feel you’re alone, like-minded company can be found locally and globally if you know where to look. These are your particular challenges in growing up – everyone gets some – and I think you’re as well-equipped as any to handle them.

3 thoughts on “Being a teen is hard. Sometimes just being is hard.”

  1. I went through something similar when I was in my teens. Here’s how it happened:

    The Bible Set Me Free

    Blame it on my parents.  They always told me to “think for yourself”.  I doubt they ever considered what would happen if I really did that. 

    Now, I suspect what they meant was, “Think what we tell you but do it in your own words.”  Too late.  When I was 13, I began to question everything and soon the total absurdity of religion became apparent. 

    Because I have been “encouraged” (forced) to read the bible several times, it was easy for me to see the contradictions in the book, what christians professed to believe, and how they really lived.

    When I refused to go with them to their church, they said they would “Make me go.” 

    I asked them, “How are you going to make me? How will forcing me to attend church change my mind?”  Already, their attitude was starting to harden me against everything else about religion they would tell me.

    Their next idea was to have their minister talk to me.  I told them it was a waste of everyone’s time.  They persisted and had him come to the house to “Talk some sense into me.”  (as if that ever works for anyone)  After about 15 minutes of him quoting the bible to me and me pointing out that he was either wrong in his quotes or showing him how it said something else in another place, he became very angry and told me I was going to hell.  I suspect it was because I knew the bible better than he did and was, at age 13, able to prove how ridiculous his arguments were.

    I told him, “If there is a Hell I’ll see you there.  Save me a nice place, OK?”  He said I was an impertinent, disrespectful child.  By then, I was angry myself and for the first time, I told a christian that he was a hypocrite, a liar, and a fool.  My parents insisted that I apologize.  I refused and left the room to a lot of yelling and threats.

    For the next four years, I heard about this at least once a week.  So the night I graduated from high school, I left my parent’s home and didn’t see them again for well over a year.  By then, with the credits I had accumulated in high school and summer school,  I had completed a couple of years of college.  Fortunately, I was able to pay for this myself.  I was entering the army and wanted to try to make peace with them, but had to listen to the same old recriminations and arguments again. 

    The next time I saw them was two years later when I was getting married.  After several years of an on-again, off-again relationship they finally agreed to just not discuss it any more.  I’d like to say that worked, but  subtle hints slowly became outright condemnation.  Then I took a job transfer from Ohio to Arizona, so family meetings were rare enough to become occasions for something other than contention.

    I do have to say that I appreciate the other things they did for me, like encouraging my education and equipping me with the work ethic and attitudes I needed to survive and thrive at that early age.  In those areas, they were excellent parents and I am grateful for those things.

    What did I learn?  Even your family can turn against you if you refuse to share in their illusions.  There are times, if you are to become your own person, you must stand firm in what you know to be true.

  2. Anonymous,

    The best thing you can do is something you are already doing – work hard is school. Why? Because that will give you the freedom to escape your parents fully and completely as soon as possible. A college degree gives you the ability to move anywhere you want, and be financially secure.

    As to why your mom acts that way, it’s hard to say for sure. It’s possible she has something in her past, some kind of mental trauma, that causes her to act out that way. There’s no excuse for her behavior towards you regardless of why. Please remember that! You are just as valuable as any other person, and you have strength and determination that will serve you well in life.

    Please see if your community has an outreach program or mediation program that will give you free advice on how to deal with the situation. You may also see if there is free counseling services available, they may also be able to give you useful advice.

    Don’t give up, you sound like a great person, and the world needs more people like that.

  3. I don’t think being a TEEN GIRL is hard, nor is just ‘BEING’ hard, I should know because I once was a teen girl.
    But not a lesbian teen girl.
    I believe that being a homosexual, in females called lesbians, surely is.
    I am of course not blaming you for being a lesbian because I know it was not your choice since you were born as one.
    Another point here, no one is responsible or for anything, nor should be praised if the something is a good something, both due to the PHYSICAL CAUSALITY LAW, DETERMINISM.
    But, you filed to mention being a lesbian as a prime cause of most of your problems and troubles.
    I am saying ‘most’ because I want to believe that being an ATHEIST should NOT be a PROBLEM, on the contrary, because it is common knowledge that atheists are MORE EDUCATED AND INTELLIGENT and people than theists.
    So, am I right in thinking that the society and your family or even only your mom, reject you primarily because you are a lesbian, not atheist?
    Or, are we, atheists, hated even more than lesbians.
    I believe that we should ask MUSLIMS this question, the expert on HATRED of both ATHEISTS and HOMOSEXUALS.
    And CHRISTIANS, for that matter.
    Especially so the CATHOLICS.
    More precisely, AMERICANS.

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