Thursday, August 21, 2008

127. The Olympics and The Pharisees

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been watching the Olympics like a junkie. I don’t normally care at all about sports, but for some reason I really get into the Olympics. I find it much easier to care about for national teams than for sports franchises, and even easier to care about individual athletes than for teams. I find myself deeply caring about these people I didn’t know existed 2 weeks ago and probably won’t remember in 2 weeks from now. People like Jessica Zelinka, who didn’t make it to the medals, but still was amazing in her field… and I don’t mind saying is kind of a hottie!

Or Carol Huynh who won gold in women’s wrestling (and is a hottie as well… I swear I’m not all about the hottie athletes, it’s just that they tend to be hotties), and totally made me cry by crying at the medal ceremony… I should tell you that I cry at almost every medal ceremony I watch though, no matter what country, and especially if the athletes cry. It just gets to me. It’s just more intense when it’s Canada, you know?

It’s not even all about cheering for Canada, though. I’ve totally gotten into the hype around Usain Bolt, and love the fact that Jamaicans are sweeping the track events (finally!). And one of my favourite moments involved a Russian pole vaulter… I actually jumped out of my seat when Yelena Isinbayeva beat her own world record after already having won the gold medal… it was awesome. They played it over and over again on the Canadian coverage, which led to a question I must ask, but I doubt any of you can answer in a way that will make me feel better. Every time the showed the coverage of that amazing moment I had to watch it because it was just amazing, and on about the sixth time I suddenly noticed what she was wearing. It may seem hard to believe, but I just hadn't seen it until then, and then all of a sudden I was like "hey, why can I see her ass?" So here is my question… why are most of the female athletes naked?

Okay, so they’re not naked, but why are so many of them (who aren’t actually swimming) in basically bathing suits (the swimmers are actually more clothed than the rest of the female athletes). I'd already stopped watching beach volleyball in a sort of boycott (them men wear shorts and tank tops, the women wear bikini's), but up until that moment I had thought that beach volleyball was the only sport doing that, but then I started noticing the rest of the female athletes seemed to be wearing bikinis as well, and it's just weird. And kind of offensive. Well, not kind of… it’s totally offensive.

Anyway... the only sport I actually find I can’t watch is women’s gymnastics, they all just look so young and I get too nervous. Honestly, my stomach does backflips, it’s just too much pressure for anyone so young.

Okay, so that’s all that… and not at all what I intend to blog about right now, but I’ve been watching so much Olympics its just on my mind… I’ve been having Olympic dreams.

What I really wanted to blog about was something that was brought to mind by the sermon on Sunday. My pastor was speaking on Matthew 15, and the pharisees. (I feel I should point out that what I am about to write is not what the sermon was about. It was in fact a very convicting sermon that has stayed with me all week, but it did bring up some blog relevant thoughts so, here they are.) He began with something I’ve heard from many a pastor from many a pulpit. Basically, the idea being that the pharisees were legalists who took God’s laws and took them too far. They were so afraid of breaking any of the commandments that they made their own commandments around God’s commandments. For example (and I have no personal research to back this up, it’s just something my pastor said, but I’ve heard things like this from other pastors too), adultery is against God’s laws, so the Pharisees thought about this and figured that the length of time it would take to commit adultery with a woman was equal to the length of time it would take a man to run around a tree three times (really? That’s kind of… sad) so they made a law saying that no man could be alone with a woman who was not his wife for longer than it would take him to run around a tree three times. This sort of thing is often used by modern Christians as an example of what life is like without grace, how this sort of belief and life actually diminishes who God is and what He has done for us. Of course, this got me thinking about the way many Christians think about gay Christians. The sin that they worry about me committing is having sex with a woman, so they expect me to build wide fences around that sin that include obvious things like not dating a woman, but also some not so obvious things (and honestly damn near impossible things) like not allowing myself to become attracted to woman, or even notice when I find a woman attractive. It has actually been suggested to me that I disengage from pop culture because of all of the images that I should avoid. (Should avoid? Because seeing attractive women is bad for me somehow, I guess.)

There was also discussion in the sermon of the point that Jesus makes about how it is not what goes into the body that makes you unclean, it’s what comes out of the body that makes you unclean… and this got me thinking about some of the weird things that are asked of gay people by those ex-gay groups… how part of their “therapy” often involves gender conditioning (I’m making that term up, I don’t know what to call it), teaching women to wear makeup and men to play sports, basically femming up the dykes and butching up the gays. It’s dumb, and backwards… according to Christ Himself. And it's not like I agree with what these ex-gay groups try and do at all, it's just... it's a backwards idea.

But back to the original point. Now, I’m not saying that Christ then gives us a license to tread the line of sin, I do know that He actually made the standard even higher – the sin of adultery extends to lust and the sin of murder extends to hate – but as I’ve discussed before on this blog on multiple occasions, there is a huge difference between lust and attraction, and while I don’t claim to be completely free from the former, it does frustrate me that so many people assume that any sort of gay attraction must be lust. Asking gay Christians to build these fences around sin (that are much wider than the same ones asked of straight single Christians) is asking us to live like the Pharisees.

In completely seperate news, tomorrow is "crazy hair day" at the preschool where I teach, and seeing as how this coming weekend is Pride here, I decided to make my hair a pride rainbow... and I took a picture of it that I'm going to post here. Oh, don't worry, I'm still an anonymous coward, you won't see my face, but hey, enjoy my hair.

Monday, August 18, 2008

126. Mamma Mia

I was trying to figure out a way to tell this story without making the title of the movie involved obvious, but I can’t figure out how to do it so… yeah, I saw Mamma Mia the other night with a friend, and something happened that bothered me and I just wanted to get it off my chest. My issue is that people who know me and read this would immediately be able to tell who this story is about, but honestly, almost no one who knows me personally reads this blog anymore, so I think I may be safe. Besides, I just need to vent and maybe get some opinions from some of you as to whether or not I’m over reacting.

I’m also going to have to spoil a minor plot point, something I usually never do, but let’s face it, if you’re going to see Mamma Mia, you are not going to see it for the intricacies of the ‘plot’. You are going because you, like everyone else in the Western World, either secretly or proudly love ABBA. So, I don’t feel too guilty.

So yeah, I saw Mamma Mia with someone who I consider a dear friend. Before the movie started she told me about an interview she had seen with Colin Firth where he had been quite reluctant to talk about his role in Mamma Mia, almost embarrassed by it, and had said it was the scariest thing he had ever done. Now, I suppose I should tell you my interpretation of this, which is that he is nervous about his singing and dancing skills. Every Hollywood actor I’ve ever heard of doing a musical has said that doing a musical was the scariest thing they’d ever done, so I didn’t really see this statement by Colin Firth as anything unusual. And having seen the live show, I was pretty sure that what he was embarrassed about would involve sparkly spandex and disco dance moves. Besides, I don’t actually believe that he is embarrassed by his role in Mamma Mia, I think he was just being self-depreciating. Of course, this could just be my bias. I admit to having an irrational love for Colin Firth due to the fact that he played Darcy in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (not the crappy Hollywood version that came out a few years back, but the good 5 hour one). He was so good in that that I think I’d forgive him almost anything.

Anyway, so the movie goes on and it’s all fun and ABBA and then, towards the end of the movie (spoiler alert!) it is revealed that Colin Firth’s character is gay, and my friend beside me bursts out laughing and leans over to me and says “No wonder he’s embarrassed by this role”.

Now, this is a friend who knows me well, and who knows I’m gay. We’ve talked about it, we’ve cried about it, we’ve prayed about it… and she says this to me. I was shocked. The movie continues and then, at the end Colin Firth comes out in the aforementioned sparkly spandex and dances along to some ABBA, and I turn to her and I say “I think this, if anything, is what embarrassed him.”

The movie ends, and everyone is smiling and humming Dancing Queen, and she again says “No wonder he wanted to distance himself from that role, eh?” and I decided to give her a chance to maybe revise her opinion so I said “Well, yeah, I mean, no one looks good in sparkly spandex, and let’s face it, while I love him, he’s not the best dancer or singer, is he?”

Her reply? “Yeah, and turning out to be gay… no wonder he was so embarrassed.”

I should have said something, I know… I’m a coward. I was angry, but I hate conflict. And I don’t think I could have replied in a nice way in my angry state. She knows me, she knows I’m gay and she twice implied that being gay was something to be ashamed of. I tried to give her an out, but she wouldn’t take it. And I admit it, I was hurt. She’s my friend and I love her and by saying someone would be ashamed of playing a gay role, it sort of implies that she would be ashamed of me, or at the very least that I should be ashamed of myself.

I drove her home and silently stewed (well, not so silently, we actually managed to have a very nice conversation in the car while my mind was doing back flips), thinking things like “Do you seriously think that Colin Firth would not have known his character was gay before he took the role? And if he didn’t want to play gay he could have just said no, I mean, he’s Colin Firth, he can afford to let a role or two pass by…” and “How could you possibly say that to me? Twice?” Instead of telling her how I felt like a grown up I started injecting my gayness into the conversation. She mentioned My Fair Lady and I mentioned my long-time crush on Audrey Hepburn, which I think made her uncomfortable so she started talking about Kathryn Hepburn which… well, that’s a no brainer… I had a huge crush on her too – she looked so hot in all her pant suits! Kathryn Hepburn was the epitome of classy-sexy, but I digress. Anyway, I did that a few times, just wanting her to know that I was not ashamed, that I didn’t think there was anything to be ashamed of. And then we were at her door and she went home and that was that.

Later on, I was thinking about it, and suddenly I realized I understood the ‘pride’ movement very clearly. (Which is kind of appropriate considering that Pride in Ottawa is this coming weekend.) It’s a reaction to enforced shame. This is probably obvious to most of you, and I suppose if I’d thought about it I’d have come up with that myself, but I hadn’t really thought about it until the other night, when I experienced it for myself so directly. Seriously, in the car on the way back from her place I found myself thinking things like “I’m going to tell everyone that she knows that I’m gay so that she knows I’m not ashamed or embarrassed.”

I don’t know if anger is the right response, but it is better than shame. I remember the first time I reacted in anger to something racist that happened to me… it’s hard to imagine now, but prior to that, I’d reacted as if somehow I had done something wrong by being the wrong colour, that it was my fault that I wasn’t white, that I had something to be embarrassed about because of my race. I don’t know what turned the switch for me, but in university something happened as a result of my race and my response was basically rage. When I calmed down, I realized what a huge step that was, I was no longer ashamed of who I was and that was a good thing.

Anyway, that’s what happened. It upset me, and I’m not sure if I’m over reacting, so feel free to chime in.

Oh, and Mamma Mia is fun, you should see it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

125. Bermuda, Etc...

So, what can I tell you… a lot has happened since my last post. I’ve been to Bermuda and back, I’ve gotten a job, I’ve come out to my sisters… all good things. So, where shall I begin?

I’ll begin with Bermuda. That is where I was born, and where most of my family, including my two sisters and my father, are. I hadn’t been back there in about 5 years. And I hadn’t seen my sisters in 6 years (they had been living in St. Lucia when I last returned to Bermuda). I can’t even begin to tell you how good it was to see them. According to my Dad, we made everyone at the arrivals gate cry… which isn’t too hard to believe considering all three of us burst into tears at the sight of each other and couldn’t stop holding each other and crying. It was amazing to me how we picked up immediately. I had expected things to be a bit awkward, but it wasn’t. It just felt so natural. I guess it’s a sister thing. I have to admit that I do envy the bond they have between them, but I’ll take what I can get. Just thinking about them, my heart begins to feel a little fuller… I love them so much.

Other than the wonderfulness that is my sisters, I had a marvellous time in Bermuda (well… except for the fact that my mother crashed the party – once she heard I was going she decided to go at the same time as me, which would have been fine except she kept showing up where I was, and injecting herself into my sister/daddy/bonding time. It was a little irritating.) It was wonderful to reconnect with my family down there, and honestly, just being there feels good. Oh, I’m Canadian, there’s no doubt about that… but seeing the stars there at night… they seem bigger and clearer than anywhere else in the world. My first night there, I got out of the car and looked up and started to cry. And falling asleep to the singing of the treefrogs… turns out nothing puts me to sleep faster than that. And the ocean. I miss the ocean so much. Turns out, I’m Bermudian too.

I had no intention of coming out to my sisters. I had seriously considered having ‘the talk’ with my dad, but my mother’s presence quashed that plan. But I was out with the older of my younger sisters one afternoon and we just got into a conversation that lent itself to coming out. And it was so easy and wonderful. And she, of course, was like “so, do you have a girlfriend?” and then basically ‘why the hell not?”. After that, I knew I had to tell my youngest sister, and so I did so the next day, although I had to do it with my mother there. It was one of the more frustrating conversations I’ve had. Nothing to do with my sister, it’s just that we had to have the conversation in between my mother’s comings and goings. We were at a beach, and my mother would go for a little swim and me and my sister would get to talk privately before she would swim back to us. And her response was much like my other sister. She said something to the effect of “So, I don’t get a brother-in-law, I get a sister-in-law… okay.” She also said she wasn’t surprised, she’d actually wondered if I was gay before, but dismissed the idea because I’m “so religious”.

It was such a relief to have them know. I didn’t realize until I’d told them how much the secret had bothered me, how afraid I was that they would be embarrassed or ashamed. A huge weight I didn’t even know was there has been lifted off my shoulders.

In other news, the job I mentioned in my last post is now mine, as expected. Even though I knew I was likely to get the job, I was still excited when I heard the news. So, now I am a full time employee and am therefore stationary for at least a year, which is kind of scary, but I’ll survive.

In yet more blog related news, I think I’ve come to a conclusion… or a tentative conclusion… or possibly at game plan, I’m not sure what to call it, but something has happened. I didn’t realize how much of a decision I had made until church on Sunday. At the end of the service, I found myself looking around and tearing up as I thought about how things may change for me there soon. And then, of course, I was shocked at what I had just thought, even though the thought is nothing new. But the emotions I felt were so vivid, I realized that this is a reality now. I don’t feel confident enough to say I’m Side A or anything that definitive, but I don’t think I can think about this theoretically anymore. Which I know I’ve said before, so I can’t promise any results or anything, but I actually have begun to try and get my feet wet. I found a local organization for queer women online and I’ve already been to one event. Basically I’m trying to meet some women and see what happens. As I said to my sisters, I do feel kind of guilty about this because it is a sort of ‘experiment’ on my part (though not the usual kind of lesbian experimentation that you hear about)… I feel bad about possibly entering into a relationship with a woman who was dead serious while I’m totally tentative about the idea of even dating, but as my ever wise younger sisters pointed out, there’s no reason to tell everyone all my business right away. After all, no relationship is guaranteed to end in lifelong commitment, in fact, the vast majority of them don’t. So… we’ll see. I still feel guilty about it though… I’ve been told by people in the know I have guilt issues of near Catholic proportions.

I’ll leave you with one more video… this one of my kids at the preschool. I’ve blurred the image, because I don’t think I should be putting images of these kids on the internet, but this video is just too precious not to share. July was ‘Canada month’ (July 1st being Canada Day), so we sang Oh Canada with the kids almost every day… and they quickly learned to love the song. In fact, it is now a regular favourite that they often request to sing during circle time. The thing is, while they are extraordinarily enthusiastic, they are not necessarily lyrically accurate… it is so precious. So, in the spirit of the patriotism that this Olympic season brings with it, and the spirit of eternal adorableness that kids bring with them, enjoy…