by Alana Ramsay
Feel free to listen to this Spotify Playlist while reading the letter:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I’ve read a few of these letters, so I could feel prepared to write this one to you. I’ve noticed that these letters tend to be full of apologies, which makes sense, of course. Us kids, we’re taught from birth to honor our father and mother. We’re taught to make you happy, no matter the cost. It’s so ingrained in us that we feel guilty when we let you down. We feel like failures when we can’t reach your expectations. We learn to base our worth on how those who brought us into this world look at us.
I refuse to apologize in this letter. Maybe it would make you feel better if I did. Maybe it would make other people feel better too. Maybe it would even make me feel better. I’m sure that all the things I’m about to say might sound arrogant or disrespectful. But I’m okay with that. I’ve spent long enough feeling guilty, feeling like a failure, feeling worthless, because the fundamentals of my being go against the fundamentals of your beliefs.
I don’t even know where to start, honestly. I know I’ve disappointed you in so many ways. I know I’m not the daughter you dreamed of.
Let’s start with God. It’s been 9 months since I’ve been to church now. And I know you don’t want to hear this, but I’ve been happier. I never told you how much anxiety going to church gave me, although I feel like I tried to express it to you in other ways. It started in high school when my commitments to church started to feel more like a job than an expression of my faith. It’s funny how when you start to dislike one part of something, it becomes easier to find a lot of other parts you don’t like either. I know you saw me starting to wander from the righteous path, and you’ve tried your best to keep me on it. But I need you to let go now. I’m not saying I’m an atheist. But believing in an all-powerful being that loves and cares for all of us seems like a big decision I need to make on my own. The more you try to pull me in, the farther out I seem to go.
If you think watching your daughter lose her religion is hard, just know that it’s even worse being the daughter. Not only have I let you down, but I feel the weight of the entire community I left each time I open up social media. What about all those church leaders I got close to? Or those girls I mentored for 3 years, telling them things I didn’t even believe myself? I was good at religion. I knew exactly what lines to repeat, what lyrics to sing. But now I don’t even have the comfort of faking it. I can no longer tell myself it will all be ok because someone who holds the world in his hands is looking out for me.
Also, it’s hard to accept a religion that keeps your parents from approving of your love. I know you wanted me to marry a nice, Christian guy, preferably the son of a pastor. But I’d rather marry the pastor’s daughter. It might seem like I led you on with all of the boybands and pictures of Harry Styles on my walls. But you should have known I didn't want to have sex with Harry Styles. I was more in awe watching an LGBT icon in the making. I also think it was a big hint that I was more into them dating each other than the fantasy of them dating me.
But I understand that it was hard for you. It was hard for me too. I spent a lot of nights crying when I was 13 while I prayed for God to make me straight. I thought He must hate me a lot to make me like this. Why had He cursed me? But apparently no matter how many times I prayed, how much I read my Bible, or how many other commandments I kept, it wasn’t in His plan. If it makes you feel any better, I tried forcing myself to at least be bisexual. Maybe that way it would be easier for you to accept me. Maybe that way there would still be a chance. Unfortunately, I don’t have the power to rewrite the stars.
If I could, I would. There would be a lot of things I would erase altogether. For example, I’d start with my mental health. I know it’s caused you pain. I know it’s not easy being around someone who is in constant states of anxiety and depression. Trust me, I’ve been trying to get away from myself for several years now because even I need a vacation from me. I’m so tired of being sad and stressed, so that’s why I sleep a lot. It’s not that I’m lazy or unproductive (ok, maybe sometimes), but it’s exhausting being in a constant war with yourself. It’s not that I’m not trying to be happy and calm, but sometimes I lose the battle.
I get that it’s frustrating. I get that it's inconvenient. I mean, I would love to have motivation and energy 24/7. I have big dreams! I have things I need to accomplish! Because maybe if I accomplish them, then someday I will finally win the war for your approval.
A lot of these things have made me into a flaming liberal. Damn, this list is getting long. I don’t even know why y’all are disappointed about this one. I mean, so far all I’ve done is speak up about rights for others. It’s not like I voted for a misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, homophobic man with narcissistic personality disorder. If I had, I could totally understand your disappointment! Imagine supporting a man that goes against everything Jesus taught . Luckily, I can’t really relate to that at all.
I don’t know what exactly causes a person to hold the political beliefs they do. I don’t know if there’s a science that goes into it. But what I do know is that God had a lot to do with mine. Growing up, there was a lot of nice things that I was taught about God. Some you taught me, some church taught me. I’ve just applied those to my life, regardless of whether I think He is real or actually cares. But if God does exist and he made us all equal, shouldn’t we all have the same rights? And the same access to those rights? If God made us all wonderfully, shouldn’t we celebrate and accept the diversity of his creations? If God gave us grace when we didn’t deserve it, shouldn’t we give that same grace? After all, I thought we were all sinners.
Now I get to explain why I refuse to apologize for all of the things that have disappointed you.
I refuse to apologize for no longer subscribing to your religious beliefs. I didn’t deserve to feel so pressured into a faith that should have been so personal. What I did deserve was acknowledgement of the countless hours I put in trying to be a “godly woman.”
I refuse to apologize for being gay. I didn’t deserve to hear all the comments made about people like me and how disgusting we are, how far from God’s love. But I did. What I did deserve was to be in relationships where I was genuinely cared for and my boundaries were respected. And I was.
I refuse to apologize for not being happy all the time. I didn’t deserve to be kept away from my middle school friends, my support system. What I did deserve was for you to listen to my pain without passing judgement. Don’t worry though. I’ve created a new support system. But you don’t have the right to be angry that it isn’t you.
I refuse to apologize for my political beliefs. I didn’t deserve to be treated like I was any less intelligent or good. What I did deserve was a place to share my personal experiences and how they shaped me. I found those spaces in Queer Straight Alliance, Newspaper Club, and Student Equity Advocates. I created that place when I started Black Student Union.
I refuse to apologize for finally beginning to accept and love myself, even if you won’t. I’m done letting your hypercritical mindset affect my happiness. I can see how it has affected me. Never feeling good enough. Never feeling like I’m doing enough. But I’m doing good. I’m doing so good. If you can’t see it, I can’t let that be my problem anymore.
I want you to understand that I know you've done a lot for me. I know that a lot of the time you were doing your best. I know that your lives have never been easy. I've watched you struggle through many things, all the while you tried to hide it from your children so that we could have a happy childhood. Knowing all of this makes it hard to write this letter. You've sacrificed so much, can't I just sacrifice this?
I want more than anything for you to accept me and to love me unconditionally. I hope that one day, hopefully soon, you will be able to. You’re still my parents and I love you. I love you so much. But I won’t let it define me anymore. If I live in constant fear of disappointing you, I won’t really be living. With each bit of freedom from this toxicity, I find myself unlocking more potential.
How ironic that the fear of not being great was actually holding me back from greatness.
Your Unapologetic Daughter
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