Sunday, April 30, 2006

Insomnia, the Crazy Week, the Swollen Ankle, and that Video

[Note: Scroll down to see the YouTube video of Pink & the Indigo Girls performing "Dear Mr. President".]

This post is just a quickie to fill you in on what's been going on with me this past week. For starters, i've had insomnia every night for the past five or six days. I'm finding myself laying up in bed unable to fall asleep as tons of thoughts race through my mind. You ever have those nights where your thoughts keep you up? I am typically falling asleep around 2:30 a.m. and I'm also finding that i'm naturally waking up every night at about 6 a.m. I seriously need a full night's sleep! I think it's a combination of all the things that are going on right now (plus my bed sucks) . . . .

Last Wednesday night, I had the honor of sharing at Open Door Ministries' (Long Beach) mid-week service/fellowship/study. I had half an hour and I spoke about many of the same things that I've written about in the past regarding my 'Church' paradigm and relational communities (see section in the column on the right). I also talked about transitions that the Church is experiencing right now and how the Church of today ought to be preparing for the Church of the next 20-30 years. I think it was an awesome time and I was honored to have been asked to share! =)

Last Thursday night, I went to the men's discussion group that I go to at the gay and lesbian center here in Long Beach. It was awesome because it was a very diverse group in terms of ethnicity and age. There's always interesting insight from the great mix of guys.

Last week, I've been working on the very lengthy federal application to get the 501(c)(3) non profit status for Catalyst. I'm about half way done. I really want to do this well because typically 95% of non-profits have their application sent to an IRS reviewer because they messed something up (mostly because they were not specific enough about their programs). The approval doesn't come for about a year and a half. But for those that do everything right and are very specific, these few can get their approval in about a month. Guess which group I'm trying to be in . . . yep, the few that get their approval letter right away because I found out that I can't apply for the Wells Fargo grant (who by the way are extremely GLBTQ friendly) until I have this letter from the IRS. I may be getting a part time job while I do all this because I may not be able to fundraise for Catalyst as quickly as I need to. A friend of mine has been working on a header graphic image for the Catalyst web site. It's coming along. Once it's done, i'll let you know the web address! =)

A friend of mine from the San Francisco Bay area came down to visit for the weekend. A bunch of GCNers got together for a picnic at Griffith Park in the Los Angeles area today so that's why he was around. I took him roller blading on Friday from Bolsa Chica state beach to Huntington Beach. On the way, I fell on some asphault and had a minor scratch. It's funny because when he looked back to see me fall, he also fell. I fell because i was trying to avoid a patch of holes in the sidewalk. I realized, afterwards, that I probably would not have fallen if I just allowed myself to roll through the rough path instead of trying to go the easy way (which proved not so easy in the end anyway). There's an awesome life/spiritual lesson in there if you look for it - how many times do we end up falling because we were trying to take the easy way out? (I'm sure there's someone out there that thinks me accepting myself as gay is just me taking the easy route. On the contrary, there's nothing easy about this route i've taken for my life!) Later, we went to dinner, then we connected with a few other GCNers that evening and we all went to a coffee shop in LA, then went to a few hot spots in West Hollywood. Today (Sunday) was the picnic and we played volleyball. I sprained my ankle, put ice on it for about an hour, then played more volleyball. Yep, not so good on my ankle so right now it has swollen up pretty fat. Ouch! But the volleyball was super fun!

On Saturday morning, i got the last of my things out of the old apartment (much thanks to my friend Joon (he's commented on this blog in the past) and his partner Alan for all their help!). I went back to vacuum, do some cursory cleaning (because i figured they'd have someone else clean more thoroughly), and turn in the keys and when I was done, it was weird because I had one of those moments of standing at the front door with my hand on the knob ready to lock up while slowly taking a long last look across the room as memories of times there flooded my mind, then said my good bye and locked the door to that old apartment for the last time. Another transition was completed! Afterwards, I drove up to see my family for the afternoon because we were having birthday celebrations for both my brother and sister. On the freeway, I just felt so overwhelmed that I wanted to cry. I didn't though. It's not that i'm sad, it's just that so much is going on and it was one of those days that I just really really really needed a hug. It was good reconnecting with my family. My brother and his wife are having a wedding ceremony and reception next January for the family because initially they got married overseas and we missed it. I noticed that my brother made a gay joke with his friend. Interesting. I think its just still easier if he simply doesn't think about me being gay. When I got home that evening, I had tons of boxes to unpack from the morning move. I was super exhausted and even still had insomnia that night. The next day, I ended up waking up early to help set up for the picnic which lasted all day.

Tonight, I put more ice on my ankle and tried to relax. It was pretty chill here because my buddy had friends over and I talked with them for a bit. My buddy has been brushing up on his guitar playing and so when everyone left, he played an awesome song for me that a friend of his wrote when they both were in the peace corps. As I listened to him play, it reminded me of a song that I first heard over at Drew's video blog. The song is by Pink and the Indigo girls (who my buddy loves!) and it's called Dear Mr. President. I'm including the video below so be sure to check it out. When I first saw the video, I felt something. My point in putting it in this post is not to make a political statement but rather to (hopefully) have you feel something.

I'm tired and I've got a ton of things to do tomorrow. Hopefully my ankle swelling goes down. I'm off to bed and hopefully sleep! Be sure to check out the video below.

What do you feel when you hear this song?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Saving Face

[Note: Scroll down within this post to see video review of "Saving Face" on YouTube.]

Well, i've been settling in to the new apartment. I still have some things at the old place - i've sorta been taking my time since i have until the end of the month to be completely out, so it's been a slow and gradual move. I like it here though. It's alot spacier and I like having my buddy as a room mate. I live within walking distance from the grocery store and several food options - chinese, thai, mexican, pizza, pannini's, teriyaki burgers (let's hope i don't frequent these places too much). The upstairs neighbors are loud though - ugh! I can hear every foot step. I like it though.

Tonight, my buddy and I watched an awesome movie on DVD that I totally recommend to everyone and their mother (no, really. watch it with your mother). The movie is called Saving Face and it's about a chinese lesbian doctor (super super beautiful BTW!) and her mother who both experience the tension of having a culturally taboo love - the daughter having a romance with another (beautiful) chinese woman and the mother (single) getting pregnant and refusing to reveal who the father is . . . .

It's funny because there was a scene in the movie that my buddy and I happened to see when we both watched the GLAAD awards last week and when the scene came up we were both trying to figure out where we'd seen it. The scene was with the daughter coming out to her mother and she says, "I love you. And I'm gay." and her mother responds with something like, "how can you say those two things to me at the same time. My daughter is not gay." and she responds with something like, "then maybe i'm not your daughter." Totally awesome scene. I don't remember if they won the GLAAD award or not.

I found this movie to be absolutely hilarious! And at the same time, it was relevant to so many of us who experience that collision of worlds where our culture leaves little room for us to be with the one we love. I thought the movie did a great job at portraying the way gossip from family and friends can keep us in the closet in order to spare ourselves from the embarassment of other people's ridicule. I related well with the asian family dynamic too - of having mom's in a sort of denial still trying to fix us up and get us married - mom's not wanting other family member's to know that she has a gay child. There were so many elements to this movie that hit home with me. But i don't want to say too much or else it'd spoil the movie for you. So, for sure, you have to go see this movie. Really. Go see it! In the mean time, check out the website and watch the trailer. Also here's a review from Cinema AZN of the movie for you to watch:

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Search For Mr. Right Continues

It finally happened.

Everyone always talked about it. They said it happens there all the time. I never really understood what they were talking about because I never saw it for myself and it never happened to me. I guess I just never noticed before. I surely looked around, of course, but it was just a reality about this place that I accepted was true because people said it happened even though I never experienced it personally for myself.

People cruise the gym all the time (they say). I'd even find myself cruising a couple times - extending my workout just to hang around a particular guy a bit longer. Everyone always says that the gym that I go to is known for all the hooking up that goes on there. They say that it's a mecca for gays at this gym but I never noticed them because my gaydar has always been on the fritz anyway. I was just there to work out and I never noticed anyone cruising me (of all people! yeah right! Like that would ever happen.)

So then it happened. Last night, I got hit on by another guy at the gym for the first time . . . .

My first thought was, "Is this really happening? To me? Here?!"

After it happened, I got on the Precor elliptical machine to do my cardio and I couldn't stop giggling and laughing to myself.

The guy was pretty bold. He started flirting with me right there in the locker room! And there were lots of other guys around too! This guy had no shame. He asked if I was single and I just blushed and scratched my head thinking, "what the heck do I do? Do I answer him? Do I deflect the question? Do I say I'm totally available? Do I say I haven't freakin' been with someone in awhile and it's about time? What about all these other people? Can they hear our conversation? Are they as shocked as I am that this guy is hitting on me so publicly or is this really a normal occurrence? Whoa . . . is this what everyone's been talking about happens at this gym?"

Yeah, each and every one of those questions flooded my mind in that 3 second period of me scratching my head after he asked about my marital/relationship status. I had a bit of an uncomfortable look on my face as I smirked and laughed and looked away and told him, "yeah, i'm single."

He continued his flirting and said, "wow, i would have figured that you'd be fighting them all off with a ten foot pole."


Oh goodness. We continued our conversation as I told him in so many words something to the effect of me not knowing what the problem is and that I wouldn't mind being able to have someone special to be with.

I took a step back and to the side. I was trying to figure out how to make my exit.

I'm sure I probably would have flirted back if this guy was someone that was more my type. He wasn't directly asking me out. He was just implying his interest with some general questions. I was super flattered that he was interested and even bold enough to express his interest. I don't think i'm that bold. (Maybe that's my problem). But since I wasn't mutually interested, I tried to appear comfortable with the conversation without the reciprocal flirt and concluded the conversation by saying it was time to work out.

Sigh. Nice guy. We talked a few times before this. I guess I tried telling myself during those times that it was just two nice guys having a conversation at the gym. I never connected that two nice (straight) guys don't normally have get-to-know-you type questions at the gym ( - or do they?). I wouldn't know.

Either way, I was flattered. But gosh, why doesn't that ever happen to me with someone I'm also interested in? I want something mutual, but it seems like i tend to be attracted to the ones I can't have - they are either straight or married or has a boyfriend or isn't local or whatever. One of these days, it's gotta click. Everything's gonna be in sync and we'll have a connection - there's chemistry, there's personality, there's inspiration, there's passion, there's timing, there's local geography (we live close enough to each other where we can connect again and often) . . . and there's mutuality.

I want someone who likes me as much as I like him.

Last Easter weekend, I met someone who I really started to like. There was something about his eyes and his smile that just makes me melt (still does!). His life was interesting and he was interested in my life. We engaged each other. I was really consciously enjoying this conversation with him and I was actually excited about this guy - not in that "gosh he's so cute!" kind of way, more like that "gosh, i'd really like to get to know him better" kind of ways.

Then I found out that he was seeing a friend of mine.


I hate that! Again, I fall for the guy I can't have! But this time, I sincerely thought he was single. In fact, I heard (through the grapevine) prior to this conversation that he had broken up with someone already, so naturally I thought he was single. But once I found out my friend was "getting to know him better" I abstained from expressing interest and began that process of convincing myself that the feeling is gone and I can move on.

Yeah, not so easy.

How many times do I have to hear from friends telling me about how they found love when they stopped looking for it!? Grrrr!

I'll stop looking once I know what that means and how to do it. In the mean time, the search for Mr. Right continues . . . .

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My Psalm to Jesus

Happy Resurrection celebrations everyone!

So far this weekend has been fun. Yesterday, I did a bit more work on the Catalyst web site, went to the gym to work out, played Wally Ball with my buddy (and new room mate - woo hoo!), his brother and his brother's friends visiting from out of state (Wally Ball is like a combination of volleyball and raquetball in an enclosed room where you can play off the walls and ceiling) - super fun and we won, and then we all played cards til the wee hours of the night.

Today, a bunch of friends and I did a half hour beach clean up at Belmont Shore here in Long Beach. It happens every 3rd Saturday and i've been doing it for the past 5 months. It's great because it's an awesome time of prayer and worship while picking up trash on the beach to help bless the community tangibly. There's usually over 100 people each month, but today there was about 300-400 people because there was an easter egg hunt right afterwards (egg hunters had to participate in the beach clean up) . . . super fun seeing all the kids hunt through the sand! Afterwards our group went to lunch, then after that my buddy and I started moving some of our larger furniture into our new apartment. Yep, we've got keys! I've got until the end of this month to move out of my current apartment so I can move my things gradually.

Tomorrow, i'll most likely go to service, go to a potluck lunch, then continue moving things with my buddy to the new apartment. Fun times. Happy Easter!

In a small group that I go to on Mondays, we all wrote our own psalm to the Lord as a personal devotional to Him. There were no rules to syntax or structure - we just prayed, worshipped, and wrote. I thought I'd share mine with you here.

As I reflected upon Him, I had been thinking about the last several months and this transition season that's been pretty much a rollercoaster - crazy and unnerving but fun and exciting! It's uneditted and may not make complete sense to you - it's probably unpoetic - but it makes sense to me because each phrase has actual and personal context for me.

Anyway, here's my psalm to Jesus . . . .

May the peace of the Lord rest upon my soul
For He is faithful to care for all my needs.

During times when things seem so uncertain
And even when I am hungry
And when the debts continue to rise
And debtors call expecting more
When family question the decisions made
And friends tell me to lift my hand to work
When my body begins to fail
But the physician finds no ailment
When the condemnation of those who don't understand
Seems to weigh down my spirit
And cause me to doubt and question

When the world spins faster and in reverse
The Lord sets me still.

In peace and confidence He reminds me
That He is in control
That He has provided before
That He indeed has revealed to me His will
That He has healed my affliction
That He settles my anxiety
That He opens the doors of new paths
That He reveals new vision
That He has paid my debts
And that there is no condemnation in Christ.

Praise be to the Lord for He has brought rest upon my soul
And He has been faithful to care for all my needs!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Filipino Aristocracy

"Are you sure you don't want to get married?" my mom asked me the other day when I went to go visit with her.

I replied back, "Actually, I do want to get married. Just not with a girl."

"Oh, " she says with a long pause, then asks, "And so, then you'll just adopt?"

"Yep," I answered.

My mom has always been supportive of me in her own way and in so many ways. She's been supportive even when she hasn't always understood why I do the things I do. Her main concern, though, seems to be that she doesn't want me to have to experience that fear and rejection. A part of her still thinks I can choose to be straight. She even claimed that she didn't realize that I'm gay when I was younger. I think it's easier for her that way - to be in denial about the fact that I'm not going to marry a woman. If she clings to the idea that I can be straight ("again") some day, then I can be spared the tears. But the tears have come and gone.

So as I exit the closet, my mom enters it - not wanting anyone to know that she has a gay son . . . .

She's still trying to sort it all out for herself - not just the gay thing, but also my decision to leave my job voluntarily because I'm gay and then to pursue the vision of Catalyst - to do what I feel led by God to do. I told her that it hasn't been a quick and easy decision and that it has been very difficult these past several months. It wasn't/isn't easy deciding to leave something I care so much about. It wasn't/isn't a simple and easy process of reconciling my faith and sexuality when it's contrary to the majority and mainstream view. Fear and rejection is something that has kept me in the closet for 30 years so rejection by many of my mainstream Christian friends is something I have to be prepared to endure.

I wouldn't go so far as saying that I think she's ashamed of me. I just think she doesn't understand it and she's doing her best to love me the best she can - as she always has. But she doesn't want any of my aunts and cousins finding out that I'm gay. She doesn't want them to say harsh things about me. I told her that i'm not going to intentionally hide anymore and that people will talk regardless. But i'm still sensitive to the fact that she has to deal with hearing the family gossip. There's probably a part of her that blames herself. (She's also likely to blame my dad since he's gay - - "you got it from your papa!").

I'm patient with her though. She's gotta go through her process and she'll come out of the closet when she's ready - just like I was.

I realized some kewl things when I last talked to my mom this past Sunday.

First, I learned that another cousin of mine on my mom's side of the family is gay. She had been living in Texas with a girlfriend and is now wanting to move back to Southern California. My mom is helping her find a place to live. My first thought was that I should've known about my cousin. Go figure. My second thought was that I was impressed that my mom was still helping her out. Rather than rejecting her, my mom gives her the attitude of "well, okay. If that's what you want to do" (referring to her being a lesbian). Then she goes on to help her niece. When my mom was telling me this, I just remember thinking, "wow, she is supportive of family regardless." She said the same thing about one of my sisters who has been dating a guy that my dad, brother and sister don't really like. She told my sister, "well, if that's who you want to be with, okay". So I learned a bit more about my mom's character in this conversation.

Second, I learned a lot more about my family history - some fascinating things actually (to me). I've never really been motivated to go back to the Philippines. We left when I was about 3 years old and I haven't been back since. I've blogged before about my issues with ethnic shame and so I never had a strong desire to go and visit with my distant relatives. As I spoke with my mom this weekend, her sister (my aunt) came by and I began asking about our family tree. My aunt was the one who remembered most of it. Apparently there's a bit of blue blood in our family.

My great great great great grandfather was somewhere in the Spanish royal line and his son (my great great great grandfather) came from Spain to the Philippines. This occurred during the late 1800's. Somewhere in this time period, he changed his last name because of one of the wars. It was either the Spanish American War in 1898 (an 8 month long global war between Spain and the U.S. with ground fighting in the Philippines - the filipinos were unofficial U.S. allies) or the following Philippine American War (a war local to the Philippines only, from 1899 to 1902 (or 1906) between the filipinos and the U.S.). So anyway, with this new last name, he became the mayor of a city and was very well known among residents. He had two sons and a daughter. One of those sons produced future mayors and congressmen so the family name remains prominent in that region. The other son, my great great grandfather only had one son - my great grandfather. Since he was the only child, he inherited quite a bit of wealth. Through an arranged marriage, he married a woman from another prominent and wealthy Spanish family. They had three children, one of which was my grandmother who married a prominent lawyer in the region. My grandmother was the first in all those generations to break the tradition of arranged marriage. They loved each other and so they married despite the mild disapproval of the other family elders. They had six children (now that's love!) one of whom was my mother. (Cue the awwwww . . . .)

Here's the interesting thing. Because my grandmother was the first to break the arranged marriage tradition, she always told her children (my mom and her sisters and brothers) to always be with the person you love. So I imagine my grandmother often spoke with the same attitude as my mom, "well, okay. If that's who you want to be with, then alright."

The other interesting thing was that my grandfather was a sort of family bridge builder and reconciler. Way back up the family line, I mentioned that my great great grandfather only had a single son. Well, after this son was born eventually his wife died. He eventually remarried another woman and had other children. This woman ended up committing adultery and so that entire side of the family was disowned and disinheritted by my great grandfather (the single son from the first marriage). When my grandmother died, my grandfather decided to make peace with that dejected part of his wife's family. He gathered everyone together for a family reunion and people began to reconcile. My aunt says that every person in the family had tears of joy. My grandfather was the one who brought grace and forgiveness to the family.

So now, for the first time, I really want to go back to the Philippines and learn more about my family history. My mom and aunt say that there will be plenty of people who will welcome me with open arms because of my mom's family name. (Of course, I carry my dad's last name).

Most fascinating to me were that my grandparents were tradition breakers and bridge builders, and that I come from a family of shapers - people who affected their region both politically and socially. That's what I want to do. I want to affect my world. Maybe not politically - but socially and spiritually. I want to reinvent the GLBT culture here over the next 30 years.

I suppose it makes sense why my mom would be hesitant to have relatives find out I'm gay considering the filipino aristocracy in her family that still influences that region today.

This also makes sense why my mom has always been on me regarding a well paying job. Recently, she's been telling me, "I've been expecting you to get a very good job that pays alot!" But I tend to go for the community-based stuff which pays zilch and it boggles her sometimes. I know she's proud of me, it's just that she knows my potential. Now, knowing some of the family history, this brings a bit more context as to why she was placing such expectations on me.

At the end of the day, I know she loves me and supports me. She wants me to be happy. I think her being in the closet about me being gay is just her trying to protect me from the baggage that comes with the family name and its history. She knows that one day I'm going to go back to the Philippines and she would rather spare me any heart ache and humiliation.

The thing is - 30 years in the closet has made me stronger. She doesn't need to spare me from tears because I've shed more than my share. Now, it's her turn to gain the confidence, and when she's ready, come out of the closet about me.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Dawn's Revelation

It's morning now and the sky is clearing up. It had been raining here over the past couple of days and I've remained in my apartment for about the same length of time. I actually like the rain though. I like to walk in it without an umbrella. I like sitting next to a window and watching it pour down. I even like riding in a car while the rain streaks down the windshield.

I know the rain can sometimes lead to a gloomy kind of a feeling. I don't think that's why I like it. It's not like I prefer sadness. Thank God that Southern California has its balance of rain and sunshine or else I'd either take the rain for granted or curse its never ending outpouring. I think it's the balance that I enjoy - because after the evening storm, the dawn's light reveals the beautiful blue sky.

These past several months have helped me to appreciate both the grey and blue skies of my life. I've experienced growth and change and stretching and wondering and even confusion about life and sexuality and relationships and faith.

The dawn's revelation is that I am not broken. I have been made whole. I am being made whole. What does it mean to be both gay and Christian? I think it is to praise God for being both . . . .

Why not? Why shouldn't I praise God for being gay? For being Christian? I make no apologies for either. I had been conditioned to think that, because I was gay, I was broken. I needed to be fixed. And since I was broken and gay, regardless of being Christian, I was subtly taught that I was less. If I were to accept my "brokenness" as God's will, then it is simply my naivity.

I disagree. My brokeness wasn't being gay. My brokeness was believing that I hadn't received reconciliation and restoration with God when I accepted Christ as my Savior and that I would only receive such wholeness when I am either straight or in His Holy Presence. The deceit isn't that I believe it's okay to be gay. The deceit was thinking that being gay was a category of sin.

I believe that the sin is in how we express being gay or straight in unloving ways through lust, violence, and unfaithfulness. These are the things that we ought to strive for holiness in - not reorientation. That has been my paradigm shift. That is what has brought the dawn's light through the clouds of repression and condemnation.

Chained and bound by the dictionary of other Christians, God had said to me through His Word, "Um, no, actually I do love you." And I am now free to love Him and others properly.

One of the most beautiful women that I know is Christine. Her smile is beautiful. Her laughter is beautiful. Her cries are beautiful. Her story is beautiful. She's got a blog formerly called "Rising Up From The Ashes" now renamed "Rising Up Whole". She comes from a place in her life of having spent years in the ex-gay ministries and being told that she was "broken". It left her in ashes and she was rising up from it. It was the ex-gay ministries that were breaking her. But the breeze came and the ashes that choked her and covered her eyes were slowly blown away. She rises up a woman, whole.

She inspires me.

I share this same resurrection Phoenix story of how God restored and reconciled me to Himself through Christ. He helped me to believe in His ability to sovereignly create me - as I am and on purpose. He empowers me - not as someone who is less but as someone who is filled by Him with more - to catalyze the journey of those wading in the ashes, to help them turn towards the wind, and to inspire them to look up for what the dawn brings.

Several months ago, a milestone post for me was "Living Life As All Of Me" and in it I said that to be both gay and Christian means to simply be me. Today, i think it means to thank God for me - without apology, without regret. Just as my Father intended, I am happy as I am.