the other side of easter

The-Last-SupperCan you imagine being seated at a table with your closest friends, celebrating an ancient tradition, knowing all the while that this is the last time you will ever see them again? Or, can you imagine being one of those friends, seated at a table with someone whom you love as a member of your own family and suddenly hearing him say that one of the people sitting at that table would betray him and that this would be the last time you ever saw him? Imagine, then, the despair that Jesus’ disciples must have felt as they sat and listened to him say those very words. The man they’d spent the last three years of their lives with; them man to whom they’d devoted themselves was going to die and they would be left alone. The anxiety of that separation must have been overwhelming, and I think I’ve felt something similar to it.

During the years I was fighting so hard not to be who I was, there was a very real and constant feeling of separation. I felt separated from my family and friends. I felt separated from the people I worked with. Most dramatically, though, I felt separated from God. The best way I know how to describe it is to say that it almost felt like ending a friendship. God was still there, I knew that much; but, we didn’t talk anymore. We didn’t have any relationship at all. The things I knew about him seemed distant and somewhat unreal. I wondered if I’d ever really known him at all. During the worst of those times I wondered if he was even real. I grieved a relationship that no longer existed. I asked a lot of questions that I never thought I’d hear myself ask.

As I continued to ask those questions, something very interesting happened. The turmoil that had been building inside me for years began to resolve. It was almost as if a pressure valve was opened — the way my great-grandmother would remove her pressure cooker from the heat and lift the pressure regulator with a fork to let the steam escape. I began to feel less confused and tormented. All of those thoughts and feelings I’d been having for years began to change. My understanding of myself, of the people around me, and of God began to change. I began to realize that the God I’d grown up knowing was really only someone else’s version of him. I’d never really known him on my own. The way I’d known him all my life wasn’t wrong, but it also wasn’t personal.

As bad as Thursday’s Passover Supper was, Friday must have been terrible for the disciples. The few who hung around watched Jesus be mocked by the same people who had cheered him less than a week earlier. They listened to him be accused of crimes he never committed. Worse still, they saw him brutally beaten and then hang on a cross for hours while he slowly suffocated under his own weight. Everything they knew about their lives, their ministry, and their world crumbled around them in the matter of one day. Despite the fact that Jesus had told them time and again, like most of us, they missed the rest of the story. On the other side of Easter, the disciples came to a new understanding of Jesus. The person they thought they knew was only part of who he really was. Their mourning turned to rejoicing; their doubt turned to belief; their admiration for a man turned to worship for a King!

We have the benefit of knowing the beautiful part of the story without living through the ugly part of it. But, that’s not always true in our own lives. Sometimes — I dare say most of the time — we have to live through pain and heartache to find joy. I know I did…well, I know I am! This is all so recent to me that I’m not really sure I completely understand it yet; but, what I do know is that my understanding of God has changed dramatically. I am coming to know him personally now. The most comforting thing to know is that God hasn’t changed…I have!

Through conversations I’ve been having with a new friend I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last couple of weeks. Until I started thinking about it I didn’t realize that as recently as last year many of those doubts and fears still held sway in my life. Things were not going as planned. Everything I thought I knew seemed to be wrong. The questions mounted in my heart and mind. When I finally dared to allow myself to ask them is when things started to change. I began to realize God was just as real as he’d ever been to me…no, he was more real because I finally understood him for myself.

We are on the other side of Easter, friends! We can know God. My goodness…even as I write those words I’m amazed at them…we can KNOW God! Dare to doubt — he can handle it. Allow yourself to ask questions — he can answer them. Give yourself the liberty of knowing that God never changes, but the way we understand him can…for the better!

A Blessed Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday to you all!!


the reconciliation

I am a Christian.
I am gay.

I AM a GAY CHRISTIAN.
(Sorry to my Baptist brothers and sisters reading this — we do exist.)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about faith. I’ve been thinking about faith in general, but mine in particular. I grew up in church. When I was a kid we went every Sunday morning and night and on Wednesday nights we went to youth group. I have believed in God as long as I can remember. Even in the darkest times of my life, I still believed. For me faith is inextricably linked to everything I do, say, think, and feel. My faith is the most important thing in my life even when I don’t realize it.

Enter the turmoil…

I spent many years — more than a decade of my adult life — in various stages of, first trying to deny my sexuality BECAUSE of my faith, then trying to justify my sexuality WITH my faith, then trying to reconcile my sexuality TO my faith. There were the first years of denial: “I cannot be gay. It is not natural. God doesn’t make the unnatural.” Then there were the years of justification: “OK, I’m gay, but it’s still a sin, so I’ll live a celibate life.” Finally, and only very recently, an attempt at reconciling my sexuality to my faith: “I’m gay. I did not choose it. God made me this way.” It’s been quite a journey — and it continues.

Reconciliation

There’s been one very important thing missing in all the years of this faith vs. sexuality battle — God! I denied my sexuality. I tried to justify it. I attempted the reconciliation. The common denominator – I/ME – the person who has the least power over any of those things, most especially reconciliation. I cannot reconcile my faith with anything or anyone. Only God can do that, and he already has in the person of Jesus. My faith, your faith, ALL faith was reconciled through his sacrifice at Calvary.

“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” II Corinthians 5:18-19

My journey is ongoing. I’d be lying if I told you I was at the point where I’m completely OK with who I am everyday. But, I am at a point where I realize that all of the work of reconciliation is already done. It’s finished. Complete. Perfect. God reconciled the world to himself through Jesus. That is all I need to know about who I am. That’s all any of us needs to know. That is a comforting thought even on the days when I’m not-so-OK.

I am gay.
I am a Christian.

I AM a GAY CHRISTIAN.

Last week my friend Sean gave a powerful and moving testimony at his church , The Cathedral of Hope  in Dallas, about an experience he had years ago that pushed him away from God and the church. He also spoke about the process of reconciliation he’s going through now. The unconditional love and support of a Christian community that understands who Jesus really is, coupled with the relentless love of the Father is doing a healing work in Sean’s life. His testimony inspired me and I know it will inspire you, too.

 

Fourth Sunday in Lent Testimony of Love, Sean Baugh from CoHTV on Vimeo.


the gayborhood

In September of 1990 I was 18 years old and a freshman in college. One Friday afternoon I drove into Dallas where my mother worked to get some money from her. (I frequently found myself out of cash back then.) I picked her up at her office on Stemmons Freeway in Dallas and we drove to a Luby’s Cafeteria at the corner of Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs in Dallas. A co-worker of hers said she had an errand to run in that area and suggested we meet there and that she would give my mom a ride back to work.

As we sat at the table eating, we talked about a lot of things. I don’t really remember how the subject came up, but at some point the subject turned to the area of Dallas we were in. My mom’s co-worker shared with us that the are was known as “the gayborhood.” She explained that, just down Cedar Springs from where we were eating, were several gay bars and gay-owned businesses. I asked her to tell me again what they called it. When she said, “the gayborhood” again, I remember laughing nervously. I didn’t know until years later, but my mom’s co-worker happened to be lesbian.

I knew I was gay, but no one else did. I sat at the table, eating my fried fish, and all I could think about were those bars down the street. Before then, I didn’t even know such places existed. I wondered what they looked like and what the people looked like who went in them. Were there gay people just walking down the street? Did other people know those bars were gay bars? What happened inside a gay bar? My curiosity was piqued.

When lunch finished we wet back outside to our cars. I told them good-bye and drove away as they did. But, I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind. Instead of getting back on the freeway, I turned around and drove back to the Luby’s. I sat in the parking lot for a few minutes trying to get the courage to go down the street. Finally, I drove out of the parking lot and down Cedar Springs.

I can’t tell you what the names of the bars were back then. I’m sure they’ve changed many times in the last twenty-four years. I drove up and down the street two or three times. My hands were so sweaty that from time to time I had to take them off the steering wheel and dry them on my jeans. My heart was pounding and my mouth was dry. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know any other gay people, much less that there was a whole neighborhood where gay people were out in public. I parked just down the block from Throckmorton.

I never even killed the engine. I just sat there and watched people walk down the street. I don’t know exactly what I expected, but whatever it was, the mere fact that this place really existed surpassed that expectation. I probably sat there less than ten minutes, but it seemed like forever. Eventually I backed out and drove away. I thought about what I’d seen for days after and I thought about going back a time or two.

It was nearly ten years later before I found my way back. Then I actually got out of the car and went in to bars. JR’s, The RoundUp and TMC. I’ve been many times since then. I used to look at cars parked and wondered if any of them belonged to any young men or women too nervous to actually get out of the car. I’ve never forgotten that day or how fascinated I was. Even now, as I write this, I remember how it felt knowing, for the first time, that gay people actually had a place to go and a place to be.


the lost art of civil discourse

I am not a crusader. I never have been and I don’t expect I ever will be. I really cannot stand politics and I cannot stand what politics is doing to our country and to my fellow countrymen and women. It is ugly and it is unfortunate. Our discourse has become rude, crude, angry, bitter, venomous, dishonest, hateful, inflammatory and designed to divide rather than unite. This is true of liberals and conservatives; Republicans and Democrats; no one party or philosophy is more or less guilty than the other.

Facebook, Twitter and other less popular social media outlets have only served to exacerbate this problem. The nearly constant barrage of politically motivated posts has turned what were once fun places to go and “connect” with friends and family into nothing more than virtual boxing rings where those with opposing viewpoints pummel each other with passive-agressive, ad hominem attacks at a dizzying pace. Once upon a time I tried to simply hide these posts from my own news feed, but that is now an impossible task. Social media, like traditional media before it, has become a pulpit for those who jump on the bandwagon of every cause that comes along; and friends become enemies with one mouse click.

In my own most recent experiences I have discovered a new political phenomenon. It seems that enemies are now made not only because of what is said, but also because of what is not said. As I mentioned in the beginning, I am not a crusader. There are things that I firmly believe in, mostly on matters of faith, and on these issues I will not bend. However, the vast majority of what most people see as vital issues, seem to me little more than matters of opinion, taste or personal preference. Yet, somehow it is these issues, the causes du jour as I like to refer to them, that generate the most vitriol and which result in the degeneration of civility.

Let’s think back a couple of years to the Chick-Fil-A debacle to demonstrate. For nearly two weeks solid Facebook and Twitter (the two networks I belong to) were awash with posts and counter-posts about what the fate of a restaurant that makes a mediocre-at-best chicken sandwich should be. One side screamed that it was about free speech while the other side screamed that it was about civil rights. Neither side listened to what the other was saying — typical in America today — and each just kept lobbing hyperbolic hate bombs at the other. It was not the right or the left that suffered most in that debate, though. The people who suffered most were those who were not involved and who just wanted to eat.

I tried very hard to stay out of the debate. I did comment a few times on posts which I believed were blatantly dishonest, foolish or just

We’ll be friends forever! Or at least until we figure out how much we disagree.

We’ll be friends forever! Or at least until we figure out how much we disagree.

over-the-top in their hyperbole. I rarely eat at Chick-Fil-A, but it has nothing to do with their owner’s stance on same-sex marriage. It seemed to at least a few of my friends that this was not enough. I needed to dive in to the poisonous muck that debate had become head first. My refusal to do so made me a “self-hating queer” who needs “help with [my] shame issues.” It couldn’t simply mean that I didn’t want to get involved. It had to mean that I had some psychological or emotional deficiency. Suddenly, because of what I did not say, I was the enemy. That friend is apparently no longer a friend.

How is it that in a country which was founded on the essential principle that each person should have the right and the room to determine his or her own path in life, we have come to a point in the ongoing discussion of what America means that disagreement equates with hatred? Why is it that I cannot be a gay man and be a conservative? Why does that mean that I am “self-hating”? I absolutely believe that IF the government is going to sanction marriage by issuing licenses and benefits to married couples then they must extend those benefits to all couples regardless of the gender of each person. I also believe that employers should not be allowed to discriminate based on the sexual orientation of their employees. However, I also believe that religious institutions should be able to determine who they hire for work based on the principles of that particular religion — whatever those principles may be. (If you’re gay why would you want to work in a Baptist church anyway?) But, other than those things, I’m a conservative. I always have been, even when I was young enough to be a liberal.

I am sad that our country is in the shape it is in politically. Rest assured, it is no more the fault of one side than it is the fault of the other. The so-called “far right” and “far left” have played equal roles in polarizing this nation to the point that we have become stagnant in our beliefs and stymied in our quest for liberty. Those of us who are in the vast — VERY VAST – middle of the road were once the guardians of civility and respect. Now, we are afraid to stand up and speak out because we know what the consequences will be. The lines have been drawn and if you are not on “my side” then you’re on the wrong side! What does that say about us?


the chubby chase

chubby-chaser

 

In the gay world I get classified three ways depending on who you’re talking to: bear, chub or superchub. Now, understand that the distinctions between these classifications are somewhat amorphous with the exception that to be a “bear” one must have at least a modicum of body hair. Whatever you choose to call a guy who looks like me, there is one truth from which there is no escape — my body type is NOT very popular!

The ideal man (at least in the US) is one who has somewhere between a thin and an athletic build. Advertisements don’t show big guys like me unless it is to somehow draw attention to how bad our health must be, what enormous appetites we must have or some other negative stereotype. Big men — CHUBS — are seen by most men as lazy and disgusting. I don’t know whether a change in media mindset would cause a change in general mindset or not, but that’s not really the point of this post. I’ve made some observations recently that I want to share.

I am typically attracted to men who are smaller than me, although that is not true 100% of the time. Unfortunately for me, men who are smaller than me are, for the most part, not attracted to men who are bigger than they are. There is, however, one exception — the “chaser” or “chubby chaser”. These are men who are attracted to men like me. They are out there…

A few years ago a friend of mine told me about some web sites specifically geared for chubs and chasers. (By the way, I HATE that terminology, but whatever.) BiggerCity.com is the one he told me was most popular. So, I looked into it and ultimately decided to put a profile on the site. I had a profile on Bear411.com (*see disclaimer below)  for years, but it is not specifically geared for chubs and chasers. I took the time to add photos and a brief profile blurb and clicked submit. And waited…

And waited…

And waited…

In the six months I had a profile on the site I received precisely four messages. All of them turned out to be fake profiles and the “men” behind them eventually all asked me for money. I would send messages and “flirts” to men who were close by that I was attracted to and…nothing! Not even a bite. So, I started looking around a bit.

Instead of limiting my searches to nearby, I started expanding them. First around Texas, then other states, then internationally. What I discovered is that the ratio of chubs to chasers is about 80/20 and not in the direction that benefits me! There are just way more chubs on that site (and others like it) than there are chasers. I was discouraged enough by my findings that I deleted my account for about three years. I recently opened another one just to see if things had changed — they haven’t.

So, what’s my point? The point is that guys like me — big boys who prefer not-so-big boys — have a tough row to hoe. We fight an uphill battle. The deck is stacked against us. OK, that’s enough clichés! It reminds me a lot of that scene in that movie with Chris O’Donnell that I can’t remember the name of right now where he’s running down the middle of the street in a tux with a hundred women in bridal gowns chasing him. Somewhere I see a cute little chaser running for his life with hundreds of fat dudes huffing and puffing behind him. The one who doesn’t die of a heart attack gets the prize!!

I make light of this because if I don’t I’ll get too depressed. I don’t want to be fat. Believe me, I know how bad it is for my health that I am as overweight as I am. I’ve tried everything under the sun to lose weight and the only thing that ever worked is something that I don’t have the money for anymore. What remains is this truth — it’s not very likely that I’m going to find someone who I’m attracted to looking like I look. I get upset when I read profiles online where guys say, “no fats” or “HWP only.” But, in truth, I don’t blame them.

I wish we weren’t as hung up about weight as we are. I wish that the media did a better job of portraying normal people and not just super-sculpted, young, beautiful people who NO ONE ELSE LOOKS LIKE!! But, we are and they don’t. I have to live with the reality that is. That’s pretty hard most nights though because the reality is that I’m alone and I don’t like it.

 

*Recently, I stopped using Bear411.com because I believe their policies regarding several issues make using the site more difficult and not very fun. Rather than restricting access for non-paying members, the site should be made for paying members only. …just my humble opinion.


(only) the best podcase ever!

queer no chaser

Friends, I have to tell you about a terrific new podcast that my friend Emily and her friend Jennifer started about a month ago. It’s called, “Queer No Chaser” – terrific name, huh?! Anyway, they’ve recorded about 5 or 6 episodes now and are doing great! They explore all sorts of issues that are important to the LGBTQ community…well, actually, these issues are important to EVERYONE. Emily and Jennifer aren’t afraid to tackle anything and I see a bright future ahead for QNC. The best part about this podcast is that they want to hear from you! That’s right, you get to call in and give your thoughts on whatever issues they’re talking about.

So, what you need to do now is find them and follow them, start listening, and then let your voice be heard! I’ve placed a whole bunch of links just below here that give you more options for listening than you could ever imagine. Just pick your favorite. Well, what are you waiting for? Go…go…GO!!!

Welcome to our new Friends of the Blog – Queer No Chaser!

Check out QNC on…

facebook-logoFacebook

 

 

 

spreaker Spreaker

 

 

 

podcastland-text-logo PodcastLand

 

 

 

itunes podcastiTunes – go to Podcasts > Society & Culture > Queer No Chaser


the times, they are a-changin’

When I was a little kid there was a gay man who lived next door to my great-grandmother. Well, I didn’t know he was gay at the time. All my grandmother and her sister, my great-aunt, ever said about him was that, “he [didn't] like the ladies.” No one ever said he was gay until well into my adulthood. He passed away in the mid-80′s. The story is that he had AIDS. That I don’t know for sure, but he’s been on my mind a lot lately and I’ve been wondering what his life might have been like had he been around to see everything that’s happening.

I know that there is still a long way to go before everyone who identifies as LGBT is comfortable being honest about who they are and feels safe living openly. Sometimes, though, I don’t think we realize how good we have it. I think about that neighbor who would probably be in his late 70s by now. I think about how things must’ve been when he was my age; about how things must’ve been when he was in school. There were no advocacy groups back then. There were no gay characters on television or in the movies. There were no celebrities standing up to support gays and lesbians and no one was even giving a remote thought to same-sex marriage. No, back then the vast majority of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered folks lived in complete secrecy, and with good reason.

I think about him living in my small hometown in East Texas back in the pre-WW2 years, in the mid-century, and then the last years of his life in the 80s. Although there was much speculation about his sexuality, no one really knew for sure because he never said. You see, had he tried being a trailblazer in those days and in that town by living openly and honestly I fear his life would’ve been cut even shorter than it was. It’s hard enough living there and being gay now. Back then it most likely would’ve been deadly. Thankfully, those of us living now don’t have to deal with that level of persecution without some lifeline of support.

I guess what brough him to mind today was reading the story of the retired United Methodist minister in Dallas who has been ordered by the church not to conduct anymore ministerial duties after having officiated at a same-sex marriage in Dallas. The Rev. Bill McElvany stated in January that he would continue to perform same-sex unions despite the UMC’s hard-line stance on the

Rev. Bill McElvaney conducts the marriage of Jack Evans and George Harris. (Photo Credit: The Dallas Morning News)

Rev. Bill McElvaney conducts the marriage of Jack Evans and George Harris. (Photo Credit: The Dallas Morning News)

issue. In early March, following a Federal Judge’s ruling that Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, McElvany performed the marriage of Jack Evans and George Harris, two long-time gay activists in Dallas, who’d been together over fifty years. Staying together more than fifty years is a pretty amazing feat for heterosexual couples, and virtually unheard of for a gay couple. But, I wonder how that neighbor’s life would’ve ended up if things had been different back then. Would he have been able to make a life with the boyfriend it was rumored he went to Colorado several times a year to see? Would he have been able to hope to marry that man?

It’s important to keep fighting for what’s right; to keep pressing on toward the goal. It’s important not to rest on the laurels of the recent victories we’ve won. But, it’s also important not to lose sight of the fact that, compared to that neighbor of my grandmother’s and so many of his generation, we really have it pretty easy. We have support when we need it. We have role models to whom we can look for guidance. We have an ever-increasing number of allies willing to go to bat for us to make sure we’re safe and that our rights do not continued to be trampled. Yeah, I think we’re pretty fortunate.

I remember him picking up pecans from under the enormous pecan tree in his front yard. I never noticed it back then, but now when I remember him, I see him as lonely and afraid, and I wonder…

The times are changing for the better. Let’s keep fighting and moving forward, but let’s also celebrate where and how fortunate we really are.

Rest in Peace, Neighbor.


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