13 Ways to Be a Good Woman, According to the Bible

I was raised in the wooden pews of a Southern Baptist Church in a town called Flowery Branch, Georgia. I tried, my whole life, to become a Woman of God.

I failed.

It happened in stages.

The time, when I was eleven, that a deacon pulled at what he thought was my bra strap showing under my dress and told me to cover myself up. It wasn’t a bra strap. It was a tank top for playing outside and I was wearing shorts underneath my dress, too. The quicker to get on my bike and into the woods when the service was over. That was worse than if it had been a bra strap, apparently. Masculine. Belligerent. Threatening. The time, when I was sixteen, that my pastor told me I shouldn’t display a full wall of sports trophies and plaques in my bedroom because it wasn’t Humble. Meek. Submissive. Boys, however, could display trophies; I had a lot to learn. The time, in my very early twenties, when I kept asking our campus pastor what Fox News had to do with Jesus’ teachings and he told me to Sit Down. Be Silent. Don’t Question My Authority.

The time, in my mid-twenties, when being a godly woman became truly impossible for me. This is that story, transcribed directly from my journals from 2001-2005. (All names have been changed, besides the ones in the Bible.)


June 2001

I guess I didn’t really realize that the Proverbs and Pslams are full of so much insight about how to be a godly woman! I guess I didn’t even really know Song of Solomon is about sex either! It makes me a little uncomfortable, but that is to be expected as a virgin, I suppose. Today Jacob spoke from Proverbs 21:19. I really don’t think I’ll have any problem with that lesson when God sends me a husband. I don’t like to argue or fight. I just like everyone around me to be happy and I like to be a part of making them happy and I’ll bet that goes double when I finally find a man of God whose ministry and spiritual gifts line up with my own! Anyway besides the wife stuff there’s a lot of good battle stuff in Proverbs 21 and I like that. Vanquishing poverty and broken hearts. Victory rests with the Lord.

March 2002

I asked Jacob today about something that’s really been bothering me. It’s the submissive thing that pops up all over even the New Testament, even by men who didn’t have wives, like Paul. He has a lot of opinions about women for a single man. Jacob explained that men are the ones God made responsible for all the affairs of the household, and men will be judged for that. Women will not be judged for that. They will be judged on whether or not they supported their husbands in such a way that they became successful in the eyes of God and God’s people. It’s an easier job with less responsibility. Also he said the husband has to treat his wife like Christ treats the church, that’s part of the deal, too. The key, then, is to choose a good man and you won’t have to worry about what submitting means because he’ll be submitting to God and so will you, so your goals will be in line with each other.

October 2002

Dr. Henderson was on a tear today! I can’t remember how she got from the Battle of Britain to what Leviticus says about women on their periods but she was irate when she finally got there. She really does hate church. She kept looking at me like she wanted me to argue with her or something, practically staring me down. I didn’t say anything because she’s so much smarter than me and well-versed in debate. I’d have ended up crying in front of everyone like it was sixth grade math all over again. And what could I have said?

She’s right about Leviticus and frankly I don’t think she knows the half of it. Women are unclean on their periods, fine, and unclean when they have babies, but unclean twice as much and twice as long if it’s a girl. I guess I could have said, “Leviticus isn’t the law anymore” but she’d have said plenty of people use Leviticus to justify their medieval behavior and she’s not wrong. Ironically, I am on my period right now. I should have asked to be excused so as not to defile the classroom, as a joke. She does think I’m funny. I should figure out how to publicly defend (or at least explain) these things. I’m not a feminist but I’m not a backwoods breeder either. There are a lot of smart people in my orbit. Smarter than me. The only way I can win them over is with love.

January 2003

You ever stop to wonder why so many people use the story of Sodom and Gomorra to justify their persecution of homosexuals but the real moral of that story is that the good guy is the one who gives up his virgin daughters to strange men to be raped, instead of letting them go through with the gay sex they wanted to have. That doesn’t seem like such a good guy to me. Men in the Old Testament, they gave up their daughters to be raped a lot. I don’t like to think about it. It causes me to think things I shouldn’t, to ask questions that might lead me down a dark path of faith testing. There are a lot of things about the Bible that aren’t literal. I have found so much comfort in it these last few years, since my dad left, since everything with my mom. I trust that when the time is right I will be guided toward understanding about these more complicated passages. It doesn’t feel right not to look closer but it makes me feel sick to look closer.

July 2003

Something is wrong with my uterus, do da! Something is wrong with my uterus, oh do da day! My periods should not be this heavy or painful, according to the answers on the internet, but I cannot live through one more doctor sending me somewhere else or writing me off because I’m a virgin. Yeah, my vagina is tight and it hurts when you try to stick your instrument in there! That doesn’t mean there’s not something wrong with me! Sometimes I think the best thing about getting married will be getting my vagina stretched out so I can finally get my periods under control. The last doctor I went to told me God made it this way. That it wasn’t part of his original design but once Eve introduced sin onto earth he didn’t have a choice. He’s not wrong but I didn’t let him anywhere near me with a speculum.

September 2003

Maybe the reason I haven’t found a husband yet is because I haven’t found a man who I’d trust to teach me more about the Word of God than I already know myself. Maybe that’s why I haven’t really even found a man I’m very attracted to. If I were to marry a weak man, intellectually, or one not as committed to studying the Word as me, I’d be in constant sin by not looking to him for guidance. Perhaps my body knows this, somehow, and that’s why I struggle with these attractions. Maybe it’s God’s way of protecting me.

December 2003

I derailed Bible study tonight and Pastor Daniel ended up delivering a lecture about the danger of Britney Spears; specifically, Crossroads. He said she’s scandalous. I’d already made one too many jokes or I would have said the real scandal is no one laughed when he read 1 Corinthians and asked me what I thought and I said “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.” Anyway how does he know that song?

January 2004

I wish I could just get over this male authority thing. I’m always looking for a way around it, a way to explain it. I’m digging into the Greek today, stuck on Timothy. I’m thinking maybe originally it meant something else. No. Wrong. “The power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege).” Why do people keep reading this at their weddings? It’s a feminine noun, though; that’s something. Maybe I’ll say that next time I’m called upon to deliver a toast.

July 2004

I had a dream last night I was an old woman and my husband was dead. No idea who he was, doesn’t matter. I think it’s because I was reading Titus before bed. I was fixating on the idea about what young women should learn from old women. I was fixating on the idea that one day I’ll be an old woman and I can teach younger women, and maybe that will fulfill my maternal responsibilities and that means I don’t have to have children! I know this sounds like an excuse or a workaround, but I really believe this could be the case. Plenty of women in the Bible didn’t have children and frankly the planet is overcrowded and I could view this as a service. Additionally, if I don’t have my own kids I could have more energy to teach when I’m older. I’m serious, I really do believe this could be a dream from the Lord.

August 2004

I know the Bible doesn’t teach men to rape… but can I say, in good conscience, that it doesn’t condone rape? There are rules about it, guidelines; when to rape and when not to rape, what to do after you rape, how a woman should behave after being raped to ensure that she gets a husband out of it one way or another. Adam gave me a chapter of the fantasy book he’s writing; he asked for my honest feedback. The chapter in its entirety is a graphic depiction of the male protagonist reveling in ripping a fairy’s wings off. It disgusted me, if it was literal, and even more because it seemed to be a subconscious (hopefully) metaphor for rape.

If I asked any of these men of God if rape was wrong, they would say yes. If I pointed out these loopholes God gave in the OT for raping, they’d say that’s the OT. Yet they use the OT to justify so many other bad behaviors. “Bad.” Bad to me only, I sometimes feel. We were at the fireworks at GC when Adam gave me that chapter and I didn’t leave, but I did get up and leave Ruby Tuesday when he, once again, exhibited extreme agitation talking about gay people. Leviticus Leviticus Leviticus. Therein also lies the roadmap for rape. This isn’t a faith question. I don’t doubt my ability to comprehend the scriptures. I can distinguish clearly between the old covenant and the new. Can men? All men are not Adam. Maybe I should know more men.

September 2004

Weird night at Bible study. We were talking about the weirdest Bible passages. I shared my favorite; the talking donkey, of course. Someone, probably David, brought up Deuteronomy 25:11-12, the law about a woman getting her hand cut off if she accidentally touches a man’s penis when she’s trying to break up a fight between her husband and the other man. I laughed and David said it’s not funny. (Of course he thinks it’s not funny. He thinks the OT is serious as everything. He waited in his car in the church parking lot the other night to accost me when I got back from dinner to tell me I was violating a direct covenant with God if I said I wasn’t going to kiss Kevin but then I kissed him anyway.) (My intention to simply avoid the temptation of premarital sex is an OT covenant? Get a grip, dude!) So he says it’s not funny and Adam agrees with him.

The rest of the night is spent with all of them, and Mark who I’m not even sure has even opened the Bible Jacob got him, debating whether or not it would be a sin to NOT cut off a woman’s hand if she accidentally touched a man’s penis? “Would showing mercy be a sin?” Yes, they decided. Pastor Daniel wants me to find a husband out of these guys. Kevin kept his mouth shut I guess? Dylan was mad but he didn’t say anything. I cannot believe Liza is going to marry David. I cannot believe this is what they teach in seminary. Maybe he’s just mad I embarrassed him in front of the youth group playing basketball. The problem is that if I continue to challenge him publicly he and Adam are going to revolt and I’m never going to get this leadership team position.

Pastor Daniel has already told me that if I do get it I will not be getting paid like the men who had the position before and I won’t have a title, to keep men from suggesting I have authority over them. That’s fine. He’s already taking a chance on me. If David of all people speak up, Pastor Daniel will take back the offer. I can’t be meek but I can pray for the ability to be quiet on nights like tonight. It’s not like they’re really going to cut a woman’s hand off and if I just don’t upset them or make them feel like their authority as men is in jeopardy I could still get the job and do a lot of good.

September 2004

David threw Peter at me today. Peter. As if! Mr. “Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” is being guided by the wisdom of Peter now. He said the Bible literally says women are weaker than men. I said let’s do a push-up contest, let’s do a free throw contest, let’s see who can throw a football farthest. He wouldn’t do it. He is so scared of me. I mean that in every way you can think of. He is scared of me. I asked him who the epistle was written to and why. I asked him why it bears Peter’s name. He wouldn’t answer (because he couldn’t). He’s right to be scared of me. If I were a man, with the Biblical authority of a man, I would destroy him.

January 2005

Pastor Daniel called me into his office when I was playing ball last week. David pulled my shorts off when I crossed him up the other day and when I told Pastor Daniel he said stop trying to show him up in front of his youth group and he won’t be forced to put me in my place. Now I guess it’s making the elders feel uncomfortable if I shoot hoops alone? I was memorizing Isaiah 61 while I was shooting. My Bible was lying open right there in the grass. Pastor Daniel said, “You seem lost.” He wants me to get married. Everyone else is getting married. It’s time. People are going to stop taking me seriously as a single woman my age. I told him I’m praying about it, and he said that’s good. I believe he thought I meant I was praying on whether to marry Kevin or Dylan; instead, I am begging God to give me a desire for a husband.

We started the Proverbs 31 Bible study today. Everyone seemed so happy! I had prayed, brattiily, I suppose, that we could do another Beth Moore study. I would rather do a thousand more pages on the Temple than an Elizabeth George study on being the kind of woman a man deserves. I guess that’s why I need this study more than everyone, even though I feel less happy about it (inside) than they do. I try not to make a habit of being too jokey lest it be read as an inability to submit but Proverbs 31 does lead off with King Lemuel telling his son not to bother with women at all. I said, “I guess that’s it, then! Study over!” when Jenna got to that part. Everyone laughed!

We had to all pick out one verse from the overall Proverb to share and pray over at the end. I chose verse 20: “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” I don’t need a husband to do that. I know I need to snap out of this and I trust that God will hear my prayers and deliver me from it. I would rather open my arms to the poor alongside Christina, anywhere in the world, no matter our living conditions, than “get up while it’s still dark” for a husband and children.

I can’t figure out when everyone else stopped finding boys gross and decided to get married. I feel like I’m aging ten years behind everyone else. If Christina called me tonight and asked me to run away with her, I would. I really would.

What would happen, two women of God alone out in the world? Something scary? Something good?


Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 863 articles for us.

72 Comments

  1. This was a tough read.
    “It doesn’t feel right not to look closer but it makes me feel sick to look closer” could have been taken directly from my teen diary.

    I know there are a lot of us out here still working through our feelings about the faith traditions we were raised in. Reading this was heartbreaking but cathartic. Thank you so much for sharing. Lots of love to you.

  2. This is my favorite piece I’ve read in a while. It makes me wish I still had all my old journals from childhood, or from when I worked as a counselor at a Christian summer camp. I don’t know how different it is growing up in the South, I grew up in rural Maine. But I had the same feeling of trying to rationalize and justify the verses that didn’t sit right with me.

    I also love that you pointed out how people will selectively either dismiss or defend parts of the Old Testament, depending on the issue and who they’re talking to. I never actually thought of that but it’s so true.

    My mom always tries to defend the paying 50 shekels for a woman raped and making her the rapist’s wife, by saying “well he hurt her so he should have to take care of her forever to make up for it” as if she is just an object to be paid for, or as if her pain or feelings about the situation just don’t figure in.

  3. “What would happen, two women of God alone out in the world? Something scary? Something good?“

    So much of this destroyed me, but this. Especially this.

    I hope you know that this is the kind of work that will help someone who is just coming out of that kind of evangelicalism, who is feeling so very alone, who feels like they’re the only one who ever felt that way. And it helps those of us who were once there know that we weren’t alone, either. We were/are many.

    And you were right, you know — that dream was prophetic, in a way. You’ve become the teacher of younger women and queers you always knew you’d be.

  4. Your writings on religion are possibly my favorite serious things to read. They are just so lovely and true.

    I grew up in the holiness movement, which is a bit different than the Southern evangelical tradition, but shares many of the backwards notions and shame-based beliefs. It’s so healing to read about how other people coped with that. We were not alone!

    • “I can’t figure out when everyone else stopped finding boys gross and decided to get married.”

      ^This was my entire teenage years, well except I also assumed all girls secretly found boys gross but just pretended to like them.

      Heather you are amazing, thank you for surviving and sharing this with us.

  5. Even the most devastating parts of this made me feel so hopeful. I’m glad you are the person you are today, Heather.

    “’She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.’ I don’t need a husband to do that.” Damn straight.

  6. This WAS my favorite quote: “Maybe he’s just mad I embarrassed him in front of the youth group playing basketball.” Until I read further and got to “He’s right to be scared of me. If I were a man, with the Biblical authority of a man, I would destroy him.”

    Thank you as always for your words and sharing your story with us Heather <3

  7. “The key, then, is to choose a good man and you won’t have to worry about what submitting means.”

    This was my chief goal from about the age of eight to more recently than I’d like to admit. I felt it was supported not only by the Bible, but by every rom com since Pride and Prejudice, by history, by biology. I’m so glad I dug myself out of this mindset and realised that I’m a person with agency and a good ‘man’ in my own right.

    ‘“She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” I don’t need a husband to do that.’ Amen.

  8. i remember Proverbs 31 bible studies in college and how ridiculous it felt and how out of place i felt, and how i fought with leaders about why i had to “submit” to these guys who were clearly IDIOTS. sigh. Thanks for writing this. And I loved this so much:

    “What would happen, two women of God alone out in the world? Something scary? Something good?” Something SO GOOD, that scares the shit out of the patriarchy. Amen.

  9. Oh this is just, beautiful and heartbreaking and brave and wonderful. Thank you for sharing. So proud of you and so happy for you, and so delighted in the fierce questioning strength of your younger self.

  10. “Anyway, how does he know that song?” ??????

    Yeah, all of the references to the Old Testament are ironic since in the New Testament it is literally stated that the Old shouldn’t be followed anymore since the things written there are because of the hardness of the hearts of the people alive at the time it was written. And that’s the other issue!! Most people irrespective of denomination don’t think of the context in which those things were written!!

    A lot of things in the NT (and quite a few in the Old) are very metaphorical and very much related to the time in which they were written (Revelations. If you don’t read all Books preceding Revelations and/or take it literally, you will not understand it).

    I’m not going to continue going off about it but the point is, as with anything, there is a very big difference between memorizing something and actually understanding it which is why in this particular case, the biggest problem with religion is how most people interpret it in the way that is most convenient for them. That’s why the Cherry Picked Bible meme exists.

    By the way, the rape thing is something I can’t make sense of because Dinah’s brothers killed her rapist so as is sensible and expected, clearly everyone knows this is totally inappropriate. Of coarse, David also had a woman he wanted to sleep with’s husband killed in war…….

  11. HEATHER. This was exquisite. I once tried to reread my journals from my evangelical childhood and I got so overwhelmed that I threw them all in the dumpster! Thanks for going through what must have been a lot of feelings to share these with us.

  12. This is such perfect timing because just last night I was reading through my old journals chronicling youth group and my confusion about where I fit in “god’s plan.” The struggles were almost identical, save for some Five Iron Frenzy and Pedro the Lion lyrics. Oh and I REALLY REALLY REALLY hated King David.

    I remember being so upset that on my 14th birthday the sermon was on wives submitting to their husbands.

    • I liked David until he peeped at the showering lady and had her husband killed. Of all things, man. I wonder if the idea is we can look at it more as how incapable we are of ever being perfect.

  13. My chest feels tight, and I feel really sad. I related to basically everything about this.

    I’m glad you’re not in that community and working from those assumptions to arrive at those conclusions any more. I’m glad I’m not anymore, either.

  14. This is so wonderful. I love how much I can see the current Heather shining through — in the kindness/generosity and also in the steely determination. Every time I saw the future misandry showing, I wanted to cheer. (Also I really wanted to punch most/all of the men in here).

    I’m in awe of you, and everyone else who has similarly made it out of a world like the one you describe here. You are so so brave for wrestling with all of this, and for sharing it again now.

  15. Wow. This was so great.
    What a great window into the mental gymnastics you went through to get to where you are today. Thanks so much for sharing.

    I hope these bible verse images google search people to Autostraddle.

    It got me thinking about the crazy fundamentalists on Handmaid’s Tale.

    I grew up in an conservative Baptist church, but would “get sick” a lot of Sunday in order to skip church.

    And then have nightmares that the rapture had happened and I was LEFT BEHIND because I was a huge sinner.

    Isn’t it so great to be finally free?

  16. Heather, I echo other commenters’ thanks to you for this piece, and I also empathize so much with your words. Grew up Baptist, attending only Christian schools until graduating from college (while secretly battling being gay). I still don’t feel like I have the strength to go back and read my journals, and I have difficulty even remembering a lot of things because I don’t want to. Anyway, happily married to an amazing woman now, and I still love Jesus (& know how much I’m delighted in –to use a churchy phrase– by God).
    Re: the Bible (eek), if anyone is interested, there are 2 books that were huge for me in knowing what the f*** to do with the Bible: The real turning point one for me was “God’s Word to Women” by Katharine C. Bushnell. It was written in, like, 1921, by this brilliant woman devoted to her faith. Katharine was passionate about social justice and traveled to places to help end sex trafficking and abuse of women, such as in the lumber camps in the States, and brothels in India. Her turning point came when she realized that often the worst abusers of women she encountered were devout “Christian” men. She devoted the next many years of her life to painstakingly digging into bad Bible translation (the root she believed of Christian men justifying their horrible behavior) and correcting it — her stuff on Paul blew my mind (like, I’m convinced now that Paul was actually a rad feminist whose words have been twisted by all the male translators). The other great book to me, just on a better way to look at the Bible, is by contemporary author, Dr. Cheryl B. Anderson, called “Ancient Laws & Contemporary Controversies: The Need for Inclusive Biblical Interpretation”. It’s a compelling book on how to reexamine the Bible through the lens of the marginalized — women, lgbtia, people of color, etc. — and how that often, this reveals how self-interested lenses of those at the apex of power, has actually obscured more positive interpretations for the marginalized. Oh, and re: Prov. 31 Woman, I highly recommend Rachel Held Evans explanation of this passage, which is about how the passage was meant to be studied & recited by Jewish MEN, for them to be humbled and grateful for everything the women in their lives do.

  17. Whenever we got a sermon on “wives be submissive to your husbands” etc. I would sit there with clenched jaw and fists and then be growly for the rest of the day. When I was in college the topic of women being unable to be priests came up in family conversation and I sent my dad an extremely sarcastic rant about how since apparently the “logic” was that priests must be “like Jesus,” I expected that all priests must be Hebrew carpenters’ sons whose names begin with J. (My dad is not the villain in this story – I knew he’d be a sympathetic audience.)

    I am now atheist because I no longer believe God exists. But I left the Catholic Church earlier, because I was so done with the misogyny and the anything-not-straight-phobia and the authoritarian structure. I met a lot of kind, loving, hard-working, wonderful people there, but I just couldn’t consent to being part of that system anymore.

    My mom still goes to Mass, and is horrified and depressed by the pro-Trump stuff she hears from the pulpit. I want to say either speak up or get out! But I don’t think she will do either. In her professional life she is very able to speak up for herself and others, but if she ever gave a priest a piece of her mind, I’d be amazed. Proud as anything, but gobsmacked.

  18. “What would happen, two women of God alone out in the world? Something scary? Something good?”

    This was great. I’m so happy you found your way after struggling so much with the scripture and misogynistic men.

  19. Thanks Heather for sharing this, your writing was beautiful as always. These passages took me back way back.

    I went through a lot of spiritual upheaval in my late teens and needed to be “delivered” by my aunt’s Pentecostal pastor. Apparently I was battling a spirit of homosexuality among other things. He said that once I was delivered I needed to stay on the straight and narrow or else these things would come back sevenfold.

    “The key, then, is to choose a good man and you won’t have to worry about what submitting means.”

    So for the first half of college I tried so hard to be “good” and to find a good and Godly man that I could submit to. I’m openly gay now, but I had forgotten how much I had tried to live that life too before I read this piece. It does get better.

  20. Heather-where did you go from there? Such a cliffhanger!

    I went to seminary (aka Jesus school) and figured out I also liked ladies and fell in love with a woman. We’re getting married in a few months. In my denomination it’s “legal” for me to be an ordained queer pastor. AND I have such a complicated relationship with the Biblical text and how to navigate a world that seems to wallow and rejoice in patriarchy and misogyny. I remember the thinking SUCH similar things when I was a teenager.

    Where did you land in terms of faith? Is there a way to not throw the baby out with the bathwater in terms of the Bible or is just too damned steeped in the contexts of partriarchy and oppression to be worth the navigation? I’d be grateful to hear where you landed.

  21. Wow this was an amazing read Heather.

    I grew up “catholic”, and I put that in quotes because it was a very loose catholic. While I attended a catholic school (with nuns, priests, mass, confessions, the whole shebang) and Sunday school, my parents still gave me the right to choose. So at 7, they let me quit Sunday school (I did stay in that school until I was 10, then I went to public school)

    I don’t remember much from what I learned there, and I was never made to read the bible, which I knew had some really bad stuff in it, but I had no idea how much and how bad, and how ingrained it can get in your head.

    I’m so glad you were able to find your true self despite the restrictive environment you grew up in, because you are happier and because it brought you to us! Big hug

    • It’s not really ingrained inasmuch as it is beaten into your head as long as you allow it and let yourself be guided by people who don’t really know what they’re talking about. Honestly, the worst example of a religion going haywire for convenience is the JW’s because aside from how that religion is the most recent addition to those who claim belief in God and how out there their precepts are, the texts they follow were created by people who were not fluent in Greek so they translated it however they could to push their agenda.

      Their leader says skinny pants were made by gay men. They also say it is women’s lot to be submissive because we have long hair. Since men’s hair “is naturally short”, they are dominant and we are to submit to them. I still cannot understand how upon having children they’d believe such a fallacy. What female has Repunzeled out of her mom?

      On top of that, there are many cases of crimes against women and children you won’t hear about because according to them, for them to care about accusations, there has to be two or three witnesses to the action. But then again, you’re not supposed to question the Elders. I’m guessing they can’t question the Elders because the Elders themselves don’t know WTF they’re talking about. It’s easy to bullshit when no one asks for explanations.

  22. This is incredibly beautiful and relatable. Not to pressure you into sharing more, but I wouldn’t HATE a sequel, assuming past you continued journaling.

    Side Note: This confirms you have always been a fantastic writer, but I’m so glad your talents are truly being used for the Greater Good now.

  23. I knew I had to give myself a full chunk of time to devote to reading and thinking about a Heather Hogan piece for this issue. I’m constantly amazed and impressed at the autostraddle team’s willingness to share so much of themselves with us. Heather, you are such a gift. As a nonreligious person (apparently I got kicked out of bible school at age seven for asking too many combative questions, my mom thought that was a hilarious story to tell, and I’m still kind of proud of it), reading these journal entries really made me question myself and how I would have interacted with Young Hoagie. You were clearly the same loving, brilliant, hilarious person that you are today, and I don’t know if I would have seen past the fundamentalist beliefs. :/ So now I’m going to be spending some time on my last days of vacation thinking about that.

    • This is such an interesting and unsettling and lovely thought. I definitely sometimes get super eye-rolly towards straight people, especially straight white men, and especially ones who seem particularly conservative, and try to remember that I never know who among them is in the closet or is bi and just hasn’t said or whose gender I may just be making assumptions about. And also how much it hurts to be in the closet (even/especially to be not yet out to yourself), and how much every passing comment, especially by your straight friends but also especially by random passing people you suspect to be queer, really sticks with you. So I try to be gentle and inclusive as much as possible, and also try to give people the benefit of the doubt (in person, I mean — I very rarely have the strength/stubbornness/reckless optimism to do this online). But it is so hard!! In the era of Trump, I just want to be full of righteous fury all the time, and not give a second of my time to people who seem to disagree about whether we deserve basic rights.

      I’ll def be thinking about this for a while, too.

  24. Your uterus/period passage reminded me of my first trip to the gynecologist. Even though I was living with my dad, having escaped the Evangelical clutches of my mother, he insisted that she take me. After, she made the weirdest comment: “Don’t you feel like the doctor just knows you now?” I looked at her and replied, “No. I feel like he stuck a cold piece of metal up my vagina.” Way to confuse medical procedures with intimacy, mom.

  25. i work with a woman who grew up very very sheltered in a southern baptist house, who didn’t know what sex was until she was in college and her roommate explained it. she’s thirty something and unmarried and has never had a boyfriend, and she hates herself. she doesn’t say it that way, that openly, but she says the most awful, heart wrenching things. about feeling guilty for needing things, about how the needs of everyone around her come first. about how it’s her fault that she feels bad because no one told her to think that she’s stupid, she feels stupid all on her own.

    the first journal entry here made me think of her.

    she’s the only coworker i have who has openly told me they disagree with my “lifestyle”, and she’s also the only coworker who i think about regularly, who i hope finds some happiness. she doesn’t deserve to feel as sad as she does. no one does.

    i’m glad you got out of that place, Heather.

  26. Heather– I’ve been waiting to hear more about your life in what I like to call Kingdom Evangelica. I’m still sorting through all the indoctrination, especially as my living parent, who can be otherwise awesome, still takes a lot of stock in that movement. She’ll condemn Trump and my queerness (or theoretical queerness, I can’t bear to confirm her suspicions) in the same breath.

    Meanwhile, that line about killing the boys is goals. I’m bi, but I’m sick of so much of the toxic masculinity and right now, 95% of the male-identified, assigned males of my life are making me feel similar things.

    I do regret that in my old journals, I had way too many anti-gay things and it took me until 25 (32 now), to release myself. However, it was the women can’t preach piece that started me down the rabbit hole and now here I am, still sorting.

    Thanks again and thanks to everyone for listening.

    • As Nelson Mandela said, we are all born knowing how to love but taught how to hate. There’s a Kids React video from when gay marriage was legalized where one of the kids said it’s wrong but couldn’t explain why he (supposedly) thought so. Kids just want to make their parents proud and they think their parents and other adults given the OK by their parents know everything.

      The resentment some people feel likely comes from the crap they hear everyone else say about “those kinds of people”. It’s the lie that is thought of as a truth because it is repeated so often.

  27. Oh, Heather. So much love for you and for this. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I always love reading your reflections on the church and religion because so much of what you share resonates with me or parallels things I’ve felt or struggled with. It helps remind me that I wasn’t alone then, that I’m not alone now.

    “What would happen, two women of God alone out in the world? Something scary? Something good?“
    Wow! I’m so glad you were able to find your true self and your place in the world. And selfishly, I’m so glad you chose to share your journey so much with us. Thank you for another beautiful piece.

  28. Welp, this is the thing that finally made me sign up to comment, at least to remark on the relative smallness of the world–my family moved to Flowery Branch a little over two years ago, and I came with them so I could afford to go back to college. My mom thinks of it as “coming home” since her family is from another small town not too far away from here, and my great-aunt is the one who originally bought the house we’re living in after retiring here from Blue Ridge. I was born in Atlanta and got moved around as a kid to other cities in the South, so I guess I could put it like, my roots draw from this area, but my stems and leaves were grown mostly in metropolitan suburbs? Something like that.

    Everything written here is so familiar even though I personally managed to fail at being a Christian around 13-15ish, mostly by having liberal former-hippie parents who both got kicked out of their respective churches as teenagers, and didn’t feel like dragging their kids to sermons every Sunday the way their parents had forced them to go. Still, I recognize this internal struggle, similar to the one I had when I was young and still thinking of myself as Christian (and a girl), buckling under my extended family’s pressure on me to join them in belief (honey why don’t you go to church, do you at least read the Bible?, there’s a nice Christian summer camp down here why don’t you come attend next summer, how close are you to the Lord? do you pray to Him?), as well as just from the ripple effect that church culture in the South has on damn near everything else around here. It radiates beyond the pews and seeps into the wider population, especially the idea of Male Authority Figures Will Be Obeyed Without Question.

    Anyway, I deeply appreciate you sharing this, Heather, and I hope nobody minds me (over)sharing my astonished feelings of recognition of what you went through then. I guess it’s a longwinded way of saying “I see you and I hear you”. Your past self, too, is seen and heard right now, and if I find any footprints of hers in the woods around here I’ll let them know how future-Heather is doing. <3

  29. By the time I got to the end of this piece, I found myself emotionally ravaged and wondering why it ended! Beyond you being an incredibly talented writer who hooks your readers right in the gut, I have to say how very much I appreciate you sharing these intimate parts of your story, your self. Parts that may be hard to hold by oneself, let alone sharing those parts with an open audience of people on the interwebs.
    I found myself time traveling in my own life during & after reading this. It’s very hard for me to attempt reconciliation with my past relationship with the indoctrination of christianity. Thinking about who I would be had I been raised to think & embrace & be free as the individual that I am. More pertinent is that this nudged me (ok, more than that- shoved me directly) to look at the person I have become as a result of my religious upbringing. And it’s very sad to look closely at. Because of the rampant homophobia/queerphobia and blatant misogyny that was taught by not only toxic christian indoctrination but reinforced by my family, at 25 years old I still have so much subconscious, internalized shame over the wonderful person that I am in my beautiful queerness. And how has that manifested itself in my life even now?
    It’s hard to look at, but like you said, it makes me sick NOT to look closely.
    There is still so much uprooting to be done.
    THANK YOU for sharing such personal pieces of yourself. I love your strength and your you-ness shining through your old journal entries. It gives me a semblance of hope. And I feel an enormous sense of hope and gratitude that you came out of this upbringing and environment becoming the person you are. And I also feel comforted in the fact that we are not alone- just in the comments alone there are so many people who can relate to what the experiences you’ve written about.
    Thank you again. This is so thought provoking and I know this is something I will bookmark and come back to many times.

  30. i had to wait until i had the emotional energy to read this piece, knowing so much of it would reflect my own experience growing up in an evangelical church. and while my writing has never been as impactful or beautiful as yours, i see so many of my struggles reflected here.

    my parents planted a baptist church when i was six, and i grew up being told to submit, to be quiet, to not ask the hard questions. i was never this strong, instead just letting myself feel guilty and confused when i didn’t understand things. i didn’t keep a journal, because i was too afraid that someone would find it, or that even just writing out my own fears and questions and concerns would somehow damn me further. the church broke so much inside of me, and i’m still trying to figure out how to heal from everything.

    pieces like this give me so much hope. thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing such a personal part of yourself. i will never stop being grateful for your honesty, and for your willingness to be so open with your story. ?

  31. Heather you are always so entirely you, and I love you and this so much.

    I’m so glad you’ve left this world and can now put your incredible mind to work interpreting so many more books than just the one.

  32. You can’t pick and choose how you want to live and still call yourself a Christian. One steps into a dangerous position when they decide what parts of scripture they want to follow and proclaim. The Bible warns strongly against these people. Here are some verses of reference. I say these things not as the judge, but to share the truth of the Judge (God) you will face at the end of times.

    Romans 1:26-28
    26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done

    Jude 1:5-8
    5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. 8 In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings.

    1 Timothy 1:8-11
    8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

    Isaiah 29:13 And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.

    Corinthians 11:13-15 ESV
    For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

    Titus 1:16 ESV
    They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

    2 Timothy 3:5 ESV
    Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

    2 Timothy 4:2-4 ESV
    Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths

    2 Timothy 3:1-17 ESV
    But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people…

    Read the Bible in it’s entirety, read the ONLY infallible thing we have on this Earth!! Read this living, God breathed Word and then live your life in accordance with it to honor our God and Savior.

    • I’m not sure what you’re saying, Emily, truly. Are you saying that because the Bible condones rape, slavery, etc. if the “right” criteria are met, you also condone it? Or are you agreeing with me that taking these verses out of historical, hermeneutical, etc. context is a transparent attempt by the church to oppress minorities? Either way, you can’t really use one historical text to “prove” another historical text, so while I appreciate your earnestness, I would encourage you to come to the Bible with a balanced understanding of history.

      • Heather, I am saying you are stepping into dangerous territory. You will have to answer to the Lord at the end of your days for the ways in which you lead so many people astray. The Bible is the LIVING word of God, which means we must live our lives in accordance with it.
        In the Bible we see so many examples of how we should live our lives, and how we shouldn’t. Jesus condemmed people living in sexual perversion (which included homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, brothels, etc). God uses His word and the Holy Spirit to direct us, and this article is so clearly perverting His Truth. You are completely basing your beliefs on how YOU feel, not what God says about us. This is so incredibly sad to read, so many people lost and in deep need of a Savior without realizing it. I am in deep need of a Savior as well, which is why I have dedicated my life to Him and am completely surrendering to Him daily. I encourage you to read the Bible in it’s entirety and earnestly pray that God would transform your heart to align with His. The sin of this world is heavy, but the only true King is far greater. I will be praying for you to hear God’s truth and receive His redemption and turn away from whatever breaks His heart.

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