Purgatory

A common thread in my self-discovery has been my relationship with religion. I was raised almost conservatively Christian, and those values and traditions still dictate my everyday routine. I guess it was all I knew. I say almost because my childhood was based in a society where the Western World was esteemed as the pinnacle of society. 

I had Catholic education for all but two years of my schooling life, and boy do I have a LOT of unlearning and internalizing to do. While I write this I am reunited with waves of anxious memories. I still consider myself a Christian, however, I am still trying to re-invent what this means for me and how it influences my life. I have had way too many run-ins with the occasional ‘Bible-bashing’ situations where I was made to feel less than worthy of any spiritual love.  

Identifying as someone in the LGBTQIA+ community, I have always (and still am) been pulled into two different scopes of spirituality. Christianity has a turbulent relationship with the LGBTQIA+ communities around the world. The battle to feel welcome and loved by the communities we grew up in is greater than ever. Yet I remain conflicted. While Christianity and other Abrahamic religions have given their followers “commandments” to follow which have caused division, they have provided the world with notable traditions that celebrate time spent with those closest to you, which can be beautiful. I can only speak for Christianity but all other religions spread across the globe bear so much power and influence over the population, whether it be through food, dance, fireworks, or song. 

I mean look at me … does this not scream 👠 👜

Through all this beauty and glee I have seen the depreciative implications on those who live on the margins of society. Unfortunately, these belief systems have drawn up boxes for all of humanity to sit in, and the fact is there are those among us who just don’t sit comfortably in these boxes, just for the sake of societal expectations. Personally, at 25, I am on my own journey of understanding my sexuality and gender identity. Wearing a pair of heeled black boots and putting on a bit of sparkle on my eyelids would have been so alien to me a couple of years ago. I recall even the suggestion that I was gay by someone else I would immediately lash out and take offense, it was almost like someone had spat on me. 

I reflected on my spiritual confusion in my Masters’ thesis a couple of years ago, below is an excerpt of how I would try to convince my soul to find peace in the unknown. 

“Purgatory is an apt term to visualize the present ‘in-between’ space, as it is an overlapping of realities. Raised as Christian, ‘Purgatory’ was almost always a word threatened upon me. Not necessarily in a horrific way, it was more a term stipulated unto me to discipline in my primary school years. It was portrayed as a space where you would go if you had unfinished or unfulfilled affairs. In my late teenage years, I hardly had an existential thought, my unfinished business consisted of not having my prized Faber Castell pencils in perfect rainbow formation. Although the dooming reality of floating in limbo for eternity was threatened upon me for these unfinished tasks in life, as I grew into the person I am today I became more drawn to this space of limbo. Being immersed in a space where I was consumed by incomplete doings didn’t seem so distressing. Often described as a state of temporary punishment, the thought dooming limbo seemed exhilarating in the depths of my adolescence. A moment or a walk away from the pressures of the current endurance to survive, perhaps my purgatorial moments have become a key tool in my survival tool kit.”

Published by Shawn Wimalaratne

Storyteller

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