It’s unusual for me to publish three blog posts in one day, but today’s a special day: The 2014 Queer Theology Synchroblog! I’ve already shared a guest post from P, and another one from Jamie S Hill. You should go read those if you haven’t already. But I thought I’d also add my own thoughts here. Be sure to also check out the Queer Theology website for more great work by some awesome queer and trans folk!
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. …These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.“
–Hebrews 11:8-10, 13 (KJV)
And though I find here no permanent dwelling
I know he’ll give me a mansion my own
–From the hymn Mansion Over the Hilltop, by Ira Stanphill (based on Hebrews 13:14)
Damn if those words don’t bring me back to my days as a fundamentalist. Jumping up in a Bible Quizzing tournament ready to quote all of Hebrews 11 if I had to. Singing my lungs out in my southern gospel loving IFB church to a hymn that’s theology I can almost remember believing in. That’s not my faith anymore, and yet I still find myself falling back on these words whenever I try to “figure out” myself in terms of my queerness.
I’m kinda queer.
I don’t know if I’ve ever really stated that this clearly on this blog. It’s hard for me to talk about it, because most of the words that exist kind of fall short. Bisexual? Genderqueer? Cross-dresser? These words will do, but they’re like a new pair of shoes that hasn’t been broken in yet. They don’t quite feel right on me yet. Maybe someday they will. Maybe not.
The best metaphor I can come up with is that of a home.
I am a woman. That might seem obvious, but it’s a label I put on myself hesitantly. It’s a label I didn’t always want (especially as a preteen and teenager, when puberty caused me more anxiety and dysphoria than I care to think about). It’s a label that had to be “broken in,” stretched out, redecorated before it felt like home.
It’s home now though. I can’t deny that. Family pictures on the wall, used towels carelessly tossed on the floor, cats snuggling with me on the bed. “Woman” is my home, and I’m cozy and comfortable here right now.
But I get a little “stir-crazy” sometimes. Doesn’t everyone?
I guess not, since most people seem content to stay in their gender all the time, but I find that hard to understand. I often have to “get out” of my gender, and see what else is out there. Apparently this makes me…a cross-dresser? Genderqueer? A gender travel enthusiast?
I’m not sure.
Abraham (the man I’m married to, not the Bible character) is my home right now. I hope he will be until the whole “death do us part” thing happens. So I’m a woman (at least, that’s my Home Gender). I’m married to someone who is a man. I’m in a heterosexual marriage.
But I’m not heterosexual.
Most of my life I’ve been more attracted to women than men. There have been a few exceptions–periods of my life where I was all about the dudes. I’ve never dated women, or slept with a woman. How could I, as a fundamental Baptist? I didn’t even know that was an option until I was about 16 or 17, and at that point I had been lied to and told it was a bad option. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to.
But I fell in love with a man, and he’s my home now. I’m still attracted to women and queer folks, though I don’t do much “traveling” in this area of my life, because I’m personally into monogamy. This monogamous heterosexual marriage is my home, and I like it here, but just because I stay at home doesn’t mean I’m not queer.
I have these “homes” that have become such an important part of me. I come and I go, or I just stay and look out the window sometimes.
But homes aren’t always stable.
Like Abraham and Sarah (the Bible characters this time), and like other heroes of the faith, I have been a sojourner. Whether it was wandering aimlessly around the men’s clothing section of a store, or working up the courage to flirt with a girl in my German class, there have been times where I felt out-of-place and homeless.
I have been a stranger and a pilgrim in my own body. A preteen girl trying to pray away my new breasts. A young kid having nightmares about doctors taking me away from my parents to put me in a lab and study me, after finding out that I was “part boy.” A college feminist stretching and bending the definition of “woman” until it finally fit me. A 23 year old newly wed, confused and crying, because my husband isn’t gay, so what will happen if I’m not always okay with being a woman?
I have moved from place to place in terms of my sexual orientation, at times favoring men. At times not. Now mostly just favoring a nerdy Chinese/Polish man with a scruffy beard and an unhealthy obsession with indy pro-wrestling.
I have not always been able to find a permanent dwelling. I have been, and I still in many ways am, a wanderer, a traveler, a stranger, an explorer.
I don’t know what I’m moving toward. I don’t know if I’m on a journey to become the “me” I was meant to be, or if the journey itself–rather than some destination–is really what my life is all about. I don’t know if there’s some “mansion” out there for me–some state of identity perfection where I will finally know who I am.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” –from Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
To me, this is queerness. Stepping out on a journey of faith, not knowing whether it might take me.