The cold and darkness of midwinter embodied through my “daemon”, part III

Whereas I am confident in my gender identity, I continue to struggle with my sexual identity and expression. Much of the unease and sorrow in my life I can trace back to the severe sexual repression of my childhood and young adulthood. My earthly mother instilled her Evangelical-charged, Victorianesque sense of disgust with all things sexual. In my teens and early twenties, she was wont to denounce any young woman I could potentially date as “loose”. Given my predisposition towards religious experiences, I internalized the negative attitudes towards sex taught by my church community. My trans-feminine personality may also have contributed to my tendencies towards priggishness. In fairness, my mom and my church also instilled in me much compassion and kindness, valuable qualities in building and maintaining relationships. In any case, I’m forced at present to deal with negative consequences of the anachronistic views on sexuality from my previous life. I carry around a sense of not being whole and of doubting whether I can remain in love with my partner. Worse yet, I missed any potential opportunities to have children prior to the infertility of gender-change. While I previously wrote on daemons of depression, addiction, and familial discord, there may also be daemons of sexuality.

The Torment of Saint Anthony.  A copy by the young Michelangelo after an engraving by Martin Schongauer around 1487-9.  Originally posted on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_the_Great

The Torment of Saint Anthony. A copy by the young Michelangelo after an engraving by Martin Schongauer around 1487-9. Originally posted on Wikipedia

Unlike the malevolent “demons” of Christianity and Hollywood, my concept of demons are morally ambiguous. I prefer the word, “daemon”, to allude to the minor spirits of the ancient Greeks and Romans which often served as the guardian of an individual person. The Greco-Roman daemons also seem more easy to incorprate into a scientific notion that all known life must be composed of physically-measurable matter and energy. Daemons are probably nothing more than neural connection anomalies in the human brain. The human brain is hardwired to be male- or female-gendered, same-sex attracted or opposite-sex attracted. It would follow that unexplained phenomena arising within the brain would encompass a persons sexuality or gender identity. Sexuality can thus be a daemon of brain wiring which is unique to each person, for good or for ill. The founding saints of Christianity often personified sexual desire as the daemon, “Lust”. During their extreme practices of seclusion and asceticism, some early saints had visionary experiences of daemon attack. Out of the demonic horde which St. Anthony fought, he pointed out one as a daemon of Lust. Similarly, St. Jerome had visions of Lust daemons as dancing girls. The more scholarly church fathers, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, did not claim personal experiences with daemons of Lust, but asserted the reality of sexual daemons which could assume male and female form. A male sexual daemon was called an incubus while a female sexual daemon was called a succubus. Few modern churches teach that incubi, succubi, or other Lust daemons are real, but negative consequences of this demonization of sexuality permeates Christianity to this day. Christian demonization of sexual impulses causes great harm to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons, all of whom are created in the Divine image.

The unhealthy religious attitudes concerning sexuality may be the most destructive of sexual daemons, much more than Lust. Struggles with extreme, often crippling guilt regarding sexual feelings or experiences is practically a rite of passage among young people raised in traditionalist or fundamentalist churches. Worse yet, young people who are gay, lesbian, or transgender are often disowned by their families while non-heterosexual persons of all ages face job discrimination, homelessness, and poverty. It seems the hateful, petty sexual taboos of traditional Christianity are much more dangerous daemons than any incubus or succubus.

It is tempting to relegate all Christian teaching regarding sexuality to the philosophical dungheap, yet there are contexts where chastity and virginity truly are good qualities. As demonstrated by the story of Saints Chrysanthus and Daria, abstinence from sex was among the most revolutionary characteristics of Christian leaders during Roman persecutions, leading to many conversions. Today, in a world rife with sex-trafficking of women and children, protecting the innocence of our youth must be made a higher priority. In my own life, however, chastity has not been entirely beneficial. I suffer much from the loneliness and loss of purpose due to my inablity to have children. The negative attitudes towards sex taught by the early church often followed from their aversion to childbearing. My testimony stands in contrast; The repression of my sexuality has directly resulted in my current suffering. As I feel I am being punished for the chastity of my youth, I cannot accept generalizations of all or most sexual behaviors as “sinful”. In my despair, I incorporate the ancient lust daemon, the succubus, into my faith-practice. To be gender-appropriate, the daemon should be called a “succuba” rather than a succubus. For the past several months, I have worked on the pyrograph of my “matron daemon” and regard her as a simple intermediary rather than a representation of the Divine Feminine herself. Hence, what some persons of faith regard as a demon, others may regard as a guardian angel.

My "Guardian Daemon" as a Succuba or daemon of sexuality.  My original design burned to pine ply.

My “Guardian Daemon” as a Succuba or daemon of sexuality. This is my original design burned to pine ply.

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