I have had a deep chest cold and a jaw infection over the past few weeks and am starting to feel better now. Last week one side of my face looked like I had a grapefruit sticking out of it. It swole up to my eye and gave me a double chin but only on one side. I should have taken a picture. It was like a second face was trying to burst out of my right side.
On Halloween a friend called and me to pick her up from an appointment. When I arrived, she said “Oh, you are always so beautiful.” Since my husband was calling me the Hunchface of Notre Dame (sorry for the disfigured joke), I was a little surprised. She then came with me to the community kids event I always go to. She didn’t seem to notice that I couldn’t move my ballooning jaw but did notice that someone looked at her Christian sloganed shirt. As we left, she ran back to give that woman a Christian pamphlet. Thankfully, her target is already a Christian so I don’t have to do any damage control.
This person is the main reason I am not out publicly as an atheist. My desire to protect her and stay as one of the few people from her childhood that she will talk to has been keeping me quiet. I know if she knows, instead of listening to me and asking questions that I will automatically be labelled as bad and unsafe. She will feel hurt, victimized, and betrayed and will cut herself off probably forever. She has done the same to others because, I suspect, her church or someone in it encourages her to.
Damn, if I don’t care anymore. Not because of this little incident, but because I’m tired of being on guard, tired of deliberately misleading people, and tired of being scared of hurting people’s feelings. Yes, some of them have been hurt and horribly so but some of them are holding onto their view of themselves as victims and using it to abuse other people.
But what would coming out accomplish? I imagine that some people would think “huh, that smart and compassionate woman isn’t evil. Maybe I was wrong”. More predictably “shy awkward people who go to university and start talking about women and LGBT rights learn to hate God. We must destroy liberal arts before it destroys us.” Or perhaps it would just cultivate a vague sense of disassociation and unease.
I still feel trapped. Be open and free or stay quiet and make things socially comfortable for everyone else. Does keeping quiet about my lack of belief in the Christian god help me discuss social justice for marginalized groups or am I deceiving myself?