Saturday, November 19, 2005

Discerning Self-Censorship

So i'm here at the Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana. Yep, that's right! I'm here for the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) National Conference. I'm way excited to be away! For starters, having lived in Southern California for the past 15 years or so, i've never been past Arizona or any of California's neighboring states. We took the red eye and left out of Los Angeles at about 11:00pm Pacific time Wednesday night, arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina at about 4:15am Eastern time (saw lots and lots of trees), then went on to Indianapolis at about 6:30am and arrived here at about 9:00am Eastern time and saw actual snow falling. I discovered what "jet lag" is. Goodness, i'm so disoriented...what time is it really?

I've been to conferences before but this is my first trip representing my public ministry and it's awesome. I've met lots of other people who are doing similar community development type work. Major trading of the business cards going on... =) Anyway, good conference so far...

I met a guy at one of the workshops on "City Blogging" yesterday . . . who seemed to be a great guy. I found myself reluctant to tell him about Two World Collision - I guess i'm still pretty hesistant to be completely "out". It's complex - as you can pretty much gather if you're following along on my journey. I don't want to be "out" to everyone in every context because I don't really think that I have to be. I mean, my identity (and allegiance) is first and foremost in Christ. Being gay, or even just journeying through this process, is simply a context. But it's not who I am nor do I want it to be all about who I am.

It just sucks that I didn't feel comfortable enough with myself to be free to talk about Two World Collision. It was relevant to our conversation about blogs and the way "community" develops over the blogosphere. He seemed like a nice guy too. It would have been great to naturally talk about something i'm excited about and to talk about all of you that i'm getting to know and praying for. This is a dynamic I experience of living in "two worlds" - filtering conversations to make sure certain details about certain topics are censored. Censoring myself causes this feeling for me of not being completely known. I think that's one reason why it's pretty lonely at times - not because of others not wanting to know me, but because I don't feel safe enough with some people to be fully known. I know - i've always owned up on the fact that i've got issues, haven't I?

It happens when i'm in the city talking with mainstream pastors and I don't yet talk about the other pastors that I've met from the inclusive churches in the city. It happens when I'm at a prayer meeting with people from different churches throughout the city and they start praying "against" those homosexual people and their "agenda". It happens with some friends when he comments about an attractive girl but I happened to notice the guy she was with. It happens when I refrain from talking about an exciting topic that i want to blog about because the person i'm talking to doesn't even know about the blog. (Disclaimer: I hope you don't get the impression that i'm some basket-case non-socially functioning closet case. I'm not. Really, i'm not.)

I was talking with another guy from Chicago yesterday who works with a ministry that reaches out to male prostitutes. He noted that the majority of those guys weren't gay. Somewhere in our conversation we began talking about gay Christians and he believes that, though he hasn't actually known any homosexuals outside of the context of male prostitutes, being gay is a disorder from some kind of emotional lacking in their early childhood and that even if they say that they haven't been abused, he thinks they just don't realize the abuse that caused the brokeness. See, now here's a situation where he really didn't need to know that I was gay. He just wouldn't get it. He admits not knowing gay people (outside of his ministry) but he forms a conclusion about how they became gay based on his limited exposure to them. Now, I do have some friends that are trying to be a bit more informed about this stuff, but I also know that there are people like him that believe what they believe for reasons not completely logical. I used to be one of them.

So there's a bit of that fear in telling someone about my journey because I'm not exactly sure where they're coming from and how they'll react. Are they open-minded enough to be informed about the subject? Are they decidedly hostile for illogical reasons? Will they invite me to coffee or throw me out of the building and start throwing rocks?

Is this kind of self-censorship a self-imposed prison? I don't think so - not completely at least. Sure it's refreshing to be free to talk about certain things with trusted people. However, I think a degree of discernment is needed. On this blog, i pretty much lay out my heart - and it makes me vulnerable to have this kind of honesty. At the same time, i can get pretty devastated if someone attacked me with harsh words.

So people don't need to know what they don't need to know. In the mean time, i'll have to discern my own self-censorship.


The Rainbow Zebra said...

I agree with your hesitation to share--I think you'll know when you can trust someone. I've been moved to share some pretty personal things to strangers, and it was the right thing to do. Of course I've trusted the wrong people too : /

Only 2 extended family members know about my main blog, but I can trust them. My parents and my sisters...uh I'd rather they not read it.

Anonymous said...

Eric - I totally identify with the self-censorship you're talking about here. I used to be a totally different person than I am now - with a lot of different beliefs - and I still have a lot of friends from that time in my life. We're not necessarily close and there are some things they just wouldn't "get", at least not yet. I have to be careful about the context for when I talk about certain things, especially my changing views on church, and a lot of times it feels like you described...that they just don't need to know. But you're right, sometimes it can result in a real feeling of loneliness.

Michael Dodd said...

1) I am out in most contexts -- family, work, local community, many of my religious brothers and sisters and so on. But I don't necessarily tell everyone about my blog. Go with your gut on these things. You will occasionally make mistakes, but you wil survive. You will occasionally make great discoveries, and your life will be richer. Actually, your life will be richer even when you make mistakes because of what you learn.

2) My Partner talks about coming out "one color at a time." I think that makes sense. No need to shove a rainbow flag down the throat of everyone you meet. It's rude.

And to be perfectly honest, I'm not the center of the world for most of the people I run into at conferences. I need to stay right-sized.

And speaking of surviving, if you have been here yet, you have to go:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric,

I know what you mean about that moment in the conversation when sharing something personal seems like it would add so much to the conversation. I talk to a lot of people in my work and it comes up with personal interests as well as gay stuff. Sometimes I blurt something out and sound like a fool, sometimes it turns out well.

But I can't help thinking those encounters are really important opportunities for education. Even if you don't come out, I hope you try to challenge what they're saying, or at least make them question what they've believed. Thinking about those folks who pray against gays, or that guy who works with prostitutes, I'll bet they don't meet many people like you. Just one mild, logical question about their assumptions could start to break down their ignorance.

It's really hard being a bridge between two groups, but I hope you can find a way to use that.