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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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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