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1:46 p.m. - January 09, 2006
Notes from Orlando
The Christian worldview favors sentimentality in what I've long suspected is an unofficial official attempt to weigh one's faith by the amount of tears shed, the quanitity of heart-tugging testimonials shared (note deliberate emphasis on quantity, not quality), and demonstrative variations of My life changed / God blessed me / the Spirit is working among us, all presented in the special in-circle Christian lingo that baffles outsiders with its blood, gloy, and hallelujah talk. I am a closeted fan of sentimentality on commercials, Oprah, the dramatics that occur in my friends' lives, but never in a church setting. It makes me deeply uncomfortable and embarrassed, and I resist the heart tugs, wary of being emotionally manipulated. I scoff especially when people say God changed my life because I place more value on free will and personal agency over being a helpless, though semi-animated, doll in the hands of a capricious God, a perspective tainted by Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. To be Christian is to be active, not passive, so spare me the emotional pleas.

That said, I am fully aware of my next thought: God changed my life this weekend.

I took myself as far as I could on my own but that last hurdle was not accomplished on my own or through the collaborative efforts of anybody else. I say this with the same conviction that I say (privately, or to a very few, select, trusted people) I know Something happened in the river all those years ago. How odd to me, this desire to share that experience, how trivial it seems almost right now.

God, and how I hate knowing this current state of mine is an emotional high fueled by the release of particular chemicals in the brain but this feels different on a basic level to which I rarely have access. Besides, I don’t care what you think.

I’m currently in the Orlando airport waiting for my flight to Denver – bumped up again to first, and aside from the cushy bottom and not having to touch elbows with the middle seat occupant, I could do without it; the meals are warmed pistachios followed by salmon / chicken / salad followed by cheese and fruit of Krogers-Safeway-Publix-Vons quality. Big fucking deal! – trying to find words rich and exact enough to make sense of this weekend. My mind is a-jumble and conflicted; I did write in my paper journal every day and might share that here in time.

When in doubt, free-associate and thought-drop:

-I hooked up and it was so damn good every night and early morning. His name is Kevin and Floodtide, take note: He is the callipygian prototype. Such an aesthetically beautiful ass that not only did I kiss is, have difficulty taking my hands off it, and struggle to not think of it wriggling under form-fitting trousers in front of me, but I flipped him over, put a pillow under his hips, and ate him out. I rimmed a man and it was not dirty, it was not repulsive, it was not perverse. It was intimate, and I was not afraid of it.

-Ugly Jason is not so ugly, I realize. In fact, desired. I am desired. How bizarre, how unsettling, but true. How many compliments on my skin, my hair, my eyes (I still laugh at Keenan’s Just say you played football in high school or college and the extra weight becomes sexy, especially my voice. I had no idea. Ludicrous, but there were two guys in particular that competed for me. God I love/d that. Kevin won and Victor left unhappy, a regret and a guilt, but not such a strong guilt that it overshadows the pleasure I’m still feeling.

-Spectrum. This was the first time I was among a group of gay men and lesbians and saw the full, complete spectrum of fairy-twink-giveawayvoice-flamboyant-flouncy-dramatypes-butch-normal-you’dnevertellhe’sgay. You have no idea how comforting it was to see this, to finally get it, to be able to leave a group of guys talking about doing drag in favor of the group talking about football. My being gay in its current parameters is not a slippery slope to being a Queer Poster Fag. I wish I could explain how overwhelming this realization was, how wonderful to be me and let some of the guard down and not lose my masculinity.

-Liberal Christians and conservative, pro-Bush/anti-Bush, Quakers and Southern Baptist evangelicals, and everybody got along. 150-plus people who are same-sex attracted and Christ-accepting Christians rather than the I-believe-in-God-and-that’s-enough type. Gay Christians wearing eyeliner (well, just one that I noticed and have in mind right now) and speaking so eloquently, so movingly, of his struggle with theology and identity and the church, and seeing his passion and worries and struggle are the same as mine.

-I am a butch gay guy (this still makes me laugh a bit, but in a good way). Beautiful Joshua, the 19 year old Arkansas Baptist whose father hit him daily to toughen him up and blinded an eye in the process, explains butch like this: Lucky enough to “pass” (!!) but burdened with the responsibility of having to take a stand.

-Experienced what it means to take a stand at a restaurant, almost like a pre- and post-exam. Friday morning I had joined a group that went to IHOP for breakfast. There was a wait and the 12 or so other attendees took up most of a long bench. I stood apart from the group (some surprise, huh?) and several straight couples happened to fill in the space. I overheard them mocking the gay guys and said nothing, hoping fervently only that I hoped they didn’t associate me with them. Later, after everybody had been seated, there were people pointing at our tables and whispering, shaking their heads, or – get this – ASKING TO BE MOVED FURTHER WAY FROM US. The level of shame I felt is simply unparalleled to other embarrassing moments in my life, and it colored my entire day. Yes, some members of that group are more effeminate, or gesture with their hands, or have that faggot voice, speak loudly and just don’t care what people think, but I died inside. (I just can’t evade the Christian imagery today, can I?) Flash forward to Sunday afternoon when about 20 of us went to lunch at TGIF; same stares, headshakes, outright hostility. Jeb (an amazing Princeton theology guy with a North Carolina accent, sufer-boy looks, and who incidentally said he wishes I was looking for a relationship because I am his type) and I were aware of the nastiness and ignored it, but as we were leaving and passed a table of about four guys, they said something along the lines of fuckingfaggotsbetterleave. I turned around and looked each of them in the eyes and said Do you have a problem with us? We’re in the parking lot if you want to get up. Jesus Christ I don’t know what possessed me and I got bitched at by just about everyone but I wasn’t going to be intimidated like that. To be an ass or make a point, take your pick, I made the driver wait for a couple minutes to see if they would come out and of course they didn’t. I was a minor hero for an afternoon, but it felt good to speak up. That’s what’s different right now and made Joshua’s words reverberate: Both Jeb and I could have “passed” and we walked far enough behind the group so faggot-by-association status was pretty unlikely, but I just wasn’t going to take it. (Shit. My eyes just welled up. I am crying in an airport of all fucking places.)

-My journal and my person were combined in the most unlikely of ways: Paul, a one-time reader of Bigsky and Non-Descript, introduced himself.

-The worst moment and the best moment, which often mysteriously happens simultaneously, came after worship services yesterday afternoon. Testimonials in the Christian tradition often include preambles like God laid it on my heart to say… and are chock-full of that sentimentality I remarked upon at the beginning of this entry. I have never once in my life given a testimonial and would rather have a catheter inserted while awake than give one. But damn it, I got up and took the microphone and thanked them each for blessing me individually and as a whole, for that this weekend was one of many firsts: First time in a group of gay men, first time meeting people who share my struggles, first time I respected gay men simply for being themselves, the first time I could see myself finding a man and marrying, the first time I did not feel that being abused by Spec was a punishment from God for exploring homosexuality, the first time I did not hate gay men, the first time I felt like the real me I keep neatly hidden away came into his own.

Yes, I know. Terribly mawkish and silly but it’s absolutely true. I am not naïve or idealistic enough to think my life has magically changed, that my worries and baggage won’t weigh me down. But what I do feel is hopeful, and I feel connected to myself and to many other gay Christians around the world, and I see I have a place for myself. I judged them before knowing them because I thought they would judge me, and they gave so much willingly because I was open to it. It’s this open-ness that was of God, perhaps one of the final steps to take towards filling in those emotional and social holes.

They’re boarding the plane now – time to go. I feel at peace right now.

Will write more.

One last thought: Last night I had 10 people in my room until 4 a.m., and it felt good to have them say, "You're so much fun to be around." That is the real me, the old me that's been squashed down for far too long.

 

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