This is a late post for the May Carnival of Aces on Questioning Your Faith hosted by me.
I have a lot of feels on this topic. I probably won’t be able to get them all into one post, so I may expand later. For today’s post I want to talk about how being asexual has not only led me to question and change my faith, but also taught me about what faith really is.
My faith has radically transformed since I first discovered my asexual/ queer identity a little over a year ago. I’ve quit two “religions” in the last year and how I would self-identify my faith affiliation is still constantly shifting. It’s hard to say if it was being asexual, specifically, that motivated me to change faith traditions. Regardless, it was questioning my identity which allowed me to even think about questioning my faith.
I never would have questioned my faith had I not started questioning my asexual/queer identity. Ultimately, it was being immersed in queer discourse that really strengthened my faith in questioning my own faith.
For a little background, I grew up Catholic and was actively practicing for 28 years of my life. I spent my middle and high school years immersed in a presbyterian youth group community, and have spent time amongst protestant and non-denominational Christian circles for much of my college and post college life. I’ve spent 7 years actively practicing and training to be a yoga teacher, although I recently ended that immersion experience. I’ve spent 8 years practicing meditation in various forms; currently I actively practice mindfulness meditation in the Zen Buddhist tradition, although I wouldn’t say I’m a Buddhist. As I write this I realize I’ve been mixing and matching my faiths longer than I realized. I just never really gave myself permission to actually admit it before.
I like that queer circles re-enforce the idea that not only is it OK to question your identity, but it’s also OK to change your mind later. If one label doesn’t work for you after all, and you decide to change it later, there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes I even worry that maybe I’m not really ace after all. Maybe I’m demisexual. Or maybe I’m just a repressed lesbian. It’s hard to tell. But the thing is it doesn’t matter. Today I identify as asexual and that is enough. If I change how I chose to label my identity at a later time, that doesn’t invalidate my identity as I perceive it to be now.
The same can be applied to my faith. Today I might identify as Buddhist, and 2 months ago I might have identified as a Yogi, and a year ago I might have identified as Catholic. The fact that I don’t identify with those faith traditions now doesn’t invalidate the fact that I identified with them then. And if I chose to reclaim any of those labels at a future date, I’m totally allowed to do that, too.
Being asexual has taught me more about faith than anything I ever learned in a religious text, church, or temple.
Like faith, asexuality is invisible and a lot of people don’t believe it exists, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is there. I often question myself trying to figure out if I really am asexual or not. It’s hard to have complete trust in something that’s not there and that I can’t see. I have days where I’m 100% positive it’s legit. And other days where I doubt myself.
Also I’ve learned to be more tolerant of other people’s faiths. Another person’s identity doesn’t invalidate my own ace identity, just as my own ace identity doesn’t invalidate another’s identity that is different than mine. We can co-exist with different identities and trust each other that both our experiences are valid. So if someone has a different faith than me I’m learning how to co-exist with them as well.
Let’s look at one of the definitions of faith: strong belief or trust in someone or something. The idea that people should just accept whatever identity you identify with solely because you said so, is rooted in the idea of faith. That idea is like saying, let’s all have faith in each other- that we are what we say we are.
It requires a blind trust in people. I say blind, because no one can experience what another person is experiencing. So we have to blindly trust that what they say is true about themselves, is indeed true.
The biggest thing I’ve learned from the queer community is the importance of validation. There are so many posts on tumblr on youtube, online that reiterate the message over and over that You are Valid. You are loved. Your identity is valid. Only you have the right to choose how to identify. And most importantly, you also have the right to change your mind.
These messages can be applied to so many things. They can be applied to my sexuality, my gender identity, my mental health, my faith journey. I am allowed to question. I’m allowed to identify as one way one day and then another way the next day. There are no gatekeepers to my identity. And I am allowed to change my mind.
I’m allowed to change from being Catholic, to being a yogi, to being a buddhist, to being whatever. Whatever spiritual practice I try is valid because it’s right for me. And if one doesn’t work for me, my higher power doesn’t love me any less.
I used to feel like I wasn’t a good enough Catholic because I did yoga and I like to chant in sanskrit. I used to feel like I wasn’t a good enough Christian because I didn’t really believe in the Jesus as Savior story. I used to feel like I wasn’t a good enough yogi because I couldn’t stand on my head.
There’s no such thing as being good enough. I’m Catholic if I chose to be. I’m Christian if I chose to be. I’m a yogi if I choose to be. Priests, pastors, and yoga teachers do not get to gatekeep my religious identity in the same way that members of the LGBTQ+ community do not get to gatekeep my ace identity, my queer identity, or my gender identity.
I remember having a half-thought a while back that the queer community has become my church in a way. It’s a place where I’m constantly shown unconditional love by complete strangers. It’s a place where I’m validated, supported, encouraged, and loved. As it should be.
I know there are a lot of posts these days reiterating to aces that they are valid, no matter where they fall on the spectrum. I appreciate these posts a lot. When you are someone at the bottom of your rope and you literally feel like you are not valid- to hear someone say that you are, is so incredibly life giving. Imagine if every bible-thumping, ex-gay camp leader and church goer were to replace their toxic messages towards the queer community with, “You are valid.” THAT is real faith. THAT is real unconditional love.
I know that being queer has completely reshaped the lens through which I view and understand theology. Even though these days I don’t affiliate with a specific “religion,” I know that my Higher Power sees me, loves me, and believes that I am enough exactly as I am. Even if what I think I am changes from day to day.