Consent – some further thoughts

water architecture colourful church

I was going to title this “Consent and religion”. Though that felt too much like click bait.

Whenever we join an organisation, for whatever reason we may do so, there are certain requirements or expectations of us. Perhaps weekly or monthly meetings to attend. Service to give. Instruction manuals to read/study, in order to understand the group’s additional expectation of its members. There may even be a subscription fee.

This can happen, in varying degrees, whether it’s a company we are employed with, an organisation we may volunteer with, a school, college or university we are studying with, a religion or faith we may start associating with or formally join. As time goes by requirements often change and increase. Occasionally in a way to a level not imaged or considered when first joining. Many times happening without our full agreement or understanding of everything involved.

Over time it seems our consent is being eroded. Our expectations have been distorted. It can then be difficult to extract ourselves, reclaim our personal authority and either reduce what we offer or leave completely. Walking away can be arduous due to the consequences that may be imposed or at least threatened. Some may be insignificant, others severe.

In the case of employment, in some cases, we can wait things out, while we look for alternative work with a new company. Many times waiting is not possible because of extreme expectations and/or it’s not safe to stay. This brings all sorts of difficulties. Is it possible to renegotiate our contract, the company’s and/or our manager’s expectations? If we walk out how easy will it be to find another job? Will we be able to get another job at all?

Leaving a volunteer position is generally easier. We’re not dependent on income from volunteering. Though departing an unpaid internship may affect future income opportunities. That’s another discussion.

What about leaving a religion or faith? How easy is that? If fundamentalist, I suggest not easy at all. Unless you’ve been involved or know someone close who has been, this may not make much sense. Surely it’s just a case of walking away, of not attending, not contributing any more and so on.

Yes and no. It may be different, depending how long you’ve been involved. But the one difference, I see, between leaving employment, volunteering, and religion, is that the latter deals with eternity, whereas the the former with the present. Things are worse if the religion is fundamentalist or a cult. The two are usually combined. Imagine for years being told one particular path is the only way to heaven, to being with your family in eternity. Then you discover something about yourself that seems incompatible with that religion.

This is shown in my previous post, where I explored the following article, “My Experience Living the Law of Chastity with Same-Sex Attraction“. The relevant part being:

I was encouraged to pray and receive knowledge and a testimony that it’s true [the church] for myself.

And I did.

After I gained that testimony, I asked to be baptized. The missionaries asked me, “Are you willing to endure to the end and keep the commandments?”

I said yes, even though at the time I didn’t fully understand everything that question entailed.

Here Jacob R commits to “enduring to the end and keep the commandments…even though at the time [he] didn’t fully understand everything“. What happens later, if he no longer feels the same, if he can no longer hold to that earlier commitment?

Most fundamentalist churches are very binary in their approach to gender and sexuality. Perhaps you were born into such a faith/church, later realising you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or nonbinary. What do you do? Deny that part of yourself, in order to stay? Or develop the courage to leave?

Experience shows that staying may be possible for a time. The length of which differs for individuals. I’ve seen some hold on for years. Others months or weeks. As I mentioned before if you’re asexual and/or aromatic remaining may be easier. There are many groups, who understanding the dilemma faced, that will support you in staying or leaving. Whilst the faith/church will no doubt want you to stay, very often the leadership will have no clue of the trauma being experienced and thus no idea how to support you, beyond saying keep the faith, keep the commandments.

This is one reason fringe, unofficial groups come into existence to provide support. Helping you come to terms with being LGBTQ+, working through with you, if it’s safe to stay or leave. Individual counsellors, such as myself, also can provide similar support.

Author: Neil

I’m a Gender, Sexuality, Sex and Relationship Diversity (GSRD) Therapist. My aim is to help you explore all aspects of your gender, sexuality, sex desires and relationships. I work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer (LGBTQ+) people.

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