Wednesday, November 08, 2006

81. The Closet

If you have access to the internet, which you obviously do because you’re reading my blog, chances are you’ve heard about what’s happened with Ted Haggard. And if you aren’t living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about what happened with Mark Foley. Those two events really aren’t connected, but my reaction to the Ted Haggard thing was to say to myself, “5 kids?? Dude! At least Mark Foley wasn’t married…”

Now, I have no idea about the specific details of their situations… and no one does really – well, except for the parties involved. We know the barebones of the events… the “naughty” emails sent to 16 year olds, the meth buying, the massages from male prostitutes… what is fairly clear to everyone though is that these are two powerful, but closeted men who ended up acting out sexually in some rather poor ways.

I know many people immediately reacted by noting the hypocricy, but I actually didn’t catch on to that at first. My initial reaction was “Okay, how many people is it going to take before they realize that forcing someone to hide their sexuality in a tiny little closet only means that it ends up shooting out in ways that no one wants to deal with?” Oh, it’s not always so public… depression, self loathing, destructive behavior, suicidal thoughts… these are also evident in many a closet-case’s life. At least, they were in mine. You try talking to someone about why you’re depressed and hate yourself when you can’t really tell them why, because that would involve opening the door to that closet which has been dark and dank and has become overgrown with mold and insects and disease… it’s disgusting and smelly in there… (in case you didn’t know, I tend to think in metaphors).

I got an email from a friend who had read my last blog entry, commenting on my openness and vulnerability… I think I was getting a compliment, so I took it that way… until I thought about it a little bit more. What did I reveal in that post? I went on a date (maybe) and it made me feel good. Extra good, maybe, because it was my first real date (maybe), but there wasn’t anything all that intimate that I exposed to the world in that post… She’s right, of course, in that when I talk about those sorts of things, I am talking about something I consider private (at least in Christian circles), but I don’t think it should have to be. One of the things I find so frustrating in my situation is that things that are normal, innocent, and innocuous, these things often become evil and sinister due to the ‘gay factor’.

I’ll give you an imaginary example. I’ll use the movie Ocean’s 11 for this illustration for 2 reasons. First of all, I’ve seen it several times, and with different groups of people… oddly enough, every time I’ve seen it, it’s been with a different group of Christian friends, so the first portion of this conversation is actually an amalgam of several different conversations I remember. Secondly… while I do acknowledge that Julia Roberts is an attractive woman; she doesn’t… um, how to put this… she doesn’t ring my bell, as it were… so if you happen to be one of the people I saw this movie with, or someone who is skeeved out by 'gay stuff', there’s no need for you to be creeped out by this. So, here is my imaginary scenario, picking up as we come out of the theater (or hang around in the living room) after the movie is over:

Friend 1: Well, George Clooney still has it. I’ve loved him ever since ER.

Friend 2: He’s not my type… I’m more into Brad Pitt.

Friend 3: Well, of course… everyone likes Brad Pitt! He’s so hot.

Everyone: *giggle girlishly*

Friend 4: Well, what about Matt Damon? He’s pretty too… who do you like more, Matt Damon or Brad Pitt?

Friend 1: Well, that depends, do you go for boyishly sexy? Or sexily boyish?

Everyone: *giggle girlishly*

Here’s where the conversations becomes entirely fictional.

Me: Actually, I thought Julia Roberts looked good.

Everyone else: *cough*… um…really?... wow.

In my nightmares the conversation would continue:

Friend 1: So, you were feeling lustful feelings towards Julia Roberts during the movie?

Me: What? No! I just thought we were talking about people we found to be attractive…

Friend 2: Were you engaging in sexual fantasy?

Me: No!!! I just think she’s pretty, that’s all. You said you thought Brad Pitt was sexy…

Friend 3: Do you often find yourself lusting after women in the media? Have you thought about maybe disengaging from the mainstream culture? There are so many images you should probably avoid…

Me: I thought we were just talking, and I wanted to participate in the conversation. You guys are my friends, and I want to be able to say what I think… besides, you guys are married, and you’re looking at men who aren’t your husbands. How is that different?

Friend 1: Oh, come on… don’t pretend it’s the same thing.

Me: But… I think it is… isn’t it?

As I said, that is all fake… well, the second half anyway. It never happened because I don’t have the courage to say that sort of thing to my Christian friends, even though I totally think I should be able to. But the only way I believe they would feel comfortable in a conversation with me about a woman I found attractive (or, heaven forbid, sexy even) would be as a ‘confession’. I could come out of Ocean’s 11 and say something like “Guys, I have a confession to make. During that movie I found myself thinking inappropriate thoughts about Julia Roberts, and I thought I should tell you…”, to which my loving and supportive friends would respond lovingly and supportively… probably by offering to pray with me that I find the strength to overcome my weakness… but what is it that I would have done? Thought a woman was pretty? Possibly even sexy? Is that lust? I’ve explored this issue before, so if you’ve read my blog you know I don’t… but if it is, then I have to say that I’ve been a witness to pretty much all of my married friends expressing lustful feelings for people who aren’t their spouse… not that that would excuse my own lustful feelings… I’m just pointing that out. Besides, I simply don’t think it is. I’m gay. I like girls. And as I’ve said before, finding an actual, flesh-and-blood female attractive is a natural symptom of being attracted to females.

Well, I’ve gone on this long, winding path to say that I don’t think it’s right… I don’t think I should have to pretend about who I am. Demanding celibacy is hard enough (if, in fact, that is what is asked of me)… silence is even harder. I don’t think it’s right that the only vehicle I have for expressing my sexuality is guilt and shame. If I want to be honest about this facet of who I am in my everyday conversations… well, I just can’t. Unless I want to spend those conversations feeling wretched and dirty, nobody wants to hear it.

I read an article by Dan Savage recently that talked about this demand for silence and how it related to Mark Foley. I’ll just cut and paste the portion that stood out to me.

“The religious conservatives in the GOP's base don't seriously believe that gay men can become straight. (Wanna stop a straight person from making the ex-gay argument? Ask him if he'd let his daughter marry one.) What they believe in—what they demand—are closeted homos, homos like Mark Foley, a single man who refused to answer direct questions about his sexual orientation. (Has any straight man ever refused to reveal his sexual orientation?) The religious conservatives in the GOP's base want all gays to be like Mark: deny who we are, live our lives alone, refuse to answer any questions about our sexuality. To them, Mark Foley was a good, closeted homo, deserving of every consideration.

The GOP was willing to cover for Foley because Foley, by being closeted, covered for them for years. So what if closet cases act out in sexually inappropriate ways? A few raped altar boys and skeeved-out pages are a price the gay-haters are only too willing to pay if it means fewer out homos.”

Look, I realize I may have stepped over a line in some people’s minds by going on a date (possibly), but there was nothing dirty about it. Nothing that I feel I should have to hide. But I do. And if I’m honest, I’m kinda bitter about that.


Merie said...

I do not think you have stepped over any more lines than a straight woman going on a date with a man. Nor do I think you SHOULD have to hide it - however, I realieze that is often reality because people like to make it an issue and all about sex sex sex. Honestly, I think a quote in one of your much earlier posts is quite to the point 'straight people are more obsessed about gay sex than gay people are'.

I accidently stumbled across your blog yesterday and was so fascinated and feel quite linked to your thinking that I've read most of your 81 posts (probably 95%) since yesterday morning. (my brain kind of hurts, but I'll survive LOL). I do think I'll continue to read your posting from time to time and if you don't have any problem with it, I'd like to comment sometimes as well.

I'm a christian gay woman who is 28 and currently in a lesbian relationship. I've had many many struggles and constantly bounce between being ok with being gay and hating myself. I truly seek God's guidance but seem to have trouble getting anything but hurdles thrown at me by what you would call side A and B, etc. I, also, considered that I'd either be celebate or enter into a straight marriage (more for the companionship) and just 'learn' to enjoy straight sex (if that's at all possible). I tried to see no one. Then I tried to see men - and that made me more misserable. Then I met J and with trepidation have etched out some sense of myself. Anyways this comment is way too long and I'll stop here for now.
Blessing. :)

Michelle said...

I think your frustration makes sense.

From a straight-Christian-with-close-gay-friends perspective, I've giggled with my bisexual roommates about women they found pretty. There were times when I wondered if this was wrong of me (that bothersome word "condoning" always seems to come up), but I can't bring myself to make every conversation with my friends a rehash of the views they already know I hold.

Especially when, maybe, I'm not entirely sure about those views myself.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you for being brave enough to write about your date (maybe)! I'd love to tell you all of the things i want to about these issues...

"Do it anyway!"
"Dont' be afraid!"
"God's the only one you should fear! Not his creations."

I can't say that... unless I want to become a hypocrite. (It's not on my list of things to do today. Maybe later.)

These kind of fears are why coming out to ourselves is so liberating-- and so frustrating. There are still the little fears.

I will say, however, that God loves you, since I know that's true.

"Be still, and know that I am God."


p.s. I've linked from my blog to here. If you have absolutely no desire to link back, I understand. :)

pheebleminded said...

This is the first time in a while that I have visited your blog, and I am glad to see some new entries.

I can't tell you which path to follow, because I still have doubts, even now, about whether I chose the right path or not.

I can only echo the words of others and say that God loves you, and He is the only one you need to fear (reverence, respect, hold in awe - not be afraid of).

Zuzu said...

I don't think offering to pray with you is either loving or supportive - and I think the first mistake is characterizing their reaction as either loving or supportive. Call it out and name it what it is - fear-based and judgmental. It's this naming of things - it's quite important. (Eve had such a tricky job.) And perhaps you have different definitions of "friend" and "Christian friend" - that might be interesting to explore.

On another topic.. I didn't think Julia Roberts looked all that good in Ocean's 11, so maybe if you thought she did, I'd offer to pray with you too. But Sigourney Weaver in Aliens... wow... or Linda Hamilton in T2.. melt me....or Angelina Jolie in Foxfire ... what a hottie... talk about praying...

My point being, even my mother who is straight as an arrow and considers herself a Christian would agree that these are attractive women even if she, personally, has no prurient attraction to them. If boys and men weren't able to acknowledge the attractive features in other men then little boys wouldn't want to be Superman. If women and girls couldn't see beauty in other women (sexual and otherwise) then selling sex in advertising for women's clothes would have no effect on sales - it's a multi-billion dollar industry and it's tremendously effective.