TranScriptures: The Body as a Temple (Where Dysphoria and Dysmorphia Intersect)

CW: explicit details of eating disorders and gender dysphoria

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The first time I purged I was living alone (off the Gates Avenue stop on the J train in Bushwick, Brooklyn). I lived on the fourth floor, in a furnished bedroom with a window facing Bed-Stuy. It started as extreme binging, where I would consume enough food that the only option afterwards was to vomit. The taste of ginger ale, sesame chicken, and bile is still fresh in my palette all these years later.

The last time I purged was this morning.

I am seeking help from mental health professionals and am in a safe environment. However, I find myself at a divide, a place where my eating disorder often lands me. I am at the center of warring identities, as I began formal transition in late October 2020, after coming out a little less than a year prior. As I wrestle with this, I also contend with the fact that I have gained a great bit of weight during quarantine, and with that have awakened dormant feelings of self-directed fatphobia. Therefor, there is not a single aspect of my physical form that I am contented with. It is all a “work in progress”, decidedly dysphoric and dysmorphic in nature. I feel on all levels like an unfinished project, a highway that is always under construction. Spiritually, it is a temple needing maintenance.

It is worth noting that the phrase referring to your body as “a temple” in the Bible is another Paulism. He is using this metaphor to convince believers in Corinth to not engage in sexual deviancy (of which Paul is, suspiciously, a consistent critic). However, in this same verse he highlights that we “are not our own”. We are part of God, and every part of God houses the Holy Spirit. There is something to be gleaned from this, as thinking of my body as part of a larger whole does some healing. Thinking outside of yourself can be a way toward indirect self-love.

It is always worth noting that my temple is that of a queer woman, it is overweight, it is an addict, and it is loved. In small ways, that will in all hope become grander, I am reopening my temple. Bulimia arrives when control feels impossible. Perhaps the knowledge that we are life experiencing humanity (and not the other way around) may be enough to help me better trust myself again. Maybe not, but I’m happy to still be here to posit the possibility.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
– 1 Corinthians 6:19 (King James Version)

TranScriptures: Waiting to Begin (in Life and Death)

Once when I was in high school, my class was assigned a project wherein we had to plan our own funerals. We needed to decide what we would be remembered for, how our eulogy would be delivered, and what song would be played in the background (presumably over a slideshow of us brimming with potential life). I don’t remember what class this was for, or why it was assigned, but I got really into it. Especially in regards to my song choice, which was “Awaiting You” from the song cycle* Myths and Hymns by Adam Guettel (performed immaculately by Billy Porter). It is a heart wrenching plea for God to make himself known, for Him to return to man and care for him. However, God does not come, and the actor is left assuring God that he will “still be standing here awaiting you”.

Paired with this selection, I had a whole sermon written talking about Habakkuk, the minor prophet (whose book is a scant three chapters long). This book, at least in some regard, is about waiting as well. The waiting that we feel as mortals whose lives are short, though our suffering may be long. Habakkuk is unique in the way he openly questions the workings of God upon the world. Young me, still very closeted, was struck by these passages. Even though the doubt expressed is eventually replaced by fervent faith, this book leaves room for those who question the Lord in his kingdom.

I believe that the Christian God is one that actually likes it when we mess with what’s perceived as the world’s order, or at the very least challenge it. In the context of a funeral, I was trying to find a way in which my own doubting self could be redeemed. In truth, however, it is by doubt and rebellion that the greatest stories of faith are told. Is the prodigal son loved in spite of his defiance or because of it? We as queer people are told that we are “unnatural” (despite scientific evidence proving otherwise). Still, even if that were true, I believe that the building of a trans identity can be innately spiritual work. The importance of Habakkuk, of “Awaiting You”, is not the waiting itself. It is in the questioning we are realized, as our being then becomes a collaboration with the divine.

Oh Lord, how long shall I cry and You will not hear?
– Habakkuk 1:2 (NKJV)

NOTE: Thank you all for your responses to this project! Though I am still deciding on how I want this work to evolve, I thought I’d start with a subject that was already near and dear to my heart. I would love to hear your thoughts and criticism. Much love to you and your community, wherever it may be.

*A song cycle is, in musical theater, your standard musical performance without the burden of “plot” or “character development”.

TranScriptures: Queer Devotionals from an ex-Christian (Overview)

In The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, we are given many key directives to breaking our old habits and reaching a new freedom. I have read Ruiz’s seminal work several times now, as a way to center myself in self-destructive moments (I highly recommend the audio version narrated by Peter Coyote). Amidst extreme personal and national upheaval, it was the emphasis took when referring to forgiving all who have wronged us, especially God, that caught my attention in my most recent read. According to Ruiz, “Once you forgive God, you can finally forgive yourself (The Toltec Path to Freedom, pg 123).

I have an obsession with faith, thanks to a near-literalist Judeo-Christian upbringing. By the time I was in eighth grade, I had read the Bible front to back multiple times. I credit it as my inspiration to start writing poetry, as I found so much of its imagery profoundly beautiful. However, as a closeted queer, the Word is also a source of deep shame, a work that has been used to justify the dehumanization of my people. As a hopeful, one-day preacher, those who claimed to speak the Word’s truth would often instill in me harmful interpretations of scripture. I learned to conceal my queerness quite effectively, until I could do so no longer, so I moved to New York City for college. I ran as far away from the conservative Christian bubble of my formative years as I could, finding comfort in the works of the aforementioned Don Miguel Ruiz, Kate Bornstein, Laura Jane Grace, etc. Queer theory consumed me wholly, eastern philosophy as well. Many winding paths later, through addiction and mental illness, I came to the realization of my own transness, and with that the dysphoria long buried by religious zealotry.

Still, in all this time, I have maintained a love for the book, The Holy Bible. I love the contradictions. I know there are hang ups about Christianity I still have, which prevent me from fully living my realized life as an out trans person.

So then, welcome to my attempt at making sense of my obsessions, my attempt at forgiving God using His own word. Though my belief in Him has faded, His presence in my life remains. He is the voice that makes me feel foolish for attempting to transition, that keeps me worried about passing, that convinces me that those who use she/her pronouns with me are only doing so as a joke.

I need to get right with God, just not in the way many Christians have told me to. I hope that these weekly updates on my journey back through the good book find you well, dear reader. There is a case out there for a queer-friendly Christ, and I hope I can help you find Him. Or, at the very least, I hope we can find a way to move past the botched translations which harm our queer bodies to this day. We can forgive Him, never forget, then move on together.

Citations

Ruiz, M. (2011). The four agreements: A practical guide to personal freedom. Amber-Allen Pub.