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)

a hopeless kind of reinvention

There are no homes where I am safe
from my own jawline. With every word
I highlight a sharp turn toward
a presumed masculine edge.

I twirl a tuft of hair which plumes
from my thighs, pull them taut,
then release, watch them cling
to my side as a reminder

that the Frankenstein’s monster
I want to make of myself
is at odds with the idea of a living
death, though death alone will do.

I feel as though another name
is calling from the center of my chest,
though my mind may assume that
is a joke I’ll make strangers tell me.

Running

A creek runs through Mint Hill,
through the heart of my home,
across my bedroom floor,
down the stairs,
and over the tile of our Ikea themed kitchen.

A creek runs through Mint Hill,
and the water flows with algae, crawdads,
spiders, sand,
wooden boats, baseballs,
piss, fecal matter,
and me,
and my friends,
and as we float on
we catch the sunlit eyes
of a disapproving aunt
watching as we swim by.

A creek runs through Mint Hill
and it ran red in July 
when I hopped a fence
in a single bound,
only for a picket to catch my t-shirt
and graze the small of my back

and 

these occurrences became lessons in regeneration, 
in which I taught myself
to grow a second backbone
when my sides split open
and bite my tongue
till I’ve chipped my teeth.

The creek has now dried
but I am still sopping wet.
a baby girl
baptized at birth
in boiling bathwater.

I always ran home the long way
and locked myself in time sleep
within the bedroom closet
where I forgot how to breathe.

That vacuum of that house,
on the days where I was conscious,
could seem wholly, awfully beautiful.
especially amongst the call of warblers
echoing out
from where a creek once ran through Mint Hill.