Halloween Diversity

I’m sitting here in Butte, Montana in a former rectory in an uptown neighborhood handing out candy, and I am absolutely struck by the utter lack of concern on the part of pre-pubescent trick or treaters with conformity. I had a gorilla holding hands with a ballerina, a couple of little Darth Vaders (also holding hands for safety), a slew of lightsabered Jedi, clowns, scarecrows, cats, witches, wizards, firemen, cowboys- a lot of cowboys, devils, angels, a puppy, a nun, assorted monsters, a genie and, my personal favorite- a bearded miner complete with a pick and a lunch bucket.
They were polite, considerate of each other and respectful. They delighted in each others company, playfully kidded each other(“He’s a lawn gnome,””I AM NOT! I’m a WIZARD!”). Charmed and delighted, I found myself handing out much more candy than I had intended, making it necessary to turn off the porch light much earlier than the rest of the houses in the neighborhood. Oh well.
Call me an optimist, hopeless romantic or just a stooge.
I don’t care.
Those kids made me happy.

Being Gay IS A Choice

Recently I got a letter from someone I’ve known since childhood, who read my blog and felt compelled to write, “It disgusts me that you’ve made the choice to be Gay and go to Hell, especially with all your theological training.”

There was more, but that was the money quote. Of course, I felt compelled to respond.

“You are exactly right. Being Gay is a choice. It is a choice to respond with honesty, integrity and humility to thoughts and feelings that are not a choice. It is a choice to move away from the dark feelings of fear, self-loathing and dishonesty into the light of understanding, honesty, self-acceptance and respect. I have absolutely no choice about whether or not I am gay- I do have to make choices every day about faithfully following the heart that God gave me, as do you. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I am not as kind or understanding or honest with myself or others about my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I have thoughts of anger, as I have now, wondering why you feel it necessary to denounce me, someone you “fooled around” with in such an “unholy” manner years ago.

I don’t ask you to understand me, just to accept my experience. Maybe it’s like you never understanding how I could love broccoli when we were kids. Unexplainable, but you never questioned my sanity or the state of my soul because of it. I’m going to say that this is exactly the same thing. Broccoli lovers all over the world can’t explain why they enjoy eating broccoli, they just know they do. And so it is with my heart.

After years of struggling with guilt, shame and fear, I finally came to the simple conclusion that being gay is my honest reality. This was an understanding arrived at through years of self examination, pain and soul searching- it was not the product of indoctrination or brainwashing.

We all make choices. We can choose to feel better by making someone else feel bad, to condemn rather than try to understand, to be right or be happy. I’m sure you have made some choices I will never understand, but I hope I can, at least, give you the benefit of an attempt at explanation. That’s what I hope. That’s my goal. Because living my life in a way that’s faithful to my heart- well, that is the choice I want to make every day.”

Do Tell

Last night I was invited by my friends John and Mitch to the free concert given by The Air Force Academy Band. I wasn’t really sure what to expect- probably a lot of marches and rousing patriotic songs, but what the hell, it got me out of the house, and what they did they would probably do well.
The first half of the show began with Leonard Bernstein’s “Slava”, and initiated a melting pot theme, where songs from various cultural traditions and influences (French, Armenian, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Japanese) were featured, all beautifully done. Then, perhaps in a tantalizing taste of things to come, Ragtime’s “Wheels of a Dream” was performed nicely by two vocalists (in appropriate costume) and the band.
The intermission came, and, not having access to a program, I had no idea what was coming up next.
Well.
Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture” began the second act, a particularly festive, bubbly and perhaps ironic choice to lead into “Men of Ohio!” which was enhanced with the presence of a handsome (dare I say regal?) Drum Major in full regalia of sash, equestrian gloves, epaulets and, most notably, the oversized baton- who began facing the band with his left hand parked smartly on his hip and his (sparkling) baton raised in a manner that would make any Glinda impersonator proud.
It just got better.
This led us into a tribute to “the Dames of Broadway”, in which the emcee paid tribute to the many leading ladies of the theater, naming specifically Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland (does The Palace count as Broadway?). I was stunned. Delighted but stunned. What followed was a Show-tune Gay’s dream, notably: The Trolley Song; West Side Story’s “America”; Nothing Like a Dame; Sisters (with two men in drag); Victor/Victoria’s Lady of Seville-also featuring drag; Some Enchanted Evening; Don’t Rain on My Parade and Send in the Clowns.
Goodness. If they had sung Over The Rainbow, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
The final two numbers, “America the Beautiful” and a spirited medley of the Armed Forces Fight Songs seemed designed to refocus the show, and the encore, Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” did leave me with a bit of a patriotic tingle.
I don’t want to suggest that only gay people enjoy Broadway Show-tunes, pageantry and sparkling dramatic effect, and I certainly don’t want to negate the positive experience of a military band embracing ethnic and musical diversity, but… still, I couldn’t help but wonder who put the whole program together.

Don’t ask, Greg. Don’t ask.

Church Question

A friend asked me a question the other day. It was prompted by the Vatican releasing a statement last week about the sex-abuse of children, where the blame was placed squarely on the shoulders of gay priests. Link here.
He stated (rightly) that in his understanding, same-sex sexual abuse isn’t about being gay and he wanted to know if there was any evidence that most of the priests who molested these young boys were gay. My response:

I think it’s more of an issue of shame, impotence (sexual and institutional), and psychological repression. Many priests are caught in the middle. Gay? Maybe. But more importantly, the glaring and unspoken issue for me is this: What goes through the mind of a man who (ostensibly or obviously) cares for people, in order to justify the systematic dismembering of a child’s innocence, and what is its cause? The church seems uninterested in that question.

There has never really been a healthy attitude about sex in the church -to my mind, nor a realistic one.
As an example: the genuine experience of hundreds of thousands of LGBT human beings has been dramatically shelved in favor of principle- an argument that only makes sense if the church isn’t really very interested in the experience of human beings in the first place. They’re mainly interested in, as demonstrated historically, a scapegoat to draw attention away from (sadly) institutional inefficiency and insufficient care for persons.

Gay orientation may play a small role in sexual abuse, but from what I understand, it’s more of a disease of repression: repressed anger, frustration, etc.- emotions that the church has done little to address, by the way- not of sexual orientation. And with the guilt and shame being created by more forceful suppression, it’s not going to get any better