Have Mercy: A Queer Exploration of Catholic Kink
My Darling Queers, It’s been a long road. For me, for all of us. As for me, I was raised Polish Roman Catholic with the kind of devotion found in immigrant families on the east coast. The Catholic church was my first teacher about life, family, community, ritual, spirituality, and faith. I’m also hapa (Chinese) and my father helped to balance this with a Buddhist practice he considered a way of life and not a religion.
But as a young person, suffering from the boredom of a small town and ever curious about the truths of the world, the Catholic church captivated me. It was the first place I learned about a purpose greater than myself, and a life and existence beyond this lifetime.
It had answers I wanted to learn and teachers ready to guide me. It’s only now as a queer and kinky adult that I realize how much I learned from the church outside of sunday school CCD.
Mine was a church of control that never missed an opportunity to remind me and my young friends the ultimate power of sex, particularly female sexuality. Eve, harlot and original siren that she was, tempted Adam with her naked appeal from the guidance of her polyam co-conspirator (the devil) to lure him away from the safety of God’s garden. When you walked into the church, there was Jesus, stripped, flogged and beaten, humiliated, ready to be worshiped. Every palm Sunday we were given actual palms and parts and read out the story of his crucifixion, coming together as a church community to flog our palms forward and shout, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” This is how I was taught to show devotion through faith.
There are so many other stories and histories I could share that trace and highlight my connection between kink and Catholicism, sexuality and faith. I grew up in a town away from where the puritans landed, close enough to Salem to visit on field trips, and in a church that regarded Eve and Mary Magdalene as witches with powers we were meant to fear. Despite this, my faith and spiritual practices grew to center on the femme divine, the deep understanding of the power of femme sexuality. Too many religious institutions use shame, especially around sexuality, to control their members. I reject this by embracing the beauty, care, communication, and balance that kink dynamics can bring to relationships. I recognize that some of my ability to tap into this depth is because of the way I was raised in the Church.
But that is not my focus for this piece. I, like so many other queers, rejected the church when I came out and felt rejected by it. And what followed was a deep spiral of faithlessness that I filled with all kinds of self-destructive actions in the name of my freedom.
What has taken me my lifetime, and perhaps this pandemic, with its mandatory grounding of the human race, is noticing the ways that by rejecting the Catholic church I truly harmed myself. I cut myself off from a connection to spirituality and from religious traditions that brought calm, peace, and kinky power play into my life. I appreciate the depth that Catholic tradition, ritual, and beliefs have brought to my faith, and I continue to hold on to that as I create my own spiritual practices. At its essence for me, kink is a way to bring balance into our lives. I understand that we navigate through a world woven with systems of oppression, especially for QTBIPOC, and kink is one tool I use to restore balance. What I seek now and in the next world we will all build together as shelter-in-place shifts and lifts is reclamation of the Divine, as queers do, in our own way, one that serves and centers QTBIPOC.
I want a faith that isn’t afraid to be called a religion. I’m an Aries-Cap-Rising and I need structure. I want a religious community again, this time filled with people who understand the deep connections between sexuality and spirituality. I’m seeking people who want to read the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, sex worker Apostle and Goddess, with me and want to bring a social justice lens to the ways that the failable cis men who founded the Catholic Church took Jesus’ teachings away from his radical truths. I want to build new Sunday traditions and rituals timed with the moon’s phases. I want Buddhist principles and Pema Chodron’s living with uncertainty, fused with tarot spreads and an understanding of the guidance of astrology well beyond sun signs and stereotypes. Let’s reclaim a space for faith in our lives as they are and explore together what healing and recharging we can create.
If this resonated at all with you, dear queer reader, I’m seeking you. Find me on IG @HouseOfOurQueer.