Archives: religion

“Annunciation”

Mofo publishing’s latest anthology of literary erotica, Sacrilege, comes out August 17th. This week I’m sharing excerpts from both my stories in it.

“Annunciation” is a Marian devotion, a confession, a denunciation, and a love story about growing up queer in the Catholic Church.

Annunciation

Gabriel

The Nativity is the third Joyful Mystery.

My first crush was on the archangel Gabriel, who I thought was a woman.

I stared at the illustrations in my religion textbook, studying every nuance of the figure, taller than the kneeling Mary (or even when kneeling to Mary) but slender. Details of that long body were masked by a white gown that flowed to bare feet, draped the wrists of gesturing hands. The beardless, fine-featured face was framed by a cascade of golden hair. These details recurred in image after image. Already half-daydreaming, I skimmed text that spoke of “the angel,” and I knew girls named Gabrielle.

So to me, the Annunciation was always a matter of two women together in a bedroom.

Once I was older, I became aware of my error and confused by it, sheepish, in some unexpressed, inexpressible way defiant. When I heard “there is neither Greek nor Jew, servant nor free, woman nor man,” I felt I might be right after all. Later on, I saw Henry Ossawa Tanner’s 1898 painting The Annunciation, which shows the angel as a narrow shaft of golden light that Mary gazes at warily.

Yet it also encouraged me that the Bible passage wasn’t primarily about angels but human beings. I liked the idea of one day no longer having a gender, which I found complicated and burdensome. By that point, I had given up on getting to fall in love with someone who was not gendered male. Despite pushback from my rebellious classmates, who nearly drove our pastor out of homeroom when he came to answer our questions, it was made clear there were two roles only men could take: that of a priest, for all my class argued otherwise, and that of my (married, permanent) lover.

Much, much later I discovered a theory that the archangel Gabriel’s representation in early Byzantine art was based on court eunuchs’ hairless, delicate androgyny. Perhaps, then, angels are persons who have forsaken maleness, though moving from the one gender does not automatically make them female, as I well know.

For now, I do think of myself as a woman. One day, be it in the Kingdom of God or sooner, I reserve the right to change my mind.

Back when I remained certain that Gabriel was a woman, I found confirmation in this belief through one of the altar servers. She too wore a white robe covering her tall body, and her face was framed by coppery hair that looked golden in some lights. Her features were austere, her movements ungainly as she grew into her height. I watched her religiously every Wednesday morning when our parish school went to Mass. She was several grades ahead of me, and the only other times I glimpsed her were for a minute or so each afternoon, around three o’clock, when we gathered in the gym to wait for our buses to arrive.

While I watched for this girl and studied the illustrated Gabriels, something felt tight in my chest, a thin and pleasant constriction. Our sexual education textbooks and our teachers told us that in the confusion of growing up, sometimes these crushes happened. They were natural, a phase we would grow out of. I believed them.

One night—I was a freshman in college, still living at home—I turned in my narrow bed and fell into a dream. In it, you were dressed in a blue robe with a white scarf covering your hair, the costume of Mary from a Nativity pageant. Neither of us had been in a pageant since middle school, but in the dream you were twenty, I nineteen, as we were in life. You stood at the back of the stage, behind the purple velvet curtain, and you kissed Gabriel.

Gabriel was not a man; Gabriel was me. A white gown covered me to my tennis shoes, but the long sleeves fell back as my hands lifted to your waist and shoulder. The kiss was slow and long, silent and lit by a honey-colored light. Your arms tried to go around the angel but were brought up short by my wings. These wings were not made of cardboard and gold ribbon but of feathers and flesh. Your fingers stroked through the fine down, dug in to meet the membrane with all its air-current sensitivity, and when your caress reached through them, the wings flew out and flexed and beat as if to lift us from the floor.

Read Sacrilege now: 

Amazon

Mofo website

“Deliver Us”

Mofo publishing’s latest anthology of literary erotica, Sacrilege, comes out August 17th. This week I’m sharing excerpts from both my stories in it.

“Deliver Us” is a lighthearted and angry look at the kind of sex that will get you sent to hell. Namely, exorcism roleplay, with bondage, warming oils, and getting almost too deeply into character–

Deliver Us

Ryan might have made a mistake in telling her that his first awakening to bondage had come through some C-movie about an exorcism. Watching that lissome teenager writhe, strapped down on the table—though just a kid himself, he’d known something was going on, something even beyond the desperate, weirdly poignant straining for salvation. Years later, he found out exactly what. And years after that, he confessed.

And now he was about to lose his immortal soul over it.

But God, Ann looked good in a Roman collar.

“I thought about being a nun,” she said, running her fingers over it. “But in the end it didn’t work out.”

“No kidding.” He grinned. “When it comes to nuns, I always think about . . . either sweet little old lady campaigners of social justice or else rulers across the knuckles.”

“Seriously. When I was younger, I thought I might have a vocation.”

“You’ve never mentioned that before.”

She shrugged, and he remembered that she didn’t talk much about her Catholicism in general. Or her ex-Catholicism. Which seemed more likely, given her continued playing around with the collar. She brushed away the ends of her brown curls hanging over it.

“Anyway,” she said, “I just thought of it when I put this on. Since they don’t let women become priests. A Sister would be as close as I could get.”

“I think you’ll make a good priest,” he told her.

“Thanks.” The moment of softness passed from her eyes, and she leaned over him. Loomed, really. When he stood, they were the same height, but Ryan always felt as if he shrank five feet when he was tied up. And the improvised vestments seemed to do something for her—she grew in them.

She said, “But after all, there’s lots of things they don’t let good Catholic girls do. Extramarital sex . . . sex not for the purposes of procreation . . . most of everything we’ve ever done.”

“I’ve seduced you into evil. How demonic of me.” He raised his eyebrows, which he’d often been told were at a certain devilish angle.

“Very.” Her grin was far more evil than any expression he could ever devise. It sent chills down his spine, and heat flowed right after them. His old jeans were tight enough that he suspected she could tell. He had picked a pair with an especially weakened waistband in case things got torn once he started writhing.

She bent closer, until the end of the silk scarf she was using as a stole dangled, and whispered, “You’re very wicked.”

She meant it. The way she had fiddled with her costume—solemn, if not reverent, maybe with a bit of wistfulness—spoke louder than their joking, spoke in the same clamoring tone as her silence about her past religion. They played now with something serious. If they did it wrong, they would be running a very big risk.

Ann frowned. “I should smack those knuckles with a ruler.”

“Come on.” He tugged at the straps holding him to the headboard in a weak sort of protest. She laughed at him. She cackled. It wasn’t very devout. And the indignity of the situation left him more turned on than he’d want to admit.

“For God’s sake!”

“I don’t think you’re supposed to beg for mercy just yet, Lucifer.” Her lips pursed on the name, making him think of kisses. And more. “Especially not by that name.”

Read Sacrilege now:

Amazon

Mofo website

Upcoming stories

My cup overfloweth. Contracts are signed, edits are underway, and I just discovered that I’ll be sharing the tables of contents in two upcoming anthologies with some very excellent people.

Your cup might overflow as well, dear reader, because in each of these anthologies I have two stories.

In MoFo’s third anthology, Religion (originally Sacrilege), my stories are kind of different from each other, but between them cover plenty of my Roman Catholic influences.

“Deliver Us” is about what happens when you get exposed to bondage through B-movies about exorcisms, and your girlfriend is an ex-Catholic who once wanted to be a priest.

(When your boyfriend did become a priest and you want to rescue him from his decision, you get A Last Touch of Grace. Comparing that story in 2016 to these stories in 2017 probably reveals something interesting about my spiritual journey.)

“Annunciation” is a semi-autobiographical novella in flash about growing up queer in the Catholic Church. Novella in flash might be a slight exaggeration, but I’ve recently fallen in love with the form and its cousins after reading Sylvia Brownrigg’s Pages for Youeven if I didn’t manage a “true” novella of the appropriate length and independence of the composite flash pieces, it was fun experiment. The format might also be influenced by the 5 + 1 fanfiction genre, in which case we have “Five times I* believed lies the Church told me about gender and sexuality and one time I figured it out,” I guess, or maybe “Five times I really missed the fact that I was queer and the realization(s) that put me right.” Not only was “Annunciation” fascinating to write (I said these stories “covered a lot of my Roman Catholic influences,” but what I learned most is how much is left to uncover), I also got a little angry. In “Deliver Us,” too. That seemed to fit MoFo’s call, which includes “a preference for Catholicism—the eroticism and hypocrisy are built right in.”

The narrator of “Annunciation” first identifies the androgynously-illustrated Gabriel as female, “So to me, the Annunciation was always a matter of two women together in a bedroom. “

Continue reading