Archive for the ‘sexism’ Category

Lambeth Log Final Day

Yesterday, my final full day at Lambeth, flew by quickly with lots of highlights.

I returned to the Changing Attitude/Integrity Bible study where they continued to looked at John 9. This time we considered how the man born blind grew to understand Jesus through sharing his experience with others.

The night before I had dinner with a friend who is disabled and often uses a wheelchair. She and another friend, a wheelchair user, recently traveled from England to Ireland on a holiday. They took the journey with a personal assistant to help out along the way. On their return to Heathrow, the airline temporarily misplaced both their wheelchairs. They sat in airport issued equipment while attempting to sort things out with a Heathrow employee. My friend said that throughout the entire exchange the employee spoke rudely, but more shocking still, the Heathrow employee never once looked at my friend or the other person also sitting in a wheelchair. He dealt exclusively with the assistant as if the two disabled women did not exist.

We see what appears to be a level of ableism in the John chapter nine story. The religious leaders repeatedly and rudely questioned the formerly blind man, and they treat him like an idiot or like some adults would treat a child as if he doesn’t know what he is talking about. In moment rarely seen in the Gospels, they completely discount his story and instead call on his parents to explain what happened.

18 The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?” 20 His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind, 21 but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.”

I love how we can look at the scripture with different lenses to consider various perspectives. How often do “able-bodied” people treat disabled people like children as if they did not have a valid opinion or intelligence or feelings or romance or whatever.

Next I sat for an interview for the BBC World Service Reporting Religion. The presenter asked excellent questions. He and the producer prepared better than most journalists I have enounctered, having watched the DVD of Homo No Mo as well as listening to previous interviews. He asked penetrating and at times challenging questions. It was not a fluff interview at all. At one point he pressed in about my need/choice to be part of a church that was so controlling.

For years I continued to place myself in abusive churches that did not affirm me but often ruled with tactics of fear and shame. During the interview I got to explain about my current choice to be an active member in the Religious Society of Friends how the Quakers seem the exact opposite for me. It is a faith community where I have to find my own way without a leader telling me what to do or how to do it. (The show is slated to air next weekend. I will provide a link when it is up).

After that Auntie Doris, Tractor Girl and I met up with Davis Maclyalla, a gay man from Nigeria who received asylum from the UK government because of the dangers he faced in his home country. What a sweet and fun guy! He exuded such joy and confidence. His mind and heart sounded clear and at peace.

I took the most delicious nap in the afternoon (yes, we older folks need our afternoon naps) then met up with Auntie Doris for some silent worship before my presentation at Keynes Lecture Hall. Before we did though a producer from the BBC and his cameraman approached me, “You know we are filming you tonight because the Archbishop of Wales will attend your presentation,” he explained as I looked puzzled at all the equipment.

Actually I did not know, but turns out Barry Morgan, the archbishop, who has spoken out in favor of women bishops and the inclusion of LGBT people in the church, agreed to attend my performance and in fact asked all the Welsh bishops to join him. BBC Wales has tracked him with a film crew over the past few weeks for a documentary that will air in December.

My presentation went off well in many ways (with the archbishop prominently seating towards the front and an enthusiastic and attentive audience). I shared in more serious ways than the previous night. Of course I did funny bits from Homo No Mo but also included more about my spiritual journey as I attempted to explain to the audience how my mind looked during those 17 years when I sought to suppress and change my sexuality.

The crew told me that the archbishop would say a few words after the Q&A session. When I finished, the LGCM organizer asked me to stay in the front while the Barry Morgan spoke. I assumed the archbishop would share his views about LGBT people in the church or just give an tepid inspirational message to the audience like bishop types have been known to do. Instead he gave me one of the most affirming public tributes that I ever received. He thanked me and marveled that I still have faith after my trial and expressed admiration that I did not grow bitter because of it. He went on a bit more about my presentation as I sat there opened mouthed and nearly in tears.

After hearing about bishops who don’t listen or don’t care or don’t “get it,” it felt so good to hear something different, something affirming. And in a strange way, it felt healing. I mean after years of not getting affirmed by many different clergymen, to have an archbishop embrace me like that dislodged some of the rejection I had experienced. Ultimately I know that I stand on my own two feet before God and man about my life, and I do not need anyone in the church to approve or affirm me. But it still feels good to hear it.

I also met a wonderful woman from Utah. A recovering Mormon and a straight woman who has found many men to be jerks, she told me how much she appreciated hearing messages from a gay guy that went beyond the gay issues. More and more I have been talking about gender and sexism in my presentations as well as skin privilege. Although they each contain distinct features, many of these oppressions operate in similar ways.

She told me how recently she endured a negative incident with two gay men, who over drinks with her proceeded to pronounce all sorts of awful things about women. This shocked and hurt her; it did not surprise me. I have witnessed a tremendous amount of misogyny, a hatred or contempt of women, dished out by gay men. I cannot think of two groups that could be better allies, but sadly some gay men have not sorted out their own gender issues. They also have not begun to deprogrammed from the sexism and male privilege dumped into us by society. In my own freedom as a white gay man, I need to grow sensitive to the oppression of others–including women, non-whites and the disabled.

Over dinner last night Auntie Doris gave me a Rowan Williams Christmas ornament (the shop at Canterbury Cathedral has the coolest gifts) along with a postcard that contains a quote by Steve Biko,

The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

Indeed. I know that during much of the Lambeth Conference and also in many of our faith traditions around the world, we seek to help oppressors and those not yet affirming of LGBT people to better understand the issues, to experience transformation by the renewing of their minds.

Far too many of us though still need to do that same work in our own minds. We need to detox from the shame that has addled our brains since childhood. We need to deprogram from the oppressive ways of thinking about ourselves and others. We need liberated minds and hearts filled with clarity about who we are and about the world around us. Many of us have begun this journey. Let’s press on and break off the shackles of what others have said about us and others, whoever we are, and let’s seek to see with a sharper vision and a deeper insight.

I head off to London today, then fly home tomorrow where I will get to spend a day with my home meeting before heading off to Baltimore Yearly Meeting for a week (which I imagine will be a restful time for me).

photo credit goes to Auntie Doris

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Fruit Flies and the Gays

Fruit Flies–as in the insect drosophilidae–not savvy straight women who enjoy hovering around fabulous gay men.

Yesterday a reporter from ABC contacted me to ask what I thought about a new study that reveals the sexual orientation of fruit flies can be changed. My immediate response was that I am not a scientist and had not yet been in contact with the fruit fly community, so I wouldn’t want to speak for them. But as a vegan, I have personal knowledge of drosophilidae in my fruit bowl, and as an ex-gay survivor, I know about the desperation to change one’s orientation.

But how deliciously ironic that they did a study about orientation on fruit flies. Aw, those poor gay fruit flies being type cast in a fruity role once again.

But as I spoke with the reporter, he asked about humans and how some people may respond to this fruit fly orientation switching news. In my mind and heart I traveled back to when I was 19 and longed for a cure. I would have done anything and everything to fix my homosexuality. Any time I heard of a powerful minister or of ex-gay seminar or of a book that another ex-gay found helpful, I pursued these with more earnestness than I ever pursued anything in my life up to that point.

I wanted to be fixed, healed, delivered, saved, set free, cured–be it instantaneously or progressively. I knew it would likely be a long road, but I felt it was all worth it for Jesus and for my own well-being. (and as a good Christian, I had scripture to back me up)

In the quest to straighten out my life I not only harmed myself, but also the people who loved me. I believed that I must discover the way out of being gay no matter the cost, not realizing that I also put the burden on others in my life and ended up wounding them by bringing them along with me on my journey to heterosexuality.

Life became one huge battle–a colossal war that I thought was waged against the devil, my flesh and the world. I grew to understand that the struggle, the strain was so great because I fought against myself and a part of me that could not be changed–a fixed part of me that need not move or shift. When I attempted to change, it created more conflict.

So I spoke with the reporter yesterday and you can read his article here. If There Was a Gay-Straight Switch, Would You Do It?

And the answer was yes. I did do it, well I tried to do it. I did it for all the wrong reasons (and found not really good reasons in the end), even bringing God into the equation believing I had a divine mandate and backing to change my orientation and my identity. But turns out the force behind my discomfort with my orientation actually came from an anti-gay world that has gotten emmeshed with the church to the point that the church upholds and enforces the oppression of the anti-gay world.

And the core of the oppression has little to do with who I desire sexuality. The anti-gay mandate is about masculinity. It springs from sexism and the anti-female madness that poisons the minds of men and large religious institutions. It is the same madness that drove the Nazis to experiment on gay men to try to fix them and turn them into real men, and when that didn’t worked, they killed the homosexuals. This drive to stamp out effeminacy in men has even gotten into parts of the gay community.

A real man will have the courage to be authentic in spite of what society has to say about him. A real man will not tamp down the ways he speaks and acts in order to pass as a “straight-acting, masculine man.” A real man will abandon an egocentric path of de-homosexualization when he realizes that such a lifestyle is not possible or healthy, and that it harms his loved ones.

And fruit flies, well, perhaps for a season, with scientific intervention, they can jump ship and swim in different waters. They can act heterosexuality or homosexuality while under the influence of a drug or genetic tampering, but really at the end of the day, drosophilidae just want my banana (and apples and peaches and pears and plums and…)

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This morning I did two performances of Queer 101-Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs at a high school in Greensboro, North Carolina. The show looks at homophobia, identity and activism through the word and lives of lesbian and gay poets.

Although it was INSANELY early in the morning (don’t they realize that most youth do not fully function until 11 am?), the students responded well and asked great questions. After the second show, some students approached me to chat a bit about the show, queer issues and their lesbian, bisexual and gay friends.

One female student told me that some of the guys at the school felt anxious about the show thinking that I would talk about gay sex and then try to convert them to being gay (the famous “gay agenda”). Not the first time I have run into this assumption both from students and parents. I am so glad that at one point in the play Chad, one of the characters, rattles off his list of what he is looking for in a potential mate.

Of course he would have to be male. Oh, nothing personal ladies but I know what works for me. And he would have to be gay. Nothing personal straight guys, but I know I can’t change you and you can’t change me, so why should we frustrate ourselves.

A student told me how she appreciated that I acknowleged that the students already knew info about LGBTQ issues and that I didn’t speak down to them about the topic. Apparently they had other speakers recently who assumed all the students took issue with the issues. Turns out the students simply took issue with feeling patronized.

We also talked about some guys’ negative reactions to gay guys or guys they presume to be gay. One student spoke about a gay guy who had a locker directly above a straight guy. The straight guy would not go near the locker whenever the gay guy was there for fear that he might get hit on.

So we began to talk about that whole issue and why some straight guys have that impression that gay guys will hit on them and the sometime violent reaction to that fear. I mean you would think someone would feel flattered that someone found them attractive. (On her blog today Christine writes about Anthony, an 15 year old openly gay teen in Colorado. Some other boys violently assaulted him.)

What it reveals though is that many straight guys who hit on women and look at them lustfully do not do this to affirm these women and express their appreciation of women’s beauty. Rather it is an act of power, oppression, even violence. The men objectify the women thus exercise power over them. The thought that another man would do that do them freaks these guys out.

Perhaps they think it is okay to objectify and dehumanize a woman, but suddenly when the tables turned they feel very differently. It reveals that these acts are not about sex. No they about about power, oppression and violence.

High school students can be so thoughtful in these sorts of discussions. I appreciate how we can go deep and get real so quickly.

Now off to lunch, then we watch some Trya Banks (where according to Christine I look like I’m sporting a funky military look) then I do a special presentation for 5th graders and then some middle school students. Phew, then I get a break for a few hours before I do my evening show.

Off to Portland tomorrow!!!

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