Eighth place (tie): Students of color essay contest — Aiden Gibbs

Aiden Gibbs

FFRF awarded Aiden $500.

By Aiden Gibbs

I never understood the implications of a preacher’s daughter until I became one. We were always a church family — well-dressed, hair curled and ready to praise on Sundays. I followed the rules — I didn’t show ankle, wore dresses and kept my hair long. I was, by church standards, good.

I only questioned God when I looked at girls. I wondered how everyone could be positive that God didn’t want me to love women. When my mother found out, she sat me down and explained that there was a reason God made Adam and Eve,  not Eve and Eve. I cried in my room that night; I said my prayers. I prayed to be a boy, for God to make me right. I asked and asked, but never received a response.

The afflictions of a preacher’s daughter are to carry the hopes of the congregation. In seventh grade, I dedicated a month to reading the bible, because I wanted to understand God and why we followed him. When I asked my mother about this, I was scorned for disbelieving. We got into fights about me not praying at the table. When she hit me, I’d ask her, “Is this what your God wants?” I was sent to my room. She always asked me what people would say if they found out that her daughter was gay and questioned God and how bad that would look for her.

In eighth grade, I gave up on Christianity. I couldn’t get myself to believe that God would allow me to hurt the way I did. If he had helped all those people in the bible, why wouldn’t he come to save me? I cut my hair and cut ties with the church. It became a falling out with my mother on Sundays. She would drag me by the collar to the car and make me sit in the front pews of the church. When I cried, the congregation didn’t help, and that’s when I knew God wasn’t in their hearts. He was just at the tips of their tongues when they needed something to believe in.

When selecting high schools, I chose the most liberal ones I could find. I ended up at one dedicated to the creative and performing arts. Religious people were the minority and everyone seemed free in their own regards. My mother had taken a step back. I think she gave up when she came to the school and found out everyone was calling me Aiden, and not the name she had given me. I was writing about being gay and wearing pants and all the simple sins that I had to rethink into simple pleasures. I never knew what it meant to thrive until I looked at a girl without weight in my heart. I started going to parties and accepting worldly desires as my own free will. I was free to be me without God on the backburner, pressuring me to be a saint.

If religion has taught me anything, it’s that I can thrive without it. Thinking back on who I was at 12, I was so afraid of everything. I didn’t want to be seen for who I was, so I treated Christianity as my exclusive personality. The freethinking world is one where I don’t have to adopt a set of rules and guidelines outside of my own moral compass, and that is why I love it. I don’t have to be “the preacher’s daughter,” I get to have a name — it’s Aiden.

Aiden, 18, is a nonbinary student at Temple University with plans to major in psychology. Aiden works as a youth advocate for government programs involving opioids and mental health.