A Trans Teen Atheist’s View on Glitter-Ash Wednesday

In the lead up to Glitter+Ash Wednesday, we will be posting reflections from participating pastors, churches and individuals.

As a Trans Teen raised by a single Christian mom, I was marginally terrified to come out. Imagine my surprise when she came out to me - and (here’s the kicker) continued her work as a minister and queer advocate. Perhaps it was due to my latent atheism, but I never thought that being queer and being religious could ever fit together, but hey. I’m wrong about a lot of things.

I feel as though a lot of the LGBTQIA community has a fight-or-flight response to religion: after all, most of the negative rhetoric seems to come from a place of faith - you’re going to hell, G-d hates F*gs, God made one man and one women, etc, etc. But a quick perusal of the bible (and a couple rants from my mom) quickly proved that this was not God’s way! In fact, as my mother is wont to remind me, Jesus loved all people, and chased out hypocrites and haters - as in Godspell, these snakes, these viper's brood cannot escape being Devil's food! (Side note: he also chased out high interest loaners with a whip, or something. I wonder if he could do something about student loans. Anyway.)

My personal amusement and relationship with faith aside, the problem on our hands is a serious one. How many of my friends, brothers, sisters, in-betweens and neithers have been kicked out of their religious homes? How many of them have been forced to fatal conversion therapy because apparently that’s God’s will? How many of them live in fear of coming out, in fear of losing their community and identity? How many of them have lived their lives in lies, in doomed relationships, because of their families or church leaders words on sexuality and gender? How many of them must suffer and die until we realize that faith and pride can be one in the same?

With that in mind, I was excited when my mom told me about her idea for Glitter Ash Wednesday. Never mind the fact that I had no idea the religious significance of such a celebration - who doesn’t like glitter? I will admit, my mom had to explain to me what it meant several times: it marks the beginning of Lent, it prepares us for Jesus’ death and resurrection, and it reminds us of our own mortality. So why the glitter?

 “Well,” as my Mom says, “it means different things to different people.” Some think of God’s stardust, our queerness a reflection of God’s life. Some say that glitter celebrates queers unique spark as a gift to the church. Another part, Mom says, is mere rebellion. We refuse to give in. We are preparing to die, but the story doesn’t end there. Jesus is resurrected, and we have hope. The glitter is a reflection of that hope. While the glitter seems to some blasphemous or sensationalist, in reality it is the essence of faith: it is hope, and it is the shining of light on our lives and on our gifts.

As a poet, I can appreciate the joining of a symbol of the reflection of light with the symbol of “our Peace in His Will.” I can appreciate a symbol of pride joined with a symbol of faith. As a part of a new generation of queer teens why should I “mourn the vanished power of the usual reign?” In fact, I celebrate this - so many kids will come up in faith knowing that they are loved and believed in. Isn't that what Jesus wants?

Faith, I can say, is not a part of my life, beyond Jesus Christ Superstar, Veggie Tales, and Godspell. But it is a part of my friend’s lives, and my mom’s life, and it’s a part they love and an identity as natural to them as their gender or sexuality. Perhaps that’s the beauty and truth of Ash Wednesday or, if you want to try it out, Glitter Ash Wednesday. From dust we are made, and to dust we return, with bits of glass (and maybe rainbows) making us visible from the stars. To allow people to be marked with Glitter-Ash is to mark themselves as reflections of a new faith: one that celebrates life as well as death, the resurrection of Queer lives and hope in dark times.

The message is this: you are here. We see you. We love you. You belong.