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Finding love and self-acceptance in a conservative community

Finding love and self-acceptance in a conservative community
The following is a guest post from our affiliate, Ashlee Liz


Growing up in the south is pretty frustrating. Not only is it hotter than hell itself, there are more bugs than you can ever imagine and enough opinions for the entire world. To give you some background on me, I grew up in a pretty conservative household. My mom had me when she was twenty-two. That was scandalous back in the '80s... can you imagine? My mother was in college, father not in the picture, and I stayed with my grandparents while my mother went and finished her degree at a college a couple hours away. I grew up in a southern baptist church with conservative Republican grandparents. For about half of my life up until this point, I shared those views.

I definitely was not the most attractive kid growing up, and I never had a boyfriend until well into high school. My friends were dating other people and getting their first kisses. I was playing tennis and going to church twice a week. I found a new way of life for myself at a pretty young age. I had a friend who probably was not my mother's favorite kid, but she and I would always have fun. I actually had a reason to be out past 8 pm! She took me to a punk show that was in our town at this little venue. Granted, it was a Christian punk band, please do not ask me how that works. I have absolutely no idea. From that night on, things had changed. I came into this world of dirty basements, loud music, and all of the boys I could ever want to meet. The further I went into this world, the more different my life became. Everything I had learned when I was younger was in question with this crowd. These people did not go to church, they listened to music that had nothing to do with religion, and some of them had even had sex. We were fifteen, what were they doing? More and more I went into this scene and became comfortable. I accepted this lifestyle, and that was reflected in a lot of different ways in my life.

My grandparents learned about where I had been hanging out and who I had been hanging out with. I am one of those people who is almost honest to a fault. I have always had this incredible relationship with my mother, so I told her about these people and their sexual escapades. In some way, this was helping me to accept and be more comfortable with the idea that I could potentially be doing that one day. I just did not know it yet.

I graduated high school, and within two months of me turning 18, I would lose my virginity to someone who I had met through this crowd. After a great weekend, I never heard from him again. He would eventually pop back up briefly, but it was too late. Even for any sort of friendship. For months, honestly, maybe even years, I felt gross about what had happened. It was something that I thought about constantly. I did what all of the people in my past told me not to do. Sleep with someone and they will not respect you. You need to wait until marriage. Sex is not a part of normal behavior. You do not understand the complications and risks that come with an intimate relationship. Where these thoughts right? Absolutely not.

People want to have sex. It is a normal human need. Did any of my religious upbringing or southern standards keep me from doing it? Heck no! Something I have discovered about other people's expectations is they are usually from another time period. I asked my grandparents once if they thought the world and responsibilities for people living in their time period and mine were the same. Even they said no. Those closed-minded, conservative, super religious people recognized the difference.

As I have gotten older, I have definitely figured out a lot of things on my own. I have been able to develop my own personal opinion about sexual activities. The most important thing that I ever learned was how to make healthy choices which protected not only me but also my partner. You should never feel uncomfortable talking about sex- come on, it is a normal part of life. Make your own decisions and choices in life, just make sure they are educated ones.

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