Monday, July 30, 2007

The Closet and the Cross

Last month, I was interviewed by Janine Kahn from the OC Weekly (a local Southern California newspaper) to share my story of being gay, ex-gay, and also being an ex-gay survivor. The article was recently published both in print and online as the feature cover story and I'm mentioned towards the end of the article. It presents the stories of people from both camps of "the issue".

I hate thinking of all of this as being different camps. I've never thought of myself as a political activist. I prefer to function as a relational catalyst. But we're still faced with the fact that there are people who disagree with how to approach important questions about wrestling with the reality of being gay and Christian.

As much as I hate being someone who "takes a side", I think it's important for us to tell our stories - whether they are stories of struggle or stories of survival.

Here's the article:

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Good Enough

My uncle's funeral will be in several hours. And we're burying him.

The other day I posted about how he got remarried in his seventies. It was actually very sweet the way he chose to allow himself to love again after my aunt (his first wife) passed away. It's inspiring actually.

In love, I suppose the ideal is to accept each other's weaknesses, shortcomings, and imperfections. Love keeps no record of wrongs. To accept him doesn't necessarily mean to blindly pretend like he's perfect. For the guy that I fall in love with, accepting him means to love him anyway.

Over the past few days, I've been frustrated about not feeling good enough in the eyes of people in my life. I think it's probably more accurate to say that I don't feel good enough in my own eyes. When it comes to friends, I can live with being imperfect. But for the guy that I fall in love with, I have incentive to grow and to change - not because I don't think he'll love me if I don't, but rather it is because I know he loves me anyway. He makes me want to be better.

That kinda reminds me of my relationship with Christ.

It also reminds me of Makena's song "Good Enough". Siena and Toast gave me the mp3 of it and gave me permission to use it. Listen to it here:

A few weeks ago I saw them perform it here in Long Beach and I posted it on YouTube.

I'm also posting the lyrics of the song below . . . . (click the link below to read the entire post).

Copyright 2003 Siena Lee & Toast Tajiri (MAKENA)

You give me all day to study your face
But that ain't still not, that's not enough
I need till midnight, give me a lifetime
To find all the ways that we can touch
Oh my Jesus, but you're the sweetest
Thing in my cup, can I measure up

I wanna be good enough for you
I wanna be the one too good to be true
I wanna be good enough for me
So I can love you like crazy and still feel the peace
Of opening up all of my heart
More than I thought, stronger and soft
I wanna be good enough for us

Said the wrong thing, saw your face dim
Felt my heart shrink up inside
Said I'm sorry, you said it's okay
That everythings gonna be alright
And I know that, still I wish it
Would be okay now, it comes back to how


Friday, July 27, 2007

Not Good Enough

Why can’t I just be good enough?

Over the past two weeks, it seems like there was a recurring theme among friends or people I know. That theme was entitled, “Reasons why I don’t like Eric, why I’m not happy with Eric, or why Eric isn’t good enough.”

As if I didn’t have my own insecurities to answer those questions myself, I have to hear it, sense it or realize it from others? I can’t win . . . .

Last week I felt that a local GCN’er was attacking my leadership. I took it very personally and our conflict escalated to the point of needing a friend to mediate. We ended up reconciling earlier this week but it still revealed that he was quick to assume the worst of me. Am I the kind of person that makes it easy for people to think ill of me? Am I wrong in thinking that I’m generally a good person to follow?

Over the busy weekend, I had a conversation with someone I had been kinda seeing (in a way) several months ago. We’re friends now and everything is fine but because circumstances had changed since the last time we decided it was best to just be friends, I inquired if he still had residual feelings for me. He responded by saying that he was content with just being friends. Now don’t get me wrong, I totally value his friendship and I’m not at all suggesting that I want more than that. Really, it doesn’t! I know we’re not “a match”. But in responding to me, he didn’t actually say whether or not he still had feelings for me (which led me to assume that he didn’t) and he didn’t give me any other indication as to why. When we decided to simply be friends, he went through a season of indicating that he wasn’t looking for a relationship. Now he’s dating and it just leaves me wondering, ‘why wasn’t I good enough?’ Am I wrong in thinking that I’m a catch?

On Sunday night, I had a phone conversation with a friend (who is interested in me, as it turns out). I was frustrated because I felt like he was judging me for not “going to church”. Boy, now that was definitely poor timing to have that conversation with me. That day, I was dealing with someone attacking my leadership, I was reminded by a former interest that there is no longer interest, it was a long weekend of being around people, and I had just found out that my uncle died. After a day like that, this friend wanted to tell me that I wasn’t keeping the Sabbath holy because I didn’t “go to church”. I felt like he was attacking my spirituality – my walk with Christ, my faith. Clearly, he doesn’t understand nor share my paradigm of “Church”. Am I wrong in thinking that my faith is not measured by my attendance at a Sunday service but rather by the state of my heart on a daily basis?

Yesterday two friends of mine thought it necessary to tell me about things they didn’t like about me in the past. Granted, it was all in fun and in jest and it came from a place of comfortable friendship. I know, this one seems like a small issue but one of the friends (whom I love and I consider a close friend!) told me that he wasn’t fond of one particular photo of me that I had been using as an avatar. I recently changed it and that’s when he thought it was safe to tell me that he really didn’t like that other picture. LOL, I know it’s silly and I’m okay with his statement on the surface, but I kinda liked that picture of myself (that’s why I used it) and so I was left wondering what else do people not like about me that they are just holding back? Another thing that this friend told me was that last year he thought I was a phony simply because I gave him a hug goodbye even though we hadn't talked to each other during the conference we were at. Can't I give strangers hugs? Does that make me phony? I thought the hug itself was a friendly gesture but apparently, at the time, it wasn't enough!

The other friend (who lives in another state) told me that he didn’t like me last year because I neglected him at a conference but from my recollection, I was connecting with him in some ways and also being friendly. I know they are both my friends now, and that’s what’s important. I also know that these two friends have a tendency of being a bit "catty". They were just judging me unfairly. But it causes doubt in me and makes me wonder if I have this false perception of myself of being a nice guy or a decent looking guy or that I’m a generally likeable guy and I’m simply oblivious to the fact that I’m not?

What’s the deal here? Why can’t I just be good enough?

Don’t worry, I’m not completely a basket case over all this. My self-esteem isn’t entirely dependent on what other people think of me. But I’ve got to be honest with the fact that other people’s opinion of me as a person and of my character does shape my self-esteem. The perception of rejection does feed my insecurities.

At the end of the day, I believe in the power to choose. I can choose to either have a tough skin, a sensitive heart, or a broken spirit about all of these things. I’m trying to approach it all with humility but can’t we do all this after my uncle’s funeral?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

No Pictures of Uncle Ray

It's been a crappy week. And I feel like running away.

There were several times at work when I would get choked up or I would start to tear. This Saturday is my uncle's funeral. I'll be seeing my family and I'll be missing the ECWR conference that I had been planning to go to.

I was realizing the other day that I don't have any pictures of my uncle. That made me sad because one of the reasons why I've always liked taking pictures of people in my life (as opposed to taking pictures of scenery or objects) is because I honestly don't know how long i'll be around this Earth. I've had that sense for many years now. So in a way, i've been wanting to photo document the people in my life - all the people I love and care about. Anyway, I realized that I had no pictures of my uncle and that made me cry . . . .

When I think about my uncle, I know that he's lived a long and full life. Most of my memories of him are with my aunt (his first wife) who just passed away a few years ago. They were married for a long time - at least over 50 years! Eventually, after her death, my uncle remarried someone else. It was actually kinda sweet and romantic. They met each other while learning to ballroom dance at the local community center. At a ripe old age - the two were in their mid-seventies - they got married.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. I suppose that at that age, you kinda know and expect that some day the love of your life and lifetime companion will pass away. Can you imagine the heartache that would cause? So now, my uncle falls in love twice and chooses to get married again. That's kind of sad yet courageous because there's a very strong possibility that the person he fell in love with will die - again. I don't know if I can do that twice - to fall in love only to see them die.

So anyway, I respect my uncle for doing that. He must have known that life was too short - or rather, he knew that he didn't have many more years left. He took the risk of being hurt and allowed himself to fall in love again and to get remarried. He was happy.

I'd like to be happy.

Besides all of the emotional energy that grieving requires, there's all kinds of other stuff going on in my life that makes me just want to leave town. Literally. I'm thinking about taking the day off from work on Friday and going away somewhere. I could be back in time for the funeral. I'm not sure if i'll actually take the day off, but I really would like some down time.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I Have Not Yet Begun To Grieve

My sister called me Sunday (yesterday) afternoon and informed me that our uncle passed away this last Friday. He was my father's older brother. We knew he was sick but the death was unexpected.

There will be a viewing on Friday but i'm not sure if i can take the time off from work. The funeral is Saturday. He'll be buried. The family will get together afterwards.

Last week was a pretty rough week. I felt pretty beat up as it was with various things happening - good and bad and fun and crazy and frustrating and stuff. In fact, I've been meaning to write a new blog post as I've been overdue for almost two weeks. I was hoping it'd be a different kind of post because there's been a ton going on. But i'll write another one soon!

The weekend was redeeming though, and I was able to connect with many GCN'ers locally. Gay Christian Network's vision is to build a Christ-centered community of LBGT believers. As the GCN Southern California regional leader and facilitator, I'm just trying to do the best that i can to help. I know i can't do everything and I can't please everyone - and i'm surely not perfect. But i can only try and hopefully people will find a way to connect.

The sucky thing is that even with all the awesome things happening with GCN in Southern California, I felt like someone in particular was attacking my leadership style last week. That pisses me off because it seems from everyone else that I'm doing a fine job. I'm doing something right. I think. (I'll need to listen to Siena and Toast's podcast and hear their thoughts about handling criticism.) Today, we've got a friend serving as a third party mediator between us because we weren't able to reconcile on our own. I'll admit that I had feelings of resignation at moments last week - even before finding out about my uncle. But i've found my friends to be encouraging and uplifting. Thank you!

But the news of my uncle's death is new to me.

I have not yet begun to grieve.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Survivors Speak: Daniel and Claire

Hot off the presses! My friends Daniel and Claire, who went to the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference with me two weekends ago (see pics here) and crashed at my place, just had two of their soon to be famous YouTube videos posted.

The first is of their YouTube debut being goofballs and telling a story about their road trip adventures! It's hilarious when you compare it to their second video (more serious) of the interview they did during the conference.

In their interview piece with BeyondExGay.Com and Soulforce, they both share about their experiences of reconciling faith and sexuality, helping others through it, and also the value of meeting others and hearing stories at conferences like these. I'm very impressed with both of them and I'm so proud to call them friends! They present themselves as articulate and the message I love in it is that "we are not alone".

The first video is for laughs. The second video is for tears. I love these guys!

Road Trip Adventures:

Survivors Speak: Daniel and Claire

Sunday, July 08, 2007

My Ex-Gay Survivor Story

My name is Eric Leocadio. I am an Ex-Gay Survivor.

To say that I wanted to be straight is an understatement. I knew that I was gay since I was 9 years old. Even at that early age, I knew how socially unacceptable it was for me to like other boys my age. It was never anything I had to figure out. I simply knew that I was gay and no one could know.

By the time I reached my freshman year in high school, I tried to kill myself. I was a teenager and the message that I received for so many years by my friends, my family, my classmates and myself, was that I was not acceptable because I was gay. I looked in the mirror and I hated that guy. So I wanted to die . . . .

I was tired of feeling rejected. I was tired of feeling different. I was tired of feeling like no one really knew who I was because there was a part of me that had to stay a secret. The closet is a lonely place.

I was 14 years old when I cupped both my hands together, filled them with pills (asprin, Tylenol, and such), swallowed every one, and washed them down with water. Then I fell asleep. Three hours later I woke up in complete regret as I began the process of having my body involuntarily spew out the contents of my stomach. I vomited for several minutes, divinely timed, from 7:00 PM through 5:00 AM every hour on the hour on the dot. These were grueling sessions with what I refer to as my “porcelain punisher”. I experienced 10 hours of bile-filled hell. After living through this, I wanted to die!

I didn’t tell anyone at home what I had done. No one would have taken me to the hospital. So God, before I knew Him, pumped my stomach for me. I realized, then, that He wasn’t done with me yet.

I survived, in pain, my own suicide.

I eventually became a Christian when I was 16 years old. I grew in faith and in my knowledge of God and I embraced a Church family and Church culture that I desperately wanted to be a part of – to be accepted by. This was a culture that valued heterosexuality as prime and superior. To come out as anything but straight would have been social suicide. And I was a part of this culture. For over 12 years, I believed, taught, and advocated that it was a sin to be gay. My only outlets of expressing my sexuality were limited to those things done in secrecy. This further fractured my sense of self as I maintained a dualistic life – one lived in public light and the other lived in private darkness.

I had pleaded with God to change me. I had pleaded with God to forgive me. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made some mistakes. I have done things that I regret. But you cannot develop a healthy sexuality in the secret places. I explored my sexuality in unhealthy ways, without the input of my spiritual community because talking about it would have meant revealing the secret that I was gay. And the Church isn’t so good at talking about its own taboo secrets.

I decided that I needed help so I participated in ex-gay programs of Desert Stream Ministries. For roughly two years from 2002-2004, I was a part of their informal support groups called Cross Current. In 2004, I completed their six month program called Living Waters designed to assist people with their “sexual and relational brokenness”. At the time, I believed along with them that homosexuality was a form of brokenness. I thought that I was broken. They told me that embracing a heterosexual value system was needed in order for my restoration and wholeness.

After spending several hundred dollars and countless hours in the ex-gay program, I graduated still believing that being gay was a sin and that being straight was the ideal. Unlike so many others who have survived traumatic experiences from programs like these, I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t exit the program terrorized. Perhaps, it was because I bought into their notion that I may have to live with being gay for the rest of my life but that there were tools that I could implement to suppress my homosexuality so that I could outwardly present myself as straight – as ex-gay.

Over the years, I used to participate and sometimes lead prayer groups against the gay community. But while praying these things to God, at the same time He spoke back to me over a period of months asking me two things: 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?

God led me to realize that I really didn’t know gay people because out of my own shame I avoided them. He also challenged my hypocrisy. I realized that I couldn’t own my beliefs that it was wrong to be gay. I believed such things because that’s the only thing I was taught. So in 2005, I began my own personal journey of allowing my two dualistic worlds to collide, to enter what I call the “hot zone” – that place of conversation where the issue of faith and sexuality and God are no longer the taboo subject.

I invested countless hours in prayer – but this time it wasn’t for God to make me straight but rather it was for God to show me His heart for gay people. I spent time in the Scriptures and studied, for myself, the passages that referenced homosexuality and also looked at the Bible as a whole and in context with this newer lens. I began to meet gay people absent of any conversion agenda. I wasn’t going to convert anyone to be either straight or Christian. My intention was simply to get to know people and to build genuine relationship. What I found changed my paradigm.

I discovered that God was present in the gay community. I previously assumed in error that it was full of darkness but I discovered that God was among them. I met friendly gay people who loved God and/or wanted to learn more about Him. I met gay Christians with a genuine faith. I met gay people who were actually having spiritual conversations in coffee shops, bookstores, clubs, bars, and in restaurants. I met gay people who affirmed a lifestyle of commitment and monogamy and faith.

Being a witness to these things opened a can of worms for me. I saw God among the very people that the Church interpreted to be unclean. Great! Now what? What does this mean for all of my previously held faulty assumptions about gay people and their place in the Church? I was wrong. I had to change my paradigm based on what God was revealing to me. I realize how hard this is for people (like me) who had been so confident about such assumptions about gay people. It requires humility. The truth is that since God is present and working and moving and touching, there is light within the gay community and I discovered that it was indeed possible to live a lifestyle of genuine faith in God within the context of being a gay person. So I reconciled my faith and my sexuality.

I acknowledged that I am a gay Christian.

I chronicled my journey on this blog at Two World Collision. It served as an outlet for me to process my raw thoughts. I received incredible feedback, including countless emails from people around the world who were relating with what I was journaling. As I shared my story and as we discovered each other, suddenly, we weren’t alone anymore. There was someone else somewhere out there that understood. Over the past two years, I’ve received a global readership with over 61,000 hits to the blog. There’s been a kind of community that has developed, as I’ve been increasingly willing to be vulnerable with my story.

I have since realized that ex-gay programs and the mainstream Church presents a mixed message to people like me. They tell us that God loves us unconditionally but that the Church will conditionally accept us as long as we conformed to their interpretation of “wholeness”. It is this mixed message that leaves people with a difficult choice: to renounce their sexuality or to renounce their faith.

These are the casualties of ex-gay programs.

The truth is that we are a part of God’s Church. Regardless of whether or not the Church would accept us as part of itself, God has accepted us through our faith in Christ.

It’s okay to come back.

As an ex-gay survivor, I know what it’s like to be in a spiritual climate hostile to my sexuality. I survived suicide. I survived my own attempts to manipulate my identity. Now I’ve found peace and healing through authenticity.

I may not be perfect but I am whole.

I’ve made difficult decisions in my life. I’ve done things that I regret. However, my character is not defined by the mistakes I’ve made but instead by the lessons I’ve learned.

There is a difference between being gay and expressing one’s sexuality in unhealthy ways. Both gay and straight people are fully capable of making poor decisions. The issue is not about whom we should love but rather it is about how we should love.

As a community of people who value God, faith, and each other, whether gay or straight, let’s explore what it looks like to love better.

Watch my YouTube video story on my time with the Ex-Gay Program here.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Learning to Speak Out

I'm mentioned in this month's issue of Blade!

I was honored to have been interviewed by this SoCal newsmagazine, circulated throughout Orange County, Long Beach, and Los Angeles. It was for an article featuring my local Toastmasters club called Speak Out! Toastmasters. You've seen me post about them before and possibly even seen photos of things we've done. The article is entitled "Learning to Speak Out" by Thomas Soule.

Well the article finally came out in this month's July 2007 issue of the magazine. I was surprised to see that I was quoted quite a number of times in the article (accurately, even).

I don't think the Blade has a Web site with its content on there so I scanned the pages of the magazine and uploaded them to Catalyst's server. (I also scanned the front cover of the magazine and put it at the end of the file - I thought some of you may appreciate that.)

So you can read the article in a pdf file - simply click the link below to download it!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Girl Meets Girl

I finally got a chance to listen to Siena and Toast's podcast called Girl Meets Girl. I was honored to have been mentioned in their June 28, 2007 broadcast (#20 Vegetarianism) towards the end as they talked about homosexuality and the Bible. Check it out!

Their music as Makena is very soothing - one of the reasons why I like them. But I found that I also enjoyed listening to them speak on their podcast. Their voices are so sweet and their hawaiian accents make me reminisce about my elementary years when I lived in Hawaii on Oahu.

They make me feel . . . .

Comfortable. At ease.

They are beautiful gals with beautiful hearts and I look forward to getting to know them more through their podcast as well as in person. They are down to earth and they embody that "aloha spirit".

I'd appreciate it if you'd check them out at Girl Meets Girl. Also, help them out by voting for them at podcast alley so that they can be ranked higher. There is a "vote" link on their page over on the right side.

So today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day for us in America, which means holiday! Makena will be performing at Old Tony's (a restaurant) in Redondo Beach tonight so if you are in Southern California, be sure to check them out. I'll be checking my schedule to see when I can come and see some of their upcoming shows. =)

As I write this, i'm hungry so in honor of Siena and Toast, I think i'll go around the corner to Shakka Hawaiian BBQ and grab lunch! Happy Independence Day!

UPDATE: I just bought Makena's latest CD from iTunes! It's awesome! Go get it....

Monday, July 02, 2007

News Feature on Advocate.Com

So last week, I went to a press conference in LA held by BeyondExGay.Com and Soulforce where three former Exodus leaders issued a formal apology for the roles they played in ex-gay programs. They also promoted the Ex-Gay Survivors Conference which was held this past weekend. I'll be posting soon about my experiences at the conference, along with some pics. But until then, I thought I'd share with you the article that was written that includes the interview I did for The Advocate.

It was posted on their web site at Advocate.Com as a News Feature. Not sure how long it'll stay there but it's featured on the home page of the site too. Check it out!

Reading my own name and some of my story in other media outside of TWC is kinda weird. But I learned a ton of valuable stuff about sharing one's story with others (as well as the Press) at this weekend's conference. In the Advocate article, a few of the things I said were paraphrased or slightly misquoted but the jist of my point was communicated for the most part. In my last post, I talked about the interview and so that post articulates more clearly what I meant by certain things I said in the interview. Read that post again here.

Oh, LOL, the other thing that I thought was funny was that the article kinda sounds like I was in an ex-gay program to heal me for being a gay masturbator. ROFL! Okay, it doesn't say that EXACTLY (now i'm the one misquoting the interviewer), but it does kinda sound like that. Haha, whatever.....

I think i just outed myself.