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Today I am pleased to turn my “voice” over to a dear friend. It takes a lot to turn your “voice” over to someone, but after years of friendship, I have come to have a deep respect for Star. She is first STAR, a Christ Follower, a Wife, a Mother, a Friend and a lover of humanity in general. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would speak a negative word against or about her. She is one of the most authentic people who I know. 10 out of 10 people love her.
I have been through several trials with Star and her sweet family and she too has been by me and my family through our trials. She is selfless, holy and practical. I could go on and on but you get the picture. Thank you for giving me the precious gift of love and support in a very difficult situation. You have a special place in the heart of me and my family. I Love you! MUAH!
Raising Kids Towards Love And Acceptance
I am so honored to be Guest Blogging here on Why Am I Gay? A big Thank You to my good friend Chet DeRouen for giving me this opportunity. I’ll let you know later just how we know each other. Let me start by Introducing myself. My name is Star Forbis, I Blog over at Laughing Through Parenting. Yes, I’m one of those “Mommy Bloggers!” Only with a few twists, 1st my kids are a little older; I have 2 boys, ages 21 & 22, and Twin Daughters, age 15. 2nd I have been Married over 25 years to the Love of my Life, who happens to be a Pastor, a Music Pastor. We’ve also been Youth Pastors. So, needless to say, our kids grew-up in the Church world. But, being firm believers in the Public School system, our kids also grew up in a secular world. It’s been a Balancing Act to say the least. I’ve also gone from being a Stay At Home Mom for over 18 years, to now, working full-time.
And if I do say so myself (and I do, often!) 🙂 I have some pretty great kids! Now, they are FAR from Perfect, trust me, but I’ve made a conscious effort to raise them to be Loving and Accepting of everyone they encounter. When Chet asked me to be a Guest Blogger on his Blog (& trust me, in the Blog world, it’s a pretty big deal to give Voice to someone else in your space, and I’m honored he Trusts me enough) he wanted me to talk about how I talk to & educate my kids as a Mother, as a Christian & a Pastor’s Wife about people who are different from them. Basically how I’ve raised my kids to be Loving & Accepting of other people. No matter how those other people look, act, live, where they come from, etc. I was amazed first of all that he thought I had! 🙂
So I asked my kids “How have I raised you to Love & Accept people different from you, if of course, you think that I have?” They said things along the lines of “you showed me we’re all different & thats okay.” “Everyone deserves to be Loved & Accepted.” “We’ve all sinned & done things that are wrong, and God loves us! And He commands us in His Word to Love each other.” And I said “Wow! All this time I thought I was raising you to be Bullies!” 🙂 I’ve said on my Blog that I hope that some of how my kids got to be who they are was ‘Inspired’ by me, but I also know, that some of who they are is ‘Inspite’ of me! 🙂
It’s really so simple; The Golden Rule, as found in the Bible says “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” Which simply just means treat other people like you would want to be treated! I’d take that a step further & say treat other people how you would want your kids to be treated! What if your Child were handicapped, mentally or physically? What if your child were Gay? What if your child were different in any way from what is considered the “norm?” How would you want them to be treated by others? (We can overlook others mistreating us sometimes, but not mistreating our Children. Am I right?) Well, that is exactly how you should treat other people and teach your children to treat everyone with Love & Respect as well.
We have known Chet & his former Wife Christa for many years. We went to church together. My Husband was the Music Pastor, & Chet sang with him, and was a Board Member of the Church. Christa & I helped to run Mom’s groups, and we all hung out together. They are fun people! We’ve known them as a couple for over 10 years. I remember one night hanging out & (one of my Vices) The Real Housewives of New York came up in conversation, and Chet joined in on the discussion, even knowing some of the Housewives by name. Later that evening while my husband & I were talking about how much fun we had, I said to him “you know, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear Chet was Gay!” What straight man can carry on a conversation about The Real Housewives?! And as usual, I was right! 🙂
Chet E-mailed us & other friends that after years of struggling to not be who he is, dealing with depression & thoughts of suicide, he had decided to be his Authentic self. A gay man. He & Christa were divorcing, yet would continue to parent their two Beautiful little girls together, and would remain best friends to each other. John & I immediately E-mailed Chet & Christa respectively to let them know this changed nothing between us. We Love them both & always will. And that we are praying for them as they go through all the transition & turmoil. And in reality nothing had changed. Chet was still Chet. The man we all know & love! He isn’t somebody different from he’s ever been.
And since we run in the same circles, we told our kids about Chet coming out. They, as kids always do, took it in stride. We’ve tried to make no subject Taboo in our house. We have really tried to always be open & honest with our kids, encouraging their questions. Who else would we want them to ask? I remember once when my oldest son was preschool age, (we’re talking almost 20 years ago) we were in a fast food joint & an Interracial family walked in. My son looked at them & asked “How come that little girl has a black daddy & a white mommy?” His question was not met with a “Shhhh, we’ll talk about that later.” No, my response was “Well, because they fell in love & got married & had a baby, just like me & Daddy! And when you grow up you can marry who ever you fall in love with.” He simply said “Oh” fully satisfied, it made perfect sense to him & he had no other questions on the subject. We try to watch Movies & T.V. shows together, & read books that feature people different from us. Or that could bring up topics for discussions, that we otherwise might never encounter. We talk about our Beliefs, Moral & Social issues & yes, even Politics & Religion with our kids. But always respectfully. It’s not acceptable to put others down, even if they don’t believe like we do.
You see I believe with my whole heart that a Christian’s first response should ALWAYS be one of Love & Compassion. But all too often it is one of Judgement & Prejudice. That breaks my heart. Now, I don’t know what other kinds of responses Chet got to his letter, I’m sure some were very nice, I’m also sure others were not. And I do know it was the end of some of those relationships. But, we too have been on the receiving side of people’s judgements, and we know what if feels like when the Church has seemingly abandoned you, and we have vowed never to purposefully do that to someone else. Jesus was put down when He was on earth for being a “Friend of Sinners.” In fact His only harsh words were reserved for the so-called “Religious” people who thought they were so much better than everyone else. The truth be told: we are all sinners. And we are all Loved by God. We are all created in His Image. None of us are better than anyone else. I’ve tried to make sure my kids have always known that. (Although to me they are the absolute best! As I hope your kids are to you) Who would want to live in a world where everyone looked & thought just like them? Not me! There is so much we can learn from each other & from other cultures. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of every opportunity to do so?
I have been so proud to watch my boys do everything from open doors for people, to helping people move, to shoveling snow for neighbors without being asked, to Ministering to people in the streets & in homeless shelters in New York City after 9/11. And even to watch my girls this year trying to be there in support of a good friend of theirs who was loosing her Grandma, even while they were still hurting over loosing their own Grandma. But In all honesty, I haven’t really taught my kids anything profound. I believe all kids are born with a natural Love for all creatures. I think it’s Hate that is taught all too often. We pass down our Prejudice, our Fears & Ignorance. When we hear about Bullies, I’ve always told my kids “Someone must have hurt them extremely badly for them to act that way toward other people.” We were Youth Pastors when Columbine happened & my boys were in Elementary school. Needless to say It scared the crap out of us! (Yes, I said crap!) 🙂 I remember seeing it on TV as I was walking through the living room with a laundry basket of clothes & just stopping right there, sitting down on the floor & crying. I talked to my boys about teasing, that it might seem innocent & harmless, and even funny, but it’s not to the person being teased. And why would you want to make someone feel so bad just for a few laughs? I encouraged them not only to not participate in teasing or bullying, but to stick up for the person being put down. You never know that kid could one day snap & come to school with a gun, and just maybe they would remember you were the one who stood up for them when no one else did & spare your life. Again it’s as simple as treating people how you would want to be treated. Shouldn’t that be the norm? There are a lot of people in this world. And every single one of them have something to offer. I’ve always loved meeting & getting to know new people. And just because someone is different from we are, deep down inside, we’re really all the same. And in order to get Love & Respect, we, in turn need to give it. Hows that for profound?
Someone sent me an e-mail through Facebook this week with that question. At cursory thought, I wanted to get on my high horse and tell them exactly why I “un-friended” them. To be honest, I was offended and I wanted to tell them so. Just as I was about to legitimately justify myself, my phone alerted me that Iyanla VanZant had just updated her post on Facebook. I read the post and here is what I read, “We all have the right to make mistakes. Our fault is being righteous about it. When we fail to admit our faults, the faults become what everyone can see.” Hmmmmm… God, for real. You’re gonna speak this to me right now? Honest? c’mon. Cut me some slack. Nope. Not a chance. This was for me.
So to answer the question of why I “un-friended” you. I’m not fully sure, but I made a mistake. I posted a blog just before this one where I stated that I was not going to “tolerate” those who did not support me in being an authentic gay Christian man. I further stated that If I felt like you were not supporting me that I would remove you from my friends list on Facebook. Well… I went through my friends list and did just that. I removed several people who either never communicate with me through this venue or that I felt was a “threat” to my authentic self. I felt that this person fell into that category. I believed that they stood in judgment of me, and maybe I was correct in that thought.
I had recently posted a picture of myself with my boyfriend on Facebook (and yes… It is as awkward for me to type or say the word boyfriend as it is for you to read or hear it.) and this person made what I considered a derogatory comment about the photo. It took me off guard that one would have the nerve to post that onto my wall. So I “un-friended” you.
You see… I reacted exactly how I felt that they reacted. I WAS WRONG. …there, I said it. Here it is a second time, W – R – O – N – G! Do not get used to hearing that from me. It doesn’t happen that often… 🙂
Here is my dilemma. Most people who respond negatively to me (about being a gay Christian) in some form or fashion are the Christian, Mormon, “Non-Denominational”, Catholic, Republican and/or Conservative groups. To date, I still identify with that group and culture to some extent. I worship God, I am born-again, I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and all those things that we connect with “religion.” However, I am gay. I have no romantic attraction to the female sex. It’s not a choice like the above group believes. If you believe that this is a choice, then you “choose” to become attracted to your same-sex. Go ahead try it… You can’t do it. If I can “choose” to be gay, then surely you can “choose” to as well. I would much rather be heterosexual and be deemed “normal.” This is not the best spot to be in when you identify as a Christ follower. Why? I’m so glad you asked.
Most Christ followers believe that there is ONE way to worship God. ONE interpretation of the scripture and ONE way to be deemed “normal” or “christian.” When you fall short of that ONE way, you are looked upon as “Jack”, “Back-slidden” and all the other names that I once subscribed to if a follower did not measure up to me and my belief system. Most Christ followers can tell you “what the Bible says” on almost any subject except for what they themselves struggle with. Then they can quote scripture after scripture of how “they” are either forgiven or exempt. I know… I did the same exact thing for most of my life.
I know that I have multitudes of prayers from the Christ followers who want God to “show me the way” and to “clear my mind from the confusion” that Satan himself has forced upon me. In their eyes and ONE belief system I am “jack” or “back-slidden.” While I appreciate the prayers, I would rather they direct them to the thousands of Christians who live in shame, sadness, depression and guilt because God created them “differently” than the ONE true way. I was at an extremely large gathering of Pentecostal ministers a couple of years ago (before I began to live authentic) and I was winked at, approached, touched (not sexually) and followed (with their eyes) by several MEN that I know love God and practice Christianity. These men were gay, and it made me sad that they are likely in a relationship and profession in which they are truly miserable and defeated. I know I was one of them. We can see it in each others eyes. We have a common bond. Pray for these men. Pray that they do not harm themselves. They are in a very tough spot.
What about those scriptures of living happy, healthy, victorious and fruitful. What about giving and receiving love. Does your ONE interpretation of the scriptures only allow those scriptures to apply to heterosexuals or were those scriptures written for EVERYONE? Seems like a simple question, but obviously we struggle with the proper answer which is, YES! All scripture was written for ALL people. That means me. I’m not exempt because I’m gay, you are not exempt because you are straight, black, Asian, Mexican married, single, divorced, widowed, disabled or any of the such singularly or combined.
Wow… how did I get off on that tangent? Actually it’s not a tangent at all. I was using that as a path to arrive at the crux of this blog posting. Being happy. As a closeted gay christian man, I was defeated, sad, depressed, suicidal and all the other horrible emotions that come with hiding and keeping secrets. I wanted to be happy, joyful and all those things that the scriptures claim that I can be when I love and follow Christ. I did not find any of that until I accepted that God had allowed me to be gay.
So why was I so upset about the comment on Facebook regarding the photo of me and my boyfriend? Because it took so much courage for me to post that photo and I was so happy with him. I didn’t feel awkward or weird with him. I had experienced the joy that the scriptures had promised me. When the comment, “this makes me so sad” was posted on my wall about a photo that made me so happy, I reacted. If you can’t see things my way, then I don’t need you. Again, I did exactly what I accused the other person of doing. I reacted negatively to their belief system however flawed I believe that it is.
Let’s start talking our talk and walking our walk. If we believe that GOD IS LOVE, and that “we should love our neighbor as ourself,” then let’s behave like it. We will never agree fully. So there is your answer, I “un-friended” you because you didn’t believe the ONE way that I believed. I made a mistake, I own that mistake and I commit to dialogue with you as often as you like. I will not attempt to change your belief system and I assure you that you will not change mine. We will both evolve in our faith at a pace that is right for each of us respectively. I commit to love and respect you for who you are as a Christ follower even if at times you do not believe that I share your same faith. Lets agree that we both have faith. How we work out our faith will be an individual journey.
It is amazing how much change can take place in one year. I know this to be fact. I went from pretending to be straight/heterosexual to accepting that I, in fact am gay. I went from being married to a beautiful, strong, stable woman to being in a relationship with a strong, stable, supportive man. It will be one year on January 1st, that I chose to be honest with my wife of 14 1/2 years and honest with my children, myself, my family and friends.
I have said it multiple times before that If I knew that being honest, authentic and real would cost me so much, that I may have just skipped to plan “B” of suicide. I am thankful to my God for keeping me from committing such a selfish, irreversible act. I have found such contentment and happiness in truth.
Yesterday I presented my boyfriend (and yes… it is just as awkward for me to say this as it is for you to read it) with a Christmas present that he has wanted for a long time. I had no idea that he has wanted it for over two decades. He wanted a peacock for his yard at his historic home in downtown Phoenix that was built in 1920. I knew that buying him a peacock would be destined for fierce innuendo. Let’s just put that on the table. The innuendo almost kept me from making this purchase for him. A peacock… really… you want a peacock? Come on… fa serious???… couldn’t he have wanted a flamingo or something… at swan maybe. How about some ducks? Something a little less “gay.” NOPE… He wanted a peacock. So guess what? A peacock is just what he got. Not a peahen… A PEACOCK. Par for the course… a gay man giving his boyfriend a peacock. Well… enough innuendo. I gave him a beautiful bird that is graceful and beautiful.
So what does he name it… Oh the fun and innuendo continue. SEBASTIAN. Yep… that’s right. He named him after the patron “gay” saint. I had no idea that gay’s had a saint! I was taught that all gays were evil… heathens who were part of satan’s team. I have so much to learn… So now we have a gay man giving his boyfriend a peacock that is named Sebastian after a gay saint. Hmmmm… What?… am I just desperate for laughs and giggles. I surely must be. Do I not have enough drama in my life? I guess God loves laughter.
So where am I going with this? I’m so A.D.D. that I almost forgot. OK… now I remember… So yesterday is the first time that I have been to church in a couple of months. I gotta be honest, I am sick over how I have been treated (directly and indirectly) by my friends and family who are church-goers. Notice I didn’t say Christian… I’ve learned to separate the two, ’cause to be honest, I just don’t know anymore. I’m shocked at how unkind and passive-aggressive they have been. Two people even deactivated their Facebook pages for “personal reasons” only to re-activate it after they unfriended me. It is beyond hurtful.
I’m just hoping that these folks are as perfect as they believe that they are. You know who you are and I now know who you are. I know a lot of your imperfectness and I still considered you dear to me and a friend. Only now I see that our friendship was not mutual. I guess that our divide is too great for mutual friendship and respect. Not on my part. I recently sent my father a birthday greeting even though we are not in relationship right now. I wrote to him, “I don’t want assume how you feel about me, and I don’t want you to assume how I feel about you. Happy Birthday, I love you. Nothing more, nothing less.” Why is it that we assume how others feel about us? I don’t want to live that way anymore. I am happy to report that he responded. 🙂
Now back to the peacock. I was taken aback at how many negative and rude comments that people made on my boyfriend’s Facebook page when he posted that he had received a gift that he longed for over 20 years. How in the world can you look at such a graceful, beautiful creature of God and only see that “those birds are so loud!?” Are you kidding me… are you that shallow? That is like throwing away your Mercedes-Benz just because it is loud when it starts? It’s like saying you hate children or people who talk. The bird is only communicating. He is calling out for companionship and friendship. How is that in any fashion UGLY or BAD. It’s such a “cup-half-empty” mentality. If you look for the worst, you will find it quickly. You are better than that. …And if you think for a moment that you are without fault, then please do us all a favor and move to the country of perfect…a land that doesn’t exist silly.
So as I went to church yesterday, I was reminded that I am far from perfect and that I have flaws. A lot of flaws. Being gay is not one of them. I was reminded that I am light. Light of God…and that is a perfect gift.
Later yesterday evening, a VERY DEAR friend who has been a mother/sister to me for years and I were texting each other. She shared this with me: “My favorite thing is to be able to give the The Perfect Gift & that’s what you did for your boyfriend. I read his comments on Facebook and know how thrilled he is. I cannot relate to his desire to own one, but it is very beautiful. I know his pleasure feels like a give back to you. I love that feeling!”
She is sooooo right. I replied back: “That is an Amazing feeling. I hope that God feels that way about me…”
This is one lady that ALWAYS has water (or something) in her glass. Why? …glad you asked. Because even if she has just a drop… her cup is NOT empty. It’s a choice. She saw the beauty not only in the peacock, but in the response of my boyfriend. His response of shock-and-awe was enough to not even care how “loud” the bird can be when he is looking for companionship and company, but to see one of his dreams to come true. His appreciation was the BEST GIFT that he could have given to me in return. Now he wants a peahen too… go figure!
The peacock Sebastian is not perfect. He gets loud, he poops, shed feathers every year and can even peck you if he feels threatened. But don’t be so cup-half-empty. He is graceful and beautiful and is so relaxing to sit on the swing and watch him prance… like a good gay bird. LOL.
Sooo… We are all far from perfect yet we continue to act blameless and “better-than” when we shun others who are not “like” us or share a different belief system. This my friend is so cup-half-empty. I speak to myself here. When I blog, I blog for ME, I have just chosen to share my life lessons with you. This is not “directed” at anyone in particular. If you should choose to find value in my sharing, then please let me know. If you find no value, please give yourself permission to stop reading.
So as I reflect back to the peacock who is quite a disturbance at times, the greater reality is that he is God’s light and creation. I have an obligation to seek the good and minimize the unpleasant.
The God in me honors the God in you.
We are His Light. NAMASTE!
This post is COPIED AND PASTED from an article that I read this week. It changed my perspective on being gay. It challenged some of my belief system and caused me to think differently. I’m not asking you to agree, just give it a quick read and try to understand that your NORMAL may be very different from another’s NORMAL. So who is right and who is wrong. I would argue that neither is… Different is just different.
Here is the article in full:
This year Out has named Nate Silver its man of the year. This is very cool.
I had no clue Silver was gay. He’s got a nice, interchangeably Jewish name, which, in the context of politics and journalism, just seemed normal. Therefore, I assumed he was “normal” for that job in most other ways: mid-50s, white, heterosexual.
But he’s not. He’s 34 and gay, which is awesome. The “Out 100” has, for most of its history, been dominated by performers (most of whom came out well into their careers) and activists working to promote gay rights — professional gays or folks in gay professions. So now, at long last, we have a dude who’s doing something unrelated to homosexuality who killed it this year. Good for us, no?
Well, no, actually. “To my friends, I’m kind of sexually gay but ethnically straight,” Silver says in the Out feature. He is also said to consider “gay conformity as perfidious as straight conformity.”
“He recalls a series of flagpoles in Boystown in Chicago memorializing various gay Americans. ‘There was one little plaque for Keith Haring, and it was, like, “Keith Haring, gay American artist…” and I was like, Why isn’t he just an American artist? I don’t want to be Nate Silver, gay statistician, any more than I want to be known as a white, half-Jewish statistician who lives in New York.'”
So is identification with homosexuality dehumanizing to us? Does it turn us from individuals into a lumped-together mass of stereotypes? Not remotely. Silver’s refusal to fully participate in gay identity is the real problem. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy but that we must acknowledge the cultural forces that allow a person to participate in homosexual sex while feeling like the concerns, bigotries and culture that surround homosexuality do not apply to them.
I’ve previously argued that the distinctive qualities of homosexuality as a marginalized status are our relative invisibility in society, our diffusion and isolation within the population and the construct of us as frivolous. Silver’s discomfort identifying with gay culture is reflective of the forces that help impose that isolation.
One of the key requirements of being gay is having someone else to be gay with. Gays aren’t (usually) born to gay families, so we don’t grow up with organic connections to other gays. We also look just like everyone else, so we can’t easily identify our potential sexual partners or members of our community. The only way we can meet guys or girls, and thereby be gay, is finding each other. It’s also how we become politically powerful enough to protect ourselves and our rights. It’s how we become whole as people. We live in a culture that was built to stop us from externalizing our homosexuality, primarily by keeping us scared of hatred and retribution from heterosexuals if they could identify us, but also by making us fear associating with our own kind.
Nate Silver is participating in a continued construct of homosexuality as a behavior rather than a culture, perspective or neurological atypicality. It is not uncommon for people to say, “Gay is something I do, not who I am.” We are able to conceive of race and gender as aspects of a person’s identity without overwhelming it, but we, as a culture, persist in a terror that any cultural identification with homosexuality overwhelms and displaces all other aspects of one’s being.
One reason our culture prefers perceiving homosexuality as a behavior and not an identity is severability. Homosexuality as an act can be a sin or a crime. You can ask forgiveness for it. You can serve your time. You can resign from Congress and go back to your wife, and everyone still gets to act like you’re a regular “real” man.
The basic fact is that if you are attracted to people of the same biological sex, you will see the world differently and need some different cultural institutions to go about your life. Being gay means you understand people of the same-sex and opposite sex differently than most people do. Being gay means you need to have ways of finding gay people to have sex and relationships with. It also means an increased risk of alienation from your parents (until recently), growing up without conceiving of the possibility of legally marrying someone you’re sexually attracted to and being rejected by most traditional Western religions. Though we are spread throughout the population and look just the same as heterosexuals, gays have things in common.
Silver’s point about being ethnically straight is undercut by his own words. He prefers the gay life in Chicago because New York’s homo scene is “too diffuse,” and he speaks fondly of a nightclub in Chicago with “good house music and good strong drinks.” Silver recognizes the advantage of a city where gay guys are congregating based on sexuality instead of “just being people.” As I’ve said, how to find other gays is one of the core questions our culture has to answer. Gayborhoods may be ghettos, but they also answer that question. We also have to get full-grown men tipsy to flirt with them, so we need stronger drinks than a bar that’s structured for men to get women drunk enough to make bad decisions. Silver may not realize it, but he needs gay culture just as much as it needs him.
So why the refusal by many, gay and straight, to define gay men and women as a culture or subculture?
When I was 17, like a good, politically minded Jewish boy, I read Benjamin Netanyahu‘s book A Place Among the Nations. In it he explained that the Palestinians were not a people, just Jordanian tenant farmers with no distinct culture. I believed him. Then, a few years later, I was reading an article from Germany in the 19th century that explained that Yiddish wasn’t a real language, just corrupted German, a jargon. I started to realize that denying the existence of a culture is a really great way of denying the needs of that culture. Yiddish isn’t the language of a people, just bad German. Palestinians aren’t a distinct culture, just some people who should move out of Israel. Gay bars and Grindr aren’t the cultural tools of a people, just trashy behavior.
Keeping gays from identifying as a group is a great way of keeping us from supporting each other and our rights. But even the people who would deny our rights still acknowledge that we have shared culture. Any schoolyard bully or gender policing frat boy knows what a fag is. We have litanies of stereotypes for “fags” and “dykes,” and they’re just all kinda bad. So we want to define homosexuality as an act, define a culture associated with homosexuality, but insist upon the right of people committing homosexual acts to distance themselves from that culture.
So what’s wrong with that? Why does Nate Silver have to be “gay”? When Ricky Martin, Ellen or Anderson Cooper were playing the glass closet game, people kept asking, “Why do we have to know? Why does it matter?” Can’t Nate Silver just be a statistician?
No. Here’s why.
There’s a generalized presumption of heterosexuality in our society. If Nate Silver doesn’t identify as gay, it will allow everyone to do what I did: presume that he’s straight. We would thereby continue to define math as a thing straight people do. Gays and lesbians pretty much look like everybody else; we have names that are (mostly) just like everybody else’s. Neil deGrasse Tyson challenges people’s notions of what a black man and a scientist are when he shows up on TV, is visibly black and talks about science. Gays cannot be passively visible in the same way. We must be audible. If we want people to understand that gay people are just like everyone else, we can’t just be like everyone else. A quiet gay or lesbian mathematician, postal worker or pro football player will be assumed straight, because everyone knows gays and lesbians are just florists and women’s gym teachers. We need to make it safe for a person to be out in a non-traditionally gay field and not have it affect his or her work. Nate Silver being a gay statistician will help that.
Gay experiences are frequently ignored by society. White, heterosexual male perspective is integrated into all aspects of society, and any stuff that comes from a different perspective is viewed as tainted or a niche product. We need to accustom people to the idea that gays are more than a slutty parade and bathroom sex so that we can allow our perspective to enrich all disciplines. We need to make it safe for a statistician to be gay and have it affect their work, because some people are gay, some people are black, some people are women and all of those perspectives can enrich all fields. Nate Silver being a gay statistician will help that.
We cannot ignore that gays are a traditionally marginalized, stigmatized group. It’s still illegal to be gay in most of the world. We elected our first gay senator this year. It’s illegal for us to get married in 41 states. No NFL, MLB, NHL or NBA player has ever come out while playing. It is still hard to be gay, so deciding not to identify with gay culture cannot be seen as just another choice. It is the choice to avoid the bad thing. It is distancing yourself from all the negative stereotypes of gay culture. We can’t behave like Nate Silver’s choice to distance himself from gay culture is just another choice. It is the choice our society has engineered him to make, and him making it will engineer future gay men and women to make similar choices.
Look, gays are bad at identifying as a group. We’re born to (usually) heterosexual parents, and we don’t figure out we’re gay until we’re teenagers. We spend a long time not being gay before we are. If you’re a white boy, it’s easy to convince yourself that identity politics are for other weird, bad people. If you’re not white, you spend a lot of years inhabiting a different identity that can feel incompatible with being gay. Despite Silver’s concerns about gay conformity being as bad as straight conformity, the problem isn’t that we allow ourselves to disappear into homosexuality as an identity; it’s that we’re terrified and terrible at it.
And homosexuality is intimidating. It is a sexual minority group. That means that our compatriots are also our sexual objects. We are usually more concerned with finding sexual parters than forming a group identity or protecting our collective rights. Imagine how much harder it would have been for Martin Luther King to organize African-Americans if everyone at the AME church had been drunk and dressed kind of slutty. The sexual aspect of homosexuality involves a necessary aspect of danger and rejection that makes forming a supportive group culture really hard.
These problems are integral components of our identity and must be managed, but there’s a bigger problem with gay group identity that’s just the result of a homophobic culture: the construct of gays as vain, frivolous and embarrassing. Both Nate Silver and Out seem to be endorsing the idea that being simultaneously gay and a serious mathematician is unthinkable. Let’s think about this for a second. There aren’t really that many famous mathematicians in modern life, but undoubtedly two of the most famous are Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, and John Nash, the Nobel Prize winner on whom the movie A Beautiful Mind was based. What do you think these boys had in common with ol’ Natie?
Both of them had sex with dudes. The two most famous mathematicians we’ve got were both gay or bisexual, but somehow Nate Silver can’t imagine being culturally gay and a serious mathematician. It’s not his fault; it’s our culture, and we’ve got to change it.
Gay men are men and, as such, do many of the things stereotypically associated with men. We like science, engineering and games about shooting people. Just about every gay guy I know read science fiction novels and played with action figures when he was in grade school. Yeah, we’re more comfortable sharing women’s interests than straight men are, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are still, chemically, men. Gay men go into all professions, but we are only allowed integrated identities if we go into traditionally gay (or female) professions. Choreographers, stylists and playwrights are allowed to be out gay men. NFL players, governors, Navy SEALs and mathematicians can and do have sex with other men, but they can’t talk about it.
Hey, remember A Beautiful Mind? We sure saw John Nash with his wife, didn’t we? But we didn’t really see him having any relationships with men, because it “got in the way” of his story. That’s because our culture won’t let homosexuality be an integrated part of a man’s life unless that life is risible. What was “don’t ask, don’t tell” but a legal regime to keep homosexuality dissociated from a way of life considered serious, important and masculine?
You might notice that the trend here is to define things that are serious and important as masculine. It’s clear that the gender policing of gay men is a subset of a larger problem of institutionalized misogyny. If we let Navy SEALs admit that they smoke pole, we might have to realize that women can be serious scientists, too. We might have to admit that all those choreographers, stylists and playwrights of either sex might have something valuable to contribute to society.
So we have to keep gay men psychologically broken.
A few months ago, Todd Glass, a well-established comic, came out of the closet on the popular comedy podcast WTF With Marc Maron. I’d been a fan of Glass for a decade. He’s a quick, rough, electric performer, the kind of guy other comics love. I had no clue he was gay — not that he said he was “gay” precisely. On the podcast he said he has sex with men and he is in a long-term relationship with a man, but that he doesn’t identify as “gay.” He said he doesn’t want to be associated with everything that word is associated with. Glass said he wouldn’t let his coming out change his approach to comedy, and he’d continue to never mention it onstage.
Later in the podcast, Todd started making jokes about the jealousy and resentment he feels when he sees young heterosexual couples holding hands in public. It was great, harsh and funny, precisely what I love about Todd Glass. It was also something I have felt. Todd Glass is a talented, amazing comic who has amazing insight on my life and perspective but who vows not to share those observations. It made me really sad. I want to hear Todd Glass’s jokes about being gay.
When Todd Glass said he wouldn’t change what he does onstage, the host of the podcast, the nice, liberal, broad-thinking Marc Maron, said, “Yeah, I don’t think you’ll be touring with Scott Capurro any time soon.” Scott Capurro is a well-regarded comic who’s been out for all of his career, but a comic who isn’t nearly as successful as Todd Glass is, in part because he’s been out for all of his career. The conversation was clearly defining that Scott Capurro was a “gay comic” and Todd Glass was a “good comic.” Todd won’t change; he won’t become a “gay comic”; he’ll stay a “good comic.”
So what the hell am I?
I am working my hardest to be a good gay comic. Nate Silver should be doing his best to be a stellar gay statistician.
When Phillip Roth started writing, he was a Jewish novelist, because real novelists didn’t write books about masturbating with a beef liver. When Toni Morrison started writing, she was a black novelist, because real novelists don’t have hair like a maid. In the intervening years, enough Jews wrote awesome, dirty books that Phillip Roth is now just a novelist. Toni Morrison still has to be a black novelist, but at least she’s done enough work that when someone sees an 80-year-old black woman with silvery locks, they realized that “Nobel Prize winner” is one of her possible professions.
So, yes, Nate Silver, Barack Obama has to be a black president, Tammy Baldwin has to be a lesbian senator and you have to be a gay statistician. Otherwise, people will never learn.
For most of my life, this photo most accurately depicts how I felt internally and eventually became externally. This is an actual photo of me in college. I think it was in Tennessee and the figure is a wax figure of the worlds tallest man.
In my world, everyone was bigger than me mentally and physically… and bigger meant better. I constantly felt out-of-place and rarely felt accepted. Everyone was better than me and in my mind, they deserved more than I did. I willingly and sometimes unwillingly took a back seat to everyone. If ever and whenever I was offered a middle or front seat, I promptly declined. Even in college and school, I sat in the back of the class when possible.
I simply didn’t deserve to be in the front or the middle with the smart, important people. In my mind, I did not deserve to be treated equally or fair. After all… I was just a stupid kid with little value or worth who was different from all the other people in his life. When I say “different” I meant dumb, stupid, odd, unaccepted and unworthy. I was neither smart, cute, confident or capable. I lacked self-esteem and struggled with depression and acceptability as long as I can remember. Even as far back as kindergarten and earlier.
I never had the proverbial best friend that I could trust, rely upon and be safe with. As early as I can remember I knew that I was different in my attraction to males. I had no idea until elementary school that I was not supposed to be attracted to my same-sex. So I learned to suppress and hide at a really young age. If you will read earlier posts, you will read that suicide was a daily battle for me.
My memories of Kindergarten are quite vivid, I shared that in an earlier post, but my memory fades quite a bit until third grade. I sorta-kinda remember where my classroom was for 1st and 2nd grade and I know that I did not like my teachers. One was Mrs. Moncrief. Her name alone frightened the Be-Jesus out of me. She was super dark-skinned and she as well as my 2nd grade teacher whose name I do not remember at all sat in back of the class. I HATED when the teacher sat in the back of the class instead of the front. I always got busted for talking, shuffling, fidgeting, tearing paper, eating paper, getting up and walking around. I was disconnected and had zero interest. I didn’t fit in. I was afraid and nervous, and the teacher sitting in BACK of me made it almost unbearable.
I do however remember 3rd Grade. It was one of the most positive experiences. Miss Edie was young and vibrant. She kept me engaged and was always kind. She had an end-of-the-year party at her apartment where she had food and dancing. She even picked up all the students whose parents could not or would not bring their kids. Black and White… she had no favorites. For some reason she always made me feel safe and I trusted her. I don’t know what was so different about her but I do know that there was something memorable.
She was a new teacher at our small elementary school and was “not from deez here parts” if ya know what I mean. I have no idea where she hailed from, but she was clearly comfortable with our poor, uneducated, and multi-cultural, blue-collar community in our very small town of Baldwin, Louisiana.
I secretly think that she realized that I was a very ‘different” boy child and she gave me the attention that a confused, anxious, depressed, severely A.D.D. child needed to survive 3rd grade. At the end-of-the-year-party, she gave each student a paperback book. The book she gave me was Stuart Little by E.B. White. I had it just until recently when my two children either tore it or it fell apart. None the less, I believe that it is not ironic that she gave me that specific book. I was very small in stature and needed lots of attention. Miss Edie… If you are out there somewhere. I appreciate you.
I cant wait to tell you about my 4th grade teacher in a future post.
I said all that to say this. I didn’t choose to be “different,” I just AM different, and by different, I mean gay. As a matter of fact, I did EVERYTHING in my power to choose to be Un-Gay. We are created the way that we are. Isn’t it the religious who scream at abortion clinics that “God doesn’t make mistakes!”? The why, oh why does that position suddenly change when it comes to being gay? That is a question that you must answer for yourself. I have chosen to say that God did not MAKE me gay. He ALLOWED me to be gay. Gay is not a disease, a curse, a sin or a sickness. How does an elementary-aged KID choose to be attracted to the same-sex? The question is rhetorical at best.
If I could choose to be Gay, then surely I could choose to be Un-gay right? If I chose to be gay, then when did you choose to be heterosexual? No C’mon… it’s an honest question that deserves and answer. When did you CHOOSE to be heterosexual? Oh you didn’t…???? What’s that??? You were born that way???? Born that way really? Why do you get to be “born that way” but gay people don’t? I thought that God didn’t make junk or mistakes. Good thing is that I have learned to subscribe to that. I am not junk… I am not a mistake. I am God’s man, in God’s place and in God’s time. He is my creator. I owe Him the respect to live authentic with dignity, worth and respect for myself and others.
It has even been suggested that I go to a class or classes that will make me UN-Gay. Hmmmmmm????…. Really…Like so many others who have been to these “classes” or “rehab” only to come out more confused and depressed than when they entered? Even Exodus International has now refused to make claims that NO ONE can be CURED from being gay. They still teach that “acting on it” is a sin. I don’t subscribe to this position. I challenge any heterosexual to NOT “act on” the feelings and love that they have for their spouse or significant other. The divorce rate would be much greater than 52%. That proposition is stupid at best.
Here is a suggestion for ya. If I can be “taught” to be un-gay, then I should be able to take a heterosexual person and send them to a “get-Gay” class or rehab. If it works one way, then it MUST work the other. That is ridiculous you say??? I concur. It IS ridiculous.
I no longer feel like everyone in the world is bigger, better or more deserving than me. I have accepted that I am loved by a Great Big God who sees beyond misinterpreted or “culturally interpreted” scriptures. He sees beyond the legalism that we call good and bad. I am equal to those that surround me and those that I allow into my life. It doesn’t change that from time to time that I struggle with abandonment of family and friends. It doesn’t change that I need course correction from time to time. It doesn’t change that I’m still just a kid from the Louisiana swamps. But what has changed is that I now know that I am living authentic. I love how I am “showing up” these days.
I don’t ask you to “change” your belief structure… but do ask yourself. Is this MY belief structure or is it a belief structure that I have inherited? Don’t tell me what the BIBLE says until you KNOW what the Bible says… not what someone else told you the Bible says. As a matter of fact… don’t tell me you are a Christian… show me. Don’t tell me what the Bible “says”… show me.
I am deeply thankful to those who have displayed grace and love toward me even when I know that you disagree with me. I am even more thankful to those who have sent notes or emails challenging me in my belief and opinion while maintaining respect and dignity for me as a person even though we will likely never agree. Remember… If you believe that your God is a big and powerful and loving as you say He is, then you don’t have to “defend” Him. He is capable to do exceedingly abundantly more than you.
Thanks for reading and Sharing…
Chet Lloyd DeRouen