Thursday, September 30, 2004


This is embarrassing to admit, but I'm always a little surpised when someone disagrees with me on a big issue. I probably come by that quality naturally. My mom consistently described my dad as "convinced" when I was growing up as a more polite way of saying "he thinks he 's always right". Believe me, it is not a trait I admire in myself. I'm aware of it, and I work really hard to keep my mind open to other ways of viewing things...most of the time.

I had a healthy reminder of just this trait in myself during lunch yesterday. I was with two friends at Hoaglin's, a tiny Indianapolis gourmet food market at 49th and Pennsylvania (try the curry chicken salad).

We were discussing the presidential candidates and the election. Between my consulting gigs, I've had a lot of downtime time to live and breathe politics. And at this point I'm pretty sure there is nothing anyone could say to convince me that Bush needs another four years to:

1. Rub out what's left of our economic health
2. Use lies to get us into any more deadly foreign policy debacles
3. Finish squashing the civil rights of my family
4. Continue getting pimped out by the radical religous right

But for one of my friends Kerry's being Catholic and pro-choice was more troubling than anything else. She is Catholic. It was good for me to hear another perspective from someone else I respect and love.

Later, as I sipped bubble tea at my favorite coffee shop (Vecinos on Alabama St) I thought about how I needed to be reminded that not everyone sees things exactly the way I do, and that is probably a good thing.

We'll still start making plans to move to Canada if Bush is reelected, but for now I can bask in what is left of freedom in the U.S. and the value of multiple points of view.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Comments (more) welcome

Until this morning I didn't realize I could change a setting and allow anyone (not just registered bloggers) to comment on the site. I've made some adjustments and now people can leave a response without having to have a blog themselves. My apologies for not figuring this out sooner. I'm still fumbling my way around "blogger."

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Making My Red State Blue

Over dinner tonight John and I decided that Indianapolis needs a liberal think tank to replace the conservative Hudson Institute, which moved to DC from here not too long ago. For those who don't know, conservatism is to Indiana what cocaine was to Bush in his 20s.

So what would be the point of a liberal think tank in a conservative state? Mostly democratic message/audience match up. When it comes to this, I think we can learn some things from the RNC. There are these conservative think tanks like Hudson or the Heritage Foundation and many others. By the way, the name Heritage Foundation always gives me the creeps. I flash back to those commercials in the 80s for Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Christian theme park, Heritage USA. When did the definition of the word "heritage" become homogenous monoculture?

Anyway, these con tanks are funded by large money. They create policy ideas, plans and directions, which can then be broken into bite-sized pieces for consumption by the public. They are not to be undersestimated in their value to the Republican party. I think they are a great idea.

Democrats don't have a similar situation because (1) the lib tanks that do exist (and there aren't many) are not as well funded as the con tanks and (2) liberal messages (and liberals for that matter) tend to focus more on bringing mutliple voices and prespectives into any issue, which makes it more difficult to deliver easily cut and dried messages (they are always in process).

Number 2 is the bigger problem in my mind. It is also our greatest asset. Con tanks typically hand down authoritative dictates and arguments for them--these are their desired products. And frankly, that is the way much of America prefers to be led. Democrats should learn ethical ways of dealing with that fact and lose the detached elitist image.

I'm sure con tanks (or their political partners) also spend time floating out versions of how their ideas are stated so that the public grasps them most readily. Lib tanks should probably recognize that the value placed on multiple perspectives is going to distinguish them from the con tank processes. So figuring out how to include the public's voice in "product development", rather than merely with later market research would be a good idea.

Enter Indiana, a state that frustrates me and wins my heart at the same time. What better place to start a liberal think tank, using a mixture of mid-American values and liberal processes (tightened up a bit for the sake of organization) in the crafting of policy? A lib tank here could shape its policies while involving the very cultural mix of folks they hope to reach in the process. There aren't too many reasons Indiana has to say, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere," but the phrase certainly applies in this case.

So, hello out there George Soros or some other risk-taking liberal philanthropist! Please take a trip to the Hoosier state and help the U.S. (and the world) get up out of this mess we are in now!

John's Family

One of the blessings of being committed to John is also getting to be a part of his family. His mom and dad are so sweet to me and they treat me like another son, and they are very supportive of our relationship. I look forward to the time I get to spend with them.

One of the things I love most is his relationship with his brothers. John is the oldest of three boys. He has one brother, married with a kid who lives here in the Midwest, and another one who lives in Texas with his wife. Both are better phone communicators than John is. John tends to be very focused. Whatever he is concentrating on gets his full attention, which means he often intends to return phone calls that he doesn't get around to. I think his brothers get irritated with him about that, though they usually don't admit it to him (they should).

The best thing is that instead of treating John like a moral second-class citizen because he is gay (which happens a lot in families), they treat him like the big brother they have always loved and leaned on for advice. Neither of them skipped a beat in their relationship with him when he came out (neither did his parents really).

In fact, when the younger Texas brother came up for middle brother's wedding (I'm not using names to protect their privacy) he had to go into our closet to borrow some shoes. John is a mechanical engineer and he has never cared about clothes (or shoes!). John told me later when his brother saw my shoes (I do care) he exclaimed, "Finally, this looks like a gay man's closet!"

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Messin' wif da Translata

For Ali G fans, you can translate my blog into Ali G lingo. Go here and copy the web address for my blog into the space provided: If you copy from the address line on your browser, be sure not to include "http://" since the Translata already has it.

Friday, September 24, 2004

i LOVE this guy!

Check this blogger out if you have time. He is a 20-something same-sex attracted guy who is traveling the ex-gay route. He lays it ALL out there and he knows a friend of mine from Texas (in FL now, I think). I can identify with Ben's perspective. I've had a lot of the same thoughts in the past, though I'm lucky enough not to have run into the same kinds of problem issues and people he has. He says he likes Indy's downtown Borders bookstore, though I think he lives in DC. If he ever comes back to town, John and I hope to take him to dinner to chat with him and help him bypass the gay scene he may be struggling to avoid. And check out those comments! No shortage of judgement there. Human nature I guess, but it's too bad people can't just let him do things at his own pace in his own way.

Keep Your Neighbor from Marrying His Leafblower

No need to make light of the slippery slope arguments. They are very real to a lot of people as this letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star attests:

"The amendment seeks to affirm marriage as between one man and one woman, as it has been defined throughout history. Yes, it will prohibit legal recognition of homosexual marriages, but it will also prohibit recognition of any other arrangement that a judge might decide to call a "marriage," such as between siblings or other close relatives, groups of more than two people, an adult and child, individuals and their pets, you name it.

I'm not aware that the GOP has targeted homosexuals for discrimination, but with a little stretch here and there, a politically inflammatory headline was created."

This letter was written by a a neighbor or ours, who I think genuinely likes John and I. Though it is most concerned with inflammatory headlines, we are getting together soon to talk about her other concerns. I think it is important to listen to this kind of argument. It is a sincere. It also points up a binary thinking about this issue that is unnecessary--either only heterosexual couples can get married or ANY kind of marriage relationship can exist. Surely there is a way not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

In my mind the hippocratic oath ("First, do no harm") seems applicable to exploring the permuations of human relationships that might potentially vie for marriage rights. I wonder why the pro-same-sex marriage group hasn't pointed out that same-sex couples in committed relationships, including those with kids "do no harm" and actually contribute positively to society. In Indiana's governmental system (which, believe me, is a model of conservatism) same-sex parents are considered equal in their abililties to parent kids well. Even without kids, no one is damaged as a result of being in a long-term same-sex relationship.

What about marriages between adults and children? Aside from insufficiently developed understandings of sex and marriage among children, this is an issue of unequal power, minor vs. adult. In this case, the minor would be harmed.

Polygamy? Put it to the hippocratic oath test. Is anyone harmed by this situation? BTW, biblically it is a very traditional approach to marriage. But scrutinizing polygamy through the harm lens probably would not produce very different results than we have today.

I've actually not heard of two siblings wanting to marry, but the same preventative harm standards should apply. As for the man and his leafblower, the leafblower would have a hard time expressing its needs and boundaries. Therefore, I would refer you to the issue of unequal power, though the harm standard might be difficult to prove (I hope you know I'm kind of kidding here).

But here is an even better idea! We know that the two-person marriage model is a good one. What if we just didn't limit the rights and benefits to heterosexual married couples, but opened it up to other two-person committed couples (they would not have to be romantically involved). For instance, there are these two former nuns that live near us. They have lived with each other for years. And they provide foster care for several kids. What if the social security benefits of the one who passes first could be passed on to the surviving sister so that she could better continue to care for herself and their kids? (BTW, same-sex couples, no matter how long they are together are not currently allowed to receive their partner's social security benefits.)

For that matter, couldn't two siblings who have decided to remain single, but don't want the insecurity that comes with singleness in old age also benefit from this strategy? And if one works and is transferred, couple benefits could still be provided to help them both move to their new location.

In both cases, A commitment would still be necessary, but I'm telling you, those nuns qualify in my book.

With this second option, churches then could be in the marriage business, and government could be in the business of supporting healthy family structures for the welfare of all who choose to commit to care for someone besides themselves.

From Bible-totin' to Bible-smokin'

According to the Republican National Committee, a vote for a Democrat is a vote for Bible bans. This is quite a stretch, even for Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention (and that is saying a lot) but is a good indicator of the kinds of irrational scare tactics the RNC uses and evidently to which the Religous Right responds.

An odd thing, the story was picked up from the AP as far away as France, yet when I did some searching for the story today, few Arkansas or West Virginia news services were reporting it. I'll try to look into why that might be.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

"Show-Me" the Homophobia

What do gospel music, aluminum buildings, and men in drag have in common? They all seem to be necessary ingredients for any theatrical production in Branson, MO. How would I know? My partner John and I have been meeting my parents there each fall for the past four years.

You may think I'm kidding about the man in drag thing, but I'm not. And the observation supports my theory that all men dress as a woman at least once in their lives. You might also think that a gay art historian would have sense enough not to vacation in what John describes as the Southern Baptist Las Vegas of the Ozarks. Well, you would have been wrong until August of this year, when Missouri clamped a constitutional tire boot to the rights of same-sex couples and their families.

In "pro-family" Missouri, no matter how many years a gay couple is committed to one another or how many kids they have to care for, they will always have to work harder and longer to support their families, and they will never have the full protections that encourage stable family environments. If Missourians gets any more "pro-family," they'll be sending gay folks and their kids to the back of the motorcoach bus. It is sad, but a state I once loved to visit for all of its campy, quirky Ozark charm now has earned the nickname the Hate State .

My mom was dissappointed when I told her that as a result of the vote we would have to cancel our trip to meet them, since we wouldn't spend another penny in Missouri (and in the past we had spent quite a few--great outlet malls). She tried to convince me that our trip would support "all of those gay boys" who sing and dance in the shows. I think I'd rather support them by providing them a place to stay while they look for jobs in a state that isn't so thrilled about squashing their civil rights.

My parents were sad that we wouldn't be going to Branson with them. But I think they got our point. They were standing in line at a restaurant in Little Rock last week talking to the people in front of them (It always annoys John that Southerners tend to talk to people that they've never met like they are at a Sunday night social).

Anyway, Mom found out that the couple was from Branson. She said that she wouldn't be surprised to meet someone from LR in Branson, but wondered why they would come to LR. The man mentioned that there was some "gay event" going on and they wanted to get out of town. My mom said, "Well I don't know why any gay person would want to go there after the vote you all just took." She said the conversation pretty much ended there.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Gay Christians and the Bible

(Note: This is a long post because it deals with a complex, personal issue (that sounds so 1990s). I don't intend for my average posts to require extra server space, but it was almost necessary in this case. It actually isn't quite that long, but it could frustrate those who are theologically or Troy-biography disinclined.)

As I wrote the Ex-gay piece I came across an accusation from Bob Davies while he was working for Exodus International regarding Christian ex-ex gays (I know, it can get confusing).

"All these so-called ex-ex-gay stories sound the same," said Bob Davies, North American director of Exodus International. "In virtually every case, men and women abandon their previously-held view that homosexual behavior is sin. Ultimately, they go with their feelings, rather than submit to the authority of the Scriptures.

"The Bible offers all of us a clear choice, whether we're gay or straight: Obey the Spirit or yield to the flesh," Davies said. "Jesus commands us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. It's not easy, but that's the basic message of Christianity, and it will never change."

His homogenization of every ex-ex gay story aside, I think Mr. Davies brings up a valid question. How do Christians manage to embrace their same-sex attraction and the Bible simultaneously? I can speak for only one of the ex-ex gays, me.

Something snapped for me back in 1999. I was 32 and wrapping up another not bad but not great dating relationship with a really wonderful woman from my church. She broke up with me, but it was for the best. I had come to the point that I was feeling like I was living a lie that I would never be able to carry off 'til death do us part, and that is what I had in mind for a primary relationship. As I contemplated this, I also began to realize that I'd never lived as an open and honest gay person. I'd either lived as a closeted gay person or an ex-gay person.

I began to look at all of the Biblical references to homosexuality again. As I read them for the umpteenth time, I began to notice that I really didn't fit any of the descriptions of the people these verses described even when I was closeted (rapists, liars, greedy people, thieves, adulterers--all of which involve evil directed toward another person). With some exceptions (which I'm sure I'll hear about later) I'd been a compassionate, God-seeking, loving friend, son and brother (okay, I predict my sister will definitely say I'm gilding the lily with that last part). Sinless? No way, but I would put myself into the "being sanctified" category. I also realized that I had never made an effort to develop relationships with gay people who weren't ex-gay or in the closet.

So I began what I geekily referred to as a "research phase" of my sexual identity (not that kind of research, at least not at that point). I had more questions than answers. And thanks in large part to my time in an ex-gay ministry I had come to know God as a patient parent who was not afraid for a child to question and who would protect them from falling of the face of the earth if they were going in the wrong direction.

In an effort to be honest and to share an important decision during what was a scary time for me, I told my best friend at church, the associate pastor, Jim, about my decision. He was loving, but as I expected would not support my endeavor. Don't misread what I just wrote. He was really sweet about the whole thing (some people in his position wouldn't have been). He did tell me I could no longer teach Sunday School or actively participate in any other ministry. I joked with him, "I can't even pass out bulletins?" (the answer was no). Not having ever been a sit in the pew only Christian, this encouraged me to find another church where I could serve.

I ended up at what is referred to as an "open and affirming" Methodist church. This basically means they welcome and affirm gay and other non-heterosexual people. I was happy to discover that it did not mean that they ignored scripture or the Christian faith. In addition to the hetero people who attended, I began to meet other gay Christians--couples with kids, couples who had been with each other for 20 years or more, a single dad with six adopted children, and other single people.

Not long after I'd been attending I had lunch with Jim and his wife, Janna. They asked me a question similar to the one Mr. Davies asks above--"How do you reconcile where you are now with scripture?" They wanted to understand where I was coming from. Even at this point I couldn't give them a complete answer. All I could tell them was that I could not understand gay Christians until I ended up in close relationship with them. To do otherwise, kept things too abstract. I'd spent a lot of years judging gay Christians from afar or not thinking of them at all. I had figured out that there was more to this picture than I formerly believed and I intended to learn more.

So I served alongside all kinds of people in the church--loving the down-trodden and the not so down-trodden, feeding the hungry, and preaching the Good News of Christ, and goofing around. No lightening bolts, no floods, earthquakes or plagues. And this is what was really strange. For the first time I forgot that I was gay in church. It just didn't really seem to matter.

I went to Washington, DC and stayed with a friend who also knew Jim. And like Jim, he also was a young pastor. He commented that in the entire history of the church, homosexuality had never been accepted. What made me think it was okay now? I thought about it, and said that civil rights for women and racial minorities were not always accepted either. In fact, slavery was accepted Biblically for thousands of years, but we as Christians in the U.S. chose to reject it as acceptable in the 1860s. It didn't seem to me that humans could be expected not to learn new ways to act lovingly, even in the 20th century (it was 1999 at the time). I was kind of surprised to hear a young pastor use the "we've always done it that way before" line that is usually the prime roadblock for progress in any church. I don't want to be too hard on this guy either. He was trying to help and had a mental veracity that really wanted to understand my thinking on the subject. As you can see, at this point I was following my intuition and critical thoughts on the matter. The scripture thing was still looming. Even then I hadn't figured that out.

And I never did, as long as I kept reading the standard "homosexuality is wrong" verses in isolation, away from all of the other versus in the Bible. What finally helped me move from just a gut suspicion (now I suspect it was the Holy Spirit) to a more firm Biblical position was my encounter with two primary resources. One was a Bible study my church offered called "Claiming the Promise". Aside from the cheesy cover of the workbook, the content was pretty thought-provoking. The other document, perhaps more profound in its impact on me was Walter Wink's essay (the version I saw actually was written in 1979) called "Homosexuality and the Bible". Don't expect a quick read from either. Only simple explanations on either side of this controversial issue are short, and I suspect neither group benefits from their existence. And there are other verses, authors, books and experiences I've encountered, but it has not been any one these that has changed my perspective, but a combination of all of them.

In the end, I think I would have to agree with Ex-gay ministries that all of this life, for Christians at least, is about strengthening our relationship with Christ while better serving God and others--that and having parties (my current pastor, Mike, loves parties). Those who find a productive long-term place in ex-gay ministries should be supported to grow towards God in the path they have chosen. That is why I do not believe in bashing ex-gays. They are my brothers and sisters. We agree on some things. Disagree on others. I also will strive for the rights of other people, who are living out their lives (Christian or otherwise) with a different perspective to do the same.

Sadly I have to admit that this last part didn't matter so much to me personally until John came into my life. We met in Sunday School at my new church. He was quiet and smiled all the time. When he did speak I was suddenly very aware that I was not the kindest and most intelligent person in the room (I doubt I was even before he entered it, but it was painfully obvious when John opened his mouth). He is the most Christlike person I've ever met--just the right mix of passion, intelligence, and moral righteousness. And he's cute, too! Don't ask me what he's doing with me. I sure didn't do much to deserve him. He patiently chose to stick by me as I hashed my way through all of the theological and emotional stuff he'd already dealt with.

Four years together and I've found I can't live without him. We celebrated our commitment with a ceremony at our home, which we built together, on May 9, 2003. We exchanged vows and had communion with our families and some close friends who helped us pull it all together. The next day we had a reception with as many of our friends and family as we could cram into our little house and yard. Having been in many weddings, I always chalked the "happiest day of my life" comments into the hyperbole column. But I stand corrected. We had so much fun I can hardly write about it without choking up. Happily, my friends Jim and Janna came to celebrate with us. I don't know where they stood on the "issue" at that point, and it didn't really matter to me. I was just glad to have them there.

Now John and I "work out our salvation" and sanctification as one, with all of the same challenges that any married couple has, and thanks to the current legal state of affairs over a thousand more (sorry, had to put that in). But there is a lot of joy to go around, too. Thankfully we have our faith, church, family and friends behind us. I don't know how couples without those supports manage, but we know several that do.

So, Mr. Davies, there you have it. I don't know if this is what you had in mind when you asked what these ex-ex gays are thinking when they decide they no longer consider living as a gay person a sin, but that is my story. I wouldn't say that I don't have crosses to bear, but being gay isn't one of them. Thankfully, not carrying that cross has made it possible to focus on the ones that relate to my actual callings.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Ex-gay Yellow Brick Road

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. I've been sick. I'm feeling better and have been checking in on my favorite clouds in the blogosphere. One website I hit frequently is Ex-gay Watch. This group monitors the activities of "ex-gay" ministries. I think the work EW does is important since right-wing religious/political organizations like James Dobson's Focus on the Family supports, ex-gay groups such as Exodus International and uses ex-gay ministries to fan the flames of homophobia and general misunderstanding of gay people. And sadly, ex-gay folk themselves are often exploited to fan these flames, as was the case with ex-gay pastor Donnie McClurkin at the Republican National Convention.

I was a participant in an Exodus affiliated ministry for a few years in the mid-1990s when I lived in Texas. I have a pretty good understanding of the kinds of tools such groups use to help participants diminish same-sex attraction and to convince them that same-sex relationships are not compatible with the Christian faith. Obviously, they weren't effective for me as I'm pretty crazy about John and I'm probably more help to God than I've ever been now that I'm not constantly chasing my tail trying to figure out how not to be gay.

While I find the religious right wing's use of ex-gay people as a sword for beating back equal rights for gay people tiresome, I have a different feeling toward the ex-gay people themselves. I actually benefitted from my time in that Texas ministry. How? Well, I feel the best way for me to articulate my experience with my ex-gay pals is by allegorically putting to use one of the most enduring of the gay icons (they exist for a reason)--Kansas's own Dorothy Gale. Let me lay it down for you.

Okay. I'm Dorothy. So, as a boy, I wandered the oak-lined streets of my hometown in Arkansas with a nagging suspicion that I was meant for something different than what I saw. I had been told by my church (and countless other media outlets) that a little boy will grow up to marry a beloved woman and that this is a crowning achievement of humankind. But a little voice (and the raging hormones of my teen years) kept whispering that my destiny lay elsewhere, and I wistfully wished to be where these dreams would come true.

Cue the cyclone (aka shame spiral) of my high school and college years. After years of turmoil caused by doing my best to make myself fit into the mold of a dateable hetero-boy, I found myself tossed up and out of the place I'd known. I eventually landed with a profound thud in a place called Ex-gay Land. I wandered out of my house and found that Ex-gay Land was a remarkable place, unlike any I'd seen. For the first time in my 23 years of life I could discuss my attraction to guys without having to feel hated or judged--with other Christian people no less!

As I took my first steps in Ex-gay Land I discovered that my landing had squashed the Wicked Witch of Self-Hate. The citizens of Ex-gay Land were ecstatic--happy for me and to see her gone. Glenda the Good Witch of Nurturing Kindness popped in and joined the party. But as we celebrated I began to realize that as wonderful as this place was, I needed to get home to continue my work of fitting myself into a hetero-mold. I shared all of this with my new friends, who agreed completely. While they thought my plan to leave a good one, they could not tell me how to return. But they did know that the only person who could help me was the mighty Wizard of Heterosexual Identity.

So they sent me on my way. Before I left, Glenda placed the Ruby Slippers of Self-Respect on my feet and told me that no one or nothing could take them from me (for those who are wondering, not even writing this story). She also said they were the only thing that stood between me and the Wicked Witch of Self-Doubt who showed up and made a scene about wanting my shoes.

On the way to Heterosexual Identity I met many other citizens of Ex-gay land who also wanted to see the Wizard. There was a scarecrow who wanted to learn to think, a lion who needed courage, and a tin woodsman who wanted to learn to love. The Witch of Self-doubt wouldn't make this journey easy for any of us. She and her Flying Fear Monkeys kept holing us up in places we didn't want to be until my Ex-gay Land traveling companions put her in her place, with of all things, the plain water of clarity.

When we finally were able to see the Mighty and Powerful Wizard of Heterosexual Identity we were very impressed. He was strong-jawed and masculine just as we'd imagined. But soon an equipment malfunction revealed that he was no wizard at all, but just another person trapped in Ex-Gay Land, like me. He said that he normally didn't even let people see him, but he liked my Slippers of Self-respect. He kept eyeing my slippers and repeating that last part.

Eventually Glenda showed up and clued me in that the Slippers of Self-Respect had given me the ability to get home all along (note to self--touch base with Glenda when I see her about holding out on me). It was up to me to use them, and I did. I woke up in the same world I'd left, but without the feeling that I needed to escape. The place had not changed, but thanks to my experiences in Ex-gay Land, I had! I finally realized that all of my dreams of loving the person I truly hoped for could come true--not somewhere else, but right here where I belonged.

The End. Yeah, I know, no Toto, horse of another color or poppy fields, but you get the point (you probably got it when the house landed).

And after this story, I shouldn't have to spell out the benefits of ex-gay ministry for a former Southern Baptist boy and others like me. And I imagine that there are hundreds of other Dorothy's, who needed to travel through Ex-gay Land to get to where we are, which in my estimation is a pretty good place. Could we have gotten there without all of the drama? Maybe, but I don't really mind that I went through it. The answer to the question has a more sinister answer for people who aren't up to dealing with the less wholesome characters in my version of the story and move into self-destructive behavior as a result. And another real problem is that the Ex-gay citizens are now over the rainbow and looking for the Wizard of Heterosexual Identity here in the real world, which might not be such a bad thing except that lots of wicked witches and an army of flying fear monkeys followed them.

All I can say is hold on to those Slippers, Dorothy! You're gonna need them.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A Day in the Life of a Selfish Hedonist

There are no better experts in understanding the life of gay people than the religious right. They talk frequently about the unnaturalness of the "gay lifestyle" and obviously have enough of the answers to feel qualified to prohibit same-sex couples from having equal marriage rights.

Well, what about you? Do you feel you know enough about gay living? For those who don't, I've provided a play by play summary of a day in the hedonistic life of a gay man in Indiana. Send the kids to bed and turn on the nanny filter.

Today--Okay, today doesn't really count. I was sick and doped up on cold medicine. I made a few phone calls to people at church and slept. John cooked me a nice Italian sausage pasta dinner and brought me ice cream in bed. I'm not one of those "lost my appetite" kind of sick people, but I am a "can't cook when I'm sick" person . We talked about a rash that looks like poison ivy on his arm and a new idea for a more convenient kind of grocery store (you order and pay on-line, and then drive through and have your groceries loaded into your car). We discussed vacation schedules and the dates of our upcoming foster parent classes.

Yesterday--And here is where it gets kind of crazy.

6:45 a.m. John brings me coffee and the morning paper in bed to wake me up. No kidding. Now some of you straight guys out there are thinking of converting, aren't you? Well, contrary to what most ex-gay ministries would tell you, chances are you couldn't even if you tried. Anyway, John's taken, so forget about it.

7:00 a.m. Read paper, on-line journals, and check e-mail. John leaves for work.

7:45 a.m. Eat breakfast--these days, almond butter on toast. I typically use four pieces of bread. I burn the first two because I forget they are in the toaster oven when I get engrossed in the paper. I'm more attentive with the second two, plus I've had more coffee.

8:30 a.m. Clean the breakfast dishes and sweep the floor. Four pieces of toast and sleepy hands make for a lot of crumbs.

8:50 a.m. Write.

10:00 a.m. Head to church to help my friend Duane paint the 2nd floor of our building so that it looks like a beach. We are launching a new childrens' program that has a beach theme and a long hallway is the project for today.

1:30 p.m. Duane takes off for Taco Bell to get lunch for us and his two kids who are hanging out with us while we paint.

3:30 p.m. I run to the convenience store to get us some Diet Cokes. I buy Twinkies while I'm there. I make sure I eat them in the car before I get back to the church to avoid Duane's reprimands about eating junk food. I don't know what I'm worried about, since he was the one who bought us Taco Bell. Duane's partner Todd stops by on his way home from work to pick up the kids.

9:30 p.m. Call John, who has already been in bed for 30 minutes, to let him know I'll be late. We've roped in another friend, De'Amon, to help us. We'll finish the entire hallway tonight if we all stay.

10:45 p.m. We finish painting and spend a few minutes admiring our work and discussing how we hope the kids in our church will like it. I head home.

11:15 p.m. Eat some leftover potato salad and and then climb into bed. Snuggle for awhile with John, who is sound asleep, and doze off.

I don't know about you, but to me what is most shocking about this day are my food choices. Did I really eat Twinkies? I must have been feeling pretty stressed about getting these paintings done on time.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Not in My Cemetery!

An Arkansas couple, together for 53 years, was separated when one of them died last summer. Bill Bradford, a veteran and the one left behind was not that interested in gay couples having the right to marry. He didn't realize that the Arkansas Marriage Amendment would affect people like him anyway.

Turns out the AMA is worded in such a way that no unmarried couple can receive any of the rights conferred on married ones. Bill didn't think that was such a big deal, until he was denied the right to be buried in the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery next to his partner of 53 years and fellow veteran, Herbert .

So evidently, the religious right can screw us in this life AND after we die. Now that's efficient planning! But Chris Stewart, executive Director of the AMA, learned from the pros. A proud graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University, he is bound and determined that civil marriage rights be limited to the ones who can manage them best. And evidently 53 years of a committed loving relationship and service to the armed forces doesn't qualify you.

Happily, Chris and the AMA folks have addressed one question I have always had: How does same-sex marriage undermine the marriage of heterosexuals and families? In the FAQs section of the Arkansas Marriage Amendment website:

"3. How can the marriage of homosexuals undermine the marriage of heterosexuals and families?

Same-sex marriage is not likely to seriously undermine existing heterosexual marriages. Same-sex marriage does devalue the importance and significance of marriage so that, over time, fewer and fewer people decide to get married. Studies have shown that couples who are not married are 2 – 3 times more likely to breakup than married couples. This does not bode well for children who may be born out of wedlock or grow up with the disadvantages of living in a single-parent households."

And my next question would be "If you 'know' that unmarried couples are more likely to dissolve their relationship, why would you contribute to destabilizing families by not allowing folks who want to marry to do so. Wouldn't marriage rights strengthen the fabric of society you say you care so much about?" And I'd like to see the reference for those "studies" by the way. I tend to question the credibility of people (especially attorneys) who confidently refer to studies with a wave of their hand and then cite no sources. But I have to keep reminding myself that Stewart attended the Pat Robertson school of ethics evasion.

While we are on the subject of faulty arguments, check this one out. From the same FAQ section:

"5. Does the Arkansas Marriage Amendment prohibit civil unions, domestic partnerships and other unions that are similar to marriage?

Yes. Civil unions are counterfeit marriages that undermine the value of real marriages the same way counterfeit money undermines the value of real money. This amendment would prevent the state from conferring on couples all the rights and benefits of marriage and calling it civil unions, domestic partnerships or other names. The amendment prevents the recognition of unions that are substantially similar to marriage. "

If a counterfeiter starts printing fake 20.00 bills, the value of money is indeed diluted. However, the same can be said when the government starts printing too many genuine 20.00 bills (I must credit my partner, John, with this observation). It is not the bill that is valuable, but its relationship to what it symbolizes. The AMA's "counterfeit" argument is one of those "say it wrong, say it often" kind of statements I've heard other far right-wing groups use. It seems to me that Bill and Herbert's relationship was just more gold that could have been added to the treasury, not a fake bill. I'm not sure what Britney Spears' spontaneous marriage (and subsequent annulment) in Vegas a few months back contributes--maybe just another 20.00 bill?

Thursday, September 02, 2004

My Parents, the Selfish Hedonists

I'm nominating Alan Keyes as poster boy for "compassionate conservatism", the recycled brand name for this year's spirit-crushing Republican party platform. I think Keye's would be perfect for the role.

He has soft spot of love for gay people and Republican veep-daughter, Mary Cheney, who according to the supposedly fringy Keyes is a selfish hedonist. I'm pretty sure keeping her father's campaign afloat is a full-time job, so I'm not sure when Mary would have time to hedonate. Still, Keyes pulled the anti-equal marriage rights lever marked, "What? No Procreation?" and revealed just how cold-hearted love can appear.

Channeling a Victorian schoolmarm, the would-be Illinois, via-Maryland, senator stated that if procreation is not an option in a marriage, the sex that happens in it is simply an expression of "selfish hedonism." Is it just me or does anyone else feel more than a little sorry for Ms. Keyes? I called my mom in Arkansas to let her know she and my dad are practicing selfish hedonists.

"Hi mom!"

"Hi sweetie. How are you?"

"I'm fine, but I'm a little worried about you and dad."

"Why honey? What's wrong?"

"Well, have you heard of Alan Keyes?"


"He's this man who's running for the senate in Illinois, even though he's from Maryland and said that people from other states shouldn't move to a state just to run for office."

"Oh, no. We don't know him."

"Well, he said that you and dad are... selfish hedonists?"



"He said that if you are in a marriage state that precludes having kids, then you are selfish hedonists. And I've noticed you've been having a few hotflashes the last few times I've been home, and, well, I put two and two together..."

"Oh...well we didn't know we were selfish hedonists."

"I didn't think you did. And mom, you know that hysterectomy Christie (my sister) had? Well..."

"Hmm...she's a selfish hedonist, too? Oh, Kevin (Christie's husband) had a vasectomy a few years back! They're double selfish hedonists!"

"I have to say I kind of suspected all along. You can kind of tell by the mardi gras beads they're always throwing at people. Do you think other people in our hometown are practicing selfish hedonists?"

"Honey, I'm pretty sure there are. I know several right off hand. Does this mean you'll come home less often than you do already?"

The conversation took a different turn at that point, but I'm still pretty sure our family is going to lose some sleep over this S.H. situation. I can only wonder about the conversation happening right now between Dick and Mary Cheney!

What's So Special about Special Rights?

In a talk with Governor Bill Owens of Colorado on C-SPAN's Washington Journal this a.m. a gay man called in voicing concern about his rights in Colorado.

In response Govenor Owens, in as sweet a way as possible, reminded the caller that the Republican party is not for giving special rights. Are equal civil protections for same-sex families special rights? I'm really asking. It seems like such a silly argument to me that I feel I must be missing something, and honestly it wouldn't be the first time that has happened. Anyway, in support of his position he ticked off two of the five verbal blocks I tend to hear most often for denying marriage rights to same-sex couples.

He pulled out: "100 years of jurisprudence" (the more secular sister of "thousands of years of Biblical teaching") and those pesky activist judges.

For the curious, the other three I hear most often are:

"What, no procreation?"

"Thousands of cultures all over the world--who,by the way, we think should change to be just like us--can't be wrong!"


"Help! The gays are trying to destroy my marriage!"

Fortunately, I think we are pretty safe from the legalization of same-sex marriage. Just as the Bible gives good directions on how to own slaves, it makes perfectly clear that homosexual couples should not share marriage-like relationships. As some folks are prone to point out, 2000 years of traditional Christian teaching can’t be wrong.

Now 1865 years of Christian teaching, that’s a different story. Everybody knew that was how long we needed to rethink the slavery issue. And, of course, we were allowed 1964 years to rethink equal rights for non-white people. But 2000 years? What kind of statute of limitations do homosexuals think God has?

Besides all this, the argument I’ve read that gay folks shouldn’t be married since they can’t naturally produce children is pretty sound. I realize that taking that point of view also means dissolving marriage rights for post-menopausal women and young couples who find they can’t conceive, but is that really too great a price to pay?

So even though some same-sex couples want to support the institution of marriage by taking part in it, we needn’t worry. I believe time and the number of fertile women in the U.S. are on our side.

Later I'll try to uncover the devlish nature of activist judges and consider how most cultures can't hold a candle to the U.S.-- except in the marriage department. I honestly can't decode the logic of how same-sex marriage hurts heterosexual marriage enough to argue against it. Anybody got any clues for me about this position?

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Overloaded Accusation

The National Republican Convention stocked up at the anti-gay pronouncments store before the convention. Aside from the Republican party platform piece on same-sex marriage, which would prefer to deny all gay families, with children or otherwise, any of the civil protections that other families have, they also invited gospel vocalist Pastor Donnie McClurkin to sing. While he had the mike he gave the delegates his perspective on how to best minister to gay folk.

From Richard Leiby at the Washington Post:

"Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who has detailed his struggle with gay tendencies and vowed to battle "the curse of homosexuality," said yesterday he'll perform as scheduled at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, despite controversy over his view that sexuality can be changed by religious intervention.

"I can't let off. I didn't call myself -- God called me to do what I do," McClurkin told The Post's Hamil R. Harris. The Grammy winner declared, "If this is a war, we are willing to fight. Not a war of violence, but a war of purpose."

Despite McClurkin's braveheart-ish language, I think he is probably a loving person. The poor man was raped! Twice!! That is enough to traumatize anyone. What makes me angry is that his generalization that all gay people can trace their homosexuality back to some traumatic experience in their past is a myth that frankly I'd rather the currently rabid right wing of the Republican party not trip over themselves to glom on to.

I am gay. I was not raped. My relationship with my folks is fine, though I must admit my dad and I have had our share of arguments over the years. My partner was not raped. He has lunch with his dad and fixes his computer on a weekly basis. They go on fishing trips to Canada! And everything is fine in the mom department, too. Once I got out of ex-gay ministry and started attending a gay-supportive Methodist church, I started to meet lots of gay folks with similar family relationships and with backgrounds lacking in abuse (unless you count homophobic bullies, which does seem to be a recurring theme).

I support people's freedom to attempt to change their sexual orientation. I can't recommend it if your desire is to get rid or your attraction to members of your sex, but knock yourself out. Some people say they are less attracted to the same sex after they under go "reparative therapy." Didn't work for me. But I'm not one of those people who bash ex-gays marrying other ex-gays of the opposite sex or anyone else they choose as long as people know what's what before the vows are taken.

But if therapy might help anyone, it is someone whose identity was formed amidst rape and seductive meetings with older, more powerful men (I'm speaking with regard to children here-- Golan Cipel probably should have known better if he wasn't into McGreevey. He at least should have called him on it sooner). And if gay folks have abusive relationships that they think could be the root of some bigger problems, then by all means they should get some help, quick!

It may be comforting for people who choose the ex-gay counseling route to believe that all gay people share some sort of abuse history. But the imposition of this incorrect generalization is extremely unhelpful to GLBT folks who don't fit such a mold and who are trying to raise their families or nurture their primary relationships free of the stressful, exclusive platforms and billowing clouds of fear coming from the Republican's "big tent" party. It is equally unfair to imply that the majority of gay people pose threats as rapists and gay recruiters, just as it would be to imply that most straight people are potentially rapists and heterosexual recruiters simply because some are.

I take heart in the fact that, like McClurkin, I once believed these generalizations were true. Fortunately I met people whose history proved otherwise. As gay people become more visible (why it is important to be out) this will be the case for many others. McClurkin is passionate about what he believes, and he truly desires to help people. One day I hope his passion and care for others meets a broader understanding of gay people who would choose to fight to preserve the innocence of children right alongside him.

The Scariest Thing

The most fearful part of my life so far was from the time I was 11 years old until I was about 33. Figuring out that I was Christian and a guy attracted to other guys presented me with more options for panic than an all you can eat Chinese buffet! Here is a quick run down of the specialities:

Fear of abandonment (friends and family if they found out)
Fear of being different (at least I thought I was in a small Arkansas town)
Fear of hell (How long before God gives up on me?)
Fear of the future (Would I ever marry a woman? What if I marry a woman?!)
Fear of failure (Would I be able to stick it out on the healing thing?)
Fear of failure (What would my church do if I fall down on the healing thing?)
Fear of failure (Would I dissappoint my future wife if I fall down on the healing thing?)
Fear of gay people who are okay with being gay (Are they watching me, waiting for me to screw up?)
Fear for safety (don't tell, don't get beat up)
Fear of rejection (don't tell, don't get fired)
Fear of not having the big picture (So many perspectives, so little time)

Day in, day out--my psyche worked over time to help me cope. Not to say there was not a lot of good stuff that goes along with getting on top of all of those questions, but it's a wonder I got anything else done. The conversations now surrounding the gay marriage issue are giving me a few flashbacks. I try to remember that I have had quite a few years (15) to grapple with this question and most people who are new to it and who act unlovingly about it do so mostly out of fear. And fears, especially the big cloud of them that this issue sometimes raises for folks on both sides, short circuit our higher level thinking.