Through my research into the history of Copts in Egypt, I became fascinated in the character of St Simeon the Shoemaker, a tenth century Coptic saint, who is credited with helping to move Mukattam mountain with his ‘faith as small as a mustard seed’.
Mukattam is a significant place in the history and culture of Cairo, Egypt and the Coptic faith. It is the site of great limestone quarries which helped build the pyramids; also the site of Manshiyat Naser, the village of garbage collectors; the Cairo necropolis; the cave church of St Simeon; the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood; and the upper class suburb of Mukattam itself.
St Simeon is well known for taking the bible verse “if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” to its grisly and literal conclusion. There is an echo of this verse in the Coptic church’s stance on homosexuality, which states that while homosexuals are accepted into the church, they must renounce all homosexual thoughts and activities. Metaphorically, the church is asking homosexuals to ‘castrate’ themselves, to cast out the ‘bad parts’ in order to be admitted into the church.
My father has also symbolically asked me to castrate myself, by having ‘faith as small as a mustard seed’ and asking God to move a mountain, to “fix” my sexuality so that I don’t get flung into the very real Hell that he sees below his feet.