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The Shinto God That Broke The Camel’s Back

, , , , | Related | October 18, 2021

My girlfriend’s mother is the worst bigot I have ever had the misfortune to meet. She is a Japanese Christian, straight, cisgender female; she looks down on homosexuality, refuses to believe that bisexuality is a thing, scorns transgender people, denounces any non-Christian belief as sinful, believes in sexual abstinence before marriage, thinks any relationship that is not exclusive is not a relationship, and insists on traditional gender roles. Pretty much the only nice thing I can say about her is that she doesn’t seem to be racist; I’m a black male, and I’ve never heard her scorn me for that. The family moved here to Canada while the kids were in middle school, and I met my girlfriend in high school.

Chris Rock once said, “Whoever you hate will end up in your family.” Well, my girlfriend’s family is the embodiment of that quote, and thanks to those prejudices, her mother is no longer a welcome part of the family. Her father, bless the man, divorced her and got custody of the kids after it turned out their own children weren’t exempt from her bigotry.

My girlfriend is the fourth of five children; twin sisters, a brother, her, and her younger sister. One of the twins is a lesbian, the other is trans, the brother is very effeminate, and the youngest sister is bisexual and is currently in a polyamorous relationship with her boyfriend and girlfriend. All of them have been sexually active since they came of age; currently, only the brother is married.

As for my girlfriend… Well, she’s not comfortable with the fact that she basically conforms to her mother’s beliefs. She and I have a largely non-sexual relationship, and I’m built like a brute, which means I tend to do a lot of the heavy lifting — both figuratively and literally. We currently live together but do not have plans to get married, and I’m ashamed to say that I’m not as good a cook as she is. I’m trying to learn, I swear!

Her mother goes out of her way to drop in on us every so often, acting civil while making not-so-subtle insults toward her other children under the pretext of “visiting her daughter like a good mother should”. Having been raised to show respect when you receive respect, I’m unfortunately too cowardly to try and push back against her, given that she doesn’t insult us.

Then, one fateful day, she happens to stop by while we’re watching an anime together. We watch with Japanese audio and English subtitles, and we happen to pause the episode while a certain name is on the screen; during a lull in the conversation, I notice the name and ask my girlfriend about it.

Me: “Kagutsuchi? What does that name mean?”

Girlfriend: “It’s the Shinto god of fire.”

Me: “Huh. I’ve always been curious about Shinto gods.”

Mother: “Why on earth would you be interested in that sort of heresy?”

Me: “Because they come up a lot in games I play. I’m always looking up what a name means, but when it turns up something like ‘sun goddess,’ I go, ‘Oh, that’s an entire creation myth,’ and I go back to my game.”

Mother: “Good.”

Me: “No, not good. I shouldn’t be so ignorant of other peoples’ beliefs. I just know that if I start reading about it, I’m gonna keep reading about it until my battery is dead and I lose all my progress. One of these days, I need to sit down and actually read some of that stuff.”

Girlfriend: “Maybe not on your own. I could help teach you. I know a lot about the traditional Shinto stories.”

Mother: *Suddenly outraged* “I can’t f****** believe this!”

Me: “What? You can’t believe that people actually want to know about different cultures and beliefs?”

Mother: “You’re just freaks like all the rest!” *Points at [Girlfriend]* “I was so glad you were sane, and it turns out you’ve been learning all that bulls***!”

Girlfriend: “You want to talk about bulls***?! You’ve been treating [Brother] and all my sisters like monsters! What’s wrong with accepting them for who they are?!”

Mother: “I didn’t have children so I could be surrounded by a bunch of [homophobic slur]s and heretics!”

Me: “Then, clearly, you didn’t want a family!”

Mother: “What did you just say?!”

Me: “Your children aren’t items! You don’t get to decide how they live their lives, what they believe in, or who they love! If you want to dictate what sort of people they are and who they associate with, you don’t want a family. You want an inventory!

Mother: “You dare?!”

Me: “You’re d*** right, I dare! I’ve had to listen to you b**** about your children every time you’ve come in here, and you already make me sick! I can’t even imagine what sort of h***ish suffering you’ve inflicted on your children in whatever time you spent in the same household with them! If you’re going to scorn your daughter for even knowing about a belief other than your own, I’m done putting up with your bigotry!”

Mother: “I won’t let you—”

Girlfriend: “You don’t get to ‘let’ us do anything! I made myself put up with you when you would act nice toward us, but now I realize how stupid I was to even entertain your bigotry! We’re human beings, living our own lives, and you have no right to decide what we believe in or what kind of life we live! Now GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!

That last statement had a force to it like I’d never heard out of her before, and [Mother] was left sputtering for a moment before she fled from the building. As the door closed, the adrenaline wore off, and we sat back down and hugged one another, recovering a bit from the aftershocks.

The make-light mood of the episode we were watching was not something we wanted to partake in after that encounter, so we turned the TV off, and my girlfriend spent the rest of the day teaching me about some of the Shinto gods. That was the last time her mother ever came by our place.


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