I’m hoping there’s somebody who can explain this to me.

On the one hand, it makes sense that the person responsible for giving birth to the holiest figure in a faith system would also fall in among the holiest figures in that system. So it jives that Mary, being the mother of Jesus (ישוע, if you prefer) is a figure central to Christian practice – particularly, it seems to me, within Catholicism.

But . . . why is it that one seems never to hear her name without “virgin” attached?

Yes, I am familiar with the narrative. I understand that, according to the Gospels, Mary conceived and gave birth to Jesus as a virgin. And yes, I paid attention in science class enough to know that conception typically involves some kind of intercourse (or, at the very least, aggressive sexting). I get why a so-called “Virgin Mother” is super impressive, just as I get why so many italicized words might both confuse and annoy you.

But if you’re talking about the person who gave birth the first and only physical incarnation of the omnipotent God, who healed the sick and preached against corruption and hypocrisy, who sacrificed himself as a means of absolving mankind from sin, rose from the grave a couple of days later, and will one day return again to effect the final judgment of God and usher in the Messianic age . . . the virgin part kind of loses its grandeur, doesn’t it? Clearly not.

So my question is why.

In the very first chapter of Genesis, God tells us to “be fruitful and multiply.” 

This is probably why I haven’t yet met a denomination within Christianity (or, indeed, Judaism or Islam) that opposes reproduction. The Torah (as well as much of the modern religious community) is chock full of begetting! The more conservative ideologies today are definitely against aborting a pregnancy, and often against preventing pregnancy through the use of contraceptive measures.

So it’s clear that babies = good.

(It seems like a mockingly stupid thing to say, but I don’t mean any disrespect. This is somewhat of a mystery to me, and I think it’s important to establish these basics.)

The reverence given to Mary’s virginal status sends a message to me, therefore, that women having sex presents an essential flaw in an otherwise desirable process. The reasoning sounds to me something like . . .

We want to have babies, sure, but if only there were a way around this pesky sex thing.

I guess one could make the case that Mary’s virginity is only deemed holy in its connection with Yeshua’s conception and birth.

That, to my mind, still places virginity in a weirdly prominent position. But at least it does a little bit to take it out of Mary’s identity.

That is, of course, you introduce a concept like this.  The TL;DR version of that page is that some denominations view Mary as a kind of “ever-virgin.” This, despite scriptural references to Jesus’ siblings.  And, whether you subscribe to the “perpetual virginity” idea or not, it still stands that, if Mary’s virginity is not her most dominant characteristic, it is at least the one we are reminded of first in discussing her.  (“Virgin Mary,” “Blessed Virgin Mary,” “The Virgin Mother” . . .)

So. If you are able, please explain to me why it is that many Christians tend to idolize (read into that word choice what you will) such a particular version of Jesus’s mother – a passive, sexless birth-giver.

What does that say about the Christian idea of a “perfect woman”?

What does that say about Christian ideas about God, for that matter? Do we suppose Jesus to be more divine because he didn’t result from sex? If that was a concern, why did God need to take human form or be born at all?

I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even start going on this train of thought because I’m going to do nothing but make myself sound crazy and make a lot of conservatives within the Christian community angry with me.

I just dun get it, is all.

—————————————————-

P.S. I thought about making an “Immaculate Conception” reference in the title of this post.  I didn’t for two reasons:

  1. People who know what the Immaculate Conception actually refers to might write me off as an idiot and not worth reading.
  2. People who don’t know what the Immaculate Comception actually refers to would be no better off for my using the expression.
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First of all, my very good (for once) excuse for being a dismally neglectful blogger is that I’m participating in my first NaNoWriMo this month!

So! While I’m busily trying to bump up my word count, and while I have several, longer-form blog posts in the slow cooker, I thought I would share a weird anecdote.

(I’m sorry for the title.  It’s truly unforgiveable.  Let’s move on.)

For those newly aware of their sexual orientation, coming out can be a major challenge.  For those whose friends or family members are socially or religiously conservative, coming out can be a daunting obstacle.  For those in the public spotlight, whose image is their career,  coming out of the closet can seem a terrifying gamble.

For an openly gay, blue-state, twenty-something-year-old amateur actor and sometime-wordsmith, coming out is not a big deal.  But it can still be difficult.

Not . . . emotionally, in this case, so much as logistically.

There’s a weird trend out there, which you will be familiar with if you’ve recently existed.  Straight guys love – love! – to pretend to be queer.  It’s the funniest thing.  (I guess?)

And the thing is, I can kind of get it.  It’s silly in the same way it’s silly to feign creepy sexual interest in your friends.  (If that’s your thing.)  And straight people who think hitting on their guy friends is hilarious are probably a huge step forward, in some ways, from straight people who think the queers are disgusting and out to get them (which we are, by the way).

But here’s the weird thing.  I was recently with a group of straight guys who were totally unaware of my sexual orientation, because whenever I’d say something about being interested in men they’d jump right in and expand upon my “joke.”

Here’s an example:

ME:
I want to marry a man.

STRAIGHT GUY:
I want to marry seven men.

OTHER STRAIGHT GUY:
And fuck ’em in the ears.

Okay.  Maybe I fabricated that particular example.  But the point is . . . really?

How can we acheive equal status for LGBTQ people if being queer is a punchline?

I dunno.  It’s funny, but it’s . . . so not, also.

Leave your thoughts below.  I love you.  I love your nipples and your handwriting.

Here is my obligatory apology for having not blogged in such a long time. I don’t have any excuse for this. Did you miss me?

I’ve rejected gender. How are you?

My friend Jerry once (harmlessly – so harmlessly) complained to me about somebody who had used his knife without permission. “You don’t touch a man’s knife!” he said. He considered this act an insult to himself. To his manhood. This person had taken his knife and that’s something you don’t do (dammit!).

But.  I don’t have a knife. So . . .

I took a course on interpersonal communication once, where differences in gender featured prominently. “Men talk like such-and-such.”  “Women express themselves like blahdy-blah.” That kind of thing. And I learned a lot from the course – most surprisingly that I’m a woman.

Is this unique to my life?  This can’t be unique to my life.  No!  Look.  Has this kind of thing happened to you, too?  (This example is man-centered because I have a penis, not because I think this doesn’t happen to women.)

PERSON:
Men love camping!
All men love camping!
All real men love camping.
As the old rhyme goes, “Has a penis;
fuckin’ loves to camp.

ME:
I do not love camping.
I feel as though this makes me less manly.

PERSON:
Don’t be silly! Your dislike of camping
in no way diminishes your manhood.
Also, this presents no kind of gaping sword-wound
to the torso of Logical Thought.

It has!  Hasn’t it?!

Let’s put it another way:

Seems legit.

Seems legit.

Now I hate math just as much as the next guy.  But I think something . . . something has gone awry.  Somebody has broken into the tomb of Emperor NotBeingIdiots and ransacked it.  Stolen the gold.  Upturned beautiful, priceless artworks.  Peed on the walls.  Covered the place in misspelled graffiti.  The police aren’t ready to make an arrest, it seems, but I think i have found the culprit.  That masterful burglar – We Are Making It the Fuck Up.

See, what we have done is made these two categories and said, “Ah-HA!  These two shall encompass all of humanity!”  And, in our excitement, we immediately began quickly shoveling attributes under the banner of either “feminine,” or “masculine.”

Now, with time, and the gradual removal of heads from asses, has come a sort of collective, “huh . . .”  People have begun pointing our how wrong society’s assessment of gender is. 

You don’t have to wear make up to be feminine and beautiful!”

“You don’t have to play sports to be a ‘real man’!”

“Girls can cut their hair short!”

“‘Men can wear pink!”

I don’t think anybody remotely intelligent is denying these things anymore.  (Maybe I should say I hope  nobody is.)  I certainly don’t think they’re false.  I just also don’t think they’re . . . well, true

Let’s imagine, for a moment, a conversation between two zoologists.

DR. PRIMADOCTA:
I say, my fine colleague. Have you ever seen
an animal as magnificent as the emerald-tusked
gardener walrus?

DR. ZOODOCDOS:
Verily, I cannot pretend to have ever seen one.
The beast’s fondness (and exceptional ability) for
growing tulips is incredible.  And naturally,
those tusks are unlike any tha–

DR. P:
Pardon me, my good doctor, but did you say tulips?
Surely, you are referring to Odobenus horticulturalis’
chrysanthemums. They are beyond compare.

DR. Z
You’re an asshole.

 Who’s right, here? 

Neither of them,” you’d be inclined to say.  And you’d be right!  So right.  This is a matter of opinion!  Neither of their opinions is right.  Neither is wrong.  You might have another opinion entirely.  “The walrus’ calla lilies are clearly its flora optima.

Well said.  Well said.

Except for, um, well, a tiny little detail that, uh, I kind . . . made the emerald-tusked gardener walrus right the hell up.  Conjured him from my little brain.  Its attributes are irrelevant, in a Debbie-downer kind of way, because you will never ever find one.  Ever.

And that’s how I’ve come to see gender.  There is no “right” or “wrong” of gender because gender is, really, something people made up.  A bazillion years ago.  Before science was anywhere near its state today.  Before science was a thing.  Like myth, gender was invented to make sense of the world.  And, like myth, gender makes sense of the world in a way that makes no fucking sense.

Not even penises or vaginas are “masculine” or “feminine”!  Not really.  Look at transwomen and -men.  Look at people born with ambiguous genitalia.  When you get right down to it, the only manly thing is a y-chromosome.  The only womanly thing is . . . no y-chromosome.  And even then . . .

Now, I’m not a scientist or a sociologist.  You may be convinced by this point in the post that I am an absolute idiot.  Or a cynic.  But I hope you can see the point I’m trying to make.  And I hope that if, like me, you are feeling like not as much of your identity is tied up in gender as you thought, you have the freedom in your life to express that.  For my part, I’ve started thinking of myself as neither masculine nor feminine.  I’ve begun to think of myself as “ze” and “hir,” instead of “he” and “him.”

It just makes the most sense to me.

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There is a band I’ve been listening to a lot of lately called The Front Bottoms. You probably knew all about them “before they were cool.” You’re hip that way.

There are many things I like about the band that I would be happy to gush about if requested to do so via email or Twitter. (Members of TFB, this would be an excellent way both to boost your self-esteem and mine in one fell swoop.)

What I would especially like to talk about, though, is vocalist Brian Sella. Because he made me ponder something.

Brian is not what I would call a conventionally (conventionally!), uh, good singer.

(Front Bottoms people, allow me to remind you at this point of the lovely things I said about you earlier. I’m a snob. I’m a jerk. Will you ever forgive me? I’m going to one of your shows soon! Some of my pennies are now your pennies! Now, don’t navigate away. I’m about to say some more nice things. Nicer! Trust me.)

This does not, at all (at all) mean I think Brian is a bad singer. Or unpleasant to listen to. Or anything short of incredible. But he is not the sort of human you overhear belting away in the shower and later try to convince “must do this as a career!” He has a very different kind of beauty (and I mean beeaauutyy) to his voice. John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats) and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) – same deal. Bob Dylan probably as well, but Dylan I could honestly take or leave. (Yes! But no – shush! Tish!)

The thing about these singers is, well, I believe them. They are singing as a vessel for the beautiful words they need to tell you instead of using such-and-such lyrics as a vessel for their voice.

Certainly I would never say that “technical” artistic “proficiency” precludes the possibility of genuine artistic expression. Merely that it provides an often successful Plan Bravo. You needn’t fondle my heart quite as vigorously if you’ve got my ears eating out of your–

Well, anyway.

Today, I am wondering if there are analogous artists in other media. Particularly, is there a novelist Brian Sella? A poet John Darnielle? (Well, of course there is – John Darnielle. But you see what I’m getting at.) There must I think be some element of fallibility to all the accepted “right ways” in art. Some of these loopholes and alternatives obviously go on to become the new normal (or art would never change), but I think it is just as desirable (if not more) to simply be the grand unusual. If that’s not . . . too weird a phrase. I think it wouldn’t be too stupid a goal, when sitting down to write, to make something grand and unusual.

Meditate on this I will.

I will close with the lyrical reflections of some artists mentioned previously:

I could have been a famous singer, if I had someone else’s voice. But failure’s always sounded better. Let’s fuck it up, boys. Make some noise!

Or, perhaps more poignantly –

Florida’s a long way from Rhode Island.

No matter how many times I resolve to write absent the expectation of immediate flawless-ness . . . I still do that.

I saw to myself, “Come now, J. Just get the words on paper (read: screen), raw and unedited, then refine them into a glistening gem of literature!”

Did somebody famous once say that the first draft of everything sucks big time?

In any case, while I am working (slowly) on more substantial blog posts, I just wanted to check in and assure you that my net absence is the result of neurosis and not neglect.

I also wanted to invite you to share with me your struggles of a similar nature. You may be wondering why you should take time out of your day to shoot me a comment or email, and frankly starting to consider me more or less a pretentious ass. That’s okay. I still like you.

When was the last time you really looked at someone? I mean really looked at him. Thought, “what color would I call those eyes?”; traced the lines and speckles and dimples and creases around and around the face; watched the nostrils flare in a tiny way with each exhalation?

I ask because I do it very little.

It is possible, of course, that this feeling is entirely unique to me, but to look somebody full in the face fills me with a peculiar vulnerability. And I call it peculiar because I feel exposed, without having any conscious concept of what I’m . . . exposed to. But regardless of any peculiarity – there it is!

Blah, blah, blah, my feelings. The point is I don’t look at people much. Not carefully, anyway.

The exception to this rule is my dearest friend Jerry. (You shouldn’t call him “Jerry.” I sometimes fear the odd slap in the face when I do.) I look at Jerry frequently and with massive attention. And I think it’s because that particular vulnerability feels utterly appropriate in his company. It feels like exactly what I should –

Oh there I go again with the feelings. My sincerest apologies.

I’d like to hear from you, if I might put you through the trouble, about this. Do you feel the same? Do you look at people? I mean really? Which people? Why? Tell me! Tell me everything!

And have yourself a terrific day.