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D has blogged extensively regarding progress, hopefulness, and Imago Dei. In general, I feel that she does a much better job of conveying this “optimism-even-when-things-suck” thing. B also has blogged about pride and being a lesbian. Once again, it’s hard for me to muster up the optimism sometimes. Last week it became much, much easier to be optimistic.

800-1000 people gathered in WeHo.  Where\'s Waldo?

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Everyone’s recent writing activity has spurred me on (thanks B and D). Part of the reason I’ve been rather silent has to do with reflecting on the purpose of my blogging and the direction of my thoughts. While there is a lot of political/social stuff that ravages through my small brain, it took me a while to realize this isn’t the venue. I’ll stick to what I know – me. Ergo:

I was in a relationship for 4 months. It ended a few days ago and the free time that I’ve rediscovered is absolutely astounding! I didn’t realize how much (freely-given) time was given to that relationship! For the sake of the other I won’t go into details of how it was, what went wrong, etc. Suffice to say that A 2.0 (3.0? 4.0?) has arrived. And looking ahead it is going to be quite the ride. The semester is over in less than a month, and I just solidified my plans for the summer. My professional self is coming together, as is my adult self starting to get some feet. It looks as though I’ll have more blogging-time, too! Anyway, on to some notables.

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I wrote before about the lament Psalms, and how we have been studying them in my Old Testament class, but I left out what comes after the lament Psalms (otherwise known as the Psalms of disorientation). What comes next, you see, is the Psalms of Reorientation. But the key thing about them is that they are not merely a return to your life the way it was before it got dumped on its face in the mud; they are a new orientation, in a new place. I can’t help but thinking how ironic it is that the word orientation is used here, when that in and of itself is exactly what i am trying to adjust to… a new sexual orientation, or at least a new realization of it. But it’s my personal opinion that this book about the Psalms oversimplifies things by breaking them down into three specific categories: orientation, disorientation, and reorientation…particularly when it defines them as songs of praise, songs of lament, and even more songs of praise. I personally, in my own period of reorientation, have been singing songs of praise, sure, but that’s certainly not all. There have also been songs of anger and panic and depression and hopelessness, and foot stomping, and surrender, and hope and… well, you get the idea.

So here is where my theology classes end and my psychology classes begin (my integration professor would not be pleased to hear me speaking like this): Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood, DSM IV code 309.28. That’s my current self-diagnosis, and I would venture to say that I am not alone in this. I have yet to meet a person who has gone through the coming out process without dealing with some form of depression or anxiety, or a combination of the two. And it is on these grounds that I would like to argue, at least in the case of gay and lesbian Christians, that a period of reorientation is not just marked by songs of praise. It is marked by a swirling, dizzying mixture of reactions, both predictable and utterly unexpected, to a world and to a self that we are just beginning to recognize, both again and for the very first time.

I have been trying, though, to make this a time of praise. Not just because that’s what my theology professor seems to think it should be, but because it is spring, and I have always had such a soft place in my heart for spring. It seems that each year around this time, I throw away whatever darkness has been accumulating in my soul over the winter, and throw myself into the celebration of new life. And so this year has been no exception. I even went so far as to go and buy arm loads full of potted daffodils and tulips, and scatter them around a room I had already decorated only the week before with a brightly flowered bedspread, and blown-up photos I had taken of spring-times past.

It was a noble effort, but a bit of a failed one… because the excitement I feel from seeing the red and yellow blooms that fill my tiny corner of our less than spacious apartment is tempered by the anxiety I experience every time a flower wilts and dies. Did I over water it? Underwater it? Is there too much light, or perhaps too little? Is that a plant eating insect right there on its leaf, that somehow made its way into our second story apartment? Will they ever recover from that time my girlfriend’s cat ate their leaves? Is my little dog peeing on them in my absence? The options for worry are limitless, and I begin to suspect that in this area, as in many others, there is still something standing between me and embracing the new dawn of spring…

My therapist suggests it is the fact that I am angry, and that I generally do a shitty job of expressing it, or even really recognizing. When he first said this, I agreed politely, seethed internally that he could make such an assumption about me, and then promptly sunk into despair that I had failed yet again, and anxiety that I would never improve. And then I cried. Because the equation goes something like this: anger, unexpressed and unrecognized = anger turned inward = depression + anxiety. Shit. Shit shit shit. This all starting to feel a little bit familiar.

And so for lent I am practicing anger. Well, that’s not the full story… I am also practicing solitude and meditation… but I am definately practicing anger. After all, Jesus himself never hesitated to express an angry righteous indignation whenever he saw religion used for people’s own selfish purposes instead of in a way that honors God and the entirety of God’s creation. And so, I am angry… I am angry about the in group/out group dynamics that keep a few overtly moral straight upper-middle class folks at the center of God’s will and toss a whole slew of minorities to the fringes where they are repeatedly thrown against a brick wall by the sheer centrifugal force of all this incessant spinning in circles that’s been going on lately. And I am angry about my inability to do anything about it. And I am angry that I don’t know how to come out to my parents. And I am angry that my best friend would rather invite the boyfriend of a coworker to her wedding than my own girlfriend, even though I am her bridesmaid. I am angry that I have so much to learn about being in a relationship, and that I have so few models to look to. And, well, you get the idea…

So as spring pokes up its hopeful head all around me, I committed this year not just to embracing the rebirth of new life, but the cycles of life in their entirely… because even today, as I was noticing all the wealthy gardens filled with newly purchased flowers… I was also noticing men and women who were living on the streets, pushing their entire lives around in shopping carts that held all their earthly belongings, headed towards homes they haven’t yet found. And even as we face presidential elections that speak the language of hope and change and a brighter future, most of the world (and myself included) looks on in a confusing combination of wanting so badly to hope, and also being paralyzed with fear that it is too soon to hope that the global winds might really be changing. And even as I settle into a rich network of support and healing, there are still days when I am afraid I will not remember how to breathe.

But today, just for today, I could breathe just fine.. and so I plucked a dandelion from the ground and blew with all my strength, making a wish that for all of us… for those of you I know, and those I have yet to meet, that it will all be just a little less painful this spring.

 

 

Token ^^

Spending 3 days locked in a condo with my staff (8 peers and 2 slightly older female bosses) is not my idea of paradise. In fact, I’d almost rather watch the superbowl with my testosterone-flooded, hunting-crazed, fundie relatives. First off, Palm Springs is a glorified retirement home, without nurses or CNAs to be there when they stroke or code. Not exactly “retreat” material. Secondly, my staff knows I’m gay and plays the “this-is-my-token-gay-friend-coworker” relentlessly. This was compounded by the fact that one of my bosses is recently engaged and reading a premarital sex book in preparation for the Big Night. That opened a lot of doors for blunt sex talk. I was conspicuously quiet during these discussions, and I would get the inevitable “what’s it like for you” questions. ::internal groan::

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When I look back over the past few months, the one word that comes to mind is “progress.” When I started this blog, I hadn’t come out to anybody who hadn’t already come out to me at least ten times over… and now I can safely say that I’ve had “that conversation” with all of my closest straight friends, and they were overwhelming positive experiences across the board. I’ve told my best friend, my roommate, new friends from seminary and old friends from college, and out of the dozen or so people that I talked to, only one said the dreaded phrase that we all brace ourselves against: “I still love you, but…”

Mostly, what I heard instead went a bit like this:

“I don’t care, as long as you’re happy…” said my long term college friend, who once told me she was permanently boycotting IKEA after they showed a male couple with their arms around each other in a commercial for their furniture.

“You didn’t seriously think this would change things between us, did you? And don’t think this means you get off the hook either… whoever you date still has to be a Christian, you know” said my best friend of six years, and roommate all throughout college.

“Ok,…” said my current roommate, “But seriously, how cute is our dog?”

“Congratulations!” said one of my closest college friends “… but really, like I was saying, I honestly don’t know which of those three boys I should date.”

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised,” said another college friend, “but you can definitely call me whenever you want to talk about it…” as she proceeded to share with me several insightful connections between the challenges I will face in my relationship, and those she is already facing in her own biracial relationship.

And in some way or another, they all thanked me for sharing; for being vulnerable and honest… for the very things I had felt so saddened about omitting from my relationships this past year.

In short, these experiences were all varrying shades of beautiful. And so, I came home thinking that maybe, just maybe, I was ready for the one big step I have left to take… telling my parents.

My initial reaction, as soon as I arrived, was to chicken out entirely. I mean, things were going so well. And why would I want to screw up that? But then there is the little messy detail that I am actually dating someone now, and while I could justify not telling my parents the abstract idea that I had been questioning my sexuality, because abstract conversations are just not how we operate around here anyway, I am fairly certain they would want to know that I am in my first real relationship. I am fairly certain, given my complete lack of ability to hide things, that they will find out eventually anyway.

And so, I have been toying again with the idea of telling them, as my week here at home is wrapping up, and the amount of time that I would have to face them after the conversation is getting comfortably shorter.

But then, last night, the Grandchildren conversation suddenly popped up, and with absolutely no permission from my brain whatsoever, my mouth asked my parents: “If I had foster babies, or adopted, would you love them? Would you treat them like your own grandchildren?” Now, this is a conversation that the girl that I am dating and I have been having quite a bit lately, because a desire to go buy a house and fill it with the voices of children who have been forgotten by our society is what almost kept us each individually from coming to grad school in the first place, but it is certainly not a conversation that I meant to have with my parents.

“Sure, we would” said my mom, because she would, I know she would… just look at the way she squeals with joy every time she sees my dog, the same raggedy little lost puppy she told me firmly I couldn’t take in around this time last year.

My dad, though, my dad launched into a discussion of how said hypothetical-adopted-grandchild will almost certainly have antisocial personality disorder, or in layman’s terms, no conscience whatsoever, which is a leap in logic that I have never been able to convince him is lacking in several dimensions.

 A few minutes later, he is well into his famous “Speech on How You Have no Idea How Much Trouble Those Troubled-youth Can Be”… in which he always omits the fact that I have a fairly good idea indeed, having spent the past year working at a residential treatment center with aforementioned youth. When he is done with that speech, he is onto his all-time favorite: “You Would Be Much Better off to Pick a Nice Husband and Give Birth to Your Own Perfect Babies…”

At this point, I interrupt him: “but would you love them,” I ask… “If I did have foster babies, or adopt, would you still love them?”

He sighs dramatically. “I guess it would have to be on a case-by-case basis. If they were a lot of trouble, then no… but if they were really good kids, then yes, maybe we would.” My mom, still listening from the kitchen, nods her agreement to this case-by-case assessment. If they are good kids, if they behave themselves, then we will love them.

Now, rationally, I know that my parents are not talking about me… and this is not a fair way to assess how they will react to the news I am trying so hard to work up the nerve to tell them… but I can’t help but feel, at my very core, the implications of this message: if you are good, if you play by the rules, and continue to fit our standards of “the perfect child,” we will love you. Now, this is probably more my fault than it is their own, because I never fulfilled my teenage duty to test this assumption with a Class A Rebellion that would have proven to all of us, once and for all, that their love for me is not conditional…that they will still love me when they find out that my poster-child career is about to veer seriously away from the normal curve.

I know, deep within myself, that the time is coming. The time is coming for me to take a step of faith, and trust in the grace they hold deep within them… trust in the love we have been building up all these years now, just as I have already done with all the other people I hold close to my heart. But so far, that time is not quite here… not yet. I still have a little courage left to build… a little praying left to do.

But for now, in the pocket of time before I am ready to take this final major step in coming out to the people I hold dearest, I am content to sit in overwhelming gratitude for the grace that I have already been shown… for all the different ways my friends have shown me that I can step outside of their expectations without stepping outside of their love. I’d call that progress.

We had another one of our meetings, up in the attic of the little coffee shop we’ve all spent so much time in lately, and C was kind enough to share with us a little of her knowledge about the law, and how it relates to those of us in the LGBT community. I didn’t notice this, and I suppose it was because my own eyes had glazed over a bit themselves, but on our way out, the girl that I am dating mentioned how all of our faces got a sort of blank, glazed look on them about half way into the updates on marriage (we still can’t get married, and probably won’t be able to for some time now) and getting kicked out of our respective institutions (they still can kick us out, and probably will be able to for some time now).

Now don’t get me wrong, I am deeply grateful for the information C provided us with, because how can we even begin to hope to change situations if we don’t even know what the situations really are. But it was hard, because I forget. After having spent my entire life with most opportunities available to me (and my deep thanks go to the feminist movement for that), I keep forgetting that it is really not the case anymore. And it is incredibly hard to remember that I am supposed to be grateful now when people make some sort of response to me that indicates they are still going to recognize my humanity, even though I’m a lesbian. I forget that for them, recognizing my humanity is often a big and gracious step that they view as pretty radical, and all I seem to be able to remember is that I have been alive my entire life, and so my humanity does not seem all that radical to me.

And so sometimes, I get angry inside, even when they are trying their hardest to be kind and generous. Take, for example, my roommate the other night. Now, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude as how accepting she has been of me since I came out to her, and I really am truly, deeply grateful, but a couple of nights ago we were just joking around in the kitchen with my little dog, and I told her: “I really am glad it turned out that you like my dog, because it would have been really terrible if you didn’t!” And she laughed and replied: “yeah, but what you should be really grateful for is that I’m not a homophobe, that would have been terrible.” And she is right, and I am grateful… I just forget sometimes. Ok, I forget a lot of the times… because I am just not used to having my dignity be such a tenuous thing, up for debate at almost every turn.

As we were leaving the coffee shop after Sunday’s meeting, the girl that I am dating mentioned how the whole time we had all been sitting up there, looking a little defeated and numb around the edges, she’d had this song from Rent playing in her head… the one that goes, over and over again, “Will I lose my dignity, will someone care? Will I wake tomorrow, from this nightmare?” And so that song ran through my head the rest of the day, and the two of us have been singing it intermittently ever since, because I think on some level, that is the question we are all asking: Will we lose our dignity? And if and when that happens, will someone care? If I do decide to start a family one day, will it ever be recognized and protected by the law? What happens if my school decides that I no longer have a place at their table, and where will I go if they force me to leave? Will people ever understand the cutting potential of their careless words when they make assumptions about how my sexuality must necessarily mean that I have lost something of the innocence and potential they once saw in me?

The truth is that I think the answer is yes, at some point, we will all lose our dignity in ways that will be startlingly painful. And yet, we have shown that even in the midst of all if this, in the face of opposition and criticism and persecution, we will not lose our faith….and I have to believe that that is something. In fact, I really believe that it is everything.

I just got off the phone with my best friend, and we were just talking about life and some of our friends that we used to live with, and go to church with (way back in the day, pre-Mountainside).
“Do you ever talk to them?” she asked.
“No” I explain. And than I chuckle a little bit “I don’t know if they would want to talk to me if they knew… if they go on myspace at all.” Of course I am referring to my sexuality and my myspace page where in the about me: orientation box, it says lesbian. Read the rest of this entry »

I think the video clip speaks for itself…. but this is a bit of my experience with the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride. Unreal, but, sadly, very real….

So, there are some ‘progressive’ schools that still have certain moral standards regarding pre-marital sex, but approve of same-sex unions when following these same standards…

In situations like this, people with a same-sex orientation are not allowed to room with others of the same sex, just as those who do not have a same-sex orientation are not allowed to room with those of the opposite sex.

What about people who are bisexual? Since they can be attracted to both sexes, do these institutions make them live by themselves?

Just a thought.

So, as I mentioned less than a few hours ago, today has been a long day. I also mentioned that I let my emotions get away from me… going from stressing about the day to finding more to stress about.

This slippery slope that my emotions go down is steep. I went begrudgingly to Bible Study, knowing it is not good for me to be alone when I’m having a bad day. At Bible Study right now, we are going through the book “Sex. God.” by Rob Bell. It seems like a decent book so far. I have liked what has been said on the breadth of sexuality and how sexual expression is indicative of connectedness.

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