An Open Letter to SGMS [Guest Post]Posted: April 15, 2011
Written by Max, a fellow Sovereign Grace escapee, and originally posted at Gender-NOS. Trigger warning for suicidality and eating disorders.
SGM Survivors or SGMS is one of the two main sites for former or questioning members of Sovereign Grace Ministries churches. It’s been a space for healing and recovery for many people, but as I’ve noted here before, there’s a lot of homophobia and transphobia in the comments, and it’s far from safe space for anyone who isn’t a straight, cisgender, conservative evangelical.
Dear Sovereign Grace Ministries Survivors:
Yep. I’m gay, always have been, and not only that my lover and I have been together, in a committed and supportive relationship for almost seven years. We got married in October, 2009, in the city of Boston, Massachusetts.
Oh, before I go on I suppose I should offer some further explanation about who I am and why you should care, or at least pretend to care. On SGMS, I go by the handle of “platypus” now, on the rare occasions I still participate in discussion. I used to go by “prodigal daughter”, and in my earliest days I used my real name, T. M@lament. I’m Larry’s niece, actually, and my family attended CLC from ’94 to, I think, ’08. I stopped attending sometime in ’04, when I was eighteen. Actually, my attendance dropped off slowly from seventeen to eighteen as my depression got worse and CLC seemed determined to exacerbate it rather than offer any form of comfort or beneficial support. By the time I was eighteen I gave up the sham entirely and fully ceased attendance rather than apply for a membership I didn’t want and knew would be denied, anyway. I was too deep in my “sins” of mental illness: depression, anorexia nervosa, cutting myself.
It was also when I was eighteen that my parents, still loyal CLC members, found out about my girlfriend. I never had the luxury of coming out. I was intrusively found out – if the choice had been given, I never would have come out. I knew how it would go. Long story short, two weeks after being outed I was homeless, community-less, family-less. For the record, they do insist that this was all my choice since I “chose” to be gay and therefore “chose the consequences”… But that is definitely a matter of argument, and not one I’m going to tackle here.
I’ve been on SGMS since its very early days. In fact, I found the site about two or three months after its birth on wordpress (I think that was the original host? For some reason I’m blanking) by googling “SGM” and “cult”. Actually, I performed the search on a computer in the patients’ lounge where I was being treated inpatient for my anorexia. It was my sixth hospitalization, the others had been for suicide attempts and medical stabilization from anorexia complications.
When I found SGMS and started reading Kris’s first few posts (there were only seven or eight total, then), I couldn’t even type a comment of my own because I was shaking so hard. When I had to go back in for another session, I looked at my therapist and told her through tears, “I’m not alone any more. And I’m not crazy!”
SGMS became a hugely important part of my recovery as I found validation for all the things I’d experienced but forced to deny from years of gaslighting. I reconnected with people I hadn’t talked to in years, compared stories, realized I wasn’t, in fact, alone. Basically, I enjoyed all the great things that all the survivors get out of that community. It was amazing, and powerful, and I really believe it helped save my life.
The only problem, and it was actually a pretty big one, is that soon after starting to participate in discussions I realized that I’d left SGM, yes, but SGMS was not the safe haven I had initially believed. The people, while overall very welcoming and supportive to other survivors, by and large held to the same Christian, conservative, reformed views they always had. They were absolutely most supportive and sympathetic to survivors who still believed like them.
Often, I witnessed a commenter, hurting and scared and in need of an understanding ear, come on, share their story, and at some point reveal they had left Christianity along with SGM… Instead of the love and support they needed, they would be pushed to the fringes of the group discussion and “reminded of the savior’s love”. Encouraged to come back to the fold, not throw the baby out with the bath water. Really, non-Christians there receive the same allegedly well-intentioned shunning that those who question SGM’s practices are subject to.
Because of this, I didn’t reveal that I’ve left religion entirely and now identify as an atheist. I felt I had important things to add to the discussion and knew that if I outed myself my arguments would be discounted based solely on my differing beliefs. After witnessing constant, not always subtle jabs about ‘effeminacy’ and gender policing and other homophobia I also didn’t reveal my sexuality. I was forced to make the painful, self-betraying decision that I needed the support the group offered more than my dignity.
Now, I’ve come to the conclusion, after three years of participating with a practiced filter and hiding the truth in shame, that I can’t and won’t do it any more. I’ve been trying to think of a single succinct reason why, but an easy answer isn’t presenting itself. There are a number of reasons.
First, I’m speaking out because something the gay community has long known is it’s much easier to hate a faceless threat. If you know someone gay, it’s harder to maintain the lie that all homosexuals are perverts, deviants, a menace to all that is good and wholesome and straight. You’re forced to see us as real, normal, average people who you interact with every day and not just some abstract, monstrous concept who at least have the decency to hide their faces from civilized society.
Some of us are effeminate. Some of us are butch. Some fall in between or just don’t really give a shit how their gender manifests. Some sleep around and some, like me, have been in the same loving relationship since highschool. And yes, some of us (as has come up frequently on SGMS lately) sexually abuse children. But frankly, as far as that one goes?The number of gay people who sexually abuse children is far lower than that of heterosexual men. Statistically speaking, the greatest danger to your kids is your husband, ladies. And anyway, that’s really not my point so I don’t want to dwell on it, but it fucking needed to be said. That lie is probably the single most pernicious, dangerous, and disgusting stereotype ever to have been perpetuated against gays and yes, it makes me absolutely outraged.
The real point here is I want to challenge you. Open your eyes. Get your heads out of your asses and realize that lots of people have been seriously injured by SGM and just because they don’t all still think like you doesn’t mean they are in any less need, or are any less deserving, of support. It also doesn’t mean that they have less a right to participate in your discussions or that their arguments are less valid or their points less intelligently made.
If you are truly a group for survivors then you should be willing to offer that support to anyone who bears the survivor label. Period. Simple. End of story.
If you don’t want that inclusivity, if you’d rather keep it safe and sanitized for others who still think like you, that’s honestly fine too – but maybe you need to do what you’re always trying to get SGM to do and come clean about it. Be frank about your intentions and your target audience. Don’t act like you’re better than those of us who have left the faith, or are gay, or do drugs, or are holding on to our bitterness and anger, or vote liberal.
Finally, a simple challenge to you. If you are truly concerned for any of us who fall into those aforementioned categories (or any others I didn’t think of) consider this: shunning us, making fun of us, or perpetuating lies about us, is not going to help us see the savior’s love and return to church. You may not want to hear this, but you are the exact same hideous animal as SGM. You’ve just managed to hide it a little better.
I’m not sure if I’ll be around on SGMS much from now on. Especially after the latest round of gay-bashing, I’m feeling nauseous. I wish you guys all the best in your recovery from SGM and thank you for what you have done for me, but I can’t fake it enough to be a part of your hate any more. I hope that you reconsider how you handle some of the issues that come up, because SGMS has truly been such a help to so, so many people, and there are so many others out there! The biggest reason I hope you amend your talk is them: how many people has SGM left for dead who will feel unable to find refuge in your community because they don’t fit?