Category Archives: What others say
I come across a mental barrier in my exploration of gender. Namely, that when I ask myself “how about exploring masculinity?” my brain comes back with “what masculinity?” and throws up a handful of examples of toxic instances of masculinity I do not even wish to touch. Yet, this is the road I see before me, to pick up elements of masculinity to see if they suit.
Riley J. Dennis mentions in her “Everyday Feminism” series* that the word ‘gender’ comes from the same root as ‘genre’. This was a productive thought for me, one that I brought me a little further in this dilemma. Genres, after all, have some characteristics that would be well-suited to helping me understand genders as non-binary:
- They are distinct, but not mutually exclusive
- They are based on, but not limited to, a set of tropes
- They are suited to telling, and classifying, particular stories or experiences
- New ones may be introduced
- Existing ones often evolve
- These categories are constructed for the market, the classroom and to talk about sets of stories
- They can be subverted or critiqued
- They have gatekeepers
If masculinity, or rather masculinities, is a genre with a set of subgenres, then one may be found that I am comfortable exploring and it would add to, rather than contradict, the rest of my sense of gender. However, I think about gender as genre and complications immediately come to mind:
- Stories often present a rigid binary
- Essentialism prevails
- Classifications are prescriptive, not descriptive of lived experiences
- Modern masculinities seem not to exist, in stories
- Existing masculinities do not seem allowed to evolve
- Gender is presented as ‘natural’ and conflated with biological sex
- Any subversion or critique is met with hostility and violence
- Online, the alt-right is setting itself up as the one true gatekeeper
Note that the above describe my personal experience through the lens of this particular conceit, not fact. But I do believe it is sufficient to illustrate a trend. One that I find singularly counterproductive, dammit.
The irony is that I have started to see surprisingly parallels between what’s prescribed for ‘woman’ and ‘man’, among self-proclaimed defenders of binary gender roles, especially that of ‘man’. It’s perhaps most easily illustrated by their attitude towards sexuality. The campaign for control over women’s bodies is matched by a campaign for control over men’s bodies by other men. Centred on forbidding masturbation and forcing sexual conquest, rather than forcing reproduction and forbidding sexual activity. Hatred of the other, whether that’s women, queer persons, persons of other countries or religions, is matched by self-hatred.
Can you see the inversion of the great commandment (love others as you love yourself), or the golden rule, if you will?
This leaves me hesitant to even enter that politicised poisoned mental minefield.
Feminist thought isn’t much help, since it seems more concerned with circumscribing traditional masculinity than proposing a new masculinity.
Neither does circumspectly asking men what being a good man is like, since the answer often boils down to “I grew up and became less of an impulsive idiot.” A surprising problem with straight, white men (which all of the ones I can ask are) being the default is that they regard their lived experience as just that of people, not men. Which means it doesn’t tell me much about where their stories may be distinct.
So here I am, the trailing end of the spectrum of my gender in hand, unexplored territory ahead of me, with no good map for guidance. I cannot leave these thoughts alone because I have first-hand stake in this now, even if it’s only with a part of myself, even if it’s new, even if it’s small and secret and private.
So I keep asking, what masculinity?
*I do not remember the particular video, but it’s an educational series: https://everydayfeminism.com/author/rileyd/
I, Queer Parent
“A small percentage of homosexuality is beneficial to the survival of a species, especially those that live in groups,” a tour guide at the Artis Zoo tells our group during Pride Week of 2015. “A same-sex pair will adopt abandoned young, or collaborate with the rest of the herd to raise young together.”
It takes me three years after that moment to accept I can be demisexual, queer, probably single and still want and have children.
The dream of finding a (male) partner and having children, is the heterosexual lie that I hold most dear. I mourn its loss when I realise I don’t want sex. I mourn it when my relationship strands. I mourn when I grow to accept I want a platonic partner, gender irrelevant. I mourn when I realise I don’t want my womb open for business.
I meet a single woman who will be a foster parent. I have a pair of friends who choose to adopt due to genetic conditions. I have family who decide to be resource parents for struggling single-parent families. Still the denial wanes only gradually.
Yes I’m queer, but I can want children, I finally accept.
Here’s the evolved plan I hold in my heart: I would like to adopt or have children within the next decade. I may coparent with a romantic or queer-platonic partner. I may coparent with friends. Now I have to look into how to do that.
The Rainbow Accords
Holland has held nuclear families up as the ideal since the 17th century. The last decade has seen some queering of the idea. A lot of parents choose to remain unmarried, living together has become the standard. Some women simply choose to have children on their own without a partner. Any civil partner or spouse of a birth mother may now register the child and their legal parenthood. Genetic parenthood and legal parenthood have thus started to diverge more and custody started to be more complicated.
While first steps have been made, the need for a comprehensive reform of parenthood has become more clear. This came to be known as multi-parenthood (meerouderschap) since one of the core demands is more than two people could be legal parents. Several years’ research into multi- parenthood (meerouderschap) was handed in to the government in 2016 and has yet to be made into a law (meerouderschapswet).
The Dutch LGBT centres have started organising Pink Debates before elections in the last few years, both national and local. After those, political parties sign what’s known as Pink Accords or Rainbow Accords, in which they promise to look out for queer rights. Among that is the promise to make the new parenthood law happen.
I find myself coming back to the initiative. I rather need parenthood to be redefined. Like everything my asexuality touches, being a parent seems to need thorough deconstruction in order to work for me.
Current scenarios for legal parenthood and custody, when having a biological child. I have chosen to reflect the cisnormative language used, but do not agree with it. Note a father may only recognise an unborn child and be acknowledged as father with permission of the mother.
Only a birth mother who’s the legal parent. There is a donor who has no custody and may be a legal parent or anonymous.
Two mothers, married or civil partners. The birth mother is a legal parent and has custody. The other mother may have custody, then the father is a known donor who is the legal parent. The other mother may be a legal parent and have custody, then the father is an anonymous donor.
Only a birth mother and a father, not necessarily spouses. The mother is legal parent and has custody. The father is a legal parent and may request joint custody when the child is born.
Two mothers, married or civil partners, and a father. The birth mother is a legal parent and has custody. The father may recognise a child before birth and become the legal parent and may or may not request joint custody after birth. The father may also recognise the child after birth and the two mothers will then have joint custody.
Two mothers, married or civil partners, and two fathers, married or civil partners. The birth mother is a legal parent and has custody. One father recognises the child before birth and may or may not request joint custody. One father recognises the child after birth and becomes the legal parent, but custody is awarded to both mothers.
Two fathers, married or civil partners, and a birth mother. The birth mother is a legal parent and has custody. One father recognises the child before birth and may or may not request joint custody.
Important to note here is that awarding custody to other parents is HARD if two legal parents exist.
I found the above very interesting because a) it heavily protects birth mothers and so with the current law it’d be far easier for me to actually have children naturally and b) it is heavily biased towards either heterosexual or married homosexual couples. This seems especially useless when it comes to asexual persons who wish to have children. The ability for two or more people of any gender and any relationship status to coparent would be crucial. These are heavily restrictive scenarios, especially for persons without wombs.
The state committee for redefining parenthood (Staatscommissie Herijking Ouderschap) advised the national government that having more (than two) legal parents (meerouderschap) and more (than two) people who have custody (meeroudergezag) benefits the child and ought to be made law on December 2016. They make recommendations based on the Convention of the Rights of the Child and seven principles they set out for good parenthood:
an unconditional personal commitment (een onvoorwaardelijk persoonlijk commitment)
continuity in the parental relationship (continuiteit in the opvoedingsrelatie)
arrangement of and investment in physical wellbeing (verzorging en zorg voor lichamelijk welzijn)
raising of a self-sufficient participant in community and society (opvoeding tot zelfstandigheid in sociale en maatschappelijke participatie)
organising and monitoring the upbringing in the family, the school and the public domain (the three spheres of influence) (het organisering en monitoren van de opvoeding in het gezin, de school en het publiek domein (de drie opvoedingsmilieus)
the formation of a heritage/ethnic identity (de vorming van de afstammingsidentiteit)
facilitating contact and socialisation with persons important to the child, including another parent (de zorg voor contact- en omgangsmogelijkheiden van voor het kind belangrijke personen, onder wie de andere ouder)
The recommendations the committee made for queer parenting, paraphrased:
Let the biological relationship between a parent and child weigh as heavily as the intention to raise the child in awarding responsibility.
Remove the demand for a father-is-unknown declaration when two mothers wish to be a child’s legal parents.
Replace “recognising” a child with “accepting (legal) parenthood” of a child.
In the case of more (than two) legal parents:
the candidate parents need to agree about legal parenthood, so the arrangement is not accessible to people who can’t agree on who plays what role in a child’s life.
The candidate parents need to make an agreement about having more than two legal parents before conception.
This arrangement will be accessible to at most four parents from at most two households.
This arrangement will be accessible to the birth mother, genetic parents and life partners of these persons.
The candidate parents make an agreement which will be seen by a judge, each child will require a separate agreement that must go before the judge.
The judge will appoint a curator who will speak for the future child and monitor its rights.
The legal framework for the multi-parenthood agreement (meaning all legal documents) need to be arranged before the child’s birth. Otherwise adoption is the only way.
Enable a wish to become a legal parent between unmarried parents to be made known before birth so that joint custody will be awarded to all legal parents at birth.
When a legal framework is in place, it also specifies custody among the legal parents, in the case of more than two parents. If not, custody may later be requested and a judge can see if the requirements for multiple parents have been satisfied.
Make partial custody possible for foster parents and step parents.
Make multiple parent agreements possible after the birth of a child, when more adults wish to be responsible for the care of a child, keeping the requirements for having multiple legal parents in mind.
Out of all the recommendations the committee makes that are relevant to queer parenting, I find the very last to be the most relevant. It alludes to an arrangement already possible in California, where one may adopt a child without giving the child up for adoption. This, I think, would be the avenue that would allow one or more asexual persons who wish to coparent to step into that role.
Having gone through the information and translating parts of it, I find it important to 1) know what parenthood entails and 2) be able to coparent. Knowing the current law I am very tempted to have biological children rather than adopt simply because it seems easier. However, I feel uneasy at the idea of pregnancy so I think I’d like to look into adoption further before moving that option from the top of my list.
I also recognise how very gendered the law is, the current one but even the recommendations for the revised one. Last year, a person was awarded a passport with X for sex/gender rather than M or V (for female), after a lawsuit. The law for this is still under revision, but… I’m thinking that’s something that should play a role in a parenthood law, if it’s truly meant to give queer parents equal rights… that non-binary persons be recognised, and not shoved into the role of either mother or father but be able to be just a parent. We did just sign a law that makes discrimination against transgender and intersex persons illegal. I do like that the revisions at least would make it possible for two gay fathers to have custody without adoption, which the current law does not allow.
Sources (All in Dutch)
Meerouderschap factsheet: https://pilpnjcm.nl/meerouderschap-een-juridische-factsheet/#_ftn2
Regenboog stembusakkoord: https://www.rainbowvote.nu/
When I entered the asexual community back in 2015, a specific polyamorous scenario was touted as THE way some of us asexuals could be in relationships. Namely, that we ought to let our partner have sex with someone else while they remained otherwise true to us. At the time, this just squicked me, even though some beautiful webcomics existed exploring this scenario. Now, I can see the harmful assumptions packed into it that turned me off:
1) If you aren’t asexual, you need to have sex. Never mind that many heterosexual and queer partners don’t have sex with each other for extended periods of time.
2) Sexual attraction is mandatory for having sex. I think we’ve since come to realise there are many more motivations and rewards in this act.
3) Asexuals are always interested in relationships. Some are, some aren’t.
4) As asexual, you aren’t allowed to negotiate boundaries for sexual exclusivity or be monogamous. I believe partners must be equals in a relationship.
5) Polyamory is asexuals indulging their partners’ needs for sex, rather than people loving and having relationships with mutiple partners. Something asexuals must undergo, rather than something we potentially are.
I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I see jangling around in this scenario.
I don’t see that scenario floating around anymore now and I’m glad of it. I wanted to take one look back at it, before considering what actual, healthy relationships for asexuals might look like in the future. It stuck with me through the years as an example of how we might hobble ourselves right out of the gate.
TW: discussion of rationalisations behind queerphobia.
This post is a late submission to April’s Carnival of Aces hosted by luvtheheaven. Its theme is the 5 Love Languages, a concept authored by a Big Name Evangelical that’s crossed over into mainstream pop psychology. As a queer Christian I have much to say on it. Before diving into how I express love, I wanted to introduce how faith has influenced my idea of love, how this translates to a queer perspective. And in the next post, how I my being queer has influenced my view of what may be expressed through the 5 love languages.
Agapè and Eros and Storge and Philia
What love is meant to be expressed in the 5 love languages? The American-evangelical discourse on Christian life and love influences christian communities worldwide. Its conception of love is based on the Gospels, Acts and the Apostle Paul’s letters, which are themselves heavily influenced by Greek philosophy. The most common form of love often called platonic love in English, for God, for friends, for family but even when you have deep rapport with a stranger, acquaintance or enemy. According to C.S. Lewis these may be split into ‘storge’, the love you share based on belonging and familiarity and ‘philia’, the love you choose and cultivate such as for friends. The other two forms are ‘eros’, an amalgam of sexual and romantic love, and ‘agapè’ or charity, compassion or care you may cultivate by doing good or thinking well of others, but also the general love you may have for humanity or the planet as an activist or environmentalist. This is also the love God has for humans. The 5 love languages focuses on expressing affection for specific people: storge, philia and eros.
Christian Love Queered
How do these types of love translate to a queer perspective? Most Christians (that I’ve met) would say the core of their religion isn’t any organisation, or a holy text, a law or a doctrine. It’s a relationship. An exclusive relationship between a consenting human follower and an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. All human-to-human relationships are meant to be reflections of this central relationship.
Some key features are:
Communal and individual: in human-to-God relationships the person-to-God relationship is almost interchangable with the community-to-God relationship. This is alien to and overlooked in Western culture. It means one’s love for and investment in community (friend group, family, team) is equally as important as one’s love for specific people. And that as community you can love a person (co-parenting! safe spaces!).
Consensual: an all-powerful God lets humans decide whether to enter into a relationship with Him, in which salvation is freely offered, not earned by good deeds. As such, relationships and acts of affection between humans should also be offered and accepted freely. It should also mean no one is barred from following God, regardless of their life. Logically meaning that whether being queer is a sin or not isn’t just a distasteful question, but an irrelevant one.
Equal: each human is loved by God. Each Christian’s first allegiance is to God, not spouse, family or leader. These two combined mean all humans should be treated as valuable and all humans have an authority higher than any human to which they may appeal. So, for example, a woman is not her husband’s property, but both are followers of God, should they invite his blessing over their relationship. Meaning Christians can often be found in equal rights movements, even when they have a reputation for being conservative in the Western world.
Amatonormative: since the highest form of love is human-to-God, all love between humans is potentially a good reflection of that. This does not hold true in communities that hold up marriage – and thus eros – as closest to the love between God and humans. This is why conservative media will style itself family- or marriage-focused, to express their (hetero-)amatonormativity. Such individualistic churches often skip agape, obsess over eros (in dos and don’ts) and rank philia and storge as less important.
Monogamous: the demand that one worship God and only God translates to a strong preference for monogamy within Christian communities. How strictly this is enforced within and without the community depends on whether loving people as they are is considered more important than how people love one another. This is reflected in the emphasis on exclusive long-term relationships between same-sex partners whenever acceptance of queer people in religious communities comes up.
Cis/heteronormative: whether queer people are accepted depends on whether they are thought to be loved and accepted by God. If one considers God’s love to be unconditional and people’s deeds less important, then the Christian (community) is likely to be very inclusive. If God is considered harsh; if certain behaviour or identities are considered to constitute a rejection of God, then the Christian (community) will reject those people.
Personally, the love I consider good based on my faith is equal, consensual and with a more communal focus than commonly found in the Western world.
I would be monogamous towards my partner, but mostly because that fits how I love, I’d hesitate to say others should be as well. I have found my love towards friends and family, philia and storge, to be truer reflections of God’s love for humans than what I felt when I dated, a chaste incarnation of eros.
I hate the near-obsession with marriage and ‘family focus’ I find in my current church. I consider churches that exclude queer people wrong because I very much believe God’s love to be unconditional.
Once again, please consider this a personal account. I do not pretend to speak for over a billion Christians, and I cannot cover the variety of encounters queer people have had with Christian communities. If you wish to share your experiences, I’d love to hear about it. I hope I’ve given you some insight into how my world view may differ from yours. Coming up, the 5 love languages!
Featured image from unsplash.
Well slap me silly, I was not expecting representation.
(Blank space to avoid spoilers in people’s preview)
(Hopefully it’s enough)
I saw Captain Marvel. I was most pleasantly surprised by a boldly portrayed queer-platonic partnership. Between two women. From the Air Force. Coparenting. In the early nineties. Sexuality not disclosed (and frankly, irrelevant to the emotional depth of their relationship as seen on-screen).
I’ve seen some reviews now, some took the “best friend” at face value. A few (queer women) argued they were totally lesbians and that that had been relegated to the subtext because of the American military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule back then in-story. And for the sake of the Chinese market on a meta level.
That they desexualised the relationship.
I believe it.
Here’s the thing: what they ended up with as text on-screen was still an intimate, years-long relationship with two adults who considered each other family, sharing their daily life, holidays and who were effectively raising a child together. I.e. even without sex or romance, still a partnership as deep as any marriage.
A queer-platonic partnership.
Complete with the erasure of being able to only grieve for “her best friend” after, for Maria.
I don’t think it was intentional. I don’t care. In fact, I consider it poetic justice that in probably trying to downplay a homosexual relationship, they ended up serving us another slice of the queer cake.
It took my breath away. I think I may go back for seconds.
Often, listening to the evening news leaves me melancholy. Now, I’m bouncing in my seat while I write about not one but two news items, on HIV/AIDS and transgender rights. Go figure. I really wanted to share them, so here goes.
A Dutch doctor has been involved in a stemcel treatment for people with both HIV and blood cancer, in the UK. The downside is you need to have both for this treatment to work, it’s not a cure for HIV/AIDS in general. The upside is that this marks the second and third people with HIV to be cured, changing the first patient from an anomaly into a breakthrough and starting the countdown… literally. The AIDS monument in Amsterdam’s counting down to an elimination of the disease by 2030. Cheers. If that isn’t motivation for HIV/AIDS awareness and campaigning for decent healthcare, I don’t know what is.
The Dutch First Chamber (indirectly chosen through provincial elections, parallel to House of Lords) has been debating a proposal to forbid discrimination against transgender or non-binary people explicitly. That amendment to the law would also include intersex folks. While gender is already mentioned as a factor on which you may not discriminate, this has proven insufficient in protecting those outside of the male/female binary. Since only two parties were mentioned as adamantly opposing it – the most conservative of the three Christian parties and the far-right populists – I am hopeful it will pass. To be clear, proposals for laws pass through Second Chamber, First Chamber and then only have to be signed by the King, so it’s pretty far along.
And since I’m a language nerd so I like words, I thought others might also like to know: Dutch leans firmly in the direction of borrowing the words gender and transgender from English, if you’re wondering how to talk to this. Firmly enough that in pronounciation the English “g” has been replaced with a Dutch gargle-rocks-in-your-throat “g”.
- “Genezing HIV blijkt mogelijk, betekent dat het eind van de ziekte?” has the picture of the AIDS monument counting down to 2030.
- “Has a second person with HIV been cured?” in Science magazine.
- “We halen niet voor de lol ons geslachtsdeel eraf” News around the proposed change to the General law for equal treatment (Awgb) is mostly focused on personal stories from activists, with sidebars explaining it’s going to protect about 100,000 people in Holland and is expected to pass as easily in the First Chamber of Parliament as it did in the Second Chamber. Trigger warning because of Dutch bluntness, including title.
- Couldn’t find an English-language article for this one
I am incredibly late to the January edition of the Carnival (this being the second Friday in February) and it’s pretty much to do with this post. I wanted to close the book on my struggling with the church and move on with my life, and do it by seeing what good came out of asexuality and celebrate that… but it’s too close and I’ve followed that stupid, stupid cliche where you start writing something only to trash it, until you’ve a whole pile and your thoughts are all tangled.
Still it wouldn’t leave me alone. So here are, in random order, what good has come out of my internalised religious queerphobia in a more depressing post than I’d been intending to write. Please pay attention to what it says on the tin: discussion of prejudice. If you’re new to this blog: I use ace as umbrella for all shades of asexuality and aromanticism, transgender as umbrella for anyone not cisgender and queer as umbrella for anything not cisgender and heterosexual.
1. “Love the queer person, hate the sin” is lampshading.
You can be queer as a newbie. You can be queer if you’re celibate. You can be queer if you’re not like those other queers. This is the narrative that has sprung up in the church with the rising visibility of homosexuality and transgender folks. Its purpose is bridging the paradox between “All people may follow God” and “Queer people are so wrong they can’t enter God’s Kingdom”. The result being, a church may say they are inclusive even when they aren’t. They will truly believe that they accept all people and don’t understand when they’re called on their prejudice.
Lesson learned: ask what the church’s stance is not on queer orientations but on relationships. Another good check is asking what charities they support. (E.g. my previous church supported good sex ed in the fight against AIDS in Africa)
2. Love (and sex) are essential.
How people relate to each other and God are so important we literally say God is love. Not loving, but love. Not eros (romantic love), but agape, the more general love you may feel for anyone, portrayed as a choice, as active. If they accepted us, they’d make a wonderful ally against amato-normativity. So saying you love differently feels like you’re questioning the very heart of faith. Unfortunately, that’s seen as a threat rather than an opportunity for a good conversation. This also leads to sex, seen as an expression of affection, being part of that big conversation.
Lesson learned: ask what a Christian considers right and wrong on the subject of God and love and sex and you have a good conversation. Mention sexual orientation and it becomes a fight or a spiel.
3. “Sexual sin” is not (just) about sex, when done right.
The church’s talk about sexual sin is about love and relationships, not just sex. At their best, they are much-needed reflections on how humans can relate to each other in healthy ways. How to be a good partner, good family and a good friend. At worst they’re a top-down demand to conform to pre-marital abstinence and post-marital heterosexual intercourse. The latter is more relevant to aces specifically, who may want to marry without having to have sex. One assumption is always made: all people want to have sex.
Lesson learned: the church, conservative and liberal, subscribes to compulsory sexuality and will need educating. Outsiders also underestimate exactly how wide this discourse goes. The asexual community also encounters unique stumbling blocks, here, which should be taken into account when counseling Christian aces.
4. Queerphobia is mostly unspoken, unwritten, felt.
I had expectations, when my struggle with queer prejudice in my church started. Namely, that I’d either be the silent martyr that patiently suffered their misconceptions or the outspoken activist that corrected people. Neither happened. When rejection of queer people came up, it was often in passing or in a group setting. Not a place to speak out. The rest of it was the weight of the knowledge, flowing from these occasional remarks, that I’d be rejected if I came out as ace, as queer, in public. Neither did I want to upset people who confided their thoughts on homosexuality to me in private conversations. Even when I disagreed, gently, I wish to respect their privacy. What they told me is not fodder.
Lesson learned: Real life is not a story and struggling with prejudice is mostly a silent, one-sided mental fight. Invisible to the people who hurt me. The main victory is securing my own beliefs and then gathering up the courage to live as I believe is right.
5. Prejudice poisons the sanctuary.
I knew a good chunk of my church’s members disapproved of homosexuality. I discovered when my church preached acceptance of queer people, they meant they wouldn’t tell them to leave the room. They would tell them how to live their lives. I could at any moment hear a sneer, even while I passed as normal. This made me feel unsafe. I discovered that safe space, sanctuary, was essential to have a place to meet God. I cannot worship well when I am constantly bracing for incoming strikes.
Lesson learned: it wasn’t specific people but the general atmosphere that had the largest effect on me. Church is supposed to be a safe space and it wasn’t. It was a mindflip, accepting that I wasn’t a person gone wrong in the same place. That I was the same person, in a place that’d been spoiled for me.
6. Community makes it hard to leave.
Why don’t I just leave? I was asked, I asked myself. Church is a gathering place of people that can be tight-knit. It can be the only support network and social environment you have. Especially when, say, you’ve just moved to a new town, like I did. That can also mean there’s no one else to talk to, no other place to go and relax. It can make it really hard to look beyond that group and just… stall out. Even now, I feel affection for several people there that keeps me coming back.
Lesson learned: don’t leave a place that still feels like home. Instead, first grow a social circle and a support network beyond it. Find people that do accept me to break out of the mental prison first, even if I’m not ready to go.
7. I serve Jesus, not Christendom.
Going to other places, both Christian and not, as well as a good deal of reflection helped me to see I was scared of what people thought, not God. I grew up and first discovered my sexuality in a place where it was all considered fine. It’s only these last few years that far-off prejudice was echoed in my daily life by my community. I was in denial about the power that fear of rejection had over me. I didn’t want to see how bad I had started to feel about it. Mentally dividing my faith from my church on the subject of my queerness took some time. It took even more time to gather the courage to dare call myself right and my community wrong (it’s very undemocratic of me). Nevertheless, when I pray I feel loved. When I go to church I feel tense. I had to choose.
Lesson learned: in accepting myself as queer, I also needed to grow to accept that a queer person may follow Christ. I needed to accept the church, however many mouths shout however loud, can be wrong. I needed to be okay being a member of a religion where others may reject me.
While this hasn’t been a very cheerful post, I do count all these things as blessings. I have far more clarity on how to deal with queerphobia within the church. I have reconciled my faith and my asexuality again, this time including my romantic orienation and the queer label. I feel more free to believe that I do without reference to what others think. In seeking new places to belong I have met some wonderful people and I am now a lot happier. It’s a work in progress, but I’m glad it is indeed progressing.
TW: religion and queerphobia and this is honestly a rant.
I’ve been avoiding the news… and never feeling quite so stupid over it as right now. Reason being I can’t decide if my Carnival post was accidentally relevant or really stupid and hurtful considering what’s been going on. I’ve seriously thought about withdrawing it because, goddamn it, I am so, so ashamed and angry and frustrated.
So… I want to keep this as general as possible. A group of conservative Christians, give them what title you will in the context that makes sense to you, summarised their stance against anything queer, including but not limited to: homosexuality, transgender folks, extramarital sex and Attacks on the Institutions of Holy Matrimony. This manifesto is called the Nashville Statement. Please don’t read it if you want to have a good day.
The relevant fact here is that it was translated into Dutch and then signed by several hundred pastors and other orthodox-protestant men (that’s what we’re calling them in Dutch, apparently) after they got approached about it. Including Christian politicians, scholars and pastors (from my own denomination as well). This created a lot of backlash and debate and the media ate it up.
I was living under a rock.
Someone pointed it out to me.
I came out from under my rock.
I realised I’d been living in fantasy land, again. Namely, that Dutch Christians are different, despite running across casual homophobia in my own church. Namely, that in my mind people from my denomination, the majority of people in my country couldn’t be like that. Surely. That I’d drawn a line that really wasn’t there.
No, asexuality isn’t explicitly mentioned, I don’t care. It made me sick anyway and it hit home because I am bloody well a Dutch queer Christian and this is bullshit.
The worst part? The part where one side of the public debate’s wondering how any sane person can be a believer (rather than an atheist) and the other side’s proclaiming nobody who doesn’t subscribe to this shit isn’t a real Christian.
Fucking well respect my religion and my orientation, I want to shout (at nobody). At home I’m either preaching to the choir or to people who don’t consider ace people queer (so they can reject the latter without rejecting me, in their mind). I just. I don’t know where to go with this grief and hate and these fucking, fucking tears and fists and screams jamming my throat.
I feel stupid, too. Why did I mentally separate the Christians in my own country from the rest of the church?
I feel like I should apologise, too, for being Christian, for writing about Christianity a lot on my blog. I feel like it’s offensive, right now, the mere mention.
To be honest, I feel dirty, so very, very soiled. And I don’t know what to properly do with that feeling either.
The words I’m considering helpful in coming out and discussing not having sex in various contexts.
Asexuality – a natural or biological inclination to rarely or never feel sexual attraction. In short, the label for people who Mother Nature or God or evolution designed to be inclined not to have sex. Not an essentialistic description of entire races or genders or other groups. Not “lacking in functional genitals” or “lacking in libido” or “unattractive”. It is instead a useful term to say “I do not actively feel lust or arousal towards a person of any gender” with several labels available to give that more nuance, such as “rarely” or “in these very specific circumstances”.
Its primary use is describing “not (being inclined to) having sex” as a state of being, an orientation.
Celibacy – the choice to temporarily or permanently disengage from sexual activity. In short, the label for people who for personal, religious or other reasons decide not to have sex. This word lacks the implication “purity” has that one is better. It describes behaviour or a decision of an individual where “chastity” is more likely to be used in a judgment call. It lacks the deterministic implication that it precedes marriage.
Its primary use is in being the best candidate for a term to describe “not having sex” as choice and conscious behaviour.
Repression (when discussing sexual behaviour) – being barred from either wishing to engage in sexual behaviour or acting upon a desire to be sexually active. Can occur for an individual or in a community. Mental conditions or subconcious choices may lead to it, such as high stress or internalised queerphobia. Social limitations may include peer pressure or a criminalisation of sexual behaviour. May have neutral but, more often, a negative connotation.
Its primary use would be in describing a state of “not having sex” that is not by choice and feels more as stemming from experience/the mind/circumstances than natural/biological.
I find this third word to be more problematic… Because for others I think it may be as toxic as abstinence is to me. Plus there’s the conflation of asexuality and sexual repression that’s used to deny asexuality as a legitimate label.
Trigger warning: explicit discussion of Christian prejudice around sex.
I have come to find these words so poisoned by their current usage that I believe I need to give them up if I talk about not having sex.
Purity/Chastity (in English among Christians) – While these used to mean “being good and whole” and “choosing to act righteously” they are now both used foremost mean “not having sex except with your spouse”. Purity (culture) has come to describe the collective of conservative individuals and institutions that enforce this norm at the cost of personal freedom, human rights and individual welfare. I hate this perversion of two useful words, for a state of goodness and courteous behaviour. Now they’re just a verbal and mental chastity belt for the unmarried. I hate the moral stance and community associated with this word. I believe they act in direct contradiction to how Jesus would act.
Abstinence (among Christians) – If I translate it to Dutch (onthouding) and back to English I get “keeping away”. Its general use I don’t mind. In fact, I agree that it’s easier to keep away from (food, gaming, alcohol, sex) completely than to limit it, if something is harmful to you. In a religious context, I’d equate this to fasting, to abstain from something to improve your life or facilitate meditation.
I dislike abstinence when it refers to not having extramarital sex. The enforcement is always external. Parents, employers, schools, law makers and even health insurance companies are told to make younger people abstinent. They can choose their religion but not their relationships, it implies. They are helpless victims in the face of their own sex drive (boys) or predators (girls). That anything sexual is considered sinful unless “sanctified” by marriage doesn’t help with the fear-mongering.
Virginity – Virgin (maagd) meant only maiden or damsel-in-distress in old-fashioned Dutch when I grew up. When we spoke about morally correct behaviour, both in church and in school, we used the terms “sexually faithful” (to describe the ideal the church was striving for) and “sexually active” to describe someone who is having sex and a denial to describe the opposite. Emphasising it’s behaviour, not magic transformation, for good or ill.
I have found this emphasis on sex as activity and choice to be very empowering. Discussing sex as physical intimacu and what that means is a positive and constructive way to discuss biblical ideas without judging people. It’s also closer to the source material, the emphasis on well-considered and respectful behaviour in a relationship. Not an obsession with the preamble or the legal institution. It also allows for the discussion of how other people may make other choices because they follow other principles without condemning them out of hand.
A second reason I dislike the concept of virginity is because I believe it leads to superstition and false teaching.
Superstition: ‘virginity’ is an abstract, near-magical thing you can lose, akin to holiness, which elevates you above the rest of humanity. If you have it, it makes you an object to be protected or sacrificed or violated.
False teaching: correct sexual behaviour is more important than any other choice you make. It may condemn you to hell regardless of anything else you do in life. It supersedes even your choice to become a Christian. So long as you only have heterosexual intramarital sex God will love you best.
If being an asexual Christian has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not a better person for not wishing to have sex. I’m an equal mess of good and bad to any other human, with my own unique failings.