Tuesday, February 24, 2009

too nice to say what I feel (like kickin' some a**) and way off my usual topic

"Boy, am I ever glad I slept on that post I wrote late last night." - That is what I thought when I woke up today. In addition, when you google "boy am I glad I didn't post that," I just found approximately 12,700,000 other entries that match that sentiment, so I know I'm not alone. It wasn't a bad post, and I stayed up way too late writing it, but in the greater scheme of things, it wasn't that good. There are probably those who write effectively when they are slightly offended, but it isn't me. There are even pages and pages of results that will help us all have better e-mail and blogging etiquette to avoid pissing off friends and readers! I have had more rational ideas and written expressions, and I feel better that I DIDN'T put it on the blog.

What happened is that I got one of those [dumb] forwards - the kind that I question and don't see any reason for. I get them from friends, and I wonder, "What the heck does this person think?" And I wonder if such a friend is really thinking at all. It wasn't even on a topic that personally affects or offends me - it just seemed to be ignorant and ... dumb.

But I don't want to go off (again) - I don't want to have a bad attitude. It makes more sense to write the post, spend LOTS of time on it, and then NOT post it. I think I would have probably come across badly, and I have more self-respect (and I'm too proud?) to risk sounding stupid!

I do want to pass along that this site is a great resource to check out rumors and forwarded e-mails: www.snopes.com It is recommended that one submit ALL stories that you don't know first-hand, and especially those that can't be easily searched and verified through a legitimate news source. Beyond that, know that blogs are basically editorials, and they are relate the opinions of the writer (like ME!) and they aren't news. We casual or newbie bloggers (and I include myself) get news and write about those stories, while others with more experience and journalistic connections are truly professional. (On this blog I try to write about issues, but those that I know about or feel about firsthand. If I get outside those lines that I draw, I really feel lost.)

One more thing: Just because you read it on the internet doesn't make it true. And just because it was sent to you by a friend DEFINITELY does not make it dependable.

And more than that: Don't send me stupid forwards. Thanks.

Note: Forwards are okay. Stupid ones are undersirable.

Monday, February 23, 2009

for "Milk," Dustin Lance Black, and why I still stand for equal rights.

Watching the Oscar show last night was a quiet TV night here at my house. My enthusiasm was for shows I'd seen, which were only two that were up for Best Picture: Milk and Slumdog Millionaire. Given the fact that I have traveled to India, and that I'm an advocate for gay rights, of course I was excited for the awards won by those two movies.

I couldn't have been more pleased when I saw that the screenwriter for Milk, Dustin Lance Black, won for Best Original Screenplay. Not knowing him prior to seeing him onstage to accept his award, I was moved to tears, along with him, as he gave this acceptance speech:

…When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life, it gave me the hope to one day live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married.

(This was about where he started to have tears in his eyes.)

I want to thank my mom who has always loved me for who I am, even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by their families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you, thank you, and thank you God for giving us Harvey Milk.

There is more to read about Dustin Lance Black's growing-up years, his early life as a Mormon, and his first contact with the story of Harvey Milk, here.

When Sean Penn won the Best Actor Oscar, I was not surprised when he began his speech with the a wry smile and this greeting, "...You Commie, homo-lovin' sons of guns..." Acknowledging that he doesn't make it easy to be appreciated, he continued to say,
"I think it's a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone."

Because I'm sometimes criticized for speaking out for GLBT rights, I ask myself why I do it. When I see movies like, "Milk," I know why. And when I heard that speech by Dustin Lance Black, I know even more that it is the right thing to do. I speak up for that talented, inspired writer so that he brings more stories to life, so that we all learn how to be better. It is for the child who knows that she is different, but that deserves acceptance and love. I write on behalf of and to encourage the parents who are hearing condemnation for their beloved child in church, but in their hearts know that they need to show love and support. And I speak up to let all my friends know, that I'm not going to be a grandparent that my grandkids will be ashamed of because of how I looked at gay people.

Friday, February 13, 2009

a haunting question: "Am I innocent?"

I sometimes get the question, "What if you are wrong about your support of gays?" Sometimes it's an honest question, and sometimes others are assuming that they can change my mind by their arguments.

I don't think I am, but I've struggled with my doubts. It was easier when I had black and white answers to just about everything, but it was long ago that I had abandoned simplistic theology. I learned years ago to accept single moms (or dads). I didn't turn my back on my brother (or my former sister-in-law) when they divorced, even though I didn't understand. It took longer to change my fundamentalist views, and I can remember trying to sort it all, trying to wrap my mind around how it would be to accept that the Bible wasn't literal in all it's written accounts. Then I began to realize that we disregard so much, such as that we don't cut off our hand if it offends us. Most everyone I know eats shrimp, pork, and cheeseburgers. Those things were forbidden in Old Testament Law, but now we have changed. I have several pieces of clothing with "mixed cloth," (they didn't even HAVE polyester in the Bible) and it would seem ridiculous to scrutinize my wardrobe in that way.

Yet somehow there is still offense drawn by church people when it comes gay people. Young people who realize that they have gay feelings often abandon the churches they love being part of, because they hear and internalize guilt over something they don't choose: their sexual orientation. They don't feel that they can be honest if they bring a partner - or simply a date - to a church function. And sadly, we teach kids from a young age to separate from loved family members, just because those family members are gay.

Today I read a post by a guy who blogs on Reconciling Ministries Network. He wrote this:
Am I Innocent?

I lay on my back stretched out on the Futon. The cat hovered above me, her white-tipped paws firmly planted on my chest. She watched me through her green eyes leaping out of tufts of grey fur. She purred as I gently rubbed my hands up and down the length of her body. Suddenly the cat lowered her head and rubbed her forehead on mine, marking me as her possession.

The cat reminded me of the time my partner Derrick and I burst through the door of my sister’s home with red racing cars for Luke, art supplies for Francis and a board book for Louis. My nieces and nephew danced around our feet. “I want to show you my new room,” Francis screamed in competition with Louis waving her new board book in search of a reader. Luke scurried across the living room to play with his new cars.

As Louis sat next to me on the couch and I read her stories, I wondered how she would receive me after "the talk" about her uncle and his friend. Would she grow up like family members who want me to stay away from her. Maybe Louis would never have "the talk", but hear Pastor Dell, Elders Kevin or Don or even her Christian school teacher rail about how "homosexuals are destroying the moral fabric of the nation." Would Louis continue to view me with the innocence we shared learning the alphabet from her new board book?

I just realized how often I ask this question, even subconsciously. Am I innocent? Most of the time, I don’t even hear my soul breathing the question as my family, church and society enforces their reality that being gay or transgender is not innocent.

The cat finished rubbing her forehead on mine, lay down on my chest and slowly lowered her eyelids for a nap. She purred and swirled her tail between my legs.

My insomnia finally surrendered and I fell asleep in the innocent embrace of the cat.


Wow - what a post. It's hard to ask a question like that, much less put your thoughts on a blog. I think it affects many who are going against the flow of what we've always heard. I have so changed from how I was "taught," and I can't go back, but still, there are all the voices that whisper, "What if you are wrong?"

I keep hoping for people to see "just people," and not merely sexual orientation. I keep hoping for those little ones to grow up accepting their uncles and aunts, never giving way to the harmful effects of Sunday School teachers, preachers, and others who damn with their words those who are gay. I hope that they'll grow up to accept the grandparents that have moved far away - the ones who came to accept, later in life, that they are gay, and who felt it necessary to move far away to escape the glares and stares of people they used to go to church with. I want those kids to learn that all love is part of God, and that we can do better than to cause pain by rejecting gay family members.

In our family, we will be ones to raise the grandkids to be the different, new generation, ones who can be accepting, so that gay people won't have to wonder, "Am I innocent?"

Mike White's Amazing Race interview

I have hit a wall about writing, but this is particularly interesting and fun. I think I have to mix it up a bit, to go from the serious, painful stuff to the wild and crazy. I can't WAIT to see this new season of the Amazing Race! It starts this Sunday, Feb. 15! Here's the link to Mike White's interview: http://defamer.com/5152601/mike-white-on-doing-the-amazing-race-i-felt-like-jason-bourne-and-his-old-gay-dad

Sunday, February 8, 2009

for Straight wives of gay men: I'm listening

This week has brought home the fact that I have not dedicated enough time and space for the women I especially feel for: Straight wives.

When I tried to contact other women in my situation four years ago, the main contact spot was a yahoo group: Wivesofgaybihusbands I found them by connecting through Straight Spouse Network.
Because I was so deeply in the closet, I couldn't really get the help I needed. Perhaps that was my fault. Whatever the reason, I could see that so many other wives had been treated horribly, and I had little I could do to console them. I was in such trauma myself that I was only walking in a daze, and help for other wives was impossible. I had a lot to figure out myself.

I also found that many of those wives had been put through hell. The gay men in their lives were many times living double lives, and so many had said, "...but it won't happen again..." And then it did. Over and over forgiving and hopeful wives (along with their children/families) suffered untold hurt when their husbands went back to a boyfriend, or when they had hook-ups with other, sometimes anonymous, men.

Many of the couples were Christians, and the counseling (some from pastors and some from Christian professionals) that they received was that the gay ones had sinned, fallen, or were deceived. Both parties were told by religious counselors to hold to their marriages at all cost. Of course this wasn't ALL the couples, but it was a regular course of thinking that the gay party (sorry) wasn't really GAY, and that a faithful wife would be honored in the long run if she would persevere. (I was personally warned by a Christian counselor that my husband should not "come out." But I was not there to discuss what my husband should do, but to talk about help for ME. I never returned to talk with her again, but I had to pay her $120.00 for the bad advice.)

Other wives suffered in silence as they were abandoned for reasons they didn't even know. Even this week I talked with a woman my age, who in her 20s had married the man she loved, and they had a child. When she was 3 months pregnant with her 2nd baby, and the older one just a toddler, her husband left and never even returned to see the baby. He also never paid support, and this woman was a single parent for the next 25 years, dealing with day-to-day life, as well as issues of her own self-esteem. Her husband died over 10 years ago of AIDS, still never having met his youngest daughter. The pain of this woman, her daughters, and so many like them are hard to heal.

It is no wonder that most former wives of gay men hold grudges against men who behave without scruples and hurt those who have loved and trusted, only to have that love shattered in the wake of selfish behavior. I never want to disregard the spouses - my sisters on this earth - or the families who have gone through this.

Although I am beginning to hear from a few wives here and there, it is mostly the gay spouse who is willing to share their stories. And I know that in the pain of heartache, we all turn to what we know and are comfortable with. For many of us, that is the church, and of those churches, the majority are not gay-affirming. For me to speak up for the gay ones, I'm vocal but in the minority overall. To be a straight spouse and to be gay-affirming, it is even more rare, and I recognize that. I in no way want to discredit the wrong done to others like myself, or to minimize their grief, pain, or any other suffering done to them.

It was, for me, a gradual understanding that reconciled the fact that being gay was not a choice, like I'd been told in church. I think it started years before I knew that Ray was gay, when my friend came out. She was talked badly of, misunderstood, and left out of her social network. I knew she would not choose anything that would cause this. No one would. Although I didn't understand, I knew she didn't choose this "being gay stuff."

It may seem like I'm rambling, but today I heard from a young person, one who is the daughter of some of our conservative, fundamentalist friends. She's been reading this blog, and in her friendly e-mail she said this:
...the things you say on your blog make a lot of sense to me. Theologically I may be in a different place, and to be honest I have no idea right now how to live in both of these worlds, but I'm okay with that. I trust that if I need to figure it out, God will help me, and if I don't, I can still be supportive of my gay brothers and sisters without understanding everything.

What a breath of fresh air! I think it is that EFFORT to understand that we all need, and those of us who have had to deal with it have a lot to say. I'd welcome hearing from other straight wives/spouses, or family members, or friends affected by having someone come out. Is there a point where you understood, and made the choice to be accepting?

So what is a solution? Where can we learn more? Can others offer more insight to help the straight spouse? I'm going to post some resources that have helped me. I'm still healing, too.

Straight Spouse Network

What to do when husbands come out of the closet (a book)

Carol Lynn Pearson's, "Goodbye, I love you."

Sally Whitehead Lowe's, "The Truth Shall Set You Free.
" (a book) Sally tells her story: a Christian couple dealing with their faith and the truth that the husband is gay.

"When I knew," by Tractenberg.

...and one of the best documentaries I've seen: For the Bible Tells me so.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Nathan Marshall sings, "The Anchor Holds," on American Idol

I have a confession: I'm a junkie for American Idol.

Tonight was the first night for the contestants to be singing in Hollywood, and I was thrilled to hear a young man sing, "The Anchor Holds," and he added, "...it's a song by Ray Boltz."

I was glued to the TV, and wish this young man a tremendous amount of good luck (and prayers!) To listen to the clip, go here: Scroll down on that page and listen for Nathan Marshall!

Go Nathan!

*hat tip to Liz!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

more on Ted Haggard: Why and How Christians need to change.

Here's an article brought to my attention by Miles. Thanks, Miles!

Carried on the Huffingon Post:
January 31, 2009
Some Sympathy for Ted Haggard

by Michael Shermer

I just watched the HBO documentary film, The Trials of Ted Haggard, produced by Alexandra Pelosi (which the media seem curiously intent on identifying not as a filmmaker but as the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House). The film is a follow-up to her 2007 film Friends of God, in which Haggard was prominently featured just before his downfall from revelations that he had homosexual relations with a male prostitute, with whom he also did methamphetamine. And all this happened right in the middle of the political debate about gay marriage, in which Haggard condemned homosexuality as an abomination and gay marriage as a sin that should never be legalized.

Now, I enjoy roasting a hypocrite as much as the next person, and I sat down to watch Pelosi's film sharpening my typing fingers in preparation for slicing this evangelical hypocrite to pieces, especially after just watching him on Larry King Live, in which he failed to apologize to gays for condemning the very "lifestyle choice" he also presumably made. (In his Christian worldview homosexuality is a choice--a bad choice, a sinful choice, but a choice nonetheless). But I came away feeling some compassion for Ted Haggard, sympathy for the devil as it were. I don't know if Pelosi intended her film to have this effect--I suspect not from her off-camera comments in the film as she follows the fallen preacher around Phoenix selling insurance door-to-door and bumming rooms off friends at which his family can live. But given what we know about the power of belief, and the fact that this man devoted his entire life and essence to being an Evangelical Christian and all that stands for--which is a lot when you are the titular head of the 30 million-strong National Association of Evangelicals--what a striking conflict his life has been (and by all accounts still is).

By now, most of us know that homosexuality is not a "choice," any more than heterosexuality is a choice. Asking a gay person "When did you choose to become gay?" makes about as much sense as asking a straight person "When did you choose to become straight?" The answer is the same: "Uh? I didn't choose. I've always felt this way." Right, and all the evidence from biology, psychology, and behavior genetics (twin studies) points to the fact that most people are born straight, some people are born gay, and some are even born bisexual, and that's just the way it is. In a large population (and six billion members of a large mammalian species certainly counts) with considerable variation in most characteristics, it is inevitable that even something as seemingly straightforward (if you'll pardon the pun) as sexuality will likely show variations on that central theme.

To find peace and happiness in life you have to be true to yourself, and herein lies Pastor Ted's conflict: Being true to himself meant being in absolute conflict with his religion, which was, at the time, not just his faith but his livelihood and the only means he had of supporting his family. As Upton Sinclair observed: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."

The only resolution for Haggard was to live a secret life, and when that secret was revealed there was no way for him to peacefully resolve his conflict. And from what was shown in the film and in his public interviews of late, that conflict is still not resolved for the simple reason that if you are gay or bi you cannot simply choose to feel differently, even if you are given such bizarre diagnoses as these suggested by his Christian counselors: "heterosexual with homosexual attachments" and "heterosexual with complications." Haggard's response was refreshingly honest: "I wasn't sure what that meant."

Me neither Ted, because it's a bullshit diagnosis by people who don't understand the psychology of sexuality because their religion is driving the science, and that's a recipe for quackery. Yes, you can choose (or at least try to choose) not to act on your feelings (don't go to gay bars, don't watch gay porn, etc.), but short of a Clockwork Orange scenario of extreme behavior modification protocols (and even this is unlikely to do the trick), Ted Haggard cannot and never will be able to square the circle of his sexual essence with his religion. Something has to go, and that something is his religion, or at least his religion's attitudes about homosexuality.

Christianity needs to change its beliefs about homosexuality and to quit condemning those--even those in its own flock--to a life of guilt, self-loathing, and conflict. Not only does Ted Haggard need to publicly apologize to the gay and lesbian community for condemning them, his Colorado Springs New Life Church--and Christianity in general--needs to apologize to Ted Haggard for ruining his life, not only by exiling him from his home, community and friends, but by forcing him to live a lie. The data are in: homosexuality is not a choice. Christianity needs to follow the data instead of forcing the data to fit its religious dogmas.

In the film you can hear the guilt in Ted Haggard's voice and see the self-loathing in his face. Ted Haggard is a broken man, broken not by his biology but by his religion. You cannot "fix" people's biology, but you can change their religion, and it's time for Ted Haggard to give up on his religion--and perhaps religion altogether. Short of that, perhaps one of the most charismatic religious movers and shakers of our time can change his religion from within by standing up to his fellow Evangelical leaders and saying to them (and to everyone else) something like this:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I was wrong. When I preached that homosexuality is a sin, I was wrong. When I proclaimed from the pulpit that being gay is an abomination, I was wrong. When I dissembled and pronounced that I 'hate the sin but lover the sinner', I was wrong. I say this not because I was a hypocrite in denouncing the acts that I myself was committing, but because our beliefs about and actions toward homosexuals is un-Christian. I make no excuses for my actions or pronouncements, but I will remind you that I was mirroring what was taught to me by my Evangelical mentors, whose beliefs about gays led them to comb the scriptures for passages that best suit their prejudices--much like the slave-owning Christians of centuries past justified with holy writ their abominable beliefs and actions toward their fellow humans by treating them as chattel. My mentors were wrong. My teachers were wrong. The church is wrong and I am wrong. Homosexuality is no more a choice than heterosexuality is a choice. People are born with their sexuality, and so to condemn a person to a life of guilt and shame over something they have no control, is to do violence to the very nature of human nature and to contradict truth and deny reality. So, in the words of the great Anglican defender of the faith and champion of religious tolerance, Oliver Cromwell: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.'"

Michael Shermer is the publisher of Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com), a monthly columnist for Scientific American, an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University, and the author of Why People Believe Weird Things and The Mind of the Market.