Stephanie Baker – #TiredofHate

As a young girl growing up in rural southeast Tennessee I understood that I was “different” from other girls I knew. I was growing up with a mother who was 20 years older than her husband, my dad (step father). The questioning looks from people were everywhere.
And then there was ME. I liked dressing as a cowboy, playing football, racing bikes, making models and looking at cute girls. When Mother tried to put me into a dress, it usually required the aid of a hickory switch. That is why any pictures showing me in a dress also shows my tear soaked eyes. Thankfully, by the time I was 8, she gave up trying to dress me. The spankings, the tears, the guilt she felt, just wasn’t worth it any longer.
“Why is she so weird?” was a comment I heard a lot all through school. I tried to be “normal”, tried to like guys as more than friends, but it just wasn’t the truth in me. I lied to myself trying to make everyone else happy. I felt a growing hate within myself, for myself, and for the world around me. I hated me for being different.
Although we didn’t go to church, I did grow up in a conservative Christian household. I found it very difficult to follow my parent’s belief system and how could I? Churches were full of hypocrites who cheated on their spouses, drank to excess and other “sins”. Their God made me wrong. Their God allowed kids and adults to be cruel to me. Their God kept me alive when I wanted to die.
I survived into adulthood with atheists beliefs and big chips on my shoulders. My family (except for my stepdad) had a boatload of issues when I decided to come out of the closet at age 23. Religious issues, moral issues, “how could you do this to us?” issues and “what will people say about us?” issues. I didn’t care. I was finally alive! I’ve be living my “gay” truth since then, no matter how society at large might view me.
Mother came around in a year or so and we were very close. Their God took her from me only a few years later. Did this God, if he/she existed, hate me? Give me something good, then remove it? It happened more than once, yet more than once it was my own fault.
I laid in a hospital bed in 2009, recently off life support, and a visitor in white came to my bedside. She comforted me, prayed over me, helped me in ways that surprised me. I soon discovered that she didn’t exist in corporeal form. She was all in my mind…or was she?
I fought against the temptation to call myself Christian after this visitor came and went. I still saw organized religion as a hypocritical and dangerous thing. It took me several more years and many loving people bedside me before I braved the entrance to a church. Lightning didn’t strike!
Years have rolled on, my dad has changed his ideals and in his mind, I’m going to hell because I’m gay. I’m no longer welcomed in his life because I won’t “change” who I am. It hurts because I love him deeply, he is the only dad I’ve ever had. But, I’m not a Christian or a daughter in his new life. He isn’t a father in mine.
Religion is a choice, believing is a choice. Being gay isn’t a choice, I was born gay. I’m happy being gay,  just the way that God made me. I made my choice to believe in God, in the teachings of Jesus and in helping my community in Christ’s name.
There should be no hate in that, only love.