Monday, October 8, 2007

Who owns my body?

I think the hardest thing about coming out (to family) right now are discussions about my being celibate. Last night I made some comment (which was not really helpful but...) about how I might as well just be neutered. It would make them feel better if I was celibate the rest of my life. (I currently am). It would make them feel better if I read the bible exactly the same way they did. But I see these things differently.

Biblically I understand everything I have, including my body, is a gift from God. I do believe I was created by God and that my body is a gift. For all those long years in attempts to neuter myself I cut my body because it was a curse. I hated anything embodied. I didn't take care of my body very well because it didn't matter. The only way for someone who doesn't have the spiritual gift of celibacy to be celibate, is for them to numb their bodies. These days I actually want to steward my body well. Coming out has helped me think maybe my body is a good part of me I can use for good.

Who owns my body? It feels like the church wants to own my body as well. Am I supposed to let "the church" force celibacy upon me even though I do not have the gift of celibacy? I've been thinking a lot about both the "Vagina Monologues" and things like the circumcision of women which causes them to not feel anything sexual at all (basically it neuters them). There is a belief that that way they won't leave their husbands (watch the V-Day DVD). There's not a lot of similarity except for the fact that they are all things things hold the question "Who owns that woman's body?"

Ultimately as a Christian, all that I am and have belongs to God. I will steward it the best I can, the most godly way I can. And it may not look the way you think it should look. Because this body is mine to steward.


Cheryl said...

I'm going to preface this by stating the obvious... I don't know you or anything about you or your family except what what I've read on this blog. However, our coming out to our religious parents seems very similar. Believe me when I say I'm not trying to tell you what to do, but to just tell you what has been effective for me. Every individual is different and family dynamics are different, so take this for what it's worth.

You are 34 years old. You are not 4 and learning about right and wrong. You are not 6 and learning how to share. You are not 8 and learning about more your place in the social order. You are not 12 and learning about values. You are not 16 and learning about complex relationships.

You are a grown woman. Your parents probably still see you at all of these other ages and treat you accordingly at times, still trying to influence the outcome of your life. You see yourself at those ages when they treat you that way, and you are now reacting with the will of an adult to force yourself into a childlike desire of wanting to please them...even at the expense of your own identity.

There is nothing wrong with wanting parental approval, but not at the cost of living your own life, making your own decisions, making your own mistakes, having your own victories, feeling your own feelings. They've had their chance to live their lives, and now they need to let go. If they won't do it voluntarily, it's up to you to break the strings.

I had to become my parents' DAUGHTER, and stop being my parents' CHILD. I firmly believe that they believed everything they taught me about morals and values and right and wrong are still guiding me to this day, but decisions of faith and religion that they tried to impose on me are of no value to me nor them. If your convictions about how you should live arise from within you, then God will give you the strength and grace to see it through, and you will have peace about it. If it is not within you, then you will only resent them and be miserable with yourself in the process.

Asserting yourself as an individual who goes against the parental grain is an EXTREMELY hard thing to do, but if these convictions aren't yours, why would you want to live someone else's life? You only get one shot at it.

Again, I'm not trying to tell you what to do, but to just say, I know where you are, and how the breaking away felt (and still feels sometimes), but it's the only way to become an individual adult.

My parents and I have a good relationship now, but when they were trying to force me into their idea of who I should be and how I should live, it was quite tumultuous. I finally said, "Listen, I know the Bible as well as you do. We just believe it and live it out in different ways. All your 'preaching to me' is doing is pushing me further away from you. It is not making me closer to God. God and I are fine. Let's agree that neither of us have ALL the answers about God, and then we can have a relationship. But if you keep thowing hell in my face, I will avoid you at all cost." It was the scariest talk I ever had with them, and it wasn't in anger, but I was firm. Our relationship has been much more "adult" since least in regards to this. I still have to call them when I get back home after visiting them. :)

I say all of this in relation to this post because of your first paragraph, and because it doesn't sound like you want to be celibate. You want to feel things in the natural way that you're inclined to feel them... read again, NATURAL, for you, and for me, and for millions of us. Just because we don't fit the majority, doesn't make it unnatural.

You nailed it when you said, your body is yours to steward, and it is "owned" by God. What you do from now own with it, is between you and Him. Period.

just me - titration said...

Thank you for your thoughts.

Zuzu said...

I loved this post. On the verge of meeting Zoe (okay... still three months away) I think... "who owns her body?" And at first I think, "well I do, of course" - but then I chuckle, because I don't mean that.

And I think, "what will I do if Zoe tells me that she's a lesbian?" And I think, "I will love her and help her find support." And I chuckle again, because I would have a MUCH harder time accepting her if she told me she were a conservative/Republican In truth, I'd at least secretly want to change her, but I certainly couldn't usher forward a litany of resources to help her along her way into that community. And my feelings about that must give me pause. I would certainly "wish" her to just be politically celibate in that moment.

Eventually, I'd have to learn to let go and realize that it does no good to judge her, impose my will or values on her and that she will rush toward her potential with my support even when it's hard and in conflict to offer it. I'm not saying that would be easy for me - but I'm saying I'd find the strength to support her because it's the right thing to do - even if I didn't wholly understand her choices (or even agree with them.)

If you were working with me, and I were a client, and Zoe told me she was conservative/Republican and I was having a difficult time accepting and supporting her - how would you counsel me?


just me - titration said...

If I were working with you as a client and Zoe told you she was conservative/Republican and you were having a difficult time accepting and supporting her - how would I counsel you?

1) Listen a lot try to understand the roots of it and why this particular thing is difficult. Ask what's hardest, ask what's a resource in the midst of it.

2) Talk through stages of grief (which are applicable for all types of things one had to accept).

3) If you were super upset about it give you homework that helped you learn how to soothe yourself, not panic, and notice when you were getting upset so you could calm yourself.

4) Give you reading materials (not for the purpose of changing your mind) but for the purpose of you understanding your daughter.

5) Tell you (like everyone has told me) that it takes a lot of time and this is something where you are in ______ stage of grief but there are other stages.

6) Look for the areas where you and zoe had things in common. I've heard in a marriage you need four or five positive moments to make up for each negative or particularly hard moment. (not sure if this is true but...) I'd have you look for the positive moments.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say AMEN, sister.


Anonymous said...

This post got me thinking! My partner and I frequently tell eachother "Your body, your decision." It works in regards to lots of things (some joking, some serious) like when he really needs to get his hair cut but I can't make him, or when we discuss having children. It was revolutionary for me in some ways to be in a relationship where this was a given.

When I first started dating, not so long ago, I found (especially with women, interestingly) that I needed to hand my body over to the person I was with. It was not that I wanted them to like me and felt I had to do whatever they asked; I think it had more to do with me not really knowing my body in a sexual way, not knowing the "right things" to do in an intimate physical relationship, so letting the other person take the lead. I didn't want to expose my ignorance I guess.

Now, I don't feel that I was taken advantage of or violated. I did set boundaries when I felt they were necessary, but somehow, after reading your post, I kept thinking "I used to think J owned my body!" It's liberating to be in a relationship now where that is not the expectation at all.

It's all very interesting to me. I'll keep thinking on it.

just me - titration said...

Anonymous great thoughts! I love that line you use "your body your decision". Do keep thinking... Thanks for the visit.