Tag Archives: Story

I’m All In.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the greatest thing we will ever do. Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.

Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. The willingness to tell our stories, feel the pain of others, and stay genuinely connected in this disconnected world is not something we can do halfheartedly. To practice courage, compassion, and connection is to look at life and the people around us, and say, ‘I’m all in.’”  -Brene’ Brown

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Devotions, Encouragement

Dear Facebook… I’m Gay.

I know I often sound like a broken record, saying things I’ve said dozens of times before.  (fyi – I also know the “broken record” simile is totally 1972 and doesn’t work anymore, but I can’t think of an mp3 equivalent.  I would welcome suggestions…)

Regardless – I believe it’s important for us to share our stories.  They show us that our ideas aren’t weird and that we’re not the only ones who have felt/thought/believed something.

A good friend of mine – the talented artist who designed the “Stillforus” header you see above – recently came out to her dad.  It was a pretty gutsy move and she’s currently navigating the aftermath.

Three days after she told her dad, my friend posted the following status update on Facebook.  It’s brilliant.  When you read her “things I have believed in chronological order” list, I think you’ll find yourself nodding your head and sympathetically  mumbling “mmmmhhmmmm” a lot.  Enjoy.

(If you’d like to send my friend an encouraging thought to help her through a pretty sh!tt% time, feel free to post it in the comments.  I’ll be sure she gets your note…)

Dear Facebook, 

I finally told my dad, so now I can tell you what some of you know and what most of you don’t care, and that is that I’m gay. Things I have believed in chronological order:

  1. Gay people go to hell.
  2. Gay people don’t really exist–they’re just behaving gay.
  3. Gay can be fixed and changed through prayer and hard work.
  4. You can adopt traits of your own sex and learn to be more of a girl.
  5. This will bring forth a man.
  6. Homosexuality is the same as being predisposed to alcoholism.
  7. God loves all of us.
  8. God made us exactly as he wanted us to be.
  9. The Bible shouldn’t be read literally.
  10. The idea of God becomes bigger when you don’t read the Bible literally.
  11. I don’t believe in God.
  12. I don’t believe in the Bible.
  13. I’m too old for this crap.
  14. I’m tired of hearing about kids dying or getting picked on for being gay.
  15. I’m tired of hearing people called fags or dykes.
  16. I’m tired of feeling at home in Brooklyn because it seems to be the only place that feels safe.
  17. God doesn’t exist.
  18. Love the sinner, hate the sin isn’t actually love at all.
  19. I am gay
  20. It’s the only thing that has ever made sense to me.
  21. I lost my ability to pray.
  22. I’m studying the Bible.
  23. I’ve placed membership at a church that has a little bit of everybody.
  24. Sometimes I can see God.
  25. God is patient and hangs out anyway, even if you can’t always believe in him.
  26. I only want people in my life who are good and who will make me a better person.
  27. I’m gay.
  28. It wasn’t an accident.
  29. It’s not a sin.

I’ve lived in many places and met all of you somewhere along the way. A lot of you I know from home and from college. Those, I imagine, are the people who will have the hardest time with this news.

I come out for the kids who haven’t or can’t or don’t yet know why they’re so different. To them I say that you are loved and you are perfect.

If you find yourself so repulsed by this news, please unfriend me. If you feel God has put it on your heart to talk to me about my sin, he has not, and you should also probably unfriend me.

I am the same person today, as I was yesterday–only with a longer status update.

If you are shocked or surprised by this news, please do come forward as I have a trophy to give to the only person who didn’t know.

-S.

5 Comments

Filed under Church, Conversation, Encouragement, Role Models, Stories

Bullying, Depression, and The Extra Credit Kid.

Bullying.  There, I said it.

I just read a pretty decent article titled “Are Depressed Kids Bully Magnets?”  The article is (obviously) about the possible link between depression and bullying.  It doesn’t deal specifically with LGBT kids, but… c’mon.  The author questions whether kids become depressed because they’re bullied or whether they’re bullied because they’re depressed.  After all, the author reasons, a sad, downer kid crying in the corner is a pretty easy target.

If you have any connection to LGBT youth, you’ve probably already made mental connections between bullying and depression… and being gay and depression… and being gay and bullying… and have already realized how all these ingredients can mix together into a pretty nasty cake.

After reading the article, I was reminded of a short story I wrote a few years ago about an “extra credit kid.”  (Hopefully) it raises some questions not only about  the need each of us has for someone to look beyond our ordinary and see something special, but also about our ability to bounce back when they don’t.

And so, because I think it somehow relates to our larger conversation of the LGBT experience, I present…

The Extra Credit Kid

When the boy was ten, his 5th grade teacher used the hour after lunch to teach her class the beautiful language of the deaf.  Even though everyone in the class could hear – even though they all listened to their radios at home and turned their TVs louder than their mothers would have liked – this particular over-achieving educator wanted her class to know sign language. She wanted to teach their still innocent hands how to do something constructive.  She wanted them to learn gestures that would communicate without offending the elderly.

The children loved their sign language lessons.   Once, during a silent game of Ring Around the Rosie, they even got so rowdy that the teacher had to remind them to use their inside hands.

After the first week of learning to speak with silent words, the boy told his teacher that his mother was deaf.  He said that everyone in his family knew how to use sign language.  He had been doing it for years.  Sometimes, before bed, he even used his hands to read out loud to his mother.

“But not the Bible,” he said.  “All the whosoevers and wherefores make my knuckles crack.”

The teacher was amazed. Like an exotic exchange student from a quiet and faraway land, the boy was a native who already knew the language. He was a natural tutor.  In a moment of instructive genius, the teacher offered bonus points to any child who spent time with the boy whose hands could talk.

He was the extra credit kid.

Within hours of the teacher’s edict, the extra credit kid became the most popular kid in class.  His lunch table was always full.  His seat was always saved.  He never spent recess jumping rope by himself.  He was extra credit.

Every afternoon The Extra Credit Kid leapt off a bus full of new friends, eager to tell his mother how popular he was at school.  With exhausted fingers, he bragged about how everyone wanted to spend time with him because he was good at something.  Because he knew something.  Because he could do something no one else could.

Because he was extra credit.

The teacher asked The Extra Credit Kid to keep a journal of the time he spent with friends from their class.  She wanted to be fair when she assigned extra points.  The Extra Credit Kid soon noticed that he was invited to lots of birthday parties and sleepovers, but only on nights before the teacher tallied progress reports or just after difficult math tests.  He played lots of video games with the lazy kids, but was never spoken to by the smart ones who had stars next to their names on the bulletin board.

In March, everyone celebrated The Extra Credit Kid’s birthday by singing Happy Birthday with their hands.

In April, his class took a special trip to a school where the children couldn’t hear.  The Extra Credit Kid ate lunch at a table full of deaf kids and told a joke so well that a boy almost choked on his peas.  Everyone from The Extra Credit Kid’s class turned around to look.  The rest of the cafeteria hadn’t heard a thing.

In May, everyone waved goodbye to each other and promised they’d play together at the swimming pool.

In June, when school was over, the Extra Credit Kid’s new friends stopped returning his calls. His hands, once limber from telling jokes and stories, grew lazy and fat.  Summer vacation wasn’t nearly as much fun as the school year had been.

The sixth grade was even more disappointing than the summer. His new teacher, Mrs. Espinoza, had severe arthritis and wasn’t interested in sign language.  She wanted to teach the children Spanish.  The Extra Credit Kid had never been to Spain.  For a month he spent the hour after lunch memorizing conjugations with his hands folded politely in his lap.

It was hard crossing from extra back to ordinary. It always is.

During the seventh grade The Extra Credit Kid learned to play the trombone.

In high school his hands were often busy, but with a new sign language that involved him talking mostly to himself.

The Extra Credit Kid eventually went to college and found a job and became a man.

After a while, the man almost forgot that he had ever been extra credit.

But then, when his mom visited, they would sit together and tell stories with their hands.  And laugh.  And he would remember.

Leave a comment

Filed under Encouragement, News, Parables, Stories

“Coming Out” at a Christian College

Todd Clayton “came out” at a Christian college.  Geesh.  The nerve of some guys.

He says…

The shrewdest, loudest, most violent lie that LGBT people at Christian colleges and universities carry is this: that no one else like them exists. More important, and more enduring than the stares and questions and assaulting prayers, are the stories of the 70 current students, and 130 alumni who contacted me to say they had the same kind of dreams I did…

As a graduate of a Christian college, I admire Todd’s moxy.  There’s really no reason for me to comment further.  I mean, the story of how I didn’t come out at a Christian college is pretty boring.   And why would I waste valuable space on the internet commenting on Todd’s story when you can read it for yourself…

Leave a comment

Filed under Encouragement, Partners, Role Models, Stories

“I listened”: A Straight Pastor Talks About Loving the Gay Community

Like thousands of other southern gay guys, shortly after I “came out” I moved to New York City.  But even though I ran away from home, I didn’t run away from my faith.

In Brooklyn I found Christ’s Church for Brooklyn, a small community that opened every worship service by saying:

Welcome to all who have no church home, need strength, want to follow Christ, have doubts, or do not believe. Welcome to new visitors and to old friends. Welcome to grandparents, to mothers, fathers, to couples and to single people. Welcome to people of all colors, cultures, economies, abilities, and sexual orientations, to old and young, to believers and questioners – and welcome to questioning believers.

I had found a new home.

Joe, the pastor of our island of misfit toys, became a source of spiritual sanity for me.  He patiently walked with me though several difficult transitions: from being in the closet to being out of the closet… from having a career as a minister to floundering through under-employment… from enjoying a secure southern home to navigating the pressures of life in New York City.

Although our congregation at Christ’s Church for Brooklyn was friendly to boys with boyfriends, our denomination was not — a dynamic that must have been quite difficult for Joe.

Below are a few of Joe’s reflections about how he came to understand and believe that God is for gay people, too.

I listened.

– Joe H.

When my more conservative friends ask me how I got to where I am with homosexuality; when they grill me on How in the world can you support the rights and lifestyles of homosexuals? Why is it that you help them realize that God loves them the way they are? Why do you tell them that to be fully human they must, THEY HAVE TO, embrace their created selves so that they can fully glorify God? I simply reply with, “I listened.”

I started listening while at seminary preparing to be a minister. A dear friend of mine who I knew while we both studied ministry at a conservative Christian college enrolled at the seminary where I was doing graduate work. One day at lunch, my friend sat me down and said, “Joe, I’m gay.” This was news to me but I tried to act cool and collected. So I responded with, “tell me your story.” He graciously did so. I listened and as I did, I’m sure my friend waited for a response but I gave none. I just listened.

His story was intense. I felt for him, for the secret life he lived since he was a boy coming of age but I was confused. I was confused and conflicted. So I didn’t deal with it. I stored his story in the back of my mind not thinking that I would ever need to call upon it again. After all, I was trying to make my way as a minister in the conservative denomination in which I grew up. I figured I wasn’t going to be meeting very many gay men or gay women at the churches that I would serve.

A few years passed and my family moved to New York City. We planted a church and it became evident rather quickly that my friend from college/seminary had a story that many shared. Bill, a guy in our church plant, came to me with his struggle with homosexuality. My response was the same with Bill as it was with my friend from seminary, “tell me your story.” As Bill shared his story, he cried. His pain, the hurt he experienced was excruciating. Once again, I just listened.

This time I couldn’t ignore the story. I wanted to deal with my confusion. I went home and started reading. I read just about everything I could get my hands on. I started with the Bible and found the six verses that explicitly mention homosexuality. It didn’t take long to realize that the verses were often misused and misunderstood. I read pieces of literature from people against homosexuality and from people for homosexuality. I read and read and read. And I prayed. A lot.

I met up with Bill again and listened some more. As he sat in front of me, he told me how hard it was for him to live as a heterosexual. He just ended yet another relationship with a girl. But Bill was convinced that he had to do this; that he had to live as a straight man. As he sat there falling quickly into a state of depression, it hit me: to fully glorify God, to give yourself fully to God, to serve God fully, you need to embrace your orientation and move on with life.

He was stuck and he didn’t have to be. I said these words to him and as I did, as they came out of my mouth, I felt free. I felt liberated. And if I felt free and liberated, I’m guessing my friend felt even more of it. I ended up saying these words to many others and witnessed time and again as people started living life to the fullest.

As I said those words to my friend, I felt a new call in my life. The church in Brooklyn became a safe place for all people to share their stories. It became a place where gay and straight people could worship without fear of retribution or scorn. It became a place where all could fully glorify God, where all could fully serve God.

Of course, I was doing this while still serving in a denomination that condemns homosexuality so you can imagine how the rest of the story goes for me. I’m no longer serving as pastor but I still look for people who might be willing to hear the words: you must embrace your created self so that you can fully glorify God.

7 Comments

Filed under Church, Conversation, Encouragement, Ministers, Opinions, Partners, Stories, Supporters & Allies

Gay Christian: Fact or Fiction?

I love fiction.

While many of my smart and sophisticated friends keep their noses stuck in the latest biographies and watch the trendiest documentaries, I’m a sucker for novels, dark comedies, and superhero movies.

My boyfriend and I had a great conversation about the value of fiction this weekend.  He’s reading a book about the importance of being a good listener.  I proposed that one of the best ways to learn how to be a good listener is to read a great novel.  After all, listening is simply learning how to hear a story… how to engage yourself with a  narrator… how to read between lines and ask questions when the story stops.  What better teacher for this art than Steinbeck, Tolkein, and Stephen King?

What’s my point, you ask?  Why waste valuable internet space on a blog about gay spirituality to promote getting a library card?  Well…

As LGBT people, I think it’s desperately important for us to do the theological, ethical, and exegetical (Bible study) work necessary to find peace with both our sexuality and our spirituality.  I think it’s invaluable for us to examine our gay, popular, and Christian cultures to find how each of these worlds affect the others.  In the midst of all this “smart talk,” however, we can’t underestimate the value of both telling and hearing a story.

Our stories connect us to each other… they allow us to learn from each other… they help us encourage each other…. they remind us that we are not as weird or alone as we sometimes feel.  (sound familiar?)

Plus, they’re just plain entertaining.

The writer of the Biblical book of Hebrews seems to agree.  After rolling through a long list of the Old Testament’s most faithful folks, s/he says….

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  (Hebrews 12:1)

My friends, as gay Christians, we are also surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who remind us that we’re not alone.  So, in the midst of all our arguments and activism, let’s take a minute to sit around an online campfire and listen to one of our gay brothers tell his tale.

It starts with “I was once a proud Evangelical, African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) Christian, the son of an AME Zion preacher, and ready to answer the call on my life to ministry…”

Read the rest – including this brave Christian’s revelation that “after struggling with a four-year addiction to gay porn, in my senior year of college I was forced to acknowledge that this must be more than a mere phase” – here.

1 Comment

Filed under Conversation, Encouragement, Opinions, Questions, Role Models, Stories

The Gay Life Cycle (how we get from the snail to the sheep)

I recently heard a fantastic episode of NPR’s “This American Life” that revealed the secret lives of parasites – those disgusting little bugs that sneak into our bodies, hide in our darkest corners, and eat away at our insides.

In the podcast, Carl Zimmer, author of “Parasite Rex,”  tells a fascinating story about the lancet fluke, a crafty little worm that lives in three separate hosts before it finds its final home.  If you’re not squeamish, I think you’ll enjoy the story.  Hopefully it’ll also speak to your experience as a LGBT person…

Act one:

According to Carl, the lancet fluke starts his life as a tiny egg resting peacefully in a pile of sheep poop with a few hundred other lancet fluke eggs.  As night falls, a hungry snail slowly passes the poop and decides she’s hungry. The snail isn’t picky.  She’ll eat anything.  During her midnight snack of sheep poop, the snail not only eats the fragrant, steaming excrement – she also accidentally gobbles up the lancet fluke eggs.  Days pass.  The eggs hatch.  Tiny lancet flukes start squirming around inside the snail.  The snail, not happy about hundreds of worms wiggling around inside her gut, gets a bellyache and spits the tiny worms out in a wad of sticky goo.  Classy.

Act two:

An ant marches through a field, following a tasty trail of the snail’s slime.  The sticky goo is one of the ant’s favorite treats on a hot day.  Imagine the ant’s delight when it finds a tasty wad of snail slime right in the middle of the trail!  The ant reasons that the snail must have left it there the night before.  The ant is so excited that it doesn’t even notice the tiny lancet fluke babies swimming in its supper.  It eats the goo, worms and all.

Act three:

The ant starts acting strangely. It’s not aware that one of the tiny lancet fluke babies it accidentally ate yesterday has worked their way through his body and is now clamped onto his nervous system.

From this strategic vantage point, the lancet fluke is able to control the ant like a puppet, telling it what to think and feel.

Inside the ant, the lancet fluke knows there are sheep in the field grazing on the tall grass nearby.  He also knows that he’s never going to get back inside one of those sheep if his host stays buried deep inside an ant hill.  And so, the lancet flute tells the ant it wants to climb.  Obeying the lancet fluke’s every command, the ant leaves its nest and climbs to the top of a tall blade of grass.

Sitting on top of the tall grass, the ant can see a herd of woolly sheep grazing in the distance.  One of the sheep wanders closer.  Before the ant can retreat, the sheep lowers its head, eats the grass, and chews the ant into small, mushy bits.

The lancet fluke survives both the chewing and the swallowing.  Finally free of the snail and the ant, the lancet fluke swims happily in the sheep’s stomach, ready to lay her eggs and restart the cycle.

The Point…

The lancet fluke lives in a pile of poop so he can endure the snail so he can find an ant who will eventually help him get back into a sheep.  He lives a complicated life.

Can you relate?

As LGBT people who believe (or are trying to believe) in God, many of us spend some time in the belly of the snail.  We go thorough so many stages – so many changes – during our journey.  It’s not easy to move from the snail to the sheep – to move from fear and doubt to self-acceptance and celebration.

We seek God.  We separate from God.  We question God.  We thank God. We rebel against God.  We doubt God.  We fear God.  We hate God. We cry out to God.  We worship God.

We live many different (and complicated) lives.  Our identity, ideas, and beliefs are constantly changing… growing to accommodate our experience… stretching according to our stage in life.

What I believed about my sexuality when I was a zealous Christian teenager was vastly different than what I believe now that I’ve gained a few years of faith.  What I once feared, I now embrace.  The snail has given way to the ant.

The upheaval I experienced when I “came out” cleared away some of my less-grounded and unexamined ideas about God.  The demolition was painful, but it also cleared space for more mature beliefs.  The ant is leading me to the sheep.

It’s comforting to know that this lancet fluke journey of ours is leading somewhere;  that every stage – no matter how frustrating, frightening, or confusing – is simply a stop on the twisted way back home.

Like the lancet fluke making his way through a complicated life cycle, it almost seems as if Christ is orchestrating something…  Bringing us back…  Reuniting us with God…  Moving us through the progressive system of salvation.

Sound familiar?

Through Christ God reconciled everything to himself.  He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

He’s reconciling everything to himself.

Even us.

He’s making peace with everything in heaven and on earth.

Even us.

This whole journey – even the crappy parts – is moving us toward redemption.

Kind’a makes the snail and the ant easier to endure, doesn’t it?

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Devotions, Encouragement, Parables, Stories

The Gay Life Cycle (how we get from the snail to the sheep)

I recently heard a fantastic episode of NPR’s “This American Life” that revealed the secret lives of parasites – those disgusting little bugs that sneak into our bodies, hide in our darkest corners, and eat away at our insides.

In the podcast, Carl Zimmer, author of “Parasite Rex,”  tells a fascinating story about the lancet fluke, a crafty little worm that lives in three separate hosts before it finds its final home.  If you’re not squeamish, I think you’ll enjoy the story.  Hopefully it’ll also speak to your experience as a LGBT person…

Act one:

According to Carl, the lancet fluke starts his life as a tiny egg resting peacefully in a pile of sheep poop with a few hundred other lancet fluke eggs.  As night falls, a hungry snail slowly passes the poop and decides she’s hungry. The snail isn’t picky.  She’ll eat anything.  During her midnight snack of sheep poop, the snail not only eats the fragrant, steaming excrement – she also accidentally gobbles up the lancet fluke eggs.  Days pass.  The eggs hatch.  Tiny lancet flukes start squirming around inside the snail.  The snail, not happy about hundreds of worms wiggling around inside her gut, gets a bellyache and spits the tiny worms out in a wad of sticky goo.  Classy.

Act two:

An ant marches through a field, following a tasty trail of the snail’s slime.  The sticky goo is one if the ant’s favorite treats on a hot day.  Imagine the ant’s delight when it finds a tasty wad of snail slime right in the middle of the trail!  The snail must have left it there the night before.  The ant is so excited that it doesn’t even notice the tiny lancet flukes swimming in its supper.  It eats the goo, worms and all.

Act three:

The ant starts acting strangely. It’s not aware that the tiny lancet fluke it accidentally ate yesterday has worked its way through his body and is now clamped onto his nervous system.

From this strategic vantage point, the lancet fluke is able to control the ant like a puppet, telling it what to think and feel.

Inside the ant, the lancet fluke knows there are sheep in the field grazing on the tall grass nearby.  He also knows that he’s never going to get back inside one of those sheep if his host stays buried deep inside an ant hill.  And so, the lancet flute tells the ant it wants to climb.  Obeying the lancet fluke’s every command, the ant leaves its nest and climbs to the top of a tall blade of grass.

Sitting on top of the tall grass, the ant can see a herd of woolly sheep grazing in the distance.  One of the sheep wanders closer.  Before the ant can retreat, the sheep lowers its head, eats the grass, and chews the ant into small, mushy bits.

The lancet fluke survives both the chewing and the swallowing.  Finally free of the snail and the ant, he swims happily in the sheep’s stomach, happy to be home at last.

The Point…

The lancet fluke lives in a pile of poop so he can endure the snail so he can find an ant who will eventually help him get back into a sheep.  He lives a complicated life.

Can you relate?

As LGBT people who believe (or are trying to believe) in God, many of us spend some time in the belly of the snail.  We go thorough so many stages – so many changes – during our journey.  It’s not easy to move from the snail to the sheep – to move from fear and doubt to self-acceptance and celebration.

We seek God.  We separate from God.  We question God.  We thank God. We rebel against God.  We doubt God.  We fear God.  We hate God. We cry out to God.  We worship God.

We live many different (and complicated) lives.  Our identity, ideas, and beliefs are constantly changing… growing to accommodate our experience… stretching according to our stage in life.

What I believed about my sexuality when I was a zealous Christian teenager was vastly different than what I believe now that I’ve gained a few years of faith.  What I once feared, I now embrace.  The snail has given way to the ant.

The upheaval I experienced when I “came out” cleared away some of my less-grounded and unexamined ideas about God.  The demolition was painful, but it also cleared space for more mature beliefs.  The ant is leading me to the sheep.

It’s comforting to know that this lancet fluke journey of ours is leading somewhere;  that every stage – no matter how frustrating, frightening, or confusing – is simply a stop on the twisted way back home.

Like the lancet fluke making his way through a complicated life cycle, it almost seems as if Christ is orchestrating something…  Bringing us back…  Reuniting us with God…  Moving us through the progressive system of salvation.

Sound familiar?

Through Christ God reconciled everything to himself.  He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

He’s reconciling everything to himself.

Even us.

He’s making peace with everything in heaven and on earth.

Even us.

This whole journey – even the crappy parts – is moving us toward redemption.

Kind’a makes the snail and the ant easier to endure, doesn’t it?

Leave a comment

Filed under Devotions, Encouragement, Stories