It was my idea, this topic for the synchroblog. It was my idea to have every write about sex and bodies. I believe that queer and trans people have vital things to teach the world about sex and bodies. I believe that itâ€™s crucial that we start to talk about sex and bodies and faith all together. I believe this things and yet I am sitting here unable to write.
At first I thought it was because Iâ€™ve written about bodies a lot. (Like, a lot a lot. Like here and here and here and here and here and here and here) Iâ€™ve written about my transgender body, my scars, my insecurities. I’ve written about my body as a gift, my transition as resurrection, and the importance of bodies. What else could I possibly have to say?
You know what I havenâ€™t written about? Sex.
I write about everything. I put myself out there in a million different ways. I am vulnerable and honest and open. Except about sex.
Even typing these sentences makes me squirm in my chair and want to walk away from the computer. I start to make excuses â€œWhen you talk about sex, youâ€™re not just talking about yourself, youâ€™re talking about another person, too.â€ â€œPeople I work with read my writings and I donâ€™t want them to read this.â€ â€œI donâ€™t know what to say.â€ All of those things are true. But they arenâ€™t the whole truth.
The truth is that I am still trying to unlearn the shame I have been taught about sex. I am still trying to unlearn the shame I have been taught about my body. I hesitate to even say those words because I know that some people will read them and twist them and say that I am ashamed because I am queer and transgender but I am not ashamed of being queer and transgender I have been taught to be ashamed and made to feel ashamed and there is a world of difference in that.
I grew up in the church. All of my teaching about sex was through a Christian lens. I was homeschooled and a youth group kid. There was no sex ed in my life except the messages I received at church and at home. I wasn’t taught anything about my body, not really, except that it needed to be tamed and controlled. I was taught that sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman was shameful and dirty and wrong. I was taught that my desires were wrong. Then, on top of that, I was taught that my body was wrong. But it didnâ€™t stop there. Even outside of my upbringing in purity culture I was shamed; for not being experienced enough, for not knowing my own body, for wanting to wait to have sex, for not wanting sex.
Then when I did have sex I was shamed for my body. For wanting to change it to reflect my identity, for leaving the lesbian community, for not having the â€œrightâ€ type of male body. I was shamed for how my body looked and felt. I was shamed by the person who was closest to me, the first person I had ever shared my body with, at a time when I was fragile and scared. I was told all of the ways that I didn’t measure up, that I wasn’t right; all of the things that she didn’t like about me and my body. And I internalized that shame. I looked in the mirror and saw all of the ways that my body didn’t measure up. I looked at myself as a freak that no one could ever be attracted to. In my head the shame around my body and the shame around sex intertwined and grew up together and implanted themselves in my heart, under my ribcage, in my muscles and skin.
I am still so ashamed and scared of my own nakedness. Of my own desire. Of my own fear of rejection.
Men donâ€™t talk about these things. When they talk about body image they talk about weight loss and muscle tone. When they talk about sex they talk about how they want it and who they are having it with or how they are not having it. They donâ€™t talk about the shame they feel over their acne or scars. They donâ€™t talk about how vulnerable they feel with their shirt off. They donâ€™t talk about how scared they are of rejection or about how they want to feel close to someone; be skin to skin just to feel intimate for a while. They donâ€™t talk about how scary it is to be naked with another person; to be seen in that way.
We don’t talk about these things in church. Even in churches that are supposedly sex positive. Even in churches that welcome LGBTQ people. For many queer and trans folks we’ve spent so long fighting against Christians who only see us as sex acts that we don’t talk about sex at all. Especially not in the context of theology. We don’t talk abbot the ways that the messages we received in church continue to cause us shame, even after we are out. We don’t talk about the ways those teachings continue to rob us of joy and intimacy and connection with other people.
I donâ€™t talk about these things.
I don’t know how to talk about the ways that I was taught about sex continue to mess me up. I don’t know how to talk about the shame that I continue to feel about not being the “model marginalized person”. I don’t know how to unpack the ways that my shame is compounded when people use the shame that was forced on me to tell me that I shouldn’t be transgender.
I donâ€™t know how to tell you how scared I am. I donâ€™t know how to express the shame that boils up over my inexperience and my desire and my different body and how that different body feels under someoneâ€™s hands. I donâ€™t know how to tell you about how I am ashamed that I canâ€™t father my own children (even though I am totally in favor of adoption). I don’t know how to tell you about the insecurity I feel in my body; about my body; about the way I carry myself; about the way I look under my clothes; about the way I move; about my weight and my skin and my hair. I donâ€™t know how to tell you about the shame I carry about my shame because I am supposed to be out and fierce and fired up and body and sex positive.
How do I talk about these things? Where is there space for us to talk about these things? Where is the room in our theology for these things? I sometimes can’t find myself in the sex and body positive queer theology that exists because I am still not quite there yet.
Is this too, somehow, a gift? This work to unpack my feelings around my body and sexuality? This work to unlearn the shame that I have been taught? The shame that has been forced upon me? This work to push back against the shame spoken over me?
I have to work to love my skin and my scars and my body. I have to work to love my desire. I have to work to be intimate and present and naked. In this working, am I learning to love more deeply? Am I learning to be braver? Am I learning to be more vulnerable? And if I am, is this too a gift?
I think it is. I think it is. I hope that one day I will know this as a gift in the same way that I know my body as a gift. In the same way that I know my transition as a resurrection. In the same way that I know my scars as holy. This work to love and be intimate and naked and unashamed, this will be my gift.
Here are the other entries for this year’s synchroblog:
solidarity with â€œthe strangest thing in christianity” by HH Brownsmith
my body. by Oliver Pasholk
Broken Bodies and Necco WafersÂ by Peterson Toscano
When a porn star taught me how to prayÂ by Rick Stott
Sexuality & Vulnerability by Jarell Wilson
My Queer Place in the WorldÂ by Neil Ellis Orts
Ripening Of The PlumÂ a poem by Kathryn Mahan
Is My Shame a Gift?Â by Shannon TL Kearns
noli me tangereÂ a poem by Jarel Robinson