Monday is student letter day. I have cherished this letter for more than a decade, and I think of the writer often. The version you see here is slightly shortened.
I am not a Christian, but I am writing to tell you that you are right, and I was wrong.
I am twenty years old, and since age thirteen I have been "lesbian-identified." What this means is that while I was never actually involved with a woman, I was fluent in the language of gay culture: I had gay friends, attended gay pride parades in San Francisco, and had a hidden but extensive library containing everything from the “classic” gay novels to lesbian "erotica" (read: pornography).
In the summer of 1999 two very important things happened. The first was that I lost my virginity to a man with the support and encouragement of my Christian mother, who thought it would "cure" me. (I kept my hands over my face the entire time, and I didn't feel particularly healthy afterward.) The second was that I became seriously ill. It turns out that these two events were not connected, though at first I feared they might be.
Afterward, I was bedridden for a year, and during that time I discovered your [online] writing. An emotional battle began that has lasted almost two years, and I am finally throwing in the towel. Why? Let me share with you three random events from my life:
1. I received a phone call from my friend X. (She used to have a recognizably female name, Z, but she had it legally changed because she wanted something that was gender nonspecific.) She called to tell me that her girlfriend has decided to have her breasts surgically removed.
2. I visited the web site of a lesbian magazine and found an article on how to use needles as an aid to sexual pleasure. The author recommends having benzalkonium chloride towelettes on hand to wipe up the blood.
3. A straight female friend emailed me from college asking for advice. Here is an excerpt: “I have suddenly become sexually brazen, and it scares me a little. I think that it's about time, though, that I started enjoying myself and stop giving myself guilt/head trips about it in the process. But what really irks me is that the people I meet end up being either in the army, navy, players, spending just the weekend, on a road trip, or leaving the state in a matter of weeks. I can't help but feel that some or a lot of this is a little empty.”
When women want to cut off their female organs, when hurting each other with needles is considered a turn-on, and when promiscuous girls feel guilty about feeling guilty (as though they just aren't liberated enough), something has gone terribly, terribly awry. I have been a faithful reader of yours — I even own one of your books — and I've been hopping mad at you more times than I can count. The funny thing is, I keep coming back to your writing. Keep telling [the truth], and I'll keep listening. I may even end up a Christian someday.
Tomorrow: Nature, For and Against, Part 6