Tuesday, November 16, 2010

how Catholic feminism screwed me over

I am not often comfortable identifying as female.  Although about a year ago I began identifying as female again, after about two years of identifying solely as male, it's always with the qualifier that I'm genderqueer, so even though I sometimes identify as female, I also sometimes identify as male.  Logically, it makes no sense that I have this much difficulty with my identity, because over that past year I've also become much more comfortable with my body, to the point where I'm really okay with having the body I have.  If I'm okay having a female body, then why do I have such a problem identifying as female?

There is a movement within the Catholic church known as "Catholic feminism", which is the idea of promoting women's equality and some feminist ideas while reconciling them with Catholic teachings.  However, many Catholic teachings are inherently harsher on women, such as the idea that people are supposed to abstain from sex until marriage, and then in marriage to be "open to life", which means that whenever sex occurs, it must with with the possibility of procreation.  In addition, the church is notorious for promoting the idea of a woman being a wife and mother, with Mary's unquestioning obedience seen as the perfect example of womanliness for women to imitate.  It seems ludicrous that one could promote these ideas while calling for women's equality, but that is what Catholic feminism purports to do.  Catholic feminists say that women should be able to choose what they do, and yet many of them seem to choose being a stay at home mother.

My mother was the prime example of this, saying that it was her choice to bear six children and then stay home and raise them, giving up work she was happy doing in exchange for something that still often depresses her.  This sort of strange hypocrisy made no sense to me, because how could one say that women were equal and then go and do what the church wanted you to do even if it made you unhappy?  But that was what my mother had chosen, and as I grew up I could see more and more of my Catholic female friends being drawn into this.  

What the Catholic church thinks of women and what they ought to do shouldn't bother me, but it still does.  Even though I've been able to throw away most of the negative things I gained from being raised Catholic, this still stays with me.  There are other factors as to why I don't feel comfortable identifying as female, but this seems to be a huge portion of it.  To me, being a woman means following the same path my mother did and that my sister probably will, and that is something I cannot do.  

I don't really understand why this is so ingrained in my idea of what it would be for me to be a woman, because I never think that of anyone else.  Somehow it's just me, and it's an idea that I can't seem to get over. Maybe some day I'll be able to get over this, but only time will tell.

Friday, November 5, 2010


This post has been a long time coming, because it's something I've been thinking of writing for a long time, but it was only really today that I've been able to get my thoughts together in a way that's somewhat clear and concise.   My identity has been something I've struggled with for a long time, because I've never really been able to find one that fits me neatly.  I tried identifying as a lesbian in high school and college, and although that fit for the most part, I wasn't really comfortable identifying that way because I had too many issues with my body to be comfortable identify as female.  Through college and up until about the past year, I identified as male, and although that fit for the most part too, I realized that there were actually some things I missed about being female, and that issues I had with my body were maybe not as severe as I'd thought.  Since then, I've been working through my body issues and am now more comfortable with myself than I've been in ages, because I've been focusing more on being me than on a specific identity.  Now, I don't really identify as anything other than the generic queer, and for the most part that's okay.

Sometimes, however, I get frustrated not having a concrete and clear cut identity. Yes, I identify as queer, but that's not really a specific identity at all, because that can mean so many things.  I don't really mind, but in a world of specific identities, particularly in the GLBT community, identifying as queer feels isolating.  Spaces for queer-identified people exist online, but most GLBT spaces offline are dominated by people who identify as either gay or lesbian.  This gets even further complicated, too, by the fact that I don't identify with a specific gender, as sometimes I am male, sometimes I am female, and often I am neither or both.  When the room is full of people who identify as either gay or lesbian, I feel like an outsider.

And maybe it's not really as big of a deal as I think it is, but I like fitting in a group and feel that not identifying as anything specific makes that more difficult.  Sometimes I wonder if I ought to just identify as a lesbian, because then I could just be butch or femme depending on my mood and even though I'd be exactly as I am now, it seems like it would make things easier.

I don't know, I guess I'll figure things out eventually.