Category Archives: Sexuality

Open letter Christian webcomic artist Adam Ford

[Content Note: Homophobia, transphobia, mentions of anti-gay and anti-trans violence, mentions of suicide]

My niece posted a link to this webcomic earlier today. I decided the webcomic artist deserved a response.

Dear random Christian dude who wants to reassure me he doesn’t hate me by writing a lengthy and completely impersonal webcomic,

Look, I get it. Your uncomfortable with the fact that many LGBT people think of socially conservative Christians as hateful. The thing you need to understand is that A LOT of your fellow Christians do indeed act terribly hateful. Some of them may even be people that you and your church support and revere.

Plus, the other thing you need to understand is that you don’t have to be screaming obscenities or anything equally obvious to act in ways that are hurtful and even come across as hateful. So let me do you a favor and go through your webcomic and point a few things out to you that you get terribly wrong.

I am a Christian who believes the Bible is the Word of God, any homosexual practice is sinful, and marriage will only ever be the life-long union between one man and one woman.

But I promise you, I don’t hate you.

You know, it’s hard to believe you don’t hate me — or at least that you have my best interests in mind — when your first volley in your “reassurance” is to state unequivocally that you will never consider any emotionally and sexually intimate relationship that I might build with someone to be anything other than irredeemably sinful and illegitimate. I mean, you could have started demonstrating your commitment to loving LGBT people by talking about what you are trying to get the church to do about the fact that many states still allow employers to fire  people simply for being LGBT. Or you could have talked about what you’re trying to get the church to do about anti-LGBT violence — especially violence against transgender people who are most often targeted. Or you could have talked about what you want to do about the problem of increased instances of homelessness and suicide rates among LGBT youth.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. There are a lot of very real problems that LGBT people face, and you could be doing something right now to help alleviate and address those problems. But instead, you decided to start by drawing your line in the sand. Or let’s call it what it really is, your chosen battle line. Try and understand just how false that makes the rest of your claims sound.

The world sets us up as polar opposites, though. It says we’re bitter enemies in a “culture war,” lobbing Molotov cocktails at each other on the front lawn of the White House.

Do you know who actually uses the phrase “culture war” regularly, and insists they’re fighting one. Many of your fellow Christians. People at the AFA. People at the FRC. People at Focus on the Family. Pat Robertson. These are extremely visible and powerful Christians. They’re the ones pushing the “culture war” framing. And that’s when they’re not comparing LGBT people to sexual predators, calling us mentally ill, or saying God sent AIDS to punish us. There are a lot of other terrible things they say, too. I encourage you to do some research.

So my question to you is what are you doing to real in your fellow Christians who are pushing this “culture war” frame? Are you pushing back and telling them to shut up? Are you making sure that neither you nor your church supports the Christian organizations that are actually promoting and acting as aggressors in the culture war? Or are you just remaining silent and hoping that I and every of LGBT person will magically know you don’t agree with them and “aren’t like those Christians” (or believe it just because you say so)?

If you are gay, your fallen heart tells you to lust after people of the same sex.

God calls that sin.

My fallen heart tells me to lust after people of the opposite sex who are not my wife.

God calls that sin.

Did you notice the major difference between those two statements. You see, according to you, God offers you a context in which you’re allowed to embrace and explore your sexual desires. But according to you, God offers LGBT people no such context. Any such exploration we may consider is sinful. Full stop. End of story. Try to understand how cruel that makes your vision of God in my eyes.

Also, stop to consider how you’ve just implicitly reduced all same-sex relationships to nothing more than sexual gratification. You’ve completely ignored and invalidated the fact that many same sex relationships also involve deep emotional intimacy, mutual care, nurturing, and many other qualities that I’m sure you value in your own marriage. Again, when you start trying to caricature our relationships to fit your “sin” narrative, it’s rather difficult to accept that you’re as hate-free as you claim.

The liberal “churches” which are now saying, “Oh hey! God changed his mind and is totes cool with the gay stuff now 4 real!” do not really love you. They want your approval.

Sounds to me like you need to write a follow-up comic to let liberal churches know you don’t hate them, too. Though I’m not sure they’ll believe you any more than I believe you. But on a more serious note, I think it’s entirely condescending of you to claim you know the hearts and motives of others. Also, I’ll note that many of those liberal churches have actively backed their claims of love by actively doing things to address all of those serious issues facing LGBT people that I mentioned earlier. You haven’t done that yet. I trust you’re familiar with he phrase “action speaks louder than words.”

Not because I say so; because God says so. (See: entire Bible)

There’s a problem with that claim — and it’s really relevant to your rather disparaging comments that liberal churches say God “changed his mind” by the way. People have been saying “God says so/the Bible says so” for centuries, only to later decide that maybe the Bible doesn’t actually say that after all. I mean, there was once a time when many Christians insisted that the Bible said that it was okay to own slaves. In fact, at least one denomination (hint: it’s the largest and most well-known Baptist denomination in the United States of America) was founded on the principle that the Bible clearly states that slave-owners are allowed to own slaves. I don’t know any Christian who would insist that the Bible says that anymore. I doubt that you or any of your fellow Christians today would phrase that change in belief or interpretation of the Bible as “Oh hey! God changed his mind!”

Truth of the matter is, the Bible is hugely open to interpretation and always has been. There have been huge arguments over what the Bible allegedly says, and people on both sides of many of those arguments have insisted that the Bible “clearly says” whatever position they happen to hold. So please, accept that liberal Christians might actually legitimately come to a different interpretation of the Bible, lest you fall into the hubris of thinking you are the authority of what the Bible says. Trust me, history is rife of examples of why that may not end so well for you.

Repent and believe that gospel.

The word “gospel” means “good news.” I ask you, what “good news” are you offering to LGBT people. Quite frankly, I don’t find “you have to live your entire life without any sort of sexual or emotional fulfillment or intimate companionship” to be all that good of news. Can you do it? Why not? After all, the Bible also makes it clear that it would be better for you to remain unmarried. And yet, you mentioned having a wife. Why are you trying to place burdens on other people that you have not accepted for yourself?

We love you, so we must tell you the truth.

Okay. You’ve told me. You’re at least the 100th person to tell me this. (Seriously, do you really think LGBT people have never heard all of this before? You might want to check your facts.) I’m telling you, I don’t buy it and it stinks like yesterdays garbage after it’s sat in the sun all afternoon.

But while we’re on the topic of how much you allegedly love me, let me ask you something: What good is love without relationship. You don’t know me. You haven’t taken a single moment to get to know me. You haven’t listened to my story or shared in my joys or my woes. To be frank, all you’ve done is preach at me, possibly hoping that the cutesie webcomic format will make it more tolerable. If your love is that impersonal and impersonal, then I think I’ll still with the “vote seekers” and “approval seekers.” Once again, at least they seem to understand some of the real and serious problems I and many like me face and are actively trying to do something. They’ve shown real, tangible acts of love.

So thanks, random dude who knows nothing about me and likely will do absolutely nothing to change that. I hope that your webcomic gave you that sense of “being loving” you were trying to create for yourself. It did absolutely nothing for me.

Best wishes,

Jarred.

A gay man who just doesn’t quite believe you.

Moderation Note: This is a no proselytizing thread. Comments trying to convince me that I need to “repent” will be deleted. Commenters that repeatedly ignore this rule will be banned. But don’t worry, there’s no need for you to tell me the truth. Adam Ford has already taken care of it. You can even see the proof for yourself.

 

How not to reach out to gay people.

Trigger Warnings:  Homophobia, suicidal thoughts, sexually violent dreams, frank sexual talk.  If you don’t feel you can handle reading this post, I completely understand.  Please feel free to ask Personal Failure to share one of her otters with you instead.

Confessions of a Former Conservative is one of my favorite blogs, as he critiques, challenges, and denounces some of the more spiteful things said by fundamentalist and other ultra-conservative Christians online.  One of the blogs he regularly critiques is written by a woman named Gerie.  He recently posted a critique on her condemnation of Christians who are pro-gay and reaffirmed her own certainty that being gay is a sin.  As she quoted the Romans 1 “clobber passage,” I offered the following commentary on Former Conservative’s post:
 

You know what? That particular passage pisses me off. You know why? Because it suggests that the cause of homosexuality is idolatry. Well, guess what? I grew up a good little Christian. i said the sinner’s prayer and meant it. I did everything I was supposed to. And I still turned out gay. I tried to convince myself it was a phase. I stayed gay. I prayed to God and begged with Him to turn me straight. I’m still gay.

So you know what? Fuck Romans 1 (or at least Gerie’s interpretation of it.) Because I did everything I was supposed to and I still ended up fucking gay. So obviously, either Romans 1 is bullshit or Gerie’s interpretation of it is.

And I’m not the only person who had that experience. There’s at least one website dedicated to people who did everything right and even tried to overcome their gayness and yet remained gay.

I understand that Gerie’s the type that will continue to believe her whacked-out interpretation over reality, but come on. She can at least acknowledge that she’s a reality-denier. It’d be the honest thing to do, and given how important the truth (supposedly) is to her…..

Apparently, Gerie read my statement, because it’s a fairly that her Monday post is a direct response to what I said.  As I read it, I was both amused and disgusted.  I was amused because I found many of the things Gerie said in response to my comment to be quite predictable.  I was disgusted for the same reasons.  Gerie’s response is a non-response.  A response actually engages with what was said and seeks dialogue.  Gerie’s lengthy missive makes no such attempt.  Instead, it is little more than a reiteration of her position and an attempt to make my own personal narrative fit into her preconceived ideas on the topic.

Gerie says the following of me and my comment in the introduction to her post:

But this heartfelt comment that I read, stood out from the others and I am sure, touched the heart of God. I know this because from the time I read it, the Lord had me on my knees, praying and interceding with many tears for this person. Who I don’t know personally and have never met, but for a little while, as I prayed for him, I could feel the pain in his heart, and the inner conflict and turmoil that sin has caused in his life.

To be frank, I find the above statements patronizing and sanctimonious.  Gerie claims that my post had her in tears and she had this great emotional experience over me.  However, note that her response is simply to pray and “know what I’m feeling.”  And yet she did not make any attempt to contact me.  She did not join the open conversation on Former Conservative’s blog.  She did not try to find my email address[1] in order to contact me directly.  Instead, she decided to write a blog post about me (she couldn’t even be bothered to address her comments to me) on a blog that doesn’t allow comments.

These are not the actions of someone who wants dialogue.  I will go so far as to say that this is not someone who even cares, despite her claims to the contrary.  A person who cares about someone seeks to engage in conversation with that other person.  Gerie is simply having another self-aggrandizing moment of (faux) piety.

 I also find it curious that based on a single, 225-word (not counting the quoted passage) comment , Gerie is sure that she knows exactly what I am feeling[2] and why.  If Gerie thinks that such a short message can give her a complete insight into my numerous and complex feelings on the topic of my sexual, romantic, and emotional feelings and the fact that I was brought up to think those things made me evil (a position I have since long rejected both with good reason and for the better), she is sorely mistaken.  And there’s certainly no inner conflict.  I’ve long made peace with my feelings and the Divine.  So any “inner conflict” Gerie is sensing is an invention of her own imagination.

Gerie takes a pause in her discussion to offer the following aside to parents, which I find very telling:

Parents, take the time to talk to your children and pay attention to what’s going on inside of their hearts. I am learning that Satan attacks our children mercilessly simply because he can get away with it and he is never suspected.

I bolded the part that I find most interesting in a most disturbing way.  Reread that and let it sink in.  According to Gerie, Satan is allowed to attack children.  By whom?  Well, by Gerie’s god, of course!  Again, take a moment for that to really sink in.  Gerie’s god allows Satan to attack children.  He does nothing to stop it.  What’s worse, if Satan’s attacks on children works, Gerie’s god sends those children to eternal torment as a punishment for not standing up to those attacks.

Am I the only one that thinks that makes Gerie’s god a complete fucking bastard?

I’ll also note that ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy “experts” have spewed all this “parents be careful or your children could go stray” stuff before.  Some of the family members of former ex-gays will gladly tell you that it places an unbearable sense of guilt on them.  Mom and Dad don’t need any more shaming over my sexual, romantic, and emotional feelings than I do.

Gerie continues:

For instance whether a child accepts the belief that they are gay or not, and believing they were made that way or were born that way, because the feelings were there as far back as they can remember.

People don’t believe they’re gay.  People believe that there’s a god who hears their prayers.  People believe that humans are basically good.  People believe that buying lotto tickets from the middle of the row increases their chances of winning.  These are all intellectual ideas with a great deal of doubt, uncertainty, and unverifiability.

Romantic and sexual attractions are too concrete and too visceral to be considered mere belief.  The boy who is left feeling cold at the thought of kissing Judy or Lilly,[3] but whose heart flutters at the thought of kissing Ken or Roger has more than a “belief” that he is guy.  The young girl who wakes up from her fifth dream about making out with a girl all sweaty and aroused has more than a “belief” that she is gay.

Sexual orientation is about feelings and attractions.  These things are inherently involuntary.  People don’t plan to feel a certain way, and emotions tend to happen on their own.  If those feelings tend to be towards members of the same sex and of a romantic and sexual nature, that person is gay.  There’s no “belief” involved.

The belief that a person is born gay is correctly identified as a belief.  However, it is a belief that is based in a great deal of evidence and common sense.  There has been a great deal of research that has demonstrated a high level of certainty that sexual orientation is biologically determined and most likely a matter of genetics combined with pre-natal conditions.  Of course, this brings me to the next statement made by Gerie:

Common sense tells us
that if God will judge homosexuality as sin that He would never
intentionally plant those desires in our hearts, but that the source of
those feeling had to originate from somewhere else.

Gerie is correct about what common sense tells us.  However, I will argue that her conclusion is counter-intuitive and completely works the reasoning in the wrong direction.

You see, all the research and the experiences of actual gay people suggests very strongly — to those who value empirical data above blindly following dogma — that all those feelings and desires are inborn.  As such, the reasonable conclusion is that no loving god would “make” us gay and then condemn us, so no loving god would be condemn those who are gay.

Instead, Gerie chooses to assume — based on nothing other than a dogmatic acceptance of a “literal interpretation” of certain clobber passages that theologians have challenged repeatedly — that God hates homosexuality.  So instead of relying on scientific research and the experiences of countless gay people, she decides there must be another explanation for gayness.  As I said in my original comment, Gerie is engaging in reality-denial here.

Of course, Gerie’s explanation is still problematic.  Her solution is to say that Satan gave people those feelings, even at a very young age.  But as I noted earlier, Gerie’s god still had to allow Satan to do this.  I do not accept that a loving god would condemn people to eternal damnation for choosing to cope with the feelings He allowed Satan to give them the best way they know how any more than he’d condemn them if He had given those same people those same feelings Himself.

Gerie’s god simply makes no sense to me unless that I accept that He stands for some things I consider morally abhorrent.  If I accept that, then I have no desire to have anything to do with such a god.

After going on about Satan’s evil ways of getting people to believe various things and God’s abusive ways of sending people to eternal torment for falling for Satan’s tricks, Gerie hits upon a rather ironic statement about the hard questions:

Never go to your Pastor or any man with the hard questions that he couldn’t possibly know the answer to, go to God.

I find this ironic because Gerie has effectively condemned herself.  If you read through the post I’m critiquing and the rest of your blog, you will find that Gerie makes a regular practice of “answering the hard questions” herself.  Does this mean that secretly, Gerie believes that she is God?  It would certainly explain a number of things.

I’m sure that Gerie would defend herself by saying that she’s going to the Bible and giving not her own answers, but God’s answers.  The problem with this claim, however, is that this is the same claim that just about every pastor I know would make (except that many pastors I know would honestly add that it’s their understanding of God’s answers “as it stands now” and that it may be inaccurate).  There’s nothing that actually demonstrates that Gerie has any more authority to make that claim than they do.

At any rate, Gerie suggests that the correct thing to do is to ultimately go to God with the hard questions:

So we should always try
to understand things from Gods perspective. Get on your knees and go to
God and ask for wisdom and understanding. Be persistent and never give
up.
We want everything to happen overnight and can I tell you that it just doesn’t work that way. Not with the things that matter.

This is sound advice, except that it assumes that people like me — or people who disagree with Gerie’s understanding of a wrathful god hell-bent on doing horrible things to people He disapproves of for reasons he has a hand in — haven’t done this already.  If Gerie doesn’t think I and tohers sought god earnestly and painfully, then her understanding of me is fatally flawed.  To be blunt, she has no understanding of me.  As I mentioned before, she is merely making assumptions about me and those like me to make our narratives fit her preconceived notions.  Gerie is engaging in more reality-denial.

As for the comment that God doesn’t answer questions over night, I will simply comment that I waited on God for eight years for an answer and only came to the answer I did when it nearly destroyed me.  Between accepting that I’m gay and slitting my wrists — something I seriously considered for over thirty minutes and in such detail that I can still picture the curve of the blade, the grain of the wood, and the exact color of the brass rivets of the knife I was going to use — I decided that any truly Divine being would rather see me accept my feelings.

If Gerie and her god doesn’t understand that…well I’d say my opinion of them would go down, but I’m not sure that’s possible at this point.

Next, Gerie moves into one of her favorite subjects: how it’s important to fear her god.  Now quite frankly, considering all the horrible things Gerie’s god allegedly does, I’d be apt to fear him if I believed in him at all, too.  That’s a god who should be feared, not loved.

To support her position, Gerie quotes Luke 12:5:

But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has
killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

So there you have it.  Even Jesus says we should fear god.  But maybe we should see what Jesus had to say in the verses that bracket that one.

4 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!  6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?[a] And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

So basically, Jesus isn’t saying “fear God” so much as he’s saying “if you’re going to fear anyone, it should be God, but you shouldn’t even fear him.”  This actually goes along with what the apostle John said about love casting out fear.

I’m going to jump over the section where Gerie goes on at length about how for heaven to work, God has to have perfect obedience in order.  That in itself would make a great blog post.  However, for now, I’m simply going to suggest that reading this part of Gerie’s post about how God needs to be a tyrant for everybody’s own good with Bob Altemyer’s book “The Authoritarians” in mind.

The thing I will note, however, is that Gerie makes a switch in her argument about morality at this point.  Up to this point, she has been calling for blind obedience to God’s commands (or Gerie’s interpretation of them) simply because He’s God and if you don’t, He’ll torment you forever and ever.  Now she’s trying to claim that God only does this because it’s the only way to keep things going smoothly, as if suddenly keeping things going smoothly is now the real reason for morality rather than avoiding God’s wrath.  Of course, she offers no proof that (her interpretation of) God’s commands will actually make things go smoothly, so this comes off more like an abusive father who is claiming that beating his child until limbs break or a lung gets punctured is “for their own good.”  Both arguments are just as unsubstantiated.

Of course, it also implies a real flaw with Gerie’s god.  If the only way that God can make things to work is to give commands from on high and torment those who disobey, he’s a terrible God.  Hell, he’s worse than some of the worst human leaders to have ever walked.  If Gerie’s god has no way of motivating people to follow him,[4] then he needs to go back to god/management school.

Gerie eventually gets back to me and my comment, offering this rather condescending analysis:

The comment that I read, said that he did everything right, and he is still gay. He said the sinners prayer and begged God to take away his gay tendencies. What we have to understand is that saying the “sinners prayer” won’t save anybody, despite what we have been taught by church people. And understand that all of your sinful desires don’t go away automatically once you are saved.

You know, I’m always amused by the number of conservative Christians who claim to know my heart.  In this case, Gerie doubts the sincerity of my prayer of repentance.  Other people simply think I didn’t pray hard enough, have enough faith in God, or didn’t give God enough time.  I’d like to know what Divine Power these people think they possess to know what I did, where my heart was, or what I was really thinking for my childhood, teenage years, and even my early twenties.

I could give a lengthy story about my life, my choices, and my pains.  I could talk about the horror the first time I woke up from a wet dream, horrified that the dream had involved not a girl, but a male classmate[5].  I can talk about the nights I laid in bed for several minutes to an hour praying for forgiveness over every little perceived sin — and things I wasn’t sure really was a sin but asked for forgiveness for “just in case.”  I could talk about the time I spent in church praying, worshiping, and leading others in the same.  I could talk about the time I spent in high school and college being just as obnoxiously “righteous” as Gerie.

But I won’t, because I don’t have to explain myself to Gerie.  I don’t have to explain myself to anyone.  And i certainly won’t bother trying to explain myself to someone who doesn’t have the decency to ask me rather than just go off making whatever assumptions about me will prop up her preconceived notions.  I deserve more respect than that and I have more respect for myself than that.

Gerie goes on to say the following:

What saves us is that
after we turn to Jesus with a sorrow for the condition we have allowed
ourselves to get into, that we firmly determine in our heart that we
will never commit another sin.

The problem with this is that Gerie is now trying to blame the person for being gay.  However, Gerie has already conceded that someone else — she believes it’s Satan — has planted these feelings in gay people.  So basically, Gerie’s trying to say that it’s both not gay people’s fault for being gay and is their fault.  Gerie has just contradicted herself at this point, and it becomes apparent to me that Gerie will say whatever she has to in order to defend her position, even if it means contradicting herself.  Logic, consistency, and reality be damned.

Gerie goes on to tell me (oh, it appears she does address me in the second person after all — after a huge wall of text) that while my feelings may really, they are a lie.  You know, while I understand that feelings are not always an accurate depiction of reality — like I how I occasionally feel that no one loves me despite the fact that there are dozens of people who love me — this idea of “feelings as a lie” as Gerie presents it makes no sense.

Being gay is all about feelings.  If you have certain feelings towards members of the same sex and only members of the same sex, you are gay.  That’s the very definition of the word gay.  So to acknowledge that I really have those exist and yet deny that I’m gay is a contradictions — or an attempt to redefine what it means to be gay.  I’m afraid Gerie will lose that battle every time.

Next, Gerie goes on to demonstrate her complete lack of comprehension of homosexuality:

Stop right now, believing in your heart that you are gay, its a lie! You are caught in a trap by believing the lie. As a man thinketh in his heart so is he. Look at yourself. You are a MAN!  You are not a woman. God Himself created you and He made you a man!

In my thirty-seven years of life, I have never doubted I am a man.  I have never thought of myself as a woman.[6]  Gerie seems to be conflating being trans* with being gay or bi.  They are not the same thing.  It is perfectly possible to see oneself as a man[7] and still prefer the romantic and sexual companionship of another man.

Again, Gerie’s inability to understand what it actually means to be gay and her willingness to uphold her incorrect assumptions about what it means to be gay rather than learning from the narratives of actual gay people shows a callousness and lack of caring in her that is inexcusable.  Someone who will not even listen to what I have to say and consider my narrative as it is rather than what they want it to be is not someone who deserves my ear or my respect.

I’m going to end my commentary here, as I believe I’ve said everything that needs to be said.  The rest of Gerie’s post is a combination of exhortations to fight (displaying assumptions about what I have and haven’t done and why I changed my point of view), making faulty analogies between other (alleged) sins that fail for reasons I can’t be bothered to go into right now (hey, I’m allowed to get tired, and I’ve been working on this post for over two hours now), and threatening me with hell if I don’t.  That last makes her closing comment about hoping that she’ll meet me some day (but making no real effort to enter into real dialogue or relationship with me at the present) all the more ludicrous.

Notes:
[1]  If you click my linked name next to the note on FC’s blog, it takes you to my main site.  On that page is a link to send me an email address.  Apparently, clicking through two links to find my email address is too much effort for Gerie.

[2]  I suspect she’d claim that God let her feel my pain, as I get the impression that Gerie is a Pentecostal/charismatic Christian as well.  However, as I’ll demonstrate as I continue through her post, she’s either wrong or God sent her a “distorted picture.”

[3]  I cannot say whether this is universal or even common, but personally, I was almost more disturbed by my lack of attraction to girls as I was the presence of feelings for boys.  I vividly remember laying in bed realizing that the thought of kissing a particular girl (one I had convinced myself I had feelings for) left me feeling cold and uncomfortable, and wondering, “What the hell is wrong with me????”

[4] And now we’re back to one of my points in Monday’s post.

[5]  What’s really messed up is that I was more disturbed that the sexual activity (non-penetrative, by the way) in the dream was with another man rather than the fact that it was non-consensual on my part.

[6]  Granted, I have occasionally wondered what it would be like to be a woman.  However, that is not the same as thinking that I am a woman or want to be one.

[7]  Though I grant you that my understanding of what it means to be a man is far more fluid and far less riddled with stereotypes than Gerie’s.

C.S. Friedman and Heterosexual Privilege

Slash fan art drawn by Yukipon, based on descr...

Image via Wikipedia

While looking over C.S. Friedman‘s website as part of writing my blog post about her treatment of religion in her fiction, I ran across her commentary on slash fiction[1] that she included in her FAQ page.  Apparently, Friedman is not a fan of us gay people, and presumably other QUILTBAG individuals as well.  That may change my opinion of her, though it doesn’t really change my opinion of or appreciation of her fiction.  She doesn’t have to approve of my sexual orientation — though I would love to challenge where she thinks she gets off disapproving of it, either.  After all, it’s my life, not hers.  Not her life, not her business.

But what really got me was the following statement regarding slash fiction:

I admit to no comprehension at all about why this appeals to folks….

Personally, I admit that I cannot comprehend how someone can be that wrapped up in heterosexual privilege that they just don’t get why at least gay people[2] might like to see stories about same-sex couples.  It leaves me wondering just how blind they are to gay people (and others in the QUILTBAG spectrum) and their basic humanity.  So while I doubt Ms. Friedman will ever read this, allow me to offer a simple explanation:

Some of us like slash-fiction because we like to see relationships and sexual activities that mirror our own interests and desires.

Is that really so hard to comprehend?

Seriously, think about this for a moment.  For many people, part of the enjoyment of reading is to identify with the characters, to put yourself in their shoes.  I often either imagine myself as being one of the characters or being there with them.  I think most people like characters whose minds and bodies we can slip into and share.

That illusion, that experience of identification, can be severely stunted for me when the character I identify with suddenly starts romantically pursuing or becomes sexually involved with a woman.  Suddenly, we are very different people at a very basic level.  They are doing something that I wouldn’t do and wouldn’t want to do.  I’m left behind, separated.

And almost every single book I read is filled with characters whose romantic and sexual pursuits are foreign to me.  It can be frustrating and lonely.

So when someone takes a world and characters that I absolutely love and identify with on so many levels and adds in romantic and sexual elements that I can identify with, that’s pure gold to me.  To be honest, I’m surprised I don’t write slash fiction myself.

Of course, what really gets me is that having just read The Magister Trilogy — which explores sexuality as well as its intersection with power and violence quite extensively — I admit that I’m quite tempted to pick up my pen and write about gay characters in the world C.S. Friedman created for the series.  Quite frankly, the series is begging for someone to do it.  At least that’s my opinion.  The series brings questions to my mind.  What would happen if a male ikati bonded with a gay human?  Would such a mating even be possible?  If so, would two gay men each bonded to an ikati be able to form a relationship of any kind with one another? Would there ever be such a thing as a gay ikati?  How would that effect the mating dance and the species’ overall aggression?[3]

These questions seem obvious to me.  These questions nag at me to the point that I’m seriously considering a new writing project.  And while I can certainly understand that these question may not interest Friedman in they way that the interest me, I am astounded that she’s completely blinded to such questions’ very existence or the idea that for some of us, those questions would be hard to ignore.

I can only write it off as immense heterosexual privilege.

Update:  For anyone interested, I have talked further about some of my ideas for playing in C.S. Friedman’s world over at WdC.

Notes:

[1]  For those who may not be familiar with the term, slash fiction is a special category of fanfiction that describes and explores same-sex romantic and sexual pairings.  For example, I understand there are a large number of slash fiction stories in which Harry Potter and Draco Malfo either get romantically involved or just plain get freaky.

 

[2]  In reality, I also know of heterosexual people who like to see same-sex pairings for a multitude of reasons.

[3]  Of course, the whole premise of the ikati species is predicated on the presumption gender essentialism.  How would the introduction of transgender individuals (either human or ikati) challenge or change the whole premise?  I bring this up in a footnote because I simply don’t feel I am qualified to address this issue beyond asking it and hoping someone else might choose to tackle it.

For that matter, I think there could be some interesting points of analysis of comparing and contrasting the characters of Siderea, Gwynofar, and Kamala from a feminist perspective.  That is something I might consider attacking, though I’ll gladly hand that project over to any of my readers who are much more grounded in feminist thought.


A possible consequence of slut-shaming

A recent article on Medical News Today reports that there’s a certain class of young gay men who are particularly susceptible to HIV infection right now:

Gay young men in serious relationships are six times more likely to have
unprotected sex than those who hook up with casual partners, according
to new Northwestern Medicine research.

The article goes on to explain how this tendency, combined with the fact that young men often don’t get tested frequently enough, makes those in serious relationships vulnerable to HIV infection.

I’ve seen this in action.  To some degree*, I’ve even been guilty of it.  It’s far too easy to fall into the belief that HIV is a problem that mostly — or even only — affects those gay men who visit bath houses or goes cruising in parks.  It’s easy to tell ourselves that as long as we tend towards serious relationships and only have a few partners — all serially, of course — and only get involved with men who do the same, we’ll be safe.  And to be honest, given the way some of us — even those of who know better and are careful even when we’re in a monogamous relationship — reinforce this idea, it’s not surprising.

How do we reinforce this idea?  By the way we talk about and treat those men who do visit bath houses or go cruising.  I’ve seen so many gay men call these “promiscuous” men irresponsible** and automatically accuse them of getting and spreading STD’s.  And I’ve seen many gay men assume that if a guy happens to be HIV+ or have any other STD, he must have been “promiscuous.”

And that’s how you get young men who assume that HIV and STD’s are a problem for men who cruise or hook up.  Because the rest of us send them that message by our words and actions, even if it’s unintentional.  Those young men don’t hear — at least not as loudly — that they don’t have to have hundreds of sex partners to get HIV or any other STD.  People who only have two or three partners*** can become infected, especially if one of those partners hasn’t been tested because he figures he’s HIV- and STD-free simply because he has only had one or two partners who seemed to be STD-free at the time.

Let’s quite pretending that being HIV+ or having an STD is a sign of “promiscuity.”  It’s unfair to everyone and especially harmful to young men who assume they must be safe if they can still count the number of partners they’ve had on one hand.

h/t Edge on the Net

* Though as a rule, I still used protection.

** Some of them may well be irresponsible, but it’s still an assumption made without evedence.

*** Let’s face it, the likelihood of any of us meeting our perfect life-partner the first time and never having sex again is low.

But I like shaving my palms!

gum.jpgI’m an avid follower of FAILblog, the blog where people post the most bizarre pictures mocking something that is or just seems wrong by marking the photographs with the word “FAIL.”  Things mocked include bizarre car accidents, poorly worded signs that end up giving an unintended message, and people just doing crazy (and usually dangerous) things.

To be honest, I often find myself wondering if some pictures are faked.  The picture for the “anti-masturbatory gum” (see left) is one of those cases.  Setting aside the fact that I can’t begin to understand how gum can make you lose interest in pleasuring yourself (short of messing with hormones, which I find a rather scary thing to do just to avoid a bit of sexual relief), I just can’t imagine why anyone would WANT such a product.

Well, anyone who isn’t a repressed bundle of unexpressed sexuality who’s afraid that some Higher Power is going to strike them dead for enjoying their own bodies and the pleasure it gives them.  Thankfully, my gods tend to have a much more tolerant view of sexuality and sexual pleasure.  In fact, they think it’s something to be celebrated!

Granted, they stipulate that such celebration should be done in a manner that is responsible.  But what could be more responsible than pleasuring yourself?  Let’s face it:

  • No one has ever gotten pregnant from pleasuring themselves.
  • No one has ever gotten an STD from pleasuring themselves.
  • No one gets used or abused when you pleasure yourself.
  • Everyone involved — you — is bound to enjoy the experience.

So please, if you’re feeling the urge, give yourself to take care of that urge.  It’s far more ethical and responsible than using someone else to take care of your physical needs and hurting them in the process.

And really, am I the only one who thinks that trying to stop people from masturbating by encouraging them to develop a possible oral fixation might be a bit unwise?  😉

Movie Review: Shank

I’ve watched a number of movies that have dealt with the theme of young men coming to terms with being gay.  However, it is the rare movie that explores that theme with the intensity and rawness as Shank, the British film directed by Simon Pearce.  In this film, Pearce gives us a glimpse into the life of Cal, a teenage gang member who is trying to hide his sexual orientaion from his fellow thugs.

The movie quickly introduces us to Cal, who copes with his feelings by engaging in random sexual encounters, drug use, and gang violence.  The first few scenes show the gritty nature of his life in the gang.  However, Cal’s life suddenly changes when his best mate, Jonno, and their de facto leader, Nessa, decide to pick on poor Olivier, a French exchange student who is stereotypically and somewhat flamboyantly gay.  In a moment of conscience and fear — and perhaps seeing too much of himself and his potential fate in Olivier and the treatment he receives — Cal stops the pair from beating the French boy, allows him to escape, and then abandons his fellow thugs to apologize to Olivier and offer him a lift home.

Cal attempts to return to his gang’s hideout later, only to discover that he is not only unwelcome, but an acceptable target for his former comrades’ anger and violence.  Cal escapes and returns to Olivier, and the pair soon get involved in a rocky, tenuous relationship.  However, Nessa and the other gang members discover Cal’s secret and begin to hunt down the pair.

This movie is a masterful blending of grit (to rival FAQ’s and Ethan Mao) and tender sensuality, demonstrating the storm of emotions that Cal experiences as he is tugged in different directions.  All of the actors play their parts well, filling each scene with emotion through words, tone of voice, body gestures, and expression.  Even characters like Nessa, whose deeper motives for her anger and rage towards Cal are beautifully fore-shadowed toward the beginning of the movie, are given a great deal of attention and depth.

One particularly interesting piece of cinematography in this movie was the use of the cell phone video footage. The gang always recorded their acts of violence via cell phone, and this fact was used in the movie to hint at violence to come at times.  It was an interesting way of adding a bit of suspense at critical moments.

My one criticism of this movie would be that there’s a bit more synchronicity in the movie than is really reasonable.  For example, it’s entirely too convenient that the first sexual encounter Cal has with the movie is with Scott, who later turns out to be one of Olivier’s university instructors.  There were other coincidences involving Scott, which I will not go into, as it would reveal too much about how the movie concludes.

As a final note, I would warn readers that this is a very violent movie and even includes sexual violence.  Those who are bothered or emotionally trigger by such things should either skip this one or take appropriate precautions when sitting down to watch it.

The false dichotomy of gay life.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 10:  Rainbow fla...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Misty Irons reposted the “gay lifestyle” of the (In)Famous SMT.  After reading both her post and his original, I decided I wanted to make a similar post and offer some commentary on the underlying topic.

So an average weekday looks like this for me:

7:00am:  The first alarm goes off.  I hit the off button.
7:30am:  The second alarm goes off.  I hit the off button.
8:00am:  The third alarm goes off.  I hit the snooze button.  I keep hitting it each time it goes off.
8:30am:  The third alarm won’t let me hit the snooze button any more.  I turn it off and get up.
8:35am:  I wash up and get dressed.
8:45am:  I check email, visit my social networking sites, and read my favorite blogs.
9:20am:  I hop in the car and head to work, stopping at the 7-Eleven to grab something to eat and something for lunch.
10:00am:  I arrive at work.  I spend the next eight hours attending meetings, writing code, answering emails, and fielding the occasional technical question for the sales team.
6:30pm:  I leave work.  If it’s open, I run to Psychic’s Thyme and hang out with friends for a bit.
7:00pm:  Dinner time.
8:00pm:  If I’m curently dating someone, I ask my boyfriend if he’s free.  If so, we get together, watch a movie, talk, make love, and cuddle.  If I’m very lucky, we spend the night sleeping in each others arms.
8:00pm:  If I’m single or my boyfriend is busy, I check email, respond to any outstanding ones, read blogs, do some blogging of my own, and/or or work on my writing.

In my life, there’s no such thing as a typical weekend.  I may go see my parents for the weekend.  Or I might head up to Toronto for a dance class and a show with Marina for Saturday.  Or I might go back to Psychic’s Thyme to hang out with friends.  I may go to dinner with friends.  I may go dancing Saturday night.  If I’m dating someone, I may spend time with my boyfriend (going to a movie, staying home and cuddling, making love, talking, going to a party together, whatever).  Trying to fit that into a single “daily schedule” would be impossible.  There’s just too many possibilities.

What inspired me to write this, however, is that I’ve notice something about many “gay lifestyle” posts:  most of them say absolutely nothing about sex.  In many cases, that’s perfectly understandable.  There are a lot of gay people out there who are not sexually active for one reason or another.  They may simply be too busy right now for a sexual relationship.  Or they may be waiting for that one special someone they want to spend their lives with.  I totally get that and respect that.

What I don’t get or respect, however, is the underlying message (or so it seems to me) that the only way to prove that all gay men spend their weekends at the bathhouse or bring home a different guy every night is to show that we’re not having sex at all, or at least hiding the fact that we’re having it.  I’m sorry, but “total celibacy” and “having 100 sex partners every year” are not the only two possibilities.

In many ways, I’m reminded of the first American Pie movie.  I loved that movie because it was a great commentary on the pressure (heterosexual) guys feel about having sex in their teen years and how it can become an obsession.  The other thing I like about that movie is that the way the “quest to lose their virginity” ends differently for the various main characters.  Two of them end up having what basically amount to random hookups (though the one ends up falling in love with his partner and marrying her in future movies).  One ends up having sex with his long-term girlfriend (who breaks up with him in the next movie).  And the fourth ends up in a relationship and he and his new girlfriend decide to put off having sex for a while longer.  The movie ends up demonstrating a diversity of responses to human sexuality.

I think we need more of that in the gay community and how we present ourselves to the outside world.  We need to get rid of the “celibacy/promiscuity” dichotomy altogether.  There’s a far more complex range of choices when it comes to human sexuality and human sexual behavior, and I think we need to start demanding that our detractors acknowledge that in our own communities.

I won’t pretend I’m a sexual prude in order to get acceptance.  But that doesn’t mean I’m totally devoid of a sexual ethic or standards, either.

Life gets interesting

This afternoon, I decided to go to the psychic fair at the Henrietta Holiday Inn. While there, I decided to get an aura portrait reading (that’s where the psychic sketches the colors in your aura and explain what they mean and how it’s affecting your life) by one of the people there. The theme of my reading was that I need to begin working more on integrating my spirituality into the rest of my life. This wasn’t a surprising message, because I’ve been getting it from different angles. In fact, over the past couple of weeks, I’d say the gods have gotten more aggressive about this message. In fact, I think they’ve gotten to the point where they’re basically saying “do this or we’re going to do it for you.”

For example, a couple Saturdays ago, Marina invited myself and Rudi (a former dancer in the company) to come to her home for lunch after the beginner’s jazz dance class. While there, I mentioned that I had to run to Psychic’s Thyme at some point that afternoon. Of course, the other two asked me what that was, so I told them. I ended up telling them about my spiritual interests, which fascinated both of them. I ended up telling them about a couple of my experiences with seeing spirits (to my credit, I’m getting better at being open about the fact that I’m developing my abilities as a medium). By the end of the discussion, they both decided they want me to give them a reading after next Saturday’s class. And Marina has gone on to tell at least one other person (a student in her intermediate class) associated with the company about my interests. I suspect that by the time she’s done, everyone in or associated with the company will know. Hopefully, they’re all as open-minded as Marina and Rudi were. (Actually, I’ll be happy as long as no one tries to perform an exorcism on me.)

The second example of this came during this past week. When I got a break from work, I decided to quickly check my site stats for this blog. While checking them out, I discovered that someone visited my site from work on Thursday afternoon. I was quite surprised by this, and quickly confirmed that it wasn’t a visit I made myself. As I dug into this (I even downloaded the server logs for that day so I could check the parts of my domain that my two Sitemeter accounts don’t cover), I discovered that my visitor must have found my site at least somewhat fascinating. While they read only a couple of archives and two individual posts from this blog, they also visited my Dear Lover, Journey (I guess I’m out at work now!), my main site, and my photo albums.

I’m not sure how they found my site. The logs indicate there was no referring site, which suggests they typed the address in directly. I asked the two people at work who I thought it could be, but they admitted that they didn’t even know I had my own website. So I’m completely mystified. I really don’t care that someone from work read it all. They didn’t really find out anything I’m trying to hide. (I’m smart enough to avoid posting anything I want to keep secret.) Though I do hope that they talk to me about it at some point. I’d like to know who it was, especially considering the significant amount of surfing they did.

So yeah, it would seem that everything in my life is coming together. I think I’m okay with that, though. I’m just a bit shell-shocked.

Spiritual Sexuality and Sexy Spirituality

The question for this post comes from Rygel:

Why do you try to reconcile your spirituality with your sexuality?

The short answer to this question is that I had no other choice that was ultimately reasonable. I am both a spiritual person and a sexual person. There’s no escaping that fact. This means that when confronted with these two aspects of my choice, I had four basic options.

The first option was to ignore or repress my sexuality and focus on my spirituality. I actually tried this approach through various methods for over a decade. It not only didn’t work, it completely backfired. It drove me to such depths of misery and despair that I almost self-destructed. So I eventually gave up on it.

My second option was to completely walk away from my spirituality and focus on my sexuality. I suppose there are those who might argue that this is exactly what I did, since I left Christianity. (More than one person has accused me of walking away from God because I felt it was more convenient to “live with my sin.”) I respectfully disagree with them, as my choice to follow a Pagan path was much more complex than that. But at any rate, the idea of rejecting spirituality altogether was simply not an option for me. I’ve always been a spiritual person, and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.

My third option was to accept both my spirituality and my sexuality, but try to keep them divorced from each other. I’m not really sure how this would work or what it would look like, but again, I also know this would not have worked for me. I want to be a whole person, and living a split life where half of you is compartmentalized away from the other half does not make you a whole person. Furthermore, given the nature of my spirituality, such a dualistic approach to life would simply not work. I serve a goddess who sees spirituality and sexuality as a beautifully blended and related whole. (In fact, this is such an essential part of my faith that I once wrote an article titled “Sacred Lust.”)

That left only the one option for me. My sexuality and spirituality had to come together, embrace one another, and find a way forward as a united whole.

The things kids discuss during class!

I’d like to preface this post with a warning that it will contain some frank sex talk. While I certainly don’t consider what I’m about to say explicit enough to merit an NC-17 rating, I also respect that it might make some of my readers uncomfortable. As such, I would encourage everyone to use their own discretion while deciding whether to continue reading or skip this one.

Now that I’m home and had some time to think about it, I decided it’s time to return to Barbara (unfortunately, her blog is marked private, so it’d do my readers no good to link to it) and her excellent question:

What is a childhood memory or even that has shaped your life in a significant way (either negatively or positively)

I suppose some might choose to pounce on the fact that the vast majority of the memories that rushed to my mind when I read this question related to sexuality. To be honest, most of the prominent memories from my childhood — especially those that I consider somehow significant — really do have to do with sexuality. I make no apologies for it. And while I feel I don’t need to justify it, either, I will point out that when you’re at war with your sexuality, it does tend to consume a considerable portion of your life.

At any rate, the memory I decided to focus on was of the day I first found out that there was such a thing as sex between two men. I was in the eighth or ninth grade at the time (I can’t narrow it down any better than that), and I and the rest of my peers were sitting at our desks in English class. I’m not sure whether the bell to signal the class was starting hadn’t rung yet or the teacher had to step out for other reasons. For whatever reason, however, we were left to our own devices, and numerous conversations were going on about the room. I was only peripherally involved with the one occurring one row from my desk, though I became interested in it. At one point, the others mentioned a rumor that two guys from school (one in our grade and another a couple years behind us) had been caught “screwing” each other.

At this time in my life, I was extremely naive when it came to most topics about sexuality. This is something that greatly amused some of my classmates, I think. So when I actually asked what it meant for two guys to “screw,” one of my classmates described the basic concept to me in a tone that would best be described as a cross between amusement and disgust. I was both fascinated and disconcerted by this discovery. I didn’t really understand how the mechanics of such an act worked, and I wasn’t inclined to pursue the matter any further, given my classmates’ obvious distaste for the subject.

So in a single moment, I learned three things. The first thing that I learned was that it was possible for two guys to sexually pleasure each other. The second thing that I learned was that most of my classmates found the very idea of doing so disgusting. And of course, the third thing that I learned was that unlike my classmates, the thought of having such an experience absolutely fascinated me.

At one point after this conversation, one of the boys from the rumor (the younger one) and I were in the same Boy Scout troop. I remember stealing quick looks at him and thinking about that conversation back in English class. Again, I found myself fascinated with the whole idea. I even considered ways I might get him alone to see if he’d be willing to fool around with me. I never did, though I’m not sure whether it was more due to the fear of rejection or due to the knowledge that doing so could prove to further set me apart from my peers and stigmatize me. And of course there were the religious issues.

So there you have it, during a single off-handed conversation in English class, I both got my first clue that I like guys and learned that many people felt this was something to be ashamed of.