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.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thank You!

Being Gay And Coptic is currently being read in over 17 countries!   Thank you for reading, for your feedback and comments.   If you like what you've read here, or even if you haven't, share this with your friends, tell someone that there are more people standing up for the silent LGBT masses who are living in oppression and living lives at risk.    Join our community online.   And of course, make sure you take your vitamins.

There is definitely something special here, I can feel it.   Thank you for being a part of it.  

- M

Friday, October 1, 2010

On A Friday Night

Friendship: It isn't always this attractive....
but nothing beats it.

OK, so a little eye-candy never hurt anyone.  What am I doing home on a Friday night?   That's a very good question.  Writing to you all, I suppose.  I'm sure something will pop up as it always does, in the meantime, I was very moved by a comment that was posted on my Share Your Story post, and it went something like this:
I personally am neither gay nor Coptic, but one of my best friends came out about a year ago. His internal struggle must have been great. I'd known him for about 14 years and that whole time he proclaimed himself to be a straight Christian. Over that time, he wrestled with the church's logic in many forms. Being Atheist myself, I simply (paraphrasingly) said "I told you man, it doesn't make sense." He claimed chastity was his thing until he would get married someday. I couldn't fathom the idea how a person could be so strict and not know the beauty and pleasure of being intimate with another person.
So it was quite a relief (for me as well), more than anything else, when he finally came out. He told me he was really down in a dark place for a long time, confused, trying to fit in, trying to be what his church and community put into his head. I can't imagine what he felt as he led a life as the complete opposite of what he was inside.
Regardless, he's still one of my best friends. And he still has tiny battles with that side of his life and that part of the community that he lost when he decided that his honest self had to shine through. But at least now we can joke and talk about sex and religion openly and he can finally share what's really on his mind, what his life is like, and for that I'd want it no other way.
I'm proud of him and I'm glad he found the courage to be himself to everyone. It wasn't an easy decision for him, so I commend him with all my heart.
I was so touched by this!   I'm not sure if his friend is Coptic or not, but I don't think it really matters.   It's a story all too familiar among us, and I wonder how long is too long before the shit hits the fan for some people.    I commend his friend, for even though not being in his shoes (heck, they're not even shopping at the same footwear store), he was able to be there and understand.    It's so important to tell someone what you're going through.   They say "you don't keep secrets... they keep you."

It's easy to come out to another gay person, well maybe not SO easy, besides the fact that all of a sudden you may or may not become a romantic possibility becomes factored into the equation, and you wonder if you're attracted to them, or attractive to them, and all the bullshit may surface, but I digress:  for the most part, you won't be judged.   There is definitely a value in the camaraderie of being gay amongst gays, and being able to be oneself in a very safe place. But I think there's a different kind of healing that can happen when coming out to someone who isn't gay.

I remember a few years back I had come out to a couple of straight friends of mine, and the reaction astounded me.   In all cases, I just assumed that I would be treated differently, or maybe with kid gloves. I remember wondering if our friendships would ever be the same again.   But as I told them the truth about not only my sexuality but about my story and struggle, I just found myself in the company of people who have gone through their own battles in life, that really it wasn't just a gay vs. straight thing, it was just a human thing, and at the very least, an experience of being a man.    Being accepted by those I thought might reject me, quickly dispelled the myth that gay men cannot be counted among men in our society.   I think integration between the gay and straight world will only come with dialogue.

I've always hated labels, but they work, and help me navigate through this mess we call life, and its in these friendships, the labels can be dropped and we can just be... friends, dudes, boys, homies, however you want to call it.    The level of trust in my friendships skyrocketed when I came out to them.  My favorite reaction was one where my friend just told me "cool.  can you please pass the wings?"  It just didn't matter.   It puts a lot into perspective when a friend tells you to pass the wings after laying out your life story.   We should do more of that in life.   Next time Kim Jong Il threatens the US:  "That's cool, can you pass the kim-chee?"