“My mothers daughter who at ten years old knew she was queer. Queer to believe that God cared so much about me, he intended to see me burn in hell; that unlike other children, I was not to get by with a clean slate. I was born into this world with complications. I had been chosen, marked to prove my salvation. Todavia soy bien católica— filled with guilt, passion and incense and the inherent Mexican faith that there is meaning to nuestro sufrimiento en el mundo.” (Moraga ix).
When I set out to write a blog post based on option C, I was determined to make it joyful or somehow celebratory relating to my queer experience. As usual when I set out to write something contrived, it was a miserable experience, and I sounded more miserable on paper than joyful anyway. I don’t know why I felt the need to write something uplifting; maybe to avoid getting too personal, or to refute the widely held conceptions that all stories of queer identity need to be wrapped up in shame and guilt and trauma. But this is not fiction; this is truth, something that used to come so easily to me.
I think a lot of queer kids learn to lie at a young age, learn shame and guilt so early and hold it so close to their chest that it gets all tangled up in their innermost identity. I believe guilt is largely cultivated and valued in the Catholic Church. I don’t at all think that Catholicism is an inherently bad religion. I think there are parts of it that are absolutely beautiful. I still feel the swell of my heart at church when the scent of my childhood is released from the thurible. I still pray to God every day, multiple times a day, and feel the guilty prickle of my skin when I tell someone I am no longer Catholic, that I don’t know if there is a God. At night, I shut my eyes tight and complete the same ritual I’ve done as long as I can remember, because if I don’t pray for the safety of every person I love in my life, something bad will happen to them overnight. I feel silly doing this and sillier writing it out. I turn 20 this week, and I still revert to a child in prayer.
Like Cherríe Moraga, I knew I was queer at a young age. I did not have words for the identity, but I did have words for the punishment. I had always been a truthful child to a fault; I would tell my mother when I did something wrong, so much so that she would tire of my constant admissions. I craved my mother’s forgiveness like she was God herself, even if the matter at hand had nothing. When I realized that I was queer, it felt like a lie by omission. It felt like that sticky feeling of sin, where usually I would run to my mother and beg her to absolve me, I could not do that this time. I had to make a home in that terrible sensation, hoping either it would go away or God himself would come to me in a dream and console me, tell me it was allowed, that the priests and the Sunday school teachers and even my parents, with their offhand remarks, were wrong.
The only way I have ever known to quell the voice in my head that acts as a twisted, condemning Jesus is to see my thoughts on paper. I write all of my terrible thoughts out as fiction and read them back. Once it is in the world, even just sitting quietly in a notebook, no one can take the thoughts away from me or make me destroy them. The only other way I know to feel absolved of the “sins” of the thoughts is through reading the words someone else has written, that affects me so closely. It is important that Moraga published this piece. It is important for queer people, especially queer children who may not have a label for their identity yet, to see themselves in the words of not just their own, but of others. God is always in my head, a manifestation of the guilt I had internalized and cannot get around to this day. But he is quiet when I am writing, or when I am reading something that absolves me like my mother used to.