Fifty-Five. Remember.

Rememberbluebird

I carry all of these moments

of all these years wherever I go and to whoever I become

I keep them loose

because they hold you

I keep them close

because they hold me.

When the bow broke,

the day the cage released,

when my throat opened

and I learned I was free.

Pulling

Pushing

Longing

Falling

When I fought you

I was only fighting me

When I loved you

I learned to love me.

I carry all these moments

of all these years wherever I go to whomever I become

sore

worn

& faulted

because they hold you

sore

worn

& faulted

because they hold me.

Fifty-Three.Current.

“And a part of you was drawn to her, and a part of you resisted–wanting to ride off on your bicycle, kick a stone, remain uncomplicated. In the same breath you felt the strength of a man, and a self-pity that made you feel small and hurt. Part of you thought: Please don’t look at me. If you don’t, I can still turn away. And part of you thought: Look at me.” – Nicole Krauss

Fifty-Two. Hapa.

 

Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage

I have the right
Not to have to justify my existence in the world.
Not to keep the races separate within me.
Not to justify my ethnic legitimacy.
Not to responsible for people’s discomfort with my physical or ethnic ambiguity.

I have the right
To identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify.
To identify myself differently than how my parents identify me.
To identify myself differently than how my brothers or sisters identify.
To identify myself differently in different situations.

I have the right
To create a vocabulary to communicate being multiracial or multiethnic.
To change my identity over my lifetime–and more than once.
To have loyalties and identification with more than one group of people.
To freely choose whom I befriend and love.

Maria P.P. Root

 

Forty-Seven. When Your Parents Aren’t Okay With The Gay

In the months preceding coming out to my closest friends and family members (most of the Traditionalist variety) I developed a series of presentations in order to describe my evolution of  thought/belief toward my orientation. Putting aside how telling that is of my nerd-shaped heart, the reason I did this was because of the disagreement I knew would arise from what is a different theology on sexual ethics. Having attempted to live out the ex-gay narrative, transitioning out of that into a still non-affirming but also non-practicing model, and eventually landing on my present convictions of total LGBT complete inclusivity and affirmation was a process that lasted nearly a decade. I consumed any and all resources that could offer Christian insight on the topic. I consulted pastors, scholars, and contemporary theologians whom are considered experts on the issues. I searched the Bible, prayed, and meditated for thousands upon thousands of hours. And alas I cried.A lot.

All of this to say, coming out first to myself and finding peace with my sexuality required the kind of time, energy, and thought that to this day puts me in a position where I wonder how I managed to graduate college, well,  really to wonder how I psychologically survived. Given the difficulty that I myself experienced with being gay it was no surprise to me when I was met with resistance, confusion, and rejection from many of the people who for years loved and cared for me. In fact, it was this foreknowledge that kept me in the closet for an additional 6 months even after my beliefs transitioned. I didn’t want to lose the trust, respect, and fellowship I had with other devout Christians and yet I felt compelled to share the whole truth about my identity and the different direction that my mind and heart had been led. So I did, and as previously mentioned it was bad. Sparing the details and offensive quotations from the first three months of text messages, emails, and a bombarded Facebook inbox, we will just say I was deeply hurt by the ideas and sentiments reflected through those mediums. As I consulted friends and other individuals within (or supportive of) the LGBT community I was met by the exhortation to take some drastic steps towards forcing non-affirming people to accept and approve of my newer convictions and understood identity. I was told to not tolerate the judgment or ignorance I was experiencing from these people. I was told that if my mom could not support my whole existence as her daughter who happens to be gay that I needed to refuse her attention and affection. I was told that I needed to distance myself from all those who would or could reinforce the negative attitudes that I for many years had toward myself. I was told a lot of things that as a collective whole communicated, “forget the haterz,” in addition to another choice f word.

There are a lot of problems with this approach but my primary concern is that it doesn’t account for the fact that the most effective education and advocacy we can ever do is amongst the people who are closest to us. As a person who participates in the fight for LGBT equality on a professional front there are conversations I (or other “activists”) can’t  have with your mom, your sister, your best friend, and your pastor that only you can. There is a more compelling argument in your story than any of the biblical or sociological arguments asserted by history, science, and or academia. I am not diminishing the contributions such disciplines have made to guiding society’s and the Church’s understanding of human sexuality but what I am saying is that severing one’s relationship to their loved ones on the pretense that their views are disagreeable only perpetuates the ignorance that fuels anti-gay rhetoric and mirrors the same kind of conditional and vapid love that has caused us as LGBT people so much pain. In the words of MLKJ, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

This being said I have compiled a short list of important ideas to consider as one attempts to navigate relationships with their parents and loved ones who are not LGBT affirming.

1.)   You’ve been working through your orientation since it occurred to you that you were different; this is the first time they have had to acknowledge that you are not straight.

Your parents are going to cycle through an entire catalog of extreme emotions: shock, disbelief, anger, and guilt. They are going to ask similar questions that you asked; “Why did this happen?” “Where did we fail?” And “How do we as Christians and loving parents respond to this?” Give them time, respect the initial months of their process, and enter into it with them for the long haul.

2.)   Your parents (and friends) are going to grieve what feels like the “loss” of you as the person they thought you were.

 Obviously, we know we aren’t any different than we were the day before we came out, or any different than when we were 16 and secretly kissing a girl at Christian camp… or even any different than back when we were 8 and liked Britney Spears not because we wanted to be her but because we wanted to be with her…) The love that God grew in us for Him because of belief in Jesus as savior isn’t any different…and our personality in general isn’t any different… but many others are going to believe so. The expectations they had for your life (which in all likelihood involved you meeting an opposite-sex partner, falling in love, marrying, and producing adorable grandchildren) is no longer a possibility or (quite as feasible of a possibility if one identifies as b or q) The hope for you to live a good, healthy, and Godly life was inherently attached to the hetero-normative social construct and in order for them to believe that there is another alternative it is going to require that you both show & tell them. For some parents hearing that their child is gay (bisexual, transgender, or queer) feels like hearing that their child has died…It’s obviously annoying to have to prove your existence, health, and beliefs are as in tact as they have always been and that you are still growing and developing into the person God made you to be but I am convinced that this is an effort worth engaging.

 3.) Your family and friends have long been taught that the Christian thing to do in this situation is to withhold fellowship and affection in order to avoid appearing to condone what they believe is a “sinful lifestyle.”

Even though the Bible certainly exhorts people to refrain from judging those outside the Church if you are a Christian and amongst their faith community than there are other biblical texts that seem to suggest they should correct the “false teachings” you’ve come under. Naturally, this conversation creates a lot of fatigue for both parties but for you to become embittered and resentful of their opinions it is going to disable your ability to care about them as people in general. There is good, logical, and biblical reason to believe in affirming theology but just like everything previously mentioned it takes time & energy to work through these thoughts and having your support and continued effort to preserve your connection to them is going to be vital in that process.

4.)   Once parents overcome the immediate shock and erroneous notion that this is something we did “to them” out of rebellion often they transition into a place of calling this our “struggle” or our “wound.” This often forms a kind of emotional distance from them to us and it is very easy to internalize and interpret as rejection or even hate.

 Your loved ones are just as much in process as you are. They are going to make mistakes, they are going to say and do hurtful things, and they are going to live out of their unintentionally and unconsciously homophobic beliefs. If you are in a situation of blatant emotional (and or physical) abuse one should consult additional help and GET OUT but apart from such harmful circumstances I think it can be incredibly sanctifying for us and life giving for them if instead of abandoning their relationships we lean in and work to find a way for all of us to thrive in the midst of our disagreement.

5.)  Your parents do love you.

Given that the above things (and worse) have happened to us it is easy to write off the fact that we dependently lived in our mother’s womb for 9 months, stubbornly refused entrance into the world despite her begging, pushing, and pleading, kept her and our fathers up at all hours of the night for years, made messes only they could clean up, scared them half to death when we disappeared for the afternoon to go play with the puppies down the street, were encouraged to be creative, passionate, and genuine in all of our efforts, were picked up and dropped off at endless softball, basketball, and soccer practices, had pride taken in us even when we didn’t succeed, were pushed to become the best us we could be, were brought (albeit, dragged at times) to church so that we could have exposure to (whilst still given the personal choice in )the gospel of Jesus, and ultimately were given the tools and opportunities to come to an honest conclusion about ourselves all by them and the people they allowed to be a part of our lives. I realize at this point I am speaking out of experience instead of principle but for so many of us with Christian parents I know it is not a stretch to say that they want nothing short of God’s best for our lives and the only reason they are responding the way they are is out of fear and misunderstanding. If they aren’t hearing you now there is not a way they ever will unless YOU give them the opportunity. This requires forgiveness, patience, self-control, kindness, gentleness, and a whole host of other spiritual fruits and qualities that are difficult (if even possible) apart from the work of God… but that resource is ready and available to “whosoever should believe.”

Ultimately this isn’t nor will it ever be easy. But I’m convinced that the only way to move closer to true and legitimate unconditional love is by asking each other “what is like to be you?” and living out of that discovered reality.

Forty-One. Odd Sheep Out.

I am convinced that Jesus is actually the Son of God and that He came and died so that who ever would believe would not parish but get to know and experience everlasting love and life with the Father. This being my conviction, I also happen to believe that Jesus is the best that that ever happened to me and that the abundant life I have partaken of in the Spirit has radically transformed every part of how I interact with reality. However, I still must resign myself to the fact that after nearly a decade of following Christ I still am far from mastering this whole ‘life in the Spirit’ thing. I guess you could say I still have  at least a few (hundred) things I still need to figure out.

You want to know what I did have locked down though?

This funny little world that has dominated Western gospel thought for the last several decades and that is what we would call American Evangelical sub-culture. We have our own books, movies, games (I still NEED to know who was convinced that Christian Guitar Hero was a good idea?) fast food establishments, TV shows that we all collectively watch and feel good about, TV shows that we all collectively watch and feel guilty about, clothes that we will wear, clothes that we would never wear, philosophies on …well every faculty of life, and we also claim a monopoly on both Truth and the proper biblical hermeneutic.

And I knew this world. I understood the structures, I defended the structures, I upheld all of its tenets (well minus the movies because…well I am just never going to be able to like “Facing The Giants”)

Over the years there were a lot of parts about this protective bubble that I was more or less disillusioned with but I could easily overlook these things because A. I  felt like I knew the intentions of the people who were pumping out the content and they were ones for good and B. Because I was entirely captivated by Jesus, by the Scriptures, and by the divine romance I had found myself caught in that was both rich and transcendent. I didn’t mind that sometimes the breadth of spirituality found in the Christian tradition and belief was obscured by trite and cheap phrases, a certain winged politics, neat and tidy categories, and this unanimously shared notion that we were never to ‘rock the boat’ amongst ourselves…butttt as soon as one of us does such a thing in the public square at the expense of an already marginalized group then one is applauded for “taking a stand on God’s Truth” and it’s chicken sandwiches for everyone!

I say all of this because throughout all of this time I was generally considered a part of the ‘leadership’ in these conservative faith circles. I somehow found a way to squeeze, bend, and jump through some hoops to the point of being able to fit. I learned to receive rebuke, admonishment, and correction…both the kind which is exercised graciously and the kind where I get told that I have a “resistant personality that could destroy the Kingdom” without any context or clarification as to what I said or had done to merit that description. I learned how to not conform to the patterns of this world but to be clipped and groomed into the image of the other girls within the non-denominational contemporary Christian world. About half-way through my general inability to identify with any of the Francine Rivers books I tried so hard to read I decided it was time to just focus on my prayer life, daily walking with God, and seeking out wise council from a few other Jesus-loving rabble rousers who had been doing the same We-Don’t-Fit dance for much longer than I and somehow I got by with a lot of eye-brow raises but never having to fall victim to exclusion.

The first time I began to recognize the residual effects of this phenomena was last summer as I was thinking about my brother. If you know my brother then I don’t need to explain…but if you don’t we will just say that he is a little rough around the edges. He is completely genuine, too smart for his own good, musically genius, endlessly creative, and so pro-anarchy and anti-establishment that he has more or less been in some kind of trouble since my earliest childhood memories. My brother is also a human. A human who both needs love and is fully capable of giving love. I trust my human brother with my life and despite our different religious identities my atheistic human brother still respects the idea of life having meaning and there being some kind of universal story interconnecting all of our lives. Sometimes we talk about God and especially lately because for whatever reason coming out to my brother made me that much more personally and emotionally accessible to him. You see, in the last several months I have had my eternal destination called into question and condemned more than my brother has his entire life and of course he finds that, given all that I’ve told you above about myself and him respectively, wildly hilarious. He likes to know how I am dealing with many of my friends getting all weird and Truth-speaky. He likes to know what it is like to interact with people regularly who have a planned questions and pre-tense to their conversation. He just likes to know how I am doing. Sometimes I laugh. And sometimes I cry. I cry because I miss the days when the people who God has loved me through and God has used me to do the same for them didn’t have to dichotomize my existence and relegate me to this category of “walking in open rebellion” and “choosing my sin over Jesus” and all of these other kind of bombastic things…but my tears are for so much more than this.

I cry because behind my brother’s questions about me and my experiences are my brother’s questions about his own life and his own experiences. Who does God say He is? Could He love someone like me? What actually is grace?

My brother never took issue with Jesus. He never resisted the gospel for sake of the gospel. My brother just wasn’t ever capable of the social gymnastics it took to morph into evangelical culture.

Will my brother come to know and qualify the message of Jesus? It is certainly possible.

But will my brother enter as that as a black sheep? Absolutely. My brother will simply become a little black sheep who loves Jesus just as I am a little rainbow sheep who loves Jesus.

Thirty-Nine. Micro-Evolution.

“…it didn’t just ‘get better’ for them. They made it better. Each and everyone of those people rose at a moment in their lives – one that is very much like this moment in your life, suffocated- and at that moment they chose to tell the truth about themselves instead of staying “safe inside the lie.” They realized that, in fact, the lie wasn’t safe. That it threatened their (and so many others’) existence more profoundly than the truth did. That’s when it started to get better for these folks. When they had the courage to say , ‘this is who I am even if you’ll crucify me for it.” – Cheryl Strayed

What accepting my orientation has meant for me as a fully-integrated person has been so much more than “embracing feelings and pursuing attraction.” Understanding the complexity of one’s identity is in all liklihood a life-long process but I do not believe one can actually enter into that process until they can say “I am what I am” without fear.

I ran from myself for a long time because that kind of denial seemed to make sense within the cross-bearing paradigm Jesus describes in this life of following Him. I thought I could think, pray, date men, and work myself into desiring hetero-normativity. I thought I could think, pray, date men, and work myself into connectivity that models the biblical picture of covenantal love between a man and a woman. When I realized that my experience was suggesting otherwise my objectives changed and I went back to the Bible and wise council. I dismissed reorientation and lived out of white-knuckled obedience  and this kind of ‘thorn-in-the-flesh’ celibacy. I did my best to maintain the notion that because life was absolutely possible without ‘homosexual behavior’ that there was in fact abundant life to be found in singleness. I thought by this measure surely I could delight myself in Christ and Christ alone and grow out of the incessant heartache and emotional paralysis that is born of believing that this one part of my personality was so beyond the scope of redemption that it needed to be suppressed in totality. I believed that in my “healing” looking like “holiness” I would live above the part of being made in the Image of God (the soul-craving for companionship and intimate camaraderie) that biblically served as His most fundamental metaphor  for His love and communion with me and the rest of humanity. When I realized my experiences were suggesting otherwise my objectives changed and I went back to the Bible and to wise council.

As my understanding of both the Scriptures and human sexuality expanded so did my need to suspend my Conservative Fundamentalism on sexual ethics. It wasn’t that I became stimulated by “liberation” or “revolution” so much as I felt pain-stakingly sure that the love of which was natural to me was no more in need of being restored than if my affections were for men. It occurred to me that perhaps being reborn and yet persisting in attraction to women was about so much more than my own journey. This was about reformation. This was about providing a voice within the Church and within public discourse about the horrifying discrimination that well-intentioned Believer’s are fostering in the name of what they perceive to be God’s Kingdom.

You see, what I learned in Bible college about the Early Church within the New Testament text was that the whole Body was responsible for bringing whatever they had- whoever they were – to mutually encourage one another and BUILD UP, not tear down the Church. That being said, the Church should then in theory express the whole range of God’s created order of what it means to have a sexuality which (arguably so) includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and straight people. This in a lot of ways is why Evangelicals formally fought so hard to suggest that homosexuality was entirely a matter of environmental factors…and in so could be cognitively behaviorally changed. It works for safe thinking because it doesn’t challenge the categories we have for what is a Christian and what isn’t a Christian – it doesn’t force us to dig deeper into the author’s intentions for our holy book – If we are told in church that “hermeneutically its just really sloppy and irresponsible to believe that Paul was talking about anything besides gay and lesbian orientation in these passages” then we don’t have to put the hours into personal study, meditation, prayer, research, bullets of sweat or sleepless nights of being baffled by the idea that God would craft in us something special and mysterious just for it to never be understood, or explored, or to find Him in the midst of.

But this ceased to be an option for me. I had to be more honest, I had to be more sincere, I had to really search, and I had to reach. Not for the sake of defending what I was becoming convinced of…but because I needed a way to describe what I was becoming convinced of.

It has come to my attention that the general populous of the faith communities I have long been a part of disagree with these developments of belief and life. Because of this my non-gay affirming friends have pulled me aside to encourage me of how much I’ve been deceived and reminded me how accessible (and necessary) repentance is. Because of this then my gay-affirming friends have suggested that I distance myself from such “insidious oppression” and the various sociological factors (like the institutional church and aforementioned well-intentioned Christians) that have incited such “confusion and pain…”

And I get that, but the fact is that love, life, and faith are messy… People are far better and far worse than the groups or ideologies that they choose to identify themselves with…and the life that I believe Jesus called me into at the ripe ‘ole age of 14 was one that insisted “I must be who I am even if they crucify me for it” on either side of the debate.

Thirty-Eight. The Five-Second Rule.

Last week our household was paid a visit…but what I mean by that is we were solicited by the people at good ole’ American made Kirby vacuums. If you have never witnessed one of their demonstrations I highly advise it…or against it because you will be both mystified and filled with horror. Through their machine not only does one become visually exposed to all the dust, grime, and filth that lays ahold of one’s carpeted and hardwood floors…but then one is also informed of all of the various illness and disease that can be born of such waste left untreated.

That being said, it is with great pride that I still will eat any dropped food item off the floor.

I have no aversion…. nor even the slightest delay when it comes to picking up the pieces of stir-fry that fell to the ground and enjoying them (perhaps even more so) because of that journey to the grimiest crevices of this rainbow palace that they just partook of. I know probably too good and well where those tomatoes and bell peppers have been, what they have possible contracted, and furthermore how socially unacceptable my pending consumption is… but the fact is that A) I am an impoverished, post-graduate who works for an ever-developing non-profit organization who will eat any and all things given to me and B) To throw away said food items is in stark contrast to my over-arching values of stewardship, Creation care, gratitude, and doing my best to use all of what I take from this earth. To forsake what I know to be true in respect to both my present reality and my on-going understanding of identity to pursue something that could possibly be true in respect to a vacuum salesman and a few Google searches seems a bit counter-intuitive. A bit counter-intuitive and harmful…Because I didn’t state is explicitly before, I hate throwing away food. I REALLY hate throwing away food. It literally feels inhumane when I throw away food.

Obviously I am not just talking about eating food off of the floor here.

I am talking about the human experience, I am talking about my own personal struggle with what it means to try and make sense of this whole spiritual quest to connect with God, to pursue justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. I am talking about transitioning to gay-affirming theology and I am talking about pursuing dating. I can read every 400 page defense of the ‘traditional perspective’ against gay relationships that is known to Intervarsity Press, Abingdon Press, Moody Publishers, Harper One Collins, and the list goes on but at the end of the day I just don’t experience the conviction to believe that the ‘gay issue’ is something that the Bible has prescriptively laid out clear cut answers for. Is there good biblical reason to believe that God designed sexual intimacy to be shared between heterosexual couples exclusively? Sure. But just about as much good biblical reason there is to believe that God designed sexual intimacy to be so much more about ‘why’ people were to engage in it versus ‘who’ should. What 7 years of research, conversation, prayer, and meditation affected upon me was a new found appreciation for vulnerability in the faith, for ambiguity, and a need to suspend absolutism when it comes to my understanding of Christian ethics. And how did this come to be? It came to be because even with robust, philosophical, biological, and theological arguments about the need for me to reject my orientation and to hold out for the possibility for ‘change’ or resign myself to involuntary celibacy…the fact was A) I was still gay. Gay as gay could be even having surrendered all of my heart and the whole of my identity upon the person and gospel of Jesus…the gay was just not going to go away and B) To ‘throw away’ my sexuality and to relegate what is different about me and different about so many others to some lesser form of humanity was in stark-contrast to my over-arching values of Image Bearing, of salvation, of adoption, of justice, of equality, of freedom, of inclusion, of acceptance, and ultimately of love. To forsake what I know to be true in respect to both my present reality and my on-going understanding of identity to pursue something that could possibly be true in respect to one (although, yes strong) interpretation of the ancient Scriptures and the limitation of the human mind in reference to theology seemed a bit counter-intuitive. A bit counter-intuitive and harmful…Because I didn’t state is explicitly before, I hate absolutism. I really hate absolutism. It literally feels inhumane for me to buy into the idea that someone can authoritatively determine what is right and what is wrong with no room for the nuances, no room for the particular shades and hues hold those two ends of the spectrum in tension with one another.

Long story short,

I didn’t buy the 3000 dollar vacuum, I eat food off the floor,  and I have a girlfriend.