Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Morbid Beauty

I have an on-going difficulty with telling my conversion story, because the part of it that is the least interesting to me is the part that other people are most interested in. They want to know how I went from being a lesbian to being straight. The truth is, I don't think that I even necessarily did that: it's very rare for anyone to be exclusively homosexual (that is, to be unable to have reasonably successful sex with members of the opposite sex.) If you make a clear and unilateral decision not to have same-sex relationships, there's a certain chance that your libido will take the path of least resistance and swing in the opposite direction. In any case, I never made a conscious decision that I was going to get myself hitched to some man. I was pretty happy with the idea that I would simply not have romantic or sexual relationships as a part of my life, I had never really believed in “love” in the erotic sense anyways, and I didn't believe in orientation change. I made a decision to break up with my girlfriend, that's all, really.

My conversion didn't have much to do with homosexuality. It wasn't a big deal. That sounds really counter-intuitive, until you consider what it is that conversion is, what it entails. There I was, a little baby dyke with short purple hair and a wardrobe that I'd stolen from John Paul Sartre. I had an intense love-hate relationship with God that had been going on for years. On the one hand, I just couldn't get it out of my head that there must be some sort of ordering force behind the universe, that I was a character living in a created world and that there was an author filling in symbolic values and prodding me towards a meaningful narrative in a multipotential Free-Will Positive space. On the other hand, the image of a crucified man who was God terrified me. Literally, terrified. I looked up at the cross and I saw the total sacrifice of humanity to the most terrible suffering, the acceptance of the unacceptable, the moral contradiction which Christians placed at the heart of the world. I couldn't have it. I wouldn't. If that was the sort of universe that I lived in, then I would respectfully return my ticket.

The problem of suffering was the crux of the issue (pun unintended). I had encountered Jesus, semi-accidentally, on some Good Friday when I went to church to please my mother. The story of Gethsemene just stuck in my head, and the idea of a man, a morally perfect individual, choosing to give up His life in that way was so profoundly beautiful and unsettling. I think I cried. Not in the Church, of course, there I was too busy meditating on how I liked all of the black and purple, and the morbid beauty of the Good Friday celebration, but how, at the same time, I felt alienated by Christianity. It was later, when I got home, I dug through the junk on my bedroom floor and unearthed a copy of the Bible that I kept there so that I could go rooting around for contradictions when I had nothing to do at night. I felt as though I had been sucked into the text and I was there, standing in the garden, confronting Him. I had nothing to say. I was literally in awe. The strength, and weight, and depth of human free will, and all of its moral dimensions were there, represented in that figure. Yet He was a figure that I couldn't bring myself to accept.

I dealt with this by busily trying to construct an alternative narrative where Christ was just a man, a figure like Socrates, whose beautiful sacrifice had been co-opted by this mechanical heteropatriarchal hierarchy. I don't know. It wasn't rationally coherent. My aesthetic sense told me unequivocally that Christ's sacrifice was beautiful, and that God existed, and that the perennial human fascination with death and tears and blood pointed towards some deep magic that undergirded the world. Since beauty was basically my religion I couldn't discard this evidence. On the other hand, my defences against the reality of suffering in the world. It was about accepting God's creation on God's terms. It was about wanting beauty badly enough to accept the price-tag attached to it. It was about falling in love with the one who had made me. And once I was in love with Him, how could my lesbian lover possibly compete?reason was adamant that it was all nonsense, and the most dangerous kind of nonsense at that.

Conversion, then, wasn't about homosexuality at all. It was about laying down my rational defences against the reality of suffering in the world. It was about accepting God's creation on God's terms. It was about wanting beauty badly enough to accept the price-tag attached to it. It was about falling in love with the one who had made me. And once I was in love with Him, how could my lesbian lover possibly compete?

5 comments:

  1. Truth.

    I take it from your comments that you won't mind if I admit I'm much more interested in this aspect of your conversion than in any "re-orientation" stuff, which I have no truck with either!

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  2. This was very beautiful, Melinda. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  3. Very well said Melinda, it such a great article. Keep up the good work.

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  4. You said, "If you make a clear and unilateral decision not to have same-sex relationships, there's a certain chance that your libido will take the path of least resistance and swing in the opposite direction. "
    I think this is probably different for males, but thanks for this post. A lot to think about.

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  5. Just thought you might want to look at the end again. Looks like everything between the second "On the other hand," and "reason was adamant" is an accidental duplication of later text.

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