On “In-Between-Ness”

I think I was fifteen when I first really realized that I was queer. I guess before then there were flickers of it, but mine isn’t a story of being a small child who “knew” or had any kind of “obvious giveaways” (whatever those even are). I was fifteen and my life-long best friend was telling me about one of her friends from school. She said, “she’s bisexual” and I said. “wait, what? That’s an option?”

I usually stop that story there, mentioning something about how the label has changed since then but, yeah, totally, once I realized you didn’t have to be exclusively heterosexual or homosexual I was golden. I don’t think any story that wraps up that neatly is ever entirely true.

One of the complications of having an “in between” sexuality is being told over and over that you must choose. Worse, having your whole sexuality defined by the apparent gender of your current partner. Or by how many times you’ve had sex with men at all. I think you get good at defending your in-between-ness, at forcing there to be grey where the world only wants to see black and white. It’s not exactly a skill that’s fun to learn; it’s painful to fear rejection for being queer at all and then also face erasure and rejection in the queer communities you thought were there for you. Increasingly though, I think it’s a skill that is useful far beyond its necessity.

It seems that learning to make space in a supposedly clear dichotomy has made it easier for me to sit with other types of “in-between”. Most clearly, it has opened up for me the option of a spirituality and theological location that itself feels very in between. These experiences share much in common. I’ve been repeatedly asked to choose: “Do you believe in God or not?” And I’m constantly being read as whatever I’ve most recently been closest to. It’s strange to find myself both too theistic for atheists and not theistic enough for theists. I think it’s a particularly queer approach to the Divine, and one that has given me greater freedom and comfort than trying to squeeze myself into boxes that were quite simply the wrong shape. I get to say yes. I get to say both/and. I also get to say “no”, and “yes, but…”.

Very few things are clearly yes or no, this or that, and I think that in our constant struggle to be easily definable we lose some of the beautiful mess of reality and the Divine. In ways that I never expected, realizing that in between was an option has opened up the world to me and shown me beauty and love well beyond measure. I wonder what else we’ve been missing? What other as yet unseen freedoms and insights live in the in between?

Advertisements

Holy Silence

There is something very special about being able to be quiet with someone else. Settling in and being able to be just present to life with them. Not feeling like you have to fill all your time with chatter, not feeling like something is wrong if for a while you don’t talk.

I get it. In a society so heavy with admonishments to always be doing something – or, at very least, consuming something – it’s easy to become uncomfortable without constant stimulation. For most of us, being quiet with ourselves is a nigh on unaccomplishable feat, let alone attempting quiet with other people. If we’re not constantly interacting physically or verbally, how will we avoid being boring? How will we keep the other person from thinking we’re bored of them? Even many spaces where silence is valued are focused almost solely on being silent with yourself. While that sort of silence is also really valuable, comfortable silence between two people is a particularly beautiful thing.

There is a closeness in comfortable silence between people, a feeling of being linked together in a way that is both before and beyond words. This silence is holy. It is the experience of existing with another person and feeling connected to them on a level that is inaccessible with only words. Among the more obvious examples of this are the moments just before sleep and just upon waking up, laying in bed with a lover and dreamily sensing one another, seeing one another as whole, beautiful beings. However, I think it is foolish to suggest that people must share a bed or, really, even a sexual relationship in order to have this type of intimacy.

As a culture we’re very used to thinking of intimacy as the sole province of romantic – or at very least, sexual – relationships. By extension, even when we reorient ourselves to view intimacy of that nature as holy, we do not always extend that view to the multitude of ways in which people are non-romantically/sexually intimate with one another. This I believe is a serious mistake. Of course it is necessary and important for us to move toward affirming a wide variety of sexual and romantic relationships, and of course we should make note of the holiness of physical, sexual intimacy, but can we really say that this is enough? What of those who are never partnered and those who have no desire to be? How does this framing fit with those who have more than one partner? Further, what damage might we do if we proclaim the importance and holiness of romantic and sexual relationships without being sure to note the divinity of friendship and genuine human care.

When we are able to be silent together I think we are more readily able to feel the Divine in one another. I know that that is true for me. I have felt the Divine – the feeling I know that I can call God – in the sleepy lulls of late night conversations and in moments of tear-stained silence in cars, living rooms, and counseling offices alike. I’ve felt it as I tip-toed around my sleeping friends, and while laying on a hill in the sun listening to music together. These moments are intimate, and they are holy. I would do a disservice to them, myself, and the Divine if I were to say otherwise.

 

Confession

This feels like confession.

 

I don’t love my body.

 

Not always, at least. Not always and rarely for very long.

 

This feels like confession.

 

I, advocate of fat acceptance. I, badass fat chick. I, encouraging others to love themselves. I, loving those other selves in all their various shapes, sizes,  configurations.

 

I don’t love my body.

 

The particulars are unimportant. What I don’t love is unimportant.  I only needed to say it. To recognize that it is true.

 

I don’t love my body. But I could. I could try. I could start.

 

This feels like confession and if this is what confession feels like I am starting to understand the appeal. There’s something to be said for letting go of this. For not holding on to it or burying it. There’s something to be said for putting the stuff that most painfully gnaws at the corners of our minds out in to the world. At least out there you can look it in the face.

 

You can look it in the face and you can say no to it.

 

You can say “I see you. I see you and you will not win.”

 

I see you. You will not win.