Saturday, April 21, 2018

Flogging a Dead Horse While Skinning a Cat

“If you want to be invited to the secret goat rituals you need to be chill af.”


Editor's Note: we do not condone animal cruelty in any way. The second half of the title is taken from/reference to an 1840 article on money diggers in the 19th century (i.e., Joseph Smith) complete with Captain Kidd references and all. Now on to what you're here for...

Listen up, nevermos and neverjws. This blog’s for you.

Today we’re wrapping up our series on the Tapir/Sparlock Signal volunteers who have had close encounters of the cult-y kind but managed to avoiding joining the Latter Day Saints or Jehovah’s Witnesses. FSM_Noodly_Luv, Erin, and Ryan have all had loved ones impacted by these sects, and as such, they have some advice for current and aspiring volunteers – especially those who have never stepped foot in a cultural or Kingdom hall.

Here are some of the knowledge bombs they’ve dropped:
  1. Coffee: just roll with it.

  2. Mormonism and the Witnesses are all-encompassing religions with very insular communities.

    Both are incredibly high-demand religions, not only taking up numerous hours of the week but also at times dictating a person’s entire future. Many Mormon women are pushed into motherhood regardless of their desire for children, for example, and many Witnesses are strenuously discouraged from pursuing higher education.

    And unless you’ve left a similarly high-pressure environment, it can be difficult to understand and sympathize as a nevermo/jw.

    “Empathy. No judgment,” Erin advised. “In a lot of cases, these people have never known anything else. Give support. Lots of it. And learn.”

    Listen to peoples’ experiences and realize that Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses are more than just religions; in many cases they’re lifestyles. Think about what it would mean for you to change fundamental aspects of your life – your career, your friends, your home. That can be what it feels like to leave the church.

  3. Tea: for more than just spelling!

  4. In some cases, you’re the face of life outside of the church.

    “One of the most important things I’ve noticed is that most of these communities are so insulated that members really don’t know there is an outside world,” FSM_Noodly_Luv said. “The most important thing you can do is show that there are people who are good and caring outside of the religious community.”

    Part of the doctrine of both the JWs and LDS is that the world outside of the church is sinful and should either be converted or avoided. That programming can be hard to shake off for people who are trying to leave. A friendly ear, a supportive word, and a kind gesture can go a long way in helping people forge new paths outside of the boundaries of religion.

  5. Milk: it's good for health both in the navel and the bones!

  6. This is not about you (editor's note: except when it is, like the last couple of blog posts, and we're okay with that).

    Let’s be honest; some of us are here because we can’t look away from these fascinating trainwrecks (Author’s Note: I am a nevermo/jw and I plead guilty to this charge). That’s fine as long as you’re respectful about it. Remember while you’re laughing at Joe Smith’s bullshit and the Governing Body’s weird obsession with dry-humping pillows, that many of the people that the Tapir/Sparlock Signal works with are in real pain, have experienced hardship, and are struggling.

    Leaving a religion like these can be an intensely personal experience with varying degrees of trauma – or sometimes it doesn’t faze an ex-member at all. What they feel is up to them. And be particularly careful if you happen upon people who still somewhat believe.

    “Let them make their own journey,” Ryan advised. “It’s just human nature to double down on beliefs when confronted with something that challenges them. If a person is starting to wake up, it means they’re finally allowing themselves to question things they’re not supposed to question.”




If you are in need of help, you can reach us here.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-784-2433 (outside the US, these calls are free via Skype).

If you are LGBT+ and need to talk, please contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 or find them online here.

Know you are safe and among friends and we will do whatever we can to help.

Lastly, if you would like to be involved or volunteer, you can reach out to us here.


Tapir/Sparlock Signal is always looking for volunteers in a variety of areas including housing, employment, and other practical concerns as well as LGBT issues and suicide awareness. Contact us for more details.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Never Wear Fruit Leather When it's Humid

“I asked if she thought we liked each other more than just friends. I got a solid “idk,” and by the end of the night we were eating unicorn beef and cheese together.”


Welcome back to the Tapir/Sparlock Signal Blog. Today’s episode is the latest installment in our series about heathen helpers, those volunteers who have never been Mormon or a Witness who nevertheless get their jollies from helping out disaffected members. You’ve already met FSM_Noodly_Luv and Erin.

This week, meet Ryan. You probably know him better as Cece’s husband. He grew up Lutheran, now considers himself agnostic, and his in-laws are kind of weird.

How did you meet Cece?

When Cece and I started dating, we actually were long distance. We met online. I saw a person on a nerdy community site (RoosterTeeth) with a girl’s name, flower profile picture, and no pictures of herself. I assumed there was a chance that she was secretly a guy.

However, that didn’t stop me from chatting with her. We had met through a mutual friend on the site, and together with him and two other people from the site, we started a podcast for fun. Our little podcast group grew closer and closer as we started hanging out more and more when we weren’t recording. Eventually, Cece and I started DM’ing more and more until I realized that we had a little thing going on. I asked if she thought we liked each other more than just friends. I got a solid “idk,” and by the end of the night we were a couple.

What was it like when Cece began questioning her religion?

I think the biggest thing was that I didn’t force anything. I would have supported her whether she woke up or not. I just knew what I believed, and that I would never be converted. She found the ExJW subreddit and other such places on her own. I just tried to give the unconditional love I saw missing from a religion that would threaten forced social isolation.

What did you know about the Jehovah’s Witnesses before you met her?

I more or less assumed they weren’t all that different from other Protestants. The only difference I know of is that they were a little more hardcore because of the whole door-to-door thing. When Cece told me she was a JW, we began to talk and compare beliefs and I was shocked at some of the crazy.

What was the craziest?

There were some weird differences in interpretation. Adding one letter to “and He was God” to make it “and He was a god” can determine whether or not you believe in a trinity. I think the craziest thing, though, was the disfellowshipping (when members shun a member who has committed certain sins). The fact that people would so willingly accept such a manipulative practice was mind-bowing.

So this isn’t the politest transition ever, but speaking of crazy, how was it meeting your in-laws?

So Cece and I dated long distance, occasionally visiting every six months or so (secretly of course). However, when she came to visit me for the first time, her parents got suspicious why she made a long stop in my state during the trip she was on. She told them about me when she got back, and it was the day we had been dreading. I made one last trip to her state, we loaded up both our cars, and she moved in with me and my roommate.

When I came to pick her up, her mother wouldn’t even look at me. Her father was about as cordial as one can be when a random guy shows up to take your daughter to another state. He helped us pack everything into our cars, we talked a bit about who I was, and I gave him my contact info.

When we got engaged, she invited her parents to the wedding, but we weren’t sure if we would even get a response. We didn’t until the weekend before. I got a text Sunday morning as I was sitting there in my boxers that they were in town and wanted to meet me at Wendy’s. Cece wasn’t invited.

They tried to explain why they couldn’t go to the wedding, why cutting her off from everyone she knew was a form of love, and quoted the “head of the household” Bible verses that I already knew. At one point, her mother straight-up said that she didn’t want to be talking to me. At another point, her dad said, “You know how women can get a little headstrong.” I nodded and tried to be polite for the whole thing. They also said they had “driven past our place, and it looked nice.” LinkedIn told me once that her dad had checked out my profile.

That is … incredibly frustrating. I’m mad right now on behalf of both of you.

It’s been quite the experience.

What made you decide to volunteer with the Sparlock Signal?

It’s a situation I am familiar with already. I’ve seen how hard it can be to make that transition from physically in to physically out. I joined when Cece told me they were looking for website help. Since I do that for work, I figured it’d be a great way for me to help.


If you are in need of help, you can reach us here.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-784-2433 (outside the US, these calls are free via Skype).

If you are LGBT+ and need to talk, please contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 or find them online here.

Know you are safe and among friends and we will do whatever we can to help.

Lastly, if you would like to be involved or volunteer, you can reach out to us here.


Tapir/Sparlock Signal is always looking for volunteers in a variety of areas including housing, employment, and other practical concerns as well as LGBT issues and suicide awareness. Contact us for more details.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

There's a Moose on the Loose

“Some people say we should make peace. I say f*** that, let's make a cake!!”


This week the Tapir/Sparlock Signal blog continues its series on heathen helpers, those volunteers who have never been Mormon or a Witness who nevertheless can’t stay away from the morbidly fascinating trainwreck that is the LDS Church or Kingdom Halls.

The other week you met FSM_Noodly_Luv. This week, meet Erin, who purportedly rides a moose to work because she lives in Canada. She’s dating an exmo, but before she met her boyfriend, “My only intro to Mormonism was the South Park episode.”

While almost entirely accurate, the South Park episode only outlines the origins of the LDS faith - how founder Joseph Smith claimed to have found golden plates inscribed with the Book of Mormon, which he translated by placing his seer stone into a hat and reading the English words that magically appeared on the stone (♫♫ dum dum dum dum! ♫♫)

"When my boyfriend started telling me the 200-level Mormon stuff, I told him, I can't tell if you're making this up or not," Erin said.

He wasn't. Erin's boyfriend drifted away from the church in his late teens, but discovered the r/exmormon subreddit about ten years later. He began looking into church history, and the more he found out about the ways in which he had been fed, at best inaccurate and at worst deceitful, information at church, he became angrier and angrier. Erin, who was raised "aggressively atheist" herself, sat with him and supported him as he worked through the lies until both made as much peace with it as they could.

"Mormonism itself isn't a huge part of our lives anymore. The biggest part is the extent of the trauma caused by it," she said. "He's 33 years old and still doesn't feel like he's worthy some days, because that's what he was told growing up.

"The Mormon church segregates people," she added. "The idea that you have to leave your whole support system to leave the church is really shitty."

That's why she signed up to volunteer as soon as she heard about the Tapir Signal. She's seen the devastation leaving can cause and she wants to help support the people who are making that brave leap. Of course, Erin added, she can't do much in person because she's up in the frozen north, but if anyone needs anything in Canada, down to and including maple syrup and Tim Horton's coffee, she's your girl.

"I think that I can help with anything Canada-wide because I have access to a lot of resources that aren't available in the U.S. And we do have Mormons here...just not as many as down South. I want to do anything I can to help someone who has their world fall down around them," she said.

As for her boyfriend? He recently resigned from the LDS church. The resignation is hanging in a frame on their wall.

Right next to the moose head.



Saturday, March 24, 2018

Sexual Assault: Aftermath

“It is fucking gut-wrenching to watch someone you know and love in the aftermath of a sexual assault. You want to help them, comfort them, convince them to go to the police, beat up their attacker, and protect them. That’s understandable and normal. It’s also not helpful.”


Hey friends. Let’s chat real quick.

As many of you know, this week MormonLeaks released a recording of former Mission Training Center president Joseph Bishop confessing to sexually assaulting several women during his time presiding over the MTC (without the consent of any of these women, which is why we're not linking to it, but it can be easily found). The Mormon Church was apparently made aware of Mr. Bishop’s conduct at several times but he was reportedly never disciplined and that matters were never adequately investigated.

At the same time, authorities in several countries are in the midst of investigating claims that the Jehovah’s Witnesses neglected to report child sexual abuse to the proper authorities and even went so far as to cover up abuse cases.

We’re not going to re-hash that all here. There are plenty of news articles about both of these circumstances and you can certainly browse the numerous threads on r/exmormon and r/exjw discussing the matters.

Let’s talk about #MeToo. Let’s talk about the threads that other people made after the recording was released – threads about their own sexual assaults at the hands of authority figures, missionary companions, and even family members. Let’s talk about the threads where people witnessed or knew about sexual assaults but were pressured to keep quiet or didn’t know how to properly respond.

This a hard topic. It’s painful. We don’t like to talk about this kind of stuff. But we need to do it.

For people supporting survivors of assault

It is fucking gut-wrenching to watch someone you know and love in the aftermath of a sexual assault. You want to help them, comfort them, convince them to go to the police, beat up their attacker, and protect them. That’s understandable and normal. It’s also not helpful.

Sexual assault can be an intensely violating and deeply personal experience. As much as you want to help, this is not about you. You cannot make it about you and your desires to help. The best way you can support a survivor is to let them decide what you can do to support them. Ask them how they would like you to handle things. They may not want to discuss their experience or they may want to open up. They may want help going to the police or they may not want to report it. This is their decision. You help by respecting their wishes.

Do:
  • Offer to support survivors in whatever way is most comfortable for them, even if that support is to give them space. Remind them of the resources available to help them.
  • Emphasize that assault is not their fault. Recognize that it took a lot of courage for them to confide in you.
  • Make a note of their mental health status. Sexual assault can evoke a huge range of emotions and responses. If a survivor expresses their intent to commit suicide, please refer to the Suicide Awareness Series so that you know how best to respond.
  • Believe them. Certain, cesspit-ty parts of Reddit enjoy pushing the narrative that false rape accusations are rampant. In reality, the false accusation rate for sexual assault is on par with false accusations for every other crime. Do not express skepticism or doubt in front of a survivor.
Do not:
  • Victim blame. Do not suggest that if they had only dressed a certain way/stayed home/didn’t flirt/didn’t sleep around/watched their drink/said no/screamed for help that they would not have been assaulted. It’s not helpful and it only adds to the feelings of guilt and shame that survivors may be experiencing.
  • Push survivors to report their assault. You can suggest it gently, but reporting or not is their decision. Keep in mind that in many cases, survivors have reported that a police investigation, litigation, and trial can be just as violating and exhausting as the assault itself.
  • Express your desire to, or actually, harm their attacker. You help no one if you are arrested for assault and battery and in many cases can add to survivors’ trauma.


For survivors of assault:

We are so, so sorry that you experienced a sexual assault. We are here to talk with you if you need us to, or to just sit with you quietly if that’s what you want. You guide this, not us. You have the power and control here.

In the aftermath of an assault, many people have a lot of advice for what you should do, or think, or feel, or say. We’ve got some advice too: Fuck that noise. You get to decide how you would like to respond. You get to decide what you want to think or feel – and it’s okay not to know what to think or feel. You can report your assault or not as you choose. We’re here for you. We support you.

Do:
  • Keep in mind the many resources available to support you in the aftermath of a sexual assault. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) has a ton of tools on their website and the national 24/7 hotline is 800-656-4673. (NOTE: outside the USA, you can call an 800 phone number for free using Skype)
  • Take care of yourself. Self-care is critical, especially your mental health. At some point, you might find it helpful to visit a therapist who can help you unpack your experience and find mechanisms to cope with any of guilt, fear, or shame you may be feeling. You don’t have to do it alone if you don’t want to.
  • Think about whether or not you want to report your assault to the police. If you do choose to report, please keep in mind that there is a limited window in which DNA evidence can be collected and that may help your case. RAINN has some guidance for reporting to law enforcement.


Don’t:
    Think you are alone in this. Being assaulted can be scary and isolating, but there are kind, caring people who want to make sure that you know that you are valuable and loved. The Tapir/Sparlock Signal cannot provide legal advice or monetary assistance, but we can talk with you if you want or help you find the tools to navigate the aftermath of assault.


A Few Resources:

RAINN: www.rainn.org

National Alliance to End Sexual Assault and Violence (provides list of local resources for each U.S. State and territory): http://endsexualviolence.org/forsurvivors

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (expertise and information on resources and sexual assault statistics: www.nsvrc.org

Ending Violence Association of Canada (provides resources by province): http://endingviolencecanada.org/getting-help/

IF you need help finding more resources specific to your location, reach out to us and we will try to help you find what you need.

Usually here we let people know we are always looking for volunteers but we're going to deviate from that today. We stand in solidarity with the survivors and victims of sexual abuse and violence. Not just in word either and we will do whatever we can to help. We are not professionals, we are normal-ish people, like most of you. We lend an ear, a hand, and do what we can to help, including putting those that would like in contact with people trained to help you get through this. You're not alone.


If you are in need of help, you can reach us here.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-784-2433 (outside the US, these calls are free via Skype).

If you are LGBT+ and need to talk, please contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 or find them online here.

Know you are safe and among friends and we will do whatever we can to help.

Lastly, if you would like to be involved or volunteer, you can reach out to us here.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program...

“for this banal interruption.”


We'll be back next week with your regular tapiry goodness, until then, enjoy this picture (don't worry, you're seeing exactly what you're supposed to...).

DOOM!


Tapir/Sparlock Signal is always looking for volunteers in a variety of areas including housing, employment, and other practical concerns as well as LGBT issues and suicide awareness. Contact us for more details.


If you are in need of help, you can reach us here.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-784-2433 (outside the US, these calls are free via Skype).

If you are LGBT+ and need to talk, please contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 or find them online here.

Know you are safe and among friends and we will do whatever we can to help.

Lastly, if you would like to be involved or volunteer, you can reach out to us here.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

They All Float

“Looking back now, I’m astounded at the stuff people told me was evil.”


This is FSM_Noodly_Luv, dodging religious projectiles.

via GIPHY



Today, she’s a Tapir Signal volunteer, quick to talk with people having a hard time. Unlike most Signal volunteers, though, she’s never been a Mormon. She just came really, really close.

FSM was raised as a Southern Baptist listening to fire and brimstone sermons every Sunday. According to her ministers and family, the Rapture was coming any day now (we’re still waiting) and reading the Harry Potter books was a sin.

Mormonism seemed like a breath of fresh air when she met some missionaries while she was away at college. The prospect of no hell to speak of was very attractive. She began to attend church and after six months of lessons, decided to get baptized.

Her then-fiancé-now-husband asked her to pump the brakes and do a little more research before she committed. FSM started Googling and found r/exmormon.

“People started sending me their horror stories. It was groundbreaking. I felt like I had been led to believe the church was something else when it was something completely different,” she said. “I was really projecting onto the church what I wanted it to be.”

Even without the influence of r/exmormon, though, FSM had begun noticing some cracks in the Mormon façade, especially after the November 2015 policy was released, banning the children of gay couples from receiving church blessings. People who had previously been kind to the LGBT members in the ward began treating those members differently.

The kicker was when one of the missionaries, upon hearing that FSM’s fiancé had expressed doubts about her baptism, asked her if she was sure marrying him was the right choice.

Not long after FSM stopped attending LDS services, she resigned her Southern Baptist membership as well, which freaked out most of her family. Given their reactions, she felt a special affinity for the posters on r/exmormon who spoke of the pain of having their families reject them for leaving their church.

“Those were the same things I had struggled with, so my heart really went out to them,” FSM said. “I wanted to be more effective at helping out.”

So, she joined the Tapir Signal.

“I work in health care and I deal with a lot of the legal aspects. I’ve been able to handle a lot of the legal questions we’ve received,” she said. She also volunteers to talk with people who are feeling suicidal.

“A few of the people I still message on a daily basis. It’s nice to see how their outlook has changed over time,” FSM said. “I reFSM wanted to join the Mormon church because I wanted a sense of community and support. I found that so much more in the Tapir Signal than in the church.”

Tapir/Sparlock Signal is always looking for volunteers in a variety of areas including housing, employment, and other practical concerns as well as LGBT issues and suicide awareness. Contact us for more details.


If you are in need of help, you can reach us here.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-784-2433 (outside the US, these calls are free via Skype).

If you are LGBT+ and need to talk, please contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 or find them online here.

Know you are safe and among friends and we will do whatever we can to help.

Lastly, if you would like to be involved or volunteer, you can reach out to us here.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Dinosaurs Went Extinct Because
They Refused To Be Friends With Spiders

“It has been a really confusing thing for me. [In high school] I realized I didn’t know what my gender was, but I knew it wasn’t what everyone else thought it was.”


The Tapir/Sparlock Signal would like to welcome our new moderator, Allos! Get to know your new mod below.

Name: Allos

Pronouns: He/him, they/them

Ex: Mormon

Shelf-breaker: The November 2015 policy preventing children of same-sex spouses from receiving church blessings. “Which goes against the 2nd Article of Faith, ‘We believe that man will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgressions.’ About seven or eight months later, I was like, I’m done.”

Interests: Dinosaurs, science, rocks, spiders

Occupation: College student, part-time rock-licker

Gender identity: “It has been a really confusing thing for me. [In high school] I realized I didn’t know what my gender was, but I knew it wasn’t what everyone else thought it was. … I was either going to die as a Mormon girl or I would continue to live albeit with a big amount of shame and being disowned (exploring feelings as a nonbinary or male person).”

Early indications this Mormonism thing wasn’t going to work out: “I began reading about evolution. The more I learned about it, the more it made sense to me. I had discussions with my grandparents about evolution and the geologic time scale. They attacked the only thing that made life worth living for me. They attacked the only thing that made sense.

“The concept of the priesthood totally failed for me as well. My father wasn’t a good example of it. He was emotionally abusive and used the church, his testimony, and the Holy Ghost to justify his abuse. He would say, ‘You will not get sick or have complications.’ And then I would get sick or have complications. When he was called as a high priest, I wondered how was he not worthy enough for his blessings to work for me, but worthy enough to get called?”

Main beefs with the LDS Church: “LGBT Mormons would talk about how when they came out to bishops, they had to rely on leadership roulette. I couldn’t see myself continuing to exist in a church where emotional reasoning was more important than facts and statistics.”

Favorite dinosaur: Allosaurus

Reasons for joining the Tapir/Sparlock Signal: “A lot of the time, I felt really alone, like there was no help for me. There’s got to be plenty of people out there like me who are struggling, who are just as scared as I was as a teenager. I can help them.”

Signal duties: “I take a lot of the smaller cases – people asking for help finding housing or needing job searches. I’ve done a lot of Googling for those as well as starting to compile resource lists for future cases.”

Best part about being on the T/SS team: “People, when they get help from us, realize there’s someone there. They’re no longer shouting into the void.”

Hopes for the future of the Signal: “I would like to see Tapir Signal become bigger and be more recognized. We’re reaching out to more people and we have a lot more volunteers with different strengths. I’d also like to see more mental health resources.”

Parting words of wisdom: “There is a life outside of the group you want to escape.”

Tapir/Sparlock Signal is always looking for volunteers in a variety of areas including housing, employment, and other practical concerns as well as LGBT issues and suicide awareness. Contact us for more details.


If you are in need of help, you can reach us here.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-784-2433 (outside the US, these calls are free via Skype).

If you are LGBT+ and need to talk, please contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 or find them online here.

Know you are safe and among friends and we will do whatever we can to help.

Lastly, if you would like to be involved or volunteer, you can reach out to us here.