I wrote this piece months and months ago but it's funny to me, in light of a new Jezebel article asking 'Why Would Anyone Become a Nun?'
My journey to becoming an activist all started with my desire to become a nun.
Let me explain.
Growing up, I went to Catholic school. In my house, we were definitely of the C&E Catholic variety. For the uninitiated, this is the type of Catholic family that will write down “Catholic” on their census but really only attend mass for Christmas and Easters. Oh and weddings and funerals, of course. (Catholics love the concept of ‘forever’).
My Catholic upbringing was rather non-existent except for some bizarro inclusions like the whole “No sex before you get married” thing which was mostly my mother’s quiet way of saying “Please don’t get knocked up and ruin your chances at a life”.
Because you see, my folks were also hella progressive in so many ways. I got the “It’s okay to be gay” talk at like… 4. And I routinely was told that I was smart first and pretty second and that I never, EVER needed a man to be happy.
I include all this because I really want to emphasize that Bible-thumping-Jesus-Praising just wasn’t a part of my reality. And yet, I really loved nuns.
See, I didn’t love Catholicism as a whole. I found the actual class boring as fuck. All the memorizing of prayers and scripture just seemed hella pointless. The occasional time that I was dragged into Sunday school, I hated the patronizing tone of the clearly-unhappy-at-home Sunday School Teachers.
The only things I loved about being Catholic was the stories and the rituals. I LOVED some of those stories. (Oh, I suppose I shouldn’t call them ‘stories’ since they are really just passages of the Bible but I can’t help but treat the Bible like Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes so yeah, they’re stories to me).
Obviously as a budding feminist, I loved the way Jesus was all down with Mary Magdalene’s sinful ways and I remember thinking “GET OFF YOUR KNEES WOMYN AND SAVE YOUR DIGNITY” when she went to wash the guy’s feet. I knew she was better than that.
I also loved this one story about a guy named Zack or something? He heard that Jesus was coming into town and he was so in awe of the guy, that he didn’t feel worthy of being in his presence. So for the fancy procession into town, little Zack went and climbed up a tree and just admired from a far. When the big JC rode into town on his ass, er, I mean donkey, he saw Zack and was all “Hey dude, come and walk with me. You’re obviously cool enough to join my posse”. (I’m paraphrasing).
I thought it was cool that Jesus was down with anyone and everyone. That he forgave folks, chilled with the disabled and homeless. He did to leprosy what Princess Diana did for HIV/AIDS.
And anyone who knows me at all, knows that I’m a fan of ritual. Or as my mother would say – TRADITION! (Only you have to say it in a loud booming voice while raising your hands, à la Fiddler on the Roof).
I refuse to let my parents buy a fake Christmas tree because it’s TRADITION! Tradition dictates that we go to my uncle’s, get a real tree and decorate it as a group. Then either my brother or I (we alternate years) put up the really hideous tacky star, the same star that my dad has wanted to change for years but I refused to let him because it was TRADITION!
Even as a lefty progressive person, I really value tradition and in particular, refuse to do something that is ‘traditional’ unless I know what the meaning of the tradition is. Since tradition is important to me, if I’m going to be passing it on, I wanna know what it is I’m replicating.
My love of nuns stems from this. Nuns are not only ALL ABOUT traditions but they are also hella devoted. And if there’s anything I love more than stories and rituals, is devotion. And so from afar, I would admire me some nuns. I never got to see them in real life until high school (more on that later) but the very existence of nuns intrigued me.
For one, they were the only ‘womyn’ I ever really associated with the Church. They also wore really interesting outfits and had wedding bands because they were MARRIED to God. If that’s not hardcore, what is? They also lived in some secretive convent where I first imagined giggling girl talk and later, some serious queer action.
The coolest part about nuns though is that they had been ‘called’. THIS is what I was all about. Womyn who had been handpicked by the big G-O-D to do his work. At the time, I didn’t see it as an oppressive relationship but more of a “God thinks you’re hella special? Then you’re special to me”.
As a youngster, I felt a ‘calling’. I wasn’t really sure what the calling was to do but I felt a strong feeling that I was meant to do something. Since I had no role models of other people who had a strong calling for their work, I figured this is it, I’m meant to be a nun.
Unfortunately, when I started high school where I was taught by REAL. LIVE. NUNS I realized that they actually sucked. Unlike “Sister Act”, they weren’t badass dancers in a penguin suit. They were actually homophobic, self-hating, hypocritical and BORING.
So then I thought “Fuck… now what?” If I feel a strong calling to do something and to work with people but I hate Christianity, don’t identify with nuns and quite frankly, don’t want to spend my life as a celibate, what the fuck am I supposed to do?
Thankfully for me, my parents wanted me to have what they didn’t and paid for me to move to Ottawa and get a post-secondary education. There I met tons and tons of people whose vocation was basically doing all the truly benevolent things that I wanted to do, without the colonialism and Jesus-lovin’.
My relationship with nuns has simply become this ironic fetish that involves nun action figures and Gothic Christian imagery. Got a picture of a holy virgin with some nice flashing lights and a crown of thorns? SIGN ME UP. But as for that whole “Life of celibacy and rubbing one out to pictures of a light-skinned Jesus?” No fucking way.