The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

Huddlestonsmith overcomes religious conflicts through freethought

Katie Huddlestonsmith

On March 15 and 16, Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics hosted their first annual conference at University of Missouri-Columbia. Secular speakers came to discuss about their activism in America. The student organization wanted to have an event where nonreligious people come to the conference and connect with each other.

“‘Atheism’ is often a dirty or scary word,” Katie Huddlestonsmith said, “and we want to be able to educate people through interaction and experience.

Huddlestonsmith, who grew up in a narrow-minded community, is concerned about the state’s acceptance of irreligious people. Currently, her gay parents, her biological father and his partner, lives in Columbia while her transgendered mother and her aunt lives in the small town of Harrisburg, Mo.

Huddlestonsmith’s father, David Huddlestonsmith, worked as a doctor in California and her biological mother, whom she refers to as Pop, ended up as his patient. They became good friends and decided to get married. However, their marriage failed and they got divorced when Katie was second grade.

After the split, Katie Huddlestonsmith and her family moved several times until finally settling in Columbia. There, David met his future-partner Dave, whom she refers to as co-dad, through an online dating site; they have been together for more than nine years, since Katie was in fifth grade.

Katie Huddlestonsmith described Harrisburg, where she lived for a few months in first and second grade, and then for the first two years of college, as “very small, very closed minded, and very right-wing, and very Christian with couple hundred people.”

Even though her family was never religious when they moved to Harrisburg, she got introduced to this town’s beliefs. To fit in the small community and prevent any conflict between people, they created roles for each member of her family and attended church much like anyone else. She calls her biological mother, now known as Tony after gender reassignment surgery, as Pop, and Pop’s partner Debbie as her mother. Back in Harrisburg, Katie Huddlestonsmith used to call Pop her dad and Debbie her mom, but things changed when they came to Columbia. After the move, she referred to her biological father as her grandfather and Pop as her father whenever they came to school functions. While disguising who they truly were as a family, Katie Huddlestonsmith still faced some troubles in her life.

“I probably faced more direct discriminations because of my family upbringing and just in that teachers doesn’t want to teach me,” Katie Huddlestonsmith said, “and people that didn’t want their kids to be friends with me and stuff like that.”

After school in Harrisburg, she and her classmates had to go to local Baptist church by taking a school bus. Despite going to this school, the religious environment never made sense to her. She didn’t understand why people looked at her weird when she questioned their reasoning for their view on homosexuality. She didn’t understand why everyone cared about the Bible. She didn’t understand what about her parents’ marriage was so wrong to them, though they didn’t know the truth of her family. So she kept her mouth shut throughout the duration of her schooling there.

In 2005, a reporter named Jeffrey Thompson from Illinois came to Missouri and wrote a visual essay about the Katie Huddlestonsmith’s family and their lives, following them around like paparazzi and taking pictures of them. At the end, she asked him to publish it online instead.

“I remember when I was younger, I wouldn’t let them publish in print, because they wanted to and Internet wasn’t like a huge thing when I was in elementary school,” Katie Huddlestonsmithsaid. “I was like, ‘Okay, you can publish it online, because I don’t think any of my classmates are going to see it if it is online.’”

One of photos that Thompson took features Katie playing with a frog she found in her backyard. Going outside and finding animals got her interested in science, and since her father is a retired physician, she had the opportunity to ask him questions how things work. Her favorite scientist is Neil deGrasse Tyson, and admired Charles Darwin. This newfound interest shown through the photo inspired her and she decided to study  biology and psychology at University of Missouri – Columbia.

“I love evolutionary psychology,” Katie Huddlestonsmith said. “I wish there were more classes that are devoted to it because it is hard to find class you can take that specifically about evolutionary psychology but I would.”

Before going to University of Missouri-Columbia, she had a great experience at RBHS. She personally didn’t have many conflicts with other students. She got involved in a couple of projects at the art department. When SouthPaw, the school magazine, covering a story about gay discrimination in Columbia, she told journalism students about her family and later became good friends with the writer and the artist.

Between high school and college, she discovered more about the influences of religion in politics. Coming from a harsh experience in her youth, she embraced her atheist identity, and involved herself in secular activism to defend her parents’ homosexuality from the Christian Right.

Despite not having a certain kind of belief, she made friendly relations with other religious groups on campus and even made friends with people from different religions alike. She maintained a good relationships with her high school friends, because she felt as though they don’t behave like religious conservatives she knew as a child.

Katie wanted everyone to accept the atheist community in the United States. In fact, she acknowledged a diversity within the community too, straying away from stereotype that atheists as people with far left-wing belief.

Katie Huddlestonsmith (right) with The Atheist Experience co-host Matt Dillahunty
Katie Huddlestonsmith (right) with The Atheist Experience co-host Matt Dillahunty

“My friend works at American Atheists,” she said, bringing the issue of the organization’s attempt to rent booth at 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference. “The president of the American Atheist, who I haven’t met personally, identifies himself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal.”

She also acknowledges that there are some atheists who are disagree with her on controversial topics such as abortion. However, she still respects the different opinions people hold and doesn’t feel as though she has authority to judge people based on that.

“I think that for atheists who would personally never get an abortion I think that typically their stance is,” she said. “I don’t want one; I am not going to tell you what to do.”

Katie Huddlestonsmith admitted that she has had some depression issues due to conflicts in her childhood. However, she has still kept her mood up.

“Honestly … having people in school I can be good friends with, having strong supportive partner and relationships, and having strong relationships with my parents,” she said.

By Jay Whang

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Bearing News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *