Thursday, February 22, 2007

Casual Authenticity

So I finally came out to my gym trainer tonight.

Yeah! Remember a couple weeks ago (two blog posts ago) when I said I almost told him that I'm gay? I had a training session with him tonight. The door for me to tell him opened up and I decided to walk through it.

I think he might have suspected. Over the past few weeks, I noticed that he seemed to be inquiring a little when ever I mentioned "a friend". I wouldn't normally think anything of his inquiries because it's typical for the two of us to talk during my session about what's going on in our lives. I'm sure that after two years of me never talking about girls or football whenever he did gave him some kind of clue. But in recent weeks, he seemed a little different when he asked. He didn't do it in an offensive kind of way at all. Rather, he was pretty casual about it, but there was a hint of hesitancy when he tried to get a little more context when I talked about "a friend" . . . .

In most circumstances, I really would be talking about "just a friend". But maybe recently he got the sense that maybe I wasn't just referring to "just a friend" and was actually talking about someone a bit more than that. Could he tell? Did it show on my face? Was I flush whenever I mentioned him? I was probably thinking it but maybe he picked up on the fact that this time I meant "special friend".

Normally, my paranoia would kick in because I'd try extra hard to look straight. I'd panic at the very idea that I might possibly look like I was gay. In recent months, however, that paranoia has diminished as I strive to be intentional about my authenticity.

So as we began my work out session, we started to talk about each other's weekends. He talked about the fireman's test that he took and about his fatigue from the 5 mile run that he did earlier today. I talked about my friend that was visiting from Virginia.

I had told him about this visit two weeks ago when he asked me if I had any plans for Valentine's Day weekend. I wanted to tell him then that this was a friend that I was kinda sorta dating. But how would I tell him? By the way, I'm gay. And my friend visiting - actually, it's a guy I met online and we've never met. But we're kinda dating. And, oh yeah, we met through a gay Christian Web site.

How would I bring up this sort of thing without defending myself by explaining all kinds of context? Gosh, given only the facts, he'd think I was some kind of weirdo who routinely went on blind dates with online people. That wasn't exactly the impression I wanted to give him of me, the gay community, the Christian community, or even the gay Christian community.

So anyway, I missed my opportunity two weeks ago and just gave him the impression that "a friend" was visiting and we were just going to hang out. Yeah, I chickened out. So at the time, he proceeded to tell me about his break up with his girlfriend and that he had nothing special planned (anymore).

Tonight, I told him that my weekend was full of spending time with "my friend" visiting from out of town. And that's when he began to inquire further. Not too much, just a single question looking for context.

"Soooo . . . . was this . . . . a good friend of yours . . . . visiting?" he asked hesitantly. I remember thinking that he had a weird look on his face. He wasn't looking me in the eye so it didn't seem like one of his typical casual questions just to have conversation. He was fishing for something - much like the sense that I had been getting the past few weeks.

Here it comes.

While doing the exercises he was instructing me to do, I told him, "Actually, we're kinda interested in each other." I panted between words trying to cover up my own hesitation in saying the words by trying to come across casual and out of breath. I said it matter-of-factly because I was hoping that his reaction would mirror my own casualness.

He responded in kind with the same sense of casualness. Interestingly, he reiterated the fact that he and his girlfriend are still officially broken up and that he is currently "done with girls" for now so that he can focus on other things. He actually said, "I'm so tired of the drama with them!" (No, i'm not reading too much into this! He said the exact same thing two weeks ago before knowing about me and when he first told me that he and his girlfriend broke up.) So no, i'm not hoping or thinking that he's gay or bi. He's still very much straight, I think.

I tried to observe to see if he felt awkward or uncomfortable. He couldn't exactly react with hositility towards one of his best clients! So he didn't make an issue out of it and we both carried on with the training session just like we always have in the past.

But I could tell he was thinking about it. Or at least, my own insecurities let me think that he was pondering me. I remember thinking, "oh my gosh! I just came out to him!", repeating in my head over and over.

Funny thing is that I tried to butch up my workout even more. I did every exercise he told me to do with 110% effort because I wanted him to see that this new information about me doesn't change the fact that I'm willing to train hard and that I'm no different from any of his other male clients.

So now that he knows that I'm interested in some guy, maybe he'll eventually feel comfortable asking about "it" more - "it" referring to either the gay thing or the long distance interest thing. This opens the door for me to be casually authentic now. Now i don't have to be silent when he's talking about his own romantic interests. It'll be interesting to see if this becomes something we don't talk about or if he begins to feel comfortable talking about these kinds of raw talks.

What can I say? He asked for it!

Monday, February 19, 2007

A Moment To Catch My Breath

Since I haven't posted all that much in the past several weeks and so much has been going on, I figured i'd take this holiday (President's Day) off work to catch my breath and write you an update with some snapshots into what's been going on in my world. There are some new photos in the filmloop so feel free to check them out!

I've had people ask me about how things are going with Catalyst. Unfortunately, i've been on hiatus with it because i've been preoccuppied with so many other things. I'm still excited about the vision and the work in the community that i want to do. It's just that there are some preliminary things that I want to do before actively and visibly doing things in the community. Those preliminary things will require a good chunk of dedicated time. That's not something that I have an abundance of since I've been doing so many other things with family, friends, work, and romance . . . .

I've had some fun times with my family the past two months. At the end of January, my brother and sister-in-law had a reaffirmation wedding ceremony. They were married 10 years ago in South Korea because my brother was in the Air Force and so they never had a ceremony with all of the friends and family. I had the honor of being a groomsman, reading a Scripture verse during the ceremony, and giving the blessing at the reception. Last week, my family got together again for my mom's birthday. Then, this past weekend, we got together again for my niece's birthday. I don't show photos of my family online but you can see a couple pics of me looking spiffy in a tuxedo! =)

During the Super Bowl weekend, I hung out with some of my good buds. We spent time hanging out in the jacuzzi, playing Settlers of Catan, watching a movie, going hiking in the San Bernardino mountains and going out to eat. Fun times and beautiful mountains!

I'm excited for an upcoming speech contest with Toastmasters. Some time in March I'll be competing in our local club contest. The winner continues to advance through several levels that ultimately reach the international conference. I don't imagine i'd get that far but i'll certainly do my best! I've been working towards my Certified Toastmaster (aka Competent Communicator) distinction too. I gave my fifth of ten speeches in January and i'll be giving my sixth one this next weekend.

Work has been crazy busy with significant levels of drama and office politics. There's alot going on. Whatever. Good news though, back in December, I submitted a request to have my job position reclassified since the work that I actually do more accurately fits in with a position that pays alot more. After several months, they finally approved it! This means my salary will be more! Unfortunately, they didn't give me retroactive pay. =( But i'm still thankful to God for His provision! Me and my co-workers also unionized so we're about to enter into bargaining negotiations for a contract. I hope that goes well.

I've resumed my workouts with my personal fitness trainer at the gym. In 2005, I had him for six months and lost about 32 pounds. I've since gained much back and i'm pretty insecure about my body image. I've got the trainer for the next five months so hopefully in June, i'll be looking hot! Hehe.... I've also decided that i'm going to run and finish the 2008 Los Angeles marathon. I'm not a trained distance runner. However, over the next year, i'm hoping to get in shape and train for it properly. Some other friends of mine will be doing it too. My buddy is actually running this year's marathon on March 4th so i'll be there to support him. I'm figuring that training for a goal like being able to run a marathon will get me fit and healthy and the hotness will be a bi-product of it - as opposed to me constantly going to the gym out of a sense of insecurity. I think i can do it though!

I've been developing some good friendships with people from GCN. Some are at a distance and some are local. I'm happy about some of them relocating to Southern California and even here in Long Beach in the next few weeks! I'm hoping to continue encouraging a sense of community among local GCN people. We've had a few gatherings recently and there are more planned in the coming future. I'm thinking about starting a group - not really a Bible study, but more like a Christ oriented group that discusses things practically and walks with each other through things. We'll see how it develops. Unfortunately, i've been a poor friend with some of my other good friends and I haven't stayed connected with them as much as I know I should be. I'm so sorry!!!!

Remember that book that I was excited about? It was Jason Illian's "Undressed". I was going to post my comments about the book and some other friends were going to read it too. LOL, sadly, i must report that I haven't been able to get past the first chapter. I was excited about it in the beginning. And after reading the excerpts inititally I thought it'd be really interesting and really different. Maybe it is as a whole, but after reading the first chapter, I just kept getting frustrated. It's not that I disagree with anything he's written (so far), it's just that either i've heard it all before or i've had the thought myself ages ago and i've moved on with my life past the idea. I dunno, i guess i was just hoping for something fresh and refreshing. I know other people are liking it. Actually Jayson tells me that he got as far as the fourth chapter before he started disliking it. But in the first chapter, i'm reading the kinds of things that I taught to the youth group kids years ago. So on numerous occasions, i found myself saying out loud, "well, duh!" Anyway, I don't disagree with what he says. It's just that to me, it's not that original. I know, i'm being super critical of it and judging it based solely on a single chapter - but hey, that's what you get if your first chapter doesn't keep someone's attention! (That's gonna bite me in the a$ some day when it comes time for me to publish my own books.)

Maybe i'm just at a point in my life where I'm done with academics. I'm done with reading about dating. I'm done with reading about church and church models. I'm done with reading about theology and perspectives. I'm done with reading about Jesus. I want to experience Jesus. I want to live out my faith. I want to explore what it looks like to be the church - to be a gay Christian - to be in love. I want to engage the conversation about practical things. I'm so done with cheesy churchian catch-phrases and paradigms. I'm not afraid of making mistakes so long as i'm learning from the journey along the way. Jesus is still my Teacher regardless of whether or not people judge me for not attending the traditional classroom.

Last but certainly not least, and on a related subject, I wanted to tell you about a guy i've been getting to know. I like him. He makes me smile. And he lives on the other side of the country! Hehe, i know, it's not like i was looking for a long distance kind of a thing. Does anyone? It's just that . . . . sometimes, things just happen. I'm fond of him. He knows that. And we're just taking things one step at a time. It's not like I know what i'm doing here (and you know how I feel about learning about this kinda stuff from a book). I'm just following my heart and I'll see where it takes me. We've been talking for just about two months now. This past weekend, he came to visit and we met for the first time. It was so wonderful to spend time together! (He slept at a different location than I). So the past several days, we saw lots of Southern California! There's a few photos of us in the filmloop. He is sooo cute and I enjoy his brown eyes and his smile. Every once in a while, he'll have this particular look on his face that makes me melt! And he thinks i'm gorgeous? *grin* - even as I am now before my personal training is done!

I'm still discerning how much about him i'd like to share with you on this blog - i'll explore that with him. My family got to meet him and they like him and tried to make him feel welcome. I mentioned his arrival to a couple people at work and they were supportive. More and more, i'm journeying through what it looks like to be comfortable being me - gay and Christian in every context.

The journey is a fun adventure! I just have to remember to take a moment to catch my breath.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Accepting The Whole of Me

[Note: Scroll down to read the lyrics as you listen to Jadon Lavik's "What If" on YouTube.]

I was *this* close to coming out to my gym trainer tonight.

We were in the elevator after completing my workout and he asked if I had big plans for Valentine's Day. Sigh. It would have been a perfect opportunity to talk about the "guy" that i'm interested in. But I chickened out. My trainer and I have gotten to know each other quite a bit. In 2005, I was with him for a six month stretch (helped me lose 32 pounds), then for another two months that year. Even through 2006, we'd chat every now and again. Now i've secured his help once again for another six months. And I still haven't come out to him.

Do I need to tell him? Does he need to know? Hmm. Well, the thing is - we've been getting to know each other. Why shouldn't I want him to know me authentically . . . .

Over the past several weeks, i've been many things. I've been a groomsman. I've been a brother. I've been a son. I've been an uncle. I've been a friend. I've been an ass. I've been a jokester. I've been a slob. I've been a snob. I've been a stereotype. I've been a romantic. I've been a loner. I've been a photographer. I've been a speech writer. I've been a host. I've been a hiker. I've been a client. I've been a blimp. I've been a guest. I've been a room mate. I've been a stranger. I've been a savior. I've been a punk. I've been a fool. I've been a student. I've been a teacher. I've been an example. I've been a consultant. I've been a counselor. I've been a closet-case. I've been a basket-case. I've been a leader. I've been a disciple. I've been a seat-warmer.

Of the many things that i've been over the past several weeks, I've been learning to accept that who ever I am at any given moment and in any given context, it's okay. . . . It's simply okay. I can own it unapologetically because the truth is that I am not any one of those things. I am all of those things. And so even though I may fall short in some respects or I may disappoint someone or I may fail to meet another's expectations or standards - I am learning to live out the simple idea that God loves the whole of me. Further, He accepts the whole of me. And if I believe that - or at the very least, if I say I believe that - then I also have to accept the whole of me. If I can accept me, then perhaps I can begin to present myself to the world authentically.

"Coming out" isn't about telling my gym trainer that I'm gay. For me, coming out is more about living an authentic life. It starts with me being okay with me - along with all my strengths, short comings and insecurities. Then it is genuinely expressed in my interaction with others. The key, I think, is that it doesn't matter if those others are "okay with me". Their acceptance of me doesn't govern whether or not i'm okay with me. But at least they know me and we can move forward from there.

The scariest part of trying to be authentic is the vulnerability of transparency. I am still afraid of what certain people would think of me if they knew the "real" me. But it's not just being afraid of what they think. I'm also afraid of their reaction. I'm afraid of what I could lose. And yet, imagine what I could gain!

At the end of the day, i'm still very much a work in progress. And that's okay. I'll come out to my gym trainer when i'm ready. Maybe you'll come out to certain others when you're ready. I don't think everyone necessarily needs to know. Unless, that is, if I want them to know. Perhaps, learning to accept myself as I am will help me to accept you as you are and we will accept each other as we are.

On my journey, I don't simply want to know myself. I want to accept myself. I've got a ton of insecurities just looking in the mirror. I can't afford to be paralyzed by them. I've been silent too long. I've been timid too long. I just want to move forward so that I can live my life, love my God, cherish my family, comfort my beloved, appreciate my friends and honor my heroes.

I wanted to share with you this super awesome incredible song that my good friend Josh shared with me. It's one of my new favorite songs! (Hehe, so of course every time I get a new favorite song, I've gotta share it with you, right?! - See my YouTube video index in the right column!) I think the song is "absolutemente fabuloso"! (Josh has been teaching me tidbits of spanish.) The YouTube video is just pictures so read through the lyrics below it as you listen to the song:

"What If" by Jadon Lavik
From the album Moving On Faith

What if I climbed that mountain
What if I swam to that shore
What if every battle was victorious then would you love me more?
Would you love me more?

What if I were everyone’s first choice
What if I went farther than before
What if I stood high above the rest then would you love me more?
Would you love me more?

You say I belong to You apart from the things I do
You say I belong to You I’m in awe of why You do
Why You do, why You do
I’m in awe of You, ooh

What if I ignored the hand that fed me
What if I forgot to confess
What if I stumbled down that mountain then would you love me less?
Lord would You love me less

What if I were everyone’s last choice
What if I mixed in with the rest
What if I failed what I passed before
then would you love me less Lord would you
would you love me less, oh no oh no oh no

You say I belong to You apart from the things I do
You say I belong to You I’m in awe of why You do
You do, You do, You do

What have I done to deserve Your son sent to die for me?
What can I give I want to live give me eyes to see
In a world that keeps changin’ there’s one thing that I know is true
Your love is stayin’ there’s nothing else I’ll hold on to

You say I belong to You apart from the things I do
You say I belong to You I’m in awe of why You do
Why You do

You say I belong to You apart from the things I do
You say I belong to You I’m in awe of why You do
I’m in awe of You,
I’m in awe of You.

The way You love me, the way You do
The way You do, the way You love me, You love me, You love me
The way You do, the way You do, the way You love me
The way You love, You love, You love