Catholic School (Mis)Adventures (possible trigger warning!)

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Catholic School (Mis)Adventures (possible trigger warning!)
« on: January 18, 2016, 01:13:24 PM »
Hello all! As a preamble, Catholic schools are considered probably the only way to get a passable education here, so my mother didn't really have much of a choice... My mother herself isn't religious, and while my grandparents are, they prefer to do things by themselves. The brunt of religious abuse I experienced was thanks to school...

Technically though, my school wasn't run by a religious organization, since most schools run by those have a "rule" that only children whose parents are married can attend (what??). Only in my last two years or so did we even get in-school nuns and the like. But still, there's a large focus on traditional Catholic values, and being raised in a fairly non-traditional household let to culture shock, inevitably.

In the beginning it was small things, like endlessly being reminded that a "real family" consists of a narrow definition, and rampant ableism and anti-queerness that would guilt me as I grew older. There's also how I felt specifically targeted by the dress code (even though we rarely got to wear anything other than our uniforms) due to my body "developing" earlier and more obviously as a teenager. I was shamed, in indirect but very hurtful ways, for being many things. I felt ashamed for being an "illegitimate child," I felt ashamed of my own body, I felt ashamed of my own emotions, and I felt ashamed of myself as a whole. Toxic stuff!

This only worsened when my facade of "perfection" started cracking, and I also started to question my gender and sexuality. Seeking advice from teachers led to being shot down with "You're too young to worry about things like that," "It's all in God's plan," "You just have to pray and believe." Imagine being 13 years old, suicidal, and being told that your entire wellbeing depended on the opinion of a concept you barely trusted as a child? As a result I clammed up, holding everything inside, afraid that if I told anyone at school, they would tell my family a fabricated version of the suffering I was going through. (The only school-related person I trusted at that point was the man in charge of one of the extracurricular clubs I was a member of. He was a short, jolly man, and despite being religious, he never tried to force his beliefs upon me, and instead listened and empathized with me and tried to make me laugh. I'm extremely thankful to him.)

I did have friends, but being with them was largely exhausting, since I had to pretend to be a whole other person entirely. Until now, I still feel largely uncomfortable around them since it;s very hard to slip back into the role that I played with them...

It's largely because of this that I chose to apply to the only high-quality, non-religious university in the country. Getting accepted there, and being able to attend, even for just one semester, was so undeniably freeing. I was also able to make friends who accepted and loved me for who I was, and not who I was pretending to be.

I'm still working to deal with and get past this, especially since I've been left with a phobia of churches, religious statues, and basically anything to do with Catholicism in general. The main struggle is that religion is a Big Part of the culture here in general (I live in the Philippines), so there are few places where I feel truly safe...