Why did you tell us if we were never supposed to believe it?

It’s been hard watching so many disparate parts of my past that I’d hoped would remain in the past intersect over the last few weeks as the Roy Moore story unfolded. Harder than I thought it would be. Aside from dredging up everything about courtship culture and then watching as sites like The Federalist proved my point and started arguing that child marriage was fine, I’ve also gotten to watch as the Operation Rescue/Operation Save America crowd is running around Alabama defending Roy Moore. My time with Operation Rescue is still one of the parts of my past that I have a hard time writing about, and while I’ve been talking about it more since the presidential election, it hasn’t gotten easier. I’ve spoken up about what I lived through in the ‘90s because it’s important to understand the past if people are going to figure out how to resist the religious right and the Trump administration, but rehashing the past when you’re still feeling your way forward is exhausting. That all of this is going down in Alabama, a state where I was arrested with Operation Rescue when I was 13, just adds to the emotions.

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Dear Flip: An open letter to Flip Benham on the occasion of his disrupting wedding ceremonies

Dear Flip, I don’t know if you remember me or not, but there was a time back in the 1990s when you were on a first name basis with my parents. If you don’t know me you should, my photo is on the cover of one of your Operation Save America brochures and the cover of Rusty Thomas’ book. I danced on stage to the song “Children Things We Throw Away” at Operation Rescue National events in Melbourne and Birmingham, and when you spoke in Bradenton, each time performing to standing ovation. I’ve spoken at ORN events and had people praise me afterward. When I say that I was a child of Rescue and that I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt, I mean it literally. The t-shirts are shoved in the back of a dresser drawer, artifacts that I’d never wear again but can’t bring myself to throw out. I’m writing to say thank you. Thank you for creating an activist. When you’re shoved on to the front lines of the culture wars as a child, activism becomes second nature. I know how to fight because ORN/OSA taught me. I wouldn’t be the activist I am today without you. Just as importantly, thank you for so mishandling the situation with the conflict my parents were in–you know the details–that you started our break from the movement. I may have never gotten away from the oppression of the religious right and become the fabulous queer I am today without what happened that Sunday afternoon in Melbourne. For that I truly thank you. God uses all kinds of people in unexpected ways to get a person where they need to be, and God used you screwing over my parents to put me on the path to freedom. Flip, I see[…]

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Belize

When most people hear the word, “Belize,” the first thing they think of is the Central American country, or, if they have a particular affinity for Breaking Bad, then perhaps, “Send him to Belize,” as a euphemism for murder comes to mind. For me, though, “Belize” evokes memories of one of the weirder episodes of my childhood.  In the fall of 1993, around the time I turned 13, several family friends all decided they were going to move to Belize. I’m getting ahead of myself here, so let’s rewind back to the end of 1992, when Bill Clinton had just been elected president. This was back during my I-was-a-teenage-activist Operation Rescue days, and to say that everyone lost their collective shit over the election would be an understatement. Never mind that in the end, it turned out that Clinton governed from the middle, people were sure he was going to be the WORST EVAR, and in the anti-abortion activist circles everyone was convinced that persecution of Christians was imminent. This paranoia was confirmed with the introduction of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) in 1993. We’ll just ignore the fact that the law was precipitated by an increase in violence and the murder of David Gunn in Pensacola, since that part of the story got ignored in the increasing paranoia of the time. The whole paranoia thing is ridiculous in retrospect, and while my reactions can be excused by the fact that I was almost thirteen and teenagers are supposed to be overdramatic about everything, as for the adults, I don’t know what their excuse was. It was a weird time. In any case, a few people my family knew took the paranoia to the next level and decided that it was only a matter of time[…]

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In which Kathryn contemplates the possibility of becoming a professional member of the religious right

Why did I have to be such an ethical person? I’d make a pretty darn good professional member of the religious right. I’ve got such a perfect story to sell a ton of books and make it for years on the fundy speaking circuit too.  I mean, grew up in conservative homeschool family, did the Operation Rescue thing in my teens (even performed and spoke at several national events), even did the conservative Christian college thing. Then I “backslid” into sin and depravity by coming out about my “same-sex attractions,” became a rainbow flag waving/parade marching gay rights activist, took up liberal political causes, identify as a feminist, all I need to do is pretend that I was an atheist for a while and I’ve got the perfect matched set of depravity and apostasy that any good religious right audience would eat up.  I just need to invent the perfect Damascus Road moment that shows me being convicted of my sinfulness (is “seeing a Bible verse on twitter while in a gay bar” a sufficiently cliche story?), go find a Christian counselor for a few months of praying away the gay so I can add tearful talk about my “struggles” to the story, and then go find a closeted fundy guy to marry me (the closeted fundy part is important, that way we can put on the impression of a model family without actually having to sleep with him) so we can adopt the box set of foreign orphans that we will homeschool, and I’ll be rich! That is the formula, right? Exaggerate your past so that you can sell the redemption story and be welcomed into the fold with open arms and wallets. The darker a picture you can paint of your depravity, the more people will eat up[…]

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The one thing I can’t write about

For a time during my pre-teen and teen years, I was involved with Operation Rescue. Been there, done that, have the t-shirts (t-shirts I can’t bring myself to throw away). I’ve tried time and again over the years to sit down and write about that time in my life and I can’t do it. Not that there aren’t pages of text in “draft" folders of long-abandoned blogs, and various files on my computer, but none of it ever seems right.  How do you even begin to discuss a very influential time in your life when it’s something that so few people have lived through and that was, to be honest, more than a little weird? How do you explain just how surreal it was to be at the state capital lobbying with Equality Florida when the last time you were there wandering those halls was as a kid who was there to play a role as the “poor little innocent kid who will be made a criminal if you pass this abortion clinic protest buffer zone law"? That the memory from your trip as a kid that came flooding back was of learning, on the way home, that just before you went in front of microphones and television cameras doing the innocent kid act and proclaiming the movement’s commitment to non-violence, the movement had turned deadly. How you felt learning that the Operation Rescue spokeswoman had already gotten word of what had happened in Pensacola but sent you out in front of cameras anyway, even though your insistence that the movement was non-violent was now a lie. How is anyone who hasn’t lived that ever really going to understand what it’s like? Back then I was so sure about everything, it was all so simple and cut and dried. I[…]

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Changes

Obviously we’re still waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on DOMA and Prop 8, it was a bit of a circus there today because of the possibility that it would take be announced. There was a lone protester across the street with a huge sign saying something about sodomy, dude was wearing one of the red Operation Save America/Operation Rescue “Jesus is the Standard” shirts with the cross and the American flag. Once upon a time, I ran in those circles, but that feels like a whole different lifetime.

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