Thursday, May 31, 2007

I Madonnari Festival 2007

While in Santa Barbara this weekend, me and some pals checked out the I Madonnari festival and saw some really incredible chalk art. Check them out in the film loop below. Click on 'Watch the Show' for the larger screen version.

Be sure to check out my other film loops in the top right column of this blog!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Free Hugs in Santa Barbara

I spent the Memorial Day Weekend with some pals in Santa Barbara, CA and we saw a guy, Jerry Matteo, giving out free hugs as part of the Free Hugs Campaign. I gladly gave him a huge hug and thanked him for what he's doing.

Jerry is a hero!

I thought it was so cool to actually see someone doing it. I first heard about it and posted it in a previous post here.

I've since discovered Free Hugs all over the world:

Free Hugs in Venezuela
Free Hugs in Korea
Free Hugs in Amsterdam
Free Hugs in Tel Aviv
Free Hugs in China
Free Hugs in Italy
Free Hugs in Paris
Free Hugs in Tokyo

And also Free Hugs in Hollywood:

Why not Free Hugs in Long Beach, CA?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Soldiers Who Journey

Back in high school I had every intention of joining the military. I was going to be a psychologist in the U.S. Air Force. I was in JROTC for all four years of high school and I was slated for getting into Senior ROTC at a university, becoming an officer and serving this country and its service men and women by helping them process through whatever it is they are journeying through.

God had different plans for me.

By the time I had graduated, I began a different path - one that eventually led me here. The path God had laid out for me was not one of journeying with those in the military. Instead, it was one of journeying with those processing through personal conflict and tension and collision between faith and sexuality. A completely different kind of war all together.

I'm learning that before I can help anyone journey, it's important that I first endure my own personal battles. It's still hard. But at least I know that the war isn't fought alone.

I agree with John over at Average Gay Joe. Today is not a day for politics. It is a day to remember. It is a day to honor. It is a day to acknowledge that at the end of the day, there is always a cost - for any war.

Song by Avril Lavigne - "Keep Holding On". Click here for lyrics.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Stories that Build Bridges and Relationships

This past Saturday night was the first time I brought some of my gay and straight friends together for an intentional time of informal worship, sharing of stories, and (of course) potluck. The idea was to provide a context where I could bring together some of the relationships I've been developing in different circles and safely introduce them to each other for the purpose of getting to know one another better.

So we packed in 25 people into my little apartment, hung out and had our fill of potluck dinner and goodies. Then we had three people (lesbian, straight, gay) share their stories with the group . . . .

For each person that shared, the group had an opportunity to ask questions of the person for the purpose of getting to know that person better. Then as a community, we verbally honored the person by expressing our love, acceptance, and affirmation for him or her. Then we all prayed for that person before hearing the story of the next person.

It was a really awesome time! Bianca, Polin, and Shawn shared their stories and we had a wonderful opportunity of getting to know their hearts, passions, journeys, and stories. The really awesome thing was that the focus wasn't on sexuality. It was discussed in the context of a person's story, but the main focus was always on our growing relationship with Christ and how we are living a lifestyle of worship and community.

As we concluded, we were encouraged to continue connecting with one another by being intentional about nurturing healthy relationships with God, people of the same gender, other genders and also healthy romantic relationships.

My goal for hosting this evening was to elevate the conversation beyond the gay-straight issue and to help build bridges through genuine relationships. It is my belief that through relationships we can shatter paradigms and stereotypes. I take an organic approach to mostly everything so I wasn't planning on making this an "event" or "program" with a "name". I prefer to allow relationships the freedom to drive what we do next. So afterwards, several people talked about doing similar evenings like these in their own homes and inviting their different circles of friends. This is great because I encouraged people NOT to depend on me to keep doing this but rather to own the vision themselves. So next time, it'll be in someone else's home and we'll have different people sharing their stories.

I've got some of the after-pics in the filmloop section at the top of the right column of this blog. Check them out! I didn't want to violate the atmosphere of what we were trying to do by trying to document it with photos. So there aren't any photos during our time of sharing stories, but there are pics of some of the GCN'ers that hung around afterwards. =)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Other Half of the Whole of Me

[Note: Scroll down for Jay Brannan's YouTube video of "String-a-long Song" and lyrics.]

Sometimes I feel like I can't say certain things here at TWC. Yeah, I know, it's my own fault. Along this journey of mine, I voluntarily traded my anonymity for my authenticity. Yet in that process, I guess it just makes me want to hold back a bit because blogging isn't just an outlet anymore - it's a place for me to be known. And that's kinda scary.

I did hate being in the closet. I hated the double life. I hated being hidden. I hated the fact that no one knew what was going on in my head. I felt unknown. Maybe that's why some people's coming out experience is so extreme - the clubs, the dancing, the drinking, the expression of formerly shackled emotions and the freedom from inhibitions. If coming out is an announcement of self, then here I blog . . . .

But I feel like I've been holding back the past several months. When I first started this blog, I was pretty raw with my thoughts and emotions along this journey. Over the past several months, I'll admit that I've talked more about vision and community and passion and less about personal heart ache, struggle and vice.

There's a ton of things going on in my life right now. I'm juggling quite a bit and i'm honestly not complaining. I feel alive, at least. I remember when I didn't feel anything at all. That's for another post. Today, in the midst of crazy busyness of connecting with people, casting vision for the community, rekindling plans for my non-profit Catalyst, hosting another social gathering tonight, and getting ready for Long Beach (GLBT) Pride tomorrow, I feel inspired, excited and full. But if i'm wanting to be fully authentic with you, that's not ALL that i'm feeling. I'm also feeling alone, frustrated and kinda angry. I'm not a basket case. That's just the other half of the whole of me that I sometimes unconciously keep in the closet.

I'm a new fan of Jay Brannan (thanks to Drew!). I find that I relate with his lyrics at some level. I like him because he's raw. I miss being raw. And for this day, his "String-a-long Song" articulates how i've been feeling for the past several months but have intentionally held back from here before. He starts with a bit of personal intro and announcement (which I love when he does that in his videos) then the song follows. Here ya go....

"String-a-long Song" Music & Lyrics by Jay Brannan

to the boy who should've loved me
from the boy you could've had
i promise not to send this letter
i wouldn't want you to feel bad
for not opening your heart to me
for your unavailability
i guess you're not required to like me
but did you fake it just to spite me?

well, here's a little string-a-long song for you
so give up your pride, your past, your pain, your fear of intimacy, and string-a-long with me too

chorus 1
thanks for leading me on, but this time i'm gonna be strong
although your disinterest kinda came as a surprise cuz
you could see the sin and the sadness and taste the gin and the madness
on my lips and in my eyes, well
i can't help that i want to see you again
but it takes two to start a string-a-long song and only one to make it end

well, the flake syndrome is an epidemic that spans the globe from town to town
but i can't figure out why you'd put forth such an effort to win me over just to turn me down
cuz your words are so soft and sweet, but your actions are screaming
and if you see me waiting around for you,
hope you also see you're dreaming


chorus 1

i know you'll break my heart
i know i'll fall apart
i know cuz this is how it starts
and maybe it's wrong of me
to wish that we could be
but your kiss matched mine so perfectly


chorus 2
thanks for leading me on, but this time i'm gonna be strong
i wish you weren't too scared to speak your goodbyes cuz
the truth is i wish you well, thanks for saving me from hell, i owe you one of the few i got left of my nine lives, well
i can't help that i want to see you again
but it takes two to start a string-a-long song and only one to make it end

© 2004 Great Depression Publishing (BMI)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Didn't Know Jerry Falwell; He Didn't Know Me

I honestly don't know what to think about Reverend Jerry Falwell dying. I didn't know him. He didn't know me.

I tend to avoid extremes - being the bridge builder that I try to be, my conversations don't tend to be in those circles. In fact, most of the people in my local circles probably know as much as I do about Jerry Falwell. Hearing the kinds of things that ultra-extreme people say just makes me want to change the subject because it seems so narrow-minded. I'd rather talk about broader more important things above political and controversial issues. In my opinion, that's what Jesus did. He changed the subject and reframed the issue.

Gosh though. I feel weird calling him "Jerry". A super awesome friend of mine calls him "Jerry". He attended Liberty University - the conservative school that Jerry Falwell founded. He even has friends that went to the school or are still there. Even several of the online articles reporting about his death referred to him as "Jerry". But I can't really do that. It just seems odd to me to refer to him on a first name basis when all I know of him is that I don't know him . . . .

I know what i've heard. I heard that he blamed homosexuals and a slew of other "sinners" for the tragedies of 9/11 and the hurricanes. I heard that he confronted practically everyone about moral issues. I heard that he was devoted to advocating for a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I suppose this all means he probably wouldn't like me very much if he knew me and that I'm one of "them".

But then I think of my super awesome friend who I'm sure saw a different perspective of him. Having gone to the conservative school, i'm sure my friend and his friends would have seen him in a positive light. There's so much about Jerry Falwell that I don't know. Who was he married to? Did he have children? Grandchildren? What was his family like? Did he love them as much as I love my family? Was he friendly to people on the Liberty U. campus? Was he friendly to guests? Did he ever cry about anything? Did he ever cry when looking in the mirror like I have? Was he aware of his shortcomings and did he daily turn to the Lord for grace and forgiveness like I do? Did he ever know what it's like to be misunderstood? Did he know what it's like to be hated? What else could he and I have related with?

So I kinda feel weird thinking anything negative about Jerry Falwell because I respect my friend so much and I'd hate to offend him. It's not that he agrees with everything that Jerry Falwell advocated for/against. In fact, I know that my friend doesn't. But my friend knew Jerry Falwell alot more than I did so I don't feel right judging Jerry Falwell since I didn't know him.

And he didn't know me.

He didn't know my love for Jesus, my Savior and Lord. He didn't know my heart for those God loves. He didn't know my passion for the community and for connecting the disconnected. He didn't know that I actually do bear the fruits of the Spirit because I actually do have the Spirit of the living God in me. He didn't know that I was his brother. Yet he probably would have judged me for what he saw (assumed) on my outside - being gay - rather than recognizing that same spirit from my inside - being Christian.

So I kinda have mixed feelings about his passing away. Jerry Falwell was a man. Regardless of whether he loved or hated people, God loved Jerry Falwell nonetheless. Even as much as God loves me.

I wish that in his lifetime Jerry would have realized that.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Tools for the Ex-Gay Recovery Process

The special feature question of the month for May over at Beyond Ex-Gay is:

How has a book, movie or web site helped you in your ex-gay recovery process?

I can identify two things that helped me in my ex-gay recovery process. The first is a web site called GayChristian.Net that helped me to discover the spectrum of beliefs about faith and sexuality. The second is the blogosphere. Both helped me to experience my own journey.

One year after completing the six-month Living Waters program, I was no less same-sex attracted than I was before the program. In fact, I was even lonelier because we were encouraged not to keep in contact with other people in the program . . . .

As I continued to live out my faith despite the attractions that I had, I was a part of (leading) prayer groups from throughout the city where we would often pray against the “spirit of homosexuality” and against gay people. It was then that God began to prompt my heart, “Why are you praying against a people that you don’t even know? Why are you praying against them when you are one of them?

I realized that I shouldn’t pray for someone I can’t love and I can’t love someone I don’t know. Therefore, with God’s leading, I began to pursue people’s stories so that I could begin to understand them better. When I discovered GayChristian.Net (GCN), I found an online community of people with similar stories. They were all same-sex attracted (or identified with gender differently) and they all loved God (or had a background of religion or faith). I also discovered that they didn’t all believe the same things about faith and sexuality. Some held a perspective called Side A that suggested that a person could be both gay and Christian in the context of monogamy, commitment, and covenant. Some held a perspective called Side B that suggested that a person may acknowledge the reality of being gay (having the attractions) while also being Christian but that we ought to be celibate and shouldn’t act upon our same-sex attractions because it is still a sin. Consequently, Side X would be the perspective that one cannot be both gay and Christian because it is a sin in any form or expression and that we should and can be transformed to be straight (ex-gay).

In addition to GCN, I also discovered the wonders of the blogosphere. It was an intricate web of personal stories chronicled on a blog – a web journal that linked to other blogs. It was a great way to read about the journeys of so many people who were just like me. I even started my own blog to tell my story and to explore authenticity. I gained a sense of community through the blogosphere because commentary, feedback, and encouragement (or criticism) was freely given. It really is a great way to get to know people. Through our common stories and mutual links, I developed actual (albeit virtual) friendships.

Discovering the diversity of what people believed about homosexuality in the context of genuine faith helped me to realize that there is a difference between various truths and the interpretation of truth. My ex-gay recovery process took some time. I had been conditioned to believe that being straight was part of the holiness equation. It was okay to question that. At the end of the day, I realized that my faith was in tact. Perhaps, my sexuality could remain in tact as well.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Birthday Wishes For Buddy

Today is my good buddy's birthday!!! This is a pic of us two months ago where he completed the Los Angeles Marathon in just under four and a half hours. I'm still very proud of him! He and I have been friends for two years now and I appreciate him so much. We've also been room mates for over a year.

He continues to be a person in my life that I value greatly. I'm gonna have flowers sent to his work today - he teaches at a school for individuals with special needs. For so many reasons, he's still one of my heroes! I've talked about why before in previous posts. Read them here. He knows it.

Happy Birthday Buddy!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Becky's SoCal Weekend

So apparently, I talk in my sleep. And I laugh too. That's what my friend Becky, visiting me (finally) from Michigan, told me the other night. I must have been having a fun dream!

Becky and I have become super awesome friends over the past year and a half (thanks to our mutual friend Matt) and this weekend was the very first time that we got to meet each other!

She's always wanted to come out to Long Beach to visit me and one day I told her to just ask God to open a door for her to be able to come. She did. One week later, she told me that her job just happened to be sending her to Southern California for a few days! Woo hoo! God is so good!

So ever since I picked her up at the airport Saturday morning, we have been laughing and cracking ourselves up. It's been so much fun . . . .

On Saturday afternoon, I took her to one of my favorite restaurants here in Long Beach and had Lebanese food. There was this super hot waiter there with the cutest eyes and the most adorable smile and *cough*ahem* nice jeans! We were laughing so much because we both agreed that we kept getting mixed signals from the guy. It seriously looked like he was flirting with BOTH of us! In the beginning, he'd make serious eye contact with me (with oh so dreamy eyes and the cutest smile). Then he'd look over to Becky briefly. Next time around, he'll smile at her and move on. Then he'll come back and put his hand on my back and ask how things are but he'll be looking at Becky. So he was totally engaging both of us!

We were both cracking up because we also agreed that we were BOTH incredibly obvious in our oogling! Yeah, he was probably playing off both of us because he wanted a big tip (which he got). LOL.

Oh yeah, he was also wearing a gold band on his left ring finger. Argh!!!!


While Becky was in the restroom, he totally initiated conversation with me about his love for dogs! Long Beach has lots of dog lovers and so we often saw people walking their dogs along the sidewalk where we were sitting.

It was sooooooo cute the way he was talking to me when it was JUST THE TWO OF US!!!!!!

(ROFL - Becky just read that last line and she said "gag me!")

Anyway, Becky returned and I thanked the guy (Jonathan, sigh). Then he looked (straight?) into my eyes with that oh so super cute smile and said "Hey be sure to come back okay?" *grin* He was talking to me because he knew that Becky was visiting me from out of state.

Becky and I walked away like a couple of school girls!

Sigh + Fawn

Then we went for a walk around Belmont Shore, the beach and the pier as we were just chatting and laughing.

We went back home to my place to relax. Then we went to Hot Java (coffee place) with Shawn to meet up with Dave until a few other SoCal GCN'ers arrived for our dinner at Ambrosia's. Good times. Lotsa kissing! (See photos in film loop at the top right corner of this blog! HUGE thanks and hugs/kisses to Dave for most of the quality photos.)

Afterwards, we crashed at my place (the unofficial SoCal GCN Hostel).

Sunday morning, we went to church service at Open Door Ministries (in Long Beach). This was Becky's first experience at an affirming congregation. After the service, someone randomly told her, "You must be straight because there is NOTHING gay about you!" Becky laughed so hard!

[Side note: Becky is one of our hugest "allies"! She has an incredible heart and passion for the GLBT community. She even competed at the last Gay Games in Chicago as a triathlete for team HRC! She's one of my heroes! Read about it here. ]

After service, I took her to Lake Perris to meet my family because it was my brother's birthday bbq/picnic. Yeah, bringing a girl to meet them confused my family. LOL, i had just come out to them too! So I told them all that Becky and I met on Of course, I told them I was kidding! But it really was kinda weird. How do you explain to your family that you are really good friends with someone but that you are just now meeting for the first time?

Anyway, it doesn't matter really.

We drove back home to Long Beach to relax a bit before heading out to Santa Monica's pier and Third Street Promenade. On the way there, we picked up Shawn in downtown Los Angeles.

We had a great time hanging out, watching sidewalk entertainers and people watching. Right before dinner, we saw a large crowd salsa dancing in the street. So Shawn asked this random girl to dance with him. It was hilarious! The video is dark but you can see him in action here:

It was super fun hanging out together at the Promenade and Pier. Of course, we had to grab an ice cream cone before closing the evening. =)

So of course, Becky doesn't want to go back to Michigan. I told her just to stay here and have someone pack her stuff and send them here. It'll be so awesome when Becky finally moves out here. She will too. It's just a matter of time. Until then, i'll have to wait until October when she comes out again for the Long Beach marathon. I'm also toying with the idea of visiting Michigan sometime in the Summer.....hmmm.