I hate feeling obligated to be religious because all of my favorite poets mention god when they talk about inspiration. I start wondering if maybe I’d be a better writer if I actually believed in something. It’s not a proven theory — I’ve never given it a try, or found someone who has. And maybe that’s a good thing, actually, because god tends to be associated with people who hate everything I am.

    I never grew up with religion — never experienced church firsthand or was forced to pray before bed. The closest I ever got was my grandmother. I still wonder now if she would’ve accepted me, or disowned me under the same logic that pushes a parent to disown a child, or a church to protest. She gave me a cross once when I was a kid. I think about it a lot now. How believing in God almost feels like surrendering.

    When Donald Trump mentions how this nation worships god and proceeds to push for a ban of trans people in the military, I wonder if my favorite writers had a reason not to like god. Maybe they found it easier because they had nothing to fear. At Pride, when there are anti-LGBT protesters lining the streets, protected by policemen with batons, the first thing you notice are the big signs that read “God hates fags.” It’s almost as if the world is telling us in bright neon lights you can’t be both — religion or LGBT+.

    People of churches and religion are never all bad and I recognize that, I have to. It’d be wrong of me not to — to generalize people in the ways that I hate — but when your first interaction with a group of people is being told you’re hated and that you’re unnatural, I hope it’d be understandable why I‘m hesitant to befriend people who speak highly of god. I never know if they’re speaking on god’s actual word, or the makeshift stories people put together to make the Bible accessible for pick-and-choose bigotry.

    So when these people I look up to — the people that inspired me to write, say they found inspiration in god — I wonder how I’m supposed to find inspiration in places I’m so commonly hated.

    Alexander Khan, 17, is a senior at Science Leadership Academy.