Interview with Author Claire Olivia Golden

Hello reader, 

The interview you are about to read is with a dear friend of mine. Claire Olivia Golden will tell you all about who she is, but I want to hype her up a little bit first. She is one of the sweetest, most kind-hearted people I have had the joy of meeting in my life thus far. She is a woman of many talents and interests including writing, reading, crocheting, collecting Alpacas, spreading awareness for OCD and much more. 

I can't wait for you all to get to know her a little bit in this interview. 

Enjoy! :) 


Claire Olivia Golden (Author of Unraveled)



Let's start with learning some basics about you. What makes YOU Claire Olivia Golden? 

Hi Lydia! Thank you so much for having this conversation with me! I'm a 24-year-old writer and crochet designer from the Pacific Northwest USA. I am bilingual and bisexual. I was homeschooled and then got my B.A. from Portland State University. Now I live with my husband and our cat Persephone, and I'm the author of two books from Gurt Dog Press. I studied English and French in college, and I enjoy applying that knowledge of literary analysis to the Bible. I am also a vegetarian and lover of animals.

Can you share with us a little bit about your background? We've talked a little bit before about how you were raised Catholic. What was that like for you especially as you began to explore your sexuality? 

I've always been religious/spiritual. I can't remember a time when I didn't believe in God and I always thought of him as a friend. My mom is Christian and my dad is agnostic, but my sister and I were raised Christian. We were baptized, went to church and Sunday school, etc. I was actually raised Lutheran, which is the first Protestant religion that broke off from the Catholic Church. (Martin Luther is a fascinating person and I could go on for ages about that, but maybe another time.) I've heard Lutheranism described as "Catholicism for people who don't speak Latin" (back when Catholic Mass was in Latin). When my family moved when I was 14, we wanted to find a new church. mom looked up churches close to our house and read great things about a particular parish. We decided to give Catholicism a try since it's so similar to Lutheranism. We loved the priest, music (the choir is amazing), and everyone was so kind and welcoming. So we stuck around. After about six months, we joined RCIA and RCIC (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults/Children), which is a pretty intense yearlong class where you learn about the Catholic faith. I also took a confirmation class so that I could be confirmed into the Church. 

I love my parish. The Catholic Church as a whole, however, has a lot of problems. When I joined the Church I knew I didn't agree with everything they that being gay is a sin, and so is divorce, and definitely premarital sex. But I joined because I liked the community and I loved God. Over the next few years though, I started to have a really hard time with feeling like all sexuality was sinful. This was before I even realized I liked girls - I felt like my feelings toward boys were a sin, too. I have always been a rule-follower and a bookworm, and unfortunately this was a bad combination because it meant I would pore over my Youth Catechism and read all the teachings about sexuality. Then I would feel guilty for not living up to them. I don't believe it's healthy to teach young people that sexual feelings and behaviors are sinful. It certainly wasn't good for me to hear. I'm still fighting the feeling of shame that came from all of those teachings, and I am a 24-year-old married woman. 

Religion can be difficult today in a time when "identity" can be made up of so many things: color of your skin, sexuality, spiritual beliefs, and even smaller things like hobbies and interests. Two things that seem to "not work together" is a queer sexuality and a belief in Christianity and Jesus. How have these two things coexisted within you and what difficulties have arisen as a result of being both bisexual and Christian? 

I went to a Catholic student organization during college that ended up doing a lot more harm than good for me. It's hard because I have so many good memories from there, and all of the people are so genuinely kind and caring. But at the same time, the things they were teaching were ultimately harmful to me and to others. I remember going to one of their weekend conferences and the priest going over a list of sins, one of which was "the immorality of homosexuality." At this point I was out as bisexual...but not to this group of people. I just knew I couldn't really be myself there and it was hard to always be hiding a part of me. That conference was actually the weekend I left the Catholic church. There were lots of tears and my dad drove two hours to come pick me up.

Everyone at my home parish has been nothing but lovely, though. I'm out there and I've received nothing but love and acceptance. It's a parish filled with elderly people, too, who are often assumed to be more conservative...but not at all here! My friend, a gray-haired devout Catholic lady, shared this verse with me after I came out. It is from the Book of Wisdom, 11th chapter:

 "For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.  And how could a thing remain unless you willed it; or be preserved had it not been called forth by you?  But you spare all things, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things."

(As an aside...the book of Wisdom is only in the Catholic Bible, not the Protestant one. A point in Catholicism's favor, I think.) 

You wrote a book called Unraveled (which is shamefully still on my TBR and not one I've read) and it has lesbian representation! Can you talk a little bit about the process of writing that book for you? 

Don't worry - there are so many books to read and so little time! In Unraveled, Auri is bisexual and Cat is a lesbian. When I started writing it back in 2016, they were supposed to be just friends...and Auri was supposed to be straight! However, writing has a way of dragging up things from my subconscious, and there was an awful lot of chemistry between two girls who were "just friends." I also thought that I was straight, and I wasn't ready to confront these feelings yet, so I shelved it for a while. When I came back to it, I was ready to write the characters authentically. (Cat also had OCD long before I was diagnosed with it...I thought I just had Generalized Anxiety Disorder. So my subconscious was really working overtime to bring up things I didn't know consciously yet.) It's a pretty personal book to me because the characters and I were figuring it out together. I really believe that God led me to Gurt Dog Press because it was the perfect publisher at the perfect time in my life. I am so lucky.

There are so many words thrown around when Christianity is discussed. I've seen "Christian feminism," "progressive Christianity" "egalitarianism" and "deconstruction" running in the same circles. What words, concepts, or ideas around womanhood, gender, sexuality, and your relationship with Jesus resonate with you? 

That's a great question! I'm the kind of person who really likes to put labels on things so it pains me to admit that I don't know exactly what to call myself. Progressive Christian seems to fit the best. A lot of the time, fundamental Christians accuse progressives of not reading the Bible, or being swayed by the modern world. But as I've started to read the Bible closely for myself (and remember, I have a degree in this stuff), the more I realize how radical and loving Jesus' message was. More than anything, he preached - and practiced - love and forgiveness. He didn't just love the perfect people, he loved the messy ones. He rejected many church teachings of the times. The government and church as an organization didn't like him very much - I mean, they did end up killing him, even if he didn't stay that way for long. So...Jesus was pretty progressive himself! I think he is an amazing role model and when I try to emulate him, I end up being a better person. And believing in a higher power and afterlife gives me hope when I'm having a tough time. I like knowing that I will see my departed pets again. 

I think progressive Christian fits my beliefs best. I choose to attend St. Clare's because I really love the people there. Also, the Catholic Church places a huge focus on the Eucharist, which I think is so important. We're there for Jesus, after all, not for the priest. (Although I love our parish priest.) I don't know that I would describe myself as a Catholic because that word tends to conjure up an idea that I definitely don't fit, and I don't want people to get the wrong idea about me. I like Brenda from God is Grey's motto of "intellectual, LGBTQ+ affirming, sex-positive Christianity."

You talk about anxiety and OCD a lot on your page. The information you have shared has heightened my awareness and expanded my knowledge, so thank you for everything you share. This is something also represented in your book Unraveled. Can you talk a little bit about your journey with OCD and anxiety? Is there any relation between it and your faith? 

Thank you so much for asking about this! My anxiety and OCD has actually had a ton of effect on my faith. When I was 18 I was be diagnosed with severe OCD and a subtype of that is scrupulosity, which is basically religious OCD. The only way I can describe it is "hell." For me it manifested as obsessing over whether or not I had sinned. You know the guilty feeling when you lie about something, or hurt somebody's feelings, or just generally do something wrong? That's what I felt constantly every moment I was awake. I would obsess over whether or not reading sex scenes in books, or seeing them in movies, was a sin. Or whether checking people out was a sin. When I started dating, I obsessed over how far was too far. Having premarital sex was a sin...right? So was kissing okay? How much kissing? And so on. The Catholic Church wants you to confess your sins in Confession. But imagine being a 16-year-old girl forced to say her "sexual sins" out loud to a priest. I would get so nervous that I shook uncontrollably and cried. Confession is something I will never do again because honestly, it was mildly traumatic.

I had several years of ERP therapy that saved my quality of life. To save my sanity, I stopped going to church. I needed to have some time and space to figure out what I really believed. For so long I had felt like I was a bad person just being who I was, and I needed to work through that. Religion is the worst thing that OCD ever took from me. It tends to attack what is most important to you. For me that was church. I never stopped believing in God, though, and I kept praying that one day I would be better enough to go back. It was actually only two months ago that I went back to my church. It felt like coming home. The anxiety and OCD will never be gone, but God gave me the help and strength to push through it and take back what is most important to me. It's still really hard! But it's worth it! 

Learning more about what we believe and who we are are is an ongoing process. What has been the most helpful in your learning and healing so far? 

- Not being afraid to ask questions.

- Applying what I learned in therapy anytime my religious OCD is especially bad. One helpful phrase for me is "I am no better or worse than most people." I also use perspective-taking which is where you imagine what you would say to a friend or loved one. For instance, when I think, "I am a horrible person for not paying attention during the homily," I reframe it to, "Would I say that to my sister?" To which the answer is obviously no. So it has to be the same for myself.

- Experimenting with other spiritual practices. I'd always thought tarot was cool but I was afraid it was a sin. Now I have a bunch of tarot decks and enjoy using them for fun and meditation. I've also been learning about Zen Buddhism, and I collect healing crystals because I think they're pretty. 

- Learning to admit that I don't have the answer to everything. And sometimes, nobody does! My husband is an atheist. We've had great conversations about how some things are, by nature, unknowable. A lot of OCD therapy is learning to tolerate uncertainty, and this applies to religion too.

- Talking to other people about what they believe and why, and being open to new perspectives. 

Here are some resources I have found particularly valuable:


Check out Claire's books!
The Lost Girl of Goose Creek
Visit Claire's website and Instagram page