Sunday, September 23, 2007

104. Decisions

It seems that being inspired to write a blog post by the Sunday morning sermon is going around!

I didn’t take detailed notes, like Just Me did, though… but there was one particular thing that my pastor said this morning that resonated with me (well, there were a few things, but one that made me think about writing this blog post) during his sermon on “Seeking the will of God”. He showed this little artsy video clip of this guy trying to figure things out, and the guy says at one point “Truth be told, I’m terrified of making the wrong decision,” and I thought “that’s me!” Absolutely terrified.

Let me tell you a little story… when I was in teacher’s college I had two separate teaching placements that put me in two very different classrooms being mentored by two very different teachers. The first teacher was a man I’ll call John who was, to put it mildly, a control enthusiast. He would stand in the room, while I taught, with his arms folded, and should I vary slightly from the ‘approved teaching procedure’ he had agreed to or laid out, he would jump in and set me back on track. If the children got a little restless while I was teaching he would very loudly get them focused again (it scared me as much as it did them)… and if ever the children seemed to not entirely understand what it was I was saying, he would completely take over and I would observe him, whilst taking notes, to see what he did differently. It was very stressful, but I totally felt safe when I was teaching with him there (well, except when he was yelling – he was very loud). I knew I couldn’t go wrong, because he would correct me. He would always direct to do things the way he thought was best.

The second placement I had was with a woman I’ll call Cindy. I don’t think it would have been possible for her to have been more different from John if she’d tried. She was even more laid back as a teacher than I know I’m naturally inclined to be, which came as a shock, especially after John. And she immediately put me in front of the kids, without so much as a 5 minute briefing on how or what she thought I should teach. And when I was teaching, she was almost always doing something else – cleaning the cupboards, departmental paperwork, preparing art projects… anything. And it worked out fine, until one day I went to teach a unit on counting money (it was a grade 2 class). I had prepared a lesson, I had the kids sitting in a circle, and I started to teach. It was a disaster. Within 5 minutes it was obvious that the kids were not able to follow me at all, and when kids can’t follow the teacher, they are easily distracted. I sat there (and stood and jumped and waved and did everything I could think of to get the kids to focus on me, even though they really didn’t understand the lesson I was teaching), trying so hard and knowing I was failing and wondering why Cindy wasn’t helping me. She was in the room, she was sitting at her desk. I could see her, going through some papers, and there was no way she could not know what was going on a mere 5 feet away from her. The math period ended, I got the kids dressed and outside for recess and then turned to Cindy, not sure what to say. Before I could think of anything, she looked up from her papers and very calmly said, “Well, that didn’t go too well, did it?”

I was angry. I admit it. She knew, she had sat there and watched me fail, and now she was mocking me. But before I could reply (which is probably a good thing) she said “So… you’ll fix it tomorrow,” and went back to her paperwork.

I stared at the top of her head for a few seconds, and then turned and started tidying up the mess my math lesson had made, kind of in a daze. And I did it. I went home, prepared a completely new lesson, came in the next day and taught it… and it worked. The kids got it, they were engaged, it was fun, and I felt wonderful… and once again, I got the kids dressed and outside for recess. As the last child was leaving, Cindy came up behind me and said, “Every teacher has bad days and bad lessons. Most mistakes are reversible. You did a great job today.” I stood there, and let that wash over me. And honestly, of all the things I learned in university (both my undergrad and in teachers college) that lesson has stuck with me the most.

Of course, I tend to mainly apply it to teaching, not to my general life. In my personal life, I tend to get stuck when making decisions. Something I’ve often said about myself is that I’m “very good at doing what I’m told”, and it’s true (although, I’ve learned recently that I am not good at taking direction if I either don’t respect the person I’m taking direction from or if the directions they’re giving me are stupid). I’m very good at doing what I’m told. I’m not so good at figuring out what I should be doing if no one is telling me what to do. I often get stuck in a decision and end up frozen, unable to do anything at all, because I don’t want to make a mistake. And, if I’m honest, I kind of think this is what has happened with the whole gay Side A/Side B thing. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know which is right. And I don’t want to make a mistake. I want God to speak up (even if He has to speak loudly and scare me) like my first mentor teacher and just give me the answer.

A movie I saw recently that really spoke to me was an indy-arthouse flick called Julie Johnson.

Now the preview kind of makes it look like it’s all about being gay, but it isn’t. It’s about a woman who figures out pretty late in life that she’s made a lot of wrong choices (and yes, the gay part does come in there, but it’s not as all encompassing as the prevew makes it seem), and when she turns around and starts making new choices how her life opens up. Oh man, the yearning I felt as I watched this movie, this woman who honestly isn’t much older than me, finally coming into her own… it kind of hurt, but in a very good way. It made me feel hope. And it made me think that I need to do something, need to take a step, any step… just get moving. Maybe I’ll make a mistake. Maybe that isn’t the worst thing in the world.

I’m still scared though.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

103. Inspired again...

So in my last post, I wrote about why I’m happy when celebrities come out… how nothing changes a homophobe’s mind like actually knowing a real, flesh and blood homosexual.

Well, while stumbling around one of my favourite websites, I found some proof of that. A republican politician (who isn’t involved in a gay sex scandal… how refreshing!) has reversed his stance on gay marriage, despite the fact that 62% of his constituents will oppose him. What prompted this? Well, among other things, it appears that knowing gay people personally (among them, his daughter) forced him to realize that he could not support the ‘separate but equal’ stance behind the civil union option, and that he could no longer tell his gay friends and family “that their relationships — their very lives — were any less meaningful than the marriage that I share with my wife Rana."

You can watch the video of his speech here, it is quite moving, and not just a little bit inspirational.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

102. Inspired by Ellen

Two posts in two days! Insanity!

So, yesterday I was doing some cleaning, when I had a sudden realization, accompanied by a girlish squeal – Ellen’s back on TV. I missed her all last year because her show doesn’t air in Korea – which seems like it would be obvious, but they got The View, and Oprah… they should have Ellen! And I swear, it’s not the lesbian factor that makes me like her, I just think she’s hilarious and her show is awesome. (Funnily enough, the last daytime show that caused that sort of reaction from me was back when Rosie had her show… two lesbians, two fabulous daytime talk shows… hmmm… maybe that will be the new lesbian stereotype? Our equivalent of gay men and Broadway?)

Anyway, she had Hillary Clinton on for her first show back. Hillary has been on Ellen before, so honestly, I expected more of the same… funny, personable, not really political – you know; light, fluffy daytime talk show stuff. So imagine my surprise when Ellen just up and asked her about her stance on gay marriage.

First of all, it was very interesting to watch Hillary completely not answer the question Ellen asked, although, to be fair to her, with the political climate being the way it is in the US, I don’t think it is possible for anyone to come out for gay marriage and get elected, so I think she’s doing the best she can.

But it also got me thinking about a couple of other things. The first off being about celebrities coming out. I am totally of the opinion that a person should have the right to come out on their own terms, famous or not… so these fishing expeditions to out people against their will that are championed by people like that Perez guy bother me. A lot. (Incidentally, I should say that this opinion of mine is slightly different when it comes to people in positions of real power – as opposed to the false power of celebrities – politicians and the like, especially those who are so vocal about their hatred of gays… somehow it doesn’t bother me so much when their hypocrisy is exposed.) But watching that clip made me realize why I’m always so happy when a celebrity does come out. Every single time it happens, we become more human.

I remember this one time I somehow found myself in the middle of an intense discussion on the issue of gay marriage (before it was legalized here in Canada) with some ladies from my church. One of the ladies in the discussion knew I was gay, the others didn’t… I would have actually probably come out, except for one participant in that discussion who I fear may have run from the table in horror – perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but she almost certainly would have reacted negatively, and been horrified to think that she’d actually left her children alone with me on a few occasions. It was actually a pretty good discussion, with the exception of this one particular woman, nothing that was said was offensive or insulting… it was just some people trying to wrestle this issue out. The one thing that did bother me, though, was how clinical it was… they discussed this topic as if it actually didn’t pertain to real people. Just statistics, numbers, political viewpoints. It was just so impersonal. I kept trying to bring it down to people, mentioning the few gay couples I know, one of which I seriously keep expecting to get married soon (honestly, every time my friend calls me I get a little excited, hoping that maybe this time it’s “the call”). They would nod, and for a few moments the issue would be real to them, but then that moment would fade and gay people would go back to being the anonymous “other”.

Watching Ellen bring the issue home to herself, mentioning not just an anonymous girlfriend, but mentioning her by name, how it was important to her that the person she loves be protected under the law… I sat in my living room, wondering how many people at home who love Ellen, and have come to terms with the fact that she’s gay but try not to think about it too much, were suddenly seeing this issue as it pertains to an actual human being that they care about for the first time. Oh, I don’t thing she changed a whole lot of minds in that 3 minutes, but she may have made people realize that this whole fight is not about “attacking the institution of marriage” like the religious right insists it is.

Weird as this may be to say, I was proud of Ellen.

The other thing she got me thinking about was brought up just at the end. I’ve talked about it a little, but in the wake of yet another Republican gay sex scandal (seriously, what on earth is going on over there on the Right? Are they putting something in their drinking water?), I thought what she had to say about shame was really insightful.

And once again, it made me think about all of those celebrities who are rumoured to be friends of the family. They are totally within their rights to stay as closeted as they want, and until they come out themselves, well, it’s all just speculation and should be seen as such. But… I admit, I’ll be happy if and when they do come out, because as weird as it is to think about, their lives do effect me. Nothing tempers homophobia like knowing someone who is gay, and while few of us actually know any of these people, in our bizarre culture of celebrity, we all sort of do.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

101. Fear

I came out for the last time when I was 25. I say for the last time, because I’d come out a few times before that, only to dive right back into the closet a short time later – usually deeper in than I was before. (I’m actually fairly sure that the rather major and scary depression I hit in my university years was due to one of these returning to the closet events.) I was in Ireland when I came out, far away from anyone who knew me (well, anyone who knew me before I went there), far away from anything familiar, and it still took me 9 months of squirming and wiggling my way out before I finally declared it – loud and proud – to myself, at least. I was gay, and there was no denying it anymore.

As I’ve discussed, there was a lot of relief that came with that declaration. I’ve described it to people this way – it’s like I spent my entire life up to that point swimming against the current, expending a lot of effort, but not really getting anywhere… and suddenly, I turned around and was swimming with the water. I could move, I could look around, I could enjoy what was going on; and all I could think was “Why the hell have I been swimming that way all this time?”

Of course, there was fear involved too. The obvious ones being “What are people going to think?”, or “Who will reject me?”. I’ve sort of gotten over those ones… well, except for my family, but family is always a different issue (which is why I’m so impressed by what Just Me is doing… that girl has some serious courage. I was going to say she’s “got balls”, but I always find that a rather infuriating expression, even though I’m tempted to use it. Seriously, what do testicles have to do with courage? Anyway, moving on…)

When I returned to Canada, newly out and newly proud (well… sort of proud, and sort of out), one of the first things I did was print off a lyric from an old hymn and tape it up right by the entrance to my apartment. The hymn was “O Sacred Head” and the lyric was “Lord let me never, ever outlive my love to Thee.” You see, that was my biggest fear… that coming out, acknowledging that I was gay would somehow lead to me leaving my faith. I actually prayed that prayer on numerous occasions. I don’t know when I stopped.

I’ve since moved apartments and been to Korea and back. My mom was here recently and she was going through some boxes I’d pulled up out of storage and she found that piece of paper and laid it out on my dresser. It was a rather obvious move on her part, she’s quite afraid I’m not a believer anymore (she actually asked me in the car if I “still believe that Jesus is the way to heaven”). Obvious as that move was, seeing that paper made me think, and wonder when I stopped praying that prayer, as morbid a prayer as it is. Oh, I still Believe, as anyone who reads this blog would know… but more and more (and I’m almost afraid to let this out into the ether, for fear of all of those who might find this to be a good thing, or even a joyful thing) I find myself thinking how much easier it would be if I didn’t, and wondering if it would be possible to convince myself that I don’t.

Yesterday when I was wandering around the internets, I found myself on Quasifictional reading this series of posts (I, II, III, IV, V, VI) describing how she feels having left her faith, and it broke my heart and scared me at the same time. It happens. Just as people can become Christians, they can become non-Christians too (I’m not sure how a Calvinist would see that, though), and it can just happen… I mean, it’s not something I can see doing intentionally. I can’t make myself not believe something any more than I can make myself believe something. I either believe or I don’t… and I do. But maybe one day I won’t. And that thought hurts me.