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Embracing the Divine

Updated: Oct 31, 2023


Jessie Sage is a writer, a mother, a sex worker and a former seminary student. She spoke to Petit Mort about the intersection of sex work, religion, and the possibility of divine ecstasy. Excerpts from her forthcoming book, An Unexpected Place: Sex, Work, Home published by West Virginia University Press, are interspersed throughout the interview.

In my first semester at seminary, while newly pregnant with my first child, I was in a systematic theology class when I learned, for the first time, that Catholics believe in transubstantiation, and how this is different than the protestant interpretations of the sacrament as either purely symbolic, or as partially symbolic (consubstantiation). I learned that transubstantiation, in Catholic dogma, is the belief that the bread and wine of the eucharist, upon being blessed by the Priest, becomes the body and blood of Christ. Not Christ’s body and blood plus bread and wine, that’s consubstantiation. And not bread and wine as a proxy for the body and blood of Christ, which is what Mormons told me. But the actual body and blood of Christ. This blew my mind: What kind of magic is Catholicism?

In the second semester of the same class, now visibly pregnant and able to feel my child moving inside of me, I was introduced to liberation theology, whose main tenant is that God stands on the side of the poor and oppressed. Years later, when I moved into sex work activism, the words of James Cone, Gustavo Gutiérrez, and Leonardo Boff echoed in my head when I heard Black trans sex workers remind privileged white organizers, such as myself, to center the voices of the most marginalized: those who were disproportionately impacted by poverty, violence, and policing.

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