Dear Aunt Mary
My Aunt Mary is a conservative Evangelical Christian and a Trump supporter. She is voting for Donald Trump because God has been telling her for decades ending legal access to abortion and stopping people from being queer are the most valuable ways to spend her time and resources. I haven’t spoken to her since long before Trump was president. I haven’t seen her in over a decade. I haven’t seen her daughters, my cousins, since the mid-90s after her encounter with my mother who’d finally had enough, “Stop asking if Tara has a new boyfriend! She’s a big butch dyke! Are you an idiot?”
Aunt Mary still talks to my mother. She knows I’m now a transman. She knows I married a woman five years ago. She has never acknowledged any personal details of my life, out loud or in writing. I don’t care. It would not bother me at all if she spent the rest of her life denying my existence and relation to her entirely. I assume it causes her emotional discomfort after all of her tireless effort trying to criminalize my personhood. If she had simply cut all ties with me, I could have filed her away in my “pick your battles” brain dumpster years ago.
But every fucking Christmas, Aunt Mary sends me a $75 Amazon gift certificate and it enrages me.
It’s my fault. I kept meaning to send it back to her with a letter, telling her to donate it, telling her to stop supporting Amazon, telling her to stop bothering with this bizarre and pointless ritual of familial acknowledgement and capitalism. Instead, manners prevailed, and I always sent her a thank you card, telling her about my cats.
This Christmas is different. I know when she sits down this year with her Christmas list, it will be shortly after she votes for Donald Trump to be president. This year, I have a moral obligation to preempt the dispatch of her perennial psychological invoice. I won’t be enabling her seasonal hypocrisy in 2020. Trump has forced me to abandon all my Midwestern, anti-confrontational protocol and write Aunt Mary a sternly worded letter.
Dear Aunt Mary,
While I appreciate your yearly Christmas gesture to acknowledge your sister has a child, this year I encourage you to donate whatever gift you may have sent me to a cause that holds meaning for you.
I assume we have never discussed our divergent belief systems to avoid confrontation. Perhaps you are afraid I possess a human integrity that contradicts your perception of people like me. Whatever the circumstances of our mutual courtesy have been, 2020 has shattered them. I turned fifty in January. February brought a deadly pandemic. I lost my job in March when the service industry shut down. At the end of May, George Floyd was murdered four blocks from my house, sparking a global uprising. We lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September. She was replaced in October with her ideological opposite, bringing the legislation of the cultural transformations you’ve wanted your whole life one huge step closer. I hear from my mother you plan to vote for Donald Trump next week.
I can do nothing to change any of these situations, but I’d like to tell you a story.
I came out as a lesbian in 1986 before I was ready. Reagan was president and the Conservative Republican Evangelical political platform was solidifying. I was outed in high school. I was kicked out of sports and nearly out of school. I was made to believe I was unworthy to be at school with normal human children.
When I finally escaped to college, I encountered the Campus Crusade for Christ which had thousands of members. Our gay club had five. I got into some fights with the Crusaders then but felt unprepared because I knew nothing about the Bible. I just thought Jesus was supposed to be nice.
I changed my major to Religious Studies. Even though I dropped out of college a couple times, I kept studying the Bible and religious history. By the time I finally got my degree, almost twenty years later, I could sight read the New Testament in the original Greek. A few years later, I got a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. I did all this because I wanted to argue intelligently with conservative Christians like you.
Ironically, as I learned more and had more life experience, I started to understand your belief system is the only coping mechanism you have. My own adversities have equipped me to manage much more complexity and insecurity. My pain softened to compassion. I never meaningfully tried to dislodge anyone’s belief system, no matter how misguided I thought it might be.
But as election day nears, and I reflect on the horrors and hopes I’ve witnessed in 2020, coupled with my life experience and education, I finally feel compelled to tell you something.
If you think Jesus would want you to vote Republican, you’re just wrong.
Jesus’ original ministry was a criminally prohibited protest against the cruelty and oppression of the Roman Empire and the complicity of Israel’s aristocracy in enslaving and depriving its own people. America’s superrich are like the Roman royals. The politicians the rich control are like Pontius Pilate. Jesus’ following was like Black Lives Matter. Incidentally, none of your prophets were white. Jesus also reasoned with Roman Centurions to stop terrorizing poor Israelites just to protect the social order. He was definitely against Centurion brutality.
I know you want to stop abortions. Criminalizing them won’t stop them, nor will it stop men from raping women and girls. You know that. Every study ever done shows the best way to reduce the number of abortions in a society is to provide comprehensive sex education and free access to birth control. You could also stop cheering for the patriarchy and reduce the numbers of abortions. How do you reconcile prioritizing an abortion ban over challenging child separation immigration policy, reduced SNAP benefits during a pandemic, and dismantling public education?
Speaking of studies, no one in the Bible ever told you deny science. They also didn’t tell you to take the Bible literally. Every story in it is an allegory. Every single one. They are meant to make you think critically. Remember when God told the Hebrews to paint lamb’s blood over their doors to avoid a plague? Now He just wants you to wear a mask. How does denying climate change make you a suitable shepherd of the Earth? Also, people never rode dinosaurs in the Bible.
I know the queer thing is especially hard for you. I know you think my relationship somehow threatens to destroy yours. I don’t know how you came to that conclusion, but I do know the Supreme Court is now poised to delegitimate mine. It doesn’t mean I’m getting a divorce. If they allow sodomy laws back on the books, I’m not going to stop being queer. Are you willing to watch them imprison me? Is that what you’re voting for? I know the Bible has a couple verses about sex between men, but Jesus never mentioned it. Jesus preached compassion.
My opinions of your brand of Christianity haven’t changed in thirty years. I should have picked a more constructive area of study. I’m disappointed in you. Jesus would be too. Any claim to piety you think you have will be invalidated the day you vote for the definitive anti-Christ. Your religion’s credibility is void.
By the way, Jesus is not the reason for the season. Roman cooptation of the winter solstice is. That and capitalism. Also, your youngest daughter is a lesbian.