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The Sign of the Cross

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I don’t know if Sunshine knew that I saw him cross himself. I wonder if he was trying to hide it from me.

We don’t talk about faith. Not ever. We might talk about our Catholic upbringing, or about religious texts in a purely theoretical way, but we never admit to believing in anything.

For me, that’s because I’m queer. Depending on who you ask, it could be the way God made me or the way the devil made me. It could be my cross to bear, a temptation I am supposed to resist, or it could be a great blessing.

Queerness and religion are fraught with conflict. Frequently, I am assumed to be an atheist. However, I strongly believe that the universe was created by something that presides over it. It’s just what I believe. And I don’t know why I believe it, I just do. I studied Physics at university and there’s just something about the way it all fits together that makes the universe seem like a work of art.

Even now I’m resisting defending myself. People are scornful, think I must be an idiot to feel this way. I’ve had my fill of probing questions asking what I think of heaven or hell or angels or determinism and I really don’t think that has anything to do with anything. Belief is what you believe. End of.

I don’t like talking about it. Like Scripps in the History Boys, it’s private.

Sometimes I go to church. I like the ridiculous Catholicism of it all, the hymns, the gold, the wine. Its theatre. It’s quiet and it makes you feel calm. But I never go on a day when somebody might notice I’m missing.

Sunshine and I were out playing Pokemon GO! and there was a Pokestop by the war memorial in St Peter’s Square. We walked to it, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sunshine cross himself.

I think I knew he wasn’t an atheist. Or maybe I wanted him to not be an atheist. Still, atheists usually tell you. For example, I’ve only met his sister three times and yet I know she’s an atheist. She said so. It’s like veganism- because their beliefs are opposite to a lot of people’s, it has to get mentioned.

But atheists don’t cross themselves at war memorials, do they? So he definitely isn’t. He was compelled- strongly- to cross himself in front of the memorial, something that I, for all my upbringing, was never taught to do. I never genuflect or cross myself with holy water.

Part of me wanted to ask him about it. It’s one of those things you’re supposed to ask, when you get into a long term relationship with someone.

But I couldn’t. I’m so wounded from having to keep my own shapeless faith to myself that I don’t know how to talk about this shit any more. So it’ll stay as just that. The sign of the cross by a war memorial.

I Have Forgiven Jesus

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I tried writing this post before. It got way too long. So I’m starting again.

I was brought up Catholic. I went to Catholic schools, and I work at one now. It’s a part of my identity I can never escape.

How? When being queer and being Catholic are so irreconcilable? How can I still consider myself a Catholic?

Firstly, I know I don’t believe in it. My beliefs don’t make me Catholic. I used to lie awake at night pondering Creation and everlasting life and all of that and so far I’ve got as far as working out that humanity has as much chance of understanding the nature of God as a grain of sand has of comprehending the rock cycle.

What does make me Catholic is those memories of incense, sitting on the church floor during Midnight mass, reciting the Rosary, attending the Stations of the Cross, learning to genuflect, hour after hour staring at the image of Satan in the stained glass window, actually kind of horrified that someone would depict Satan in the stained glass window, nestled in among the skirts of the Blessed Virgin.

Shit like that doesn’t leave you. I still go to church from time to time, not because I think I’m saving my soul, but because I find it comforting.

I’ve read the Bible. Bits of it, anyway. I don’t know if Jesus was the son of God, but I do know that he wouldn’t have given two shits about what was between my legs. That was just how Jesus rolled. He took people as they were, not how society wanted them to be.

Meanwhile, modern Catholic media screams headlines like “The Pope’s take on transgender issues? Accept the body God gave you” as if Pope Francis had actually said such a thing. Good luck finding the quote. But as ever, “Catholics” believe what they want to believe.

“Accept the body God gave you” is a pretty simplistic (and fucking stupid) approach, to be straight. Hole in the heart? Accept the body God gave you. Cleft palate? Accept the body God gave you! Myopia? Fuck you and your glasses! Accept the body God gave you!

Of course I respect my body. It’s why I cut my nails, keep my hair tidy and clean behind my ears. I don’t strictly speaking have to do those things, but I just think it’s better for my social and emotional wellbeing if I do.

Whether or not I decide to enlist a surgeon to divest me of my excess chest fat, that is entirely my prerogative. It is not a decision I make lightly, and it is certainly not one I make by the rules of a load of lonely old men who have mistaken their own word for the word of the divine.

Despite their best efforts to cast me out, I will not go. I’m a contrary bastard and they won’t get rid of me easily. I also really want to get married in a Catholic church. It would make my mum very happy (because then it’s a real wedding in the eyes of God), but also make me very happy (because it’d be gay as hell and flip a massive bird to all the haters). But also it’d just be nice.

The Catholic church is all I have ever known. I grew up thinking marriages happened in churches. Going to the registry office seems to me like going to fill in a load of forms. It’s a legal exercise rather than a loving one.

The Catholic church is all I have ever known. And no matter how many times it tells me it will not have me, I will not leave. Because I don’t know anywhere else to go.