Upcoming Reading: Portal Launch

Mark your calendars for April 12th. If you live in Nanaimo, BC, or near it. I and many other talented emerging voices will be reading from our work in Portal Magazine’s 2019 issue.

I will be reading from a non-fiction piece titled “Peanuts” in which I describe my first encounter with gambling and drinking from a six-year-old perspective. It explores themes of poverty, abuse (neglect), and innocence.

The event will take place at The Grand Hotel in Nanaimo BC. Watch Portal’s Facebook page or my Twitter in the coming months for more details.


I’m not lost

This week, I was re-reading some old emails. They were sent to me by well-meaning conservative Christian friends after I publicly came out. A theme emerged that it important to address. I am not lost.

It’s painfully ironic that in their rush to tell me how confused by Satan I am and how I am leading others down the road of confusion they failed to enter into an actual conversation with me. Three and four-page letters carry almost mirror-image monologues from self-proclaimed “very intelligent” theologians.

In one sentence they congratulated me for my intelligence and in the next reminded me that they are smarter and wiser and more well read than I, and that it would behoove me to head their wisdom.

In the nearly four years since those original emails were sent, and those now former friends repeated their love for me, I’ve not heard from a single one. I am healthier emotionally, physically, and spiritually now. I owe this all to the integrity a group of individuals said I lacked back then (and probably still think I do now).

While on the topic of integrity, I learned a Peace River Bible Institute a phrase that has stuck with me. In Spiritual Formation class, we were taught that integrity is when the outside matches the inside and a person is whole. That is exactly what coming out is all about. The integrity called into question my hyper-conservatives is the very integrity that demanded I be open and honest.

Even more curious, I’ve known more LGBTQ+ Christians (or people who have renounced that title but still love Jesus) to come out of my tiny conservative Bible College than any I’ve met since. In my group of closest friends from my four years there, four out of five of us came out as LGBTQ+.

The tools we learned there, though not at all intended by the leadership to manifest in such a way, enabled us with the skills to discern God’s word for ourselves. We learned, had drilled into us, that context is key not only when interpreting scripture, but when applying it to our current culture.

There is no precedent for committed long term same-sex relationships historically at the time the Bible was written, there’s also no text for trans individuals, and no text for veganism (to pick something less “sexuality” based). But people still have strong opinions around all of those things and what scripture does or does not say.

What I know beyond a shadow of a doubt to be true is what Jesus said. He said that to be saved we need only to put our faith in him. Full stop. We need to stop making a laundry list of Jesus + this other random thing. Jesus preached a wholly inclusive faith, that’s the point of the feast parable.

All this rambling to say I’m still bisexual, I still love Jesus, and I still know it’s more than okay to be both those things.

If you need some resources to help you out on this journey or if someone you love is LGBTQ+ and you need some support visit the contact us page and I’ll point you in the most helpful direction.

Don’t let people steal your joy, your Jesus, or your value.


Family Matters: a poem

we will all be in the same place

for the first time in six years

distance, the only way civility thrives

will close around us as we

occupy the same room

breathe the same air

stifling one another with subtext

stabbing one another with only joking

we three

a volatile concoction of scars

a triangle more fatal than Bermuda

triangulation, triginomical espionage

a mother and her two surviving children

the derelict son, the daughter who escaped

together loud silence

mother: I love you, hate you

you are not a mother–though

you birthed me

that is where the mothering ended

left to fend for myself

like a feral cat

I made a home out of garbage and broken dreams

brother: I love you, hate you

how are you my brother–though

blood ties us, first born,

that is where the relationship ended

you chose chasing dragons

left me for mystic faerie stardust

like a changeling

I slept in the tree of despair

together: you say we love you

your actions betray the truth

you resent me my growth

I am not the daughter, sister, you knew

abandoned to the fire, silt and shame boiled out

cool independence, courage,

like a crucible

I was poured into a new form

one meal together after six years of jarring silence to pretend to like one another

one meal to sift through the garbage, fables and aggression

one meal to wear Kevlar

Copy Right Cheryl Folland 2016

This poem was penned from a memory of a moment. Written in from a place of frustration at the old patterns we can fall back into with family. I am happy to report that though this poem is entirely true of that moment, the family characterized in it has reached healing in so many ways.  I think that a lot of that has to do with the ability to work through things (first on our own and then together). Through poetry, I’ve been able to walk through moments and the emotions attached to them. By releasing them to the page, I am no longer inhibited or burdened by the trauma or the lingering doubt.

Eyebrows: A Short Story in Journal form

September 2nd.

            My counsellor instructed me to keep this journal in the hopes to identify my obsessions and triggers. I think that it’s utterly pointless and there’s no merit in it. It’s like whining into the void and I don’t see how it will identify anything I don’t already know. I’m anxious. I have been anxious since I was a child. My mother used to scream in my face to shake me from my spiral. I would cry incessantly over something as trivial as the waiter bringing my pasta with the wrong kind of sauce at a restaurant. Mother would yell ‘ENOUGH’ in my face, and I would dissolve into a silent puddle of obedience. It worked every time, but now I am startled by loud noises.

September 3rd.

            I’m addicted to coffee. Not so much the consumption of it, but the comforting nature of a warm cup in my hands or the scent of arabica beans mingled with heavy cream wafting from its place on my living room table. (I’m also apparently addicted to treating this journal like a novel writing competition where I expound on the mundane using gloriously lavish language). I set the pot the night before with The Great Canadian Blend from President’s Choice (because it’s all I can afford and tastes more expensive than it is), a perfect hybrid of medium and light roast with notes of citrus and nuts. The blue glow from the LED interface cascades throughout the house in the early morning gloom to light my hazy path—I often forget to put my glasses on and kick a stray shoe. I smoke a cigarette and feed the cat outside. I linger and give George (the cat) gentle pets until the chime on the coffee maker rings three times. It’s finished brewing and the morning is now officially permitted to begin. The sun is not yet up, but my coffee is ready, and my laptop is waiting. 

            I’m a creature of habit and endeavor to begin every morning this way. I sip my creamy bitters from my sky-blue ceramic mug (purchased from a local artisan market) and set it on the table. I’ll drink half of it and forget the rest until I arrive home from work in the evening. I’m always disappointed at my neglected mug, but I still fail to finish an entire cup. 

            On the rare occasion that I oversleep and cannot make coffee, or I don’t have cream, my day is ruined, and I hate everything. I hate the bus—even if it arrives on time, because I have to be around people, I don’t know who ignore the “scent free zone” sign and wear a bottle of dollar store cologne. I hate the rain—even though I have a wonderfully rainbow-striped umbrella with an automatic button that ejects it into the open position with one touch. I hate the way my favourite hat that both keeps me warm (plus) and feels like a cage for my head (MINUS).

            I try never to sleep in.

September 8th.

            I forgot to write in this cumbersome notebook. Where was I? Yes, coffee. Today I drank and entire mug before leaving the house (finally I am not a failure) and purchased a large pumpkin spice latte on the way to work at Superstore—because Fall. True to self, this was the odd occasion that I finished an entire mug and I owe that entirely to it being laced with eggnog. The sugary thick nutmeg spiced cream creates a chug it all effect I cannot resist. My teeth became gritty ten minutes into my shift and I jittered frantically like a hummingbird on too much sugar juice. My heightened heart rate invented social catastrophes out of ordinary encounters even though I became more efficient at menial tasks—like using the iPod interface to shop customers’ orders. I was able to shop 105 line items in under 28 minutes (beating my average of 65 items per hour). However, my administration and customer service became erratic. My emails to the Front End Department that handles refunds to accounts were full of typos and more than once I forgot to send the attachment. I stuttered words on the phone (and to my horror in person) as I tried in vain to communicate substitutions and shortages to customers. My brain was operating faster than my mouth could keep up. I became fixated on correcting any errors in my speech pattern and kept customers waiting longer than the ideal five to eight minutes when they came to pick up their orders. 

            I blame the coffee. In no way do I admit I suffer with anxiety in the heat of the moment. Nor will I confess my perfectionism that has me crying in the bathroom on my break for loading the wrong Karen order when two Karens were expected to pick up for the same time slot. I SHOULD have asked for a last name. I SHOULD have known better. Now I will forever be the idiot that loaded the wrong order. One mistake, the slightest error, sent me into a spiral and I was stuck on it for the remainder of the day. Like a snowball tumbling down a steep hill, the impact of my accidents (literal in the case of driving the cart into the automatic sliding doors in effort to avoid colliding with a customer coming IN the OUT door—and thus knocking the very expensive door off its hinges) builds until they collide with an immovable force (usually reality). I am left worrying if they will be able to lock the store at all at closing time. 

            The store will inevitably be robbed in the night and I will be fired simply for failing to run over someone who disregarded the rules…which would also get me fired. I continued my shift on the verge of tears, which sometimes escaped. Ten minutes before my shift was over the store manager informed me, they fixed the door five minutes after I “broke” it. But all I can think of now is how much of an idiot I am and that I must do better to avoid driving a 900lb cart into anything regardless of its lack of brakes.

September 11th.

            Today at work, the store speakers were playing the same pre-recorded pop music they play nation-wide (that we’ve been listening to for three months—I’ve memorized the song order); it’s a strange mixture of obscure 80s hits and last season’s chart toppers. A co-worker decided to play me a new song they liked from their phone. At the exact same time, another staff member erupted into the room with an over-excited recounting of a scary soccer mom on the floor. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand. My heart rate increased to the point where it felt like my eyes were shaking in their sockets. I couldn’t make sense of the various sounds colliding in my ears. It was as if I was a drain and each competing noise was a large bucket all fighting to get into the tiny drain hole—I was submerged against my will and over my capacity and could not handle it. I placed both hands over my ears and yelled, “Too many sounds!” Tears poured out of my eyes and my arms began to shake in concert with the flip-flop in my stomach. They all stared at me like I was crazy but thankfully became silent. My manager had entered the room at some point during the chaos and turned the volume down on the overhead music.

            I blame the coffee.

September 12th.

            Dr. Harvey said coffee in itself is not the problem but is “exacerbating the underlying condition.” She challenged me to fast from it for a time. I hate peppermint tea. Also, she’s an idiot.

October 4th.

            No coffee for almost a month. I have no real excuse for why I haven’t been writing—except that I don’t want to. But, at this point, I can’t make sense of this crap in my head, and I’ve got no one to talk to. Like, when staring at my fish tank I am overly aware of, and concerned by, the fact that the goldfish poop has a weird thin casing on it allowing it to float about like disgusting fecal sausage and the red platy poop does not—do fish care that they swim in ever increasing toilet water? Why is it recommended to clean that tank only once a week? Why is it necessary to have a certain level of bacteria, from shit no less, in the tank at all times?  Is it safe to drink tea from a bag where a little staple holds the contents inside? Won’t I get aluminium poisoning and end up with advanced Alzheimer’s? I switched to loose-leaf tea, but that is harder to clean up after I brew it and I’m certain I’ll have to call a plumber soon to dislodge the fish-poop-tea-leaf-dam of doom that threatens to clog my drain. Inevitably sewage will begin to back up and fill my bathtub because of my poor choice in pets and hot beverages.

            Today I pulled at a thread on my sweater, thinking it was harmless and that it was better than tapping my foot so that my leg jiggles like a wiggly piece of J-ello held by a sticky toddler. I was TRYING to relieve my anxiety without anyone noticing, then, mortified, a stranger on the bus pointed out there was a GAPING hole in my left armpit. Immediately my face flushed, and I pushed the stop request button. I ended up walking an extra 45 minutes home.  On the way home, I kept pulling at my sweater—the source of the day’s awkward encounter and ended up with a jean pocket filled with white lint lacked black yarn. (My dryer must be broken, or about to die, with the amount of lint that was on those threads.) I want to blame the poorly manufactured factory sweater but more than anything I blame my inability to let things go. Like the way I spelled J-ello (gel-o) before I looked it up on Google.

October 5th

            My pulling on things has graduated to my hair. Not the way your older brother yanks on your ponytail causing you to fall on your butt in front of all his friends until they laugh every time you wear your hair up in their presence. But pulling like yanking any hair that doesn’t fit out one by one. Today the hairs that don’t fit are rougher than the other ones. Almost like crinkle fries, they are wavy coarse zig zags. If I pull one out and that little protein casing on the end of the follicle doesn’t come with it—it’s a bust and I pull another until I’m satisfied. Sometimes this takes several tries. I can feel the tension in my body release as the entire follicle comes lose and the pores on my scalp are finally allowed to breathe.

October 7th.

            I made an appointment to see Dr. Harvey sooner. I have a bald patch at the front of my head and all my socks have holes in them. Still no coffee, but I’m smoking more to try and do something else with my hands.

October 8th.

            Dr. Harvey says I have trick-o-lo-mania or something like that. APPARENTLY, it’s very common in people with obsessive disorders, co-curring was the word she used. I’m still not a fan of labels. I still rip them out of all my t-shirts. But I’ve cut my hair super short and started wearing a hat most of the time. My friends think I’ve gone alternative or something. Alternative to what exactly remains to be seen. Maybe I’ll adopt the practice of wearing gloves.

October 9th.

            I picked up the medication that Dr. Harvey suggest I try in order to “curb the compulsions”. The alliteration in that sentence makes me so angry. Like why does everything mental health related have to come with a slogan—Cipralex, curb your compulsions. I’m not convinced that medication will work, but I also don’t want to be irreparably bald. I’ve learned through late night internet research that pulling out the hair protein casings can (and often does) prevent the hair from returning. That would make maintaining employment even more difficult than my bouts of staying in bed for a week.

October 10th.

            Nothing new to report except that my forehead feels fuzzy from the inside. Like my brain is literally on a hotplate—the kind used for warming cups of forgotten coffee…I mean tea, not the kind used to cook soup in a dorm.

October 16th.

            I made it an entire day without pulling my hair and then I decided to pluck my eyebrows. I’m on my way to the drugstore that’s open until 10 pm to find an eyebrow pencil close to my natural colour as possible. People with trich should NOT shape their own eyebrows. Note to self: use an esthetician.

October 31

            I am not obsessively or absently doing…what’s the word for that…body repetitive behaviours. Makes me think of BRB. Like, I’ll be right back, just after I do this alphabetized list of tasks: a) ask Mom how to make brownies, b) but butter, c) clean the entire house (also in alphabetical order, bathroom, bedroom, compost, dishes, dusting, fish tank, floors, garbage, kitchen, laundry, litterbox, windows), d) drive to store, e) eat something, f) freeze while paying for parking, g) get groceries…Instead, I’m late. For everything. If I don’t put a reminder in my phone for each task, one on my wall calendar, and the back of my hand I will be late. Sometimes I double book myself. Other times I won’t show up. The nice side of this issue is I don’t really care. I’m more worried that I SHOULD care.

November 1st. 

            Yesterday was Halloween. Dressed up as my past self—meaning I wore yesterday’s clothes. I forgot it was Halloween.

November 2nd.

            Dr. Harvey gave me the number for the crisis line again today after I told her I’m not excited for anything at all. 

November 7th.

            I kind of miss my obsessions and my anxiety. At least I cared about stuff. I was happy, and I was sad, now I’m just numb. Now, this journal feels like me TRYING to care. I am expected to write a deep and meaningful reflection, but I don’t have one. I live here. They gave me a pen. I write stuff. If I don’t write stuff, I’ll be “non-compliant” and be checked in somewhere against my will by my parents.

November 12th.

            They took away the sharp objects. The fluorescent lights are blinking a lot. The texture of my blanket is annoying—somewhere between velcro and felt. They gave me decaf. Placebo coffee is a bigger lie than antidepressants.

November 13th.

            I have a roommate. Her name is Judy. She asked me mine. I had trouble hearing the question in real time. So, I stared at her until she left the room, then I remembered what she had said as it echoed in my brain and answered “Hailey” to no one.

When ally pastors get it wrong

Dear Christian Allies (esp leaders),

Stop sending youth and young adults away to the LGBT faith community out of fear that you’ll screw up. Those of us outside of church often don’t feel close to Jesus, have no idea what we believe about God’s love, are bitter towards the church, hesitant or unable to pray outloud, and have no real answers to their deep questions aside from “you need to decide what YOU believe”. 

The BEST thing you can do is let these young folks know that you love them. That YOU believe there is nothing wrong with them. That YOU are there to pray with them. That YOU are there to hold them when they cry and jump up and down when they rejoice.

Put in the WORK and find the many, many, MANY resources on inclusive LGBTQ+ theology and LEARN it like you learned the tenants of evangelism. Dig into the Bible and decide what YOU believe. 

Sending them away from you speaks so much louder than “I love you, talk to this stranger you don’t know because they are also LGBT and therefore can magically relate to you.” 

They will NOT feel welcome without being welcome. They will NOT feel whole without being celebrated.
They will NOT thrive without being championed.

For the love of all that is holy stop being afraid to make a mistake and publically love the LGBTQ kids you’re sending my way. I don’t have the answers for them because I am still not welcome in most places of worship, if I am, I am not allowed to lead, or not able to be married, or teach Sunday school–how is that welcoming? Where is the hope for the LGBTQ youth when being gay is OKAY but you can’t participate in anything in case “people get the wrong idea”? About what? 

As my grandma would’ve said, take a sh*t or get off the pot, you’re stinking up the place.