(I have mixed feelings about this featured image. Most of them bad, though the goal was to humor the organization’s art style and belief)
It has been a while since I wrote a blog post and, more specifically, one about the Jehovah Witnesses. According to my list of posts, since the 15th of July.. allow me to apologize to those who follow me for such topics. Here’s an early Xmas gift, from someone who never celebrated it.. to other people who probably have to celebrate it themselves too!
Humor aside, since I’m terrible at it (though that has never stopped me from trying), today’s topic I feel is of most importance: The process that has lead some people to leave the Jehovah Witnesses.
Though everyone is an individual, with their own reasons and thought patterns, it’s important to note that the topic has become more of a focus. We are living a crucial point, where Scientology has been mostly scowled apart and reprehended by their own former members and the media. This is an opportunity to come forward, to share, to speak. But most of all.. to aid others. So let us avoid dramas among ourselves as best as we can and, as cliché as it may sound.. think of the victims. We are all victims here, but experienced ones at that. We need to provide psychological aid at least to the inexperienced that have just left the cult or are considering it.
Many are the reasons as to why people leave the cult. However, besides opportunity, it is a fact that the cult has been bleeding their numbers. (Look, my country is red! From those -149, I was one of them that year!)
While it’s true that, overall, they are still growing despite it being at a much slower rate.. their growth is insignificant compared to the growth of the world population. Meaning that, in truth, the percentage of Jehovah Witnesses in the world, compared to the 100% of the population, is lower.
Again, many are the reasons as to why. One of them being that their newest method of preaching their belief is.. ineffective. Dare I say, in my unprofessional view as a mere spectator, it has made their publishers lazy in the long run. Though they still preach door to door occasionally, this form of evangelism doesn’t convince the majority of the population to stop, listen and to take their words for granted.
Another culprit being the internet itself. Everyone has access to information nowadays. It’s easy to search for any kind of information we desire and many have become aware of the true nature of this cult. Many voices are speaking, on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Reddit and so on. Those voices are hard to ignore and Watchtower has been struggling to keep their members away from such exposure. It has mattered little that they shout “apostasy”, their members are watching and reading blog post such as these in silence.. besides other more effective forms of media. Watchtower is aware that the internet has been their greatest issue, has seen in their broadcast on November 2017.
Speaking of the Broadcast, it has also been a tool for their own demise. It has become easier for the internet to refute most of Watchtower’s teachings in video format, given that the cult has provided such medium to begin with. Their inadequacy is open for criticism, to be witnessed by anyone who is willing to watch a single video on their broadcast. Their speech hasn’t resonate to the major audience, quite the opposite. It exposed the type of cult it actually is to the world at large.
But most of all, the way they have handled child abuse has been shameful. The ARC (Australian Royal Commission) has shed some light about the way this cult deals with troubling predicaments within their own halls. Avoidance, deceitful, outright lying and victim blaming.. they have resorted to Theocratic Warfare strategies to keep their name intact while ignoring the root of the problem: Pedophilia. Their lack of empathy has been astonishing.. and one can easily gain access to such videos. Though the videos are long, I will share a beginning to spark some curiosity – Governing Body member, Geoffrey Jackson, lying to the authorities. This is not exclusive to Australia, as other countries have become aware of such issues within the cult. Their unwillingness to change the “two witness” policy to justify any action between their members, without involving the authorities, has been proven more than once.
The Jehovah Witnesses’ golden age has been long gone. What follows is the unavoidable downfall of their numbers. They are aware of that, which is why they’ve changed their focus to the current Jehovah Witnesses to be more persistent with their child indoctrination, as seen on the Watchtower’s March 2018 Study Edition.
They are pressuring their children to baptism and, as many are aware, it is the worst mistake one can make within the cult. Baptizing means that you’ve signed a verbal contract with Watchtower for the rest of your life. That you will listen to them, act the way they want to.. without question. That, if you decide to do or say something outside of their expectations, you will be disfellowshipped. Which translates to the complete ostracisation from the cult and their members to those individuals.. including family members.
It breaks families apart. Which is why the idea that they are pressuring their children to baptism more so than ever, is repulsive. Another form of child abuse, besides pedophilia itself within their own cult.
Again, I believe that now it is the time to focus on Watchtower’s short comings. I’m not a professional activist.. but I believe now it is the opportunity to speak. Share your personal experiences to the world, expose the cult. Use your voice, be honest and protect others from doing the same mistakes as we did. Tell the world what you’ve learned, find a way to do so. If the internet is not your preferable place, speak to your friends at least. Help other disfellowshipped people.. or even those who are Physically In and Mentally Out (PIMO).
Don’t fall for anger, for resentment, for a complete victim narrative. I am aware how easy it is to fall for such dark emotions, I am guilty of so many of those emotions that you, too, are familiar with. But this isn’t about you. It’s about a cult, several victims and a warning to society that needs to be aware. Do NOT attack individual witnesses, they are not to blame.. for their are also victims in their own way. It is to Watchtower, the Governing Body, that one should direct their outrage to.
As for myself, I do not believe that I am an activist of sorts. I don’t intend to extensively talk about such issues, despite being aware and not shying away from it. I speak my mind now and then on social media, on this blog, to the very few followers that I have. It’s the minimum I can do, given that there’s another bigger issue in my life than just being a former Witness. That too needs addressing.
Nonetheless, I want to give an example. I don’t want to be the type of person that tells others what to do and not do it myself. I will, too, share my own process of “awakening” from the cult.. on this very same blog post.
A few disclaimers:
- First, this is going to be a long post. It’s unavoidable.
- Second, I’m Portuguese. My native language differs from the one I’m writing. Though that has never been an issue thus far, I feel that it is a fair warning given the length of this blog post. The longer I write about a particular subject, the more dull, simplistic and predictable my choice of words and expressions gets.
- Third, I’m Portuguese. I know I just wrote that earlier.. but it is an important fact to say that these events happened within Portugal. Culture and context is important, for even Jehovah Witnesses can differ a little from region to region. Not by much, but no one is immune to one’s surroundings and societal norms.
- Fourth, I’m Transsexual. Male to Female. I am a woman but, to my own self deprecation, the cult saw me as a boy for all intents and purposes. Another aspect to take into consideration and, by all means, a “unique perspective” from the cult that may differ from others.
- Fifth, it’s hard to talk about the cult and not involve other aspects of my life, that may not be related to the topic at hand on face value. Though I will try my best to focus on the main topic at hand, I do apologize for any explanation or slight off-topics here and there.. but I believe they relate in one way or another in the greater picture.
- Sixth, do not use this information to harass individual Jehovah Witnesses.. or anyone for that matter. Again, your energy should be wasted to aid others who actually WANT to break free from the cult and to the Governing Body (in the United States).
Waking up from a Cult – “The truth will set you free”
My online pseudonym is SapphyDe90 (Sapphy-Dee-Ninety, for those who have issues speaking it out loud. I’m also fine with just being called Sapphy). I was born on the 2nd May 1990, hence the number on my pseudonym. My real name isn’t too far from my pseudonym, though I wasn’t always called by the name I currently have.
I grew up in a household made up of two parents and an older brother (seven-nearly-eight years apart). The three of them Jehovah Witnesses by the time I was born. My brother was too born under such circumstances. We both were indoctrinated the moment we were born, though the lineage of indoctrination only began with my parents.
The Jehovah Witnesses only began to exist within my country somewhere in the 1950’s. It was a dictatorship back then, under the rule of Salazar. My parents grew up under such political climate, the Jehovah Witnesses were heavily persecuted by the government. During that time until April 25th in 1974, the Jehovah Witnesses in my country feared the government which, at the time, even had their own secret police. Think of it has our own version of the Gestapo, which was named PIDE. My parents were preached during that time, my father being the first one when he was 10 years old. My mother, though later, was preached in her early 20’s. Though my country has roughly 48.000-49.000 Jehovah Witness Publishers today, my father was part of the first 2.000-3.000 Publishers within the country.
As such, expectations were high for me and my brother. My father was an elder for around a decade when I was born, given how he was known by many within several local congregations. Everywhere he went, at least a family or two knew him and would greet us kindly.
When born, unlike my brother, my mother quit her job to take care of me in the first few years. She suffered Postpartum Depression. I was a late-term pregnancy, forced labor.. she needed more time to be with me and to heal from her depression.
My early childhood was one lived within the house. A late talker, doing so at the age of 3 because, as I’ve been told, I was “too lazy to talk” since I didn’t need to talk to get what I wanted (my first word was “Pai” though, which means Father in Portuguese). In short, I’m spoiled I guess. Little I engaged with other children, being quite pleased with the company of my own family. Within the Kingdom Hall, I acted like a normal child. As in, I used to sit and try not to misbehave during meetings and, once it was done, be a little more childish. I was reprehended a few times for misbehaving.. though that stage didn’t last long.
The other Jehovah Witnesses treated me correctly, as any adult would to someone else’s child. There was a strong sense of community and I was love bombed early on. People had high expectations on me, as I’ve touched upon briefly. The one who taught me (as in, the one who used to do my bible study) was my father.
Things changed when I was six years old, when I started going to Primary school (1st to 4th grade). I was forced to deal with other children on a wider context, which didn’t end well during the first two years. Given gender dysphoria and the usual social norm of children dividing themselves by gender and being disgusted by their counterpart, I was ostracized and bullied because I thought “everyone was dumb” and I didn’t like to play with the boys that I was forced to. I preferred the company of adults, which I could only find and have a proper interaction within the Kingdom Hall. This furthered my indoctrination and pushed me to actually start paying attention to the meetings.
I did my first “public speech” when I was six years old, on top of a cardboard box. As in, I read the bible to an audience of sixty-seventy.. can’t remember the number of people. Of course, as expected, I was the cutest new promising witness on the congregation because of it. That furthered my interest for the teachings, turning into a Publisher at the age of eight.
During that time, I saw the people at my local primary school as the “worldly” people I had to engage with daily. Though the bullying during that time ended once I found a single common interest with my peers at the time (gaming, which was an activity introduced within the household by my brother), I was already indoctrinated to believe they were odd. Gender Dysphoria didn’t help as it further aggravated my inadequacy with other children of my age. As a child, I didn’t thought gender/sex was the issue, even though I wanted to be a mother and then later, since I learned I could never get pregnant, to be a Obstetrician-gynecologist.. or as I would like to say “the doctor that delivers babies”. I thought that the issue with my inadequacy and suffering was not because of gender.. but because “they were dumb worldly people”.
Amusingly enough, there were other children in my local Kingdom Hall. Though only four stood out (besides myself), two boys and two girls; the two girls never engaged with me significantly (despite being from separate families from different elders too) and the two boys belonged to two different families in troubled households and backgrounds. There were a few teenagers, though I felt that I didn’t belong in the same circle of friends that my brother had. It was intimidating.. though there were a few special moments that I can remember fondly.
I progressed as a Publisher which, in return, got the attention of the adults. The adults were “nice” and other children were “dumb”.. and since most children I knew were not Jehovah Witnesses, somehow that furthered my indoctrination. I always commented during meetings, becoming infamous for getting mad if I didn’t get the chance to comment. Most people thought it was amusing and took it as a good sign that I was progressing as a Jehovah Witness.
At the age of eleven, I got baptized (15th February 2002). Based on one of the study articles from one of the Watchtower study articles at the time (to be honest, I’ve wasted hours trying to find the exact article and magazine but I fear it will be almost impossible. I do remember however, a specific picture.. one I wasn’t able to find yet), I was motivated to dedicate my life in prayer and to symbolize it by baptizing. The magazine talked that there should be nothing to fear, that even people who got baptized often used to do mistakes. For me, it was a big step but the magazine made me believe that I shouldn’t fear. Because what mattered is that I believed that the things I was taught of were true. And “the truth” is what made people nice, while the “worldly people” were “dumb” because they lacked “the truth”. That such was the reason for the bullying outside of the Kingdom Hall.
When I spoke to my mother in the Kingdom Hall’s bathroom, after that same meeting (right after the last prayer of the very same meeting), I told her about my desire for baptism. She was thrilled, yet she wasn’t completely sure. My father learned such a few minutes afterwards, sharing that he felt that I was too young to make such decisions. Yet I was spoiled and, like a toy I really wanted, I pressed on my desire to do so. My father, though an elder at the time, asked advise from the other elders of the congregation. They shrugged among themselves and came to the conclusion that I was a well behaved child, more mature than the others and, thus, saw no problem with my desire. Though my father never got over his doubts over my youth, my mother soon shared the same sentiment as the other elders.. and I was allowed to be baptized.
… My father was right. When I look back, I can say that I was too young, naive and spoiled by the love bombing I always received during my early childhood. Both within the Kingdom Hall and within my family environment. In fact, ironically, my parents were once alerted by a circuit overseer that they should be more careful with the way they spoiled me. No one is perfect.. I never said I was.
After baptism, I was already in either 5th or 6th grade. A new school, new people.. new bullies. It didn’t help that my overall attitude wasn’t the most appropriate. At the time, there was a boy that I wanted to get closer to. But given that I disliked his friends, I often made myself a victim in order to turn that boy against them. Which worked for most part, at least in what I desired. I was the child that was well mannered and “looked like a saint and transpired innocence”, which made it easier when I overreacted to any form of criticism or hint of roughness on the other end. Again, I never said that I was perfect. And the consequence, though wrong for them to have done so, was to have bullies that lasted all the way to 12th grade. This to say that bullying only made me believe that the “worldly people” were “dumb and mean”. Ignoring the fact that my best friend at the time was the very same boy I mentioned earlier, a “worldly person”.
Within the Kingdom Hall, after my baptism, the spotlight was on me and on my family more than ever. Most Kingdom Halls have that one or two “golden” families that are considered the prime example of a “true christian household”. However, it alienated me from every other child of my age within the very same Kingdom Hall and.. even circuit. They felt that I thought I was “too good” for them. Given their behavior and reasoning, I still didn’t thought it was a “gender issue” but the fact that I was simply more mature than the other children of my own age within the congregation and most of the circuit.
The reason why it took me long enough to identify my dysphoria was because of the indoctrination imposed on me. Most people of my age mocked me because I did felt that they were simply.. dumb. Though I would never say it out loud, my overall behavior did made it seem that I highly disapproved their definition of fun and amusement. When I look back, I see that it was a misconception. What I believed to be an issue with “the world” and “the people of my age” wasn’t their lack of intellect. I believed that because I was led to believe it was, given indoctrination. In return, people of my age noticed that I didn’t liked them, which created bullying. And thus the cycle continued as I would go back to the Kingdom Hall and feel better about myself and the belief taught to me.
At the age of twelve, I earned the task of carrying and handling the microphones. A year later, directly using the sound equipment. I used to study every meeting during that time, on a congregation that was suffering. I would peek the magazines held by a few other Jehovah Witnesses, noticing that they didn’t had underlined their paragraphs. I would comment about it to my parents which, in return, would hear that some of them actually had depression and a few other problems within their houses. It was a congregation that, by Jehovah Witnesses standards, was “spiritually weak”. Many people were suffering from psychological issues, real problems that, now that I look back, makes me feel upset. From such scenario, I could only think about how they didn’t had their magazines filled with notes.
Strangely enough, I look back at that congregation fondly. I have a few good memories, cult teachings and manipulation aside. I have to admire the fact that they endured soo much in their lives and still.. they found time to stroke my ego. I truly was a brat disguised as an angel..
When puberty came, when the changes started to occur, I began to notice the effects of gender dysphoria to a much complete sense of the symptoms. Jealousy took part of most of my thoughts at the time, though I was told by my religious peers that what I felt was love.. since I would never tell them I was jealous. They merely based their ridiculous assumptions on the way I behaved towards other women. Though deep down, even those gals knew I didn’t like them that way. And I didn’t.. because there was a boy that I had a crush on within the local congregation. It was mild.. but it was there. He had the greatest smile~ though later I found him to be so easy to manipulate and lacking a firm position.. easily drifted by whatever direction the wind blew. What a pity..
Such remarks about my sexual attraction by my religious peers made it harder for me to identify my ever growing dysphoria. And to even figure out that I actually had a crush on the boy I’ve mentioned. I only found out many years later, when I was already disappointed at the boy.. as odd as that sound but, to be fair, this isn’t a normal story and I realize my experience is quite abnormal.
Between my twelfth and fourteenth birthday I also had my first (and only) bible study, to a child around my age. It was given to me, by my mother. She had a bible study with his mother, so both thought I should be the one conducting a bible study to her child.
I was.. a lousy Publisher that somehow always got away with my lousiness. I hated preaching door to door, talking to random strangers. It made me nervous, as a shy young girl. Insecure, since you never knew what would come out of those doors. I never revisited people, I simply accompanied someone, talked a few times to hand a magazine or two.. and never went back to those very same doors again. I would always pick the most experienced pioneers, servants and elders to go with.. in hope they had a bible study to sync a few hours without the need to talk to random strangers. Bible studies used to be my favorite aspect of preaching, since it was inside people’s houses, people knew each other and it was easier for me to add a few things to the conversation when I felt it made sense to.
Either way, with my bible study, the victim of my attempts was a boy around my age.. that felt dragged by his mother to do so. I could easily tell how boring that was for him, though I didn’t allowed it to discourage me from trying. I tried to not be dull with my approach, making efforts to have him express himself without having to directly read what was written just to fulfill the questions directed at him. I tried to talk rather than preach. Given that he liked video games (just as I still continue to like), I tried to get close to him based around that.. since it always worked in the past every time I had to deal with boys around my age. That got out of his shell for a while and he began to understand that I was not there to bore him about things he didn’t really cared about. I wanted to please him while, at the same time, share the message that I believed to be right.
He… never took steps to assist the meetings, since his mother never did too. Eventually, my mother abandoned her bible study and told me to do the same. The memory is hazy on those regards to the exact reaction and conclusion to that study.
During those years, I was also part of a convention drama (theater), together with my family. Very few were selected on my former congregation, though the role that my family and I had were simple: We were just there to make numbers, to be part of a fictional crowd with other people. Nearly five thousand people saw us that day, furthering my indoctrination and “social status” alongside my family.
Later, somewhere between my fourteenth and fifteenth birthday, my congregation was dissolved. The Witnesses from my congregation were spread between three different congregations, one congregation being new. However, me and my family were sent to one of the two already existing and established ones. Me and my family welcomed such change, each of us with our own reasons. Mine being that I feared to be spiritual affected by the overall depressive environment from the former congregation. The audience was lowering on numbers, a congregation that used to have eighty to seventy.. was now struggling to even have fifty people present in a meeting. This fear was based on the fact that I desired for the love that I used to feel when I was a child.. but was being crushed by the rising difficulties within the congregation. The mood was affecting me and I wanted to be love bombed again, as crude as it sounds saying it now with today’s knowledge of the situation.. for those weren’t the exact same words I would think of even telling anyone.
Within the new congregation, the environment was much different than I’d expected. Simply put, the established congregation saw us as some sort of impostors to their “inner politics” (elders…) .
In the new congregation, there were more people around my age. Some of them I already knew of, others I did not. One in specific, for some reason, saw me has a rival of sorts.. which is incredibly adorable to think about since, back then, I didn’t understood why he was acting in such a loud, over the top clownish, attention seeking moronic way. Looking back, I realize that his mother used to pressure him and tell him that he should be more like me. Some mothers used to do that in my childhood… it’s horrible. You’re basically asking for your child to think less of themselves and, some cases, outright harass the one you want your child to be as. Don’t do that, it’s just evil, love your child.. not other people’s child.
My family noticed that the new congregation wasn’t as inviting as we thought it would. We talked about it several times, pointing examples of Jehovah Witnesses being extremely patronizing and passive aggressive towards each others. The politics at play, the alliances between Elder A and Elder B who disliked Elder C and D. Those who liked Elder A and B and how terrible they were for liking that Elder while spreading rumors about those on Elder C and D side. And how Elder A has shady business in his workplace while preaching about good behavior at the top of the podium. It was.. a mess and it made me realize that not every Jehovah Witness was nice, even though they all believed in “the truth”.
At the same time, as I saw the few members of the former congregation that joined us on this particular new congregation doing, we justified and fortified our indoctrination by saying that we were not here for men.. but because of the god we believed in. For “the truth”. During that period of time, I started to create my own forms of thought as to why I was a Jehovah Witness in the first place. That it wasn’t about the people, or congregations, or elders. About being loved, a hug or a mere gesture of affection. That we were on harsh times and that the only reason that had made us Jehovah Witnesses.. was “the truth”.
The focus had changed from the people themselves (the community).. but to the teachings. “The truth” is what mattered. That.. is when the seeds of my awakening began.
Every time that the circuit overseer came, we hoped that he would solve the issues within the new congregation. But I learned that the Circuit Overseer only becomes aware of the issues if someone tells them of such. But given that they have but a week every six months and, during such week, everyone was at their best behavior and trying as much as they could to please the overseer.. it slowly made my hope fade. But we had “the truth”.
Every time someone was unfair to me or to my family, we hoped that they would change their ways eventually. That maybe an article would help them become self conscious. Or maybe their favorite elder would actually start acting like an elder and kindly inform them in private to cease their behavior. That never happened. But we had “the truth”.
Every time an elder got to make a speech and began to reprehend the opposing aisle of their political shenanigans, we hoped that they would someday be stripped away from their privileges for being such insufferable and insensitive morons. That sometimes happened.. but never cleaned the rats’ den. But we had “the truth”.
Given the flaws within the congregation and the elders (my father included), I learned that not every elder was worth the attention and that there was politics involved. How they abused their power at times, that such behavior didn’t align with the teachings.
That form of thought and realization allowed me to do a minor form of critical thinking and have a different perspective on certain aspects of the faith in question. For example, entertainment and the internet. I always thought it was strange how they shunned specific movies, books, games and titles because they exposed certain aspects that they didn’t like. The example of an apple that is partially brown on one particular side from the inside, tossed away completely because of it.. no. Don’t toss an apple just because a tenth of it is a little rotten while the rest is healthy. Cut a good portion of the rotten part away and eat the untainted area. It’s a waste of potential. And even what is rotten can be used to fertilize the ground. Plus, it is important to note the difference between fiction and reality.
Such thought allowed me to take joy in forms of entertainment that other Jehovah Witnesses would frown if they knew. As a geek, gaming was the source for most entertainment that they would shun away. But we had “the truth”. And the truth is, it’s just fiction!
As I grew and began to suffer ostracisation from both “worldly people” and the people within my congregation, I also began to notice that a few of the Jehovah Witnesses that still praised me and my family.. never really cared for me. That what they were after was the approval of my father rather than genuine interest in my well being. At the time, to avoid further bullying, I had decided to not go to college and opt for a three years long professional course (after 9th grade) that gave me a high school diploma regardless, to be better prepared for the world.
The people of my age were also terrible, from both sides. Which, together with everything else already described, made me suffer from depression for a few years. After an unexpected shout from my part as my father drove us to meet the boy that I used to have a crush on, as I informed that I didn’t wish to visit him, my family began to worry and they searched for a psychiatrist. Though the psychiatrist was flawed, he lead me to meet the psychologist that I still visit to this very same day, after more than ten years. In my family, we take mental health seriously for reasons I would rather not dwell on. She is a wonderful professional and I am.. soo grateful for her to be part of my whole recovery and.. mess. Besides myself, she’s the one that knows me the most.
I survived my depression at the time, though it took years to do so. I maintained my belief in the cult, against all the odds at the time. Because we cared for “the truth”. We had it.
More years passed, I wasn’t able to progress as a Jehovah Witness. Though I believed and still did everything and even a little more, I was never given further privileges. Nor did I wanted them to be fair. I never fought to have privileges, I only wanted to be liked and understood, to relate and be related. Given internal politics among elders, the spotlight was taken from my family and placed on certain individuals that had the approval of the major political faction of elders. Including a certain clown, as he got to be a servant. I laughed at that back then, further underlining what I already suspected about the inner bicker among elders.
However, my inner belief in the cult also desired to purify the congregation in anyway I could. So I talked to one of the elders about my disapproval of the new servant and was given suggestions on how I could become one myself. I didn’t cared for those, so I grasped for that specific elder’s dark past and cornered him: That the reason why he got to be an elder in the first place was “because he acted like a spoiled child that didn’t got his toy when he was a servant”, so the elders took pity on him and gave him the title. That made the elder go silent, but he got the message. And no, I didn’t learned about it because someone had told me such. But because he was part of my previous congregation.. so I saw it when I was a child since he and his family were close to mine. Still! He was one of the best elders from the congregation.. besides my father himself (as biased with “rose tinted glasses over my daddy” as that may sound. Look, I am a daddy’s gal deep down and though I did spend most of the time with my mother and despite the fact that he does have his flaws, he’s still the best!)
None of these were enough to shaken my belief over the cult. It did changed my perspective, without a doubt. But we had “the truth”.
… But what if others don’t care about “the truth”?
When I was twenty, I was getting increasingly worried. I still suffered deep down given my gender dysphoria. It had been years and I had suppressed it for quite some time. I became aware of it finally and did my own research on the subject. Though it took months of research and soul searching.. the nightmares ever increasing, I finally came out to my psychologist first, when I was twenty one. A day later, to my mother and, in an hour or so, to my father. My brother learned a few hours after. Tears were exchanged, my mother being the one who had the worst reaction while my father merely hugged and cried with me. My brother, on the other hand, was just confused and probably didn’t even understood what was being said until a few days later.
When I told them about my predicament, I did informed them that I did desire to transition. However, I wanted to know the opinion of the cult, given that little information existed on the subject within their publications. Such lack of information baffled my father as well and we asked a special pioneer for his advice. He didn’t knew either, which lead me to talk to another elder (besides my father).
The elder, though he was part of an “opposing political spectrum within the elder war”, was the one that I had chosen to share the predicament. Because I genuinely was already tired of the bickering and by trusting him with a subject so personal to me and to my family would, hopefully, make the elders unite for once. The elder lacked knowledge on the subject as well, but he told me and my family to stay silent and to not tell anyone else about the subject. To simply trust god, to have hope for paradise, where everything would magically solve somehow. Since I had the same faith.. I believed him, but I feared him.
The fear that I felt.. I cannot truly explain. I.. think I feared that god wouldn’t solve the issue. Not because I didn’t believed in paradise but.. because I feared that god would please everyone else but myself. That everyone that knew about the subject didn’t actually loved me but only wanted me to suppress myself. And, to satisfy everyone that “loved me”, he would change me to something that I was not, since it would be easier to everyone else.
I didn’t like that thought. I ignored the elder’s advise and did something else. I talked to the circuit overseer, since I already knew I couldn’t trust the elders given past experiences. The circuit overseer lacked knowledge on the subject as well.. but he did advised me something: To write in English to Brooklyn, since I knew how to do so. And I did, eight pages of it. After nearly two months, this was the answer that came:
The answer provided mixed feelings. On one hand, their speech appeared kind at first glance. Second, they shown some knowledge on the subject to the point that I was pleasantly surprised! Honestly, they did had some grasp on the subject.
However, their decision and overall reasoning to maintain such position against a treatment that could aid me (and it has thus far) was.. severely lacking. The scriptures were far-fetched to explain their logic. Excluding Deuteronomy 22:5, given that’s a law that doesn’t even apply to this situation and simply tells “You can’t do this”, without proper explanation, I focused on Genesis 2:23, on the definition of the word in Hebrew. The definition of the word isn’t enough to suggest anything that they perceive to be sound logic. Words are a combination of syllables, each with their own meaning to create an entire new word and meaning. It doesn’t mean literally what it sounds when you break it down to syllables. Plus, a man with a womb? I thought everyone was female regardless at first.. and then later, biological men become men after being a woman first within the womb. Anyway.. small rambles in my mind during the time.
The rest of the letter is merely drivel, advises for aid.. though they fall flat if one doesn’t justify their sentence first. That’s how I used to work. Make me believe that your ridiculous demands are right, then I will accept your suggestions.
From that point forward, I decided to do my own thing, regardless of what others told me. Because, after sharing the letter with the elders, they weren’t open for a conversation about the subject. They wanted me to follow the letter’s advise, without questioning. It was not what I was expecting, since I had doubts about what was told on that decisive letter. I was told not to write back, to simply suppress my thoughts and pretend that nothing had happened. To not mention this to anyone.. to keep being a good Jehovah Witness, that later in paradise, god would solve the issue. But given that the supposed single channel to god said I couldn’t and that I wasn’t a woman, I knew that something was not right.
I searched for aid and evidence that my condition was true. Appointments with doctors, psychological exams and blood tests.. I wanted to rub on the elders’ faces that I was right.. because I am. I also stopped going to the meetings, started dressing up and growing my hair in a different way. Not strictly feminine.. but something I look back now and shiver to how silly I looked. Every Trans Woman goes through THAT stage, that we want to change our appearance but we still are too afraid to do it so we opt for something not feminine but also colorful and more.. flamboyant? It was strange.. not proud of that stage, though a necessary one.
I searched for an LGBT community, having more of a double life on the internet. Opting the pseudonym of Sapphire, which was the same pseudonym I was heavily criticized during my fourteens for being a female name. On the internet.. I was Sapphire. In real life, I was being tested with the desire to bring evidence to the elders so that I could make my transition and not be disfellowshipped. Because I had “the truth”, not THEM.
After two years, I made the mistake to go to a meeting under my family’s pressure to do so, despite my appearance and how shocked everyone felt in the congregation about it (the snobs with the monocles and the royalty falling for their thrones because someone dared to dress differently for the occasion. HOW DARE THEY?!) The elders suddenly were reminded that I existed.. even though my father told them to aid me time and time again.. and they arranged a judicial committee. I can only imagine how they went home that day after the meeting and the outrage behind the scenes because I dared to appear after more than a year! Can you feel the love? Because for me, back then, it only underlined the fact that they didn’t cared for me. They didn’t even greeted me, how quickly they forgotten that I was once their prodigy.
Either way, I accepted to go to the judicial committee. I was very afraid, given that I lacked any physical evidence on my hand for my own defense. But, most of all, I feared to lose connection to god. I still believed, I was still indoctrinated.. against all odds. Three men stood in front of me, from different congregations since no one trusted the elders from my own congregation to reprehend me. I stood there, defenseless. They judged me, they were intolerant. One elder tried to be nicer while another one played the role of the “skeptic”. The third one hardly contributed, trying to play the role of the voice that pretended to be my conscious and guide to the right answers. The skeptic didn’t believed when I apologized. Because, in his perspective, I didn’t actually felt remorse for what I was doing. He was right.. I did not. I didn’t understood what I did was wrong, thus couldn’t apologize. My mouth said “Sorry”, my eyes cried.. and my feet couldn’t feel the floor. It felt as if I was dying on that spot, because I feared them. I feared god.. and I love my family. But my mind said “They are wrong and cruel.”
They stripped me from my privileges.. as if those mattered to me. But the worst act of all.. was that they demanded me to cut my hair between that very same Monday and Thursday.. just in time for the meeting. I still fought against that demand, saying that I just went to the Hair Salon that former weekend (and I did, so it wasn’t a lie). Nonetheless, they were not open for negotiation. If I truly regretted my actions, I would need to cut my hair, get a suit and go to the meeting on Thursday with a smile. I had.. no choice but to comply, together with the idea that I would need a “recovery study” (I apologize, I have no idea if this is the correct English counterpart for such). At least they offered me the dignity to choose which elder would.. and I ended up choosing the very same elder I confronted years ago about his dark past that got him to be an elder in the first place.
I was at the meeting on Thursday, with a new hairstyle. One that made me die even more inside the more I looked at the mirror. I wore a suit.. after for nearly two years, though that really wasn’t the worst experience comparing to everything else that I was forced to do. I felt traumatized, genuinely. I felt that I lacked life, a spark within me. It felt as if I had witnessed a horror and was trying to coop with a shocking mental picture. Like a child that just witnessed a murder, innocence taken away. As if I was pale and shaking in the cold, starving and bare bone, naked. Trying to pretend that I was alive by the command of a dictator that would crack their whip behind my back if I didn’t perform according to what everyone paid the tickets for. The trick being.. a smile, of how grateful I was for their mercy. Adding insult to the injury, they announced to an audience of nearly one hundred Jehovah Witnesses that I had been reprehended, without context.. though I’m sure most knew why exactly.
The fake smiles that came to greet me, like the bourgeoisie that wish to take a picture with the poor and misfortuned. To look good for the greater picture, for the elders. Handshakes and empty words, I was used to that even beforehand. The type of people that want to please your family and others but don’t actually care for you. It’s about social status, the privileges within the religious community. I was aware that their words meant.. nothing. I knew “the truth”.
Worst of all, even more ignorance from their part, was when they decided to strip away my father’s privilege from being an elder. They announced a week after, without any proper context. Of course, they had used me for their political wars among elders. They couldn’t wait to find a way to get my father out of their royal court, so they used me. Yes, because my father is to blame for the fact I have gender dysphoria apparently! They never provided a reason to me.. but it was obvious. If it were for any other reason, they had many years and opportunities to do such and not a week after my reprehension. It WAS politically motivated, more backstabbing in the great elder wars in a region that nobody cares about. Though such action had not only make me question and grow even more upset.. but my mother has well was upset and confused to the reason and, though my father hid the reason from me, I could tell that he too was upset for losing his privilege. It affected him greatly to this very same day.
My family was proud of me.. and I tried to please them. I accepted the aid from the elder that was given the task to provide me with the study. I wanted to give them a last chance, that maybe I was wrong. I wanted to be proven wrong, so that I could believe that god could provide me what I truly needed and desired. But I also feared that their definition of a “study” was.. going to be torturous. And I was right.
I used to predict and joke to my psychologist about the fact that I’d hopped their definition of aid wouldn’t involve forcing me to stereotypical male activities and tropes.. such as watching sports while drinking beer, going out fishing and playing football. Though it wasn’t as absurd, it was quite close in their own subtle and special way. Mostly, the elder came to me in order to talk about topics that I already knew about. Reminders and a large focus on my own predicament. Specifically, in how to dress, the only colors a man should wear, how a man should act.. .. .. things that made me sick inside pretty much even just by thinking about it. And also the absurd amount of time he used to.. bad talk about his own wife and how “certain women in the congregation” were bad because they dressed in a way he didn’t aprove of. No.. I’m not joking. That was actually a thing for months.
Are you, reader, familiar with that feeling of having to hold yourself from figuratively releasing your claws.. even though you are wincing within your mind quite badly? That’s how I felt, I felt that I was a cat that was ready to pounce (once again, figuratively) and scratch all over his face. I haven’t felt such a thing since then.
… Still, after a month or two.. I couldn’t resist. I went back to my double life while avoiding the elder in question. I slowly stopped going to the meetings again. I gave them a chance.. and they failed. I was not going to pretend that they were right. Clearly they weren’t up to debate. They didn’t cared about “the truth”.. the truth about the subject. Like a house of cards.. it all felt. “If they are wrong about my specific predicament.. what else are they wrong about?”. I searched the web, videos from DarkMatter2525 (among other youtube users) helped me question religion has a whole, not just my own. I avoided Ex-JW’s in specific at the time, since I feared being called an apostate.
It all felt that.. they really don’t have “the truth”. The truth about “the truth” is that there is no “truth”. Anyone who claims to have all the answers is delusional, there is no way to prove anything that most religious believe in. That’s why it’s called a belief, it’s not backed up with empirical evidence.
I also started to actually seek LGBT communities outside of the internet.. though that’s an entire different subject that has lead me to personally avoid LGBT communities in general once I also found out about the current political climate.
I also resumed my appointments with my doctors with the goal of moving forward with my transition, instead of waiting for a miracle from the cult.
In short, I no longer cared what happened between me and the cult. They no longer held credibility after all the things they had said and acted.
Another year had passed, three new elders came to the congregation. Apparently my predicament had unraveled a series of events between the elders, which was a pleasant surprise. Glad to had helped.. I think? Oh wait, no I’m not. I don’t like to be used as a political tool for other people’s chess games. Though it was amusing to see two of those three new elders taking up the privilege of being the new Coordinator of the Body of Elders and Service Overseer (a rank that my father had a few times in the past) while the “opposing political party” had to sit on a bench, thus nobody “won” their chess game at the end.
The new elders noticed that I actually existed and paid a visit, to bring me back to the meetings once again. However, I already had decided to start my transition regardless of their thoughts. I gave them the evidence I thought would be enough.. but they ignored it in favor of pushing the former letter from Brooklyn forward as the last word that could not be argued against. Once I made it clear that I wasn’t going to fall for their demands, they shifted their attention to my parents that were present that time. Suddenly I didn’t exist on that room, even though I was there. I was ignored, told by two men in a suit that my parents would now face a challenge. That they now had to deal with it, not to tell anyone about their suffering. May I underline that I was there in silent listening to them simply describing me as basically the source of all suffering for my family from that point forward?
Nonetheless, it was my mother that surprised me that moment. She decided to bring the question as to why my father had stopped being an elder. My father joined in and said that he too was confused with how things were handled. The two elders became defensive and I shared what I thought.. since I had nothing to lose. One of the elders shouted at me, asking “Why are you using this as a means to justify your actions?!” I wasn’t.. but I didn’t dignify him with an answer. I was just upset that they used me just to break a long term elder’s heart. He really liked being an elder, it made him happy that people enjoyed his aid.. Cult and thoughts aside, I wish my father was still an elder. He is in his middle 60’s, he’s not young anymore, it made him active and willing to go an extra mile. It feels.. strange that he no longer is, it crushed part him.
Before they left, after informing my parents that they simply didn’t knew the reasons since they were not part of the congregation during that time and for my father to contact the elders that took part on the decision; they told me they would inform me of a day for a new judicial committee.
I was ready for it.
On the 15th of March from 2016, the judicial committee took place. Unlike the first time, that I didn’t knew what to expect, I was prepared. I knew what was going to happen. I knew my decision, I knew that I was right. I no longer believed in the cult, in organized religions. The people I would lose never loved me anyway.. since they never knew me to begin with. I had friends outside of the cult (acquaintances that I had met within the LGBT communities and a few former colleagues from the professional courses that I had took in the past). My family was a mystery.. but a price I was willing to take.
I was.. completely calm and spoke in monotone. Not because I disliked them.. but because I was in court and wanted to make myself clear one last time. I tried to reason with them, provided my evidence once again. They weren’t willing to listen, they were ready to judge me. I remember one elder shouting at me the following “We don’t care what science has to say!”. From that point forward, I knew it no longer mattered. I was in full control of the situation, which only result in their pretentious act of felling sorrow over my decision. They didn’t felt sorrow, one of those elders never liked me and my family anyway while the other two were the very same ones that visited me a week or so earlier.
… And thus I was disfellowshipped. I had but a week to write a letter to appeal in case I desired. If not, it would be announced in the following meeting after that deadline. I didn’t.. why bother? “We don’t care what science has to say!”, which is something I’m glad was finally admitted. It is the same as saying.. “We don’t care about the truth.”
My parents were there, outside. They were called after the sentence and I waited patiently. We went back home that day silently, with the exception of my mother asking if I was going to write that letter, to which I answered no. As a conclusion, she merely said “So, you are just going to give up then..”, to which I did not answer.
Still, I slept well that night. Quite peacefully in fact! My conscience was clean.. or maybe, the actual truth about “the truth” set me free~
Somehow, I was allowed to stay at home with my family. Though I never knew the reason as to why I was allowed to.. we can only imagine. A month after I was disfellowshipped, my family moved to another congregation, to reasons we can all only imagine as well. And on the 15th of December from 2016, I started my transition officially.
I would like to thank you for reading this blog post. It was quite long.. and exhausting! Remember the disclaimers and, again another reminder. Now it is the time. Share your stories as well to the world. Find the format you feel most comfortable with. Don’t harass anyone, only approach those that wish to be approached, that want to be free from the cult!
I do not blame the elders.. individual witnesses involved. I blame the Government Body, in the United States. Jehovah Witnesses listen to them and most of their thoughts are not their own, but willingly taken for granted from the mouth of those they have believed to be superior and the link to god. Remember my story. I was bullied when I was younger, and that only aggravated my indoctrination rather than aiding me. Jehovah Witnesses thrive on persecution, for it makes them believe they are right since the “world hates them” given their believes. They are victims too, just as much as I am.
I was lucky, given my own predicament. One that I have yet to fully solve. It allowed me to think critically of what I was told to simply follow with a smile.
Again.. thank you for reading this. I cannot wait to hear my followers’ stories too! Be sure to share them as a response to my tweet and Facebook page post.