Lovebombing The Vulnerable


A couple weeks ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, I went to visit a friend of mine (also a trans woman) for lunch. It was a rather long bus ride, so we had a nice long chat. I mentioned the fact that actually, we’d met once before (I’m all super good at remembering faces and names), really briefly, at the Trans Alliance Christmas Party.

She asked me, “So how long did you last there anyway?” assuming that I too would have found the party awful. I had no idea why, so I quizzically said I’d stayed a few hours, and asked why she asked. She mentioned something about the table she’d been at. And some stuff about what she took to have been an insidiously concealed motive behind the entire event.

You see, my table was way way way at the back, with a small group of people I already knew and trusted. This friend of mine was not so lucky, and ended up seated with some of the party’s hosts, and noticed some very spooky things.

The thing is, some kind of a Christian church had some fairly heavy involvement with the party and dinner. One of the LGBT friendly ones, I’m not sure. I’d already known about that, but my understanding had been that the church’s role was simply in financing and preparing the meal, and possibly helping rent the space, and that they’d made an agreement to be respectful of people’s beliefs and not do any God-bothering. Though it turns out that was not the case. Apparently the meal had been provided by Kaitlyn Borgas (who I’ve mentioned before). Apparently the money stuff had all come from the Trans Alliance Society and private donation.

So what the hell had the church been doing there?

Apparently simply “reaching out”. My friend described the conversation at the table where she was seated as being centered entirely on how open, trans-friendly, understanding and wonderful this church is, and how accepted, welcome and loved she would be there. She was told all about how she really ought to come and join, or at least come see what it’s like, and know that it’s totally possible to be a trans Christian. All her subtle and overt statements of discomfort with the conversation were ignored until she finally excused herself and left the party entirely. It was all layered with significant, oozing expressions of love. And heavy symbolism of the possibility of finding family there.

The flyer for event specifically called out to those members of the Vancouver trans community who were not able to go home to their families at Christmas, or who were no longer welcome there.

That’s where it started seeming really, really, really creepy.

One of the most common practices of cults is to target people who are particularly emotionally vulnerable. Teenagers who are in the midst of crises, runaways, sex workers, people going through divorce, people who’ve been disowned from their families, etc. This kind of strategy is common also to more mainstream organizations that don’t necessarily carry around the weighted term “cult”. 12-Step, for instance, specifically indoctrinates people at extremely vulnerable points in their lives where they’re desperate to accept anything that promises a way out, salvation, sobriety, no matter what tenets or principles it requires be accepted as the one true path.

In times of emotional vulnerability, fear, stress, loss, uncertainty, we’re all much more eager to turn to faith for answers and comfort. Even the most hardcore skeptics and atheists may still mutter a prayer, or cross their fingers, when under enough stress. Faith, religion and superstition all have their origins in such basic psychological needs, comfort in times of stress, certainty in times of uncertainty, courage in times of fear, etc. The beliefs that survive, and pass down through the ages, are the ones that offer the most psychological rewards for accepting (and exact the highest psychological costs for rejecting). They allow us to feel forgiven, loved, attended to, comfort us in our fear of mortality, provide structure to our existential uncertainty, give us a sense that things happen for a reason, give us hope for a better something- in the next world, even if this one is beyond hope. When we’re scared, weak, alone, anxious, vulnerable, those messages become so appealing that rejecting them is almost unbearable. Faith is all about what we want to believe, and there are times where that want becomes strong enough to almost become a need. Where what you believe stops really being your choice.

That leaves us very unprotected. There’s a reason psychic surgeons, faith healers, and practitioners of alt-med are as successful as they are, despite their patently absurd claims and transparent gimmicks. The people who come to them desperately want their claims to be true.

Religious organizations like Christian churches are aware of this as well. They know the times at which people are most likely to convert are when people are vulnerable. Unlike charlatans or cult-leaders though, priests and evangelists don’t know they’re manipulating a terrible situation to their advantage. What they know is simply that in times of great need people want and seek God, and in such times they’re more likely to find him. They’re furthermore bolstered in considering what they do a moral action by the sense that bringing such people to God is a moral action, that helping these people find God in their hour of need is helping them (rather than taking advantage of their desperation to sell them a pack of comforting lies).

But the degree to which it can become so explicit… that you advertise to a community who are in an extremely uncertain and difficult point in their lives, specifically remind them of their loss of family in the flyer, use that as a pull, then build your dialogue in speaking to them upon the concept of offering them family? … taking advantage of the fact that this is a group of people you know experience significant rejection and hostility, and feel perpetually not accepted as who they are, to trump up the wonderful “unconditional” acceptance offered by your church? … to go to people who at Christmas are likely feeling an intense sting of loneliness and being unloved, and then lovebomb the fuck out of them at a dinner table despite their clear and unambiguous statement that it was making them uncomfortable?

It’s amazing the kind of horribly dodgy, unethical things people will do when they believe both that what they are doing is in someone’s best interest, and that the will of God is behind them. Amazing the degree to which faith can shut down the internal process of questioning the ethics of your actions.

Consent offered under duress is not consent. Assuming it is is rape. Conversion offered in a situation of extreme emotional vulnerability, in the wake of extreme emotional manipulation, is not conversation. Assuming it is is exploitation.

It’s bad enough to be subjected to their aggressive hatred, do we need to be subjected to aggressive “acceptance” as well? Respecting and supporting us would mean things like leaving well enough alone, and allowing us a little peace and comfort, when we’re simply trying to do things like have a little Christmas dinner amongst people who’ve shared our experiences and understand where we’re coming from. Not to enter a supposedly safe space and suddenly be attacked by a secret recruitment drive when you’re at your most unguarded.

“Love” and “acceptance” can be violence too.

Lovebombing the vulnerable… reason #9366 that religion creeps me out.

Comments

  1. Dalillama says

    Honestly, I don’t believe for a second that even the mainstream churches don’t know exactly what they’re doing. They believe that it’s right and moral, and that God is sending them this opportunity to bring another soul to him by causing some horrible situation in the victim’s life. You can find books, pamphlets, websites, etc. that go on about how glorious a chance god will provide and how people in these situations are the best targets for ‘witnessing’ to. I’ve lost my tolerance entirely for that type of thing, and anymore I respond to attempts to evangelize with a torrent of personal abuse until the asshole in question goes away.

    • Anders says

      Oh absolutely. I studied with the Jehova’s Witnesses for a while and got to read their handbook. Vulnerable people are extra good. And I’ve heard similar things about Mormons over on the Irreligiosophy podcast.

    • says

      indeed. in some cases, this ends up at the point where the religious will claim that the hardship was brought upon you in order to bring you closer to God, which makes it all good and awesome and shit.

      meaning, they know quite well that people are vulnerable and can be swayed, and therefore believe that these hardships are a good thing if it gets them another convert. totally warped.

      • says

        This reminds me of how some Catholics (I’m not sure if it’s the general church view, or a minority view), and possibly some other denominations, consider gay and trans people “blessed” in a way. We have been given a wondrous opportunity to show our devotion to the Lord through his “gift” of suffering (and then be rewarded for it with a life of bliss… when we’re dead :/ ). But of course, this is only the case if we resist the temptations of this “gift”…

        • Rasmus says

          Well, that’s simply the mainstream Christian view of thinking about it. The worse off you are in this life the better off you will be in the next, assuming you follow God’s rules. Most of God’s rules anyway. Jesus wasn’t crystal clear about which of the Old Testament rules are no longer in effect.

          The rule against homosexuality is AFAIK against “a man lying with a man like he lies with a woman”, so I guess lesbian sex isn’t necessarily completely out of the question.

          • says

            Rasmus wrote:

            The rule against homosexuality is AFAIK against “a man lying with a man like he lies with a woman”, so I guess lesbian sex isn’t necessarily completely out of the question.

            Well … strictly speaking, Levitucus is OK with male-male sex in a restroom stall. Most of them are so small in floorspace that it’s impossible for a man to lie with a man when using them.

            However, I doubt that most Biblical scholars and theologians would approve of this scriptural loophole.

            :^)

      • Anders says

        Michael Voris of the Vortex fame (his YouTube channel) says that god made homosexuals to suffer more than heterosexuals so that their suffering could bring people to Christ. It’s really an ingenious solution to the problem of cripples, people with severe birth defects etc. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

        Of course, in order to truly earn this crown of Christ the homosexual must suffer. Ze must live with hir sexuality, embrace it fully yet never satisfy it. Only if hir life is filled with torment and pain will God reward hir in the afterlife. And I’m sure the same reasoning can be applied to trans people.

        That’s one of the vilest pieces of doctrines ever to surface in the modern world. To demand suffering like this in the name of an invisible Sky Daddy… excuse me, I have to go take a shower now.

    • Louis says

      They know. While the ground-level opperatives often have a limited understanding of exactly what they’re up to they certainly know they’re faking friendliness towards someone they wouldn’t ordinarily engage with and are doing it on purpose to encourage conversion. They know this is a good strategy and do think of it that way, although they’ll think of it as “outreach” instead of “lovebombing”.

      As much as the church I mention in my comment below creeped me out, I did find it to be a fascinating sociological study.

      • Aliasalpha says

        they certainly know they’re faking friendliness towards someone they wouldn’t ordinarily engage with and are doing it on purpose to encourage conversion

        Hmm, I never thought about it that way but it reminds me of some of the crappy rewards in gaming. You feel kind of obligated to try to get them because you’re reminded you don’t have them every time you look through the list so even if its something you would normally never do you find yourself doing it for the reward rather than for the experience.

        They’re grinding for achievements

        • Louis says

          That’d be right. I suspect a disturbingly large number of them even tally up how many “souls” they’ve “won” for their cult Christ.

          • Aliasalpha says

            Wouldn’t be too hard to whip up a basic smartphone application to track it. To record each conversion they’d have to select keywords to describe their target, after a certain amount of conversions on each target type they don’t get an achievement, they get a lecture on the ways they’ve fucked up these people’s lives

      • says

        I’m all too familiar with this type of tactic, from the other side of things; I was raised in a Mormon family.

        They know […] they’re faking friendliness towards someone they wouldn’t ordinarily engage with and are doing it on purpose to encourage conversion.

        Louis is spot-on with that. We learned specific tactics for “missionary work” (stuff I now recognize as social engineering skills) and were asked to do these kinds of things with a smile — to “show our love for those less fortunate” and “invite them to be baptized” if we could pressure them that far. Plenty of practice sessions among fellow church-goers, working on specific phrasing to be most effective at getting the “right” answer from someone who didn’t seem eager to commit, and pep talks to get us fired up for going out and “converting” non-members.

        We’d even regularly pair up with the “full-time missionaries” (those would be the guys in suit and tie on their bicycles) to go around to the “inactives” — folks who had stopped regularly attending meetings, sometimes even specifically requested to be left alone, thank-you-very-much — so that we could “show them we’re still here for them” and “remind them God still loves them.” Often these visits also included some sort of helpful task; bringing a home-cooked meal or mowing a lawn or fixing something-or-other, so we could claim that we were just there to “do service”… whether that service was wanted or not.

        And yes, those efforts intensified around the “holiday season,” and many of the same bits mentioned in the original post (and Emily’s own telling) made their way into the sales pitch: family, and having a home, and a safe, welcoming space where you were loved as one of God’s children… indeed, find someone vulnerable and “attack their weak point for massive damage!

        So… yes, the friendliness is faked, for sincere but dangerous reasons.

    • says

      People have already supported your claim but I will as well. Mainstream religions know that they are being manipulative. They know what is effectkve and they school their most faithful in the techniques so that more people are roped in like the worlds largest pryamid scheme. The just believe they are doing the “right” thing. They have their gods full support in using coersion.

  2. rikitiki says

    For some reason this reminds me of years ago when, for some reason, I read “When Bad Things Happen To Good People.” For those that don’t know it, it’s a book by a conservative rabbi pondering why, if god is good and created this universe, bad things happen.
    What I remember most is his final non-conclusion: he used the old testament story of Job as his ‘answer’. When Job gets to heaven and asks god why the fuck he put Job through all that shit, gods ‘answer’ is: “Where were you when I made the world?”
    Pretty much how some religious ‘answer’ when questioned about their dubious practices: “We’re moral and you’re not, so fuck off” (said, of course, in patronizing theo-speak).

    • N. Nescio says

      I find it extremely disturbing that most of the responses to the problem of evil seem to amount to reducing life, the universe, and everything to an ant farm owned by a child who feels free to do whatever he likes to the ants, and moreover has the right to do anything, because it’s his ant farm!

  3. says

    And of course the majority of new members of every religion are children, who are the most vulnerable people there are.

    I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say religion propagates itself entirely through indoctrinating vulnerable people.

  4. godlesspanther says

    “… they’d made an agreement to be respectful of people’s beliefs and not do any God-bothering.”

    They always say that. Always. It’s always a lie. Always.

    The tenets of most (almost all) religious cults contain a mandate that members manipulate people into joining the group.

    I would guess that some of these people honestly had no intention of proselytizing. But they do it anyway — without even realizing what they are doing. They are brainwashed into behaving that way. Coercing others to join becomes habitual — they are not aware of their own behavior.

  5. says

    I’ve gone to heavily evangelical churches (you super-heathens were generally safe from our efforts, though). They really do think that vulnerable people need God’s help the most. Any cynical calculation involved is way up the chain above the church level. Trans people are lucky that a lot of churches have written them off, at least. The disabled (many of whom have reduced ability to flee) get this every time they go out in public.

  6. Happiestsadist says

    After my grandfather had an aneurysm, one of the nastier sects of Lutheranism wormed its way into his and my grandmother’s lives. My grandparents were just far enough from us distance-wise that they were vulnerable to this anyway, and with my grandfather’s ill health, it was a perfect way for them to get an “in”. And that’s how my deist-at-best grandfather ended up a fundie lay minister for a while. He’s mostly better now.

  7. A. Person says

    Reading about this sort of thing still leaves me shaky and upset. A couple years ago I had a pretty catastrophic breakdown, which was made worse by this sort of “Christian love”.

    Warning religious manipulation / emotional abuse / gender dysphoria trigger warnings (ROT13):

    V jnf haqre n urnil nzbhag bs fgerff ng gur gvzr: jbexvat shyy-gvzr, gnxvat tenqhngr-yriry pbhefrf, gelvat gb onynapr n svavpxl pne naq xrrc na ncnegzrag shyy bs pbyyrtr-ntr znyrf va n fgngr jurer jr jbhyqa’g ybfr bhe frphevgl qrcbfvg. Jbefr, gur fgerff jnf va n cbfvgvir srrqonpx ybbc jvgu zl traqre qlfcubevn. Gur bayl bhgyrg V unq sbe gung ng gur gvzr jnf cerggl zhpu pelvat juvyr va gur fubjre.

    Zl gura-tveysevraq jnf na rinatryvpny, naq jnf tenqhnyyl orpbzvat zber hcfrg jvgu zl ngurvfgvp fgnapr, rira gubhtu ng gur gvzr V jnf bcra gb zber yvoreny vagrecergngvbaf bs Puevfgvnavgl. Gura whfg jura V gubhtug V unq cnffrq guebhtu gur qnexrfg cneg bs gur rkcrevrapr, fur oebxr hc jvgu zr, yrnivat zr jvgu gur hygvznghz gung vs V erpbafvqrerq zl fgnapr gbjneqf Puevfgvnavgl, fur jbhyq erpbafvqre bhe eryngvbafuvc.

    V jnf qrinfgngrq, naq vavgvnyyl, V sbhtug gur oyngnag znavchyngvba. Ohg nf gur riragf bs gur fhzzre jber ba, V ybfg zl wbo, znwbe pne ceboyrzf, cvyrq bagb gur nzbhag bs fgerff V jnf nyernql haqre, naq V raqrq hc pncvghyngvat. V jrag gb puhepu jvgu ure. V gevrq gjvfgvat zl bja oryvrsf naq ivrjf vagb n cergmry gb gel naq or npprcgnoyr gb ure. Vg yrnq gb fbzr anfgl svtugf, orpnhfr V vagryyrpghnyyl xarj gung guvf jnf znavchyngvba, ohg V arrqrq gung srryvat bs ybir gung fur unq orra srrqvat sebz zr.

    Nsgre bar cnegvphyneyl anfgl svtug, jr zhghnyyl raqrq hc oybpxvat rnpu bgure. V fybjyl ortna gb erpbire, ohg gur rkcrevrapr yrsg zr fpneerq. V unq gebhoyr tbvat bhg vagb choyvp, orpnhfr Puevfgvna eryvtvbhf flzobybtl naq gur erpehvgzrag zngrevny sbe gur inevbhf havirefvgl Puevfgvna betnavmngvba jbhyq gevttre nakvrgl nggnpxf.

    V’z orggre abj, jvgu srj gevttref va zl qnl-gb-qnl yvsr. Hasbeghangryl, bar bs gubfr gevttref vf zl UE znantre ng zl arj wbo, jub graqf gb gnyx n yvggyr gbb zhpu nobhg uvf vaibyirzrag va gur Tvqrbaf naq uvf zrzorefuvc va gur puhepu gung zl rk gbbx zr gb. Hasbeghangryl, zl srne bs zl UE znantre vf bar bs zl unat-hcf va fgnegvat ubezbar gurencl.

    Sorry for the novel, but I felt like I needed to share that.

    • says

      V jnf haqre n urnil nzbhag bs fgerff ng gur gvzr: jbexvat shyy-gvzr, gnxvat tenqhngr-yriry pbhefrf, gelvat gb onynapr n svavpxl pne…

      I’m sorry A, but what is going on with that text? Is there some key to it or something? I’m genuinely confused.

      • Sebor says

        The letters are shifted, like in Caesar’s cipher, by 13 letters, that’s what ROT13 indicates. If you don’t want to shift the letters back in your head, you can have http://rot13.de/ do it for you.
        I feel obliged though, to repeat the original TW

        Warning religious manipulation / emotional abuse / gender dysphoria trigger warnings

        since rot13 is meant to prevent people (like me) who like to skim ahead from missing the trigger warnings and reading the text by accident.

        • says

          Thanks a lot for the explanation everyone. I would’ve googled it but I didn’t know that ROT13 had significance. As to the story, being manipulated in any way is a horrible, let alone that. I’m sorry that you had to go through that.

      • Anders says

        I don’t understand how a person can call that love. I just don’t. Maybe I’m deficient in some way.

  8. Louis says

    *shudders* I’ve been on the recieving end of this duplicitous horseshit from a church where a couple of my relatives went. Perhaps they misjudged my level of vulnerability, because like your friend I just found the whole thing incredibly creepy and left at the first convenient opportunity.

  9. notscarlettohara says

    This very concept is responsible for my attendance at possibly the awkwardest bible study ever. You see, during college, a good friend of mine was a fairly devout fundy/evangelical type. One day, she invited our group of friends to a party that a friend of hers was throwing. It was a nice day, they were gonna grill burgers, it would be great. So two other atheists and I, plus my agnostic roommate and Jewish boyfriend, all went to this “party” that turned out to be a bible study run by her youth minister. The hilarious thing was, only one other person from their church showed up! So it was three fundies trying to discuss bible passages with three very confused atheists, one used-to-be-Christian agnostic who was trying to make up for everyone else in discussion and end the awkwardness, and a totally bewildered Jew. To make matters even more hilarious, apparently the minister didn’t know he was surrounded by heathens until he asked a direct question of one of the atheists, who responded, “Well, I actually don’t believe in God, so…” and the rest of us nodded and shrugged. Then the minister muttered something about that being nice and maybe it’s time for burgers, then we all ate really fast while talking about the weather and left :-) I’d have been furious if they hadn’t turned out to be outnumbered.

  10. mcbender says

    Eurgh. Love bombing. This sort of thing is absolutely terrible.

    I know it’s fairly common at universities, especially targeted at international students who have negligible support networks and may not speak the language well; I’ve seen these groups in action and I’m never sure what to do about it. It strikes me as extraordinarily sleazy to offer the sort of “love” and kindness and support they do with such a blatant ulterior motive (from what I understand, many groups disguise their religious natures at first until they’ve reeled people in, also).

    I knew this sort of thing was targeted at vulnerable groups, but it never would’ve occurred to me that they’d explicitly target trans people. Maybe this is my cis privilege speaking, but it seems really odd to me that of all groups they could target, that would be the one they’d choose. (Although, in retrospect, I suppose there could definitely be vulnerabilities there to exploit…)

    • A. Person says

      It’s because we tend to associate this preying on the vulnerable with the conservative churches. The ones responsible for LGBT outreach are the more liberal ones, which tend not to do overt proselytism. They rely more on referrals and events like that which Natalie mentioned.

      When I had just started therapy, the therapist made the mistake of referring me to such a church to help with my social isolation. Needless to say, my response was predictable.

  11. Laurel says

    The dominionist Christians at work in the military have declared that the newly enlisted are ripe for conversion because they are at a most vulnerable moment when they are new to the military.

  12. Eris says

    I hate these people. Christians have come to me, too, when I was vulnerable. At first they are all smiles and reassurances. “Read the bible.” “Pray the sinner’s prayer.” “Go to bible study.” “Go to church.”

    “Do this, and you will be filled with the love of Jesus.”

    The problem is that if it doesn’t work and you admit it (“I don’t feel any different . . . I still don’t believe in Jesus”) they fucking turn on you. Now you are a terrible, horrible person who loves sin so much that nothing else matters. All those promises they just made to you are forgotten in their rush to spit on you. You must be CHOOSING to keep your heart closed to God. You must be one of those promiscuous Goth Satanists who have abortions for fun.

    There you are, still vulnerable, hurting, and alone, but they can’t wait to piss on you.

    Bah.

  13. Dalillama says

    Speaking of lovebombing, the Scientologists have their own version, where they have you take a polygragh-type test while they ask you about your life, so they can find out what your major sources of stress are, and then tell you they can fix it. They set up these big tents downtown periodically. I went in one time because I had a while before my bus, and I didn’t know who they were. They had a sign that said “Stressed? Worried? We can help” so I wanted to see what their game was. Once I realized, I followed through anyway, because I wanted to mess with them. The thing about polygraphs is that they read physiological responses, and if you’re in a non-stressful situation, all it takes to fool them is some simple deep breathing exercises, particularly since these weren’t very good ones. I got through all the questions without the needle twitching, then smiled politely, said “Well, it looks as though you have nothing to offer me, and that’s my bus, so I’ll just be going now,” and walked off. The look on the evangelists face was priceless; she was totally dumbfounded by the machine nt giving her anything to work with.

  14. Chimera says

    IME, when religious people say “I love you,” all it takes is peeling back a few layers of their thought before realizing that what they really mean is “I hate you.”

    Honestly? I could live with them hating me. It’s just fucking perverse of them to pretend the opposite.

  15. says

    And this is precisely why I am so strongly convinced that nothing short of an outright ban will solve the problems caused by religion.

    “Live and let live” is a fine thing, but “Live and let f**k up other people’s lives when they are at their most vulnerable” is another thing entirely.

    • Aliasalpha says

      A ban would have the opposite effect, it’d drive it underground making it even harder to expose the abuses & lies, it’d give it a legitimate persecution angle to play rather than the bullshit they currently use and ultimately it’d end up looking cool for rebellious teens.

      Alice Cooper has said that being banned in england was one of the best things that ever happened to his career, I’d hate to see religion make the same boast in the future.

      • Anders says

        There’s also that pesky “fundamental human rights” thing to consider. But I agree that a ban would probably have the opposite effect. If people want to do it, they’ll do it regardless of the laws.

        • Aliasalpha says

          Well yes I suppose there’s a few issues with human rights and totalitarian surveillance societies but not every plan is perfect

    • Rasmus says

      If we’re talking government action with regards to religion, then full embracement by the government seems to work best. Look at all the countries in Europe with state churches, or former state churches. Do you see much religion going on? :)

  16. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    MLMs use the same sort of tactic … love-bombing, infiltrating social events, hiding their true purpose. That awkward realization that the neighborhood get together has turned onto a sales spiel means your BS detector has spotted a cult.

    But they are also cults, just economic ones.

    • karmakin says

      Those economic cults are also responsible for much of the shift in theistic beliefs over the last decade or two.

      The “Tea Party” movement is a coming out party for this, although it’s never framed that way.

  17. buggi says

    Yet another prime example of why I love this blog. Yea Natalie! W00T!

    I love it because it brought this to my attention. Hadn’t thought about it before and it is a well written post.

    And come to think of it, like another poster stated, physicians also tend to forward us to churches etc to be “helpful”. My own counselor did this to me too. Even after she asked and I told her I was an atheist (and very happily so), she still went on to tell me what churches were nearby that fostered that outreach. Even our freakin’ support group met in a church and the two leaders of the support group also were active members and leaders in the church, though at no time did they ever say to me, “come to church”. Only that they had found a church home. The support group folded soon after I joined as the transmen (huge number of them) wanted to have a separate group from the transwomen (very, very few) and there just wasn’t enough ladies to justify our leaders to come that far to host that meeting, and thus moving it way out of my reach to their home.

    And I suppose for those who are religious providing a welcoming place would be a good thing for them, giving them somewhere to go so that they don’t implode in a violent fashion, cut off from the world to the point of cutting themselves. I don’t like it, but I can’t make everyone atheist with a wave of my magic wand (I do try now and then). Still, it never fails to amaze me how churches use the weak points in people’s and community’s lives to infest them. Just watch after a tragic event in a community. Churches line up to “help” those in need in ways that are not helping, but profiting the churches. Not to say that they don’t provide actual help with goods and services, but there’s always a catch. TANSTAAFL. Funerals can be bad that way. And if you have a prolonged illness, egads! Thor protect us!

  18. passerby says

    “I love you, so I want you to fundamentally change into another sheep in our herd, where your individuality will be compared and crushed against the conformation to our Lord God.”

    That’s not love.

  19. Emily says

    Being the friend in question — how nice to be called that, Natalie! — I would just add a few words about my experience (they could be more than a few, but I’d rather put the event in the past.)

    What I found disconcerting about the situation was that, since I was relatively new to the trans community (only six months in at that stage), the Christian-Trans people at my table took upon themselves a rather overbearing “auntie” role, to my initial discomfort and later my vocalized annoyance. (I have my struggles, but I’m doing fine, thank you very much.) Deliberate allusions to biological family, and the inevitable dislocations from such, also entered into the conversation — mainly as a segue to the “new family” that I could make (through Christ, I suppose.) I actually lost my temper, I’m sorry to say, and told them to knock it off.

    I know this sounds quite hackneyed, but I am generally tolerant about other people’s beliefs, as people are of mine. Given that my own religious views tend to swing in all directions, I have a very syncretic, non-denominational awareness of the different spiritualities that people implement (or don’t implement at all). No doubt, my own tendencies towards Buddhism and neo-paganism are not something Natalie would share with me — yet she has never, not once, derided or attempted to dismantle what I personally believe in. I appreciate that very much.

    What bothered me tremendously about my experience at ‘The Table’ is that, while I welcomed the companionship (I didn’t know anybody there) . . . I felt uncomfortable with the subtext that seemed to accompany that openness. Also, and here’s where I get rather blunt, but my own views (I am a vegetarian and extremely pro animal rights) was actually mocked on more than one occasion. I’m from Ireland, so I can take a slagging, but it was getting annoying, if you know what I mean. When I made it clear that I did not share the Christian faith and had no further wishes for invitations to ‘check it out’ or ‘come and see for myself’, I was told that I had an aversion to Faith because of my presumably Catholic upbringing . . . presumed, because I still have a bit of my Cork accent left. My personal faith history, and any trauma resulting from it, is no one’s business unless I make it so. And I have no desire for another trans woman, under the guise of “knowing my pain”, making it her “mission” to heal me, lead me, and baptize me.

    I’d like to say that I support the TSA’s notion of a Christmas Dinner. It’s a community positive event. It provides sorority to women, like me, who quite frankly have *no where* to go at Christmas. But I am extremely suspicious of those who, intentionally or not, try to insert themselves into the emotional lives of people who are in phases of vulnerability, fatigue, and perhaps isolation. It’s an insidious, cult-like manouevre.

    I am also very upset at the false front put forward by this rainbow church. I happen to know that the entire evening was paid for by a private donation and Pride Vacouver. The meal was prepared by Kaitlyn, who did have help from some church members — but also from many people who had nothing to do with the church, including many non-queer allies. My electrolysist, for example, donated her day as a way of showing support to all of the trans women she sees.

    Why the two pastors involved made it a point to ‘chat’ with everyone, to offer prayers on several occasions, and to generally put the “christ” in the Trans Chritmas Dinner, is a subject of much distaste for me. I’m sure, in their view, they were offering love+cheer. All I can say is that it will be the last TSA dinner I go to . . . and, judging from what I’ve heard from other translings who’ve been in the Vancouver scene much longer than me, it’s a shared viewpoint.

    • says

      Look, on gender issues I’m so ridiculously privileged that no one would choose me for oppression hide and seek, let alone the oppression olympics. Because of this I have to struggle to understand these things so please forgive me if I get this wrong.

      Isn’t the lovebombing that went on there really disrespectful of you as a person? I understand that this was specifically a trans event so there’s no reason to think that trans issues would not come up as a topic of conversation. But doesn’t a person have a right to have a meal without having one aspect of their life be continually brought up? Even if that aspect is as overarching as transitioning?

      This reduction of a person to a single facet of their life or personality is the very antithesis of love. It’s objectification of the rankest kind and the fact that most likely they were doing it knowingly and with an ulterior motive makes it truly despicable.

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