I Am What I Am: A Rant

IMG_20150727_184745_Anne

IDENTIFY!

Twitter got weird this morning. Weirder than usual. I got my first death threat on the back of a months old tweet about everybody’s favourite Irish Senator and then managed to embroil myself in an argument about trans identity and bathrooms. Some people think that people who identify themselves as trans ( I hope I’m wording that right) are deluded, mistaken, disordered or even “fashionable”. Obviously the opinions of wilfully unkind and ignorant hate-mongers mean nothing next to the lived experience of trans men and women but I still got angry and engaged with the trolls. Trip trap and all that. However it did get me to thinking about my “identity” and how it shapes our world view and those of the haters.

 

I’m a white, Irish, cis woman. I’m heterosexual but definitely have girl crushes. Big ones. I used to be a Catholic but I don’t feel like one anymore. I still like hymns and I pray sometimes but I’m not fussy as to who is listening. I collect rocks because they make me feel safe and I have been known to worship them in a slightly religious way. I talk to a magpie I’ve made friends with when I go running and I have conversations with my Grandad about life at Barrington’s Pier. He passed away in 1996 but he listens and has on occasion answered me back. I suffer from depression, anxiety and bulimia. I can’t drive because I’m too scared and I think music makes most things feel better. As long as it isn’t Bryan Adams. I drink a lot of tea and eat too much toast.  I wear sunglasses all year round because they hide my face. That’s my identity. Am I deluded?

I’m married to a white, straight male Irish man. He doesn’t understand twitter. He’s from Tipperary but is glad he doesn’t live there anymore. He’s relatively normal compared to me. He knows nothing about sport and likes atrocious Heavy Metal music. He says he’s a Catholic but he wouldn’t know when to sit down or stand up at Mass. He loves engines and thinks he will one day own a HUGE motorbike (I have news for him). He can fix anything or try. As much as any of us can, he knows who he is. Is he deluded?

I have 3 Irish children. During the census discussions at home, my oldest child said she wanted to tick “no religion” but she felt that category didn’t really represent who she is either because culturally she is a Catholic and she doesn’t believe in nothing. She loves drama, rock music and her phone. She’s forming her own identity. My younger children believe in all sorts. They like hymns and Green Day and One Direction. One wants to be an artist when she grows up and plant all the flowers she can possibly plant. The other one thinks she’d like to be a waitress. Or a computer engineer. I don’t know yet if they will be gay or straight. They seem straight. However that would seem. All three of them go to school with people I would never have encountered in my youth. A quick list of the countries their friends are from would include : Kenya, Somalia, South Africa, Liberia, Belgium, Canada, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia, China, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, USA. Oh and Cork. They know that some of their friends pray to the Buddha, some believe in Mohammed and some have no religion at all. This gives them no cause at all for concern. They accept it as part of their friends’ identities and go back to their skipping games ( not the Teen on that one, but you get me).

The point I’m trying to make is that my identity is as valid as yours. I own my own personality and what’s made me who I am. This is as true for the trans woman in a public bathroom in this country or North Carolina  as it is for the haters in the media, social or otherwise. I have never questioned my gender or my sexuality because I have been sure of them always. Other aspects of myself have not been as kind to me. But again I am what I am. People who love me accept me. Or put up with me.  I’m not always sure which. The hate just saddens me and then makes me very mad. Incredible Hulk level mad. What part of the typical troll identity makes them more right and more worthy of rights than those of us with a slightly different life experience. We are not all the same. But we are equal.   I am lucky enough to have a wonderful friend who is trans. She is one of the kindest, sanest and most genuinely decent people I have ever encountered. I’ve learned a lot from her about lots of things. She inspires me.  Her identity is bloody wonderful and if you want to hate her you’ll have to take me and all the rest of her crazy friends on too.

Rant over #LetUsPee

Copyright 2016 myindoorvoice.wordpress.com

Here I Am Lord.

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St Michael’s Church, Limerick 

Recently I was called a “Catholic apologist” online. By somebody in the legal profession too so I was kind of rattled. Kind of. But it got me thinking about how I see the Church and what I believe in. And Elvis. I think about him too a lot. But that’s another days work.
I decided I was an atheist in 6th class just before I made my Confirmation. I’d read Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham,  life was shit and where the fuck was God? And that was that or so I thought. Who in their right mind would believe in an all-powerful being they can’t see and will never see? Not me that’s who.
And then the Church imploded and I was right! The Church is dead. Priests are bastards. Nuns are evil. Etc and etc. As a nation, Ireland came out from under the shadow of the Catholic Church.  We got divorced. We got all sorts of contraception. We got married in registry offices and hotels. We acknowledged how we treated women forced to give their babies away because they hadn’t entered Holy Matrimony. We voted overwhelmingly for marriage equality. We ARE a new people. We have Ann Summers and nobody cares anymore that you can buy crotchless knickers on the same street as Mothercare. Obviously we have more to do. Twelve women a day are leaving this great nation to access abortion abroad so #repealthe8th but again another day’s work.

So there I was, a happy atheist ( when I say happy I mean suicidally depressed but you know what I mean) and then something happened. I got married. In a registry office. My mother in law never recovered. And I had children. To baptise or not to baptise. GODDAMN YOU ALL I’M AN ATHEIST. But it wasn’t that simple. I went to a Catholic school where the nuns were lovely and loved us all.  We were taught tolerance and that Jesus loves us all. We had a Joy Club and it was actually joyful. I told the priest at school that I was an atheist and we had a perfectly reasonable chat about it. He was a lovely man. Who was I to deny my children the benefit of a happy education. If they choose to embrace faith as part of their lives that’s their choice and if not and they reject it then that’s perfectly fine too. But I wanted to give them the option. So I did. So far so Irish.

But lately I’ve noticed that you can’t just be an atheist. You have to be an Atheist. Capital A. The Great Church of the UnGod. Atheism is a religion and a fundamentalist one at that. It’s become perfectly acceptable to sneer at people who have faith and pray or go to Mass. I’m still an atheist but I’m not at all happy with this creeping trend. Peak Atheism for me happened when the internet nearly blew up congratulating Stephen Fry for railing against an unjust god he doesn’t believe in on The Meaning of Life with our own Gay Byrne. Was there one dissenting voice? I certainly wasn’t brave enough to say: “You know what Fry? Fuck off you’re an ATHEIST”. Yesterday I witnessed a good, decent man who is also a priest being called a “sky pilot” on social media while he discussed an epidemic of suicide in his parish on the radio. He was angry and he was sad. 8 suicides in 3 weeks. Think about that. In one county. BUT HE’S A SKY PILOT. DON’T LISTEN TO HIM. Have we forgotten that priests are on the frontline when it comes to grief. They’re at deathbeds every day. They are at the homes of bereaved parents and wives and husbands after the most tragic events. They offer the only comfort they can, which is their faith. Have we really come to a point where we think it’s acceptable to pour scorn on every man of the cloth simply because he is one. That’s not the New Ireland is it?  I’m not ready to reject what was part of my cultural upbringing. I went to Mass everyday with my Granny. I loved it. It was an important part of her day. She had friends. She was part of the Church. I’ve had friends and relations  who have endured great personal tragedy and they took enormous comfort from prayer. They had to believe there was a reason, a better place. Maybe nothing changed but they felt in some small way better.  I’ve been to the pit of despair more than once in my life and I’ve cried out desperate prayers to the Blessed Virgin or whoever would listen to me to help. And I felt helped. I felt better. I sang hymns on that boat back from England.  I can’t say I believe in God but I won’t laugh at anyone who does. I won’t demonise good priests or the lovely nuns who teach my children. I’m Irish. I collect rocks to keep me safe. I’m a Catholic atheist. And proud to be one.