Sunday, March 20, 2005

Introduction: Judge tenderly of me...

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me -
The simple News that Nature told -
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see -
For love of Her - Sweet - countrymen -
Judge tenderly - of Me

- Emily Dickinson
This is the blog I never wanted to write. For years, and years, I never wanted it to come to this...I never, ever wanted to speak or write these words. But I no longer can hide them, no longer can deny them. It feels so silly to be admitting this now, when I am (as a kind friend said recently) "pushing fifty." But there are parts of my life that just are not going to heal, and parts of my faith life that will never really be true, unless I can be rigorously honest about me - all of me.

There's just no easy way to say this:

I am a gay man. A gay Christian man.

And yet, there it is.

Acknowledging that has been a long time coming...thirty-four years, at least. If not forty.

For some of those who know me, this is no surprise...in fact, it's been a little embarrassing to learn how poorly I concealed my secret. And for some, this will be a big surprise, evoking all kinds of reactions. For now, all I can say is bear with me - I'm working through this slowly, step by stumbling step. This posting is an ever-evolving document to help me - and perhaps, those who have known me - to understand why I'm finally talking about this now.

I've tried to be so open about so much of my life (especially my struggles in recovery) but somehow I never found the courage to take the last step of rigorous honesty, and "come out" to anyone - even the people I love. There's a lot of reasons for that - many of which I'll explore in other writings here. But the two main reasons I've never come out are simply
- I never wanted to be gay, and
- I was waiting for God to heal me - to fix me, to make me "right."
Ever since I've known I had this orientation, at least one silent prayer has always been, "God, please - make me straight, heterosexual, whatever the hell "normal" is. Help me desire what people tell me is Your natural order, OK? If being straight is really Your will, then please - let it be done, and let it be done quickly. I'm ready to go. I'll suit up, show up, and try to play the part - fake it 'till you make it, they say. OK. I'm ready when you are..."

And up until recently, if I had the choice, I still wouldn't have chosen to be gay. Let's face it - on the surface, given society as it is, and the consequences of living as a gay man in it, who the hell would?

(As you'll see, I'm coming, slowly, to feel differently. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly...)

For more than three decades, I prayed that "fix me!" prayer. And the only thing that has happened is that I ended up more lonely, more sick of living a lie, and more desperately "apart from" the world than I have ever been. To be honest, at first I just got tired of waiting on what I thought was God's provision. Now, I'm coming to understand that "waiting to be fixed" is not part of God's provision at all. And I'm tired of despising myself in the process. (And, to be honest, if an angel showed up with a magic pill today, I'm not sure I'd take it....but more on that later.)

For seven long years, as I experienced a true call to a life in ministry, I was ready to give it all up. Really...it sounds stupid now, but at the time it made perfect sense. I'd deny my sexuality, abandon any hope of intimate relationships just as a priest would, and just continue to live the lie that I'd been working on my whole life. For all those years, I really, honestly felt that it would better to live acting as a gay-friendly member of the "straight" clergy (who might be able to build bridges and soften hearts) than as an openly-gay clergyman (who would just seem to be pushing his own agenda). After all, the rules of my faith community insisted on celibacy outside of marriage - so either way, sex was out. So why not be of service, eh?

Well, that road is closed, for now - seemingly for good. (And for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with my sexuality. According to the rules of my denomination - if not their standing practice and tradition - I could have been ordained as a celibate gay man. We can argue later about how likely that might have been...)

Regardless, I'm coming to believe that God is healing me (though so far, that healing is coming in a much different form than I ever anticipated). I'm gingerly exploring a radical idea: that God gave me this faith, this knowledge, this training, and this "time apart" to face the truth of my homosexuality, to come to accept myself as His child in this way, and to find a way to be a voice for the untold numbers of gay Christians who are tired of hiding, tired of living in the shadows, tired of denying what God would have them be.

I don't know when I "knew" I was gay...but I certainly knew something was different with my sexuality at 14, when guys I knew and trusted were talking about making out with girls, and I wasn't gettin' it. Thank God, I never actually asked any of my buddies, "What's the big deal?" - but I thought it a lot. Soon enough, I figured out that I should be feeling something different - and wasn't. God knows, I tried to act and feel different (and left a lot of emotional wreckage in my wake in the process). Sometimes, I thought it was working - but in the end, it never did.

So at this late stage of the game, I can testify to this: no matter how much I have tried, no matter how much I have wanted it to "work," I have never, ever had even a naturally-occuring thought of true sexual attraction to women...ever. Now, I have tried to manufacture those feelings - with friends, girfriends, my former wife, you name it. I tried desperately, and often. And I really, really, really wanted it to work - and often made myself believe that it had worked - but it never truly did.

Nope. Not once. Like I say...I have tried. A lot.

If that's true, that also means there has really never been a moment of my life when I have not been homosexual. I never "abandoned natural relations with women" (Romans 1:27a, NIV)... because I never had anything to abandon. I was never, ever "there" to begin with. As rigorously honest as I can be, I am coming to believe I began life this way.

I don't think that the majority of Christians can even conceive of this as a possibility - much less believe it.

That's why I'm taking these ever-so-gentle first steps through the closet door - because I find I can no longer remain silent. In the war of words and ideas on homosexuality, there seems to be two main sides:
- the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, & transgendered) community, many of whom are in stable, committed relationships (or want to be), who are not sex-&-drug-crazed "circuit boys," who simply understand that they are different, and just want the chance to live and relate to each other openly and honestly, like the rest of the world; and on the other side,

- a significant majority of Christians, who seem convinced that homosexuals (a) have chosen this orientation, (b) have chosen "the homosexual lifestyle" (including indiscriminate sex and drug abuse), (c) are going to hell because of it, and (d) are determined to take all of decent society with them.
In reality, there are probably at least three other groups:
- Christians and non-Christians alike who either do not have an opinion, or who agree with the gay community, but don't want to get in between the first two groups (for any number of reasons);

- Loving, committed, faithful Christians (both straight and gay), who truly believe that actively gay and Christian are not incompatible, and who are willing to speak out about it; and

- Closeted members of the GLBT community who truly want to believe that their homosexuality, their faith, and their lives as equal members of the world community are real, valid, and intimately intertwined. These are people who feel they have to live their lives hiding in the church while trying to find a way of life and faith, but unable to even ask about the topic - for fear of "outing themselves," and being cast from the community of faith.
For years, I consciously chose to be a member of that last group. And that's why I'm writing - and praying - about all of this.

I'm still a Christian. I'm still an alcoholic in recovery. I'm a middle-aged former corporate slave who ditched his former life to come to seminary in Chicago. (For a number of reasons - none having anything to do with my sexuality - I had to drop out for the forseeable future.)

And I'm a gay man.

Coming from the 12-step communities (primarily Alcoholics Anonymous), I've found this truth: you can argue with my ideas, you can argue with my philosophy, you can argue with my dogmas and concepts and beliefs. But in the end, the only absolutely concrete thing I have to offer is my experience, strength, and hope. You may not like my experience; you can choose to ignore or deny my experience. But in the end, the only reality I have is contained in my experience - and my faith. And that's what I'm going to try to share in this digital "great adventure."

Now, at this point, I have heard non-Christian people say to other gay friends of mine, "Hey - haven't you been listening to your so-called 'Christian' friends? Your so-called faith says that you are an abomination, and that you should be cut off from the world, you stupid moron. How can you have a faith that claims that you should cease to exist? Why bother?"

It's a valid question. It's one I've wrestled with ever since I started going back to church. And it's at least one reason why I've stayed in the closet as long as I have. There are many, many answers to this - but here's a few, for now:

First, I'm not doing any of the things that would get me labeled "abomination." In fact, as of this writing, I have not "lain with" anyone - male or female - for eleven long years. My only sexual experiences with a man were more than 20 years ago - and the person involved was so ashamed, he ultimately committed suicide, rather than doing what I am doing right now. So let's clear one thing up: I am not "coming out" because I've found some hot guy to "do the nasty with," or because I have found some special someone to skip down some gay "lovers' lane." Tragically (again, at least for now) nothing could be further from the truth.

Second, and more importantly, as a Christian, I have affirmed the Bible as the inspired word of God. As a seminarian, I affirmed the Bible as the inspired word of God - first, to a specific community in a specific time, and second, as a guide to faith and action. But there are enough valid questions about the translations and intentions of the texts I quoted, and others (even by straight theologians, who have no percentage in "perverting Scripture") to give me hope. I'll be exploring those as I go along.

Thirdly, as a gay Christian, my homosexuality calls into question beliefs about the very nature of creation, about God's power and goodness, about the nature of sin, the essence of humanity, and about God's love for all creation (even me). How can I be an abomination and yet be fearfully and wonderfully made?

John 3:16 (that phrase that so many folks spout at the drop of a hat) says that "God so loved the world" - not the straight world, but the whole world.

Regardless what Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, or anyone else says, I am a child of "the world" that Jesus came to save. I am a part of the created order of the world. I didn't choose this; I have just been this way - forever. And I am slowly coming to believe that God can and does loves me, and desires me to have a relationship with me - just as I am. I've been told - by people who seem to know - that God wants me to be "happy, joyous and free." I don't believe that God wants me denying what I am, rejecting sexuality as I am drawn to it, and hiding the truth about who and what I am from the world. I cannot believe that I would be created homosexual, and then told to abstain from "that sinful life." Even though I have done just that, out of fear...for decades.

The 2nd step of the 12-step recovery program says that we "came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." A friend recently told me that he'd heard "sanity" described as the ability to work, play, and love - successfully, and in balance. So it seems that my adventure will be to discover how a a gay man can reconcile the love of God and the promise of salvation in Christ as revealed in the Bible with the ability to work, play, and love as a "practicing" homosexual.

Ultimately, some will say this is impossible. But I have to believe that the God of my misunderstanding is way, way bigger than that.

As of the day I first wrote this, I was a long, long way from "out." For another while, I could count on both hands the number of folks who knew that I'm gay. Now I'm out to a few more people, but still struggling through the closet door. So forgive my fear and struggling - but for the time being, this will be an anonymous blog. I long for the day when I can strip that cloak of anonymity away - but for now, this is just survival, one day at a time.

If I've sent you the link to this site, you know who I am...and I'd ask you to help me preserve that anonymity, until I'm ready to break it. No one else can - or should - be "outing" me until I'm ready to do that. (I'm not silly enough to think it won't happen - but I can at least ask...)

If you're still with me, welcome to the journey.
Judge tenderly of me...

(last updated November 20, 2005)

22 comments:

  1. Welcome, brother, to the world God created so you could live, laugh and love in it with God and with your brothers and sisters, gay and straight, male and female, transgendered and bisexual, black and white, rich and poor, Christian and Jewish and Muslim and Zoroastrian and Whatever, addicts and free, young and old, happy and sad, Republican and Democrat, short and tall, buff and skinny and fat, bald and gray and blonde...

    My story, as you know, is similar to yours in some ways, quite divergent in others. I can only say, though, that coming out in the way you need to, at your pace and with the help of your HP (whom we both call God), will lead to a new freedom and a new joy. and, amazingly, probably to a new ability to be of service in ways and places you never expected. (And as the Good Lord said, "Not without persecutions.")

    From my own experience, you may even come to a deep serenity in your very flesh that will be new. Most of us who are gay have kept ourselves clinched, on guard, tense for so long that we had no idea the impact it was having on our musculature. Loosening up will be a great thing, too.

    A good nun friend told me, "The truth will set you free. But it will hurt like hell first." Don't give up, though. As Miss Tammy Faye Bakker sang, "You're on the brink of a miracle."

    And God is smiling. What do you think that rainbow is all about?

    Damien

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  2. I was hoping you would have written more by now. I related very much to what you wrote. Especially the part about wondering what the big deal is about girls.
    For bad or good, I don't think I had the astonishment you might have been thinking I would. I don't think many of our mutual friends will either. However, nobody was particularly surprised when I told them about me either.

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  3. I'm with Dave on this. Let us hear more.

    I remember talking with a lesbian friend about how to come out to my brother. She said, "He probably already knows. Why not just say, 'You know I'm gay, right?' When I started coming out to my friends in my 40s, the usual response was, 'Well, yeah.'"

    My parents (who already knew -- My mother: "I was afraid of that.") had a difficult time when I came out to them directly. But it was mixed with their love for me, so there was no total rejection, although it has taken time for them to begin to understand. Like so many people, they think if their son is gay, he must be doing drugs, dancing naked and having wild sex at all hours of the day and night. Hellooo! Look at me! I'm a portly 54-year-old man who falls asleep reading in bed at 9:00 PM. I'm just me -- the same hyper-responsible, funny, loving guy you always knew. Only now you can begin to understand where some of my humor comes from.

    Most friends took it in stride. A few, who knew me from heterosexual dating and relationships in high school and university, had a little trouble making it fit their experience, but the fact that I am gay didn't seem to affect how they relate to me. Those who knew me mainly in my miniserial role just never thought of me as sexual at all -- neither striaght nor gay -- since they assumed that I was trying to live my commitment to chaste celibacy. They didn't know why it mattered -- "since you can't do anything about it" -- but that just shows that they too, at some level, equate being gay with genital behavior rather than a part (PART) of an identity.

    Damien

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  4. It seems that, for yourself, you have much left to say. I commend you on this internet beginning and strongly add my encouragement to the other comments - do by all means - keep writing.

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  5. What's with the color, dude? Didn't I tell you orange is the new black?

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  6. Purple is the new black, honey, not orange. Orange is the new mango.

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  7. Whasssuuuup?

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  8. Fr. Mychal Judge prayed,

    "Lord, take me where you want me to go;
    Let me meet who you want me to meet;
    Tell me what you want me to say, and
    Keep me out of your way.

    Maybe if you pray this yourself, God will tell you what to say here. God will send those who need to hear/read it. Who knows? You may be one of them.

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  9. Good post, i would like to see more. I would like to add another group to your list.
    -The Christian that disagrees with the homosexual lifestyle, yet deeply cares for the homosexuals.
    They see it as any other sin such as lying, stealing etc... There are Christians that truly do hate the sin but LOVE the sinner.

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  10. Just a reminder: It's Pride in the Windy City this weekend. A good time to share another thought...

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  11. Scot Randolf says:There are Christians that truly do hate the sin but LOVE the sinner.
    -----------------------------------Freethnkr1965 says: No there's not.

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  12. I was linked here by...I forget who, actually. Another blog. Anyway, I just want to encourage you, and to say you're not the only person who struggles to fit faith and sexuality together, and who in the midst of that struggle also sees no real reason why being one thing should necessarily exclude another.

    I think it's wonderful, and wonderfully courageous, that you're writing this blog. I wish you all the very best with it.

    Jess

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  13. Rainbow;

    I found my way here after hearing about this blog from Tom S., and I too am in your corner. I wish you strength, insight, peace, self acceptance, love of your God and serenity.

    I follow Tom's blog pretty regularly, and I am saddened, amazed and disgusted by how fervant the anti-gay community is. I find I am very quick to anger over almost everything the Right says and does....The hatred of gays is just another brick in the wall for me.....but I feel so passionately about it that my blood boils and I become obsessed, angry, disgusted and fiercely irritated. My own recovery, or attempt at it, tells me that my task is to keep my side of the street clean...to not judge them....but worry only about myself...not to take others invantory....I am told that self-rightous, justifiable anger is a luxury I can not afford....which stiffles me to the max....How can all that be so when I am so clearly right and these intolerant, cruel, self-rightous, egotistical bastards and bitches are so OBVIOUSLY wrong?

    So I get thrown into a moral or perhaps civic quagmire (sp). When I devote time, energy and emotion to pointing out all the ways they are dishonest, self-serving, and JUST PLAIN WRONG, in a way I am sinning myself by pointing the finger......doing the same thing as them..."Judge not lest you be judged."

    More to the point, I have responsibilities, obligations...work to be done, much that I loathe.....and obsessively following politics, society, all of this...while may grant me the noble title of being a "well-informed citizen," is also an escapist route into that which fascinates me and draws me rather than keeping my nose to the grindstone and doing my own work. "Doctor heal thyself...." and "Remember, whenever you point the finger at someone else you have 3 pointing back at you!" That kinda thing...I know in my deep heart that clearing my mind of thoughts any bigger than my house, my job, my wife, and my child, and all the responsibilities those bring upon me, is more productive for me than spinning of into the thousand ways in which Tom Delay is a crook, Bill Frist is a crook, Trent Lott is at leat a racist asshole if not crook, Karl Rove would make Herr Gerbels jelous in his svengalie-like (sp) abilities to hypnotize people and make them do his bidding....minister of information, I think they called it in 1984...How they are all a bunch of lying, theiving bastards....From DICKhead Chaney to wolfowitz to Rummy to Boy George. My contempt for them on perhaps 15-25 or 30 public policy directions and another million personal acts of dishonesty and dispicable behavior....Turning Iraq into a giant no-bid construction site for the Hallipigs...But I digress....
    My blood boils already....

    Back to you, my friend.....I know you not intimately, (no pun intended) but I have seen you off and on since you landed here....and I did not peg you for gay or straight....the thought never closed my mind, one way or the other. Perhaps if one is gay, one pays more attention to the signs, looking for fellow brothers...I don't know...Just as having been in the trades for many years, I could usssually tell you on a big job who is a carpenetr, who's a plumber, who's an iron worker and who'a a tin knocker just by looking at thier clothes, thier hard had and the tools they may have in thier pocket.....but to an outsider they may all just look like generic construction workers....if you are on the inside, you see the subtle differences....or you are more observant...I dont know....

    But gay or straight, you are a man's man to me, as is Tom, Damien, Micheal, and the others who honestly and forthrightedly put it out there every day....courage and honesty....and I don't just mean the courage to be out of the closet...while that requires a tremendous strength....how powerful your faith must be when thousands of people with thier little god complexes and deep insecurities make it thier personal mission to discredit and destroy you. (How any of that can be done in the name of Christianity bewilders me, which makes me belive again they are egotistical, dishonest hypocritical self righous EVIL bastards. Did not Jesus say I will boil these 10 commandmands down into 1 simple rule...love your fellow man as yourself?) End of fucking story, asshole! They truly bring me to the Vietnam war thing about having to destroy a village to save it.....Having to hate and practice cruelty to spread gods love and joy.....

    I keep getting off track....I just mean to say that a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet...and a good, honest, loving, concerned, non-selfish, giving, insightful, humble, reflective man like yourself wins my aprobation (had to throw a little UC talk in there....David Hume, I think?)and holds my respect just as deeply no matter what label you have or sexual orientation you put forth or withold. It matters not a bit to me whether you are gay or stright....what makes it my fucking business? But actually, being gay, I am very happy for you havng chosen this path of journey to outness.....While the mountains of shit the bible thumpers throw will now be aimed at you as well, the internal pain of denying yourself, the deep, aching longing to not be what you are must kill you day by day. (I know, because I live with that as well....not over orientation issues, but over career, being mired in the working class, having squandered my own opportunities to make myself into what I wanted to be...) I pray that nagging sense of personal illigitimacy is ifted from you to let you blossom into that which God intended for you to be.

    I wish you peace, happiness, courage and serenity, my friend. Walk tall.

    Peter

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  14. Blessings on your Journey with the Lord. "He will never forsake you." So go boldly forward and see what He has in store for you. Remember it's all in His time, not yours. And keep your mind open, cause wonderful things happen when you least expect them too. And I know the Lord has wonderful things in store for you!!

    OH....one more thing, "Cast your burden on the Lord." He is there to take the load from you and do all the worrying for you.

    Blessings,
    Christine

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  15. Just a thought re: the whole Narnia side of this. Although CS Lewis bought into the pseudo-science of his day regarding homosexuality, he made points about the physical/spiritual dichotomy of the Christian life, and the primacy of imitating Christ in determining what is and what isn't sinful, in ways that strongly suggest that openly gay people need not have any trouble serving God in their lives. Now, he made some negative comments about homosexuality which more than anything reveal the prejudices of his era; but he went out of his way to emphasize that the only enduringly emportant aspect of Christianity was becoming Christlike (he says that theoretically even the Bible would be useless if it doesn't help in this regard - and many parts of the Bible in fact _don't_ help in that regard, and he understood that). And Christ never condemned homosexuality, only 'fornication' and 'adultery', so the debate is one over historical semantics. Enjoy Narnia, my brother!

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  16. Just dropping in to say hello. You remain in my prayers, my brother. Keep feeding the sheep!
    Lisa (a.ka. Jubilee5750)

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  17. Thank you

    I got linked here by another blog, and this is something I am struggling with big time at the moment, being christian and knowing I could have an attraction to someone of the same sex......

    I think I'm still stuck in the "Lord please change my thinking" stage

    But thank you for sharing this, and I wish you well on your journey

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  18. I think you are an amazing human being and I am happy that you have chosen to "come out"! I respect your loyalty to Christianity and your honesty about being gay. I can't say that I knew you were gay, but I am not at all confused, surprised or shocked. Perry Farrell once said something to the effect of, "Nothing's Shocking", and I would have to agree with him. Nothing is shocking in this world anymore. I believe that one who is born into this world who is attracted to the same sex, is simply, just born that way. I do believe that if I am not mistaken, God loves all his children, even Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson and yes, even Fred Phelps. However, I personally think that all of those men were and are lunatics, but somehow still manage to be somewhat human. I suppose if I was to look at all sides of the spectrum, I could come to the conclusion that God made everyone exactly the way he wanted them to be, including making human beings gay. However, I suppose in an attempt to be open minded some might say that in God's workshop of human beings that he created some people with the natural attraction to the same sex and that perhaps he is testing them to see if they "sin" and that if they were true Christians and believers of him that they would give up their homosexual tendencies and desires. Now I must say that I don't agree with all of that and I do think God made us all just the way he wanted us to be. Okay so men don't exactly have interlocking parts, but then again maybe us men do? I hear wackos like Fred Phelps say that gays are going to hell because they have sinned, well as the late great Curtis Mayfield said once, "If there is a hell down below. . . then we're all gonna goooooooooo!" I have had premarital sex with eight different women including a woman who became my fiancĂ© and then my wife, who then became my former wife, so I guess I am going to hell too, according to some people. However, I don't think you are going to hell or me and I don't think my dad who committed suicide is going to hell or my friend Jeff who died from a drug overdose or my dear friend "Yolanda" who is a lesbian. But in the off chance that Curtis Mayfield was right, at least we won't be alone. Perhaps we can all roast some marshmallows and sing songs by Elton John? Imagine all of us hell ridden people singing "Tiny Dancer" around the old camp hell fire. Steve I love ya and you have been so very good to me and have paved a better road for me to follow in life and in recovery and I am blessed to have you in my life. I wish you all the very best in your new and much anticipated adventure. You are a kind, gentle, caring, sensitive, honest, brave, loving and beautiful man, don’t ever change!

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  19. i would love to read through all of these comments and will, eventually, but just wanted to assure you i am here, i love you, i accept you, i will stand by your decision whether to *out* yourself or not (how much more outed do you need to feel than this most amazing thread?)

    and i will comment, like it or not :)

    so much more to read and this was march of last year??? yikes, steve! i am blessed to be here, regardless of how friggin' long it took you to invite me in ;)

    peace, bro.

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  20. I agree! We seem to be twins of different mothers.

    The whole "not getting the whole girls thing" hit home. I actually told my shrink that I now understand what my jr. high friends were talking about. I also now understand why I liked watching my friend dive in high-school.

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  21. Hey, Steve
    I was thrilled to find your blog - I love the way you entwine Narnia into your story... when I told my wife 5 months ago that I wasn't going to pretend I was straight anymore, she declared that homosexuality was my turkish delight... fast forward five months, and we're still together... and just a few days ago she told my sister-in-law (who happens to be married to my very-much-in-the-closet-but-gay baby brother) that it's the way that we're wired. I'm just beginning this journey to me. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.
    Wayne
    throughthestorm.wordpress.com

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  22. Simply amazing, simply beautiful... and I am very grateful to have read your story.
    - I never wanted to be gay, and
    - I was waiting for God to heal me - to fix me, to make me "right."
    These things were so true of me too! No amount of praying and fasting would "fix" me... so about a decade ago I jumped ship! And I have been (be)coming out ever since!
    Take care!

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