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)

Patchouli, Sage, & Melting Nuns

God has no place in this pyre,
this combustible funeral scene,
surrounded by empty, leaky sockets
from inside frozen, waxen faces.

We are crying together, aware
by some third eye or premonition
that this is the last time for forever
we will manifest as a phantom pain,

as one sobbing mass, the leftovers
of our supposed trespasses, trauma
bonded at the hip and the heart,
wholly alone; some worn-out queers

confusing obligation for fate,
reading loosely formed fortunes.

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.