Welcome to Matter of Faith, and welcome to March. I’m Anna Beahm, Reckon’s faith, sex and politics reporter.
I was born in March, so turning the calendar over to this month always feels powerful. I’m an Aries—one of the most passionate and intense signs of the zodiac. I’ve always had a complex relationship with my birthday, as it coincides with my worst seasonal depression month and now the anniversary of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clearly, I’m feeling nostalgic this month, but as a deeply emotional person, I feel my feelings in a big way. How about you? Are you riding the SAD wave with me these days or feeling hopeful now that Spring is right around the corner? Spring is also deeply associated with both sexuality and religion, which you’re quickly learning are two of my favorite topics around these parts.
This week, I want to introduce you to our LGBTQ+ communities reporter, Denny, and her work to memorialize the lives of transgender people who’ve lost their lives to violence this year.
The tenderness and attention she has put into memorializing these people’s lives is a breath of fresh air, so I hope this excerpt from her most recent profile inspires you to look deeper into our shared humanity this Wednesday.
When You Were Here: A series centering the humanity of trans lives stolen by violence
From lying in bed and listening to Linkin Park, to playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla with friends, KC Johnson was easily entertained by the simple joys. She lived in Wilmington, NC with her partner Bulla Brodzinski. Johnson moved in with Brodzinski, who is also a trans woman, soon after they started dating last fall.
“She was really someone that I could open up to,” Brodzinski said. “[She was] someone that really pulled me out of a dark place I was in with my gender dysphoria. She would say little jokes and make me laugh. She helped me move forward.”
On one of the walls in their apartment is an all-red Billie Eilish poster. Johnson’s music taste leaned towards pop, but still eclectic. Brodzinski has memories of snuggling with her while watching Big Mouth, Major Payne, Paradise PD, and other comedies imprinted the couch in their living room. Her humor was silly, crass, and almost ironic.
“She liked a whole bunch of media and was just a good person to be around,” said Scottilynne Blank, a friend of Brodzinski’s who often hung out with the couple in the apartment. “She’d been through a lot, but [she was still present enough to] help my friend get her life a little more together. She looked after her friends and her partner.”
Despite the hardships her and her friends endured as trans people, Johnson tended to her inner circle by helping with apartment cleaning, a back rub or words of affirmation. She loved her chosen family and loved her brother and grandmother dearly, as well.
On Christmas Day last year, Brodzinski gifted Johnson the Acer Nitro 5, a gaming laptop she always wanted. Occasionally, the two spent time playing Minecraft together. Even in the small screen of a computer game, she remained seeking simple joys to pocket; a little universe for only her, Brodzinski and their friends.
Even though she worked at a pizza shop and grew sick of eating pizza, Johnson always made an exception for Cici’s Pizza—the buffalo chicken slice, specifically. Her job status overall was insecure, and it was through Brodzinski’s job that she was able to have health insurance, and therefore access to hormones.
“[Our relationship] meant a lot to me,” Brodzinski said. “It meant a lot to her, too. [One day, she said] ‘Hey, I love you. You know how much I’m worth and I [can’t begin to let you know] how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.’” Brodzinski gave Johnson a safe place when she didn’t have one.
Read more of Denny’s “When You Were Here” series centering the lives of trans people lost to violence.
A rant on abortion legislation (and the Duggars)
Jessa Seewald (formerly Duggar) posted an emotional video this week about her recent miscarriage and her experience having a dilation and curettage procedure to remove the pregnancy. Miscarriage is a common experience, with estimates showing 1 in 4 known pregnancies end in miscarriage.
The physical and emotional pain people experience from a miscarriage is devastating and can be life-changing for parents. This rant about abortion care, miscarriage and conservative pundits is in no way intended to minimize the pain Seewald and her family are feeling as a result of a lost pregnancy. However, we need to have a very frank conversation about how abortion restrictions have already caused unnecessary suffering and stress for people who lost their pregnancies—intended or not.
You may have heard of the Duggar family through their hit TLC show “19 Kids and Counting,” but the famous Christian family has advocated loudly for abortion bans—the same kinds of bans that are making it harder for people to safely manage their miscarriages.
In her video, Seewald explained she chose to seek out a D&C (dilation and curettage) based on her history of bleeding and other complications. In short, it would be safer for her to have the pregnancy removed than to pass it “naturally,” as many pregnant people in states with abortion restrictions are being forced to do.
I won’t re-hash the accounts here, as there are many. But here is an example of what a women woman endured in Tennessee, and here’s one from Ohio and Texas and Wisconsin.
Abortion restrictions are affecting miscarriage management, but pro-life advocates insist miscarriage management is distinctly different than abortion. It’s not, as you can see from the examples I linked in this paragraph.
The Duggars are a well-known conservative Christian family that’s been involved in politics, even supporting abortion bans much like the ones that are keeping women people from getting timely, life-saving medical care.
If we are really going to be “pro-life,” as anti-abortion advocates say, there has to be more consideration for the person carrying the unborn baby than what we’re currently seeing in states where abortion is banned.
Here’s what else I’m reading this week
There was so much to consume this week in the world of faith, sex and politics. Here are some of the highlights from my obsessive weekend scrolling:
- 70 percent of evangelical parents say it’s important for their kids to have the same religious beliefs as theirs (Pew Research Center)
- The more conservative your sexual values, the harder it is to stick to them (PsyPost)
- Student loan borrowers facing unthinkable financial decisions (Reckon, Alexis Wray)
There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and I hope this newsletter helped you make sense of its. If you learned something, forward it to a friend or share it in the group chat.
Many of you have reached out to me with questions about faith, sex and politics, but I’m curious how you’re talking about these questions with the people in your life? How did that go? My experiences are incredibly varied, as I know many of yours are.
Slide into my DMs on the big three (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also just reply to this email—all those replies go straight to my inbox, and I’m always down to chat with y’all about the unholy trinity that is faith, sex, and politics.
P.S. Next week, I’ll be in Seattle with some other Reckon reporters for the AWP Conference where I’ll also be doing some reporting on the state of faith, sex and politics in the Pacific Northwest. I’m excited to explore a new city and meet new folks, so y’all please send me your Seattle recommendations (food, bookstores, quirky landmarks, anything).