Friday, December 31, 2010

Why I Opened The Closet Door

Just being able to admit to myself that I was gay, was a huge step in my life, as I was able to put a name on this "thing" that had been haunting me.   I remember reading the stories of gay college kids, and thinking, wow, I really feel the same way here.   Maybe being gay wasn't a choice after all.   I knew in my heart of hearts I did not and would never have chosen it.   I tried for years helplessly trying to pray and fast my nature away, only to be left feeling resentful and distrustful of a God that has promised love and justice.   However, the freedom I experienced was very short lived.  

It is thought that gay people will use and twist the Bible to embrace their sexuality.  They need to feel justified in their heinous life, so they will do all that it takes.  I assure you, I do no such thing.  In fact, the only time I ever used the Bible for justification was when I was trying not to be gay.

I remember the tears in the eyes of my family and some close friends as I told them I could no longer subject myself to a belief system that was destroying me.   It was a turbulent time for my family.   It was as if I was beginning a new life that was unknown.   I was only a year or so out of college, and my life was about to drastically change a second time.   So why did I do it?   Well, people in my life had their minds made up as to why I decided to embrace my homosexuality.   They attributed it to:

Weakness: for not being able to withstand the temptations luring me into the gay community.  For not being able to withstand my own internal pressures to interact physically with a man.

Deception: For being duped by people who use trickery and side logic in order to convince others to follow in their sinful and self-destructive ways.

Lacking Faith: For not praying hard enough, for not making Jesus the center of my life, and for not believing that even if I was going to be deprived from the male intimacy I craved, that Jesus would just be enough for me.

Why else would anyone want to give into their gay feelings?

Wrong.   Dead wrong.   Except no one wanted to hear me.  If there were reasons that were virtuous in comparison to the above, then somehow their belief systems would fall apart.   I had someone tell me once, that if homosexuality is OK, then everything they believed about God and the church must be false.  How ridiculous is that!  Why would the truth about one of the greatest love stories ever told, i.e. the gospel of Jesus Christ, hinge upon the morality of a sexual orientation?   When on earth did this issue or subject become the focal point of one's faith?  

Understanding this question is what began to lead me to a place where I no longer fought this.  I could not by any means justify the life I was living.  I tried.  I tried using the Bible, I tried through prayer, and I just could not.   It became the single thing that defined me, and I was defined by what I was NOT.  I was NOT gay.   That was my sexual identity: NOT gay.  The church has created an idol out of this issue.   It is a subtle but extreme version of idolatry that puts the issue of homosexuality over the gospel.   It is idolatry that says: because you are gay, you cannot call yourself a Christian.      It is fear and culture that demands such a statement, not the gospel, and definitely not our Father.   In a world where illness, suffering, deceit, and chaos rule.  In a world where financial status determines worth;  in a world and in a church where the first shall be first and the last shall be last;   In a system that is so antithetical to the way Jesus lived and taught, where the very core, and most important commandments given by Jesus are outrightly ignored and brushed aside because "we are not Jesus."  In a religious community that spends most of its energy keeping cultural traditions alive rather than teaching its members how to be light and salt for the earth.  Given all these dysfunctions that are very much acceptable by the Coptic Church, to say that homosexuality is the non-negotiable issue of our time, is a joke, and a mockery of everything Jesus lived and died for, and everything our forefathers fought for.  And I was living proof of what this idolatry was doing to my soul.   I was dying inside, and I was about to die on the outside.

There was no room for God to be God in my life, because all this intense energy was being spent struggling with something that was not going anywhere.   I was telling God who I wanted Him to make me.   The church and ex-gay programs put me through mental gymnastics trying to explain away every single thought I was having.   Every desire for intimacy was labelled as sickness, and every attraction I had was merely a symptom of a disease inflicted on me by an unfortunate childhood, combined with possible genetic predispositions.   After years and years of reinforcing this belief, my mind became poisoned, and my self esteem plummeted, and there was nothing that the church or anyone could have done to repair this, as long as the message was being reinforced, that in addition to all the issues I have in my life, the very thing that God gave me in order to experience His love in partnership, my desire for connection and intimacy, both emotional, physical and sexual, was cursed.   What can a person do with such a toxic belief system?  Where is the redemption?

But I did not have these realizations then.  All this was not apparent at the time, as hindsight is 20/20 (or better).  All I knew at the time was that one day, my life almost ended, and it was that night, I was saved.   I had been asking myself for years: "What if homosexuality was a sin?  Then I would truly go to hell if I embraced this identity."   I finally had the guts to ask the question: "What if homosexuality in and of itself was NOT a sin?"

It was in that moment where I almost lost my life, that I no longer had to answer to my family, to my church, to my culture, to my community.  The only person I cared to answer to was God, and myself.  Because at the end of the day, when it came to survival, all the obligations I had to the above checklist became null and void.   And I had to look at myself, and I had to look to God, and I had to ask the question as to what was to become of me.    When the pressures of all the external things dissolved into ether, the question was no longer scary, and I saw myself clear as day.

What did I see?   I did not have this overwhelming change of mind that "Being gay is OK, yay, gay!"   No.  I did not see that.  What I did see was an ever-loving and patient God, who never left my side from the day I was born.    I decided to take a chance and have FAITH in this God.   I prayed and asked God for the strength to walk forward and to live according to what I did know, as opposed to all the things I didn't know.

I truly believed many things I had learned growing up were true, but as for the rest, I was not so sure.  I decided I was no longer going to live according to what I didn't believe, or what I was not sure I believed, but rather to focus on what I actually did believe in my heart of hearts.  I decided to live according to what little I did believe and see what happened from there, and maybe my faith GROW naturally. So I put away a belief system that had lead me to the brink of my own destruction, and to the destruction of many.

In that first step, I acknowledged that I did not know if homosexuality was OK or not, but I was to trust that this God who never left my side would continue to stand beside me and live within me.    That he was going to show me the way through all the confusion.   This was the simple faith I finally found in my life, and for the first time in I don't know how many years, I saw the world vibrant and fresh.   You could say I was born again, a thing that I always thought looked a certain way based on testimonies of many, however this was my story.

But it was a risk, and I trusted God with that risk.

Life is bigger than this issue, and I started experiencing life again.   I put my energies into the things that mattered, and lived according to what was at the time, just a theory, that my sexuality was as moral as any heterosexual's, and that I was not going to be judged by my sexuality but rather what I did with it. Needless to say, I felt normal for the first time in my life.  And check this out: I felt equal with other men.   That was a huge shock to me, but it was true.   And most of all, I felt peace.   It was this peace that carried me through a time of healing, where the pain I had felt from this ex-gay past was being washed away by grace.  It was that peace that got me through the difficult tasks of being myself in a world that I thought was going to reject me.    I was pleasantly surprised how much love and support I received from friends and some family members.  Still, my immediate family and some friends attributed my new found zeal and passion for life, and peace with my sexuality with the afore mentioned reasons of weakness, deception, and faithlessness: all reasons that they needed to believe, not because it was true, but because the implications of seeing this issue in a different light was too great to deal with.

It has been several years, and in these several years since I made that first step, I have not had a single reason to go backwards.   There were times of joy and times of deep sorrow.  There were times of purity and times where sin got the best of me.   Doesn't that sound like every other person on the planet who ever lived?  In fact, my sexuality is just no longer an issue.  It's just a small part of the many things that make up who I am.  But through living this life, I am learning, ever so clearly, that I can have a relationship with God and an intimacy with Jesus and still be a gay man.   I am learning that just because I am gay, it does not mean, that the concept of sin, or rather, things that separate me from God and myself,  do not exist.    In fact, this act of just being myself has allowed me to experience real and true grace that I had missed out on for so many years.  

And this was the real kicker:  I learned that I can be in a romantic relationship with another like-minded man, following the standards set before us, and have this relationship blessed by God.  Yes, I have experienced a God centered gay relationship.   And frankly it looks no different than straight relationships.    You think being gay is all about sex?   False.  Especially not if you choose it to be.   I learned that the gay world seen in the media is just a fraction, just as the straight world represented by MTV is just a fraction, and that people are just people, and it's as simple as that.   We are given a command to love.  It doesn't take a rocket-scientist to know what love looks like, or what it does not look like.  In this command of Love, all other commands, debates, and fears just pale in comparison.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Undemonic Desire: Homosexuality and Orthodox Spirituality

The following post was written by a reader and contributor going by the name Bishoy. It is a brilliant commentary on sexuality and desire, and the misattribution of desire to negative spiritual forces. To the author, thank you for taking the time to write this.

Many responses against any sin by Coptic Orthodox clergy and servants who are responsible for teaching in the Church always go back to the troubles that the demons create. In the Desert Fathers (and Mothers), the majority of evil thoughts that these monks and nuns fought against came from the demons, especially as described in the Apophthegmata Patrum. With the renaissance of this literature among the contemporary monastic movement in Egypt and its wide reading among clergy and laypeople living in the cities, many people have mistakenly assumed that the demons mentioned in those stories and sayings of the ancient Desert Fathers (and Mothers) are indeed what everyone experiences in their spiritual lives. If the holy St. Macarius, in the middle of the desert, could get the thoughts of fornication because of a demon, then that same demon can influence the youth today in giving them thoughts of fornication. The clergy and servants then teach that it is necessary to fight off this demon by inhibiting the sexual desires - and they would often teach this by saying really negative things about sexuality.

More importantly for the discussion in this blog, the Coptic Church responded to the issue of homosexuality - that is, the experience of Christian people who happen to have a homosexual orientation - as though it is a deception from the demons, and as such needs to be fought off through prayer, fasting and communion. Nevertheless, many Christians who happen to be homosexuals will inform you that no matter how much fasting, prayer, and communion they’ve engaged in, they are still convinced that they are homosexuals. This does not imply that they have engaged or want to engage in homosexual behaviour, but it is just how they view themselves based on their experiences and desires. This leads to the following questions: is homosexuality from the demons? Is the understanding of the Christian person who participates in the sacraments and spirituality of the Church being deceived by the thought of being a homosexual through a demon?

The straightforward answer is: No.

The Church, unfortunately, has missed the whole point of the psychology and spirituality of the Desert Fathers (and Mothers). The Church has mistakenly attributed all human desires to thoughts from the demons. This is not the teaching of the Desert Fathers (and Mothers), and it is based on a misreading (or lack of accurate reading and study) of the literature. There is a huge difference between “desire” and “thoughts,” and unfortunately the Church today has confused the two things as though they are one. So, let’s get back to the basics:

Every human person is naturally endowed with desires. According to the philosophy of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and Church Fathers and Mothers, those desires are morally neutral. They are given to us by God, and are in fact a part of the soul. In contemporary language, these desires are our senses, personalities, feelings, and emotions.

Take, for example, the feeling of hunger. This is the desire for the body to eat. Morally speaking, the fact that you are hungry and that you desire food to satisfy this hunger is neither a passion nor a virtue - so it is morally neutral. How you choose to act to satisfy this hunger could either be a passion or virtue: if you decide to gorge yourself with food, then that is considered gluttony, which is a passion; but if you decide to eat in moderation, then that is considered continence. If someone is a glutton, then there is need for repentance and spiritual exercises (ascesis) to practice and finally reach the virtuous life of eating with continence and sharing in love with your hungry neighbours.

So, remember that there are three things mentioned here:
1) Desire: Morally neutral, and is a part of the human soul, which can be used either:
2) In Passion: Sin.
3) In Virtue: God-like

Where do the thoughts come into play?

The thoughts coming from the demons, according to the Desert Fathers, are basically conceptual images that come to their minds and that causes their natural desires to act in passion, and therefore sin. St. Evagrius of Pontus, who is known as the “Psychologist of the Desert,” explains: “All thoughts inspired by the demons produce within us conceptions of sensory objects; and in this way the intellect, with such conceptions imprinted on it, bears the forms of these objects within itself” (Texts on Discrimination in Respect of Passions and Thoughts #2, in The Philokalia, Vol. 1, 38). Thoughts, also, are not similar to what we today would call an “idea,” or “theory,” or anything that has to do with the human understanding of one’s existential self. There is certainly much more to say beyond what I could discuss here about the topic of thoughts, whether they are from demons (which lead to passion), from the Holy Spirit (which lead to virtue), or just plain human thoughts, and I encourage further reading of the Desert Fathers and the Philokalia in order to learn about and discern the different kinds of thoughts.

So, let’s say a monk in the desert is very hungry (which, we’ve shown above to be a natural human desire), and a demon gave that monk a “thought” of a magnificent dinner in a comfortable palace that he used to live in back in Rome before he became a monk. The monk now has to either fight off that thought, which is a conceptual image of a banquet in a palace, or give up on his monasticism and return to the old comfortable life he once had as a prince. So, this is an example of a “thought.” It would seem silly to insist that the monk has to fight off his natural desire of hunger - that is impossible, and would lead him to death. For this reason, the spirituality of the Church has always been careful so as not to confuse “desires” with “thoughts” - the monk ought to fight off the thoughts coming from the demons or from his own memories, but not his own natural desires.

Now, how does this tie up with homosexuality?

A person with a homosexual orientation is like a person who is hungry. That is a natural sexual desire. Human sexuality is a natural desire, and the Desert Fathers (and Mothers) have never spoken as though they were against the sexual desires, which is a part of their souls, but only against the thoughts of fornication. They also never spoke of the virtue of moderation in sexual relationships, because they were speaking in their own contexts of living in chastity.

If a person who understands him or her self as a homosexual fantasizes of having sexual acts with people they do not intend to be in relationships with, then one could say that such conceptual images are thoughts brought about by demons to let that person fall in the sin of fornication. However, just knowing, through the intellect, that a person is homosexual is in itself morally neutral, and such it is not a thought by a demon.

So, a person with a homosexual orientation is not someone who has been convinced by a demon that he or she is a homosexual. Such a person is not expected to fight off their natural human sexual desire, because it is morally neutral, and just as in the case of human sexual desire between heterosexual couples, it should not lead to the passion of fornication, but should be practiced as the virtue of moderation.

In conclusion, the homosexual orientation is a human desire. As a human desire, and part of the human soul, it is morally neutral. It is not a thought from the demons, because demons cannot affect the soul (or mind) of the human person and convince them of their own nature. The demons are not telling anyone they are homosexuals, and homosexuals cannot be told by the Church that they are possessed or influenced by demons to believe that they are homosexuals, and must fight off those thoughts through repentance and prayer. Demons can, however, give thoughts (that is, conceptual images) to any human person in order to lead them to fornication, whether in their minds or in reality. In the latter case, it would be recommended that the person practices the spirituality of the Church and participates in the sacraments, so as to avoid such thoughts that would result in sin. Participating in the sacraments and praying do not remove the homosexual orientation because it is a human desire and is a part of the soul, but they will allow for the person to grow in Christ and avoid the thoughts that would lead to fornication. In the former case of human desire, it is the Church that should be aware of its own Tradition of teachings that demons cannot affect the soul, that human desire is morally neutral and cannot change (until death), and that no one ought to attempt to change those desires, because that would be destructive of the human person as a whole.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Silent Night

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel 

What does it mean to be Gay and Coptic on Christmas?  Well for me, it's the above lyric.  Nothing more, and nothing less.  Presents are fun but who needs them.   It's about remembering that amidst all the monotony, the strife and pain and confusion, there is a constant Emmanuel, the very real and present "God Is With Us."

Recommended reading:   On The Incarnation by Athanasius

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where My Sisters At?

It's very evident that the experiences of being a gay man are being represented here.  Not only is the male experience being represented, most of the comments that are countering some of the thoughts posted on this blog are targeting male homosexuality.   Can we get a little respect for our sisters please?

There are lesbians who identify with being Coptic as well, I wonder where they are at.   If you're out there, please contact me.  I'd love to have a few of you write for this blog, expressing your thoughts and your experiences growing up Coptic and also being a lesbian.  

It's clear that a part of the picture is missing, and we need your voices.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Just (Don't) Do It: An Epilogue To Cross Dressing Saints

One of the many comments on my original thread entitled "Cross Dressing Saints", read as follows:

Now when looking at any commandment we must see why God would want us to refrain from cross-dressing. It is because cross-dressing shows a sort of contempt for being the gender God made you, and a desire to be the other gender and/or a rebellious nature, all of which are not Christian.

However what these Saints did was very different. They didn't do it rebelliously or out of contempt for their gender or a desire to be the other gender. Rather they did it so that they'd live closer to God. Surely this wasn't the Spirit of the law that God gave. What these Saints did was in line with the spirit of the law.      

I think this is the point I'm actually trying to make. While gender identity is a lot more complex than we often take for granted, there is something to be said for this notion that showing contempt for who you were created or born to be by acting differently might not be good for the soul. Notice the passage in Deuteronomy does not say "Do not show contempt for the gender God made you." It simply says "A woman must not wear a man's clothing..." and continues on "...for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this." 

 When the church canonized these saints, I'm sure the church must have asked herself, "what did God mean by this verse in the Pentateuch? Is this an all-encompassing statement? Is there a context in which a person wearing the clothing of the opposite gender is ok?" Maybe not in those exact words, but you get my drift. The church herself deemed the motivations of these women, not only permissible, but admirable, and holy, and from the fruits of the lives of these women, I dare say, so did God.

The same question needs to be asked in regards to Homosexuality. Is the Bible truly making a blanket statement?  What did homosexual contact and behavior represent at the time? You might brush these questions off as "liberal" or "agenda-oriented", but you'd be doing yourself a tremendous disservice. Why do we respond to some verses with conversation and inquiry, and others as ipso facto commands? The answer is easy.  We're self centered.

For people who apparently do not have to deal with same sex attraction, there is no need to look deeper into these verses. For a church that is afraid of the "Culture Wars" as someone had put it, a hard line is necessary for the assumed preservation of the whole, even at the expense of a divergent few. But when it comes to a person who is actually experiencing these feelings, understanding the truth behind these passages becomes ever so important, because the resulting understanding will completely drive not only the course, but the well-being of this person's life and relationships. A person who loves himself will be able to love others and love God. Not so much for the self-hating man or woman.

To dismiss the importance of these questions is to spit in the face of these people whose very lives are affected. Understanding if we are truly required to give up all forms of same-sex romantic and intimate love, can mean the difference between being a healthy and a very broken person. It is not just a matter of "not doing it." There are plenty of people out there who simply just "don't do it" who fall victim to a whole host of psychological and behavioral issues that do not affect just themselves. Are "crowns in heaven" the reward for the whole host of sins they commit as a result of the one "sin" they managed to avoid? Don't ask me, ask the wives who are emotionally and physically neglected by these husbands. Just ask the youth who have become either emotional or sexual prey to over-controlling and manipulative church leaders or mentors. (Ever meet someone of the same gender who was just a little creepy? Who took too much of an interest in you and while it was nice at first, ended up controlling and suffocating you? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about). Ok let's ask other people. Just ask the young man who has a messy and complicated relationship with his best friend. And while you're at it, ask the parents of dead gay and lesbian children, who have lost the loves of their lives because their children could not handle it anymore.

While people both gay and straight choose to live celibate lives for a variety of reasons, how one approaches and arrives at this conclusion will make the difference whether or not this person will be healthy or are actually harming themselves. You don't need to look past your very life to see the difference between heaven and hell. If simply "not doing it" is a virtue, then how do you explain all the rotten fruit in these forests of obedience?

So while the church might very well always believe that homosexual activity is wrong, how they communicate this message, how they will deal with their own children who disagree, and how they deal with their own congregations will make the difference in whether or not the church is able to continue being a light in this world to all people. It is obvious that the church does have a long ways to go before it can get to this place, but the question is, will she do her homework, or will she even bother? Based on the resources available, it's still "not a Coptic issue."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Video: Gay and Christian?

I have to give props to Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network for putting together this video series that I came across today. It's an intro to the question of how someone can be both Christian and gay.  It goes over briefly, the different views, or Side A vs. Side B.    For those of you who are questioning what the hell to do with yourself, just know it's not a one-size-fits-all situation.   Enjoy the video.  Thanks for the comments and the emails.   It's proving that we're really not alone after all.

It looks like they've also put together a video, where people are giving their testimonies. Whether you agree or not, these are human beings, these are peoples lives. Their voices deserve to be heard. Thank all of you in the video for having the courage to do this

Weekend's almost here! Have a safe and happy one, i.e. Don't do anything I would do :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Silent Majority?

I have a secret.    It's something you probably didn't know.   Maybe you knew, heck, maybe you're one of a silent population out there.   But this is an important secret, why?  Because this draws attention to a little known fact, that really, we're not as alone as we think we are.  Are you ready?  Here it goes:

straight coptic people support us

I'm telling you the truth.   Straight coptic people SUPPORT us.  You might be thinking: "Well of course there are quite a few straight people who attend church every year at Easter, who probably brush their teeth before taking communion, who think Tai-shori is sung during the Feast of the Cross when it's clearly supposed to be Ti-shori.  Oh, and also if they had read Bishop Youssef's commentary on the subject they would clearly know how His Grace thinks of this matter, and what is then expected of us.  Amateurs!"

Actually, both in my real life, and from emails I've gotten through this blog, there are quite a number of people, much more than I had expected, who are straight, who are coptic, who actually believe and serve in the church faithfully, but who see past the simplistic answers given by the church (lowercase C).  They've come to understand that especially regarding this issue, there is a lot more than meets the eye.

Unfortunately many are afraid to get their views out there and a few have told me, they'd rather not speak up about it.   Why?  Well, it's rather simple. Our culture oppresses. There, I said it. If you think differently, look differently, act differently, if you even eat differently, you will receive the judging eye of your congregation, and to many, that is their life, their family, and their community.  And it's understandable, we don't want to be ostracized by our friends, and we don't want to ruin our reputations.  We do want to get married after all.  But it's not only that.  There is a certain respect we have for the teachings of our church, that we love so much.  In the past 1500 years, the church has been through so much, that we have developed a sense of pride in what our ancestors went through, in order for us to be who we are today.  But in that respect, we tend to have blurred vision, when it comes to what the Church gave us, and what the church demands.

But for you brothers and sisters who have given your love, your hugs, your emails, and unconditional support and understanding, I dedicate this to you. You make this world safer for people like me. You remind me that there is no straight or gay, but only people.  And you are Jesus to those who have the privilege to know you. Thank you.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Of Sheep and Men

Photo: Mitchell Kanashkevich

Yesterday's reading is an old favorite: John 10:1-6.  An excerpt:

The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

The story goes like this:

A young man or woman in the church, realizes she is gay and goes in one of two directions.  Consider the stories of Sally and Jack

1) Sally ignores her feelings, and she pretends they're not there and proceeds forward, assimilating with the community around her.  She has problems with intimacy, and will become a pro at deceiving herself and others.

2) Jack knew at an early age he was not compatible with the church community around him.  He acknowledges this conflict and decides that spirituality as a whole is garbage.  He knows that he himself would be judged harshly if people knew, and he sees first hand, from the pulpit to the coffee hour, how much the church lacks compassion for those who are different, who think, dress, and act different, and decides, why should he bother?

I've spoken to many gay and lesbian coptic people and this seems to be the common themes. I was Sally, and then I was Jack, and then by grace and by love, I learned there was another way.   First of all, I have a hard time claiming truth, especially about who God is.   It is not for me to say, as I am just one man.  I prefer to let the Divine do the talking here.  I think that God reveals himself to us in ways that are very personal.  I am not an advocate for one church over another, I just know that for many of us who are gay who come from a Coptic background, we see God as a very all or nothing thing. He is either a bigger version of the strictest priest or father we've ever known, or he's a figment of the imaginations of the power structures, created by religious institutions to make money and keep us in check. Unfortunately, there is no hope in either one of these options.

My heart breaks for brothers and sisters of mine, who are either living in fear and are completely split off from themselves, or feel so rejected and out of place, that they lose themselves in very dangerous behavior with questionable company.

Then there's the great paradox:    Sometimes we actually do believe in God, we believe he's against our sexuality, and yet, we still find a way to live as gays and lesbians, but because we are already rejected, we don't value ourselves as gay people, we don't respect other gay people, and we live irresponsibly with our own hearts and with the hearts of others.  I have experienced this, and let me tell you, it's painful.

I dated a man who lived his life in this way, he broke my heart as a result of his own self-hatred.   Because he felt his love for me was disobedient, he felt he didn't need to respect it.   In a way, many of us do not want to believe that God is pleased and has actually blessed us as gay and lesbian children of his, because it relieves us from responsibility. There's a theory in psychology that says, sometimes when we've crossed a line, the line disappears.  Sometimes the existence of God and his supposed disapproval, gives us the freedom to do crazy things.   Even more than a person who doesn't believe in God at all.

We're still children, rebelling against our parents.

But at the root of all this, I believe is self hatred.   Years of rejection, either directly or indirectly, can make a person reject themselves, and that becomes the norm.   And as a result we have a population who is broken, and whether they know it or not, desire love: true love, but feel completely unworthy of it.

For me the change came, when I stopped telling people what they wanted to hear, and I started telling the truth.   The change came for me, when I told people "this is who I am." and accepted their love, or their rejection.  The change came for me, when I was surrounded by people who saw me no different as a gay man, than they did when they thought I was straight.   The change came for me when I found myself in community with people who were like me, not necessarily gay, but who shared my vision, my hopes, and my beliefs.  The change came for me, when I met a man I could pray with, and with whom I could bring our relationship before God.  The change came for me, when I found myself in a faith community that said I was welcome as me.   I began understanding what love was.  I began understanding what divine grace was.  And I began hurting for all those years I missed out.  I finally started to understand that just because I was gay, it didn't mean I had to engage in the stereotypical behaviors that is often expected of me.  I could just really be myself.   It was through all this that I learned that I was actually OK, and that I was a child of God, except now, I could actually live my life as such.

I know the church has no idea how to handle people who are gay and lesbian.  Her sermons, her publications, and her leadership prove this time and time again.   Whether or not the Coptic church sees that being gay is a viable and holy option for some people, I believe there is room in the church to open her arms, and to embrace her children who have either left, or who have been rejected by her.  Otherwise, I do fear judgement on this institution, which has such a rich history of art, literature, theology, and grace, that if such closed-mindedness continues, she would have traded her purpose to be a vessel of love and grace in this world, for stagnancy and then complete dissolution.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Undercover At A Gay Conversion Camp

There's a switch inside every gay man, that can set this man straight.   However it's kind of rusty, and it takes years of fasting and prayer to loosen it up, and even then, it gets stuck.  But the problem isn't the switch, it's just that gay men just aren't trying hard enough!   At least that's what groups like Exodus International tell people when their members aren't straight enough, at least that's what they told me.

While many gay men have experienced ex-gay conversion therapy and some have lived to tell about it, how many straight guys do you know undergo therapy to cure their homosexuality?   In a brilliant attempt to expose both the uselessness as well as the danger of ex-gay programs, Ted Cox, a writer from Sacramento, also a heterosexual man, went undercover posing as a gay man, and signed up for Journey Into Manhood, a program designed to change gays into straights, by use of quasi-psychology, attempted spirituality, and a whole lot of Kool-Aid.

I'm not sure exactly why such a story is more interesting than, let's say, your average gay dude doing the same thing, I think it hits me on a few levels:

1.  The fact that a straight man cares enough about the well being of gay men.  I mean, this is huge.  Whenever someone decides they're going to be in solidarity with someone, or someones that they are not, it just humbles me, and touches my heart, and reminds me of all the good that exists in the world. He willfully put himself in someone else's shoes, shoes that, while fashionable, fit way too tight, and walked in them for several days.   So much so that he would undergo a journey into the unknown, one where he ended up feeling a man's erection for the first time.  For real.
Sometime during all that holding and touching and singing, while I was cradled in the Motorcycle position, I felt it: the unmistakable bulge pressing through his tight jeans. It was the first time in my life I had a felt another man’s erection.
I attended an ex-gay group in Los Angeles many years ago, at the recommendation of a Coptic priest, and this sort of thing happened all the time.  In fact, more seasoned members saw me as "new meat" in retrospect, and told me that I desired affection more than sex, so we should cuddle and spoon with each other so we can train ourselves to receive intimacy without having to be sexual.   Granted, heavy crushes ensued, and plenty of physical reactions and salutes, and while I never engaged in anything sexual with these men, the lines were very blurry, and at the end of the day, we were behaving as boyfriends on an emotional level, while leaving sex out of it, creating some real internal conflicts.  Jealousy, attachment, dependency, it all existed in this group.    I found myself almost in love with another member, and just hating myself for feeling something I shouldn't have been feeling, especially when I was doing things that was supposed to make me less gay.    But how can you spend nights in the arms of someone, without growing romantically attached to them?  It's just so contrary to who we are designed as people. Oy vey!  Luckily that didn't last too long.

2.  The so-called "reasons" why men end up being gay become somewhat debunked when the author realizes his story is not so different from the other guys in the program, except, he's not gay!
Dad and I haven’t spoken much in the 10 years since I left the Mormon church; in fact, I haven’t heard from him at all in three years. And yet, despite being raised by an abusive, spiritually castrated father, I have a strong preference for women.
This was a big one for me.   Yes, we had problems at home, but these issues very much affected me growing up.  These were issues I did not even want to remember, until ex-gay experiences brought them back up, resurfaced them, and they were a tool in explaining why I was feeling same-sex attraction (SSA).    I mean it made perfect sense.  And it made perfect sense that once these wounds were healed, so would my attractions to men.    And these wounds started healing as I sought reconciliation with my parents, especially my father.   However, I remained gay.    Then there were guys in the ministry who had the perfect childhoods, who were still gay.  And then there were my straight friends who had equally jacked up childhood experiences as I had, and were very much attracted to women.   Maybe NARTH needs to get their facts straight!

But let me emphasize something.   The Orthodox church can look at this, and say, well that's all mumbo jumbo, and these programs are clearly deficient and doing more harm than good, but what about will power?   Unfortunately the church teaches that even being attracted to men is a sin.  A sin that plagued me since I was a little boy.  That's a story for another time, back to Ex-Gay Undercover!

Also what Ted sees, is a group of men, who are sincerely wounded, who are sincerely looking for help and for healing in their lives.   One cannot help but feel bad for the recruits, and disdain for the leaders.

While I have made peace with the fact I spent many years trying to fix myself, and many years being faithful to something that ended up harming me, I wish those years had not happened. I'm left thousands of dollars poorer, and with emotional baggage that I am still working through at times.   But again, I feel lucky.  Lucky to be alive, and lucky to be loved.

Ted, I salute you.   Read the full article here on Good Men Project

I Dedicate This To You

This post is dedicated to you:

If you're lonely and confused, this post is dedicated to you.

If you are pretending to be something that you're not in order to survive, this post is dedicated to you.

If you're living in a country, that has laws that has laws that threaten your life, this post is dedicated to you.

If you're a sunday school teacher, and have no idea how to deal with a student in your class who you think is gay, this post is dedicated to you.

If you're a parent and just found out your son or daughter is gay, and you're afraid about how the world will view them or your family, this post is dedicated to you.

If you're gay and you've recently come out, this post is dedicated to you.

If you met the partner of your dreams, this post is dedicated to you.

If you've had your heart broken, this post is dedicated to you.

If you're not gay, but you know what it feels like to be completely misunderstood by those around you, this post is dedicated to you.

If you've ever been called "fag" by someone at church, this post is dedicated to you.

If you've ever HEARD the word "fag" spoken by someone at church, this post is dedicated to you.

If you are gay and in the closet, and your church friends say inflamatory things about gay people, whether in jest, disgust, or ignorance, mainly because they think they're completely in the company of other straight people: this post is dedicated to you.

If you're gay, and you hate yourself so much because of it, that you do harm to others, and make others feel small, this post is dedicated to you.

If you're not gay but have no idea how to relate to a friend you recently found out was gay, this post is dedicated to you.

If you're a church leader or servant, and you are struggling with attraction to the same sex, and are feeling the pressure of having to carry the souls of young people in your hands, but do not know what to do or where to go: this post is dedicated to you.

If your parents have rejected you, this post is dedicated to you.

If your priest has rejected you, this post is dedicated to you.

If you have felt the love of another person, who accepts you as you are, this post is dedicated to you.

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cross-Dressing Saints

A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this. - Deuteronomy 22:5

This has come up in the coptic church albeit very rarely.   Like homosexuality, the church does not really address the issue of cross-dressing, because it is not a "coptic problem", along with such things as abortion, domestic abuse, and AIDS.    So what is the church's view of cross-dressing?   In bible studies and youth groups, I've heard coptic clergy say that trying to imitate the gender opposite of what you are is sinful because it is not how God made you.  Let's take the clergy's opinion out of the equation, the bible makes it pretty clear, as stated in the quote from Deuteronomy, above.

So how does the church seem to reconcile this with all the crossdressing saints that the church has canonized and recognized over the years?   Wait, what?  Cross-dressing saints?

Actually, yes, the Coptic Church has in its Cloud of Witnesses, a bunch of saints who have lived their lives as a gender different than what they were, biologically.    There are even Coptic Churches named after these saints.  Most of them are women, who lived lives as men, for survival, or for the mere fact they wanted to be monks themselves.   Some of them have amazing stories of courage as they attempted such a lifestyle in order to serve God in the best way they saw fit, and moreover, many of their genders were not discovered until after their death.

An example of such a saint is St. Marina:

On the fifteenth day of the blessed month of Mesra, the church celebrates the commemoration of the departure of the nun St. Marina, who was the daughter of a very rich Christian man. Her name was Mariam, and her mother died when she was little girl. Her father raised her, and brought her up well. When he wanted to give her in marriage, and to go himself and become a monk in one of the monasteries, she told him, “O my father, why would you save your own soul, and destroy mine?” He answered saying,” what shall I do with you? You are a woman.” She told him, “ I will take off my woman’s dress and will put on the garb of a man.”

She rose up straightway, shaved off the hair on her head and put on the garb of a man. When her father saw her strong determination and persistent desire, he gave all his possessions to the poor, keeping only a very littler for himself, and he called her Marina instead of Mariam (Mary).

From the Coptic Synaxarion, 15 Mesra. Read more:

I don't think anyone could argue the direct conflict we have with the words of the Bible, however, could this be an example, where context and spirit was more important than the letter of the law?    These women were courageous, and faced severe punishment for their choices of living life as a man, yet they persevered and were greatly rewarded by God, to the point that the Church herself has recognized them as canonized saints.    Makes ya think....  

Some others of these saints include:

  • St. Anna/Euphemianos of Constantinople
  • St. Eugenia/Eugenios of Alexandria
  • St. Theodora/Theodorus of Alexandria
  • St. Thekla of Iconium

Monday, November 8, 2010

Voluntary Imprisonment: Why I Joined The Ex-Gay Movement

One of the main questions people ask me, is "why?"    Why did I spend time and money trying to change something that obviously could not be changed?  Why did I make the effort for years to be "cured" from something that was obviously not an illness?    Well the answer is, because none of those facts were obvious to me at all.     In fact I entered into the whole experience with a certain assumption, and it was that homosexuality was sinful, and not only sinful in the eyes of God, but also a sin in the eyes of the church, community, and my family, and when you sin in the eyes of the community, there is far less grace, and far more hellfire.  There was actually more fear instilled in me growing up, about the repercussions of sinning against the community, in a way, it outshone the notion of Hell, in regards to the fire and brimstone and suffering arena.    I never quite understood this before this very moment as I'm writing it out, but I was more afraid of shaming myself and my family, than I ever was of eternal fire.

Imagine that.

Coming from a family which had problems (as if we were the only one), it made sense to me the day I read on the internet "You can be free from homosexuality because your jacked up family made you this way."   You see, I had spent most of my life living as a straight man.   While I had no aching desire for sex with a woman, I was convinced at a young age that the devil was the cause of these feelings that I had, so I pretty much lived life as a straight guy, while secretly lusting over other men, looking at gay porn in secrecy, but I was not really fully conscious of it.  It was as if it was this other part of me that was doing it.   This other persona, that only existed when the room was empty and the computer was on; that only existed in my dreams.    I even got an elaborate tattoo of a coptic cross on my wrist for many reasons including an attempt to curb the perpetual need to touch myself in response to ungodly feelings.

At the same time, I was never quite present in life.   Being so split off from my sexuality made me sorta a-sexual, without emotion, without real matter.   I always felt ethereal and I connected to things that were ethereal and above the plane of reality.   I loved the tasbeha or midnight praises of the Coptic Church, and I found peace there so I spent a lot of time at the church, but this ether made me also lack concentration and focus, it made me lack real direction as far as who I was, and who I wanted to be.  Church became an escape, a place where I didn't have to deal with me.  In fact, I had no idea who I was, and would have liked nothing more than some natural disaster to wipe us off all the planet, because that made more sense than the nothingness I'd always felt.   Don't let the friends, grades, activities, fun, trouble, and girls fool you:   I was completely lost, lacking any sense of who I was.

People always saw me as asexual and safe, I was the nice fun guy with a good personality who wasn't quite hot, and wasn't quite anything, so relational life just didn't exist for me in high school and college.   After falling in love with a guy who was a surfer who lived in my dorm (this inlove-ness i felt was from afar: he ended up being straight), it hit me like a rushing wave (of sulphuric acid), that I was not like other boys.    I think the birds who sang outside my window as an 8 year old could have told me this.   I don't think it was any secret, but the reality hit me like a ton of bricks.  The kind of bricks that had been molded with jagged edges and painted with scary colors, and screaming faces.   In a matter of hours, as this reality sunk in, I found myself in a daze, and could no longer function, like this whole new reality that made sense over everything I was feeling.  My friends remember that week for me, because they said I was like, not well, they saw a lack of focus in my eyes, and a heaviness on my heart.

But there was another very real aspect of my life that I had to take into account, the fact that I had a very real relationship with both God and the church, and I had believed in the teachings of the Bible to the letter, where I was shown that homosexuality was something that was not only displeasing to God but was something that was unnatural and worthy of damnation.   It wasn't the kind of church relationship that kept me being a good boy, no it was far deeper than that.  It was a place where I found real peace and joy, it was a place where I saw big healing happen in my family.   The tenants of the gospel in how to treat others was just so real to me, and I saw the real deep truth in it.   And that's where I found myself in a huge conflict.  Two opposing truths, both very real and relevant.   I know I did not choose my sexuality because I was so young when these feelings became present, and the "normal" feelings of being attracted to girls just weren't there.    

I went back to my dorm, and I got on my knees beside my bed, and I admitted something that I had never even admitted to myself up until that very day, 21 years old, honest for the first time, on my knees by my bed, sobbing my heart out, while at the same time, this huge burden lifted off my shoulders.  I was…    gay.  Took me a long time to say the word, but I said it.   I came out to myself and to the good Lord almighty.   I felt free and clear, I felt like everything in my life made sense, except where did God fit into all of this.    At that point, I really didn't know, but for a moment, I contemplated coming out to my family and friends, and just letting them know the truth.   This was all way too much at the time, I just needed a moment to rest into this new reality.

I told a Coptic priest about what was going on, and the first thing he told me was "do not tell anyone." It was a stern warning, it told me that what I was experiencing was shameful, and why bring further shame by admitting this to anyone.    He told me that there are others who feel the same way I do, some of them have "fallen into a life of sin." while others were able to be married, while others living celibate lives.   He also told me that he would give me resources on area support groups who can help fix the problem.   Fix the problem?   You mean, there was a cure?  

It just so happened that I never heard from that priest again, till this day.   I made appointments with him to follow-up, to which he never showed up, or he would make the appointment, I'd wait for him, then he'd have to leave suddenly.  It was "weird", but I tried not to take it too personally.    Yeah, he was a nice guy.

While searching on the internet for answers to this Gay vs. Christian conundrum, I encountered the story of an HIV positive man, who claimed that God had healed him from homosexuality.    I reached out to him and he told me his story and we emailed each other for several days.  He told me that my being gay was the result of a turbulent childhood (which I had), and lots of pain in the father department (which I had), as well as a separation from other boys at an early age due to lack of shared interest (which was not exactly true but, sure, why not).  The point was, there was a cure, or so I believed, or at least I wanted to believe, so I took the words of this stranger and he pointed me to internet resources containing claims like this:

Eventually I was lead to a support group of folks that I later joined, and went on retreats, as well as the Exodus International Conference, three years in a row. 

For me, the teachings of these places made sense at the time.   They fit with my interpretation of the bible.    They were able to connect the dots, they were able to dig, dig, dig in my life and show me how x,y,z contributed to the homosexual disease that I was being experience.  I was for the first time, facing a past I had locked away, one that involved a lot of pain and abuse.   I was admitting things to these people that I had never told a single soul.   This is very hard to write, but I did experience a lot of abuse growing up.  All kinds, I experienced it.    For the first time I was telling people about these things, and moreso, this terrible gay secret, this secret that had kept me for so many years, I was telling people face to face these things, and being completely accepted for it.    My peers were wonderful, and the leadership, well-intentioned and compassionate (but from what I know in the ex-gay world, that was VERY rare, and I got extremely lucky on the one hand, I have heard horror stories).

Ex-gay ministries are expert marketers: they know how to appeal to men by showing photos of models, hot masculine guys embraced in hugs, and rarely but sometimes, and I remember this one fringe site, featuring shirtless hot men,  or in bathing suits, happy and newly-heterosexual, all to sell poison to hungry youth, and I was among the hungriest.  I was hungry for truth and understanding, and I was hungry for peace.   And let me tell you, that poison is expensive: over $5000.00 in conference fees, airline tickets, hotel stays and all I have to show for it, is a lousy t-shirt, and a few emotional scars which even more money has been spent trying to undo.   Actually, I also have to show for it, some of my best friends in life.   People who I want by my side holding my hand when I breath my last.

But what happened at these ministries is another story for another time.   But I want to tell my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,  there are legitimate reasons why folks will find themselves in programs like this.   It is not as easy an answer as "those uptight conservatives are self-hating queers"   Many of us were just searching for the truth.   And truth seekers will fight to the ends of the earth to discover what is real and just.   It's just that sometimes, we ended up looking in the wrong places… very wrong places.     

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What Is A Homosexual?

In the church, you'll hear every so often an opinion about homosexuals.   "Homosexuality...", "Gay people...",  "I think so and so is gay.... ", "This is why gays should not be able to (fill in blank)"....   People use the word homosexual, and with it comes a lot of assumptions about the people behind the word.  So I want to ask my fellow parishoners and our esteemed clergy a question:

What is a homosexual?

Is a homosexual a man:  a man who has sex with men?  Constantly and insatiably?  Is a homosexual a man whose sole desire is the penetration of other men, at whatever cost?  And not just one man, but any and every man: At work, at school and on the battlefield?   Is a homosexual attracted to every man on the planet?   Is every man God's gift to the homosexual man?   

 Is a homosexual a man who has abandoned rules and adopted chaos, a man who has abandoned discipline and adopted hedonism?    Is a homosexual a man who is barely a man?

Does a homosexual man reject gender roles?   Does he eat fancy foods and live in a big house?  Will a homosexual man eventually get a dog?  Is the dog of the homosexual man exposed to the daily episodes of rampant gay sex and golden girls re-runs?   Is the dog of the homosexual man well fed or abused or is he simply an innocent victim?

Is a homosexual man a weirdo?   Is a homosexual man ignorant to societal rules, and constantly on the fringe of what is normal?   Does the homosexual man hate normality?    If normalcy is natural and humans are nature, then does the homosexual man hate what is natural, and therefore hate others as himself?

Is the homosexual a man only known as a gay man.

Is a homosexual man weak?   Does he throw like a girl and kiss like a boy?    Does he break like a toothpick in the absence of joy?  Does he bruise like a peach and play with girl toys? 

Is a homosexual man, the enemy of God?   Does he sit in his room, petting his cat, and plotting the next attack to the Creator and his people?

Is a homosexual man a man who likes men, and by men, I mean boys?   

Is a homosexual man, trapped in a marriage to a woman he loves…  to email every once in a while?

Is a homosexual man, a man who has friends who are more than just friends, only they think they're just friends, but to him they're best friends, and his girlfriend get jealous but thinks: well, boys will be boys!  Does the homosexual man dream of his friend?  Does he steal glances at the gym?  Extra long glances at the gym?

Or is a homosexual man, confused and needs Jesus?   10 Hail Mary's to please Us.

Is a homosexual man, the only kind of man, unable to give love, because his love is not love, but is gallons of lust?   Can a gay man know love?   And if he cannot give love, should he even get love or is that asking too much?

Is he the only exception to "God so loved the world"?

Is he the only exception to your love and respect?

Is he the only exception... period?

Shout Out!

I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice shout out on the Leftmost Few blog.   It helps to have friends in cyberspace.   The more we come together, the more those who are actively seeking answers will know they are not alone, in fact, far from it.

Thanks for the props!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

You GO, Hillary!

It gets (so much) better...

This was a difficult one to write.  Why?  It was so long ago, and things have changed so much since then, but at the same time, it is part of my story.  So many out there are taking their lives, TWO more just today, and it's just not worth it.   I hope people can read this and realize that there can be hope, no matter how bad it gets.

It was 11pm, on a Friday night.   While I risk sounding cliche, it actually was a cool, dark, and misty night.  Sitting at my desk, home alone, laptop in front of me, with typed words barely legible, as my eyes were red, swollen, and glazed with tears.

So how did I get to this point?  The idea of actually taking my life was not even in my blood or psyche, but it became a viable option that night, one that would possibly give me the freedom I had been looking for, for so many years.  That's how low it got.

Up until that very day, I had spent many years, faithfully and hopefully engaging in ex-gay ministries, as they provided a sane answer to my very serious problem: my emotional and sexual attraction to other men. Their message was clear, God loves you.   God loves you too much to let you live in sin.   They were very clear to stress a certain point, being attracted to other men was not a sin, however acting on it was.   But it did not stop there:  the attraction itself was evidence that something was seriously wrong with my psychology, my development, and the person I had become.  I was broken, but they re-assured me that every other human out there was broken.   While that was true on some level, about the brokenness of humanity, what I failed to recognize on a conscious level, was the fact that, while people are broken, they all have basic needs: food, shelter, water, and of course, to be loved.   I don't think the Bible itself could be any clearer, in that "it is not good for man to be alone."  The editors in chief of ex-gay ministries add an interesting subtext to this verse: "…  unless you are gay."

Up until this point, the older I got, the more pronounced my desire for companionship became, as I crushed hard on friends, on strangers, and with each feeling, which usually excites a person and makes them feel alive, with every crush, I was reminded that I was broken and wrong.   The longer I engaged in these ministries, the bigger of a toll this took on me.   I didn't even know it, actually.  I was for the most part, pretty OK, and I was living a life on the outside where none of my friends knew I was going through this, however the friends I made in these ministries, we all shared a common bond, that life was a struggle, and we were all diseased.   We were defining ourselves based on who we were not, rather than who we were.   The mixing of faith, Jesus, the Bible, with this very dangerous and dehumanizing way of living, created an even bigger problem, if you can imagine.

At the same time, I was a corner-stone in my family and I was very active in my church.  I was involved in service, I had great friends, I was the go-to guy for everyone.  My family, broken and bruised, was helpless (as far as I believed) without me.  I had a bright future ahead of me, and everyone's hopes and dreams for me were made pronounced on a daily basis.  And I fought the good fight, because as far as I knew, God brought these ministries to me, to show me that healing was possible from this "thing" that plagued me through childhood and adolescence.

I was invited to a church fundraiser in LA, for a church I wasn't a regular at, but knew one or two faces,  and for the most part, it was how church dinners go.   Table with friends,  mediocre food, speeches, fundraising, prayers.  I had been to many of these before, but this one was different.   My friends around me were moving on in their lives: girlfriends, fiances, interest in their careers, growing in faith.   I looked back at the last few years, and these things seemed further and further way from me.   My faith had disintegrated to a pile of dust, while I worked hard at gluing the tiny cinders of what was left over, using an expired bottle of Elmer's Wood glue, in order to take what little faith I had left to the sunday school classes I would teach, and the people I would talk to.    Even my friends who weren't Christian, I started to understand more where they were coming from, but I had been so brainwashed, that nothing else but what I knew was a viable option.  Combine that with years of forced reparative therapy and an intrinsic belief that your core human desires are in fact completely broken and by only an act of grace, if not from years of dedication and commitment to practices of therapy fasting and prayer, could any of these things be fixed, I was probably going no where.    My life was a mistake, and I was not going to be healed, for not only was I still a homosexual,  the feelings were only intensifying.  I had no judgment for other gay people, as I believe God was merciful, and that no one knows the heart but God, but for some reason, it just was not an option for me.

While this sounds very dramatic, I ask you to remember that dark time in your life, and stand with me in solidarity for a moment.   But believe me, this memory is not one I like to return to, so it has taken some effort to stand in solidarity with myself.

Like a house of cards, which takes 100x as long to put together than it does to come apart, I started breaking down, at an alarming rate, while eating a piece of overcooked chicken, sitting next to one of my good friends.   I excused myself, got in my car, got on the freeway, and started driving home.  It was true, anger and sadness like I never felt before had completely enveloped me, and it occurred to me at that moment, that there was no answer.  There hadn't been an answer.   I was wrong, I was at a dinner surrounded by everything I was supposed to be, however, I was none of those things.

I went home with the sole intention of ending my life.   I had nothing to live for, I was a mistake.  I held  a bottle of pills in my hand, and a bottle of hard liquor on the table, I knew that I could possibly get away with this, living so far from other neighbors, no one would even know I was there until someone bothered to realize I hadn't returned a phonecall in weeks.   As I opened the vile, I had a strong notion to call a friend.   I called a friend of mine who had been in a position like this before, and told him, I was going to kill myself and I didn't know what to do.  He said, go to the hospital.  It was an order.  I was a zombie, with no will of my own, I listened to my friend and drove myself to the hospital and announced at the front desk, that I was going to kill myself and I needed help.   This was the first and only time in my entire life, the notion of ending it all had entered my head, but it was so real and palpable, it was the only thing that made sense, to make this mistake of an existence go away.

As I lay there in quarantine, with a catheter in my arm, with the strong florescent lights suffocating my vision, I heard a voice.

Maybe it was God, or maybe it was Cher, straight out of Moonstruck, bitch-slapping me in the face with a cold hard "Snap Out Of It!!" I felt a nagging voice in my soul:

"Is it really that serious?"

"Yes" I replied

"That you're gay.  Do you think I give a damn."

"Don't you?"

"That you're gay?  Look at your life, you've been on hold.   What are you doing"

I had no answer.

"Your life is worth more alive gay than it will ever be dead.  You are loved regardless, no matter what you choose."

I had no words.

"Your life is worth SO MUCH MORE than all this."

Oh by the way, this conversation was between me and possibly God, still not sure, maybe it was with myself.    Maybe it was just what I've always wanted to hear, never heard it, and I finally had the balls to tell it to myself.   Maybe it was the parent inside me.   But it was a dialogue that changed the course of my life.   For the first time, the whole ridiculousness of what I had put myself through started to become clear.  It was a big fat lie.   Like a rushing wind, a pair of shit colored sunglasses got blown off my face, and I saw the world in color for the first time in I don't know how long.   I started feeling lighter and lighter, as this truth permeated my head, and seeped into every cell in my body.   I was alive.

Having not slept a wink through the night, I took the sweetest most restful nap I ever had at that point.   I woke up and decided to cut all ties with the ex-gay ministries I had been a part of, with the exception of a few friends.   And while most people with a born-again experience go to church, I went to the house of an attractive jewish boy who I had befriended, and after some conversation, had my very first kiss with a man, and let me tell you, it was wonderful.   I felt human for the first time, I felt alive.  It was the beginning, the beginning of life for me.

Years later, I write this, often uncomfortable to revisit such a difficult place, and while life does not get easier, in fact, there is a lot of pain in coming out, in finding love, in losing love, in living life as a whole person who is no longer allowing himself to sit in the side-lines.   While there is pain, there is also great joy, and gratitude, and let me tell you, it does get better.  It gets so… much…  fucking… better.

I write this, remembering the many gay youth who have ended their lives, reminding those who are thinking to do the same, because you only have one life, and you'll never know unless you live another day.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Born Gay: The Devil Made Me Do It.

"But mama, I was born this way!"  

Damn I wish I had the audacity to tell my parents this when I first attempted to come out to them at the tender age of 11.   But instead, I followed their advice, and believed them when they told me I wasn't born gay, in fact I wasn't even gay, and in fact, there was nothing wrong with me, and if there was, it was the devil tempting me.  Why would the devil tempt me?  Because God allows his best and brightest to be tempted the hardest.   So that's what I got for being a good altar boy: A hard-on for Mario Lopez.

Devil to me: Girl: bad!  AC Slater: Hot!

How does the devil convince your brain to send blood to your penis?   Is it in a whisper, or is it full-on control?   On the flip side, how did the devil manage to tell my brain to withhold blood from my penis every time I would see Pam Anderson do the slow, boob-bouncing jog on Baywatch?   I can picture it now:  Young me, watching TV, bikini clad women oil wrestling, boobs popping out, and the devil himself (who must have been on 24/7 duty on my young adolescent mind) would be like: "OLD NAKED WOMEN, OLD NAKED WOMEN WITH LIVER SPOTS!!!! SUNBATHING EATING COTTAGE CHEESE", but in the tricky subtle way that only the devil could pull-off.    My nature was then repressed by a spiritual force, being that my nature was supposedly heterosexual.  Then here comes a scene from a talk show, where male strippers are invited, and if my sexual nature is heterosexual, the devil must have put heterosexual suggestions in my head in order for me to react accordingly, when the tall latino Adonis ripped his pants off and gyrated his junk in the face of Sally Jesse.  Ok, I just grossed myself out.  

The whole notion of the devil-made-me-do-it in regards to sexuality seems a bit far fetched, because no amount of prayer, fasting, or repression did anything to remove my homosexual feelings, nor did they enhance my heterosexual feelings.    It got to the point where I would force myself to think about and fantasize about women until the idea of being turned on by a woman became somewhat normal to me, however, it was forced, and did not last, at all.

But would you believe, I really believed I was straight, and that, yes… the devil made me do it.   Turns out I've since learned that it's really heterosexuality that is the tool of Satan.  

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Another Life Cut Short

These look like two bright young people, on the verge of a successful future, and they were up until a few days ago when because of their immaturity and ignorance, drove a young man to an untimely suicide.   Tyler Clementi, a new student at Rutgers University, 18 years old, decided that his life was no longer worth living after being outed against his will, by his roommate Dharun Ravi and one of Ravi's friends, Molly Wei.    Ravi, after suspecting that Tyler was having an encounter with another man, set up a web cam, pointing to Tyler's bed, and broadcasted video of Tyler having a sexual encounter with another man.

The video went viral, and Ravi bragged about this "amazing" discovery that he made, on twitter.  Back on August 22nd, when he discovered his roommate wasn't straight, found it important to tweet: "Found out my roommate is gay."

What the hell is so fascinating about such news, especially to someone who is known by his peers and family as "open minded and accepting"  No one with an open mind would feel the need to broadcast something like this, unless they themselves were affected by it in some way.

Tyler, is one of four young people who have committed suicide in the last month, due to the difficulties they faced being gay or lesbian.   My stomach is aching me right now, as I sit here and just think that there was no good reason for any of this to have occurred.

Down the hall from us, back in college, there was a guy who would have a girl over every night, and we'd hear them have sex, pretty loudly.  Sometimes we would camp outside the door and just listen and laugh, but, it was no secret he was having sex.   He was very much commended by all the guys on our floor.    Was it just a harmless prank?   Was it just giddy teenage behavior, or did Ravi have a deep seeded bias against Clementi, and wanted to humiliate him for being a sexual human being.   The fact that Clementi's sexuality was a joke to Ravi to begin with, is again, another case of the disdain people feel towards a people who just want to be alive, living, and equal.

Fuck tolerance.   I'll say it again... FUCK tolerance.   Who needs it?  Tolerance is holding one's breath and saying nothing.  Tolerance is has nothing to do with the condition of the heart.   Tolerance is merely permission.  Tolerance has nothing to do with understanding, and it has nothing to do with love.   I am against the idea that we need to tolerate each other.   I want to take it step further: we need to learn to understand and accept each other!  Think about it, what do human beings desire most in this world, outside of their basic needs...  it's LOVE.   And why the hell should I expect anyone to love me, if I cannot accept and understand someone else?  What makes any of us so special that we should merely just tolerate the existence of someone else.  What makes any of us more worthy of love and acceptance than another?   Clementi wasn't even tolerated by his roommate, he was ridiculed by him.

I look back in my life and I will be the first to say, that I have hurt many people.   I have made fun of, and I've pranked and embarrassed many folks in high school and college, for all kinds of reasons.   What I now know, is that I hated myself at the time.   I hated myself, and what better way to cover up ones own self hatred, than to project that hatred onto others.    We have a lot of power.  Our words are so powerful.

I'm sad tonight, as we as a human race, have lost a great addition to our family.   Tyler Clementi, you will be in my thoughts this week.    I hope your name will be a reminder, along with all the names of those who have died needless deaths because they were different, that we need to wake up, and start giving what it is we wanna get.   Rest in peace and pray for us.