272. wabi-sabi

Standard

kintugi‘Tis the season for retrospection, I guess.

As we turn our faces towards the void of what lies ahead for 2017, I’ve been reminded while listening to the radio this week of some of the high points and low points of the past year. While there were definite low points, I still tend to balk at those who claim that 2016 was the “worst year ever.”

I’m pretty sure 65 million BCE was the worst year ever for the dinosaurs, and you could have your pick of years at the height of the Black Death’s rampage through Europe around 1351-1353.

Ditto during the years of the Great Depression.

1783 was a wretched year for the northern hemisphere when the volcano Laki in Iceland started a chain of natural disasters that led to the deaths of tens of thousands in Europe.

1968 was a pretty bleak year in the United States, with the Vietnam War still raging, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, deadly race riots across the country, and the election of Richard Nixon.

(There are more examples on this Reddit thread.)

Point is, 2016 may have been the worst year in the lifetimes of many under a certain age, but every generation has its go-to .


For me, this has been a year of transformation and growth:

That last one had been a huge source of anxiety for me over the past few years. I’d been growing increasingly less interested in sex, dating, and “dating” (i.e., casual sex), which definitely made me an outlier amongst gay men. Discovering that there were others like me, whose sexuality was defined firstly by emotional rather than sexual attraction, was an incredible relief.

However, this has also redefined my relationship to the broader LGBTQIA+ community. Even before demisexuality, I struggled to really find a place of belonging under the rainbow umbrella.

I am not queer in any sense of the word, am cisgendered, still have my natural hair color, have no piercings or tattoos, am comfortable in my masculine identity, and feel no need to “bend” how I present my gender.

Frankly, I have heterosexual friends who are queerer than me.

Likewise, I have struggled to find belonging amongst gay men. My personal experience is that it’s a community defined heavily by sexual activity and sexual attraction—flirting, hooking up, etc. Again, full disclosure, my experience with “gay culture” has been primarily limited to a subset in central Minnesota, which may not be representative necessarily of the majority.

However, many guys with whom I’ve had conversations, who could be considered “mainstream gay” (however you’d define that), do feel liberated in their more extroverted sexuality. Many came out of repressive homes and communities, and found belonging and community in the gay bars and fetish subcultures that make this super introvert very uncomfortable.


The massacre at the Pulse nightclub in June was a conflicting event for me in many ways. Fifty people were murdered because of their sexual orientation. On the one hand, it was a reminder that although we have marriage equality in all fifty states thanks to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, it is still not entirely safe to be openly LGBT or Q in the United States.

And it’s frightening to consider that the incoming presidential administration could overturn many, if not all, of the advances for LGBTQ rights with a pen stroke or judicial appointment.

Yet aside from a sense of shared oppression, I don’t feel drawn to “gay” spaces—bars, clubs, gyms, bathhouses, concerts, etc. Even “gaymer” events are off-putting for me, mainly because the sexual energy is almost emotionally deafening.

At the 2015 American Library Association conference in San Francisco, when I attended a GLBT Round Table social (and later an independently organized) event, even though we were all librarians, I observed how the gay (and, I presume, bi) men flirted about the room like bees, sizing each other up.

I just wanted to talk to someone about cataloging and archiving.


A few days ago this video came across my YouTube feed.

Dubious genetic explanations aside, I found O’Keefe’s assertion that LGBT people have unique qualities and perspectives for bringing communities together and facilitating healing to be very heartening. While I may not fit any stereotypes of how society envisions a gay man, I do believe that growing up as an outsider has made me a more compassionate, empathetic, and social justice-minded as a human being.

It’s one reason I decided to go into librarianship in the first place: I know what it is to be denied information that might broaden my mind and challenge my comfortable, preconceived notions about the world—and people.

And I can do something about that as a cataloger, an archivist, and as a librarian.


The reason I worry so much about sex, and the hypersexuality of gay men, is the knowledge that androphiles are my field of eligibles. As a demisexual, it takes a while to even recognize that I’m interested in a guy.

While I’m still trying to figure out if we have anything in common, he’s already decided that we should to go back to his place.

I worry that everyone else moves too fast for me, that no one is willing to wait for the intricate gears and dynamos of my psycho-sexual machine to determine if attraction will happen or not.

Will I ever find someone? (And where do I even look?) Will the attraction endure for me, or for him, or will he eventually get fed up with me and my cogitating?

As I consider the theme of loneliness in 2016, I recognize the need to resolve it somehow, to rethink my perspectives.

Good riddance to this year though.

Advertisements

166. glissade

Standard

christmas wreathHappy Boxing Day, everyone!

Well, we made it through another Christmas without being swept away by some long-foretold doomsday disaster. And I made it through my first family Christmas with a significant other, which is noteworthy. This is the first year I’ve been with a guy for a major holiday like Christmas. Last year I spent it depressed, mostly holed up in my room, alone and drunk, so this was a nice change of pace and scenery.

It’s also been a full year since I told my parents that I didn’t want any further contact with them, so long as they believe what they do about homosexuality. Since being outed to them by my first ex-boyfriend in November 2010, they’ve had plenty of opportunity to reconsider their conviction that homosexuality is unnatural. They budged a little on the notion that it’s “uncurable,” which for them means that I should be living a lonely and celibate life. So there’s no real change from 2010.

Last fall they said that they would never acknowledge any romantic relationship of mine with another man, or come to any wedding or commitment ceremony of mine. This was a particular slap in the face, considering how big of a deal my younger sister’s wedding was, and knowing that I’ll never experience that kind of celebration. She has three kids now with her husband, and my family would never dream of pretending that they’re just friends or roommates. Yet that’s the life they deem appropriate and reasonable for me, all because I fancy men instead of women.

The last exchange between my dad and me took place on Christmas Day of last year. I’d stopped by to write him a check for the last of the money I owed him for car repairs, after which I told my parents that I wanted nothing more to do with them because of their beliefs about my sexuality. He made a comment about how he didn’t think my “lifestyle” was making me very happy, how Jesus could’ve helped me “be straight” if I’d let him, and how I’d “never really given Jesus a chance.” I responded that my unhappiness had to do with the fact that my entire world had been recently tipped upside-down, and on top of that my family thinks I should be content being a second-class citizen, both in society and in their company. I asked if he knew the difference between sadness and clinical depression, and he remarked that “Jesus is bigger than depression.”

To which I replied, before slamming the door behind me: “I spit on your Jesus.”

That was last Christmas.

This Christmas was spent with my boyfriend Jay and his family. I had some anxiety in the weeks leading up to it, not so much about large numbers of people but rather about gift-giving. In my family, or at least among my siblings once we were older, gift-giving always felt like an exercise in posturing. The gift had to be nice enough to show that you spent a decent amount of money on someone, but not so expensive that it looked like you were showing off. It was the thought that counted, so long as the thought was interpreted in the right way.

Add to that the fact that for me it’s so hard picking out gifts. Something has to jump out at me as being just the thing for a person. For example, Jay’s uncle has some pretty right-wing political views, and a few months ago I was at Barnes & Noble looking for another book and saw a book by David Horowitz, The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and sixties radicals seized control of the Democratic Party. I thought, “That’s perfect!”

As for the rest of his family, it’s hard to get a read sometimes. I was worried about them seeing me as rude or that I didn’t really try, and that therefore I’m a bad boyfriend and not really a part of the family. A few weeks ago a friend of Jay’s sister came over and played a game with us, and I felt like everyone liked him way more than me. My rational mind was saying that they have more of a history with him, and that’s what’s going on. My lizard brain was saying that everyone was wondering what I was even doing there.

Family is tricky for me, for many reasons. As I’m learning in therapy, I was never able to connect with my family growing up (at least during my teen years) because I was so preoccupied with trying to hide from them and everyone else the enormous fact that I was gay. And, as I feared, they are unable to accept their gay son for who he is, which means that we can’t have a relationship.

In the summer of 2011, while I was staying with my parents while finding a new place to live, my dad and I had an argument. This isn’t out of the ordinary since we’ve fought most of my life. We were on the topic of sexual orientation, and he growled, “You’ve made your whole identity now about being gay! You’re so focused on it!”

I said: “Yes. Because I am gay. Contrary to what you think, it’s not some separate thing apart from myself. It defines who I am, just like your being married to mom defines you. And someday there’s going to be a man in my life who forms the other part of that central relationship for me. And you refuse to acknowledge that part of me. So yeah, I’m kinda focused on that right now.”

I’ll never know what it’s like to have my own parents love my spouse in the way they love my sister’s husband. I’ll never know what it’s like to introduce the man I love to the people who, for better or worse, I spent most of my life with and who raised me. That’s not an easy pill to swallow.

032. consternation (or, wtf in the garden of eden)

Standard

Sorry it’s been so long in between posts (not that anybody really missed me, I’m sure). Work is changing and bringing more responsibility with it. I’m doing more writing, though at the moment more waiting to see if my submissions were accepted.

With the health care bill passing it feels like I’ve been playing catch-up on what’s been happening nationally. What disturbed me most was that Pilosi snuck and ramrodded her bill through Congress, giving Americans a mere seventy-two hours to respond, vote, or object to what was in the 1,999 page document. Now we wait to see what happens in the Senate and hope to God that true conservatives there stand up to the pressure from the left, and from Obama to give him a “positive outcome.”

One other thing that disheartened me last week was the repealing of same-sex marriage in Maine. It’s not so much that I’m a huge proponent of it (since I’m nowhere near being married and it isn’t an issue for me). It was the victory sound bytes from the opposition which bordered on vainglorious gloating from the conservative right that deeply bothered me (the following quotes are from an ABC news article):

  • “We’ve struggled, we’ve worked against tremendous odds, as we’ve all known. We prevailed because the people of Maine, the silent majority, the folks back home spoke with their vote tonight.” – Marc Mutty, campaign manager for Stand for Marriage Maine which opposed gay marriages.
  • “I believe that marriage is for a man and a woman… and I don’t believe that [gay marriage] should be taught in school, period.” – Mary Lou Narbus, a 51-year-old mother of three from Rockwood, Maine.
  • “I don’t feel anybody has the right to redefine marriage. I would have been heartbroken for our country if it did not pass… We had a prayer night last night for it to go the way it should.” – Ellen Sanford McDaniel, 35, of Fairfield, Maine.

In response, there are a few points I’d like to make.

  1. These are supposedly “my people” saying these things, conservatives and Christians, and I’m not sure what angers me more—that these blatant misconceptions about same-sex marriage are still being circulated and promoted, or that ignorance and fear got the upper hand once again. Yes, there are gay activists out there who want to promote homosexuality in schools, and yes, they are a vociferous minority and they do have an agenda they want to force down people’s throats and make them accept it. I never thought I’d ever say this, but as Sean Hannity once said, “If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly enjoys his life. If a liberal is homosexual, he loudly demands legislated respect.”The intent of the majority of homosexuals is not to erode the American family unit or destroy family values. It’s to make up for years of imposed silence and shame from the status quo. It’s straight couples who have managed to erode family values by jumping from marriage to marriage, or bed to bed, leaving broken partners and children in their wake, all without the help of the gays (or the gay bandidos). There are homosexuals who have lived together, faithfully, for decades, who practice fidelity and monogamy more authentically than many heterosexual couples.(On a side note, I don’t think homosexuality needs to be “taught” in schools any more than heterosexuality should be promoted. It’s not the job of the schools to socialise students—but that’s another discussion.)
  2. It upsets me that anyone would pray for things to go the way they want them to, and even more that they expect God to sanction their position. Whatever happened to “thy will be done”? And not that Christians shouldn’t get involved in politics, but awful things happen when religion is used as a sword. That’s why we left England in the first place.
  3. Their reaction belies a fundamental misunderstanding of human sexuality, an adherence to rigid cultural and societal norms, and aversion to anything that threatens their comfortable notions of what American life is supposed to be. It’s the common impression that all gay men are lisping, promiscuous, flamboyant queens. In fact, many “gay” couples don’t even practice “gay” sex, and some are even celibate. Terms like “gay sex” or “gay love” imply that it’s different from any other kind of love or sexual activity—even aberrant (not that any and all activity that goes on between homosexual males is healthy—things like fisting, BDSM and fetishism can be dangerous and harmful to the body).
  4. It also belies a fundamental misconception of sexuality in scripture. According to traditional arguments, the primary function of sex is procreation, and on those grounds many infertile couples shouldn’t be married either. And if you were to ask, I suspect that many Christians wouldn’t even be able to tell you why they believe homosexuality is wrong—only that “the Bible says so.” Mny blindly accept and parrot the views of their leaders without studying the issue for themselves, and yet these are the ones speaking with their votes.
  5. Instead of “working against” same-sex marriage, why don’t Christians try to find out what it is that homosexuals really want? Yes, this would involve actually getting to know a few, and perhaps that’s what this is about. It’s easy to work to block someone’s rights when they’re a statistic or a scary figure on television, and you are a happily married, secluded family that enjoys society’s approval and privilege; but that often changes when it becomes about people.It’s about simple things, like enjoying the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples, without dirty looks or the danger of—at the very least—being savagely beaten; being able to publicly marry without fundamentalists protesting or children holding signs declaring eternal damnation for gays; and legal rights, such as hospital visitation and tax credits. It’s about the symbolic declaration of commitment that separates “living together” from “marriage.”

It’s not about upturning the apple cart. We just want fair treatment.

020. hope

Standard

Accoridng to CNN, You-Know-Who is scheduled to sign a memorandum today granting health care and other benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.

That’s charming considering that last week the Justice Department filed a motion in support of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Same song, different verse. He may not be sidling up like George W did with fundamentalists, but it looks like there’s not much hope for change with this adminsitration that campaigned on hope and change.

016. namaste

Standard

Here’s another excerpt from the Virginia Mollenkott interview on Speaking of Faith in 2006. She was responding to the mainstream Evangelical position of most churches and theologians to advise homosexuals to either pursue change (through prayer or other means, including ex-gay ministries such as Exodus International, Love in Action, or JONAH) or life-long celibacy. As Krista Tippett said in her preface, “For [Mollenkott], to exclude homosexuals from marriage is to deny their full humanity, and she doesn’t believe that restricting marriage to a man and a woman is true to the spirit of key New Testament symbolism about marriage, such as the often-cited image of Christ as the bridegroom and the church as the bride.”

Here’s what Virginia Mollenkott had to say.

Well, if, you know, namaste, what the Hindus say, “The holy place in me salutes the holy one in you.” When you dearly love somebody and you make love with them, you’re not just making love to another body. This is your avenue to love the maker, the Creator of us all. I think that’s the important thing about comparing marriage to Christ and the church, that it opens you up to the entire human race, not just to this one person.

It’s not just what nuclear marriage has so often been depicted, as you and me and baby makes three, and we pull everything in over the top of us and we don’t care about anybody else’s family because we’re a family and we’re number one to each other. No, it’s that loving one other opens us up to loving the entire human race, all of whom have this place in them, this divine light in them, the light which lightens every human being born into the world, according to John, chapter 1. And to me, that’s — this is transcendent, this is beautiful. And to tell somebody they cannot have access to this worshipful act is tragic.

011. doublespeak

Standard

From the abortion segment of the speech that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named at Notre Dame gave this weekend upon receiving his honorary degree (as if he didn’t have enough already):

Understand – I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it – indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory – the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

Now, contrast with this from the White House website:

President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.

And he said this in an interview with the Chicago Daily Tribune:

“I’m a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.”

So he’s willing to support the right of women (presumably straight women, who probably became pregant outside of marriage) to murder their unborn chidren, but he doesn’t support the rights of millions of homosexuals in America to marry just like anyone else?

I’ll put it another way: He supports an act which results in the death of a human being, but doesn’t support two people publically proclaiming their committment to each other (which harms nobody)?

And some of you people voted for this guy? Sorry, I’m a bit indignant this morning.