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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.

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“Okay, this is what I don’t get. I am attracted to…the penis…because I don’t have one. It intrigues me and I’m curious about it. It’s totally new and different, and I have no idea what it’s like to have one. Like God – I know that there is always something new and different that I’m going to discover in him. Like an unending depth. I will always be in the process of knowing God.”

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A few days ago , Monday, was not only a busy day (as were the last few days, hence the lack of blogging), and a taxing one, but also a bit of a powerful one.

Busy, in that I had to write 2 papers equaling a total of 22 pages, 7 of those pages written on a topic I am so not interested in and of a book I did not read (Augustine’s Confessions…the other paper was on considerations in counseling Hispanic-American youth). All this, in addition having to run errands to campus and to the department of motor vehicles. In a matter of approximately 16 hours.

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I was supposed to go on a retreat with my church this weekend, but for various reasons, not the least of which involved the beginning signs of an anxiety attack at the mere thought of spending a weekend sharing a cabin with a dozen married couples, I opted out. I am sure the retreat would have been wonderful, and I mean no disrespect to a church that is very dear to my heart, but in this particular moment, I needed a retreat of a different kind. And so A drove out Friday night, and we had communion on my couch… with heaping bowls of Lucky Charms and episodes of The L Word until the sun started to peek around the edges of the sky. And it was, in it’s own way…. a sacred time in sacred space. Space where laughter fits seamlessly with acknowledgment of sadness, where stories of how we see God working in ourselves and in each other slide right in next to me offering to set up A with the new guy in my apartment complex, if he would just hurry up and produce a girl for me to date. Where it is ok to say I am scared, and this hurts like hell… but I have not stopped believing… will not stop believing, that God is in this too.

This retreat from my heteronormative seminary continued all weekend… a group dinner where the one straight girl present was effectively the sexual minority. My first experience meeting someone, and not initially presenting myself as straight. Attending a church that says “all are welcome at the altar of God,” and then demonstrates it by weaving the needs of all sorts of minorities into the fabric of their sermons. Making my introduction to a fantastic, subversive little pocket of people at my Alma Mater…. the kind I never bothered to look for when I actually went there. Reclaiming the phrase “gay agenda” with A, myself, and a new friend from aforementioned subversive little pocket… as we proudly declared ourself “Team Gay Agenda,” while raiding several stores looking for the tv series “Queer as Folk.” We didn’t find it, but we did add a bunch of stuff to the Team Gay Agenda To Do List…like laugh until its just plain obnoxious…. and mandate that every store carry at least one copy of “Queer as Folk” and “The L Word”…. oh, and of course….rule the world with our evil powers of corruption. I think that next time someone talks about the gay agenda, I will think back to this weekend, and instead of getting angry, I will smile a little bit inside…and maybe suggest that whatever their mistaken impression might be, last I heard, the next thing on the Gay Agenda was a communion of Lucky charms…. where all are welcome at the altar of our Lord.

In short, it was beautiful, this retreat of mine. And I am once again ready to face the world of classes, and life, and midterms (well, the first two, at least). In fact, a couple of times today, when people saw me they mentioned that I looked a little different… glowed, even. It’s hope, I think… I’m trying it on for size.

I came out to the people I work with. Every week 1 or 2 people share their “life story” with the rest of the staff. Granted, our staff consists of 10 people, so it’s fairly intimate. When my turn came, I decided not to be a chicken (for whatever hair-brained reason!) and included the fact that I’m gay. The thing is, it’s supposed to be our life/God story, and I can’t very well tell a good God story without recanting my experience as a gay Christian. That’s like asking a quadriplegic to relay her experience as a Christian, but please don’t include anything about your disability. Anyway, I just did it. So now that’s not hanging over my head. It’s a good thing, I think.

They were generally supportive. And at the end of my 15-20 minute “testimony”, I opened the floor for questions. I explained that I understood I might be the first person they know who is gay, yet still claiming the Christian faith. Of course this would prompt questions for me if I were in their shoes. There was silence for a while, then a few people asked questions. Some of them weren’t questions so much as “good for you!” type statements. All heart-felt. Then one person asked, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” I was kind of confused, so I asked if he meant whether of not I was going to continue trying to live after Christ. Yeah, that’s basically what he meant. I explained yes, my values and faith system were very important to me and that God did something in my heart long ago that went very deep. No, I won’t be dumping Christianity. I thought this was a fairly clear answer, but it obviously didn’t get at what they wanted to know. So, the next question:

“What about now? How do you feel about the….homosexual….lifestyle?”

I should have been more blunt, sarcastic, wry, anything other than how I reacted. I explained that “lifestyle” is a broad thing to say, and that I didn’t intend on changing anything in my life that I haven’t been doing for the past 20 years. But, here’s a few thoughts. What the HELL does “homosexual lifestyle” mean? Manicures every week and trips to Nordstrom’s? Flipping my wrist and calling everyone “dear”? Rainbow flag pins on my fashionable new man-purse? Or perhaps many lovers and much promiscuity?

Here’s a hint to anyone on the outside of this bubble – don’t ask about the “homosexual lifestyle” or I’m going to start asking about the “heterosexual lifestyle.” You know, (for guys) buying lots of beer, watching football, adjusting yourself, and lacking all social tact. Because,let’s be honest, all straight men are exactly the same.

I was walking my dog with some neighbors of mine last week, and I asked them if our new neighbor was a student at our seminary. “Oh no,” one of the girls replied, “He’s a homosexual.”

“Right, I know that,” I replied impatiently, “I asked if he went to our school.”

Nervous laughter, followed by, “No, I don’t think we have any homosexuals at our school… at least not any practicing homosexuals.”

“We used to have one,” my other neighbor added helpfully, “I knew her, but she’s doesn’t go here anymore…she was in recovery, anyway.”

“Recovery?” – this, from me, choking as I say it

“Yeah, you know, the way she explained it, its like any other sinful addictive cycle…you can go into recovery.”

I am really choking by now: “Well, what if you don’t consider it an addiction?” With that, the conversation was effectively ended, the subject changed to something along the lines of homework and upcoming papers.

Now there are several things that can be said about this conversation, starting with the fact that I am developing this oddly impulsive reflex that makes my skin crawl every time I hear the word homosexual. Perhaps I am being quirky and overly sensitive, but I’d like to know if it would be too much to ask for them to just go ahead and say gay, or lesbian, or LGBT, or just about any of the other dozen options. I know that we are supposed to work on reclaiming the very words that have been used against us, and I understand that, and maybe one day I even will be able to… but for now, I still hate hearing people use the word homosexual in every day civil conversation like it isn’t the very word I’ve heard used my entire life to condemn people to hell. I learned in my clinical skills class today that a therapist can use “I wonder” statements to bring a client to an entirely new levels of realization. And so here is my wondering statement for the day: I wonder if it would be too much to ask for us all to go around to the people in our lives who identify differently than we do, whether its ethnically, sexually, or culturally, and find out what the are comfortable being called. I’d venture to say that hardly any of the people you talked to who identified as something other than straight would ask you to please refer to them as “a homosexual.”

Now, on the other hand, “practicing homosexual” is a label I am growing increasingly fond of. I mean, really, does anybody else sense the humor in this? What, exactly, does it mean to be a practicing homosexual? I don’t get any closer to the definition by flipping it around and considering what the implications might be of a practicing heterosexual. So really, that leaves me to form my own interpretation, which is to say: why yes, I am practicing, and I am actually getting much better… thanks for asking.

 

The highlight of today, I mean, of course, apart from memorizing the 14 changing initiatives of Jesus for an early morning quiz, was running home for lunch in between work and a second long trail of classes, only to realize that I haven’t really had time to grocery shop since school started almost a month ago. So in the five minutes that I had before my statistics class started, I threw everything I could find in the blender, which ended up amounting to some ancient –but-still-edible raspberry yogurt, frozen mangoes, some cinnamon apple cider, and a dash of soy protein to top it all off. Now, since I am trying really hard to be authentic here and everything, I feel obligated to add that I have two or three pitchers of strawberry margaritas in my fridge that my friend J and I made last week, but never quite got around to finishing, and I definitely gave some serious consideration to trading my mango apple cider smoothie in for one of those. But I decided that things have not gotten that bad…. Not yet anyway. And it could have been the fact that I was working off of about four hours of sleep from the night before, but I swear the smoothie tasted like an oddly satisfying hybrid of pumpkin pie and baked apples, which sort of felt like drinking Fall in a solo cup, which got me to thinking that maybe the seasons are changing… which got me through the rest of the day.

 

But what is getting me through the week is the fact that I went to see the play Wicked last night, and it is brilliant. I mean this in the most thoroughly British sense of the word. Absolutely brilliant. I saw it a couple of years ago, and I remember thinking in a vague sort of way that it had some deep undertones I ambiguously agreed with… but this time I was absolutely floored to find my own life dazzlingly portrayed in a story about the mishaps of a green witch in an upsidedown version of Oz. Now, without ruining too much of the plot for those of you who are unfortunate enough to not have seen the play, its a thoroughly postmodern take on the Wizard of Oz that tells the other side of the story. It asks, essentially, what if the story we’d been told all along about what was wicked and what was good wasn’t right at all? What if the “wicked” were simply different, and because of this, they were scapegoated by a narrow-minded few who need a common enemy in order to control the masses? What if an entire community within your society had their rights taken away, their ability to speak silenced? Wait a minute, is this all starting to sound less and less like the magical fantasy land of Oz, and more and more familiar? There’s no place like home.

Now it may be this collective instability, this wave of hopelessness we’ve all be riding, or possibly just the fact that I’ve been a bit emotional lately, but when the play reached its climax and the “wicked” witch flew through the air, singing about how she was through playing by the rules of someone else’s game, and was going to try “defying gravity,” I was most definitely watching through tears. I don’t think I was the only one.

Because who can’t, to some degree at least, understand what it is like to be marginalized or misunderstood because of something essential to your identity and out of your control? So what I’m asking here is, why do we keep doing it to each other? Is it so that we have somebody to blame? So we can push and push until we find somebody who won’t fight back, because they are already blaming themselves?

And as Glinda the Good floated around the stage in her bubble, making proclamations that were still hurtful and one-sided, no matter how “good” she seemed to genuinely believe they were, I was reminded of a comment a professor made yesterday. Now, don’t get me wrong. I respect this man. He has a beautiful heart and a bright mind. That’s what makes it all the more painful when he makes comments in class that go something like this: I believe that the practice of homosexual behavior is wrong and its a sin, but the radical thing is, I think that a sin is just stuff that’s bad for you, and psychology has proven that it is in fact bad for you. What made it all the worse was that he thought he was being radical and generous. I am almost positive the rest of the class thought so too. How nice of the professor to float around in his bubble and teach that “the homosexuals” are not sinners who are going to hell. They are just sinners who are a hazard to themselves. But, to quote Wicked, “well we can’t all travel by bubble, can we?” For the rest of us, his simple explanation leaves some questions unanswered. Oreos aren’t good for me. Are they a sin? Nobody would argue about the fact that cancer and abuse aren’t good for you, but I don’t hear anybody calling them a sin (and praise God for that).

Now to be fair, he also included a speech on how the church needs to “stop making the practice of homosexual behavior ‘the bad sin'”, and I definitely don’t disagree. I also don’t necessarily disagree with his assertion that a recent graduate of my program did a study with gay and lesbian individuals, and found that they suffered psychologically because of their sexuality. But come on now, I may have 246 weeks of school left until I’m an official psychologist, but even I know the golden rule of psychology is that correlation does not equal causation. He would suffer too, I think, if instead of a wife and two small kids, he had a lifetime of being told that he loved the wrong gender, that he was sinful and wrong and clearly wasn’t praying hard enough, or things would be different… it would all just go away, and you could be “normal” again. I’m not doubting that there is some psychological damage that comes along with all this sexuality business, and I’d even be willing to use myself as an example. What I am doubting is who should be taking most of the blame.

Here is where, traditionally I end the post with something hopeful. Today, I think it goes something like this… that all is not lost because smoothies made from all the shit you have left over in your fridge and freezer can wind up tasting like Fall in a solo cup. Like the season is changing. And the season, the season is definitely changing… because a year or two ago, I would have heard my professor make a comment like that and truly believed that he was a generous man making a radical statement… believed he was so “good” for showing such grace to the sinners. And now, I am thinking a thousand angry, hurt, conflicted things… but at least I am thinking for myself.

In one of my lectures last week, a guest researcher spoke on how symptoms are often answers to the questions a person is not consciously asking. This is all well and good as a theory, until it manifests itself personally in the most annoying of ways. You see, I used to be a student of a rather compulsive sort… pouring excess amounts of effort into an undergrad education that by the very definition of being a small, Christian liberal arts college, probably did not require all that much effort. Whatever excess energy didn’t go into my school work was well spent at the gym, or running, or running to the gym…. you get the idea.

And now? Now I’m in a PhD program and I can’t seem to get myself to contribute more than the bare minimum to the actual school work. Case in point? I have my first big paper due at the end of the week, and here I am blogging instead of composing a thesis about the role of the Reign of God in therapy. And as for the gym? I have managed to drag myself there only a handful of times since school began, and mostly I am content with a quick jog around the block instead, my little dog in tow.

I thought these two turns of events were coincidences, or perhaps strange secondary symptoms of seminary life. But no, according to our guest psychologist speaker, this loss of my favorite addictions and compulsions is simply the thanks I get for actually, finally, processing my shit, after years of avoiding doing just that.

The thing is, they were really great, as far as vices go. Sure, I might have been closeted and all conflicted somewhere deep inside, but at least I was a reasonably fit straight A student on the outside. That had to count for something, right? And now? Now I’m stuck on the couch, asking all the questions that were a lot easier to handle when they were unasked.

This strikes me, initially, as a pretty crappy deal. I mean, what good does it to me to come to an enlightened understanding of my personal identity at the cost of becoming an out-of-shape, overweight grad school drop out? So I’d like to send a shout out to my misplaced vices… return to me, and I’ll return to leaving all the really hard questions unasked. It’ll be great, I promise…

So, I might be straight. This…this is news to me.
But a good friend informed me today that someone who wears skirts and bakes cookies can’t be a lesbian.

And I wore a skirt this week… twice! (This is because all my jeans were dirty, but that is beside the point.) And, I baked this week! It was not cookies, but it was cupcakes. Aren’t cupcakes even more domestic and heterosexual? They were vegan cupcakes, though, so maybe that exempts me… cause vegans are always lesbians, right? But, than again, I even own heels. I can’t be gay, can I?

So that settles it. I can’t be attracted to girls… at least not why I own dresses and bake cookies.

You learn new things every day.