July 8, 2013 § 5 Comments
I wish this was one of those coming out stories that has a happy ending, that I could reassure you that if you come out people might surprise you with their acceptance and unconditional love. In my case, I had no loving acceptance as a response to my revealing to my family that I am gay. I do know these happy ending stories exist though, and that gives me enough hope to overcome any cynicism about coming out in general.
I didn’t get to choose when or if I came out to my parents. One evening when I was 18, my mother, in her typical overbearing way, asked me if I thought I was gay. (Notice the dismissive-from-the-start wording of ‘thought I was.’ That’s intentional.) The fact that she asked me this shows how disconnected she was from me at that point in my life. Since graduating from high school, I had steadily worked to remove all false labels from my identity. I had allowed myself to react to every question, externally or internally posed, about who I was with complete honesty. My actions were speaking very loudly of this change, I had stopped attending church, had gotten many times tattooed, pierced, hanging out with biker dudes and stoners til dawn, regularly going off for weeks to be with my heathen, witchy great gramma.
In this current mind frame it had been impossible to lie to her, especially about this thing in myself that had so recently came into bloom. The actualization of my attraction to girls was like a fully opened rose inside me. It would have been impossible to hide it. I answered her with my immediate reaction “If I tell you, you’ll be mad,” basically confirmed her fears.
The rest of the conversation is a bit of a blur, it was mainly a lot of crying on her part and a lot of uncomfortable fact giving on mine. I know I told her I was bi-sexual, as that was what I identified myself as at the time. In the following years when any idea that I was attracted to men disappeared, I would regret this because it allowed my mother to believe it was a phase and I would eventually settle down and get married. It took my being in a committed relationship for many years for her to accept that this might actually be a real thing. Even still, now, she’ll waver away from this reality. More than 10 years in this relationship, she’ll refer to my partner as my friend.
I distinctly remember one other thing from that evening. She asked me about the tarot card I had displayed on my nightstand and what that was about. I had placed it there without really thinking about her reaction to it, though probably subconsciously wanting this piece of information – “Look Mom! I’m a heretic now!” – to be conveyed to her. I told her that I had got them with my great gramma and that I had been reading about them in some books about Wicca. My interest in them had more to do with the revival of new age-y religious stuff in the 90’s than any need to rebel. This general revival of spirituality was a terrifying thing for the Christian Church. Things as innocuous as dream-catchers, yoga, earth-conscious lifestyles, all these got reinterpreted by the Christian Church as satanism and black magic being practiced by misguided souls who’d been taken over by the Devil. (I’m not speaking metaphorically here, this was a real fear in the Church for most of the 90’s. The West Memphis Three are the best/worst example of this.) My mother saw those tarot cards as idolatry, the witchcraft as me spitting in the face of ‘our’ beliefs.
“Are you mad at me?” I asked her fearfully.
“Oh no. The homosexuality we can cure. It’s this witchcraft we’re worried about.”
She said this with complete confidence. (My family would attempt to dissuade my ‘lifestyle choices’ as she would later call them, but that’s a story for another time.) The assurance with which she spoke this sentence shocked me in a way that still resonances now. I repeated it in my head for days, months afterwards, trying to actualize that she would honestly believe this. It didn’t fully hit home for me until a couple of years later when helping my parents pack, I found books about ‘converting homosexuals’ in my Dad’s office. I had been out of the house over a year at this point, awed by the freedom of my own space. Seeing these books pulled me right back down again, reminded me that this was not something that my parents accepted, not in the slightest. All their affirmations of parental love, their insistence that they still did love me no matter were proved false by their actions. They didn’t accept this part of me. There were conditions on their love. My mom told me once a few months after I came out that she ‘loved me but hated the gay part of me.’ This is not love. Love accepts all parts and judges not.
My parents continuous refusal to accept and love who I really am is something I had to work through during most of my twenties. I allowed myself to feel anger, betrayal, abandonment, and lived with those negative emotions inside me for a long time. It wasn’t until I saw ignorance as a cage they were seemingly forever trapped in that I was able to not attach their limitations to my sense of self. I have never made excuses or apologies for their treatment of me, rather felt pity towards them. They refuse to change their minds on basic human emotions, hide behind their prejudices – these are facts I can’t change about them. All I can change is how I will not allow their ignorant opinion to determine my reaction to those around me.
I ended up counterbalancing the abandonment of my family by creating a family of my own. This is the best thing I can tell people who want to come out to their family but are unsure of their reaction. That as gay people, we create our own families, and those families love and accept you in ways you never dreamed possible. So maybe my story ends happy after all, based on this. The love and support I get from those I have allowed into my life fills the emptiness I always had with my family – from before I came out and I knew I wasn’t able to be all I really was around them, to after when they refused the parts of me that I felt the most proud of. I experience a level of love from without and within unlike I was ever able to before that night when I was 18. After all that I went through from it myself, I can still say that coming out is worth the risk. You owe it to your family and those closest to you to know who you really are. More importantly, you owe it to yourself.
June 30, 2013 § 1 Comment
“I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your undumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it should lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is really just a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any more by giving myself away like this — But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defenses. And I don’t really resent it.”
June 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
This is actually Rachel taking a picture of Bo taking a picture of me. I put on some boy clothes and the ladies took lots of pictures of me. Boy swagga coaching was provided by Mr Kelso.
June 28, 2013 § 12 Comments
It seems impossible, looking at where I stand today, that I once was a deeply devoted Christian. I was raised in a strict Christian home where indoctrination started early. I was told the beliefs of Christianity before I spoke my first words. When I was just a few weeks old my grandfather, an ordained minister since his early 20s, carried me onto the platform of the church he was then pastor of and took the liberty of dedicating my life to Christ and to the service of the Church. The entirety of my mother’s immediate family, including her two brothers, both ordained ministers themselves, stood around him while he did this, heads bowed, hands outstretched, focusing all their thoughts on my living a ‘Godly life.’ The photographs of this dedication (the Protestant version of a christening) unsettle me, to see my choices being taken from me so early in my life.
I would stay in the Christian fold for the next 17 years, attending church services, Sunday School, bible classes and youth group meetings up to 5 times a week. Every member of my family was a Christian as all their friends were. I didn’t speak to a non-Christian until I went to school, and when I did, it was with the assumption that they were less than me, that they didn’t deserve the same level of respect that a fellow Christian would. Throughout childhood and adolescence I had some non-Christian friends, but they were never as important to me as those I made at church.
I was taught the Christian view on everything during these years and never once did it occur to me to question the truth what I was being told. My grandfather was like God himself, so holy, so devoted to this belief system, that to doubt Christianity would be to doubt him, and that was impossible.
Amongst learning the Bible, I was told put Jesus before everything in your life, including your family. I was also taught that those who were not Christian were going to burn, to be tortured for an eternity in hell. This included those who never heard about Christianity, and was used as justification for the Church wiping out whole cultures and religions, refusing to give a homeless man food unless he listened to a sermon, even dismissing the other branches of Christianity, like Anglicans, and most certainly Catholics, who I was told were practicing idolatry, worshiping statues and necklaces and not God Himself.
I distinctly remember one sermon where a visiting preacher told us in the congregation that AIDS was a punishment God had created for gay people. I remember this moment so clearly because since the start of my sexual development I had felt myself physically attracted to other women.
For the first 14 years of my life, I didn’t even know that you could be gay, that it was actually something that even existed. It was pop culture that taught me about homosexuality, about people out there living a life where they were attracted to the same sex. This was an abomination, I was told, a demon that had taken hold of their soul. Thinking about the innocent crushes I would get on my female friends, I would, with tears of pure fright pouring down my face, beg God to rid me of this demon.
I was also told, in no uncertain terms, that abortion was murder. When I was 13 years old, I joined the members of the large congregation of the church I attended to line the busiest street in our town and hold up signs that read ‘ABORTION KILLS CHILDREN’ and ‘ABORTION IS MURDER.’ The main thing I remember about this day is my total lack of understanding for what I was purporting. I never once questioned the assertion of abortion being murder, never questioned why as a sheltered 13 years old my opinion on something that I knew nothing about was in any way untrue.
A couple of years later I argued the pro-life side of the abortion issue in my debate class, and did so by choice. With a macabre glee, I held up pictures of mutilated dead fetuses to scare my classmates into my way of thinking. I firmly believed I was doing the right thing. I was doing God’s work.
When I was 17, in my Grade 12 history class, I wrote a paper that started out as a comparison between Christianity and Buddhism. When I started the paper (which ended up being 30 pages long) I approached it as “all the ways Christianity makes more sense and is obviously right.” By the end, I had made a startling discovery. It was a question of faith. Religion wasn’t the truth, it’s something you put your trust in, that tells you you’re right for doing so. The similarities between myself, a Christian, and a Buddhist, in a lot of cases, were just the names we gave the intangible.
This first revelation would be the first step on a long journey that eventually lead me out of the Church and into becoming the person I was meant to be. I was able, over the following years, to take my back my right to choose, take my life back from the Church, from my family, and become my own person. It was an extremely painful process, to decry this thing that not only I had believed to be true, but that my whole family still did/doe. Many members of my family were people I had seen as my heroes, the most dependable forces in my life, and I had to come to terms with the fact they were devoted, blindly, to a political movement dressed up as a religion. My family punished me and continues to punish me for this break from the Church, and my life today, though being free from falsehoods and fake personas, is not the life I would have had if I had continued in the beliefs of the Church.
My main reason for sharing this story is to help those of you who never had a doctrine put in your head, who have never experienced life inside a religion, to help you understand how and why these people do the things they do. When I was transitioning out of the Church and into adulthood a quote from Maya Angelou was a motto: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” These people who are anti-abortion, who view gay people as perverts, who back the politicians who aim to push these views on the country as a whole, they’re doing what they know, what they’ve been told to do. Until they know better, which some of them never will, they will continue to do so.
I’m not asking you to forgive them, but I am asking for compassion, for some understanding. Those kids at the anti-gay-marriage rally, they were just regurgitating what they’d been told their whole lives, never thinking of the actual people who their words were directed at. It’s easy to mock them because of their ignorance, but it’s better to try to get them access to things outside the circle of the Church. It was pop culture that taught me about real gay people and all the different kinds of lives real gay people live. It was pop culture that taught me I had the right to make decisions about my own body. The fight for gay rights, for reproductive rights, win or lose, is a way of showing these kids that there is a big world out there that they can be part of it, if they so choose.
June 24, 2013 § 2 Comments
I have a lot of thoughts about this book. I think Palahniuk owes David Fincher a lot – this book wouldn’t have its place in pop culture’s lexicon if it wasn’t for Fincher’s film. The book itself is weak, thin. The movie, the script, and the actors that fleshed out the weak characters from this novel are what made this book what it is today. The book is a gathering of facts and exaggerated boy-stories, it reads like a Maxim magazine. It also makes a lot of assumptions about class and gender. But all this is just fodder to the main point that kept hitting me over the head while I read, which was “THIS IS THE GAYEST BOOK I HAVE EVER SEEN” and this is coming from someone who used to regularly thumb through the Tom of Finland anthology from Taschen. The subtext of this book is so blatant it’s not subtext anymore. It’s like a gay porn that’s put in the straight section. I don’t know what exactly the author is trying to achieve here – the ability to have sexual contact with other men without condemnation or guilt, I suppose. Whatever it is, I would say the biggest audience this book would appeal to, and who I would most recommend it to over all is anyone who has a fetish for straight men fucking each other.