A Life In Transitions: Validating Sexual And Spiritual Identities

Purposely, my faith merged with my queer awakening.
02/14/2017 11:16 am ET Updated Feb 15, 2017
o’donnell in 2016. <a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.joshuafoo.com/" target="_blank">Joshua Foo</a>
Courtesy of Joshua Foo Photography
o’donnell in 2016. Joshua Foo

The garden was exactly as it had been a decade before. Firmly planted in the center, a luscious oak spirals upward. It was here in this church’s prayer garden that I gifted myself the permission to begin a journey of understanding my queerness

“If my body is a holy temple, I refuse to worship in an inauthentic space.”

In a different church, miles across town, I was told for the first time that my personhood deemed me only worthy of eternal damnation. It was in this church, where I left a sermon for the first time. Listening to a figure of religious power utilize the pulpit to ostracize and degrade congregation members (closeted and not) was not how I wanted to spend my Sundays.

While I am healing, memories of fearing “burning fires” for loving queerly will forever mark my heart. Religious leaders would do well to enrich their communities, not place unhealthy ― and frankly, unfounded ― fear in their young and vulnerable congregants.

In my life, the religious community taught me I was an “abomination,” while some in the queer community dubbed me a “traitor.” I reject both ideologies of absolutes. Queers who prescribe to a religious or spiritual practice are not “traitors,” nor are we “abominations” to any religious doctrine.

I learned of my queerness long before I was instructed by textbooks that it was a sin. In the Roman Catholic practice of my childhood, you become a spiritual adult upon the sacrament of Confirmation. A part of this sacrament, is the designation of choosing a spiritually rooted name. I chose Gabriel, the Archangel. Gabriel or Gabrielle, became my namesake in the Catholic faith for three distinct reasons. Throughout each Abrahamic theism, Gabrielle is depicted at times as a “male,” at times as a “female” and at times “without gender.”

Purposely, my faith was merged with my queer awakening. As I grew in understanding myself, I molded my faith to reflect who I was, who I was becoming.

In the Christian faith, the only documented occurrence of Jesus expressing a temper, one of arguable force, was in the instance of the Holiest Temple in Jerusalem being utilized as a place of commerce, instead of worship.

We are Jerusalem. Willing to confront a binary, heterosexual system that instructs us to disregard our temple’s purpose, to suit their normalities.

If my body is a holy temple; I refuse to worship in an inauthentic space. My cathedral will be built upon the same marrow pillars which constructs yours. The choir will harmonize with spiritual splendor the notion that our bodies are not perversions, but vessels to be venerated.

What must be sacred is the veneration of life. Not merely the lives of those who look like us, talk like us, pray like us, love like us, or even believe as we do. For there is far more divinity in holding hands and standing in solidarity with those different than you, than within the walls of prayer spaces.

As for myself, my church will remain my body. My mind. My soul. I will continue to pray in the forests, walk amidst rain storms, and witness a holiness paint the sunrise. In this world, there is no greater place of worship, than the one found among breeze-bending trees, accompanied with pen, paper, and cosmic stillness.

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