Sunday, January 21, 2007

90. Friends

On New Year’s Day I got an email from an old friend of mine. We had gone to church together, and at one point had been kind of close. She, in many ways, is a kind of kindred spirit. We are both island girls who were transported to Canada at a young age, both black girls who grew up in a mostly white world, and therefore feel most comfortable in that mostly white world, while still knowing that we are outsiders (that’s a long turn of phrase, I know, but it was an important part of why her and I got along so well. Heh, both of us have had the unpleasant experience of being referred to as “whitewashed” by some of our black friends because we don’t conform to a lot of what people expect of us.) And then, of course, there is 'the mother factor'. This girl (who I will call H) and I actually became friends because our mothers became close, and both of us have had rather tumultious relationships with our mothers. The letter she sent me on New Year’s was to tell me that she had made some resolutions regarding her relationship with her mom, and it made her think of me so she was writing to let me know that she was praying for me. It was really sweet, and I was grateful.

The thing is, that was the first letter I had gotten from her in ages. Not her fault at all, I had completely let that relationship slide. The reason? I can’t handle being friends with people who don’t know I’m gay anymore. It’s just so frustrating. I feel like I’m lying, or hiding or something the entire time I’m with them. It’s irritating, and I feel ashamed or guilty (not for being gay, but for… I don’t know, deceiving them somehow), and I’m constantly feeling like I have to be on guard. It sucks and I just don’t want to do it anymore. So, I’ve let a lot of old friendships slide.

And then I got this email from H and I remembered how much I liked her and how much her friendship blessed me and I was sad. So I told her. Well, I mean I shot her back an email thanking her for her prayers, telling her a little bit about what’s going on in my life (ie: living in Korea, etc..) and then I told her I was gay. And I haven’t heard back. And I’m sad all over again. This is the first time that’s happened to me. I realize it hasn’t been that long, only a few weeks, but… well, it seems to me that she would have responded by now if she had anything to say to me so I’m thinking our friendship is over.

A few days after that email I caught another friend from that era in my life online, and came out to her as well. We were actually chatting, so I think that went okay… we’ll see. My contact with people from that stage in my life has kind of petered out (for the same reasons, none of then knew I was gay), so it could just be that they don’t feel the need to contact me or anything. But I haven’t heard from the second girl since our conversation either. I suppose it was bound to happen. My experiences with coming out have been, for the most part, quite positive. But, it still sucks to think that I may have just lost some friends. I know I wasn’t being a good friend by letting our communication slide in the first place, but I was hoping that with this ‘confession’ I would feel free and would be able to continue our friendships. We’ll see. It’s still a bit early to tell, I suppose.

In other news, I’ve made a new friend here. One of the girls from the lesbian group (who I shall call C) and I have been getting together fairly regularly. Actually, she’s not a member of the lesbian group, but she’s a friend of someone who is, and we got to talking one night and just clicked. No, I’m not interested in her, and she is not interested in me. It’s kind of funny how clear we were about that with each other the first night we got together, largely because she had just come from a situation where there was some lack of clarity on that front and it caused some problems. But it has been quite fun getting to know her. Last night we went out dancing, visiting a few of the lesbian venues that Seoul has to offer. In the first club/bar/restaurant (I’m really just not sure how to classify it) we mostly just sat and talked. And just as I don’t like being friends with people who don’t know I’m gay, I also don’t like being friends with people who don’t know I’m a Christian. My faith is important to me, and while I don’t talk about it all the time, I want to feel free to bring it up… the funny thing is, I’m more nervous coming out as a Christian to gay people than I am coming out as gay to Christians. I think it’s a result of the fact that the church has been so bad to the gay community that there is a lot of understandable bitterness. Much like I have done with a lot of my straight friends before I came out to them, I had dropped some hints to C about my faith in an attempt to see if she would be receptive. And last night when we were talking I decided to just do it… I just thought that if I’m going to be friends with her, I need to be able to talk about my faith. If I can’t ever talk about it… well, it would be just as frustrating, in fact it would be more frustrating to have to hide that part of me from her than it would to have to hide my sexuality from people… maybe cause I’m used to that, who knows. Anyway, I didn’t bring it up out of nowhere, it was in context (see, that’s the problem, my faith is often in context, so not talking about it kind of stifles my ability to communicate), so I said it in passing… using the phrase “I’m quite religious”, and just continued to explain what I was talking about (I was telling a story about something that is going on at my job), when she stopped me and said “Oh, so you are a Christian, then.” She’d caught my hints. I said yes. She then asked me “How do you reconcile that with being gay? Isn’t there a conflict there?” To which I responded, quite honestly, “I’m working on that…”

From there it got quite interesting. At least to me. It seems she grew up in a Christian home, and I’m going to guess that she comes from an evangelical tradition because she immediately slipped into the “Christianeze” that we evangelicals are so well known for, using phrases like “godly behavior” and “a lukewarm Christian”. Basically, her story is that she has left her faith because she saw no way to be both Christian and gay, and between the two… well, what most Christians don’t seem to realize is that only one of those two things is a choice. Only one of those things can be changed (for most of us) and so if you are gay and you believe that being gay and Christian are incompatible, there really actually isn’t a choice there. She actually said to me “I want someone to show me how I can be gay and Christian because I don’t want to burn in hell.” I sat there, and I hope this doesn’t come off as being too ‘holy’ or something, and thought “wow, so this is why we met.” And then I felt silly, because I really am so far from having answers… I’m still firmly planted on the fence between Side A and B… not a comfortable position, by any means. But I am also firmly convinced that there is no conflict with simply being gay and being a Christian. And there is something particularly sad to me about someone losing their faith… for any reason, really, but this reason of course holds a particular significance to me. We’ll see what happens. It could be that her faith was never that important a factor in her life, so maybe she doesn’t miss it. I just know that I would miss it, and so it breaks my heart.

We didn’t talk about that all night… only for about half an hour. We did get some dancing in, and had a good time. I’ll send her some links to some webpages… she was quite surprised to hear about the existence of other gay Christians. I think she thought I was an anomaly.

I should make it clear that even if there is no significant ‘event’ or ‘conversion’ or whatever, I’m glad to have met her. I love making new friends, and I really do enjoy her company. I don’t like the idea of ‘missionary friendships’, it seems so mercenary and heartless. I’d be friends with her regardless. And, hey, at least now I know she’ll understand if I slip into Christianeze myself.


M said...

I had a similar experience today of an old friend trying to add me on myspace. I didn't add her and sent her a note telling her there were parts of my myspace I didn't want old friends seeing. She said back that she would never judge me, giving me the idea she already knew. I added her and things went well. But I was terrified for so long that there was no way she would accept me. That feeling is so very scary. Best of luck to you, in all ways.

Anonymous said...

Hey JJ!

Don't think your friend H has written you off. If she just had a new baby, she might be a bit preoccupied, don't you think? Give her some time to respond. No response doesn't mean your friendship is over, it could just mean that she is busy and will get back to you.

rainfalls said...

I went on a rampage back in college telling people I knew that I was going to exodus. It mostly just set up a wall between us you know? Like oh I can only get this close to Liz b/c she might get turned on by me. It was different with my sister in law though. She purposely held my hand and didn't distance herself. I think the difference had to do with exposure. I went ot a very gay bashing school. My sister in law on the other hand, had recently baby sat for a lesbian couple. It's still a bit awkward between us sometimes though. I mean like a lingering fear of getting "too close". And I came across some comment the other day (speaking of comments gee I hope you don't mind how long mine is) the comment said religion sets up more boundaries to relationships than open doors for them. These situations seem to echo that you know?
p.s. that's really cool about the soul sister/seoul sister.

beepbeepitsme said...

As a gay christian, you might be interested in this.
"Gay Music For Gay Ears"