A Letter to Ex-Gay Gail

(This post reflects a creative tangent I took a few weeks ago, when I started writing letters to “versions” of myself that are still going through a transformation. This letter is what I would send to myself, if I could turn back time and find a way to get myself out of the toxic environment of ex-gay “ministries.” Exercises in self-healing aren’t the most comfortable but they may be the cheapest and most effective… give it a shot.)

Dear Ex-gay Gail,

When I heard that you were going to an ex-gay ministry I wanted to stop you but I knew that you would have to suffer this for yourself. No one could look at you and “tell you” that you are beautiful, just as you are… it’s as if you don’t learn something unless you first suffer. I don’t know why your path so often involves suffering but I figured that you would have to hear them call you evil, lost, and broken before you would learn to stand up for yourself. Sometimes that’s the only way people learn… they have to be bullied, to learn what a bully is and learn how to stand up for themselves. It saddens me that you allowed yourself to be bullied by those false teachers, none of whom would be recognized in any substantial psychiatric setting as reliable practitioners… you let yourself believe them though because they told you they were representing what “God’s will” was for your life. I can understand that. We all want to be viewed in the favor of something or someone but they took advantage of you in ways that I never thought were possible by “Christians.” It’s a tragic thing, to hear about now, how they treated you when you told them about your first kiss with a woman. You were so free and aware, satisfied and fully present in your body and in your soul but they turned you into a lesson and into a project. The place where you went to help you find your identity is the very place where you lost it.

When I think of the lies that they ingrained you with, about community and the false intimacy they created in the name of restoring intimacy… I think of what Jesus wrote about those who cause little ones who believe to stumble. (Mark 9:42) The vulnerable, who seek out support from those with knowledge and resources… when they are led astray by bigoted, pompous, graceless teaching, it would be better for them to tie a rope around their necks, attach that rope to a rock and be tossed into the sea. That is what Jesus says of those who hinder those who believe in grace…

You were like that; a child, seeking the comfort of someone who was knowing, people who could guide you to truth and light. Your intention was pure and while they argue that theirs too, is pure, you know the unfortunate truth that their intention was only to create a community of people who behaved a certain way, believed certain things and chose a specific path. There wasn’t anything about individuality or becoming true to oneself, with a unique perspective, fearfully and wonderfully made. No, it was about becoming the same.

It was an incestuous pool of theological and psychological smut. Watching you drown in it was horrifying…

But I’m so proud of you now, for knowing deeply that you are beloved, by any and all gods, angels and creatures with choice because that is what is Divine in this world. Likeness isn’t divine. Diversity is Divine.

I know it’s been extremely sad for you these last seven years specifically, as you’ve tried to harvest community among Christians only to find that the ground was too difficult to break, the rains too infrequent, the seeds, planted in such shallow fashion. Yet, for the last year, you’ve encountered a community of faith where you can be exactly as God made you to be. You are different and not tolerated but entirely celebrated among these people. You are blooming and growing in ways those people from your past would never imagined…

Those people, at Greater Johnstown Christian Fellowship…

Those people, at Prodigal Ministries, in Cincinnati Ohio (affiliates with Exodus International)…

Those people, at Cincinnati Christian University, in the counseling department and in the classrooms…

Those people, at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, in the Youth Ministry program and in the counseling center…

Their message was that you were not okay as God made you.

Their message was that you should change.

Their message was that you should sacrifice what is natural for what is comfortable for others but what is abusive to you.

Their messages are no longer choking our the life force of your inner garden.

They are like weeds that have finally submitted to the evolution of the forest. They do not pop up often but even when they do, they are hardly noticeable in the presence of your oak tree-sized faith in your identity. IMG_2896

What God has restored, let no man, woman, creature, organization or church dare tear asunder.

That is my message to you.

In every step, you have learned to arrive.

In every question, you have learned to receive silence.

In every answer, you have learned to receive acceptance.

In every face, you have learned to offer grace.

And in so much grace as you offer, you will continue to receive.

Sincerely,

Gail, the one who is loved.

~~

I dedicate this post to my online community on my author page (www.facebook.com/homospirituality) and to my “real world” community at Convergence. Life is full of risks… love may have the greatest risk but it clearly has the greatest reward.

Author Update May 2013: Didn’t work out so well in the Christian Church after all. Details in Enlightenedish, yo. Also, if you watch Our America in June 2013, you will see a whole new truth being told about the Survivor Movement. Just sayin’. Whew, what. a. ride!

Waving the Freak Flag: Part 2

(Here comes part two in my “Wave your Freak Flag” series which is aimed at celebrating my wacky homospirituality and my gay pride at the same time… because I can. Happy Pride Month!)

I was scribbling a poem about love (and how it disappoints if intimacy isn’t in its proper place) and the sentence that tripped me is, “She teases me with virtue and pleases me with purity.” How much of a burden do I feel now knowing that I shared such a cheesy line with my readers?

Cheesy, first because I’m writing love poems and it’s not even February.

Cheesy… mainly because I used the word “virtue.”

Virtue? Who uses that word? It sounds like a religious buzz word, some kind of gunk in your teeth or at best, an accusation. (Virtue? Why, I never!)

I can’t think of a more sexless word than virtue and I was immediately frustrated to see it pop up in a love poem. I thought, “Am I trapped in a medieval poetry contest… and losing?”

Much to my chagrin, it turns out that the word virtue isn’t nearly as obscure as I originally thought. I sat with it for a while and decided that if I said it over and over again, it would start to fill in its own blanks about its value.

I wrote “Virtue is…” on a piece of paper and waited for the words to flow. As the thoughts came, I discovered something revealing about myself, my understanding of a feminine god and my spirituality. As I wrote, I recalled the only place in the Bible where I remember the word “virtue” and it was in relations to Proverbs 31, which is grossly overused by Christians as the description of the perfect woman.

Turns out, I can do one better than the writer of the 31st chapter of Proverbs. Go figure. (What did Solomon know about virtuous women? Let a lesbian take a stab at this topic…)

~~

Virtue is exploring sexuality with a rose in one hand and your integrity in the other.

Virtue is working hard when no one is watching and hardly watching when nothing is working.

Virtue is running out of ink and deciding to dance.

Virtue is knowing when to read between the lines and when to blur them.

Virtue is a willingness to be wrong but compassionate when you’re so very right.

Virtue is having a clue and a cause and the means to not only take a stand but take a knee.

Virtue is not a word fit for a poem, but a trait fit for a queen…

Ahh, to my beloved Queen, the goddess, the one from whom all blessings flow. This creature here, down below, is deepening her connection to the beautiful world she has been given but learning boundaries that one could never have attained were it not through loss and pain. And so I bow to your wisdom and say, “You tease me with virtue and you please me with purity.”

~~

Whoa, all that said and suddenly the writer of Proverbs 31 sounds like he is rattling off a task list while my words come out rushing out from the soul of a love-sick feminist hippie.

Yes! Taking a little red pen to the Bible is much more enjoyable than I ever thought possible.

But here’s the thing that is tripping me up and I’ll share briefly then leave you to ponder it. If this is virtue, in all its esoteric glory, what say ye on the matter of purity?

And pray tell, what does love got to do with it anyway?

Well, I’ll leave you Tina Turner fans on that happy note and close by giving a shout out to a peculiarly sexually progressive yet purity-driven lil’ group called Les Be Pure (www.lesbepure.com) Their work on the Facebook site www.facebook.com/GayChristians is interesting and promotes healthy sexual purity and while I’m not 100% sure what that means as defined by the Church, I’m diggin’ their approach. This isn’t an official endorsement of their theology because I’m way too liberal for that but it is a place to go if you’re looking for some purity in your life and you think you can’t access it because Christianity has the market cornered on it. (Which we all know it doesn’t…)

Namaste and Happy Pride!

-gail

The Religious Right Made Me Proud

Hanging out with sexually educated Junior Highers for only a few hours last night was enough to remind me of the fact that the only reason that “gay” is even an identity is because of the Religious Right. To summarize right off of the bat I would like to use to bash Pat Robertson’s theology, were it not for Christian Fundamentalism, I would be just be gay…

Instead, I am gay and proud.

Everyone in the LGBTQ community has the Religious Right to thank for giving us the reason to be so excited and progressive about our sexuality. We could just be another subculture of sexually repressed people but instead, they have made our sex that much more exciting, our intimate lives, that much more powerful, our faith experiences, all the more important! 

Well done, Fundamentalists. You’ve created the monsters that we have become, as we proclaim “I’m gay” as if it’s that big of a deal, to be attracted to someone of the same gender. Is it that big of a deal? No… I think we all know it really isn’t.

But when you oppress someone because of who they are, what they cannot and should not change, you create the need for speaking out, speaking up, looking within and then… look out! The whole country goes “Gaga” and suddenly a media frenzy of Gleeks and modern families erupts and being gay becomes a staple for being different, free, honest, true and brave.

You’ve made us brave!

You’ve taken the ordinary and granted it a superior place of expression, individualism and celebration.

The irony of what the Religious Right has done is worth noting. As one of the OWL (Our Whole Lives) students asked last night, “What’s the big deal about being gay? It’s just body parts,” I thought, “Well out of the mouths of babes!”

What is the big deal?

There is no big deal… but because of all of the oppression, the “enemy” that they created has become a tour de force and now needs to proclaim simple truths about itself. At a basic level, a gay person’s coming out should be no more important than a child saying that he has blue eyes. Can you imagine how the landscape of our culture would change if we demonized everything that was diverse? (Blue-eyed Parades in March, Brunette Awareness Day in June, Bring a Tall Person to Work Week?)

The irony of it all has hit me specifically because a very close friend of mine is struggling with coming out and in the meantime, I’m struggling with a church community who doesn’t publically announce that they are a welcoming congregation. These two situations have forced me to ask myself, “What again is the big deal?”

Well… unfortunately, the big deal is that Christian Fundamentalists are still winning the war, every time a young person slices his skin with a safety pin, engraving the words “sinner” across his leg or a college student overdoses on a handful of pills after shaming herself for thinking “unholy” thoughts about her roommate.

No, being gay is not a big deal… but oppression and suffering is a colossal issue!

You can choose to view the suffering in the LGBTQ community with the eyes of Jesus, you can maintain a safe distance by wrongfully calling it a “non-issue” or you can wear blinders to how deep the issue runs.

They’ve turned it into an issue of identity.

And if you value the inherent worth and dignity of any person, then LGBTQ equality isn’t just a gay rights issue… it’s a human rights issue.

Whew! I’m about to topple off of my soapbox… I’m getting dizzy up here and the air is a little thin and I know the risks of attempting to simplify such a complex issue but after all of these years of thinking about, counseling about, praying about and living in this “gay” life, my conclusion is this:

I’m gay because God made me this way but I’m proud because oppression made me this way. If you want to make it a non-issue as it should be, help end the oppression.

The Gayest Story Ever Told: Part 3

In private and in public, it’s become clear to me that the statements that I make and the process that I am engaged in has an offensive tone, which is why I warned you earlier this week that this would be a little extreme. I mean, referring to Jesus’ death and resurrection as the “gayest story ever told” could be viewed as inflammatory…

Unless of course, you’re gay! (or sympathetic to what LGBTQ people experience)

If you’re gay, reframing the story of Jesus Christ as similar to coming out of the closet or being gay allows you to get an extra dose of redemption. (Taking what has harmed you and reframing it is essential to healing!) And if you haven’t noticed, dosing out redemption is exactly what this blog is about so in the end, if it’s a little hard to stomach the way I process my recovery from Fundamentalist Christianity, you have 3 options:

  1. Make room for a new brand of sacred journey.
  2. Grow a pair.
  3. Don’t read.

That said, I’ll take one more stab at the Jesus story before it all gets blown out of proportion by the missing body tomorrow morning.

Wait? What happens tomorrow morning? Oh nothing… just that Jesus’ body is gone and all of the posturing begins about Jesus being the best and his followers, being the only ones who can know “Truth.” No body? Well then, our god is cooler and our god can kick any other god’s ass. Ours rose from the dead! Beat that!

Am I calling the resurrection story nothing more than folklore? A metaphor? A lie? (Oh no she didn’t! Snap, snap and finger wave)

No, I’m actually refusing to say whether or not I believe in the resurrection because for me, getting tangled up in the conversation of what is behind the stone that was rolled away ignores the fact that Jesus’ body could be laid out on the lawn of the White House on Monday with all the Easter Eggs and the truth about his life would still be enough to establish a following.

Whether he was a human who could heal the blind or a god who could walk on water doesn’t determine whether or not he deserves our attention.

Whether he was a god who could drive away demons or a human who could rise from the dead doesn’t determine whether or not he deserves our admiration.

He deserves our attention and our admiration because more than anything, Jesus lived a selfless life of wisdom, had authentic relationships, engaged in community action, worked to overcome religious oppression and loved in a way that clearly surpasses all of our understanding. We’ve been arguing about him for over 2000 years because of our theologies when we should be following him because of his spirituality. His life is to be examined and our lives would be better if we examined them in light of his. That’s the bottom line for me, about Jesus. The dude has the market cornered on exemplary love and yet in his name, the church has the market cornered on hate.

Unacceptable.

Furthermore, I don’t need magic tricks from god to believe in god… and I don’t need a savior from hell to believe in heaven. And you know what else? I don’t need a resurrected body to believe that suffering is worth it. It’s not like Jesus wrote the book on suffering. Long before him, it was the teachings of Buddha that showed us that suffering is a valuable tool to attaining self-awareness, empathy and for ingraining us with a sense of gratitude.

So for me, what makes the story of Jesus’ life and resurrection the “gayest story ever told” is that just like coming out, people get caught up in all of the details about what is true and they miss the importance of the love that motivated the man.

That is what is true of homosexuality and the comparison is striking. In the end, if we focus on love, who can argue with that and why would anyone argue with love?

This Easter, I’m going to do something a little different to reclaim the season. I’m going to go to a sunrise service, which I haven’t done in over a decade and I’m going to there looking not for a reason to end suffering… not for a reason to start a religion… not for a reason to be awe-struck by god’s way of defying nature…

I’m going to go and look for a reason to love.

Because nothing is more important to the gay community than love. Don’t be mislead… it’s the reason we fight for equality. It’s the right to love and be loved.

And I think Jesus would die for a similar cause… and maybe he did…

~~

Thank you again to the Christians who are speaking out for equality. I’ve spent a majority of the week humbled by the fact that some Christians see equality as a cause Jesus would take up and I confess, you are the people who make it hard for me to discount Christianity altogether! Through Facebook and this blog, I’ve been meeting the people who make Jesus look like the guy I first fell in love with… you’ve made this a holy week.