An online group helps a young gay man escape from his abusive Christian family
Matthew Gorzik, an 18-year-old man from Missouri, got in touch with me about a month ago wanting to share his story, which is equal parts sad, frustrating, courageous, and triumphant. We decided the best way to tell it was through a Q&A. Here it is.
(CN) How and why did you end up going to an online Christian school?
(MG) I have been going to Alpha Omega Academy since kindergarten. My family was extremely overprotective and they didn’t really trust the schools/kids where I lived. To them, they were simply trying to protect me from the evils of the outside world.
What is FSTDT and how did you become involved with its community?
FSTDT is an acronym for “Fundies Say The Darndest Things.” It’s a site/forum that was created to document crazy/hilarious/bizarre quotes from fundamentalists/racists/conspiracy theorists of all sorts across the internet. I got involved personally at the urging of my boyfriend, who saw some of my schoolwork one day and thought it would be perfect for the main page of the site. This whole thing started with me asking the forums about posting my schoolwork.
Can you tell us about the incident between you and your father, and about how your siblings abused you physically and emotionally?
I used to be on St. John’s Wort, and one day, my father told me that he wouldn’t be able to get me another bottle due to lack of funds. He felt the money was better spent on food. The reason sounded good enough, and I trusted him. He then came home the next day with a tablet computer that cost at least $200. To fully explain the behavior of my parents would require another entire story unto itself.
As for my siblings, my three sisters were basically allowed to do whatever they wanted to me without consequence. If I annoyed them, they were allowed to physically attack me however much they wanted. If I defended myself, I was forced to apologize. Some specific examples: I have bent fingers due to an incident where my sisters thought I had stolen something from them. They slammed my fingers into a door hinge because I told them I didn’t know where their possession was. My sisters also constantly berated me for never having friends, and made sure to remind me at every turn that people in the real world would never like me because of who I am.
What was the reaction of the FSTDT community?
When I first mentioned the incident with my father, they were angry. Their reaction was to ask whether or not things like this had happened in the past. They were not amused when the answer was “yes.” The reaction basically went from curiosity, to anger, to complete rage and concern over the things that my family had put me through.
How did the plan for your escape come together, and who organized the fundraiser?
The plan for my escape came from the manager of the forums at that time. He’s also the one who started the fundraiser. It was started in secret, originally, and the plan was really thought up as he went along. I wouldn’t say it even really came together until maybe a week before the end of the operation, which was called Operation Miles. The simple fact that we raised $1,000 for my escape is absolutely breathtaking, in all honesty.
How did you prepare for your escape?
Most of the preparation was mental, really. It’s really strange to look around at your home and your family and think, “In a few months, I’m never going to see any of these people again.” There was always a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that, at some point, my friends from FSTDT would arrive at my front door and I’d have to gather my things and go as fast as I could. All I could do was try my hardest to steel myself for when that day came.
How did the escape go down? Who picked you up? And where did you go?
The day came on July 4th of last year. I hadn’t slept the entire night. My things were all gathered in bags and boxes scattered across my room. I even stole my birth certificate and my social security card from a lockbox my parents had (despite the fact that I’m 18, my parents exercised control over my personal documents).
At 9:00am that morning, everything was set. I was even able to set my computer, my clothes, and several of my other personal belongings outside on the porch without my parents even noticing. I was sitting in the living room trying to relax when they arrived. I felt my stomach drop when they did, as I feared my parents would notice. However, my dad was in the shower, and my mother smoking in the basement. They didn’t realize a thing until we had loaded everything into the car and I was 20 miles away. We drove for three days straight to Salem, Oregon.
Getting into that SUV with my two friends from the internet and saying goodbye to the life I had was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I think about it almost all the time to this day.
How did your family react when they found out?
My family did not react well, in all honesty. They still call me to this day and try to convince me to come home. I don’t really know what to say beyond that, sadly.
Did your boyfriend go with you?
My boyfriend did not come with me, but that’s primarily because he lives in Massachusetts. I’ve still yet to meet him in real life due to my parents and my distance from him in Missouri, but we’re trying to figure out a way to work something out.
How has it been adjusting to your new life?
I’ve become far more confident in myself since leaving, and I’m still learning more about how life as an adult works as time goes by. Of course, my current roommate still gives me grief from time to time over the fact that I used to ask for permission to do anything. There’s still a lot of damage to be undone, but in these nine months, I’ve made a lot of progress.
What are you up to/how are you doing now?
I’m currently working on getting a GED and then an associates degree. It’s a bit overwhelming at times, but in all honesty, I’m happier than I thought I ever could be. I actually have pride in myself now, and I feel like there’s a reason to look forward to my future.
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