A two-spirit teenager with mental-health issues did not find solace by becoming a born-again Christian.
The idea of a young woman, already in pain and confused about her identity, joining a born-again Christian church is at once alarming and darkly comedic. Jennifer Hayward explores both her pain and her ability to laugh at it in her one-woman show Jesus Loves a Crazy Horny Feminist, at Arts Court from March 3 to 5.
“It was scary at first,” Hayward says of writing and performing the play, which debuted at the Saskatoon Fringe Festival in August 2013. “Getting the story out there on paper really felt good, and being able to put it together in such a package that was also funny felt good as an artist and as someone with mental-health issues.”
Hayward’s first suicide attempt was at age 11. It was dismissed as attention-seeking behaviour. By her teens she’d been diagnosed with depression. As a kid, Hayward’s Roman Catholic church attendance ended when her Métis father and Ukrainian mother didn’t see the point of taking her to mass when she spent the whole time playing with Star Wars toys.
As a teen, seeking answers and solace, Hayward became a born-again Christian.
“That’s pretty much how I got even more screwed up,” she says. “As someone who was two-spirited or bisexual, it was very daunting to be somewhere where you were told that everything you believed was wrong, every urge you felt was wrong.”
While attending the University of Regina, Hayward began to claim her identity as a feminist and an indigenous, two-spirit woman.
“The cultural teachings in the aboriginal world are more about acceptance of self and about healing and balance as opposed to . . . changing and exploiting other people,” she says.
Hayward’s play examines her eventual borderline personality disorder diagnosis, marriage and parenthood while showcasing her standup chops.
And lest we forget the “horny” in Jesus Loves a Crazy Horny Feminist, Hayward also confronts the stereotype of mentally ill women as sex-crazed and dangerous.
“We as women who have mental illnesses are trying to find something that makes us feel better, and for some, maybe it’s sex,” she says. “The ‘dangerous’ part is what bothers me a lot more. That whole crazy-bitch, bunny-boiler type stereotype is very bothersome, and it’s one of those stigmas of mental illness that really needs to be removed.”