Jul 11

When “Christian love” erases matters of justice (and the people affected by them)

A friend on Facebook posted a link to this blog post by Sheri Dacon.  Dacon’s position is that all the hullabaloo over the recent Hobby Lobby decision (and similar “controversies”) isn’t important.  She insists that what is important is love, which is about people:

When it comes to love for other human beings, it’s important to remember the human being part. Love is not a formula that can be defined or summed up in textbook fashion. Love involves people. And people are messed up, flawed and difficult to love. Me and you included.

She further says:

Love has much more to do with how you respond to that homeless woman outside of Hobby Lobby the store as you leave with your purchases. It has more to do with how you treat the people who are different than you, perhaps the ones who live a radically different lifestyle. Love has less to do with judging and much more to do with giving and accepting and welcoming and sympathizing.

You know, this all sounds beautiful.  To a degree, I even agree with her.  I have just one tiny, nagging question though.

What about the people the Hobby Lobby decision is hurting?

What about those who work for Hobby Lobby and may need Plan B, can’t afford it, and now can’t rely on their Hobby Lobby provided insurance plan to cover it?

What about the people who work for other corporations who now may refuse to cover all forms of contraception?

What about the people whose employers may even refuse to give them notice that their insurance plan won’t cover contraception?  What happens to them when they find this out the hard way — because they need it and now have no way to afford it?

What about the LGBT people who may face workplace discrimination by religious organizations seeking government contracts?

These are all people who stand to be adversely affected by the Hobby Lobby ruling and other actions and decisions that have stemmed from that decision.  These are people who Dacon seems either to be unaware of or has chosen to forget about.

That’s the problem with many “Love/People over Issues” approaches.  They forget that issues are also about and impact people.

 

May 15

Generous Spaciousness: Whose Space is It?

Earlier this week, i received my Kindle edition of Wendy VanderWal-Gritter’s book, Generous Spaciousness:  Responding to Gay Christians in the Church.  I’m about to start chapter 11 (which puts me a little over halfway through the book), and it’s so far been a pretty good read.  I haven’t decided whether I’m going to do a review of the book itself yet.  I’ll have to wait until I get finished with it and mull over if there’s anything that I want to say about it that other potential readers might find helpful when considering whether to pick up a copy.  (Generally speaking, I think people would do well to pick up a copy, but that statement alone is probably not very helpful to most potential readers.)

As I’ve been reading the book a number of thoughts have come up in my mind.  The one I want to blog about today is related to the question I put in the post’s title:  Whose “space” is it?

From reading the book so far and conversations I’ve had with Wendy1 in the past, generous spaciousness is a concept that is meant to be applied on the personal and institutional level.  On the personal level, it is an attitude of welcome and agreement to live in tension and even disagreement with others.  On an institutional level, it is a formal or informal policy that encourages leadership and members to embody that attitude in word and deed.  The latter, which I’m going to focus on, can be more fully seen in Wendy’s recent OnFaith article about how go engage gay Christian who attend one’s church.  Because the title of that article also points to the one nagging problem I see:  Whose church is it?

While I’m not arguing against the idea that churches need to consider how to be more welcoming of and how to minister to LGBT people, people who are questioning their gender and/or sexuality, or people who are simply wondering what God really says about sexuailty, gender, and same-sex sexual relationships, the very notion of “making space” for such people suggests that the church belongs to a different group of people and not those for whom such “space” is being made.

Ultimately, it becomes a question of how welcoming a space can truly be when the space is controlled by others who get to decide how welcoming to make that space.  Such a space still offers a great deal of comfort, safety, and privilege for those who control it and demands more risk and potential discomfort for those form whom “space is being made.”  Those who wish to truly be welcoming of LBGT people, their supporters, and those who are sorting through questions about LGBT lives and faith journeys need to wrestle with that injustice.  How does one make a space truly welcoming and generous to those who do not share “ownership” or control of a space?

Ultimately, I think that Christians also need to consider that rather than or in addition to “making space” for others in their space, they need to be prepared to completely give up their privilege, comfort, sense of control, and “home field advantage” by humbly2 seeking out those they wish to know in their own spaces, where they can feel safe and truly feel on equal ground or even at an advantage.  After all, trying to meet others only on one’s own terms is not an attempt to meet others at all.  Wendy talks about doing just that in her book when she talks about the first year she attended the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference.


1As an aside, I should point out that I have spoken with, met, broken bread with, drunken wine with, and gotten my butt kicked in a game of Stone Age by Wendy.  As such, my interactions with her do affect how I approach and engage with this book and the subject of generous spaciousness in general.

2As anyone who has maintained or or belonged to any space that caters to and seeks to be safe for marginalized people can tell you, there are different ways for privileged people to try entering and behaving in those spaces.  Some of those ways can disrupt such spaces and even make them unsafe.  Wendy exemplifies one of the better ways to go about this when she talks about how she approached seeking entry to her first GCN conference.

Apr 02

Follow Up on “Art School Stole My Virginity” story.

Back in October, I blogged about a Queerty story about art school student Clay Pettet’s scheduled performance art piece.  At the time, the Queerty writer (and the handful of other writers I saw cover the story) presented it as if the performance art would involve Pettet being anally penetrated in front of an audience.  According to a report in Gay Time Magazine by Darrel Larkin, that’s not what the actual performance involved:

We hear Pettet revealed himself to the crowd with “TEEN WHORE” written on his body and a few other performers carrying signs that read “ANAL VIRGIN”. So far we’re scoring 10 out of 10 on the terminology used, all of which Google would happily suggest well over 500,000 results for. Then afterwards he migrated to another dim lit room where randomly selected guests were invited to penetrate his mouth with a banana….

Quite a different experience than what everyone was expecting.  Larkin makes some interesting points about how our expectations of this performance was an underlying point of it.

 

Apr 01

Coming Out Anniversary Post: The Need for a Relationship

Going to Hell Tee ShirtIt’s April 1st once again.  For those who have been following my blog for a while, you know that this is significant in that it’s the anniversary of my initial coming out.  Eighteen years ago, I quit denying that I was attracted to other men, quit claiming it was “just a phase,” and quit trying to change myself.  (Well, where my sexual orientation is concerned.)

I don’t commemorate or blog about the event every year (See the bottom of this post for links to older anniversary posts), though I decided I wanted to again this year.  This year, I want to consider how my attitude about dating has changed since I came out.

When I came out, dating was extremely important to me.  This is partly because part of the reason I finally came out was because I was tired of being alone.  I was tired of suffering, thinking I may never be able to find — or even allow myself to find — someone I could deeply care about and build a lasting relationship with.  So when I came out, finding someone to love was of grave importance to me.  To put it quite frankly, I was rather desperate at the time.

Consider that I was walking away from years of belief that being gay was bad and that the kind of relationship that appealed to me was strictly prohibited.  Consider that rejecting that belief required me to give up a lot of my identity (being an evangelical Christian — and most evangelicals still insisted that the phrase “gay Christian” was an oxymoron and an abomination at the time — was a huge paart of my existence and idenity) and to strain many freindships and relationships.  So the idea that I’d give all that up and still end up alone was terrifying.  So I ended up putting a lot of energy into the idea that I had to find someone.

It’s a mentality that lasted for years, over a decade and a half in fact.  In time, though, it’s a mentality that began to fade and is now more or less gone.  That’s not to say that I don’t want to find someone to build a life with.  Dating is still important to me.  Having a loving relationship is still important to me.  It’s just not my single-minded obssession anymore.  Now, it’s just something that I’d like to achieve when the time is right and I meet a great guy I’m compatible with and mutually attracted to.

I think I really began to notice this change a few months ago, when I ended my most recent relationship.  I ended it because I just couldn’t see myself being with him long-term, which was something he was definitely looking for.  In general, I’ve found myself far more picky about the guys I date and continue to invest time in, which I think is a positive thing.

I think part of this is due to the fact that once I quit spending so much time and energy figthing with myself over my sexual orientation, I was able to slowly build myself back up.  With the question of how my being gay affects my identity and worth, I was able to more fully explore my identity in all areas of my life.  I was able to build up who I saw myself as, and where I found my sense of worth and emotional strength.  As a result, that idea of a relationship quit being the life-vest I clung to out of desperation.

But that’s something that could only develop once I came out and accepted that one part of myself.

Previous Anniversary Posts

Also, be sure to check out Journey to Queerdom.

Mar 21

So, Fred Phelps is Dead

[Content Note:  Death, Homophobia]

I didn’t get a chance to write about this yesterday, but Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church (that’s the “God Hates Fags” church, for anyone not familiar with its name), died on Wednesday night.

I’ve seen tweets, facebook updates, and blog posts about it.  Some have been humorous.  Some have been matter-of-fact.  Some have been offering sympathy to his family and friends.  Some have been about how LGBT people should respond to his passing.  Some have speculate on what (if any) afterlife he is now facing.

To be honest, I neither mourn nor celebrate his passing.  I never even met the man, and I think it’s difficult to truly mourn someone you don’t have at least some sort of personal connection with.  The only connection I have to the man is his declared hatred of me and those like me.  Again, this I only experienced in the most abstract of ways, or seeing how his words affected others, sometimes in horrible ways.

And truth be told, I suspect that part of Phelps’s legacy will continue past his death.  I do not expect that the WBC or its campaign of hate will disband with the death of their founder.  There are still enough people who have been infected with the man’s hate that will continue on without him.  Perhaps in a few more years, a new name (quite possibly that of his daughter, Shirley) will become more widely known as the name associated with the WBC and their campaigns, but that’s about it.

And, as both Fannie and Peter Montgomery noted, there are people outside of the WBC whose anti-gay views and actions are just as harmful, if not more insidious.  As both linked bloggers, such people have often pointed to Phelps and his cult as proof that they’re “not that bad” compared to the “real haters.”  I have no doubt that particular trend will continue as well.

Fred Phelps may be dead, but his legacy of hatred is alive and well and will continue for some time yet.  As someone who believes in reincarnation and believes that the cycle is about justice1, I pray that his soul returns to the earth soon and finds a way to clean up some of the mess he has produced and given root to.


1As opposed to retribution.

Mar 12

I’m nothing like “the left” Jospeh Farah describes.

And I doubt anyone else is, either.  And yet, he goes to great length to speak authoritatively about what “the left” is like.

So, what does Farah think I’m like?

The left hates religion. It hates God.

Except I don’t.  I actually love religion.  In fact, I’m a religious follower myself.  But, you see, Farah isn’t talking about any or all religion, he’s talking about Christianity.  To him, none of those other religions matter or exist.

More specifically, Joseph Farah doesn’t even mean all expression of Christianity, either.  No, to him, “religion” doesn’t just mean “Christianity,” but “Christianity that looks exactly like i think Christianity should look like.”  All those Christians that disagree with his views?  They don’t exist or matter, either.

But here’s the thing, even if we redefine “religion” to mean “the kind of Christianity that Joseph Farah appreciates,” his claim that I hate it is simply untrue.  I don’t hate his religion.  I don’t believe in it, that’s for sure.  I think it’s worthy of deep and lengthy criticism for a number of reasons.  But that is not the same as hatred.  Farah’s choice to conflate my disbelief and criticism as hatred makes any honest communication impossible.

His claim that I (and all progressives) “hate God” is troublesome for the same reason.

It doesn’t recognize any behavior as sinful, with the possible exception of voting Republican.

I will admit that “sinful” and “sin” are not parts of my vocabulary.  However, that does not mean that I don’t have ethical standards of any sort.  Indeed, there are several things that I find highly unethical.  Here’s a short list:

  1. Using force, deception, or manipulation to get someone to do something they do not wish to do.
  2. Allowing systemic oppression to continue unchallenged.
  3. Treating others as being less deserving of dignity than oneself.

Farah acts as if the only ethical standards that matter is who someone is or isn’t having sex with.  The fact that he completely ignores all of my other ethical standards is quite telling.  Again, it shows a level of dishonesty on his part.

The rest of Farah’s article is equally garbage, but the above points serve to demonstrate one clear fact:  Farah is not interested in giving people like me an honest hearing or encouraging his readers to do so.  He is much more interested in painting us as some sort of monolithic force that matches his straw liberals.

Quite a curious position for someone who goes on to complain about “the left’ vilifying people like himself, don’t you think?

 

Feb 07

Musings about Piers Morgan

And by “musings” I mean “a barely (hardly?) contained rant.”

Okay, for those who may not be familiar with what I’m talking about, Piers Morgan had trans woman, activist, and author Janet Mock on his show earlier this week.  The way he handled the interview was highly problematic, as has been explained by numerous people who did it far better than I can, so I’m not going to try.  Mock and those who support her decided to criticize the way she was treated on his show, and Morgan has acted like an ass since.  Furthermore, he’s acted like an ass who insists that he’s now the one who’s being wronged.  (Because you know, heaven forbid you actually criticize a white cis man who sees himself as a good guy.

One of his more recent complaints is this whine:

And there you have it, folks, the martyrdom of the faux ally.  Because, you know, allies never have unexamined privilege left lying around (we1 do).  Allies never screw up (we do, and all the time).  Allies are always above criticism (like hell we are).  Here we have Piers Morgan demanding the “cookies” he feels he earned from (alleged) past good deeds.

I call bullshit.  A real supporter would have display more critical reflection than that.  A real supporter would be open to correction and seek to be supporting.  And a real supporter would never dream of whining about how the people he’s supported “turned on him,” as if they owe him anything.

If Piers Morgan thinks this is what “supporting LGBT rights” looks like, then this is one cis gay man that would be much happier without his support.  I won’t abandon my trans* friends and acquaintances for anyone’s support.


1I’m saying “we” because as a cis gay man, I have relative privilege compared to trans* people.

Feb 06

Dude, try to remember I’m a person.

I’m on a lot of sites and mobile apps for meeting guys.  Some of them are “traditional” dating sites.  Some of them bill themselves for “flirting and chatting.”  A few are unapologetic hookup sites (and apps that don’t call themselves hookup apps, but only because doing so would get them in trouble with Apple and possibly Google).

On all of them, I have a fairly nonsexual profile.  No nude or even shirtless pictures.  And while a given profile may give indication I’m open to sex (including sex outside of the bounds of a longterm or romantic relationship), I also make it clear that I’m looking for even more.  Heck even my Grindr1 profile says the following:

Just a funny, friendly, and (allegedly) charming guy who likes to chat, laugh, and see what happens.  Say hi.

For the BoyAhoy/Skout app (which is where the exchange this post is about took place), my “About Me” section is a bit longer:

I’m a wonderful guy who loves to laugh and make others laugh.  I love making new friends and seeing how we connect.

I’m a romantic and often a goofy one at that.  I’m very affectionate, compassionate and caring, but have a wild side to, if brought out by the right guy.

A sample from the book I’m working on:

“You can spend the night if you’d like.” I blinked. I looked at him long and hard. I really did like him, and it was so tempting. He straightened and said, “Maybe I’m being too forward.”

“No,” I added quickly. “Believe me, it’s a tempting offer. And part of me wants to say yes. It’s just…been a while….”

He reached up and took my chin between his thumb and forefinger, gently tilting my face up to his. I held my breath as he said, “Maybe it’s been too long, “ and leaned down. His lips met mine and I closed my eyes. My posture softened as our kiss deepened. I gave myself over to the experience, knowing that I wanted him more than anything.

He pulled back and looked into my eyes. I nodded. He unlocked and opened the door. I walked in ahead of him and headed up the stairs.

So this is the profile that a certain guy checked out a few days ago before he sent me his first message:

So what are you into

I replied with a variation of my standard reply to this question:

Reading, writing, movies, going for longs walks, going for drives, etc.

Apparently (and not surprisingly), this was not the answer he was looking for, as he made clear with his next message:

Haha ok that’s not what i meant but ok

Well,  yeah, I kind of figured that’s not what he meant.  However, it’s what I felt like sharing about myself at the moment.  (As an aside, other than a handful of pictures, his age, and the fact that he’s interested in men, his profile has “Ask Me” for ever field.  So he’s effectively shared nothing.)

I decided to reply with a simple “ah,” as I still didn’t feel like sharing the information he was clearly looking for or try to strike up a conversation when he’s put no effort into such an endeavor himself.

This is where the butthurt (or at least what I perceive as butthurt) came in:

Ok sorry to bother you I seen you on other sites but obviously your not interested in me take care

Okay, here’s are the problems I have with this response:

  1. Why would I be interested in someone who’s told me nothing about himself that might pique my interest
  2. Why would I be interested in someone who’s first message effectively calls for me to give a laundry list of my sexual interests and/or preferred sexual roles?  Experience has taught me that such a guy isn’t interested in me but merely what I can do sexually for him.  I don’t need long term commitment or love, but I do need to be seen as a person.
  3. If he’s seen me on other sites and bothered to glance at more than my profile pictures, he should’ve realized that last point might be an issue for me.  I mean, every single profile I have mentions I’m primarily looking to chat2 and connect.
  4. Since when has sharing a list of things that I enjoy doing with another person exactly communicated a lack of interest.  Sure, it makes it clear I’m not yelling “take me now!”  But it certainly indicates I’m open to conversing further.

I considered telling the guy all this, but I decided against it.  A while back, I realized I’ve grown tired of trying to explain to self-absorbed men who managed to go at least two decades without learning basic guidelines for conversing with strangers3.  So I just told him to take care and left the conversation.


1One of the reasons I chose my Grindr profile for this example is that it’s the profile that frustrates me the most, what with the app’s ludicrously small text limit.

2I’m beginning to think that most gay and bi guys think “chat” is always synonymous with “sext.”

3Note that I”m not talking about socially awkward or not knowing what exactly to talk about.  I often find those things endearing, especially if someone is struggling to be conversant in spite of that.  But I know a lot of socially awkward people who understand that “what will you let me do to you once I get you naked” is not an appropriate conversation starter.

 

Feb 04

(Disjointed) musings on Jennfier Roback Morse’s recent interview

[Content Note:  hostility to agency]

I’m reading the recent interview with Jennifer Roback Morse in the National Catholic register and I just have to shake my head.

Let’s go over some of the more…interesting statements.

When asked about the injuries caused by the sexual revolution:

Contraception is an expected part of a woman’s career path. So that means the whole system is built around women treating their bodies as if they were men’s bodies.

So wait a second, using contraception and terminating an unwanted pregnancy amounts to “women treating their bodies as if they were men’s bodies”?  So the only thing that makes women’s bodies different from men’s bodies is that the former can be used as a baby-incubator?  I find Morse’s depiction of womanhood and women’s bodies unfortunate and horribly dismal.

In defending her insistence that the sexual revolution is a totalitarian movement:

So the government has to step in and control people’s behavior and even people’s thoughts about what’s possible, desirable and realistic. The HHS mandate is just one example of the government stifling dissent by essentially saying: “This society will be built around contraception, and there will be no dissent from that.” That’s one example of totalitarianism coming straight from the government and literally shutting down people who disagree.

Here’s the thing:  No one is being forced to use contraception.  The government is saying all people should be allowed and able to use contraception if they so choose.  That’s a signifcant difference from the strawman that Morse is erecting here.  Indeed, it is Morse and those like who are insisting that those who disagree with their position should be forced to comply with their view of the world.

while listing the “victims” of the sexual revolution:

Consider, for example, people who’d like to stay married but their spouse wants a divorce, so that’s the end of it. The government takes sides with the party who wants the marriage the least.

Would she actually prefer that the government coerce someone to remain with a spouse or partner they do not love and do not wish to be around anymore?  Talk about totalitarianism.

But wait, it gets better:

We all know somebody in this category — the jilted wife or the husband who’s kicked out of the family because his wife didn’t want to be bothered with him anymore, and now the courts are making him pay child support for kids he doesn’t see.

Reread that last clause a few times.  Here we have Jennifer Roback Morse — who spends a great deal of time talking about the importance of marriage and families to care for children — now talking about men being “forced” to help support the children he helped bring into this world.  Apparently, men should only be held responsible for the children they bring into the world if “they’re allowed to see them”?  Doesn’t sound like a very “pro-children” position to me.

On “heartbroken career women”:

These women are also all around us, but we simply don’t see them. [Culture says] the entry fee into the professions for women is that you chemically neuter yourself during your peak childbearing years in your 20s — and if you have an “accident,” you get an abortion.

Exactly what “culture” tells women that the price for them having a career is not having children?  There are organizations that advance and push for legislation to protect pregnant women in the workplace.  You know who doesn’t support that legislation?  The so-called “pro-life” crowd.  People who insist that for women, having a career and a family are incompatible.  In short, people like Jennifer Roback Morse.  So the fact that she an those like her push this “career or family” dichotomy, then have the audacity to feign pity for those women who feel like they’re stuck with that dichotomy is contemptible.

On the men and women who are “victimized” by the sexual revolution by “the lack of suitable mates”:

Absolutely. And I hear it from men, too [about not finding suitable wives]. Our whole culture is so sexualized it’s hard to find a suitable mate. Many young people have told me they wish the Church would do more to facilitate young adults meeting each other in a faith environment, where people won’t always be coming onto you.

I don’t know, maybe part of the problem here is that people are looking at other people as “potential mates” rather than people to get to know.  This whole thing makes finding a mate sound like a mission that erases real interpersonal relationships.  That’s something Morse listed as a problem earlier in the interview.

(h/t Right Wing Watch)

Feb 01

Cook’s Corner: Hamburger and Rice Skillet

As I have a pretty well stocked freezer (as in I have enough entrees to last me at least two months, if not three or four), I’ve decided to take a bit of a break from the heavy duty cooking.  However, I also decided that I wanted to do something special for lunch, so I decided to make the Mexican hamburger rice skillet that I found on Dick Logue’s Low Sodium Cooking a few months ago.

A skillet of yummy goodness!

A skillet of yummy goodness!

I haven’t made the recipe since sometime in November, and I decided to make a few changes it to it this time around:

  1. I decided to add chopped green peppers in addition to the chopped onion, as I’m finding that just about everything tastes even better when I add peppers to it.
  2. I decided to throw the onions and pepper into the skillet with the ground beef while I browned it.  Again, I’m finding this enhances the flavor.
  3. I decided to replace the orzo with another cup of rice.  Since I use brown rice, it breaks down into glucose more slowly than orzo (which I have not found in a whole wheat form).  This makes it a bit better for diabetes control.

The whole thing turned out wonderful, as you can see from the picture I’ve included.  I’m quite pleased, especially with the fact that I finally found the right amount of water (3 cups) to add to the mix.  I don’t know what rice Logue is using, but the 1-1/2 cups of water he recommends isn’t nearly enough for the stuff I’ve been getting.

Of course, I’m also trying to figure out how he came up with the nutritional information he lists on his site.  Again, based on the rice I’m using, the original cup of rice alone divided into four servings makes the carbohydrate count 32 grams per serving.  In fact, I was quite distressed when I realized (only after the fact, naturally) that adding an apple and a yogurt to my lunch put the whole meal two starches over my allowance for this meal.  So when my BG is a bit high when I check it in a few minutes, I’ll know why.  Oh well, I’ve been doing well on that count, so one hiccup shouldn’t be a problem.

I love how it turned out, but I’m still thinking of ways I might play with the recipe.

  1. Add another can of tomatoes.
  2. Cut back to a single cup of rice with no other starch.  (If I do this, I won’t increase the tomato, more than likely.)
  3. Add a splash of red wine for flavor.
  4. Spice it up a notch with a little cayenne pepper or maybe some chopped jalapeno.

Yes, I’m getting obsessed with cooking.  Now if I could just find someone to do the dishes for me.