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Questions

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“You’re very young,” she said, her frail hands on my shoulders as she scrutinised me.

“Twenty-six,” I said. “With a young face.”

She laughed.

“You’ve heard that before!” After a pause, “But still, very young.”

“Am I?” I asked.

“Most people are a lot older than you when they start. What made you want to convert?”

“I don’t know,” I said, honest for almost the first time. “It’s just been a question for over half my life.”

I was around ten years old, with a stomach bug so bad it had made my gums bleed. A doctor gave me a book called, I think, I Am David, about a small boy who is helped to escape from a concentration camp. He has lived there for as long as he can recall.

The book itself was twee, and I hated it, but I was told I should read it. David is not Jewish, but prays to “the god of green pastures” that he has overheard other prisoners pray to.

The fact David got a choice stuck with me. His faith, unlike mine, was actually his.

I was a precocious child, a prodigy, so I was told. So I felt my place in the world was to find answers, and before I could find answers, I needed to ask questions.

So naturally I started with the biggest question I could think of- the Universe.

I was a lonely child. Not just an only one- a lonely one. When I asked for amusement, I was told that “only boring people get bored”.

I could lie. I could say that I was not alone, that I was with the Omnipresent. But I was alone, and I was lonely, and I was bored. My parents didn’t really like games.

I had a lot of theories. Death, I decided, would be just your final moment, stretched out into eternity. So your final judgement would be your own mind in that moment. Another time I would decide that the Omnipresent was not a spirit, but actually was the material of the Universe- all that is, was and will be.
If I am young now, what was I then?

Philosophy, when it meant reading other people’s theories, was dry. I liked Nietzsche, but only for the exclamation marks.

Despite being a grot who hated church and reverence and pitied those poor wretches who got forced into choir and altar service, I found that religion was something of a specialist subject of mine.

I was angry and a teenager and determined to find myself in the story of everything.

Maybe I could have gone looking for myself outside of scripture. But that never made sense to me. If this is a gift from the divine, why should it belong to someone else but not to me? Am I not also made in the divine image?

I was still not a great reader, but I was stubborn.

Even that isn’t the answer. Teenage angst and emptiness could only take me so far, the same for childhood loneliness. As an adult, the narrative of exile and return, the long days in the wilderness, those spoke to me. The rainbow- a symbol of the promise made to Noah, and repeated to me on my toughest days.

A question was asked a thousand times, and the answer came together like painting-by-numbers. Not all at once, but bit by bit, and the more I looked it, the more I thought I could make sense of it.

I am converting to Judaism. It will take around eighteen months. I think people told me that thinking it would shock me, but I’m trans- eighteen months is nothing.

So I am now undergoing two transitions side by side. I know it will be stressful- but I don’t feel I had any other choice.

_______

This blog post was deleted several times and rewritten from scratch, occasionally with very cold fingers.

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The Sign of the Cross

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.