I am a Christian. I am a gay man. Here is chronicle of my symbolic journey west, toward adventure, challenge, mystery and ultimately peace.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I have really had to wrestle lately with the damn closet door, and how open I want to or care to be. Remember, I still struggle with my sexuality at times, and yet I want to live authentically with the people in my life. For several years, I have quietly and subtly pulled the door shut from the inside, almost able to hear the creaking in the unoiled door hinge. Most times, I have no appetite or strength to defend myself or "my chosen lifestyle." I just want to say, "This attraction to guys thing is a part of me" and not get berated or tossed into the middle of a laying-on-of-hands ceremony. (And yes, that practically happened to me once when I miscalculated and came out to someone not prepared to hear it.)
Yet, because I have pulled the door shut to an extent, I have lost many friends anyway. This is not because they explicitly rejected me, but rather because I snuck off and saved them the trouble. I made assumptions about how they would react and idly watched the friendship die.
So....to what extent is the closet killing me and my relationships?
Some people know about my sexuality, but I have been quite calculating lately about who knows what. Or at least I have convinced myself I have control of who knows what about me. On the other hand, someone who is my age and has never brought a girlfriend around might be fooling fewer people than I think. So I am not in an air-tight closet all alone; I trust a lot of people around me. But I have a big challenge coming out to those who are left, which is a large group of church folks and some family that occassionally has a hay-day telling gay jokes.
One thing I have heard other gay folks say is that they feared coming out because it was almost something they could not take back. Once it is said out loud, publically, for anyone to hear, there was a sense that they had been labeled and assumptions made about them.
To be called on the carpet and be told I am going to hell and that I need to read Romans 1 (always said as if I obviously have never even heard of the Bible) are not going to be pleasant for me to handle. I do not want a fight or a debate or a lengthy time answering closed-ended questions. I am not up for a fight; I am up for an honest friendship.
So I am left swinging on this trapeze, my knees hooked over a bar swaying back and forth over the arena, knowing that I cannot stay here for too much longer. And I know the way off is to let go of the bar that now holds me up, and fly though the air un assisted, hoping the person promising to catch me by the wrists and swing me over to the safety of a secure platform will really do so. Or will it be a lengthy and horrifying drop to the floor, with the impending reality that the approaching collision with the ground will cripple me?
Thankfully, I had coffee with a great friend today who I usually see once a year. I share a tremendous amount of my doings and feelings, and he helps me process them. He tells me I am different every time we talk, each time for the better. He says I am becoming courageous in my decisions and in my progress on this journey. Today, he said the same thing. And I think even the mere authorship of a post like this should tell me something. I am debating doing the "publically out" thing.
Attractive guys turn me on. Intimacy with guys is something I like. The touch of a man is wonderful, and the masculinity of being held or holding in a quiet moment is hard to capture with words. These things I know. Since forever, I would stop in the mall kiosks selling next-year's calendars and walk right past the scantily-clothed girls draped over cars seeking the Chippendales, hoping no one would notice if I picked it up and looked at the shirtless hunks on the back.
Do I explain that to someone? And how? Is there really freedom outside the closet? Or is there just a lot more people with a lot more questions which will make me feel like a second-best citizen? For those of you who made the journey, what happens on the outside of the closet? Was it painful? Honestly. Tell me. Even if there was joy in being open and authentic, was it all pain-free?
Here comes the audience participation; this is an All-Play. Raise your hand and hit the Comment button. Your turn....
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
We have not spent a great deal of time together lately. I found other things to occupy myself, mostly because I am scared. I am scared that you don't like me very much. I am scared that you care for me only because you have to. I mean, isn't this in the rules somewhere that God is supposed to do things for people, regardless of how much they deserve it or are grateful for it?
Those guys who represent you on TV seem to imply I don't have much going for me: gay; not much of a church guy; lonely; don't pray very much; don't tithe. They spend an extraordinary amount of time begging me to sow a seed--which is always to them--so that I can open the doors of blessing in my life. Is this how it works, God? Are you like a cosmic jukebox? I insert my money, and great things come? And they say I have lots of "flow-blockers," a term I heard repeated in person by one of my former pastors. Because I have low self-esteem and I occassionally surf porn and have not picked out that root of homosexual attractions--like it is an awful planter's wart--that you can't do much for me. I blocked the flow. I'm sorry.
Amazing to me is the idea floating around Christendom that so much of how you relate to me happens because of what I do and don't do. That's strange to me. If you are all-powerful and all-wonderful and all-loving, then do you honestly wait for me to make a move before you do something too? That's a lot of pressure on me, or at least I feel like it is. And that's why I scared of you. Because I don't think I am holy enough or reverent enough or hetero enough or (insert your own adjective here) enough to bring a smile to your face.
I am scared that I am going to lose my job soon, but we have been over this many many times. I am scared about being a loser. I am scared about my car that needs $1,300 worth of work. I am scared about having trouble setting goals. You have seen me try; I know you have. You have seen me set out on my Believe Project to get some of these things done and make some direction for myself. But setting goals does not come naturally to me. I can do what I am told, and do it well, but deciding what to do? Way harder. Just tell me what to do and I'll do it, but I need some direction.
I even struggle with tiny things in life, like socks and decorating and heat. Between you and me, God, you may have given me an attraction to guys (though whether that came from you or from elsewhere is still a bit of a mystery), but I did not get the expected accompaniment of interior decorating skills or ability to select nice clothes. I love free T-shirts. I hate $100 pairs of jeans. So my home is sparce and my closet desperately needs a visit from Tim Gunn or maybe the Queer Eye guys--ALL of them.
I need to update my resume, but I don't know how. I need to buy some black pants but I cringe at the thought. I need new tires, but they are a lot of money.
And relationships. God. Hello. Are you serious? I have zero idea what I'm doing here. I spend enough energy being comfortable with me, and then some guy happens by that I really enjoy, and I get totally discombobulated. I could put a good foot forward, but I know I will never have a solid relationship unless I can be 100% honest about who I am and the struggles I have, no matter how embarrassing. For all the talk the gay community often does to the straight world about acceptance and diversity and uniqueness, I am not as sure the gay community wants diversity WITHIN its community. Better to have a bunch of hot jockster models in a 6-page Mens Health spread. But me, a stocky guy with nice eyes but hair on my chest (gasp!!) and a weak chinline (oh the horror!!), I don't feel so much like I belong.
So I'm trying, God. Sort of. I'm not trying to get to church, but I am trying to reconnect with you. When I started figuring out I am gay I had to throw away sooooooo many assumptions about you and religion and Christianity. I had to start over, and it was tough. But maybe I will make it through, maybe. Once I get the car fixed and the resume done and some goals made and the clothes updated and something on my walls and some idea why my furnace runs too much some new socks and some idea of what a relationship would be like....then maybe.
But could I make a small request? Could you show up a little before I get all that figured out? It is too much for me right now.
How I long to crawl up into your arms, find that spot on your chest where my head would fit nicely, and nuzzle up under your chin, listening for your heartbeat, and knowing it beats for me. I don't know if it is reverent for a gay guy to think of You like this, but it would be nice.
Maybe I am not as bad off as I sound. Day-to-day, I am doing OK? But I feel the pressure building, and I sometimes wonder if I can keep up. But so long as you keep appearing in strange places (like you did this weekend, in my kitchen), then I will try to keep going.
I need to go now. Maybe to write a resume and maybe to the mall to look at shoes (you know I haven't purchased shoes of any kind for at least 3 years.) But if you hear this, and aren't too disappointed in me, I would love to hear back.
Thanks, and Amen.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I re-read an e-mail conversation with a dear friend from my church family that took place over 3 years ago. (How could it possibly be that long ago?) Though I was in a terrible emotional place then, I did have some profound--and controversial--things to say about myself, God, faith and church.
They're worth repeating, because I still see true wisdom in what both of us wrote, and I wanted to share. That's me in the black text, and her responding in blue. (And no, the photo is not us!)
I'm so very hard on myself. I administer pretty regular mental and emotional beatings to myself. I think so little of myself. I've had 3 gay friends independently say to me recently "You've got to start realizing what a great guy you are. You are WAY too hard on yourself." I feel like a complete failure most times. I'll do OK, but it's still a daily battle that I don't think I'll ever win. People who have gone before me tell me this is very normal and even familiar to them. They tell me it eventually gets better. Let's hope so.
You are soooo hard on yourself. I know that you are an amazing person as well as everyone who meets you. I am so glad though that you are not hiding (well as much as you used to) and you are being proactive about just figuring out who you are and what God is going to do with your life.
I'm challenging myself so much with regard to my faith and my church. I'm realizing how much tradition has short-changed the church and dumbed-down the gospel. I hope not to be struck by lightning, but I'm beginning to think the gospel is not the sanitary neat outline-driven academic exercise the church has made it into. I think of our church: For a few moments we sing about how amazing and beyond comprehension God is, and 20 minutes later hear a sermon proclaiming God's absolute truth on this or that. If God is so huge and beyond comprehension that we don't get Him, then how do we get to a neat outline about the unquestionable truths about Him? It's like a strange infomercial: Boil down the unfathomable into 3 points in 20 minutes. The offering plate will be by soon to take your $19.95. Free shipping and handling.
Can't we simply say we don't get it all?
I love your thoughts on faith. I think that faith is never neat or tidy. Just look at the church body for the most part..it's messy...why? because people are messy and untidy. The thing is that God continues to move in us even with all the mess. That my friend is grace, love, and hope.
Then I asked a question about her reaction to my sharing my gay orientation, and she wrote...
I don't ever want to put a label on you. Because you are more than just being gay...there is soooo much more to you. You are a wonderful friend and a great listening ear. You love and cherish people for where they are at rather than what masks we put on for the day.
You are important to me. I am proud that you seek God in all of this. That you struggle and that you are communicating with people who want to love you,whether or not they are struggling with the same thing. People who hate"homosexuality" have no clue what that means or what that looks like. Most of the time they don't even know anyone who is gay. You are not the first friend I have had who is gay and I don't think you will be my last.
Some tremendous people have been part of my journey. I am thankful for them all, but today, especially for this particular woman of beauty who walked with me when I really needed a friend.
Nevertheless, here is a very well-said piece from Keith Olbermann of MSNBC. I'm not his biggest fan by any means, but this commentary is very well done and worth 7 minutes of your time.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
To explain why I am crying is a bit embarrassing and even a little convoluted, but it relates to this portion of my journey which is headed somewhere new.
I express emotion quite easily, and this time it was manifest while watching a YouTube video...one from the Shamu show at SeaWorld, of all things. You see, I have been to that very show in person twice in the last year, and I am perfectly capable of sitting in the bleachers at that show and bawling my eyes out. While the mother next to me removes cotton candy from the hair of her 4 year old and the camera-laden tourist takes enough Shamu pictures to fill an encyclopedia, I cry.
If you have been to this show, then you know it is more than an orca whale jumping around. Actually, the whales do little more than that, but while Shamu leaps and splashes in his pool, the stadium fills with music and fancy video displays which tell the loose story of a small boy kayaking into the ocean for an encounter with a killer whale. And the deep voiced narrator takes you though "the moment in everyone's life when you begin to BELIEVE."
And that's about the spot where I could no longer subtly keep the tears in my eyes and I began to cry.
I was outside in the sun, a place I love.
I was watching a beautiful, powerful, graceful creature swim, a sight I love.
I was listening to music, a sound I love.
I was inspired, a feeling I love, but unfortunately have truly experienced far too few times. That was months ago, but watching it on YouTube brought it all back.
This week, I began a project, with the name quite shamelessly swiped from Shamu himself, simply called BELIEVE. The project represents my desire--and more importantly my need--to be restored and to move foward and to be whole and to begin believing again. There is so much to this for me, so much at stake, yet my project remains somewhat unstructured on purpose, allowing it to evolve and grow and change.
I keep coming back to that word: BELIEVE. Packed within are so many levels of change:
Believe in my story.
Believe in God.
Believe in change.
Believe in progress.
Believe in this journey.
Believe in me.
This is no school project, yet I am giving myself homework: There will be some real honest and tangible products that will come out of this for me. I am working toward several goals, some emotional, some spiritual, and some physical, all inspired by 7 sequenced letters which have been floating around within me for months and even years. BELIEVE. I don't even know what all will come, other than to say that today I have a little bit of hope and a little bit of courage and I'm going to run with it for now. That hope came from some incredible friends who don't even know they gave it to me yet, and from a killer whale who will probably never know.
I know some of what is coming, and that may just unfold on the pages of this blog. I will try to chronicle what comes next. For now, I will....
come touch the face of a mystery,
call in your heart to live,
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
It's an amazing thing, this voting that we do. Every time we vote, but especially during the presidential years, I well up with pride at our country and the way we govern ourselves.
Today as I wandered around my city, I saw so many people with small oval "I Voted" stickers on their clothing. And that made me happy. All day long, I have been considering that millions of my fellow citizens are standing in line, darkening little ballot bubbles or punching out chads (wow, I hope that isn't done any longer) or touching screens to voice their opinion on who should represent them on the local, state or national level.
It's amazing to me, that the people I work with, the people I ran past, the people on the bus, the people I pass in traffic all get a voice today. Hopefully an equal voice. This is the way we govern ourselves, and I am impressed.
True, I will not agree with how each person votes, but I will take pride in the idea that many people do. The system is flawed in some ways, and I have heard of local allegations that some unusual votes may have been cast here. But the idea that we get a voice, that we are allowed--even encouraged--to express that voice just excites me.
What we vote on sometimes confounds me. That some are going to vote to remove rights in California, and write that into the state constitution, in the form of Proposition 8 confuses me. I do not know that it is appropriate to vote on rights. Our democracy tends to value and protect the rights of the minorities; we ought not allow a majority vote to determine rights. And that is as far as I care to go on voicing an opinion on the issues.
So thanks, America, for making me proud today. Regardless of whether the outcomes meet with what I hope for, I am amazed we can express our voices in this incredible way. What an honor.
Monday, November 03, 2008
So never one to pass up some fun little thingy like this, I created a Wordle based on this blog. I would not have even posted it here, until I saw an incredibly beautiful theme come through using the three predominant words in the center: Still Just Love.
If you know me--and one or two of you do--you know this is me. I don't have it down pat, but I sure do try.
Still Just Love.