Friday, October 10, 2014

About equality and justice; and why it matters to me...

So here's a post that I've been trying to write for a while. The thing about writing a blog is that you get to build a picture of who you are and what you are about, it's a construction of you as a person. But of course there is more to me than my blog, there's a whole lot of living that I have chosen not to write about; and that's fine. But there's a thing or two that I want to share now. So here goes.

I grew up in a cult. Yip it's true, while the rest of you were playing with your friends, having birthday parties, going to movies and generally doing the things that kids do, I was trying to follow 101 rules and being punished when I didn't remember them. Years later when I discovered that a child had rights, I cried. There were lots of rules about what you wore and what you did. Some of the rules were silly things, like the fact I never had a haircut until I was in my 20s, or the fact that I didn't wear jeans until after I had my first child. But some of them were just way bigger.

There were rules about how you should think. Like the time I was told I was too happy and therefore a bad example at work. Apparently I needed to laugh less. My personality was not acceptable and I was told by someone in charge that it was their job to break me. Which they proceeded to do. 

There were a lot of rules about how you should act or how you should live your life. I was not allowed a proper education (we were going to be wives and mothers). I was not allowed to go flatting, I was not allowed to choose where I went to work. I did not get to choose who I married. One day I was called to a meeting and told that I was going to get engaged to David. Yes big things.

I'm not writing about this to make you feel sorry for me, because the truth is that dealing with all of this stuff didn't kill me and it did make me stronger. It's a cliche but it is actually true! I'm writing about this because having lived through a situation where I was powerless and decisions were made for me that were not in my best interest, has given me a perspective on the world. I know what it is like to feel like the odd one out, I know how it feels to have people judge you because of how you look or what you say. I understand how it is to observe the world and yet not be a part of it. It is partly this which drives me in my second chance to get an education. A passion to enable others to be the best that they can be and to access education and community in what ever way they find it.

There is a tremendous amount of challenges facing the world today. So many difficult things that need to be addressed. In sociology we call it a Global Risk Society; that is to say, we live in a world where the bad things are the foundation and we have to address them to enable us to move forward into any kind of future.

There's lots of things that I could write about here, but recently my Facebook feed has had a lot of conversations about the legalising of gay marriage in the US. In New Zealand it is legal for a gay couple to get married.  This is something that is close to my heart, I remember sitting watching the votes being counted in Parliament and holding my breath for a yes vote. My sister is gay, she told us last year, but we had known for a long time. She is in a loving committed relationship with her girlfriend who I regard as a sister too. It is easy for people to judge something they don't understand, but when you see two people love each other through the very worst of times, that is so precious and so wonderful, how can you judge it as a bad thing?

I don't know what it is like to be gay, but I do know what it is like to be socially isolated, to be picked out as being weird or unusual. It upsets me so much to hear the debate, debate in which people judge others as not being good enough. Injustice and inequality make me angry because having experienced some of these things, I know how it feels and it is not a good thing.

If there is one thing that my childhood taught me, it was that freedom of choice is a very precious thing. I want a world where precious relationships like my sister and her girlfriend have are recognised and honoured. I want them to be able to choose to get married if they want to. I've never had to go out and find someone to love me. I have only ever been with David, he's the only man I've ever kissed; we have learned to love each other. I can't even imagine how it feels to put yourself out there and trust someone to love you back, but then to be told that your relationship is wrong and not valid... it's unthinkable to me. 

I want to teach my kids to accept others for who they are, that love comes in all shapes and sizes. I want to see a future where who you love is not important, rather learning to live in a committed, faithful relationship being the important thing. There are a lot of things we are going to struggle to change in the world, but surely who we love should not be one of them.


  1. Beautifully said. My sister is gay. She has loved Ellen since she was 16, or 34 years of her life. Love is love.

  2. Mine is too and I totally agree. I am still shocked by people who use the word "gay" to mean something other than homosexual. I had to pull a producer up on it at work lately. I think if you're lucky enough to find love then you shouldn't be judged for it.

  3. Thank you so much for this post. So much of what you have said could have echoed my past. The freedom to make choices not given, how else do you learn to be an independent person. Feeling weird, feeling like an outsider, the restrictions placed on you. I was five years old and it's taken me a long time to get through the mess of my past. Like you, justice and fairness are BIG things. I wish your sister happiness and acceptance.
    Anne xx

  4. Oh Deb! What big brave words and thoughts to put out there into the world. I admire and love you for all of it. You have such a beautiful light and I for one think it's almost your duty to shine it out for the world to see ;-)

    That's such an interesting sociological concept - that Global Risk Society - it's something I am more and more aware of as I grow older and through my own studies. We've created such a stressful way to live - by putting the bad stuff out there as the foundation of our existence - all that judgement and intolerance and fear and ignorance that goes on everyday - and then demanding that we all balance precariously on top. And when people fall, well they clearly weren't trying hard enough to do the right thing - an attitude that makes me so amazed I could spit my teeth out.

    That's why we need the light of thoughtful, loving, compassionate people like you. You inspire me to make my light brighter and speak out about what's important. Thank you Deb ... and I wish you so much love.

  5. Deb thank you for sharing this. It struck me while I read your heartfelt and very sensible words that what the world needs is more Debs. More people like you who care, who can SEE, and who understand.

    My friend also grew up in a cult in NZ (heck - you may even know each other) and left it to live her own life. She is still a Christian, but my atheist friends are shocked more about the cult thing than can acknowledge the fact that she fought it, she won, and now she has an outstanding life with an outstanding family, and perhaps she wouldn't be she is today - a woman with a sense of fair play and justice - if it wasn't for growing up the way she did.

  6. Wow, you never cease to amaze me with your posts Deb. Sharing your early life with us all is so brave. Despite or perhaps in spite of your past you have turned out to be an amazing woman. Love is love, no matter who with. I can see more acceptance of this in our children's generation, so maybe some of us are making a difference. I know my views on equality are much stronger than when I was younger, I hope my children will be the same. Keep up the fabulous blogging and stay strong and stay true to yourself. Much love.

  7. Wow - well done you for rising above it and becoming something greater. And my country has not yet allowed same sex marriage though surely it is only a matter of time now.
    It amazes me that there can be so many people of good will in the world and yet things are as they are. I can think of reasons why, maybe I just don't understand the nature of power.

  8. It's so interesting, the backstory of your life. I think most of the time we blithely live our lives thinking everyone's just fine. And many of us are. But often there are hidden struggles and cares that the eye can't see. One of the leaders of our church a few years ago said that for that reason it behooves us to be kind, respectful and considerate, compassionate, patient and loving.
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. A very brave post. Thank you for sharing and being you.

  10. Thank you for sharing so freely of yourself. Beautiful, beautiful you.

  11. Reading this post was very difficult because I left a cult. After I left the people I knew would not even acknowledge me if I walked past. It was so hurtful. I had to build my life from nothing.

  12. Wow deb, what an amazing story, what an amazing post! Gosh I'd love to sit down with you again and hear the story. I've really begun to change the whole way I think about stuff like this in recent years. I didn't grow up in a cult but it was a very strict church with black and white thinking. It's been a massive shift to accept a different way of thinking but bottom line I would rather err on the side of love as I don't see hate and judgement coming from Jesus at all. I think we should love people and leave the rest up to God. Love ya deb, and loved this post x

  13. You rock Deb. Just by having you in the world, the world is a better place.

  14. Amazing story - thank you for sharing and being so fantastically wonderful xx

  15. Hey Deb,
    I don't often comment, but I always read your blog.
    Thanks for this post. It is hopeful.
    All the very best.
    Ella :)

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