When Safe Spaces Are Invaded

Loath thought they may be to admit it, fundamentalist Christians and Muslims share something in common*: a boundary problem. People who are doing them no harm and who are doing no harm to others come under their radar because they do not love, conform to gender stereotypes, or worship in ways that they approve. I have never lived in a place dominated by fundamentalist Muslims, but I have and currently live in one dominated by fundamentalist Christians. And it is oppressive. It feels hateful. And on Sunday, groups that have been raised to fear fundamentalism had a painful reminder that they were right to.

I am not a member of the LGBT community, but I feel a lot of solidarity. As an atheist, I know what it’s like to have people think I am a good person until they learn one thing about me, and then decide I am the embodiment of evil. I know what it is like to be harassed. I know what it is like to be scared to trust that people will accept me for who I am. And I have learned the value of safe spaces.

When I was a teenager a Freethought group started in my area. I was really the only teenager there, but it was nice to talk to a group of people and not have to worry about them turning on me when they found I believed in one less god than everyone else. It was nice to let off steam about how stressful it is to be surrounded by Christians all the time with people who wouldn’t be offended and understood.

Yet it also made us a target for fundamentalists, who would come to our community to interrupt our services and debate with us.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, Christians, NOTHING you are telling us aren’t things we haven’t heard a million times before. We heard your message. We didn’t agree, and we had valid reasons for not agreeing. 

So, because they felt that somehow living in the Bible Belt we had missed the message, they decided to invade our safe space to preach to us. And this was not an isolated incidence. My atheist group in college was infiltrated by a Christian who put the name and contact info of members on his webpage and asked people to preach to us.

I was really hurt by the latter incident. I wanted to meet other atheists to have a safe space, and that someone would target my group and put my contact information out there to encourage people to harass and preach to me, essentially the same song and dance I’ve had all my life, was a betrayal.

Similarly, people in the LGBT community know fundamentalists do not approve of their life style. They are harassed, bullied, kicked out of their homes, and assaulted for being who they are. They have heard all of the religious arguments against them and have rejected them. NOTHING a fundamentalist tells them isn’t anything they haven’t heard a million times before.

Last week, I noticed a note on a closed Facebook group I had joined. I live in Texas, where people who are transgendered using the bathrooms has become a big issue. One of the local school districts in my area, though not the one I’m in, came out in support of transgendered students using the bathroom that conforms to their gender. The backlash against this has been swift and ugly. I joined a group in support of the district. And considering how contentious the issue is and how ugly the rhetoric is from the other side, I was impressed with how kind, courteous, positive and supportive the group was.

Well, one woman went on a rant about how the group was filled with toxic “vitriol” and as bad as the opposing group. My first thought was that someone had snapped after a low blow dealt by the anti-LGBT people and posted something unfortunate that I had missed, because her experience of the page was so different from mine. And I reminded her that people who are LGBT and those who support them are living in a pressure cooker situation, are being harassed and bullied and scapegoated, and sometimes they just snap, and this is a safe space to do it. And since it is a closed group, it shouldn’t matter how we look to others.

I know people often get on atheists for being down on Christians in our safe spaces. The thing is, we live in a society that is down on atheists. Politicians say horrible things about us. I have had people say horrible things about atheists to me without realizing that I am one. I have had people treat me appallingly when I am honest about being an atheist and I live in fear of being attacked. I am ostracized from the society I live in.

In what universe do people expect us to be polite about the people who are ostracizing us? Or to always say kind things about them? Especially in our safe spaces, the only place we can let off steam about living in this toxic society we’ve found ourselves in.

I know it is the same for people who are LGBT, and I was furious that someone who came out as straight and moderate would lecture the group about it.

But then I scrolled through the page to try to find what had offended her and found NOTHING. I found post after post of people discussing school board meetings, what they planned to say to the board, and people giving them pats on the back and encouragement and thanks for standing up. I saw that the woman who posted had gotten into a disagreement with another member about whether or not it is a teacher’s duty to notify a parent that a child has come to them saying they are LGBT, but the disagreement was respectful and involved no name calling or hate filled rhetoric.

The only instance of name calling I found was from a post four days before the woman ranted about a pastor who had said that transgendered individuals were a worse threat than ISIS, and there was some borderline name calling of the pastor in the comments. But surprisingly no cussing and considering what I’ve seen in other places, very mild.

I then responded to the woman who ranted that I could find no evidence that the rhetoric was filled with vitriol or hate filled and asked her to provide examples. I then reminded her that members of the LGBT community were being scapegoated, and her post accusing the page of being hate and vitriol filled, was furthering the scapegoating. And I was even more furious.

She responded one time and backpedaled a little bit and said she might have gotten confused with another place and that she didn’t like someone’s tone. I asked her again to cite what had offended her and asked her if she could see how she was furthering the damage and she never responded.

So, even in safe spaces that are courteous and respectful and extremely positive, I learned last week that members of the LGBT community would be slandered for not being courteous, respectful and positive ENOUGH.

Sunday the shootings in Orlando happened.

I’ve been so depressed since the transgendered bathroom issue started that at times I wondered if I was exaggerating just how much hate filled the rhetoric is now, if I was making mountains out of molehills. Sadly, I was not. This society has truly become hate filled, and people who are different are in danger.

Fundamentalists have a boundary problem.

Groups of people who are oppressed by them who are not hurting them are gathering together in safe spaces. But that does not stop them from harassing them in those safe spaces, policing their tone, doxxing them, and coming in and shooting them.

Fundamentalists fear that gay people will get married. Gay people fear that fundamentalists will kill them.

*I know Christians might say, “but it was a Muslim who did this!” I refer you here. I do not see this as a problem confined to one religion. I see this as a problem that crosses fundamentalism, toxic masculinity, and too easy access to guns.

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10 thoughts on “When Safe Spaces Are Invaded

  1. Bronwen Lee

    I think the media is not your friend, nor is it a sampling of the real world. I’m a Christian from Texas, you never would have had an issue in my tiny bible belt backwoods town. You would’ve absolutely been known as “the atheist”, but the difference would have been sidelined if you were a good person. I’ve since lived in larger cities all over and it goes without saying you can find many like minded people there. There is an effort being made to segregate us, by whom I don’t know. But I see it in the media as clear as day. There are people paid to involve themselves in these groups to spread venom, to keep us humans from connecting. I too felt the heartache for the Orlando Shooting. While I support LGBT groups, I would not join one because always these groups seem to go overboard, sometimes creating more hate than good. I am as vocal as one can be that love is love and the rest is none of our business, but that message always seems to get lost once these shills get involved. To sum up this very long comment, sorry, I don’t want to negate your experience, but I want you to know, that I personally do not know a single person, and I have met very few humans in my life who would have an issue with an atheist who supports human rights. This world is a lot more tolerant and diverse than the media would have us believe. I don’t know if this helps your heart at all, but I felt the need to stop and share my thoughts in the hope that they might.

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    1. roianna Post author

      You can’t base how well the majority is treating a minority population by asking the majority. You have to talk to the people in the minority. As a white person I never experienced racism until I started dating my biracial husband and was there when he endured racial slurs and one time we went to a restaurant that refused to serve us. In my post, I did not talk about the media. I talked about my own experiences. I have been assaulted by Christians for being an atheist. I’ve had friends who were beaten for being atheists. I’ve also had friends kicked out by their parents. I have been harassed and bullied so badly for being an atheist my parents had to move school districts to get me away from the people tormenting me. I have been friends with people who ended the friendship as soon as they learned that I am an atheist. These are things I experienced or people I am close to experienced, these are not things the media fed me. Do not deny my experiences. Do not tell me I have no right to be afraid. I learned the hard way and early that people would hate me for being who I am.

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      1. Bronwen Lee

        My intent was to share what I experience where media is concerned. I thought my perspective might offer hope. I was obviously mistaken.

        I do not want my words to ever create negativity and I do my best to choose those words so as not to cause harm of any kind. Yet somehow, that happened anyway and I take responsibility for that.

        But…..I’m completely confused by your response! I mean totally lost.

        “You can’t base how well the majority is treating a minority population by asking the majority.”
        I am a minority and was speaking from my own experiences. What made you think otherwise?

        “I did not talk about the media. I talked about my own experiences”.
        Specifically your experiences with Facebook, aka social media, this was the subject of the majority of your post.

        “ these are not things the media fed me. Do not deny my experiences”
        No where did I say the media fed this to you, and I specifically stated “I don’t want to negate your experience”.

        “Do not tell me I have no right to be afraid”.
        I never said anything like this either.

        I can not live your life and you can not live mine. But we can share our experiences with one another and create a better place in doing so. But when sharing is given in kindness, and returned with animosity what are we creating then?

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  2. roianna Post author

    You identified yourself as a Christian from Texas and said in the town you are from I would not have any issue being sidelined. You may be in minority in some respects, but in religion, you are the majority, and I am the minority. So you can’t tell me what sort of experience I would have as an atheist in your town.

    As for media, I also talked about my experiences with Christians coming and interrupting services at my Freethought community, having a Christian infiltrate my college atheist group and doxxing members, neither of which have anything to do with the media. I mentioned being harassed and ostracized, also, neither of those have to do with the media. As for Facebook, the group is local and fighting against a hate group in my neighboring city and currently is scheduling meetings at the school board of that city. It is an activist group fighting a lot of mean spirited people whose paths I cross. This is not something I am just listening to from afar. Frankly, the venom directed at the LGBT community at these school board meetings is disgraceful.

    And, this did end discussing the tragedy of 49 people dead in a vicious and brutal hate crime. Members of a community that you accused of “sometimes creating more hate than good.”

    You stated, “I think the media is not your friend, nor is it a sampling of the real world” I was not detailing my experiences with the media, I was detailing my experiences with the real world. You then stated this: “There is an effort being made to segregate us, by whom I don’t know. But I see it in the media as clear as day. There are people paid to involve themselves in these groups to spread venom, to keep us humans from connecting.” Which, by my reading, implies that someone in the media is trying to segregate us with false stories or something. I admit, it’s vague, but building off your previous comments, that is how I read it.

    You then said this, ” I don’t want to negate your experience, but I want you to know, that I personally do not know a single person, and I have met very few humans in my life who would have an issue with an atheist who supports human rights.”

    Well, you DID negate my experiences. Especially since I have met far too many who have.

    Finally, “This world is a lot more tolerant and diverse than the media would have us believe. ”

    I am not listening to the media. I am judging the people around me by their actions.

    When you are a Christian, it is very easy to turn a blind eye to the hatred that Christians spew at people not like them, or to be unaware of it.

    “But when sharing is given in kindness, and returned with animosity what are we creating then?”

    Honestly, you’re response seemed condescending. As for mine, there’s no way to tell someone that they are contributing to the ostracizing without it seeming hostile. If you really want to help, a better response is, “I’m sorry that happened to you. There is no excuse for it. You did the best you could in a situation you never should have been in. How can I help?”

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  3. Bronwen Lee

    “contributing to ostracizing”, “turning a blind eye to hatred” “seemed condescending” Really?!!
    I don’t know what to say that wouldn’t be arguing for arguments sake. I was reaching out, trying to connect. Obviously, you don’t want that from me and that’s ok. I wish you the best.

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  4. ofhisgloryblog

    Friend, you are generalizing things, And I can very well tell you one thing, THAT DIVISION WHICH IS DIABOLIC IS FUELED BY HATRED, HATRED IS BACKED BY FEAR, AND FEAR COMES WHEN THE SITUATION IN FRONT OF US, THE EVIL SPIRIT IN FRONT OF US, WHICH HURTS US, MAKES OUR JOURNEY OF EARTH PAINFUL, MAKES US BELIEVE THAT OUR SINS, OUR SUFFERING IS GREATER THAN GOD, MAKE US BELIEVE IN FAKE EMPTY PROMISES.
    Now I cannot make peace with you even if I want to, for you do not want me to let it right?
    I do not want you to believe me, no I do not want you to go to church, or stop your protest or anything.
    But I want you to believe in the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. You have peace, no this is not judge defending Christian Talk friend, I was in hell, and I do you want you to suffer, that is why I am telling you this. I was in hell and I know how it used to feel when I rejected God from my life, for sometimes it was awesome, but then as I was abused by a Christian Mother in my Childhood, and when I mean abused, I just hope that my enemies also do not get any treatment like that, so I went away from Christianity and from women. I used to hate them. I isolated myself from both of them. But when I used to hate them I could not even forgive myself for hating them.
    And there was point in my life, when nothing was working it was on a complete standstill, and after a year of psychiatrists, medicines, anti depressants, therapy, I came to understood no one can save me, and that I will die for sure.
    Then one day I just knelt in front of the alter of Mercy and peace, and asked God if you are there, help me, help me I need you now. If you do not help me I will die. I told him I’m sorry for rejecting you out, but if you help me now I will acknowledge as my Lord, and My God forever.
    And you know what happened, from that day onward God made me peace with my abusing mother, God made her change, God made me change, when She used to hit me God helped me that I can forgive her. When she would beat me, God helped me to say sorry to her. God helped me to love her more, the more she would abuse and insult me. And you know one fine day I forgave her for every single thing she ever did to me. Because Christ told me to do so.
    And that was the day when I became a Christian. Not before that.
    This is not just defending my faith friend, I want to help you, let me help you.
    Repent, and ask of God, what you want too, if you want so called Christians not to hurt you, ask it in your prayers just as I asked. And you will be fulfilled.
    I’m the living example friend that God exists and that God loves us because if there was not God I would have died. Its God who made me alive, gave me a completely new life, that I can use it to praise God and to love one another, and love him more than I love my own life.
    Friend I’m not going to force you, or convert you, for God never did that to me, I won’t even want to invade your privacy, but I want to tell you something,
    Which a Person named Jesus Christ has told me.
    “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
    God Bless you friend.
    Hallelujah
    Amen.

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    1. roianna Post author

      Once again, you are not telling me anything I haven’t heard before. And by continuing to proselytize and assume that I am living a miserable life when I am not, you are being condescending. I have loving, kind parents and a meaningful and wondrous life. I am not in crisis. However, I am mad because I have been wronged, and I wanted the people who have wronged me to own it. Further, just because something worked well for you does not mean it will work well for others, and it is presumptuous to think so. I am sorry you were abused growing up, you deserved better, and I am glad you found something that helped you, even if what helps you will not help me.

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      1. ofhisgloryblog

        You know its okay that you are mad because people wronged you, but in doing so do you have peace? Can you forgive yourself? Can you for one second take away your throughts away from the fact that they wronged you? I mean you do have life right other than thinking that they have wronged me, so I should be against them forever in my life.
        I can vouch my life, that it will help you, only you have to ask. You have to kneel before God.
        See there is a reason why 2.5 billion people follow Jesus Christ, yes I know that most of them are not Born Again, but that does not make them lesser than your brothers and sisters.
        You prove to me that God does not exist. And I will accept you only if you can satisfy me.
        Buddy, I do not want to convert you, I cannot even if I want too, God does not force people, You had really bad experiences with Christians, I accept that fact, and I am sorry for them, if you want me to hold your hand and say sorry, I would do that, yes they were wrong.
        But look at the Cross, look at the person who died on that cross, Its Jesus Christ, he is sinless, what harm did he ever do to you? That you will not follow him? Or go against him?
        See I’m no one to lecture you friend, you are my friend, because I can see that you have everything in your life, except peace, and in exchange of your forgiveness my God can offer your peace, which will not be destroyed by anything. I can share my experience with you all day long.
        You are among my brothers and sisters which God has given me, and I will try whatever is there in the best of my ability to help God’s will in your life.
        You know I will show you what God just showed me
        Psalm 145:18-19
        18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
        to all who call on him in truth.
        19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
        he also hears their cry and saves them.
        Amen
        My friend, let there be peace in your heart.

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      2. roianna Post author

        Can I forgive myself? For what? I am not in need of forgiveness. And, if you actually bothered to read to comprehend, you would understand that I am writing to wake Christians up to the damage they are doing because right now Christians in the US are trying to make it legal to discriminate against others. I am writing to address the wrongs I have suffered and to show people what religious discrimination really looks life.
        I am not writing to convert. I have no interest in converting you, and I wish you would show me the same respect. That said, no, I can’t prove that God does not exist, but you can’t prove that Allah or Zeus don’t exist or that there’s no invisible pink unicorn in my back yard. Further, read here about how I have had this same debate with people before. Once again, you are not telling me anything I haven’t heard before and you are not presenting an argument I haven’t torn to shreds before. You are not being original, you are not helping your case, and you are being rather overbearing and intolerant.
        I’m not going to retread the same debates about whether or not there is a god. I have been through that debate so many times that I have no interest in going through it again. Further, I can respect that people have different beliefs than I do. I am not going to debate about the merits of Christianity with you. I am going to debate the merits of tolerance. I can live with people with different religious beliefs. You can’t. And that is a problem. There are thousands of religions in this world, and we have to learn to agree to disagree.

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