How I Escaped Christofascism and Other FAQs From You, Answered

A lot of similar questions have come up over the last week since my first Autostraddle piece was published and addressing them all individually — as I have been — is quite a lot, as you can imagine. While I’m working on follow up pieces, I wanted to answer some of the most common questions and provide some explanation.

Why haven’t you written about this before?

Many other homeschool alumni and myself have been speaking out against these organizations and talking about their plans for years, it’s only now that people beyond our bubble have started paying attention (thank goodness). I would like to direct your attention to Homeschooler’s Anonymous, Love Joy Feminism and Kathryn Brightbill. From there you can jump down any number of rabbit holes and learn about any organization that I mentioned in my previous post and most likely ones that I’ll bring up in the future, in great detail.

How did you escape/Why not write about how you escaped?

I have about 8 years of archives just for you, depicting all of this in great detail as it happened. My blog is called Bridging the Gap. Specifically, I recommend My Elaborate Plan, about my literal escape, with links to a lot of backstory; and Preparing a Visionary Daughter to Do Hard Things, a synopsis of events and my background that I wrote when I was 19.

How do we fight back?

I am writing a follow up with recommendations on how to do exactly that. While I will never personally condemn the punching of Christofascist nazis; nazi punching should only be done when you are aware of your surroundings and can get away safely. My recommendations won’t include nazi punching as a strategy (there are better resources than myself for that aspect), but will be focused on things we can do today with the goal of solving problems long-term.

What do you mean, “they’re not worth arguing with”?

If a stranger – or someone who is pegged as an outsider – starts talking to you about something fundamental to your identity and how wrong it is, you are less likely to listen to them. Talking to conservative evangelicals about their ideas with the intent of convincing them they’re wrong isn’t going to work. When we leave, there is a high chance that we lose everything. Leaving the faith is like having the floor fall out from under you. This isn’t something that is likely to happen in one conversation because of how much is at stake. Going up to Christofascists and saying “hey, you’re wrong” isn’t effective and your energy is better spent working to counter their movement. However, if you are a trusted friend, then maybe they’ll be more likely to listen.

The straw the broke the camel’s back for me, was realizing my parents lied to me about the inevitability of the deaths of my stillborn siblings. That’s not really something that can be replicated from a conversation with an outsider. However, I want to emphasize the importance of doubt and kindness. Arguing is fruitless, but if you plant a seed of doubt, that is good; if you are kind when you encounter kids in these families, they’ll notice. You can do this without saying a word and just by existing. When I saw queer people just existing and being normal, that went so much further than anything else. I was taught that any queer person would try to convert me to queerness on the spot! As if that’s how it works.

In short, what I mean by “we can’t dialogue” is: they won’t listen if they’re confronted head on about their beliefs. If you just live your life, answer questions and are kind when you encounter these families as you go about your day-to-day, that will go much much further.

Gender/Pronouns?

This hasn’t been a question but there has been a lot of confusion about it. I am a nonbinary trans person which means I’m neither a man or a woman. My pronoun is the singular they, like from Shakespeare or when you don’t know who’s at the door. It involves adjusting the english language a bit, I know, I am also a grammar nerd. “They” is the most accurate way to describe me if you don’t feel like using my name. If you want a sentence example: This is Kieryn, they like blue and they taught themselves to hack.

Lastly, writing these pieces involves going back through memories and capital “T” Trauma that I am working through with my therapist. I am essentially going back through a minefield and trying to dig them up to explain how everything’s connected and how to fight by using their strategy against them. I deeply appreciate the outpouring of support and understanding from everyone as I continue to write while also taking care of myself.


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Kieryn Darkwater is a blue haired fairy boi you can find making art and being an activist. They spend their time advocating for housing with East Bay Forward and protecting homeschool students as the Tech Director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. When they’re not writing, organizing, or otherwise doing activisms, you can find them drawing comics, talking about what HRT is like, learning any new art skill, or playing video games.

Kieryn has written 4 articles for us.

28 Comments

  1. I also recommend reading Samantha Field’s blog (now at samanthapfield.com). She was raised in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist cult in the south and is now an out bisexual Christian feminist and advocate against abusive relationships. I love what she writes about Christianity – it’s helped me find peace in my current state of “mostly atheist but still cares deeply about the culture I came from”. She also writes about chronic pain and is a sci-fi/fantasy nerd, which I also love. She commented on the last article, actually. Anyway, highly recommend checking her out as well!

  2. Thank you for all the things you do and write, Kieryn. I’ve found it very empowering to call out Christian extremists, personally. And I’ll definitely start using “christofascists!” I still self-identify as, and hold the beliefs of, a Christian, but I’ve only been able to do so by removing myself from the intensely toxic, conservative communities that I grew up in.

  3. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this series. I grew up in the same world, and it is so healing to read of someone else also escaping and joining this beautiful, free, queer world.
    I agree that, sadly, most of the parents and leaders in this movement are unreachable. But reach out to the children of the movement, and just treat them like actual human beings with feelings and agency. That’s what eventually gave me the perspective and support system I needed to leave.

  4. I survived it too, more’s the miracle. My wife saved my life. She did so by planting doubt as my best friend… and building on the doubts I’d already experienced by seeing the incongruity between what I observed in the world (and from other people) and what I’d been taught was true. She was patient, kind, and understanding. She endured some pretty terrible shit from me while I was married and trying to “save” her. Kieryn’s advice is sound and solid, speaking from experience.

  5. “You can do this without saying a word and just by existing. When I saw queer people just existing and being normal, that went so much further than anything else.”
    As a person who came from a Pentecostal holiness church that was not as extreme as yours but still shared many damaging believes, I totally agree with this statement.
    The people who changed my mind are not those who were angry and wanted to argue, they were those who were kind and I couldn’t understand how they could be truly kind without being a part of my group. I was taught that people who weren’t christian couldn’t truly love, so when I encountered real human kindness and love outside of my group, I couldn’t reconcile what I had been taught and the reality that was hugging me in the face. I had to reassess my believes and dang it was a long journey but I’m so much happier today.
    Thank you for writing about this! Even though I don’t have to deal with the old emotions much any more, it is encouraging that other people are getting out of this hurtful culture <3

    • “I was taught that people who weren’t christian couldn’t truly love…”

      So was I. It’s terrible to remember what we used to think about other people. When I started to see more consistent love and kindness from people that were deemed “of the world” than from people who were allegedly “of Christ” it became more difficult to reconcile the deeply held belief that their love was a lie and the “love” I knew from Church was destructive, controlling, and abusive.

  6. About to go dive into your 8 yrs of archives on Bridging the Gap. 💙 Thank you so much Kieryn. truly. Thank you for showing up, baring your soul, writing, and sharing of yourself with us.

    Maybe this will be answered once I start reading anyways, but do you (or others reading and commenting here?) have favorite readings, resources, support, et al. for queers recovering from Christianity of all stripes?

  7. Kieryn, your first piece and this one both had a big impact on me. You’ve clearly been through a lot, and I can’t imagine undergoing the type of brainwashing you have and emerging on the other side as the person that you are. You must be very strong. I think that this is quite an accomplishment. Thank you for telling your story.

    On your point “What do you mean, ‘They’re not worth arguing with?'”, I found an interesting article that I’ve been trying to use when talking with conservative and intolerant people. It’s a piece called “How to talk to someone you hate”. I thought it gave some good advice on how to talk with people like you describe and others whose opinions you don’t agree with. Because after all, no one likes to feel attacked or disrespected. I personally believe that we cannot heal the divides in this country without first coming to terms with how to communicate respectfully with one another on both sides. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

    (https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/how-to-talk-to-someone-you-hate)

  8. Strong agreement on the praise for Kieryn!

    For the “talking to people you hate” idea, the problem isn’t that we (I) hate them, but that they hate me/us. I believe that you can’t hate someone once you know their story, so am eager to share. I find it harder to get to that place with the people Kieryn describe when part of their identity is hatred & mistrust of me.

  9. For those who want info about or community with queer Christians, I’d recommend the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, the GLADAlliance (Christian Church), Morelight (Presbyterian), Reconciling Ministries (Lutheran), as well as a number of similar groups in other denominations/faiths. We exist, and we’re working to make the world a better place, exhibiting Christ’s love for ALL PEOPLE, not just some small subset.

  10. Oh my God! I was looking for your blog the other day and I couldn’t find it! I read something you wrote years ago on no longer quivering and I was wondering how you were doing. This comment isn’t really to say anything other than I’m really glad to see you’re doing OK.

  11. This:

    “If a stranger – or someone who is pegged as an outsider – starts talking to you about something fundamental to your identity and how wrong it is, you are less likely to listen to them. Talking to conservative evangelicals about their ideas with the intent of convincing them they’re wrong isn’t going to work.”

    You’ve put into simple words what I have been trying to explain to people about my religious experiences as a child. A million times over, you are so correct that you cannot talk or argue with someone about WHO THEY ARE. There is no rational or logical connection that can be made. They need to see your actions, your kindness, your generosity and your respect for others, because that is the greatest “argument” you can express- your example.

    Hit the nail on the head. I am very grateful you are able to communicate what this movement is with those who wish to counter it.

  12. i have not yet summoned up the courage/mental health necessary to read these articles because reading the headlines instantly brings me back to childhood. but i am here to say that i survived seton home study school, a household that subscribed to the nat’l catholic register and marched for pro-life, a mom who wouldn’t let me listen to certain classical music composers bc they were gay/slept with prostitutes/whatever bullshit reason she came up with that day, and hey if you are reading this and are still there trying to figure out how to claw your way out i feel you because i have Been There and done that.

  13. All the love from a fellow christofascism survivor. It’s so hard to describe our experiences, our culture of origin. I’m grateful for your succinct, on point and accessible descriptions!

    For anyone struggling to or friends/family who are struggling to reconcile their faith with queerness, I highly recommend the book

    Bulletproof Your Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians
    https://www.amazon.com/Bulletproof-Faith-Spiritual-Survival-Christians/dp/0470279281

    It really touches on that sticking point of “wait, how can they be so sinful but so wonderful and kind and moral at the same time?” That helped so many of us come out. It’s the best handbook for love for others I’ve ever read.

  14. I homeschooled our 2 kids, now grown. Although we were Christian, we were Episcopalian and not recognized as Christian by right-wingers, including family members. We raised our kids to be tolerant and loving of all. In fact, while our kids were teenagers, the U.S. Episcopal church chose an openly gay bishop to head the church nationwide. It caused many to leave the church, but we were proud to be part of the first mainstream denomination to elect a gay man to be the national leader. Keep up your good work.

  15. Thank you for putting into words a whole world I failed to recognize existed under the radar. I have never been tolerant of organized religion, conservative or otherwise. Promoting a we against them lifestyle always seemed backwards on the evolutionary plane to me. Using religious beliefs to divide humans has a history of destruction trailing back as far as we can see. Brainwashing children, and not allow them to explore the world and make their own free observations and decisions, is despicable and cowardly.

    It is interesting that the “good” Christians have developed this strategy of out-breeding their enemies. I wonder if they realize that the non-Christians already have them out numbered, are crazier than they are, and are willing to blow everything up in the name of their GOD?

  16. Thank you for making your story public…I’m from the UK and was raised in a similarly messed up, sheltered, conservative evangelical right-wing, environment. I’ve basically lost all relationship with my parents, apart from a really painful superficial connection. It is a total relief to read your posts; your lived experience gives my lived experience context. It was especially relieving to see you advocate this:
    ‘Talking to conservative evangelicals about their ideas with the intent of convincing them they’re wrong isn’t going to work.’ – this gave me internal permission to step away from the way I’ve been trying to convince my own parents that I’m not suddenly an abomination because I’m gay, in a relationship and gender-non-conforming. Thanks again, you’re doing great stuff.

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