Friday, May 11, 2007

The cost of staying in a straight christian community

So if you've been reading this you know that I am 34 and kissed someone (a girl) for the first time and loved it. From that you can imagine how self disciplined I am and how boundried my relationships have been. Of course a huge part of this has been how I was raised and the type of people (The Evangelical Community) I've been around.

This morning I was drinking coffee, reading Kathleen Norris Amazing Grace and journaling. I read one sentence in her book about the cost of perfectionism and some wire was tripped in me. I felt this overwhelming intensity of emotion. I think it was grief or release. I didn't cry, but I felt like at any moment I might sob in that way where you nearly throw up. Why?

This weekend for the first time I got to touch someone's face and hold their hand and it was welcomed. She wanted me to. This is radical. There is no way I can express how revolutionary this is to me.

I realize people who haven't been as self disciplined as me, or who haven't grown up in this conservative christian culture might find this baffling, but freedom to just hold someone's hand is rocking my world right now.

There are so many boundries I've lived with all my life because of who I was spending time with. I couldn't hold the hand of any of the woman I had a crush on unless we were praying or in church or something. Well I could, but they would have pushed me away (relationally not literally) and I kept choosing to keep relationship over everything else.

This choice to now spend time with women who want me to kiss them or hold their hand is having a huge impact on my view of myself. And I really am just talking little things like being able to reach out and take someone's hand without fear.

It all makes me curious about my cutting and self hate and it's interaction with living all my life thus far where my affection was unwanted and in some cases even repulsive. There is something about having my touch not being seen as repulsive that has caused me to feel like I am less repulsive in general!

The cost of my staying in a straight christian community may have been self hate. Not entirely but in this regard for sure. It's not that all those people aren't amazing and wonderful. It's just that like Zuzu said when I started this journey it was similar to someone who is straight only hanging out with gay people. Or as I also heard recently like looking for flowers at a meat market.


Anonymous said...

I don't know how this relates (yet) but here goes:

I, too, was very disciplined in terms of relationships (partly because no one wanted me, partly because I was scared to put myself out there). I was very concerned about relationships "meaning" something, and I didn't want to do anything that was simply casual. I still feel that way, don't get me wrong, but after my first kiss (also with a woman, for me at age 29) I realized that it could just be fun and pleasurable and exciting. I think that was something I was taught not to enjoy unless it had a purpose.

My second relationship was with a man, and it was crazy...GOOD crazy. Our first night out I realized (afterward) that if I hadn't had my period I probably would have slept with him. That scared me to death. Here I was, a 29 year old virgin who had only kissed one other person, who had NO experience with relationships whatsoever, who had "values" and was not planning on sex before marriage (or at least not until I REALLY knew the person--and this was only the third time I'd met the guy!) and yet the physicality felt so good, so right, so necessary. I felt attractive and wanted and desired and all of that was such a nice change. I didn't sleep with him (that night or later) but I like to believe that I would have been gentle with myself if I had decided to.

Physicality (at whatever level) is this weird thing in evangelical Christian contexts. It's like it's supposed to be good, but only in very controlled situations. (I think groups like Promise Keepers, for instance, try to get men to be more emotionally vulenrable with eachother, and I see them hugging alot, etc).

Judith Butler, one of the big-wigs in the field of queer theory, and specifically transgender stuff, talks about the difference between seeing a drag queen on stage and sitting next to a drag queen on the bus. The one is rather acceptable, but the other is pretty uncomfortable to many people. It's similiar, to me, that touching is ok in prayer, but not outside of that.

I don't know where to go with this. It's just that I think the church needs to start valuing the body more. "Christendom" dismissed gnosticism because we didn't want to say the body was bad, but we haven't really embraced the opposite. Touch is important...think of how many people Jesus healed through touch.

My partner and I are in therapy together. Recently we were talking about my need to be reassured that I am a priority in his life. I struggle with the fact that his saying "you'll always be first with me" doesn't always convince me (not because he has a bad track record or anything, just because of my old stuff). We concluded with our therapist that being held helped me more than hearing words.

Enough for now???

just me said...

Wow. Thanks! I have heard this from you before :) but this for some reason was even more of a thought provoking word. You said, "the physicality felt so good" and that reminded me that in my pastor's sermon Sunday he lambasted against when people sometimes say "how could it be bad if it feels so good". I was sitting in church next to "y". And what I think these days is there is wisdom in this AND their is also a good deal of horror in it. This is what causes people like me to stay away from all physicality for far too long which negatively impacted me.

Anonymous said...

I have been a lurker, but wanted to say, Congratulations - this process of self-discovery is amazing, isn't it?

Peace and grace to you -

just me said...

hi lurker. :) thanks and welcome.

just me said...

O and yes it is amazing! I had no idea it would actually be good! My fears thus far are pretty much unfounded. :)

Zuzu said...

If the cost is self hatred, the price is way too high. (and I didn't really get that bit about the drag queen on stage or next to you on a bus, which one was supposed to make us feel less comfortable? Personally, I'd love the chat on the bus but i don't understand why seeing a performer would make me squeamish...)

Anonymous said...

This is a tough one...It feels good for me to eat lots and lots of bacon cheesburgers and frosties from Wendy's, but that certainly doesn't make it good for me!

Do you think there's any truth to the church wanting to control sexuality (more than other things, like eating) because it doesn't know how to deal with the consequences? The church doesn't want unwanted pregnancies that end in divorce, but also doesn't know how to support lots of single parents (emotionally, physically, spiritually) so it's easier to just draw the line farther out? I haven't researched this at all; I'm just thinking out loud.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zuzu...
Other way around. Butler writes that most people would be ok seeing a drag performance (because it has very clear boundaries and a guise of "acting") but the same people would be freaked out if they were sitting on a bus and a drag queen sat down next to them. Something about THAT is just too freaky for many people, because it's not seen as an act, it's not clear how you're supposed to address the person, etc.

This is some of the stuff on which Butler builds her ideas of gender being performance.

I was thinking of this in the context of the comment on prayer. The Church would have no problem with two men holding hands if they were praying's a performance (of sorts) and fits into expected behavior patterns. But, if those same two men walked out of the sanctuary holding hands, it would be received quite differently.

just me said...

The Church would have no problem with two men holding hands if they were praying's a performance (of sorts)...

Now that's a provocative comment. :) dig it. So much of church feels like performance sometimes.

Zuzu said...


I have a friend who once or twice a year goes away with a group of women friends. They leave their husbands behind and rent a vacation rental home on the coast for long weekends, give each other facials, manicures, drink wine and talk into the small hours of the morning, stroll on the beach and hike the trails. They've been doing this for over a decade. Year before last,one of the women told the rest of the women that she used to be man. Sitting next to you on a bus, all anyone would have thought is that she is an extremely attractive woman. She has a husband, a house, a wonderful community and you just wouldn't know. She wouldn't call herself a "drag queen."

A drag queen is likely going to be to the nines, dramatic and more likely than not an entertainer. Most of the drag queens that I know, sitting next to you on the bus, on their way to their day job, might well be in a suit and tie and the only possible tell tale sign might be a shapely brow.

If anyone dressed like Cinderella (man or woman) sat next to me on the bus, I'd feel uncomfortable and a little freaked out. But that's just who I am. Cinderella freaks me out.

it falls apart a little for me here.. that "gender" is "performance" when you're specifically referring to "performers." I think many (most?) transgendered people would say that they feel like they get to STOP the performance when are most being "themselves" - which is not the sex they were assigned. So I guess the question is, is an F2M 'acting' like a man when he's dressed and represents himself as a man OR is he 'acting' like a woman when he's dressed as a woman and when would you say that an F2M is simply being themself with no performance involved at all?

indigo said...

Wow hey you go grrl, with the kissing and all! -Indigomonkey