Seventh place (tie) — BIPOC essay contest: Jade Garza 

Jade Garza

Save me a seat at our last supper

FFRF awarded Jade $750.

By Jade Garza 

Dear Meme and Grandaddy, 

I would like to thank you for coming to watch me graduate, your first granddaughter to be done with high school. I remember it so vividly; you were both praising the lord that I finished, so proud of what he had let me accomplish. Except it was all me, every bit. I want you to know that I’ve never received the divine intervention you think I had, God never stopped by to hand deliver me the answers to my algebra test like you think he may have. All the work I’ve done these past four years are free of the touch of religion — and so am I. 

The hard work I put in shouldn’t be invalidated by what you believe. All the countless nights up late and hours staying after school are something I’m proud of. And being an atheist means I get to accept the full credit I’ve earned. There was no spirit lifting me up in the dead of night while I slaved away to get all A’s, only my dedication and drive. And your dedication to saying everything I’ve accomplished was God’s plan drives me mad. I’ve planned my own life and what I want to do, no touching of my spirit needed. I’ve long since traded my hours believing for hours of being present in my own life as my own driving force. And boy did I waste so many hours believing. 

 I used to think I was one of God’s kids destined for heaven, not damned to hell for being a nonbeliever. But I was damned to hell anyway because you always said God’s kids can’t be gay. It took me a while to understand that you would never get how I could think freely and love just the same. 

The same grandparents who picketed and sat in for civil rights would refuse a seat at the table if my girlfriend were there. I used to feel so judged, even when you didn’t know my not-so-dirty homosexual secret. I was never feminine enough, never knowledgeable enough, never devout enough. When every step you take is a mistake and every mistake you make is a sin you’re never enough. 

Freeing myself from the shadow of my supposed sins was never easy. You always seemed to have something to say, something that made me want to curl into a ball so tight I would implode. There’s no hate quite like Christian love, and you sure showed it. I hope you’re able to have your cake and eat it, too, in your perfect afterlife. I know I’ll be just fine. 

Jade, 18, is from Kingsville, Texas, and attends the University of Texas at San Antonio. “I am nonbinary and I like playing soccer,” Jade writes. “When I’m not playing soccer, I’m usually playing an instrument. I was in band for six years and competed at the state level several times.”