I learned to pray by example.
Mom starts her day by opening the curtains, turning on the radio, and then uttering a rapid prayer while burning incense. She sets the joss sticks on the family altar and goes to the bathroom to freshen herself up. It’s habitual — even on her most troubled days, I have never ever seen her break from this routine. I know mom prays for me specifically, but not much else. I can’t even imagine what her conversations to God or our ancestors are like.
Mom always made me feel that I was protected by something greater and bigger. She said that as the only son, and the youngest, our ancestors were invested in making sure I had a long and prosperous life.
I prayed first when I started to do poorly in class. I prayed to God that please, may I find it within myself to start caring more about grades. I prayed to Him that please, today may my teachers go a little bit easier on me, would they expect a little bit less from me. I don’t know how effective these prayers were, or if they even reached anything at all, but I felt the more I practiced this, the greater chance they would materialize.
I began to pray for other people. I prayed that my sister would find an inner resolve to stop hurting herself. I prayed that my other sister would have a happier marriage than anyone else in our entire family. I prayed that JV would be cured of her depression.
White gay theory has always made me believe there was a fundamental opposition between spirituality and my queerness. That the more I stepped into my identity as queer, there was some significant obstruction from me connecting with God or any source of divinity. The fact is, though, the more I eased into being non-binary, the more I found a deep-rooted connection with myself, my ancestral background, and my spirituality.
Yesenia repeated to me many times that her grandma told her queer people are holy. I believe her. I believe that the queer and trans people are the most divine beings on this Earth and in their wake they inspire miracles. This is my shield against bigotry, hatred, and religious essentialism. You cannot tell me I will go to Hell, that I am an abomination, or that I deserve punishment for who I am. I won’t believe you, not while a current of inner truth and resolve galvanizes my spirit.
Today I light the joss sticks for the altars almost as often as my mom does, though never with her knowing. I pray for her and my dad’s health, my sisters and their success, and for my friends. I pray everyday that Arturo will find a partner who cares about him the way he cares about everyone else. I pray that Chay will find purpose, affirmation, and a space that celebrates them wholesomely. I pray Kat will have the fortitude to confront whatever she needs to, that she never feels alone or abandoned. I pray Yesenia will find reciprocity in the care and love that’s almost never returned to her. I pray Arman will ease into himself as an adult without sacrificing his easy trust and confidence in other people.
And for me, I pray this body will be able to hold my spirit in one piece.