Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hero Or Freak?

[Scroll down for the YouTube video of Five For Fighting's "Superman".]

Is Superman really gay?

The thing about movies like Superman Returns (by the way it's AWESOME, go see it!) and the X-Men Trilogy and the Spider Man Trilogy (did you know 3 is coming out next summer?) and other mutant/superhero type movies that I find so intriguing is the way that they are able to portray the experience of being different in a society that doesn't completely understand you.

It really doesn't matter if Superman or any other comic book/silver screen super hero is gay or straight or a cross dressing whatever. The point is that we can relate to the characters. As a gay man who has struggled with the Clark-Kent-Super-Man dualistic identity, I understand that as super as being different can be, sometimes I just want to be a regular Clark . . . .

If Clark is the closeted "normal" guy, then that means Superman is the "out" and "uncommon" guy. Is there a "super" element to being gay that I need to embrace?

The closet experience can be tough. Am I Clark? Am I Superman? When am I one or the other? Am I ever both at the same time?

There's a phrase in Superman Returns that i'll alter here: Even though I have been raised among heterosexuals, I am not one of them. Maybe it's okay that I am not a heterosexual.

I remember when the emotional conflict was so unbearable I desperately wanted to look a loved one in the eyes without wearing my Clark-Kent-eye-glasses - hoping that he or she will recognize the Superman within. I want you to know that I am gay!

But it was so hard to do. Rejection can be a closeted gay man's kryptonite.

Now that I'm somewhat "out", it's kind of relieving - to a degree, at least. Am I a crime-fighting hero or am I a mutant-freak? My loved ones will have to decide for themselves. I will have to decide for myself. What does it mean and what does it look like to accept the fact that I am gay?

If I choose to be the hero, then what does that mean? Perhaps, it's that I choose to be different. I choose to live the kind of life that values genuine relationships and platonic friendships. I choose to respect individuals without objectifying their bodies as if it's something to devour or claim or play with. I choose to value commitment and monogamy for the one person that I love.

If I choose to be the freak, then does that mean that I am never the hero? When the frustration of being lonely overtakes me and I am tempted to find a physical connection, does the indiscretion deny me the right to speak against it? When I gawk at the hotness of a guy passing by or when my jaw hangs open after seeing Brandon Routh on screen, does it reveal my hypocrisy?

Even public figures can be in a sort of closet. Anonymity allows me to get away with being the freak because no one expects me to be the hero. But being the hero means inspiring everyone to be the hero too. It'd be easier if no one knew my name. However, nothing about this journey of mine has been easy. I used to be paranoid about walking down the street of what we call in Long Beach the "gay ghetto". I am now much more comfortable with sitting in the front of a coffee shop frequented by gays and lesbians and being okay with people seeing me and thinking that i must be gay too. I am gay. How about when I go to the gay bar with friends for a drink? How about when I go to the gay club with friends to dance?

As I become more known by people in the gay community here in this city, how far do I need to be above reproach? How much of an example do I need to set? Am I the normal relatable guy or am I the hypocrite guy? The pressure sometimes makes me just want to let go! What in the world am I trying to do here and who am I to speak into the lives of others?

Where are the real leaders in our community? How can any of us have the right to try to be a hero when we are also the freak?

Perhaps the problem is that I need to stop seeing this dualistically. It's not that I am either hero OR freak - Clark OR Superman. I am both. Maybe the hero is also the freak who is just simply trying to live a better life - not save anyone. Perhaps the responsibility of the hero is not to be the savior - because there already is one - but rather it is to simply walk forward on a journey and inspire others to walk the journey as well.

I'm no superman. I can barely even be a proper Clark Kent. I figure the best that I can do, for right now, is to claim that I am neither. I am simply walking towards the One who is.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Imagine Me & You

I think it's important for the public mainstream to see a different side of the homosexual stereotypes that they typically see in the media. Movies like Brokeback Mountain pave the way for Hollywood films that present a gay community capable of genuine love. Of course, these kinds of films are still subject to interpretation and scrutiny by both sides of the fence - those who proclaim that being gay is "not normal" and those who suggest that being gay is simply "not common" but is indeed normal for the "uncommon".

The scrutiny can be brutal. Those uncomfortable with gay themes may complain that a movie is "too gay". Those proud of such themes may complain that a movie is "not gay enough".

I recently watched a special screening copy of a movie called "Imagine Me & You" (which is now out on DVD yesterday, Tuesday June 27th) and my critique of it is that it's "not realistic enough" . . . .

As I watched this film, I kept having the same thought throughout the entire movie: was this movie written by a straight person?

Spoiler warning: Don't continue reading if you intend on watching the film yourself! I'm about to unpack the movie.

In a nutshell, girl marries guy - girl sees other girl during wedding ceremony - girls become friends while guy is clueless - girls realize they're in love - guy finds himself single again.

The movie is about a beautiful woman, Rachel (played by Piper Perabo), who marries her super hottie guy best friend and lover, Heck (played by Matthew Goode - who by the way is absolutely adorable in every scene), and as she is walking down the aisle catches a brief glance at the wedding's florist, Luce (played by Lena Headey), somene she had never known before. At the reception they have one conversation at the punch bowl and from then on they are both drawn to each other. Rachel invites Luce over for dinner with her new husband Heck, along with Heck's best friend and horn-dog hottie Cooper (played by Darren Boyd). In time, Rachel and Luce develop a friendship at the encouragement of Heck. Luce is unapologetic about being a lesbian. Rachel has moments of resistance to the feelings she's noticing towards her new friend. Heck is apparently clueless that Luce could ever steal his new bride away from him. The movie proceeds with banter, romance and bad gay jokes. By the time Rachel embraces her love for Luce, realizing that the first glance the two shared during her wedding ceremony was actually "love-at-first-sight", Heck is heart-broken and the two women live happily ever after.

Almost makes the die-hard romantics sigh and "awww". Almost. This movie was full of scenes that even this hopeless romantic couldn't buy into:

**At the very beginning of the movie, Rachel is seen very excited about the wedding. However, during the ceremony, she is distracted by a moment's glance with a woman she had never even met WHILE she is walking down the aisle to marry her best friend and lover of many years. If she was so excited about this milestone event in her life and in their relationship, wouldn't she be more focussed on the guy at the end of the aisle?

**There is no indication that Rachel is a lesbian or is "in the closet" or is even bisexual. All that we are presented with is that she loves Heck. So is the concept here that a heterosexual woman can easily fall in love with a woman if it happens to be "love at first sight"? Is that how it happens? Even if she was simply curious about being with a woman, why would Rachel be so distracted by Luce considering that Rachel is a newlywed? She literally just got married. Did the "high" of getting married wear off while she was walking down the aisle? Did she not even enter a honeymoon stage? By the way, did they even go on a honeymoon? I didn't see that they did. The scene after the wedding reception is of Rachel going to Luce's flower shop to invite her over to dinner. A woman she had never met before the wedding!

**Maybe this story line would seem a little more realistic if they showed Rachel and Heck having been married for several years and their relationship was on the fritz. That could explain why Rachel would be looking outside the marriage. Maybe it'd seem more realistic if we saw that Rachel questioned her sexuality in the past. That could explain how a "love-at-first-sight" experience with another woman could serve as such a distraction for her.

**Even if we consider the possibility that maybe she didn't realize that she's lesbian or bisexual until that moment (as is the case for some in our community who don't "come out to themselves" until later in life), how can that hijack her feelings towards Heck? Unless she really wasn't in love with him. But that's not what we're led to believe in this movie. She does love him. Oh yeah, and they're still having sex! But at the same time, she's mesmerized by this woman she's only starting to get to know. But it's love at first sight so it's okay, it could happen.

I don't buy it. There's more that I don't get about this movie.

**Before she arrived to the chapel, why was Heck worried that Rachel wouldn't show up to the wedding? Where were his doubts stemming from?

**At the reception, why was the florist mingling with the bride and other guests? And dancing too?

**When Luce came over for dinner with Rachel and Heck, along with Heck's hottie horn-dog best friend Cooper (because Rachel was trying to fix Luce up with Cooper), Luce openly told Heck that she was a lesbian. Later, in the grocery store, they have fun with trying to figure out if Luce had a girlfriend and they discover that she is single. So why would Heck encourage Rachel to develop this friendship with Luce? Why would he ask Luce to escort his wife to a sporting event in his absence? Was he so confident in his relationship with his wife (even though he says later in the movie that he wasn't sure if she'd show up to the wedding) that Luce posed no threat? I notice he didn't have his best friend take her to the game. Horny guy Cooper might steal Rachel away but not lovely lesbian Luce? Heck is absolutely adorable but is he clueless?

**Rachel experiences some confusion about the feelings she's developing towards Luce so she decides to over compensate by bringing Heck into the woods late at night to get frisky - not in the privacy of their own home or in the comfort of their own bed but in the woods. They are interrupted by the sound of two men behind a tree "getting it on". The four introduce each other and they reveal that the two gay men had only met each other that night in contrast to Heck and Rachel who were married - all four in the woods to find a private moment? So the depiction here is that two gay men will have a fling in the dark woods after meeting each other for the first time but two women (a lesbian and a we-don't-know-what) can fall in love after seeing each other for the first time? I know both scenarios happen but what's the message here?

**Heck quits his job and gets drunk. Rachel happens to be nervous at home ready to tell Heck about Luce. So when Heck gets home, obviously drunk, she still uses that opportunity to confess to Heck about something this important - that her affection is divided. Wouldn't it make sense for her to tell him while he's sober? It turns out that he does hear what she's saying but pretends to be asleep. And so later, Heck doesn't realize or suspect that Luce is the one Rachel was confessing about? He really is clueless!

**In fact, Cooper figures out that it was Luce before Heck does. And as much as a horny-dog that Cooper is presented as being, someone who will sleep around uncommitted with anyone and anything unapologetically, he goes to Luce judging her and calling her a slut? What the hell was that all about?

**When all the cards are laid out, everyone knows about everyone, Heck is willing to simply step aside so that Rachel can embrace her "true love". Where's the anger? Where's the fighting for her? Where's the discussion about the fact that they were actually and still married?

I understand that this movie was meant to be a romantic comedy. But it's poorly written, poorly directed and poorly produced. There were parts of the movie where scenes seemed to be missing. There were scenes where actors just didn't seem believable. There wasn't enough character development. There were numerous stupid gay jokes, inferences and stereotypes. It really does seem like a straight person was trying to write a gay love story.

Okay, so I appreciate the attempt at illustrating how a gay romance can occur just like a straight romance can. I believe gay people can genuinely fall in love too. But the thing that this movie lacked was a realistic presentation of the social dynamics involved with a gay theme. The concept of the movie may have worked if the bride fell in love with the best man or even another man. It would fit in a heterosexual context. However, this movie failed to depict the social complexities of being and/or figuring out if one is gay or lesbian and the social consequences we have to live with for choosing this kind of a relationship while severing a heterosexual marriage.

The more troubling thing about this movie to me was that there seemed to be no acknowledgement of the wedding vows that were recently made. I like being able to see a lesbian couple in love but why was it important to illustrate it in the context of breaking up a marriage? Personally, I would have rather seen Rachel call off the wedding and eventually end up with her true love than to see her enter this marriage, commit adultery and leave her husband.

"Imagine Me & You". Sounds romantic.

In a time when people are shouting from the roof tops that gay marriage will threaten the institution of marriage, we don't need a movie that shows that it's okay for a gay or lesbian relationship to break up a marriage commitment simply in the name of "true love". What we need is a movie that shows that it's okay for a gay or lesbian relationship to honor their "true love" for one another by sharing a marriage commitment.

Now that is something to "imagine".

Sunday, June 25, 2006

In Honor Of A Son

Yesterday, I was a part of the Long Beach AIDS Walk and it was an incredible time of hearing stories and meeting people. I may or may not write another blog post processing my thoughts about the event and AIDS but just in case I don't, I wanted to make sure I shared with you briefly about one particular woman featured in this photo.

This woman was the very last walker to cross the finish line. As she approached, everyone gathered at the finish line to welcome and congratulate her. They decided to honor her by bringing her up to the stage. She slowly walked up, being escorted by two people to help her up the stage, and they allowed her to speak . . . .

As she began to share from her heart, with tears beginning to flow, she announced that she was walking in honor of her son. Her son was a victim of a carjacking and was shot. He received a blood transfusion and consequently was infected with HIV. He eventually developed AIDS and passed away. It's been an especially difficult time for this woman and she shared that she finds comfort in knowing that her son is in heaven watching over her.

I don't think the organizers knew what this woman was going to share when they decided to bring her up. So many people in our community have stories of their own - sons, daughters, husbands, wives, partners, friends, and loved ones - people who have been affected in one way or another by this disease. People are dying. People are mourning. People are surviving. Let's be intentional about hearing these stories and allowing them to affect us.

I've got photos up of the Long Beach AIDS Walk in the Catalyst photo gallery here.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Community Familiar With Rejection

Bea's last two posts over at Sh-out called "Pick ME! Pick ME!" and "Brutal Honesty" got me processing more about my parents. Last week, in "My Parents Before The Divorce", I was imagining what it must have been like for my parents during their marriage. My mom knew (or at least had her suspicions) about my dad being gay and so now that I know that he's gay it allows me the ability to empathize or sympathize with their experience so that I can sort out for myself how the divorce had affected me as I grew up.

Her post about wanting to be "picked" really resonated with me because it gave me insight into how my mom must have desperately wanted her husband to actually desire her. I can imagine that, as a woman, she wanted to feel sexy, appreciated, wanted - picked. As a man, that's what I want! But it helps me to understand more of the dynamic that was going on between them. Beneath the surface, under the arguing and fighting with each other that I hated seeing and under the bitterness that I felt against them, there was this frustration between us all because we were all feeling rejected by each other . . . .

Last night, I was with some friends and we were talking about why some gay men are afraid of being alone. I'm not necessarily "afraid" of being alone. It's just that I don't want to be alone because it's been such a lonely experience for me in the closet. For so many years, I intentionally denied myself the opportunity to be genuinely and authentically known and touched because I was afraid of being rejected if certain people knew. Going back further, it was a lonely experience for me after the divorce. Deep down, I felt rejected by my parents when they got divorced. I realize now that they both also felt rejected.

I can imagine the helpless feeling that my mom must have experienced during their marriage. My dad being gay was out of my mom's control. There was nothing she could do to change him. She must have felt so angry at my dad for not changing himself. What must have been going through my mom's mind for all those years? Why does he have to be gay? Why won't he just choose to be "normal"? Am I not a good enough woman for him to make him want to be straight? I wonder what kind of insecurities manifested out of the chaos that was going on in my mom's head. Honestly, I hate to admit this, but I used to look down on my mom everytime I saw her with a "guy friend". But how can I judge her when I know how desperate she must have been to want to be "picked"? My mom just wanted to be desired. Loved. How can I blame her for doing the best she could to maintain some kind of sanity, some kind of control - some kind of self-preservation? I love my mom and it breaks my heart to think that there were times that she wanted to be loved and didn't receive it.

I can imagine the confusion that my dad must have been experiencing during their marriage. He must have been so torn. I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he wanted to be a good husband, a good father - but didn't know how. Isn't loving your wife supposed to be just natural? I'm sure he loved her but he probably recognized that he didn't desire her. So how do you force yourself to desire someone that you don't? He loved her. He wanted to be able to desire her but he couldn't. He must have imagined what my mom was feeling and hated himself for not being able to please her. If I were with a woman, I wouldn't know how to fully please her either. So what was he supposed to do? It's not like he could just choose not to be gay. It's not like he could just choose to desire her. My dad must have felt so out-of-control too. He probably knew that my mom knew that he was gay and felt that she rejected him for not being a "real" man. He probably rejected himself for not being a "real" man. I personally understand the tension of being in the closet. I love my dad and it breaks my heart knowing what he was going through in a marriage with a woman he cared for and four children that he loved. And so he must have felt rejected by me when I chose not to live with him after the divorce.

It was traumatic for me. I remember the day I found out. It was morning and my dad was driving me to elementary school in our family van. I was in 6th grade. He said, "Son, you mama and I are getting a divorce." I knew. We all knew that it was coming. My brother and sisters and I all knew that it was going to happen sooner or later. The truth is that I was actually relieved. I was glad to hear it. I hated seeing them argue. I hated it when they took it out on us.

I remember sitting in the front seat of the van looking out of the window watching the houses and trees whiz by while I listened to my father speak. He continued, "She's going to move to Long Beach with your aunt. I'm going to stay here in Hawaii. Who do you want to go with?" It was a no-brainer. I already knew that I would much rather live with my mom than with him. He was rigid and distant. I hated doing yard work, which is something he had my brother and I do all the time, and so I saw this as an opportunity for a prison break. I don't remember the actual words that I used. I chose my mom. I don't even remember if he said anything back to me. But I do remember how I felt. I didn't feel guilty for choosing to leave. But I felt like he was giving me a guilt trip for not choosing him. And so I guess I felt like I "should" be feeling guilty but as I grew up I ended up hating him for making me feel guilty. (Does that make sense?) So I was bitter with him for pretty much all my teenage and young adult years because I felt like he shouldn't have made me feel that way. I was 10 or 11 years old, I shouldn't have to choose between my parents - much less feel guilty for the choice that I ended up making. I felt rejected by him - which is weird because he was most likely feeling rejected by me.

This kind of craziness shaped my teenage years. I was confused after the divorce because I didn't know how I was supposed to feel. Am I supposed to feel guilty for choosing my mom? Does choosing my mom automatically mean that I was rejecting my dad? Is it okay that I wanted them to get a divorce? Should I feel guilty about that? I just wanted peace for a change. And by the way, on top of all this madness, why the hell was I gay?

No wonder I was all screwed up and tried to kill myself.

Rejection sucks. My mom felt it. My dad felt. I felt. We were all screwed up because we didn't know what to do with rejection and the feelings that come with it. But in hindsight, I suppose I can understand the person that I am now by the way the divorce - and even the closet experience - shaped me as I grew up.

In my last post about this theme, I had a minor side note (soapbox) about the whole gay marriage thing and I'm feeling another one coming now: I think the opponents of gay marriage don't realize why many people in "my" community" feel so outraged by their opposition. Aside from the justice issue or even the God issue, I think that every time that we hear people oppose gay marriage in conversation or in debate or in public speech or even in a wedding ceremony where someone talks about the "threatened institution", it's yet another example of how we experience society rejecting us. We are a community familiar with rejection and when people say that we shouldn't have the right to marry because it would threaten the "institution of marriage", it becomes not only insulting but personal. The debate will not die, for this reason.

Anyway, where was I?

I love my parents. I can understand their experience when they were married and it helps me to move on. It helps me to understand what I don't want in a marriage. It helps me to understand how important it is for us to want to be "picked". I am a gay man. It wouldn't be fair to anyone for me to marry someone I didn't completely desire. One day, I will marry a person that I love, appreciate and even desire. And it will be mutual. He will know that I pick him and I will know that he picks me.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Not So Fun Part of Living By Faith

It seems like it's always been about faith. For the past decade or so, the majority of my life decisions have been guided by the direction I believed the Lord was leading me. That direction was rarely the most logical, practical and obvious course of action. Thus, my family has never really understood why I won't just get a "normal" job. But after 10 years, I've learned to trust Him because He's always led me to people and moments that were significant to the Kingdom.

The thing is, even having developed a trust of Him, it's still pretty nerve-racking at times. He's always provided for me in one way or another. I've been hungry before but i've never starved to death. I've been unemployed for periods of time but He seemed to carry me through. Now, it's been just about 3 months since not having a $ paying job and I'll admit that it's really tough. Sure I trust Him - I know a job or financial support will come eventually, but I still have to live through it. That's not so fun. The journey is fun, the rollercoaster is fun, even the work He's called me to is fun - but the anxiety is never fun . . . .

It'd be so easy for me to take the easy road by getting a well paying job. It's not just that I want to do what I want to do. It's that I want to be obedient to do what I have been called to do. For right now, it's Catalyst. As it is now, the bills need to be paid. Over these past three months of not having a job, I've been investing the time in building up Catalyst - building relationships, casting vision, articulating strategies, working on Web site, etc... These things require time. They need to be done. But now i'm at a point to where I've got to find a job, something that I can do during the day that won't take much mental energy so that after work I can focus on the community work that I really want to do with Catalyst.

I've been stressing out extra this past week because the end of the month is coming up and rent will need to be paid and I so don't want to put a burden on my buddy/room mate (even though he probably can handle it for a month). I borrowed money from my mom a couple months ago to help me get by and I agreed to pay her back in chunks every month (thinking that I would have a job by now). Since I don't yet have a job or a source of income, I don't have the means to send her any money. I hate that because now the burden is hers until I can do something.

Oh how I long for the day when Catalyst can be fully funded and have the capacity to hire me. People don't get into non-profit work for the money - that's for sure! - but it sure does alleviate stress knowing that the time can be invested in it without the worry of personal bills needing to be paid. Sometimes people ask me what I "do" and I tell them (in so many words) that I've established a non-profit organization. Sometimes they respond with an "ooh" or an "ahh" but the truth is that it is NOT a glamorous lifestyle. It's all work and no/low pay but the compensation is that it's all heart. I feel blessed to be able to live out of my passion.

I keep reminding myself of what several people have told me along the way - "despise not the little things". In 15 years, I'll look back and see Catalyst in its infancy and I'll chuckle at the way we struggled just to get going. And i'll praise God for the way He has faithfully provided so that the fulfillment of this vision He planted in me can be realized.

I trust that the Lord will provide, especially since I believe that He led me to doing all of this. A friend of mine places people at a temp agency and after several several several weeks, still nothing. I contacted a friend of mine who is seeing about getting me in at the place where he's working. I really hope and pray that that pans out because I seriously need the job right now. Would you please join me in prayer regarding the whole job thing? Thanks, friends!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Love Wins

Gay Games VII in Chicago is less than a month away and my good friend Becky has been training for the triathalon. Some of you old time readers may remember me introducing you to her back in December in this previous post.

She is teaming up with the Human Rights Campaign to join Team HRC for the Gay Games. It fits well that she is part of this team because Becky has an incredible heart for all of us as equals ("="). She believes that God loves us all equally and that we ought to love each other equally. She also believes that we ought to have the equal right to express our love for one another. Her life goal is to change the world through sports and her motto is "LOVE WINS". She is a winner, an incredible friend, and an ally worthy of our support.

As she diligently trains for the triathalon, I have decided to contribute to her financial support. It's a blessing that she is able to go to the Gay Games. Now I'd like to support her goal to raise funds for an important cause. Would you please consider supporting her as well?

Please click here to go to her Team HRC page and donate whatever you can - be it $10, $15, $20, $50 or more. Anything and everything helps!

Note: When you make a donation, it will ask for the athlete referral (last name). She is listed on Team HRC as Rebecca Olszewski. Thanks friends!

Friday, June 16, 2006

My Parents Before The Divorce

Some of the most moving scenes for me in Brokeback Mountain were the parts of Ennis and his wife Alma. As I watched them, it took me to a place I had never considered before. What must it have been like for my father and mother when they were still married?

If you’d asked me to recall a memory from my childhood, a vivid one that always comes to mind is when I was standing next to my dad near the stairs as he yelled out profanities towards my mom across the house in the kitchen. I was ten years old.

I held a lot of bitterness in my heart towards my dad after the divorce. It was tough. But once I found out that my dad is gay, things started to make sense . . . .

I used to think back to those times in Hawaii and wonder what the real reason was why they got divorced. Was it really my fault? After all, I was gay and they had to know, right? They argued because of me, they were disappointed in me, right? Or was it really my dad’s fault? He just was never happy with anything, right? He constantly found fault with everything my mom did, right? Or was it really my mom’s fault? She just wasn’t good enough, right? She wasn’t pleasing to my dad, right?

It’s crazy to think back on the kinds of things that go through a child’s mind. I know it wasn’t my fault that my parents got divorced. I know it wasn’t my dad’s fault. I know it wasn’t my mom’s fault. I figured out that it was my brother’s fault – the jerk! *smirk* (LOL, I’m absolutely kidding, really, I love my brother! Hehe).

I’ve spoken to both my parents separately and they would both accuse the other of infidelity. Hmm. Alright, who’s telling the truth? Perhaps both of them were. I don’t know. But I’ve now got a glimpse of how complicated their marriage must have been. Now that I know that my dad is gay, in the closet, and at the time was in the U.S. Air Force, I can somewhat understand the dynamic that must have been going on between my mom and dad romantically and sexually. I know what it’s like to be in the closet. It’s frustrating and lonely. How much more must it have been that way for my dad in a marriage?

If (and I emphasize the “IF”) it’s true that my mom was unfaithful, I don’t exactly blame my mom for it. And I can also imagine that along with the anger that my dad must have been feeling, whether he knew for sure that she was doing that or even if he only suspected it, my dad must have felt jealous – envious even – because he wanted to be with a man and couldn’t (or at least, he made the choice to deny himself). I used to have those same feelings when my female friends got boyfriends. I was so jealous because I wanted to be with her boyfriend instead of her.

If (and I emphasize the “IF”) it’s true that my dad was unfaithful, I don’t exactly blame him either because I understand what it’s like to burn with passion for another guy. The frustration of never being socially allowed to embrace a man in such a way is absolutely overwhelming. I can imagine the mix of anger, confusion, and sorrow that my mom must have been feeling knowing that my dad was (or may be) with another man. She must have felt betrayed and used. (My mom implied to me once that she felt like my dad used her just to make kids – I’ve got three other siblings, I’m the youngest.) She must have felt so inadequate sexually as a woman thinking that she wasn’t good enough and so he had to go to a man to be pleased. She must have felt so lonely because she couldn’t tell anyone and she must have been too ashamed to let anyone know. I used to have those same feelings when a male friend of whom I was crushing on got a girlfriend. I’d feel so inadequate because he didn’t desire me the way I desired him. Of course, he was straight, but still. I envied the girl because I wanted to be with my friend instead of her.

Whether or not infidelity is right or wrong is not the issue. I’m not implying that it’s acceptable. But what I am saying is that understanding the context of their marriage helps me to be more compassionate towards them for making the decision to get divorced. I can understand why they argued so much. I can understand why they never seemed happy. I can understand how they might have taken their frustrations out on us kids, at times.

Of anything it makes me value marriage all the more. It makes me grateful that I am out of the closet. I no longer have to put on the charade of looking straight – entertaining the idea of marrying a woman just so that people wouldn’t suspect that I am gay. I no longer have to worry about having a marriage that could potentially end in divorce – like my mom and dad’s or even like Ennis and Alma’s. I no longer have to worry about putting my wife through the hell of lying to her, not telling her why I’m not completely satisfied, and making her feel guilty or unattractive.

Instead, I can engage in relationships honestly. And in the context of a serious romantic relationship, I can entertain the idea of marriage knowing that I actually do love him and that we’ll enjoy each other’s company for the rest of our lives.

Here’s a side note (more like a soapbox) but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now: what is it exactly that opponents of gay marriage would have me do? Marry a woman while sacrificing both of our happiness and ultimately ending up divorcing each other anyway. Yeah, that’ll preserve the institution of marriage. I think it’s just easier for them to close their eyes, wave their finger in the air back and forth, and yell out “no, no, no” while denying me the same legal right that my other fellow American citizens have. They refuse to see that two men happy together for the rest of their lives who KEEP their marriage vows is better than a man and a woman unhappy together who ultimately BREAK their marriage vows. Yeah, I know, they would rather insist that I not marry at all! Who are THEY to insist that upon me? (I’ll stop there because I can already tell I’m starting to get worked up about it).

Anyway, where was I?

I love my parents. I don’t blame them anymore. They both did the best they could at the time. Regardless of what happened in the past, today things are better. My family knows that I’m gay and they do not reject me for it. They know that some day I’ll have a boyfriend and ultimately a husband – yes, husband. (Although, I think my mom is still holding out for me to marry a nice Filipino girl.) Both my parents now live in Southern California and for the second holiday family gathering in a row, the entire family has been present – both parents, all my siblings and all the kids. It’s great! Sure my parents have residual issues but at least they can be (somewhat) civil with each other in the same room. I’m thankful for the way God has redeemed the relationships in my family because there were some pretty tough times.

Today, I discovered two blogs that I thought were interesting. The first is Accidental Christian – a blog by Eddy, a gay man in the closet who is a pastor and has come out to his wife. The other is Sh-out – a blog by Bea, Eddy’s wife, who was dragged into the closet that Eddy has been in. I read both of their blogs at the same time from the beginning – switching back and forth as the days chronologically progressed – and it was interesting to read about similar events from each of their perspectives, baggage, and pain. They both definitely talk about colliding worlds and so I decided to add a new section at the bottom of the left column of this blog. It’s called “Well, My Spouse Is Gay. Where Does That Leave Me?” Be sure to check them all out!

Update: See follow up post here - "A Community Familiar With Rejection"

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Reinventing Our Culture Through Relationships

Hopefully, by now, you've been to my new site at The vision for the organization is to reinvent the GLBTQ culture in Long Beach, CA over the next 30 years as one that embraces meaningful relationships, community partnership and resident ownership of the city.

I wrote an article on the first part of this vision unpacking what I mean by "embracing meaningful relationships". I thought that you might like to read it:

"Reinventing Our Culture Through Relationships"

As always, I appreciate your feedback. Does the article translate to other parts of the country? Other countries? Does it come across patronizing? Too naive?

On one level, it seems pretty elementary. But on the other hand, I think it's something that many of us aren't conscious about - much less intentional. I guess all i'm trying to do is speak into our local culture to hopefully inspire us in a direction as a community.

Thanks! =)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Minor Face Lift

I was in the mood for something new so I thought I'd try a cleaner look for Two World Collision. What do you think? Is it a keeper?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What Am I Being Accused Of?

So I’ve recently been called an antichrist. No, not “the” Anti-Christ, just “an” antichrist. Not actually in those words but that’s pretty much the implication. The kicker is that two apparently separate and independent people were told this “by God”. Yeah, I had all kinds of warm fuzzy feelings about that one.

I know, I could probably just blow it off as the Church just bickering with itself again. But then again, how can I not take it personally when someone implies that I’m not actually a part of the Church? How can I not take it personally when someone says that they view me as an enemy of God? Wouldn’t that also imply that I am an enemy of the ones accusing me?

I think that people are missing the point when they see this “gay debate” as a “war over truth”. In this debate within the Church, people take sides and disagree (sometimes vehemently), and before they realize it they are spiritually disowning the same people they embraced as brothers and sisters in Christ before the debate even began . . . .

Was I just suddenly gay? Was I not gay before they found out that I was gay? Was I not a sincere believer in the one true God, His Son Jesus Christ, before they identified an issue in which we disagreed? Perhaps I’m anti-their-position-on-this-issue but to say that I’m anti-Christ is absurd!

What is it that they think I’m doing out here? Because they know I’m working within the gay community, their accusations make me wonder if they think I’m going around promoting orgies, debauchery, and lasciviousness. Well maybe that could make sense if they categorize gay-ness in that list of raunchy anti-christian behavior. It makes me wonder if that’s what lingers in their imaginations when they say I’m living a “homosexual lifestyle”. All my regular blog readers here at TWC all know that I promote these kinds of things all the time, right? I mean, I never talk about things like “living a lifestyle of faith” or “listening to God’s voice and simply following it” or anything like that, right? Instead, I encourage people to ignore the Spirit? How ridiculous is that?!

If there was ever an example of how my motives and heart have been misunderstood because of preconceived notions, it is now. My contention is that they have never actually seen what I do. They have never actually met the people I’m talking to. They have never actually heard what I’m saying to people. They have never actually read ALL of what I’ve written. I am judged by their own assumptions and hearsay and they call it heresy. There is no room in the box they’ve placed their God in to consider the possibility that God can and is moving in ways they deem impossible. Their God doesn’t function outside their boundaries. They talk about the sovereignty of God but they neglect the possibility that God would actually (and physically) go to the very ones He loves and wants to connect with. Their God follows their rules of conduct. He would never go to Nineveh. He would never talk to a Samaritan woman. He would never go to a tax collector’s house. He would never touch a prostitute. He would never enter the home of a Gentile (much less send someone to Cornelius). And if He did, imagine what they’d accuse Him of!

I suppose I’m actually kind of grateful. My life verse has always been Philippians 3:10, which says, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” To “know” Christ is more than simply “knowing of” Him, but the word more accurately describes an experiential kind of knowing. I want to experience Christ and to experience His power and to experience His sufferings and to experience His resurrection. My Christ was persecuted by the religious leaders of the day and accused of doing the work of Beelzebub perhaps because He drew attention away from them. The religious leaders wanted to be the source to where people got their truth but instead Jesus went to the people directly and healed the sick, cast out the (real) demons, and taught about what He personally knew about – the Kingdom of God.

God has not called me to condemn anyone. Apparently, some people feel like that’s what they’ve been called to do.

My accusers may continue to say whatever they will – even attributing their words to God (now who’s blaspheming?) – but I will continue to do what I personally know about. I will continue to do what I see Jesus doing in the gay community. I’ll do my best to be salt and light in this community – to encourage people when they are sad, to connect with the outcasts and socially awkward, to ask people to serve and give back to their community, and to inspire people to search for God. I will introduce people to the peace that I have and will freely talk about my Jesus who loves them. I will befriend people because they are loved by God instead of befriending people to get them to love God. Simply, I will love God, love “my” neighbors, and inspire us all to do the same.

Accuse me of that.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Farewell to Everwood

[Update: Two Everwood videos on YouTube added to this post - A Tribute Video and Kyle's Coming Out Video. See below.]

I hate the fact that I just watched the Series finale of Everwood. And I know that this has got to seem incredibly cheesy or teeny bopper or perhaps even pathetic that I'm taking the time to write a blog post about a television show - what could this possibly have anything to do with worlds colliding? - but you've got to understand that watching Everwood has shaped my journey.

The show has been on for four years. It coincided with my own life because four years ago I had been in self-recovery mode - the year prior, in 2001, I literally hit rock bottom (I know i haven't said much about this particular period in my life on this blog, perhaps when I'm ready) and 2002 was the year God started mending me. Four years ago, I left an old life behind and I was starting fresh all over again. But re-starting my life didn't come easy, especially when I was trying to do it while still in the midst of living through the fall out of the past.

I found a place to relate in Everwood. It's a fictional small town in Colorado that the show takes place in. The Brown family moved there from big city New York after the death of wife and mother Julia Brown. The Brown's were starting over - and so was I . . . .

I lost count of the number of times I literally cried while watching an episode of Everwood. This is significant for me because I really needed to cry during this time of my life. I couldn't cry on my own. My life had crumbled to pieces and I hadn't fully mourned the loss of the life I once knew. But the writers of this show masterfully brought me into the lives of the characters and I was able to grieve with them. I was able to grow with them.

In a television show, God spoke to me. It was a way that God could communicate with me, journey with me, in a visible and audible way. I heard and felt His comfort because He continued to whisper to me, while watching this show, that I am like them. And as the characters were able to move on with their lives, He showed me that I could also move on with mine. I know, I re-read this and I think how cheesy this sounds. But it helped to visually see what grief, anger, sorrow, regret, forgiveness, healing, recovery and celebration looked like.

I saw that joy after the pain was possible. It pointed out the realities of my past that I tried to ignore or forget. It acknowledged the frustration and struggle that I endured and felt like no one understood. It showed me a perspective of the lives of those I hurt. More importantly, it showed me that I deserve to be able to move on too.

So Everwood wasn't simply a fictional show for me. It was a tool that God used to catalyze my healing. And while I'm sad that it's over, and i'm incredibly irritated at the tv networks WB and UPN who merged and axed the show, I'm now aware of just how powerful a tool that storytelling is. Just as many of you have been reading Two World Collision and found a place to relate in my story, together we find a place to heal in all of our stories.

I have loved receiving and reading the numerous emails from around the world over the past 10 months from people telling me their stories - crying with me, laughing with me, journeying with me on this blog. We've all come such a long way.

Everwood may have been cancelled, but our journey never will!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Homo No Mo Halfway House

Peterson Toscano is an intriguing "theatrical performance activist" who is known for his awesome one-man show called "Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House." Peterson experienced 17 years in the ex-gay movement (which i've coined here at TWC as Side X) enduring years of gay reparative therapy. In his show, he does an awesome job of introducing us to an inside look into these kinds of ministries that present the notion that a person can and should change to be heterosexual. Through five characters, he uses incredible humor to bring to light the emotionally challenging struggle that so many of us experience when our faith and sexuality seem to collide and he also exposes the hilarious but illogical strategies of Side X ministries that try to make a person straight.

I got to see Peterson's show this past Friday night and on Saturday a group of us local GCN'ers went out to lunch with him at the Santa Monica Pier here in the Los Angeles area. He's a great guy with a huge heart who has worthy insight to offer about life, faith, sexuality, community and relationships. I'll be taking him out to lunch tomorrow before he leaves to go back home to the East Coast. I'm looking forward to connecting with him and sharing hearts and vision for God's work in "our" community.

For more on my own story and time in Side X ministries, read Sankofa (Part Three).