Saturday, June 20, 2009

Questions in the land of Euphemisms

Growing up, I didn't even have euphemisms. I only have a sister, no brothers, so apparently that made things easier for my mother. Before the mandatory sex ed video in fifth grade, the only differences I *knew* of between boys and girls was the way our hair was cut, and which department we bought our clothes in. As far as plumbing is concerned, I didn't even know that I had three holes downstairs, and in fact for a few years thought that hole that you neither peed or pooped out of somehow appeared at the onset of puberty.
Starting at about the same time as the sex ed video, I started hearing about "Worth the Wait" and "True Love Waits" and various other abstinence encouraging programs. I signed yearly commitment cards to "stay pure", "value my virginity" and various other wordings, and on my parents' 25th wedding anniversary (I was 14) they gave me a "promise ring" - a promise to myself, my parents, and to God that I would not have sex until I was married, and then, only to the person I married.
Now, perhaps this seems like so much Conservative Christian hogwash to you - yet another example of how a large part of the Christian community in this country seems obsessed with sex and sexual "sins" - and maybe it is - but here's the thing... I've believed it.
By the definition that s-e-x was explained to me, I am a virgin. In the 13 years since my parents gave me that ring, it has very rarely left my finger. It has become a part of my identity. It has become part of my hope that I will find someone to spend my life with, and don't I want to keep myself clean and pure and whole so that on my wedding night, after I have found that person that I want to spend the rest of my life with, that I can give them my virginity like some kind of one-time-only present - the other option apparently sheepishly shrugging and offering oneself as a kind of used up kleenex.
The problem, or at least my current problem with this is that according to the definition I had gathered from these various abstinence programs, I could have wild lesbian orgies for the rest of my life and still consider myself a virgin, because until a man's *thing* has penetrated my *thing* that's what I'll be.
So, my current dilemma - as a moral, Christian lesbian where do I draw the line? (nothing below the waist, perhaps?) Do I draw a line? Do I just throw out this "true love waits" stuff as so much junk pressed on my by a patriarchal society bent on limiting female sexual freedom? And if I do decide to leave this behind with my heterosexuality - what do I do with my promise ring? If I did leave behind the ideas represented by that ring, I would feel horribly hypocritical still wearing it - and more than enough people I know also know what it means and would question its absence - drawing the wrong conclusions as they did so. While I am not ready to come out to my current church, my church of origin, or my parents, all of them would be concerned if I removed my promise ring, and would want to know why.
I know that with at least two of the three in those categories, and some would argue with all three, it's not really their business, I would feel rude and hurtful telling them so. 
The easiest thing would be to just continue wearing the ring, regardless of what I decide it means.
But is is the right thing?


parodie said...

Well, there are many shades of grey. :) You could just stop wearing the ring, and explain that it "no longer felt meaningful" or that you felt it was something valuable from your childhood but that as an adult it just didn't mean the same things. You might be surprised by how long it took people to notice. :)

As for "waiting" in a same-sex relationship, whether you should and what that looks like, well, I would encourage you to look at why you would wait, and what that means to you, and whether it's something you want to keep, either in a same-sex or opposite-sex relationship. Nothing below the waist sounds reasonable and would be a line worth holding to in either case... I don't think "waiting" for hetero couples is necessarily "everything but" intercourse, though it does sometimes get interpreted that way.

These are hard questions. You're grappling with them well... good luck finding a path that feels true for you!

Anonymous said...

A few ideas:

1)Find a job in another town. Move away from those people who are always looking over your shoulder and into your personal life. Stay there long enough to find what is right for you. (It's one way not to have to answer all the nosy questions.)

2)Find your local PFLAG chapter. Meet parents of gays and lesbians. Find your comfort zone with parents who totally accept their gay kids. (There are lgbt people at PFLAG meetings, too.)

3) Find an MCC church, or a gay-affirming church of another denomination, and talk with the minister or church counselor.

4) Talk with any counselor who feels right to you (other than one who is choosing which Bible verses should apply to you).

5) Visit your local lgbt community center (if there is one where you live). Look around. Visit the library and the gift shop. See what kinds of groups or classes are offered. Just get to know people in a casual way without thinking about sex. Just find some friends.

Lori D said...

My spouse and I waited five years until marriage before we were intimate, not that it was easy. But I can tell you that learning the ropes after marriage, and knowing she's always had my heart and her mine, has been something truly worth cherishing. If true love waits, then certainly true love shouldn't be so easily thrown to the wind.
I get mocked to this day for waiting until marriage. But I don't care. I consider myself blessed. I'm not saying that's right for you or anyone else, it's not my place to cast judgement. It was right for me and her only.

Anonymous said...

Its something you have to pray about. there is no "good answer". Because it is about you and God. What is God telling you?

There are many LGBT who believe in waiting till they find the one to have intimacy with their partner.

What I hate seeing in the LGBT community is this thought that you can have sex with whom ever you want with out any thought. I guess it is the same in the straight world. I wouldn't know. I waiting until marriage when I married my now ex-husband.

Search your heart and stand on that. BTW: a great book to read is Bulletproof Faith by Candace Hodge-Chellow, I suggest it.

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Joan K said...

The ring may be a patriarchal symbol but you can certainly use it to symbolize your desire to wait for the right woman. The idea of virginity may be patriarchal but the idea of waiting for that special someone makes sense in many ways. I read the quote somewhere, "Don't make your body write checks that your soul can't cash". Sexual license has both physical and psychological costs, not to mention the spiritual ones.

As to where to draw the line, Prayer and contemplation will give you the answer to the question.

I am very fortunate with my wife. I was in the process of discerning whether I was a lesbian and we waited almost a year to become intimate. A freely chosen, non-pressured choice was far better than the alternative. I knew she respected me and was willing to wait and I knew it was a free choice.

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