Friday, April 10, 2009

being gay

I have tried to write the blog entry for many months now. You see, I have lived most of my life in fear. Fear of being found out. And I lived much of my life ashamed, ashamed of who I was. That fear and shame has colored my life in so many ways I cannot even begin to count them. I have been thinking a lot over the past year about this. Who is to blame for my fear and shame? Well I think it basically boils down to three things: myself, the church and the society.

I just finished watching a re-run of one of my favorite shows "Joan of Arcada". In this episode Joan almost outs a popular high school jock for being gay. I know the fear he must have felt.

The church is to blame because for most of my life I never heard a life affirming thing come from the church about me. I heard plenty of other people affirmed, but for me the church was either silent or condemning. It is a painful place to be. To love the church when the church seems to hate you so much. I was talking to a straight friend recently about the difficulty of finding a gay boy friend who thinks positively about the church. Oh there are gay men out there that do, I'm one of them in spite of all of my experiences. But sadly for many good reasons, many gay people feel and believe that the church has nothing for them. This saddens me greatly and I'm sure it saddens God as well.

Society is to blame for much the same reason as the church. The same attitudes were present in most of my life. And of course, choosing to spend 24 years in the military only made it worst and surely must be evidence of me being either crazy or extremely self loathing, but that will come later. Society did, and for the most part continues, to devalue and disrespect me merely for being a gay man. Except in rare places, which seem to be growing thank God, society seems to either outright condemn me or is at best apathetic to me.

Last, and perhaps most destructive, has been my own shame and fear. Fear of being found out. Shame for being wrong, or evil or whatever my mind might have chosen to call it. It is a terrible burden to bear to hate yourself. I know I'm not alone in that arena and I know that being gay is not the only reason people hate themselves. But self hatred and shame is so destructive to one's soul.

It is sadly so easy for me to understand why so many gay people chose suicide. It is a hard thing to bear hating yourself and believing that society and the church and, even sadder for some, your family all hate you. I'm so grateful to God and my family that I never had to experience that last betrayal.

It took me a long time to come out. Far too long. The last place I finally came out was the church. I finally reached the breaking point when I kept hearing people talk about gay people as "those people" like they were not among us. I could stand it no longer.

Well it feels good to get some of this off my chest. I know that I have not fully forgiven society, the church or myself yet for the years of shame and fear. In fact, I don't know if I ever will be able to.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

(((((biggest squeeziest "I'd die before I let go of you" hug I can muster))))))

Ok, Robert. Breathe.

First: YOU ARE LOVED. 'Specially by me. I also have it on good authority that God loves you too. Why else would He have so many open and closeted gays and lesbians who serve him in the church?

Second: I can never fully understand your pain, but I can understand a little of it, being of the "straight but a bit butch" crowd. I have seen glimpses of what you and my other GLBT friends must see constantly and I know I do not like it. Not one bit. But I do know what it feels like to sit and think, "Does ANYONE see what a beautiful person lives inside of me, or are they just all dumb as a rock?" I can at least sense that what you feel carries that same cutting, stabbing kind of pain. It is a horribly lonely kind of pain.

Third: I'll be honest. Some of this, you'll never be able to forgive how you were treated. It's too big a wound. You're human. But you committed no wrong here. All you can do is trust to God that healing and reconciliation to it will come, and that it does not require your "forgiveness", just your consent to be healed and reconciled to your wounds. But you owe the pain nothing. You served your country for 24 years even though they would have punished you had they found out. You serve God by the vows of your ordination, even if you don't have a call at present. Jesus also served those who eventually showed their hatred for him. You are in good company!

Fourth: Some of us, no matter who we are orientation-wise, will always be "different." You're right--it will always be hard for you to find a fellow who loves the church, because of what so many churches have done to GLBT folks. I will always have a hard time finding a fellow b/c I am such a doggone loner and have such a teeny-tiny BS tolerance titer, and in this world of such a high expectation of female ideals of beauty and "feminine behavior", it's frustrating as all get out that it is so easy for guys to be my buddies but no further. (It's also frustrating sometimes that it seems that the men I know who are the absolute best at seeing the beauty within me are gay! Now and then I want to look at all the straight guys and yell, "WHY CAN'T YOU ALL SEE WHAT THESE GUYS CAN SEE? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?")

But I'll tell you what I learned in my "oddball-ness." I learned that being alone has given me the gift of loving people harder than I would have bothered, had I had a spouse. It has only been in recent years I learned to treat that gift AS a gift, not a curse.

I only know you from blogs and FB, but I know this much--you have that gift. I know a kindred spirit when I see one. If the perfect guy comes along for you, great. If not, my God, you have such an ability to give and love without expectation of payback (hell, the only expectation you might have is of being dissed!) and you LOVE ANYWAY. St. Paul, for all his troubles, had that gift. Again, you are in good company!

You know, Robert, to me, when I hear you talk about your self-loathing moments, THAT is where these other misguided/ignorant/stupid people, if we listen to them, can mess with our heads so we feel distanced from God. That's the only "sin" I see in this picture that you need to challenge. You have not sinned but they make you feel sinful.

Sit still, my friend, and let God love you. And, when worse comes to worst, you always know your dogs love you!

Peace, my friend.

Brian R said...

Hugs from me too, Robert
I have been through so much the same as you (but I did not join the military). Perhaps teaching in Catholic schools seems also masochistic although it actually helped as the Catholic laity and some of the religious were more accepting than most of this evangelical homophobic diocese in which I live. However there are a lot of gay men like us that still love the church despite the way we have been treated and things are improving. When I realised (in the 70's) that I could not become a priest, I never dreamt that one day I would receive a hug from a gay bishop. You are so much younger, I pray that you will receive a call and also find a supportive partner.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

What Kirke and Brian said, Robert!

Kalle af said...

Me too! Blessings!

Anonymous said...

I'm proud of you

Robert said...

Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I have found it very helpful and healing to start talking about these things!

Mother Gayle said...

Dear Robert,
Thank you so much for sharing your pain with us! I feel honored! If I was with you in person I would give you the biggest hug I could muster. So, in the mean time, I am sending you a big VIRTUAL hug.
Your friendship has helped me change my views about GLBT people; from believing they need to be celibate to believing that it is not a defect. God made you just the way you are, and it is important to be in relationship. I hope that you do find a boyfriend that also loves the church! But until you do, here is another HUG to help tide you over.
Mother Gayle

Robert said...

thanks Mother Gayle. I cherish our friendship and your love and support!