Confessions of a Catholic Lesbian · By Rebecca Taylor
For obvious reasons recently (or maybe not so obvious if not bible fluent), I started thinking about the plague. I’ve seen multiple posts online from conspiracy theorists to american preachers around the current epidemic. The theory that got me thinking however, is that this is somehow a punishment from God, a population cull, a new plague to rid the world of sin. Reading this made me think of my own experiences, of a life subtly dictated by religion. Seeing this theory made me sad, for those who believe it, for those trapped in hatred and guilt. It made me want to share my own experiences with beliefs so deeply embedded it doesn’t matter if people laugh at how outlandish they seem. I was born and raised Catholic, my entire educational career from Primary to Sixth form was Catholic. I knew no other religion other than my own and couldn’t imagine any other belief than that of Heaven and Hell, than of a deep and all consuming fear in God. As a Lesbian, Catholicism wasn’t ever going to sit right with me long term. A square peg in a round hole, I was destined to fail in trying to force myself into a mould dictated to me by outdated customs. Customs that rarely had anything to do with bringing acceptance and positivity into the universe. Some people find comfort in religion, they find kindness, beauty and a sense of self. I just found guilt. Maybe — like Maybelline — I was born with it. Or maybe it’s Catholicism. I don’t have much memory of outright homophobia, aside from one incident of our religion teacher announcing at random if you’re Gay you’ll go to hell. I didn’t identify as Gay and as a selfish teenager, if it didn’t directly impact me or my belief system, it wasn’t something I actively acknowledged. What I had, was complete erasure. My only exposure to Lesbians throughout school was the viral video two girls one cup. The video painstakingly sent round via infrared on our phones. As a result, my first interaction with lesbian porn and lesbian’s in general was a (very niche) video we watched under the table in science. Predictably. I found the whole thing terrifying. Lesbians existed solely as this mythical, terrifying existence in my mind. I distinctly remember thinking God, I hope I’m not a Lesbian. In hindsight, I’m not sure any of my straight friends had such an abject fear and this was possibly a sign of things to come. The thing is, with Catholicism, it isn’t just your actions, it isn’t just what you say. It’s what you think. Catholicism might as well be synonymous with guilt. It breeds it, encourages it between the pages of a misinterpreted bible, copulates in a dark confessional box, multiplies across the beads of a rosary and settles deep in your heart. You’re supposed to feel guilty. You were born with sin. Jesus sacrificed himself for you and you spend your whole life repenting. You’re born with guilt and you die with it, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. You confess your sinful thoughts and do your penance and hope that God doesn’t know you’re still having those same thoughts. An endless cycle of guilt you never quite grow out of. What happens when you fear a mind reading God? You fear yourself. You fear your thoughts and your feelings and you exist in a cycle of guilt for acts you haven’t actually committed. I’ve had more boyfriends in my life than girlfriends. From a child to a young adult, everything I read, everything I saw and the sphere I existed in, was straight. What I thought I wanted was a husband and children that I could Baptise and send off to their Holy Communion in the veil I wore at my wedding. Getting to early twenties and realising all the ways you’ve planned your life aren’t what you want or maybe ever wanted is an identity crisis I don’t wish on anyone. I fell in love with a woman, I fell hard and then I fell into a deep depression that took a good two years to crawl out of. I don’t have a homophobic family, I’m very lucky. What I had, was a homophobic set of beliefs and a God I was terrified of. What I had was an identity based around apologising for existing, and a world view that only contained one limited way of life. I knew nothing about who I was. I didn’t know how to be this new thing and now I wasn’t just afraid of God, I was afraid of myself. Don’t get me wrong, the Catholic sex education or lack of it has a lot to answer for in general. I could write a whole blog post on the dangers of how we were taught to be ashamed of our bodies. Aside from what we had to learn in Biology for our exams, we received no sex education. At sixteen, one religion lesson was dedicated to learning about the Rhythm method, an hour spent charting your least likely times in the month to conceive, the only form of contraception allowed in the Catholic faith. So how did that marry up to what I was now? If the whole point of sex was to concieve, then how could anything but a man and a woman be acceptable? Breaking the cycle is hard, learning to love yourself and not fear your own mind takes time and more techniques than I have words here to detail. Religion can be like smoking, a habit. A familiar comfort that’s both damaging but addictive. But not all habits are damaging, not every experience with religion is a bad one and I like to think that the guilt based internet conspiracy theories about sin are the exception and not the rule. I like to think that we’re moving to a world of acceptance and religion is moving with us. I had to fall out of love with God in order to love myself and be happy to love who I was created to. I’m not Atheist, I believe in a higher power, whether that’s a God, the Universe or if we’re all controlled by Aliens. I believe there’s something and I believe that you get back what you put into the world, that very rarely do people do things with malicious intent. I believe in people and I believe in myself and that has to be enough.