Thursday, October 26, 2023

Memoir shares the world of purity culture and new viewpoints

Chrissy Holm
By Max Bowen

Raised in a home that followed the teachings of purity culture, Chrissy Holm had to suppress her bisexuality for the sake of family. But at age 16, all that changed when her parents got a divorce. Following this, Chrissy began a journey of discovery, mistakes and belief, all told though her coming-of-age memoir, “Finding Sunlight.”

In this interview, Chrissy talks about reliving her youth through the writing process, how it influenced how she views her family and the impact of her parents’ divorce.

What was it like for you to relive your younger years while writing the story?
Honestly, it was challenging in moments to think back to some of those memories that weren’t as great, or I felt a lot of shame around. I often found myself writing those scenes and needing to take a break. Some memories came back so vividly, while others were a bit faded and needed clarification from others. Although reliving those younger years was tough at times, knowing how much I’ve grown and changed since then was freeing. Additionally, revising, expanding, and adding more depth to them also helped me process those moments.

What were those younger years like?
When I was younger, I followed the rules and often didn’t ask why because Dad told me once, “If I tell you to jump, don’t say ‘why.’ Say ‘how high.’” To me, that struck true. While there were absolutely happy moments in my childhood, I now understand the ‘why’ behind some of the not-so-happy moments, some of which I wrote about in my memoir. Also, I remember I didn’t feel like I had much autonomy to choose, and when I did, it was a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ option. Whether it was seeking wisdom from God the Father or my own dad, I couldn’t find my own answers.

Did the writing process give you any new perspectives on your family?
Absolutely! As I interviewed my family members, I thought it was interesting how similar and yet different each person’s perspective of each situation was. I liked understanding and listening to what people thought and felt about most things we never really discussed. 

What is purity culture?
Purity culture is often related to conservative religious practices of promoting abstinence before marriage, emphasizing traditional gender roles and discouraging any form of sexual expression outside of heterosexual marriage. Some examples are girls requiring long hair and dresses, and there’s an abstinence-only approach to sex education. It also includes ideals, such as women being responsible for men’s sexual behavior.

What was your journey following your parents’ divorce?
After my parents were divorced, it was a rocky handful of years. Though I wasn’t clinically diagnosed, I do believe I faced depression and felt a lot of shame within my own relationships. Their divorce led to a loss of hope that I wouldn’t have a successful partnership because my parents didn’t, and it also shook my world after being raised in a devout Christian home. As my journey continued, I would face many challenges that would test my beliefs but ultimately lead to my now husband.

What do you hope readers take away from this? 
I would love for readers to discuss the harms of purity culture and other restrictive religious teachings, not only for the LGBTQ+ community but all people. I would love for people to examine their lives, write more about their relationships, and discuss what makes us human, such as love or forgiveness.

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