What do you love to do? Like, that thing you would do if you had a free morning, a day off work, an open weekend, or no commitments at all for a few months. What’s that thing you would do if you were sure that you wouldn’t fail (or look silly along the way)?
It’s 8:15 a.m.. I walk out of my bedroom and into the living room where the sun is already spilling through the double-windows, across our teal and grey speckled rug and on to the hardwood floor. Despite what you may have read about “creatives” on the Internet, we don’t all get up before the sun rises to go for a 5-mile run followed by a big cool glass of fresh-pressed green juice.
Are you fed up with debating over and over and over again about whether it’s “ok to be gay”? I am.
And at the same time, I remember when that was the conversation that I wanted to have over and over and over again. I needed an answer, an explanation, just the right… something… that would tell me that it’s OK to be gay, that I’m OK.
I don’t think I ever found that answer.
It was easier to pretend that I was straight before I looked at gay porn. That’s when it all came crashing down. Before then, I could brush it off. I was just excited to make a new friend
, I was just looking for new clothes in the catalogue, or I was being a good Christian by not lusting after women.
By seventh grade, kids were looking at porn.
My guys friends at church never admitted it outright, but they did talk about looking at their moms’ Victoria’s Secret catalogues. I was righteously (but silently) indignant. We’re not supposed to do that! Even then, I knew better than to say it out loud.
My friends from school were more vocal about looking up porn on the internet. How does one even find it?! I had not one clue.
So, I Googled it—er, I Ask Jeeved it.
My parents tell a story, of my first crush.
Nicole. She lived around the corner from us.
In elementary school, my favorite subjects were math and science and I was good at them. Yet somehow, in the spring of fourth grade, every day while working on my homework, I would completely loose my ability to complete even the simplest equations. I would take forever to finish a single problem. Two time six is fifteen?
And then one day, the story goes, my parents figured it out: every afternoon Nicole and her family take a walk and they walk past our house. Mom, dad, brother, sister, dog, and her… Nicole.
I stand at the crosswalk on the edge of Southeastern Baptist Seminary doning a crisp polo shirt and freshly pressed khakis. You might mistake me for a missionary.
Some students answer quickly, others silently rush past. A few distract themselves with earphones and iPhones.
And then he strolls over, responding to my “Good afternoon!” with a “Good afternoon!” of his own.
“How’re you today?” I inquire.
“Uh, just heading home,” and as he answers his feet settle to a stop and conversation begins.
Curtis is a candidate for a masters in music ministry on his way back from campus after morning worship. I am with the Soulforce Equality Ride, which visits some of the over 200 colleges and universities with policies that discriminate against LGBT people. I participated in the Equality Ride in 2007 and am back in 2010 as the Director of Web & Media, joining up with the riders briefly for this stop.
After a few minutes of awkward small talk, Curtis needs to get going. I tell him that we’ll be at a nearby park for a potluck later and he’s welcome to join. He says he’ll stop by. I wonder if he will.
I was 30 minutes into what would become a three hour conversation about Leviticus when I saw Curtis sidle up to the picnic table where we were sitting. He stood off to the side at first, eventually he sat. He didn’t say a single word. He listened as I talked with this other seminary student … about “the Law,” about Leviticus, about God’s intention for humanity, about the mission of Jesus, about my experience as a gay person, about my journey as a Christian.
By the time we finished, it was time to leave. Curtis and I exchanged numbers so we could meet up later and have the conversation we never got to have. He joined me and other Equality Riders near our hotel. We talked about faith, about his school, about our lives and loves, about justice and equality.
A few months later, long after the bus had rolled away, Curtis called me and came out as gay.
A few months ago, he bought a house with his longterm boyfriend (I’m sure if they could get married in North Carolina, he would be Curtis’s husband).
This morning, my dear friend Emily West reminded me “you must push publish. It’s how we save one another.”
I speak from experience a lot here. There’s a reason for that. It is because the personal is political. I speak to give voice to the experience I never heard. I speak from experience because it is the most authentic place I can speak from. I wish I could predict the future or tell you what to do. But I can’t, all I can do is tell you my experience—what’s worked for me, and what hasn’t, what I’m trying, and what I’ve learned. My experience reconciling my faith and my sexuality or my practice of everyday activism… everything is ultimately grounded in experience.
If something I write lands with you, run with it. If it doesn’t, discard it.
If you feel up to it, I invite you to speak your own experiences too. Write them in a blog or post them to your Facebook profile (you can post them to mine if you want to keep them away from friends and family).
I found the Garden of Eden. It is located along the Potomac River in Maryland, just two blocks from my childhood home.
Great Falls Park has always just been the park down the street. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, you can walk or run or bike and in the winter you can even ice skate. But it’s always been ordinary. Until the day I discovered in it the Garden of Eden.
Five years ago I was cited for trespassing at the University of Notre Dame and barred for life from returning to any property owned by the university on penalty of arrest.
Every day I wake up and I have choices: Will I get out of bed or sleep an extra hour? Will I eat food that nourishes my body? Will I acknowledge the humanity in the people I pass on the street? How will I spend my waking hours? Will I do the work?
God hates fags.
Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church turned “God hates fags” into a worldwide-recognized slogan. It is the epitome of homophobia in America. Fred Phelps is the quintessential anti-gay Christian.
Fred Phelps is also grossly misunderstood.