Monday, April 30, 2012

Mom and I Talk At Last

To wrap up my first month of being out of the closet, I met my parents for dinner. I wanted to meet with them and I wanted to talk to them about what I'd discovered about myself, but we were in a tiny restaurant and right next to us was a table full of children. Finally, we got home and I decided to stay outside and talk to mom for a bit.

Because we weren't sure how she'd react, I decided I would have my little mp3 player clipped to the sleeve of my shirt and recording the whole time. We talked, about what this meant for our relationship, and what it meant about my further relationship with our church, and there were a lot of hugs.

So, take a listen. Note that I only lopped off the other 1 hour and 20 minutes where we didn't say anything about it, so this is pretty unedited.


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Saturday, April 28, 2012

For The Bible Tells Me So — Review

I posted this review to Amazon in a different form. Thus, it is designed to be read independently of my recent blogs. I am cross-posting here in case Amazon chooses not to publish it.
As a young man who regularly attended church and took an active part in the youth ministry, I was really disturbed when I began to suspect I might be gay. Everyone told us that homosexuality was never God's plan, and I had to silently deal with these strange feelings that I felt must be sinful.

Finally, early this month, I came to terms with it: I'm gay and I didn't know what that meant about my faith. My family was fortunately very understanding, and my sister's husband suggested I check out the documentary For The Bible Tells Me So, especially after a respected church member sent me some rather disturbing and condemning messages.

I watched it via Netflix alone, and it was really difficult to sit through in many places. I feel the producers were quite varied in their responses and selection of footage: we had the radical Bible-thumping Christians, while also looking at the stories of five Christian families who had gay children.

In the stories, I felt I met kindred spirits in them. A lot of their thoughts and fears mirrored my own, so it was wonderful to know that I was not alone in these feelings and wondering if being a gay Christian was even possible.

However, a downside to the even-handedness is that I didn't feel the question was answered clearly. Many interpretations of the Bible's few references to homosexuality are presented, no one interpretation being favored. Overall, I got the message that a passionate love for someone of your own gender is not evil, but the question of intimacy was certainly left ambiguous.

So, while it did help answer some of my questions and let me know I am not alone, I think I'll have to look elsewhere for more answers. A great starting point, I suppose.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dear Mom

So, Arthur tells us you're giving people money for cigarettes.

I'm surprised. I thought you taught us against smoking and potentially harmful habits. Furthermore, I know you and Dad don't have a lot of money so I was thinking you'd choose your charitable donations a bit more judiciously.

Now, it might have just been one time, but the fact is, it flies in the face of everything we've ever thought about you.

Now I got something that might fly in the face of everything you've ever thought about me.

Remember when we spoke on the phone Easter Sunday and I was chatting with you and cracking jokes? Can you remember the last time I'd done that?

I can't.

The fact is, I came to terms with something about myself a week before, something I revealed the day after Easter to everyone but you and Dad. And coming to terms with it really boosted my confidence.

I'm gay.

I'd like to go ahead and say "Don't worry," but I'm no longer sure if I should say that. I mean, I haven't lived with you and Dad for over five years now. I am not your responsibility anymore.

Perhaps like a certain person from Dayspring, you're now thinking I've fallen into sin and made a horrible choice. This wasn't a choice. This was something that has always been a part of me that I just didn't recognize. Simply, I do not feel a sexual attraction to women. That's all.

You might think I might be doing something that could shorten my life with talk of sexually transmitted diseases. They don't happen because of same sex relations, they happen due to unsafe sex practices, which can happen between a man and a woman as well. And anyway, I'm not seeing anyone just now. Frankly, your enabling someone to smoke is much more harmful physically than your son realizing his sexual orientation.

About the spiritual side, and all I have to say is, I don't know. I treasure everything you've taught me there, but I also know this doesn't mesh with it. But if that's true, why is it there? Back to the choice thing, if I'd been taught against it, why would I choose it? It makes no sense.

Finally, I don't care if you're not okay with this. I don't really want you to be. You claim to serve God who commanded that we love first and judge never. Can you do that? If you can, then thank you. If you can't, then thank you for being honest with yourself.

EDIT: And she replied after I sent this to her on Facebook. She explained that the thing about giving someone money for cigarettes was that a friend asked her for a couple dollars and she didn't know what they wanted it for until later.

As to the heart of the matter, she said "While I believe you may be wrong, this is your journey and I do want to know how to pray for my children. I love you and do not judge you. You can still talk to me without expecting a lecture. He also had me meet a lesbian couple during the time we were sheltered at Dayspring after the fire. All I can say about any premarital sexual relationship with either sex very careful."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

That wasn't easy

So, I got a lot of responses about my last blog, where I came out, as they say. These have been mainly positive. Many saying "Congratulations!" or "That's a brave step." Many gay friends had suspected, many straight ones hadn't. Looks like "takes one to know one" is true. My sisters were surprised to hear me finally say it, but were not surprised at it.

My good friend Sam Milazzo I knew would have an interesting reaction, but in the end, he was positive about it as well.

I did get a couple comments from someone condemning homosexuality as a chosen sin and an abomination, but I deleted these. After getting rid of the second one, I was checking my Facebook (as I do way too often), and noted a man from church on my friends list. He had a post and the wording sounded quite familiar. I removed him from my friends list. The next day, he sent me a message saying that if I loved Jesus, I should renounce my sinful ways and repent. Following that, I blocked him. Nothing since.

Christianity has been a big part of my life, which complicated matters when I began to suspect I was gay. What Christians would tell me about homosexuality and what I was learning about it just didn't fit. They say homosexuality is a choice, which already makes no sense to me. I have also been taught that murder is a choice, and I haven't made a choice to murder anyone. (Feel like it sometimes or joke about it, yes.) And why am I sinful when all I did was make a realization about myself? Why on earth would I choose to be gay when I knew gays are discriminated against (I have to admit to being anti-gay in the past, oh, how the tables turn...) and also heard all sorts of other negative things about them?

Why would I choose to be gay? I didn't.

There are theories and scientific research about why sexual attractions differ, but frankly, I don't think we'll ever really understand it. All I know is, it isn't a choice I made. If sexual orientation was a choice, the greedy human nature would stipulate that we'd see more bisexuals.

I was wondering about the other people from church. I haven't attended regularly in about two years or longer. Travel issues were one reason and then I opened up my work schedule to include Sunday and they have been scheduling me then.

At work, I overheard a coworker—a young girl who attends the Christian school the church operates—tell about her uncle who had volunteered to teach math at the school. They discovered he was gay, and he was shunned.

And upon hearing that, I knew that if I went back and was honest with them, I'd just get the same treatment. So, that night, I removed them all from my Facebook friends list. I don't hate these people. These have been some of the kindest, warmest, and most generous people I've met. But their leaders didn't try to understand what it means to be gay and were quick to judge and condemn instead of reaching out in some of that unconditional love they teach about. Furthermore, they have made little to no effort to contact me in the past two years, so I think we've all moved on.

My sister Audrey and my brother Aaron's wife Jessica were both quite supportive, Audrey publicly asking why we're quick to judge and condemn people we think have sinned when we know we're not perfect. I know I'm not perfect, and I know I don't have all the answers, nor will I pretend to.

The man who had contacted me, Audrey had babysat for him once and his daughters blatantly asked her if she was poor. We never had a lot of money, being a large family, and Audrey was quite hurt by the question as I recall.

I actually feel sorry for these people.

I know not all Christians are like that. There's reports of Christians who went to a pride parade and held up signs apologizing for how they've spread hate in the name of God. An article called "I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay" went viral and challenged the subconscious idea that differences make people unworthy of love.

I suppose I'm actually lucky I've really only had one really bad reaction to my coming out, but that single one really hurt and made me think a lot.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A question of what you like

A little disclaimer for those who might be finding this in recent years. This the blog entry where I came out of the closet as gay. (Spoiler.) Today, I recognize I used some problematic language. I was still learning and am still learning. I apologize for it, but have decided not to edit it out so this remains an entry of who I was then.
Sexuality has, in recent years, become a big topic for people. Generally, in the past, people who were not your average heterosexual were not discussed, at least, that wasn't discussed.

It's an important thing to figure out, really. Not so much for the pursuit of a partner and a sex life, but just knowing that bit about yourself.

A problem today is stereotypes. Why do homosexual men prefer to be intimate with other men? The stereotype says because they don't like women. Just about the same thing is said for lesbians about men. But this couldn't be further from the truth.

In a favorite film of mine, Trainspotting, lead character Renton monologues "lf you ask me, we're heterosexual by default, not by decision. It's just a question of who you fancy. It's all about aesthetics."

That, to me, says it best. Your sexuality is not a big thing that will mean you act or dress a certain way or do certain things. It's a matter of what you're attracted to, or rather, who you're attracted to.

Still, embracing that can be scary because it can be difficult to understand what that means. Often we think we'll have to conform to stereotypes and no one enjoys the idea of feeling limited by themselves.

Growing up in a Christian home, the ideals of being a normal heterosexual person were grafted into my mind at an early age. However, being homeschooled, I was sheltered and the whole world was basically a closed book I was forbidden to open. When I finally left home, it took awhile for me to dare to open that book.

Being a fan of L. Frank Baum's Oz books and being online, it was only a short time before I began meeting people of differing sexuality. And surprisingly, they were unlike what I expected. These were generally nice people, later confirmed by my finally visiting an Oz convention in 2010.

Eventually, I began looking up what homosexuality was all about. Being flamboyant, it took me awhile to find, wasn't the case for everybody. These people were people just like me, except they preferred to be intimate with people of the same gender.

I worked with a few gay people at my first job. One was a manager who didn't talk about his sexuality at work at all, but it was pretty obvious he was. Another was a guy about my age who seemed to be in a bad relationship. There was another manager as well who seemed to be your average guy, but we were told he had dated the other manager.

Finally, I had to ask the question myself. What am I? After all, to date, I'd never had a real romantic relationship with a woman, nor did I seem to be very interested in having one. I explained that if I was in such a relationship, I would want to be sure I could take of her first. But I've had to think that isn't true, as my financial position is much the same as it was then. If it was a major point for me, I would have been taking initiative to move up.

At the second Oz convention I've attended, three gay Oz fans and I were in a room together and one commented there were four gay men in the room. I wasn't sure what to say, so I said nothing. Likely the fact that I'd arrived with a fellow male Oz fan and close friend (who I've had a regular correspondence for years and we haven't kept that a secret) and that we had requested to share the same room didn't help.

Still, that did get to me. If I was straight, he would have noticed, right? There's that rule "Takes one to know one."

Having been curious, I have tested what arouses me over the years, and I have to admit that I have discovered that it is other men. Perhaps, not being the shapeliest or fittest person, I made an excuse for my attraction, assuming it was because I wanted to get in shape.

I love my female friends, but that's what we are: friends. I jokingly "twarried" a British woman on Twitter and mainly chat with her and young women in Ireland and Trinidad.

April 1, 2012, I was taking trash out at work when I got a little stuck with the boxes I was pulling along and the narrow space. My hand was briefly wedged against the posterior of a male coworker who we all knew was gay.

After withdrawing my hand, he said, "Ease up on the subtlety next time, just go for it," all jokingly of course, but it made me realize I needed to decide my sexuality. Because, as brief and embarrassing as that was, it was also somewhat arousing.

It was a clear open book there.

I tweeted about the incident later, and someone replied "I actually thought you were gay."

April 3, I made a joke on Facebook comparing Irish people to the vampires from Twilight. And to prove that I did not mean to disparage the Irish, I commented that "Irish are sexy!" and as proof, posted a link to a picture of Damien Molony from Being Human, in a scene where he was not wearing a shirt.

Shortly, a young friend instant messaged me "Y U LOOKING AT PICTURES OF SHIRTLESS MEN?"

I replied with "The question is not why am I looking at pictures of shirtless men, but why are you NOT looking at pictures of shirtless men?"

"Because that's kind of weird," he replied. "And ghey. Didn't know you got down like that, Jared..."

I replied with a smiley face. I could have stopped and explained that it was a picture from Being Human to show an attractive Irish person, but instead, I decided to let my friend know the truth, because I knew it now.

"You're. Not. Gay. Right." he replied, eight seconds later.

After a minute, I finally wrote: "Why isn't there a smiley wearing sunglasses?"

"You're gay?" he asked. "Did not expect that... but okay."

"Well," I replied, "it's cool that you're cool with it."

Then I proceeded to tell him he was the first one I'd revealed it to, and that I wasn't likely to be a "weird flamboyant type." Surprisingly, he has respected me and has continued to chat with me as he normally does.

He did wonder at previous statements about women when I commented on their beauty, as well as breasts. "You can appreciate it," I explained. I still hug the girls before I leave work. (Something my oft-emotionally distraught general manager really appreciates.) I still think women are beautiful and deserving of love, but I'm not interested in anything but friendship with them.

Since it's been a week, I've noted I feel more confident in general. I'm not as quiet as I used to be at work, and when talking on the phone with my mom, I actually cracked jokes with her. You might do that regularly with your mom, I haven't in years. Perhaps this newfound confidence can help in other areas I've been needing to work on as well.

Nothing about me has changed by deciding to be comfortable with being gay, it was just something I needed to do. Just wish I'd figured this all out a long time ago...