Monday, May 28, 2007

Tadpole Waterslide From Hell

I went out to check how thing were in the backyard pond. I am sorry to say that the fantail comet is now in the big fishbowl in the sky. But the tadpoles are having a good time!

I have two waterfalls in my pond, the larger waterfall and pump have a filter system on them. The smaller one, though, does not.

So the tadpoles are being sucked up in the pump and being deposited at the top of the waterfall to cascade (usually) back into the pond. Unfortunately, some of them get stuck on the landing rock, just before plopping into the pool at the bottom. But, hey, I guess the bodies of the tadpoles that don't make it make for a good obstacle course for the next ones to come!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"The Book: Gay Pastor"

I was ready to face my life but I had the whole problem of “Page 13” to contend with. I either had to continue to live a celibate life and remain a pastor or I had to leave the ministry. Since I had gone this long without a relationship, I really didn’t want to continue without a relationship. So to be openly in a relationship, I could not be an ELCA pastor.
Now I must say that I think the ELCA’s prohibition on openly gay pastors is just silly and I have always thought it was silly. I have to question a denomination that would rather have its leaders lie about what who they are as opposed to being honest. Well, that is their loss. But loss or not, there was a tenet of the faith that said I could be gay, I just needed to be celibate.
I had to struggle with what I wanted to do. I could stay in the ELCA and fight what I thought was an unfair, and frankly unchristian, rule. Or I could respect the rules of the church and find a new denomination. As I thought about it, it became clearer to me that I would need to leave the denomination.
The decision to leave had been in the process for a while. My call to the congregation was as an assistant pastor. As such, I played second fiddle to the senior pastor. In the past, in situations that were marginally controversial, the senior pastor would give his support but then if anyone from the congregation would say something, he would crumble. If it came down to standing by his colleague, me, or caving to even one comment from a parishioner, he would cave. If he caved only once, I may have gone forward, but this behavior of collapsing when things go a little controversial has been a consistent pattern with this man.
So I began to look at various other denominations, looking for a place that would accept me as I am and not expect me to lie and that would also allow me to serve God as I felt I had been called to do. Actually, I felt more then ever that I had truly been called by God. As I looked at the way the church treated GLBT people, and as I was beginning to experience myself, I felt the need more than ever to bring the gospel to those for whom the church was not a safe place and may have actually been a place of pain and rejection. I still felt the call to ministry; I just knew I could not do it in the ELCA.
I looked at various denominations, trying to find a place where I would be welcome. Unfortunately, this search did not turn up many denominations. Many of the denominations like to tell how open and accepting they were to “all people.” This was the same thing the ELCA also said. And I truly believe these denominations do feel they are being open. But also like the ELCA, most would not allow an openly gay person to function as a clergyperson. Also like the ELCA, most of these denominations like to proclaim how they allow “all people into all aspects of church life.” But if leadership is closed to a certain segment of the population, is it really open?
Of the denominations I searched, I was only able to find three that were truly open to having GLBT people as clergy. These denominations were The United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church in America, and The Metropolitan Community Church. Finding only three denominations was pretty disheartening. But since I had only these three to look at, I started to do my research.
The first denomination I look at was the MCC. I thought this would be a great place to minister as its traditional outreach is to the GLBT population. In this denomination, a gay pastor was not an oddity; actually, a heterosexual pastor would be the oddity. Within the MCC, homosexuality is the norm.
So with this in mind, I decided to go and visit an MCC church. I was surprised to find that, even with a major university in town, Lansing did not have an MCC congregation. But I still wanted to see what an MCC church was like. So, one Sunday morning while I was on vacation, I got up and drove to Grand Rapids to visit the church there.
That worship service was quite an eye-opener for me. I didn’t know what I should expect from the congregation there. This was my first foray out into the “Gay World” as one of the “locals.” I was not entering the “Gay World” as an outsider but as an actual gay person.
I was greeted by one of the members of the congregation who was very kind and asked some questions about me. These questions were not intrusive in any way but allowed me the opportunity to talk if I would want to. The member then asked me if I would like to sit with him and his friends during the service.
The service was relatively uneventful, similar to just about any other mainstream worship service. Well, actually, the sermon was anything but uneventful. The pastor preached about difficulties with those around us and working on coming to an understanding with those people. In the sermon, the pastor urged the congregation to confront those who have hurt them and then work toward resolution. This sounds good in theory but almost ended in a boxing match in the parking lot after the service. But the most eye-opening aspect of the service was how truly uneventful it all really was. These people, these GAY people prayed, sang, communed, and went out for lunch after the service just like everyone else. The sermon was not about being gay, it was about being a person.
That was one of the defining moments for me in creating my “gay identity.” I was able to go out and be gay but not be “GAY” as the stereotypes would have us think.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Adding Ads

Hi folks,
I am adding ad-sense to my blog. Yes, I have succumed to the lure of the ads. Hey, if I can get some extra money then that would be great. Just click on an ad and that helps me pay the electric bill.

I hope it doesn't become intrusive. If it does, I will remove them. But we will give it a go!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Rev. Jerry Falwell 1934-2007

I would like to extend my condolences to the family of Rev. Jerry Falwell. We in the GLBT community have much experience with the death of those who are dear to us and understand the pain that the death of a loved one can bring.

Know that at this time I pray that God will bring you strength and peace.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

This Is SOOOO Wrong!

Melinda is sooooo much better than Blake! Blake should have been sent home. Bad America!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Chance Encounter

Today I ran into one of my ex-bosses from the phone days. I was at Kelly filling out paperwork for an $8/hr job. He had the nerve to ask how things were going. (Aren't social nicities a wonderful thing.) I had the self control to not tell him.

"The Book: I'm Gay"

After a brief hiatus, The Book is back. The last part can be found here.

The subconscious part of me decided that since I was going to be all alone, that I needed to start getting on with my life. There was going to be no wedding presents to look forward to so I would have to start buying all of that stuff myself. I started to look for houses and eventually found one that I loved. It was pretty much everything I had hoped for. It had character, a fireplace, and a beautiful back yard. I also started to buy dishes and REAL furniture instead of the dorm room leftovers that I did have in my house. I decided that since I was not going to get married, I could not count on those things and it was time to stop living like a student and live like a real adult person.
Granted, the house could feel empty at times, but I am a pretty “big” personality and can manage to spread out to fill my space. Soon I had gotten the house pretty much how I wanted it. Granted, it was messy, but hey, no one was stopping over soon.
I was going to fight this loneliness and remain true to God. Even with all the information I had about the Bible and the problems of interpretation with the “clobber passages,” I was going to bury my emotions and play the happy hetero when the need be. Besides, my denomination was telling me that “We accept all people;” just don’t let its leaders be gay. Oh, I should say, our leaders can be gay, just make sure they lie about it or hide it.
So that is what I was going to do. I would hide it. I would look at gay porn when no one was around and I would keep the possibilities of finding a “good woman” open. I would go to the gym and get an occasional peek at a naked man and hope to remain sane.
But it wasn’t working. I was feeling like a shell. I was feeling like I was lying and that people were going to find out. I was feeling constantly exhausted because I had to work so hard to keep the façade up. For those of you who are straight, if you don’t think it is hard, try going for just a day paying attention to all things that might be a “give away.” You have to be aware of making sure you say “she” instead of “he.” You have to be aware of what you do, is it too “gay?” I tend to be an artsy person so am I being too “artsy?” And always, how to deal with the “girlfriend” questions? It just gets so tiring.
This hiding continued until the end of my second year at the church I was serving. It was then that a series of chance events occurred that would set my life shooting off on a trajectory that I had never anticipated. I say “chance events” because in retrospect I am still not really sure what happened.
I was at summer camp with a bunch of kids. The Supervisor was also there with a group of kids from his congregation. We planned on being there together so we could share the teaching duties. And also, we enjoyed each other’s company and it gave us a chance to catch up on “old times.”
Now there was nothing out of the ordinary about this week at camp. I cannot think of anything that I would have done that would have pointed a finger. I did not go searching for an opportunity to “see” the Supervisor nor did we spend an inordinate amount of time together. It was just an ordinary week at camp.
On the last day of camp, the adult leaders take some time to clean the house we have all been sharing over the past week. The usual things: clean and sweep. I was cleaning in the kitchen and the Supervisor came in and asked me where he could find a broom. I said “I think there is one in the closet.” And for the life of me, I could have sworn that the Supervisor said under his breath but still loud enough for me to hear, “That’s not the only thing in the closet.”
I was both shocked and pissed. I was shocked because a comment like that form the Supervisor was so out of character. In the eight years I had known him, he would never make a comment like that. If he had something to say, he would generally be right up front about it. And I was pissed because, “HOW DARE HE THINK THAT ABOUT ME!”
I had a good head of steam going. I was hurt and I was not going to put up with this. I decided I would just avoid the Supervisor until we had to leave and then I could regroup. Hopefully after I had time to regroup I could talk with him and set him straight. This was not something worth ruining a friendship over, but the air needed to be cleared.
So I was walking around camp feeling righteously indignant when it suddenly dawned on me, “Am I that transparent? Am I really fooling anyone? I am using all of this energy to keep up a façade that is not fooling anyone at all?” And it was in that moment that the house of cards that I had built for so long, it was at that moment that all delusions disappeared and I finally came to the realization: I was gay.
My feelings about realizing I was gay were many as you can expect, however, the feeling that I remember most clearly was relief. Finally, after 40 years, I was able to state truthfully what I was. I could finally look into the mirror and say, “I am gay.” I could let down all the pretense that I held in my life and just be who God made me to be.
Now I would love to be able to tell you that I was able to come out to my family, friends, and co-workers and everything was ok. But as I have told others, “Lying is a sin” and I would not want to lie. So, in coming to terms with my homosexuality I was not at the end of the journey, I was just starting a new leg of the journey.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Checking in

Having too much time on one's hands is not a good thing.

I will do fine for a while, then I get to thinking and I start getting more and more depressed. Maybe I should stop tinking.

Oh, and two of the cheapy fish died. Now, I know that every fish is special, but if two were going to die, I am glad they were the cheap ones.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Hottie is Henry!

Christopher Gorham plays Henry on Ugly Betty! I would never guess the nerd could exist in that beautiful bod.

One of my favorite songs from Beaches

Ok, I am feeling "soapboxy"

Friday, May 11, 2007

Who Is This Hottie?

I was surprised when I found out. Tell me who you think it is.

I will post the answer tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

America Made A Mistake!

Lakisha should have stayed! Blake should have been sent home. He was horrible last night!

"The Book: The Final Hope"

I received another call in Michigan and was very excited about it. It seemed like everything that I wanted in a congregation. They were energetic, active, and willing to try new things. I was really excited to be back in the congregation again.
But almost immediately, I was asked by the senior pastor, “What should we (meaning he and the secretary) say if people ask us about if I have a girlfriend and what to say if someone wants to set me up.
I was prepared this time! I said that I really don’t believe in dating people in the congregation or people close to the congregation. If I become the love interest of someone in the congregation, it is difficult to be that person’s pastor. The same would go for close friends or family members. I would not want to count on breaking up, but if I were to date someone from the congregation and it went south, it could be a bad scene in the congregation. I thought it was a pretty good response.
It was great to be back in the congregation and what was kind of nice is there were several people in the congregation who were older and lived alone. So it was great that people didn’t consider it odd that I lived alone. I guess I thought I had dodged the bullet. No questions, no need to explain.
Everything was going fine until one of my parishioners asked me to come to her house on Christmas Eve. I was totally shocked because I didn’t know the woman was interested in me.
My whole view on life changed! Maybe God was giving me a sign. Maybe this was going to be the “good woman” who was going to turn my roving eyes from the guys around. Maybe she was going to be the one that God had planned for me. Since I have been faithful and didn’t give in to the temptation to be with men, God was going to bring just the right woman into my life.
Christmas eve was nice, a nice dinner and then I had to head off to church. Then we started to meet to take her dogs for a walk or to go to a local festival. We might get together to go to a movie or have Easter Dinner with friends. The problem was that this was a person from my congregation and I still didn’t feel what I would have called “in love.”
I didn’t know what to do. I was feeling that this may be my last chance to get married and I didn’t want to mess it up. I actually got to the point of asking my therapist how I go about moving things to a more physical level. I haven’t even kissed her yet and I was afraid things would go even farther. But for the life of me, I didn’t know what to do. I say that not to sound pathetic but to give you a feel for the simple things that most people take for granted in their lives but that I missed out on.
Remember, I didn’t have the “normal” adolescent explorations. I didn’t really have a girlfriend with I was a teen and I didn’t do the usual experimentation. And being around girls/women was more a friend thing to me not a lover type of thing. So I was at a loss for what to do.
I was mustering up my courage to try to kiss my parishioner the next time we were out when she had mentioned something about her “boyfriend.”
WHAT! She had a boyfriend?
I was devastated. Here was my last shot at finding a wife going down the drain. Here was the woman God had planned for me seeing someone else! Didn’t she know? Didn’t she know that she was God’s plan to bring love into my life? I went numb. I graciously said good-bye and drove home.
I sunk into a sever depression. My whole world was falling apart. Everything that I had staked my life on was now gone. I could not see beyond the fact that I had been rejected and my last chance for a “normal” life was going away. All of my dreams to be a happy hetero had just gotten shot down. Now it was certain, I was going to live the rest of my life alone. I thought this is was the one that God had chosen for me! How could she have a boyfriend? How could God have abandoned me?
And truly, that was the way I felt; I felt that God had abandoned me. Even though I am embarrassed to admit it, I still believed what the fundamentalists were saying. I believed that I could pray, plead, and act my way into heterosexuality. And I was praying, pleading, and the goody-goody was trying to act in a manner to make the parent happy. But, obviously, the parent was not pleased.
This is something that had always bothered me about the fundamentalists’ view of homosexuality. I was told to pray, to study the bible, to have faith. I did just that. But why is it that I would pray, I would study, I would have faith, and still I felt this homosexual attraction. Did God not love me? Was I not doing it right? If I were to believe that God had answered others’ prayers and made them straight, why wouldn’t God do this for me?
The fundamentalist view left me wondering: Did God not love me? Or was I destined to go through life denying my feelings never being able to truly find someone to love? Was it better to lie to the world and pretend to be straight, or better to be true to myself and be an abomination in the eyes of God? The fundamentalist point of view left me suicidal, lying, unacceptable to God, and still all alone.

The journey continues here.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"The Book: Up Until About Four Years Ago"


I had been working in a small town in Illinois for about four or five years when things started to change again in my life. As I said before, I had finally admitted to someone that I could possibly be bisexual. But also, there was a social worker who just started at the place where I worked and I developed a huge crush on her. She was about as close to an ideal as anyone could come and still be a woman. She had a quirky sense of humor and an off-the-wall way of looking at life. And although I wouldn’t admit it then, she was safe. She had a fiancée. So, I could be close to her without having to worry about things moving toword the possibility of sex. It was great!
Even though I had a new beard, I still felt alone. I needed to do something so I started to look at going back to school.
I thought about going into pastoral counseling, ostensibly because I felt psychology worked better with a “higher power” that 12-Step programs make such good use of. In actuality, pastoral counseling was, in my opinion, as close as you could come to being a “man of the cloth” without actually having to go through the whole ordination process. Of course, I found that to go into pastoral counseling, one had to be a pastor first.
Actually, the whole priest/pastor thing had been a part of my entire life. Being raised Roman Catholic; my mother wanted one of her sons to become a priest. I am not sure how I got selected for that honor, but I was. So I grew up knowing that nothing would make my mother more proud than to have me become a priest. So while being a spiritual type of person, I avoided becoming a member of the clergy because I was afraid that it was just my mother’s prodding and not actually something I wanted to do. Now I was being told that if I wanted to go into pastoral counseling, I would have to become a pastor also.
So I started to go through the discernment process to become a pastor. I wasn’t going to go to a Roman Catholic seminary, no, I was going through the Lutherans so I could get married! (I still believed God would take the “Evil Gay” away from me.) And if God didn’t find the right girl for me, then maybe being a pastor would be enough for God to give me the strength to be celibate.
I struggled the whole time I was in seminary. What even made things harder was that I had gotten the Internet while I was in seminary. Now I could access gay porn in my apartment and no one would have to know. I could now look at with ease that which was previously forbidden and difficult to obtain. With just a click of the mouse I could be viewing men doing all kinds of abominations. And although I tried to stop myself from going there, I would click and start looking. And although I tried to force my feelings down, I would usually end up having an orgasm while looking at the pictures. Then after the orgasm, I would kneel at the side of my bed and literally cry for forgiveness. I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I couldn’t help myself. I would plead and bargain with God to take these feeling from me, but in a few days I was back at the computer.
I guess you might say that I have a porn addiction, but I would question that. Or, maybe that I would even question it just points to the fact that I do have an addiction. I don’t know. All that I do know is that in a world that would deny your very being, porn became a type of community. Porn, for me, at least acknowledged that other also felt the way I was feeling. Some have referred to gay porn as “Instructional Videos;” maybe, in fact, they are just that. I am not advocating for porn, but until there is something else that is provided to those who are learning about their sexuality in the way of role models, I think porn will be present and, to an extent, useful.
Eventually, in my seminary career, I went on internship. I went off to internship with the usual expectations and trepidations. The thought of spending a year with a group of people I didn’t know was scary. What if I didn’t like my supervisor? What if I find that I don’t like being in the church? What if I fail miserably? All of these things kept running through my head. But scared or not, I was off.
I drove into town and met my supervisor. He was a swimmer, runner, and cyclist and had that triathlete body. He was tall, thin, streamline, with a touch of red in his hair and in his moustache. Just like the swimmer from high school, I felt special just to be in his presence.
Leaving my internship site was very difficult though. Looking back, I now recognize that I had definitely had a crush on my supervisor and was crushed to have to leave. As alive as I had felt while on internship, I now felt as dead. I think it was feeling of loss that pushed me to again try to find a “nice girl.” Again I would pray and plead to find the right person. Again I would beg God to take my homosexual feelings away. Again I would cry for forgiveness after clicking on the Internet.
It was also during this time that the church started to have its struggle with gay clergy. Well, the struggle had been going for a while but in a more quiet form. But it was in my senior year of seminary that the big battle was to begin.
It was during this year that I really began to study the, so-called, “clobber passages.” We studied the meaning of words in Greek and Hebrew. We studied various interpretations for passages that were really quite ambiguous. And we had panel discussions.
I watched all of this with some detachment. I was thinking that this may impact my friends, but it really didn’t impact me because God was going to change me. I really wasn’t gay; I just needed to wait for the miracle. I could not let my faith waiver.
I also tried to convince myself that I was in pursuit of a girl friend but that classes and homework were getting in the way. I couldn’t be expected to start a new relationship with hundreds of pages to read. And besides, school was going to be over and we would all be going our separate. There really wasn’t enough time to start a relationship. (Or so I told myself.)
I received my first call to a congregation that was located in the northern part of Michigan. It was a small congregation in a small town, the kind of place where everyone knew each other and even after being there for 20 years, you were still considered a “new comer.” This really wasn’t my idea of an ideal first call, but I was willing to give it a shot. I figured God must have something in the works for me.
Also by this time my defenses were starting to crumble. I remember thinking, “How can a gay pastor survive in a town of 1500 people?” That kind of scared me and of course, I immediately repressed the thought because it was still too difficult to face the truth. But what I didn’t expect to find in such a small town and in such a small congregation was an older, very well balanced, lesbian.
Although I had a living example of a mature homosexual, I still fought.
There was a former seminary classmate who lived in a city nearby. We started to hang out together and I fell into the comfortable pattern of hinting that there might be something more, but never quite following through. We would go out to movies together and often have lunch together. But I always had to head home so it never went any farther.
We continued this way until we tried to move things along to the “next level.” We had a really torturous two-day “date.” (No, nothing happened.) And as is my style, I found something petty to get into an argument about. Therefore, we effectively stopped “seeing” each other. I had my illusion of my heterosexuality intact. I could lament my status of not having a girlfriend. I could question why God has not brought love into my life. And most importantly, I could still hide my homosexuality.
Even when I was part of the pattern, I didn’t notice the pattern: I would find some woman who was not going to make a demand on me. These women were very kind people, but they were not going to ask something more of me than companionship. And although I mae have led the woman to believe that there was going to be romance in the future, I would hide behind the banner of protecting the woman’s virtue. This way, I could convince myself, oops, I mean the world, that I was indeed heterosexual. And for how transparent it appears in writing, this is the pattern I had used for over twenty years. And for those twenty years, it provided me with a place where I didn’t need to be truthful with myself or the world.
It was also during this time that I was up north that I started to see a therapist. I was beginning to go deeper and deeper into depression. Although it did not affect the face I showed to the congregation, I would often pray that God would take me away in the middle of the night. Once I went so far as to clean the house so when people found me dead in a couple of days, the house would have some semblance of neatness. Although the congregation didn’t know, I was depressed to the point of just packing up the car and driving away.
While seeing this therapist, I again toyed with the idea of telling someone that I thought I might be gay. I explained to the therapist that I have this attraction to men but I don’t think it is a healthy thing. I told him that I wanted to have a man protect me and care for me. I said that I thought this would only lead to an unhealthy situation where I would allow someone to take advantage of me just so I could feel safe.
My therapist was complicit with my charade and never much pursued this topic any farther. I am not saying that my therapist was a bad person or a bad therapist, for he was neither, but I do think the topic may have been a bit too uncomfortable for him to handle. Hey, he’s human too! So even though I again broached the subject, it really didn’t go anywhere.
The other fun thing I got to deal with in the congregation were all the well wishers who tried to set me up. I don’t know why people feel the need to do the matchmaker thing, but they are out there. Somebody knows someone who has a friend… What I have often (but have never) wanted to say to people is: “I am in my 40’s and don’t have a wife or girlfriend. The whole time you have known me I have not had a wife or girlfriend. Let’s think about this; either I am a social fuck up or I am gay. Either way, do you really want to know?”
But trying to dodge the bullet of the well-meaning congregant is difficult. I had one member of the congregation go so far as to say, “What gives? I have suggested some very nice ladies from my office and you never seem to respond?” What was I going to say? I still couldn’t even say it to myself.
I eventually left that call and took some time off before I got another call. During this time I lived at my parents house and did some temporary work. I had the basement as a makeshift apartment and things were pretty good.
I also had the Internet while at my parents’ home. I wasn’t too worried about my parents finding anything on the computer; both of them are computer illiterate. What I didn’t count on is my nephews going back into history and finding the various links I had visited. But then again, maybe I wanted someone to find the links. I don’t know. I may have been getting sloppy just in the hopes that someone would call me on it.
And someone did call me on it. My sister asked about the “g-porn” that her kids found on my computer. I did a song and dance about being intrigued by gay porn but that I wasn’t gay. I also told her that I was just never in one place long enough to really get to meet any women and when you work in the church, most people you know are members of the congregation and it wouldn’t be good to date a congregant now would it? She gave me a “yeah, sure” look and let the situation drop. Later she did apologize to me about bringing it up. She said that it was none of her business what I looked at and that she didn’t care, she still loved me.
My house of cards was starting to fall apart. I knew I was not “happily heterosexual” but I was not yet ready to admit that I was gay. Now I moved to the idea that “Dad really couldn’t handle it if I were gay.” Or, “Mom would be wrecked.” Or the all time zinger, “What would the rest of the family say?” I knew I wasn’t ever going to marry a woman, but how could I be with a man?
Another thing that factors into this whole mix is what is lovingly referred to in the seminary community as “Page 13.” Page 13 is from a book that lists what expectations held for ELCA clergy. On page 13, it states that clergy that feel themselves to be gay are to refrain from participating in homosexual activity. Pretty much, the rational is that only people who are married should be having sex and you are not married so no sex for you. A person can be as gay as they want and remain a member of the clergy, they just cannot do anything about it. Once they do something about it, then they can be brought up for disciplinary action.
When I was ordained, I said that I would uphold these expectations, including page 13. I may have known that I wasn’t going to be with a woman, but I couldn’t remain a pastor and be with a man. It was a no win situation. I either had to find a “good woman” who didn’t mind that her husband was turned on by guys or I had to spend my life alone. At this point, I figured I was going to spend my life alone.

Monday, May 07, 2007

"The Book: Even More"

The Odyssey continues. The previous "chapter" can be found here.

I have always been a person of faith. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and went to Catholic school. I had a falling out with the church in my high school and college days. When I did come back to the church, it was to the ELCA Lutheran church. I chose this church because it felt like the Catholic church but without all the guilt.
Christianity has always been a major force in my life. I have always felt that my life was in the hands of God. Now believing my life was in the hands of God was not in some Purpose Driven Life kind of way, but more as a loving parent would look after a child. God was there, not necessarily to prevent me from doing wrong, but to help me to pick myself up after something wrong had occurred.
And following this parent/child metaphor, I, as the dutiful child, wanted to keep the parent happy. I tried to do what I had been told was pleasing to God. I tried to avoid those things that I was told were bad and tried to do what was good. I guess you could probably have called me a “Goody-goody.”
So, how does the goody-goody deal with thoughts and feelings that he knows would be unacceptable for the parent, God? The goody-goody repressed it all. The goody-goody tries extra hard to be good. The goody-goody tries so hard to follow all the rules so that parent will love him. The goody-goody doesn’t, the goody-goody tries but then feels all the guilt.
Maybe it was, in part, this guilt that got me into the ministry. I think I may have been trying to REALLY appease God. If I gave my life to God, then either God would “cure” me of being gay or give me the strength to live a celibate life. OR maybe God would bring a “good woman” into my life and I would fall in love and have kids and be all kinds of happy. I believed (and still do believe) that God could do anything, so if I just kept the faith and prayed really, really hard, God would find some way to get me through this whole thing.
What became a problem is when I would really, really pray and nothing seemed to happen. Sometimes it seemed as if it actually got harder to ignore the men I would see. I would be talking to some man and a fleeting image of me kissing him would go through my mind. I didn’t even feel attracted to him but suddenly, in my minds eye, I would be in a lip lock with this person. When these images would flash through my head, I would try to do the old, “get thee behind me Satan” and ask Jesus to come into my life.
I don’t think it would be too far from the truth to say that my homosexuality dictated the career choices I made. I know that I prove the old adage that people go into psychology to figure themselves out. I wanted to know why I was different and how I could become “normal.” So I followed the path of psychology because it was easier, coming from my blue-collar background, to become a psychologist than to go to a psychologist. And I am pretty sure that I went into ministry to get on God’s good side. (Gosh, if I gave my life to God, God would have to make me acceptable, right?) Maybe I just needed to learn how to pray right or something and then the great miracle would happen and I would be happily hetero.
I think this is one of the more hurtful things about the fundamentalist point of view: no matter how you look at it, it all comes down to the person being bad. Either the gay person did something bad to make him gay. Or his parents did something bad. Or he didn’t pray right. Or he didn’t really want to leave the gay “lifestyle.” Or he really didn’t… Whatever you can come up with, when the miracle doesn’t come, the only person you can blame is yourself.
It was this point of view that helped to move me to the brink of suicide. I don’t say suicide lightly. It is a very serious thing and not something that should ever be joked about. But suicide began to look like the only way out: I was unacceptable to society. I was unacceptable to my church. Even God didn’t think I was trying hard enough. I was tired from repressing my emotions. I was feeling like a shell of a person and a two-faced liar. I was feeling like my life was a sham and if anyone really knew me, they would reject me just as God appeared to be rejecting me. When you feel your friends are not really your friends because they don’t really know you; your family would reject you because you are not the perfect child; and even God has abandoned you; there is not a whole lot to live for.
What I was to find out later was that although I felt as if my faith had failed me, it was my faith that pulled me through.

It continues here.

Rocket Man ala Kate Bush

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Nothing Was Belly-Up

Nick and I went to the store yesterday to buy livestock for the backyard pond. (Or, as they would say on HGTV, the "Water Feature.") We bought two tiny koi, a Fantail Comet, a Calico Comet, and a bunch of tiny "fish seeds."

As of this morning, I have seen the calico, the fantail, and at least one of the koi. It may have been both of the koi but cannot tell them apart yet. There are a bunch of the fish seeds swimming around. It doesn't look as if any of them have bought the (fish) farm over the night.

The water is a bit (bit?) on the cold side, but I think they will make it.

Friday, May 04, 2007

"The Book: More"

To find where we last left our hero, click here.

In looking back, I am kind of awed by how much I could lie to myself. In psychology, there is a disease called Folie a Deux. This means literally “madness shared by two.” Sometimes I feel like I was living a Folie a Deux within my self. Yes, I could go out and buy a gay porn magazine and still think I was straight. I could go out and rent a gay video (we didn’t have DVD’s then) and still convince myself that I was not gay, just curious about what gay porn was like. I could even convince myself that calling gay related 900 numbers was just “research.” That these things became masturbation fodder didn’t even enter into the picture; I was straight so all this gay related sexual activity didn’t make me gay.
Then, of course, there are a young (hiding) gay child/teen’s best friends: the International Male catalogue, GQ, and the underwear section of any ad or catalogue. Under the guise of looking for clothes, I would scour the ads and catalogues for any possible visible penis line or bulge.
Of course there were movies on TV like For Ladies Only where we get to see Gregory Harrison strip; Star Trek with the tight jumpsuits; and American Gigolo (Thank God for HBO!). Actually, Showtime and HBO became a great source to see a penis. There weren’t many of them to be found on movies at that time, but there were a few.
Another source of “penis peeks” was the drive-in. We had a double theater in the town that I grew up in when I was a kid. It usually seemed to happen (by design?) that a not so soft-core movie would show on one of the screens while a more mainstream show would be on the other screen. So, of course, my brother and I would tell my mom that we were seeing the mainstream movie but go to the not so soft-core movie. Often these movies would be badly dubbed Italian moves with much female nudity. What would frustrate me was that the men might get naked, but they would either be: just a shot from the back, there would be a strategically placed towel or blanket, or there would be this annoying black box that would suddenly show up over the guy’s crotch. This would be frustrating, but often enough to make it worth the risk, sometimes there would be a movie that didn’t have the censoring. These were the jackpot of movies! I could pretend that I was watching the women in the movie while getting my fill of the men. I would just have to be careful of any visible evidence that I was enjoying the view. But thankfully, it was dark and my brother was also involved in watching the movie.
As I made my way through high school, the VHS became more and more prevalent. And with the advent of the VHS came the porn movie on tape. My brother would often housesit and I would go with him. Then we would sit there, in the house, drink beers, and watch porn. Of course, I was trying to will myself to be aroused by the naked women I saw on the movie, but it was the men that attracted me. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t the penis that was of interest to me but the naked woman sucking on the penis. It was the penis going in and out of the vagina, not just the penis. I kept trying to convince myself that it really, truly, was the women that I was finding attractive. But when a scene with just a woman masturbating or a scene where two women were having sex together would come on screen, I would become, well, “less interested.”
It was these fleeting (and not so fleeting) glimpses of penises and the lies I would tell myself that would keep me going through high school, college, and my early work life. But then there was something that was to change my whole world; it was the Internet.
With the Internet, I didn’t need to go out to a newsstand or to a video store. I could just click on a site and all the pornography would come to me. I didn’t have to deal with people’s questioning looks as they rung up my purchase or that extra little huff of breath as they handed me the videotape. I didn’t have to be afraid someone would see me renting a movie or buying a magazine. With the Internet, I could just find the sites I wanted and watch to my hearts content. And if I decided to do a little “research” on how gay porn differed from straight porn, no one would be the wiser.
Some may ask how a clergy person can speak about viewing pornography. I guess I really can’t answer that question. I do know that for the gay child, there is not a whole lot of information or role models out there.
I looked in the book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex that my mother strategically left in the bottom drawer of her dresser. (I don’t know if she thought we wouldn’t find it or if she put it there so we would find it.) But this didn’t help me except to make me think that men who like men were effeminate and in danger of being killed when they would bring home dates. Television only had Jody from Soap but he really wasn’t too good of a role model. There was Paul Lynde but I didn’t know then that he was gay. (And I guess there are some who would still claim he was straight.) So really the only way I had to get any knowledge about what it meant to be gay were from my gay friends (of whom I really didn’t want to ask too much for fear of being detected) and what porn I could find on the internet.
I don’t know if I would have had the “normal” adolescent experiences if I would not have relied so much on porn. For this gay adolescent, there wasn’t the necking in the back seat of dad’s car. There was not the “feeling up” and being “felt up.” None of these usual experiences that children go through to help them understand what adult sexual relationships were like. There was no guy to allow me to feel him through his pants. There was no guy to neck with in the back seat. And even if there was, I would probably have been in so much denial as to not avail myself of the opportunities. So, in some ways, porn was what helped to form my self-image as a gay man.
If that statement makes you uncomfortable, then we need to look at how we treat our children and what message we are giving to them. Are we giving our children the impression that they were mistakes from birth? The message that I got was that I was not as good as anyone else because of my deep, dark secret. We present all kinds of role models (both positive and negative) of what it means to be heterosexual. We see straight couples walking in the park holding hands. We see straight couples kissing in public. We see a man give his girlfriend or wife a backrub as they rest at the mall. But for the gay children, none of this is seen. There are no gay couples walking hand-in-hand in the park. There are no gay couples cuddling on a cool evening at the football game. So gay children only see what CNN decides is newsworthy (which is generally the most extreme people at the Pride parades) or what can be found in pornography.
Speaking of Pride parades, I would have to attribute television coverage of these events with some of my reticence to come out of the closet. I didn’t want do be one of these people. I also did not want people to think I was one of these people. I didn’t want to call other guys, “Girl” or refer to other guys as “she” or “her.” Part of the image that I got of gays from society in general was that they all gays had to be drag queens and “over the top” kind of people.
DISCLAIMER: To the drag queens, more effeminate, and over the top people out there. I am totally for diversity. I am not saying that you cannot be who you are. I am just saying that that type of persona was not for me and the thought that I would have to change scared me.
But without any appropriate role models, all I had in my experience was the porno people who were having sex in the woods and in the bathrooms and the more flamboyant folks. I did not have any examples of doctors, schoolteachers, neighbors, etc who were gay. As such, my understanding of what it meant to be a gay person was quite limited.
So, yes, as painful as it may be to say, pornography helped me to know what it meant to be a gay person. And with the easy access to porn on the internet, I am sure it will continue to be a tool in many gay children’s lives until we can provide real-life role models.
Yet, with looking at gay porn on the Internet and masturbating to gay porn, I still tried to trick myself into believing that I was actually straight. My favorite excuse is that gay pornography excites me, but I wouldn’t want to have sex with a man. The convoluted thought processes that one goes through to keep a secret from oneself.
After I finished grad school, I went off to the work world. It was also during this time that I met a lesbian couple. This couple had been together for many years and had bought a house together. Wow! My first real role model of a stable homosexual couple. I was invited to their house and saw that they were not some strange exotic animals practicing strange rituals when the curtains were closed. They were just people. They were just two women who happened to love each other.
Yes, I did say that I had gay friends in college, and yes, some of them were older. (read “not in college.”) But these friends were not in committed relationships. There still seemed to be an air of “being alone in a crowd” about them. I really didn’t want to spend my life alone just having casual hook-ups. I really wanted the American dream. If I couldn’t have it by being straight, I didn’t want to be all alone and also be a social outcast. So if I was going to be alone, I would rather suppress my homosexual feeling and at least be a part of society.
So, I finally got to see a homosexual relationship that worked. I saw that this pair had friends, had family, had lives that were just “normal.” This was very enlightening to me. I saw that there were people around who knew they were lesbians and didn’t care. There were STRAIGHT people who knew they were lesbians and didn’t care.
Having them as role models was a great gift to me. During this time, I was actually able to admit to one of the ladies that I thought I might be bisexual. I finally was able to admit to someone that I was attracted to men and I that I enjoyed looking at men. Of course I emphasized that I thought I was more straight than gay, but the gay part was there. And you know, after making that admission, the world didn’t come to an end and my friend didn't laugh or reject me. She just accepted me as I was. And that felt good.

The saga continues.

"The Book: Even More"

Last time on, "The Book"

Well, it took another three years before I was to have sex again. I just would not allow myself to get into a situation where the concept of sex would even arise. I would go out in groups and in many overt and subtle ways let the people I was with know that this was only “Just as friends.”
I did keep the girl from high school around as a girl “friend.” I feel as if I was really not overly honest with her. I did not follow through with the unsaid promises I feel I was making. I feel that I kept promising that some great proclamation of love and devotion would come but I never could truthfully make that proclamation. I kept looking for a future with the two of us together, but I really could never see that future. I wanted to feel the fireworks that I had heard so much about but they never seemed to happen.
I have since wondered what part I filled in her life. That she kept hanging around makes me believe she may have had something else to hide also. I don’t know if she was using me as a beard in the same way I was using her. That really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I feel I was not (and I wasn’t) honest with her. I believed there could be something between us, but I could not feel it.
We finally made a break after I was done with grad school but before I got my first job. We went camping with some friends and spend some very good time together. After we got back from camping, I stayed the night at her house and we had sex. (There is a humorous story about driving 15 miles to buy condoms that could be told here but I will refrain!) Again, the sex was not that great. I did manage to have an orgasm, but only after what seemed like hours of stimulation. This time, though, I could not blame it on being drunk.
Being that close to a person, especially a female person, scared me. I, again, felt that I had made a promise that I was not ready to fulfill. Without going into the details, I found a way to provoke her into telling me that she never wanted to speak to me again. So I was off the hook. I was still heterosexual because SHE broke up with me. I didn’t break up with her.
Now, during these three years between sexual exploits, I was not running around being a “happy hetero,” I was still fighting with the demons inside of my head. I had to purposely look away from attractive men. I had to make certain that I did not look at the bulges in the men’s crotches. I couldn’t just live because I had to actively fight against what I was feeling. I actively shut down. I did not allow myself to feel anything. When I started to feel something, I would back away. I would isolate myself so I would not get hurt and I would not have to deal with the anxiety of the things I was feeling.
I can’t ever remember being told that homosexuality was wrong. I know that there were jokes made during school about gay people and comments made about me being a “guy” (said with a limp-wristed action). But I never really understood what it meant. I knew it was something that attracted public scorn, but far as why it was scorned, I was pretty clueless.
I remember a joke that was being told when I was about five or six. It was a joke about three men trying to get into some club or something. Getting into this club involved a test, and that test was to look at a naked woman and not ring the bell that was placed on the end of each man’s penis. The first two men looked at the woman and immediately there was a “ring” from their penises. These two men went back to the locker room in disgrace. The third man did not “ring” when he saw the woman. There was much rejoicing because he could join. But once he went into the locker room, there was the sound of ringing like a telephone.
Everybody laughed; I didn’t get it.
It was explained that men were not supposed to get hard dicks from looking at other men. I still didn’t understand, but that little tidbit stayed in my subconscious.
All I knew was this: the feelings that I was feeling were not ok and if I talked about them, I would not be ok. So I had to keep quiet, even to myself. The unfortunate side effect of repressing my sexuality is that most of my other feelings got repressed also.
For the longest time, I just assumed that I was never going to feel the love that people talked about. I assumed that love was just something that I was not going to experience. So I started to plan my life around being alone.
I could continue down this train of thought but I would be kind of getting ahead of things.
I really don’t know where I learned that God hated homosexuals. When I was in college and had gay friends I learned about the “clobber passages.” And I guess when I first heard these passages, they made sense to me. They seemed pretty straightforward. Men sleeping with men: that seemed pretty unambiguous. Women having unnatural relationships with each other. Again, pretty unambiguous. But this view of a hateful, vengeful God never quite felt right to me.
Again, I am not sure I want to go down this trail right now.

The next part can be found here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"The Book: It Continues"

This whole thing started here.

In looking back at college, I can see how I have repressed my feelings. It was easier to think that I was above all of that “rolling around” “acting like animals in heat” than to admit that I wasn’t interested in the women. I would look at my classmates pairing off and could not understand how they could become so close so fast. I actually looked at it as a sign of maturity. I was not going to go to college and immediately jump into bed with some woman. I was going to wait for that right girl. I was going to get to know the woman before we went to bed because that was the good and noble thing to do.
Now, I keep talking about how I justified my behaviors through high school and college. What you need to remember is that a lot of my current understanding of my behavior can be attributed to time, distance, and mental clarity. The excuses, such as “I am waiting for a woman with a great sense of humor,” I truly believed. On a subconscious level I knew I was avoiding women, but on my day-to-day living level, I was totally confused as to why I couldn’t find a girlfriend.
Well, to say that I didn’t have a girlfriend would not be right. I had girl “friends.” I got along well with girls and I felt less stress around them. So I would hang out with girls. There were some that you could even say we “dated.” I so wanted these relationships to work. I so wanted to be like the other guys in school. But I never really seemed to get it. Kissing was unpleasurable and I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what was so great about necking.
I had a girlfriend in high school and one that carried over from high school through college. But for the most part, that is all we were was friends. We went to movies together, we did things together, but we didn’t “do” things together. So, I guess even in high school I had a “beard.” I know now that I had chosen girls that were distant so that I would not have to face the reality of who I was.
College continued. The swimmer got a girlfriend, which put me into a bit of a tailspin. I was bitter that he had someone and I was alone. I was upset because I had been replaced in his life. But, college has its demands and I proceeded to go on with life.
I would often pray that God would find a girlfriend for me. I just had to believe that there was someone out there for me. I saw it as a test of faith. I had to keep the faith and God would provide a girlfriend/wife for me. Unfortunately, a woman was not provided but this train of thought led me down a path of depression and despair. I was praying but God was not answering. Was it because I was so bad? Was my faith not enough? Why was there not a girlfriend for me?
This is one of the greatest pains of being gay. Even God abandons you. I was never told this directly, but it was present in the world around me. I heard the story of Sodom and the interpretation that it was God’s punishment of the gay people. I had also heard that AIDS was God’s punishment of gay people. So, if I avoided being gay, I would not fall to this scourge of God. I may be alone, but I would be alive.
It was in college that I really worked to suppress my feelings. Getting an erection in the shower of the dorm was not a good thing. Being attracted to one’s friends was not looked upon very well. I avoided doing athletic things with friends because I did not want to have to shower with them for fear of becoming aroused. I repressed the desire to see my friends naked and avoided any opportunity.
I did have gay friends in college. I may have been living through them vicariously during my college days. It was through my friends that I learned about what it was really like to be gay. I was able to see people in relationships and people just going about their lives. These guys were not the traditional effeminate gay stereotype. These were just common people.
Gays were starting to stand up on campus and they were experiencing the expected backlash. I stood beside my friends but also made it clear that “I was not one of them.” I remember working telling myself that I was not gay, there was no way I was gay. I didn’t want to be part of the troubles that I was seeing. I could stand beside “them” but I was not ready to be one of “them.”
I finally lost my virginity just before my college graduation. I was totally drunk and the girl practically threw herself at me. It is funny the things you remember about events like this: I was wearing light blue briefs with white edging. I also remember that I didn’t have an orgasm on this first time. I don’t know if it was because of the amount of alcohol in my system or because I was having sex with a woman. It was fun, but it still felt “anticlimactic.”
Still, I hung onto this experience. This proved I was not gay! I had sex with a woman! Gay guys don’t have sex with women. So it wasn’t that good, but I knew it would get better. It is common knowledge that the first time is not that great. I had been masturbating for a long time and so actually having sex would feel different, or so I told myself. But I have now had sex! Now I would just have to do it again because I know it will get better.

More of The Book

"The Book: The Beginning"

Why would I think that I have something new to add to the whole discussion of homosexuality? I mean, what hasn’t been said already? What could I tell that would help someone or some family? I have read the comment that Coming-Out stories are so common as to not even raise an eyebrow anymore. But living in the midst of this whole Coming-Out thing, I guess I do feel that there is something to share.
I know that I deal with things now that I never had to deal with before. Some may say that I am being paranoid; maybe so. But these are things that would have never entered my mind a mere year ago. My reality is different in a way that I would have never expected. And if I can help people to understand just a little part of this change, then I feel like I would have been of some success.
I was trying to think of a day or event that I could point to and say, “It all started here.” But there really isn’t any. Just throughout my whole life, I never felt like I belonged. Throughout my life, I never felt that really fit in. I just seemed “different” than most other people. It always felt as if I would do something but that “something” was never right.
I always seemed to have trouble being a boy. I didn’t like sports, either to play them or to watch them. I didn’t like the usual boy things. I preferred to do other things. I enjoyed exploring and thinking. Now don’t get me wrong, I never wanted to be a girl, I just thought I was “wrong“ as a boy. I know the fundamentalist Christians out there would have a field day with this. They would want to point to my parents and say that the reason I was gay would be my parents’ fault. The fundamentalists would say that my mother was overbearing and my father was distant. And, you know, they would be right. But what this doesn’t explain is why I am gay and the rest of my immediate family is not. If my parents made me gay, why didn’t it “take” with the rest of my siblings? But as far as I can remember, I have always been this way. So, trying to find a “starting point” is a bit daunting.
However, if I look back at my life and try to find the first “homosexual” inkling, it would probably have to be back when I was about five or six. I remember getting out of the pool with my brother, my uncle, and my cousin. My cousin would have to have been in his early teens by this time. I remember changing from swim trunks to regular clothes. I remember my cousin wearing a swim supporter. I didn’t know what this was or why he would wear one. I did figure it had something to do with his “pee-pee,” though because that was the part that it covered.
I also remember the bulges in the front of the jumpsuits of the men in the original Star Trek series. These bulges intrigued my even though I didn’t know why. When these bulges would appear on TV, I would have to look.
I know people would want me to believe that if my father played football with me or if I was made to sit down and watch Monday Night Football, I would not be writing this to you now. But that is just way too easy. My brother likes football. My brother played football. I just never found it anything worth getting excited about.
But, I am sure you can find, out there, gay men who enjoy football and played football. I am sure you can find gay men who had fathers who were properly attentive and mothers who were properly unattached. I guess what I am trying to say is that, yes, my family had a large impact on who I am as a person, but , no, they did not make me gay.
I guess that I even need to go through all of this stuff shows that we still need people to tell their stories.
Is my experience extra-special? I don’t know, it is all I have. But these are the experiences that I can share in the hopes that someone might find them enlightening and helpful.
So when did I “know” I was gay?
In all honesty, I would have to say that I knew back in high school. I tried not to acknowledge it, but it was there. I saw my first Playgirl at my “girlfriends” house and found myself getting aroused by the pictures of the naked men. My brother had some porn pictures in his underwear drawer (My brother was always so original) and I always found myself returning to the picture of the man and the woman having sex. I found myself not getting turned on by the naked woman, but the naked man…
Naked women never really did anything for me. I would try to make myself believe that I found women attractive and that they got me sexually aroused, but the truth is, they didn’t. Actually, when I would masturbate, I would think about men and then quickly change to women as I neared climax just to “prove” that I could climax to women and therefore I was not gay. But still, it was the men that attracted me.
During high school I also had my first crush. He was kind and smart and also a swimmer and a weight lifter. And, oh yeah, he also had a beautiful body. Just to be in his presence made me feel special. Just to have him talk to me made me feel wanted. At the time I would not have considered what I was feeling a crush, but it was. What I thought is that I have a really great, talented, friend. And, yes, I really, really, thought he was cute: Muscular in a swimmer sort of way.
What I find amazing is how we can lie to ourselves. I guess Freud would say that we could justify just about anything. If I were to look at my behavior, I would have seen my attraction written all over it. Once, while the swimmer and I were in high school, he was over at my parents’ house and we were watching movies. The swimmer was falling asleep so I just turned off the TV, pulled up a blanket, and fell asleep next to him. I knew what I was doing would not be considered “normal” but of course, I would not let myself believe I was gay.
I ended up going to the same college the swimmer did. “Ended up!” Who am I trying to kid? I would have gone anywhere the swimmer went. Luckily, the swimmer went to a good school. I came up with a reason to apply to the school and got accepted. So off to college I went.

The story continues here.


Some folks have told me that my story would make a good book. I am honored to think that people would like to read my story. So, not quite knowing how to go about doing this, I will probably preview things here in the blog. If some of this stuff sounds familiar, I apologize. I will put something in the tag section so you can skip it if you want.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

Four years ago today, George Bush told us we had won in Iraq. Just another thing we can believe him about.