Saturday, May 26, 2012

I Just Wanna Be a Woman

13 years ago, I undertook a strange quest. I was a young lesbian woman, I had just converted to Catholicism, and I was going to conform myself to the Church's teachings on human sexuality and femininity.

People who have read a lot of my stuff will know the narrative: my paternal grandmother had visited me several times over the course of my conversion, and had pointed me towards a shining figure of beautiful femininity: fair as the moon, bright as the sun, gentle as my grandmother herself – grandma, with her green peacock cookie bin always full of fresh-baked cookies, her quiet grace, her soft smell of make-up, cigarettes and hairspray. Through her intercession, I came to understand that the beautiful lady whom I was coming to adore was not a goddess, but a Virgin Mother, Mary, mother of Jesus Christ.

In the first few months following my decision to become a Catholic, my understanding of femininity started to radically shift. I'd never been much good at being feminine, not at being feminine by the standards of my culture in any case. I had never fit in with the girls, never liked make-up, bra shopping, or watching Thursday night drama's and romantic comedies. This feeling of alienation from other women led me to develop a severe sour-grapes complex. Femininity, I determined, was weakness, blathering superficiality, back-biting slanderousness, self-conscious promiscuity, a lack of self-respect, and a general willingness to lie down and let men take advantage of you. The entire notion of traditional femininity, I thought, had been constructed by men, for the benefit of men, in order to subordinate, subjugate and sexualize women. I wanted nothing to do with it.

My relationship with Mary changed this. I realized through her that many of the attributes of traditional femininity which I associated with weakness were actually manifestations of a deep interior strength. I realized that many aspects of women's subjugation were really manifestations of profound internal liberation. I realized that I had adopted a very masculine, misogynistic, dismissive and demeaning vision of the female sex – that I had allowed my desire to escape the jaws of patriarchy to lure me into an androcentric vision of womanhood which was even more insulting and constricting than the shallow, sexually saturated femininity that I had rejected in the first place.

This was an experience of profound liberation. Suddenly I was free to be a woman. To be truly woman. To be united to the archetype of womanhood, the New Eve, to become a daughter of God, and a Bride of Christ, and a tabernacle of the Spirit, radiant, resplendent, receptive and yet powerful, seductive and yet chaste, beautiful, beloved, fruitful, feminine. Amen.

Within a very short period of time, this re-envisioning of my femininity had born visible fruit. I found myself able to open wide the doors of my heart, to receive there a suitor, to accept the love of a man, not as a challenge, or a competition, or an imposition, or a threat, but as a gift. I was beloved not only of God, but of a particular human being, a man named Christian Selmys. His love invited me to explore my newfound femininity, to celebrate and rejoice in it, and very soon we were exploring the spousal meaning of the body together...admittedly not always in ways acceptable to the full meaning and purpose of human sexuality, but we were both recent converts, not especially well-catechized, fumbling towards Truth with all the zeal that we could muster, but with a certain amount of ignorance and human weakness getting in the way.

Eventually we married. We had children. I became a mother myself. Now, surely, I was on my way to a full realization of the complete glory of woman as she had been designed and created by God in the Beginning. I crucified my homosexuality. I crucified my feminism. I waited for the miracle: waited for God to send down a Blue Fairy of heterosexuality who would wave her magic wand over my game of dress-up, my playing house, my wooden womanhood, to turn me into a real girl at last.

(part 2, hopefully of 12)

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this. As an active bisexual woman converting to Catholicism in her early 20s, I struggled with true and authentic femininity as well. My confessor suggested I pray the Rosary for guidance and understanding. It helped, but I have always been under the impression that people in our position were a silent bunch. I am glad to have found a voice that I can understand in such eloquent terms. Thank you.

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  2. What a strong woman you are ... what a kind % generous heart you have to share your struggles with others.
    I will keep you in my prayers - as will, I am sure, all who read your story.

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  3. I truly believe there are many wonderful saints in heaven who had the
    same questions, confusions and temptations that women and men have with these challenges. The most important thing was that they simply thru the grace of God, given with much prayer, stated chaste and did not give in to temptations of the flesh. That's what it is all about. Whether
    hetersexual married or not married, same sex attraction or not. Control oneself makes us domion over animals and makes us a reflection of God.It makes us holy as God is holy !

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  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I also went through a period where my vision of the feminine was very dark. Your experience will be useful to many women who might feel otherwise overwhelmed by the sexualized image of woman in today's society.

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