Lent can feel like a depressing and punishing liturgical season with all of the emphasis on giving things up and penitence. Or it can feel like a second shot at a New Year’s Resolution: somewhat devoid of religious or spiritual meaning.
For those of us who are queer and/or trans, and who have struggled to learn to love our bodies, Lent takes on an even darker hue.
For so many years I denied my body. I denied that I had a body. And when forced to confront my body I was filled with self loathing and shame. I was taught that my desires were sinful and shameful and should be denied. Since I spent so much time in that darkness I am reluctant to return to it, even for such an important religious season.
Can Lent be reclaimed as a body loving season for queer and trans* people?
There is something holy in this time of Lent. It is a time of walking in the wilderness with Jesus. It’s a time of journeying with him to Jerusalem and to crucifixion. For many queer and trans* people we know well the feeling of being in the wilderness. We understand, intimately, the pain of crucifixion. Instead of entering into the darkness, see this time as a remembrance of things past.
If you are still in the darkness, know that you have companions on your journey, and you are not alone.
The reason we remember the crucifixion is because we are a people who believe in resurrection. We believe that death is not the final answer. We believe that we will live again. Experiencing resurrection doesn’t make our scars go away, it makes them holy. And so in this time of Lent we pause to embrace our scars.
What if, instead of giving something up that you love, you give up something that makes you feel bad? What if, instead of giving up Twitter or Facebook you use those tools to connect with people who make you feel like you have community? What if, instead of berating yourself for what you need to change, you focus on the things you do well and concentrate on doing them even better?
What if you slow down, take time, go deeper? Practice self care, get to know and love your body, live into resurrection.
There is a time for confronting our failings. There is a time for trying harder. But those times must come from a place of self worth and love in order to be meaningful. If you haven’t done the work to love yourself, those actions will simply send you into a shame spiral.
So this Lent honor your body. Honor your desires and your loves. See them as holy and good. Go deeper. Love harder. See beauty.
For more conversations about sex and our bodies as queer and trans* people, check out the latest issue of Spit & Spirit.