October 19, 2011
A Guest Post by CARLYLE JANSEN, Founder of Good For Her
“I just don’t understand. What do lesbians actually DO together?”
I remember my mom asking me that when I was just a teenager. At the time I didn’t know anything about sex – period – so I certainly didn’t know the answer to her question. It wasn’t until much later on that I realized that her query probably meant that her sex life wasn’t very interesting or varied.
We were Christian – United Church – which is on the more liberal and less
fundamentalist side of Christianity: sometimes I think it’s more like a social justice club that meets on Sunday mornings, than a church. Although I never received a direct, verbal message at home or at church that sex was bad, somehow I understood that: 1) sex wasn’t something that I should explore before marriage; 2) if I did so before then, it would get me into trouble; and 3) lesbians were a little weird…obviously.
But what I do remember hearing is my mom also saying,
“I don’t wear a button advertising my heterosexuality, so why do homosexuals feel that they need to?”
I knew well enough to take that to mean that non-heterosexuals should keep their sexual preferences to themselves. And when I told her about the sex ed lecture Sue Johanson gave at my school in grade 10, she responded with a fearful,
“Just make sure you keep your pants on!“
I am sure her response was based, at least in part, on the fact that she had been given up for adoption because her biological mother had made the mistake of not “keeping her pants on” way back in 1924; when it was still pretty taboo to be a single mom – particularly in a small town. So it’s no surprise that I was terrified of both sex and my body, or that I remained non-orgasmic until my late-twenties.
Although, religion played a very indirect part in my fear and reluctance to have sex, as I grew up I distanced myself from the church. But, as I became more comfortable with my body and having sex, my attitude also started to change. I started to explore spirituality more extensively. Among other things, I read Living in Sin? by Bishop Spong, who served as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark for 24 years and whose work challenges conservative interpretations of the Bible. His book helped me to understand that the natural expression of my sexuality was “ok” and NOT scorned by God – whoever or whatever that is. I also explored paganism, which celebrates rather than disparages the diversity of sexuality. Gradually, I began to embrace the notion of pleasure (I had never realized that sex was supposed to be about pleasure. What a radical idea!).
As I began seeing the Bible, its interpretations, and what it means in a more open, less fundamentalist light, my understanding of all that sex could be and mean to me also started to broaden…
I discovered spiritual sex.
I came out as bi.
I tried being poly.
I explored BDSM.
I went to hands-on sex workshops.
The world opened up.
And interestingly enough, it was then that I also rediscovered the church. I ended up finding Holy Trinity, an Anglican parish in the heart of downtown Toronto that is sex and queer-positive, which is now my home. Much like the United Church I attended in my youth, Holy Trinity, grew out of a strong social justice movement. It was there that the Community Homophile Association of Toronto, CHAT, began congregating years ago: first for meetings, and then for all male dances. Today the community that gathers within its walls embraces diversity in all of its manifestations. When I’m there I feel accepted for all that I am, and as a direct result (while wholly embracing my own unique sexuality) I’ve also reclaimed my religion.