I also write in other places, now and again.
See you there!
Here's a brief quote from a post on a messageboard:
For those people who do hate crimes against homosexuals, shame on you!
And here's my reply:
Of course. But it's more subtle than that.
Beating a person up because he's different is a shameful and despicable way to behave, I hope we can all agree. (I did see one poster here suggest that gay couples who dare to show any degree of affection in public are asking to be attacked, but he's a nutcase I hope no one takes seriously. Anyway, I haven't seen him around recently. He must have gone Elsewhere.)
But there's another part to it. I grew up in a strongly religious household (my family are Witnesses). And I believed it myself. Being academically inclined, and reasonably intelligent, I enjoyed learning the intricacies of the abstruse theology of the religion. There are bits now I understand better than some of the elders in the congregation. (Would you like me to explain the concept of the prophetic year of 360 days?)
But through it all, from my very early teens (perhaps even before), I had to hide a large chunk of myself. I had to hide it from my friends, from my family, and also from myself. Adolescence is perhaps always confusing, but mine, spent refusing to think about what should have been the delightful discovery of my awakening sexuality, was probably more confused than most. Melikio once wrote that he lost a large part of his childhood. I can sympathise.
I remember my mother and my little sister once discussing a cute guy together. They wouldn't usually do that, but this one was safe. They wouldn't be seeing him again. He played the Genie of the Lamp in a proper traditional version of Aladdin in Kent. Gorgeous, he was. All I could safely say was that he seemed to be enjoying himself: he did have a big grin.
All I could safely say? All I could safely think! As if hiding it from others wasn't enough, I hid myself from myself for far too long. Finally facing up to it was such a huge relief.
Your very words, spoken with the voice of authority, may condemn young people, perhaps your own children, to a broken and shattered life. The suicide rate among homosexual adolescents is by all accounts frighteningly high, though proper statistics are of course hard to come by. And it's not hate crimes that causes that.
The doctrine that homosexuality itself is a sin is a pernicious evil. Do not allow it to be perpetrated. It causes too much misery.
For a believing teen, the thought of a lonely life ahead is burden enough, without that extra load. (Matthew 23:4.)
I love my parents, but I don't trust them.
I know they love me, but I still can't trust them.
I need to find myself an independent job, so I'm no longer working for my Dad. I need to move out of home. And then I'll tell them.
And if I find that it's okay, that I could have told them earlier, I'll be sorry I didn't, sorry I wasted so much time and mental pain.
But, where I am now, I can't take that risk.
I haven't even really told them I'm an atheist yet, though they do know I'm asking lots of questions and no longer trust the answers provided by the Watchtower Society.
It's a mess.
Why do I want to tell them? Because I can never have a proper relationship with them until I do. I may not have a proper relationship afterward, either, but with a bit of work it should grow back. I hope.
Why do I want to tell them? Because until I tell them I can't explain why I so despise the Watchtower Society. They taught me to hate myself. I can't forgive that.
Why do I want to tell them? Because I want to tell everyone else, and I owe it to my parents to tell them first.
I do want to tell everyone. Not directly, perhaps, but I want to stop hiding who I am. Go to at least one Pride parade (depending what I see there, I may or may not go to more).
I have never seen an openly gay couple here. I've seen gay couples kissing once in Madrid (Atocha Railway Station, if you want to know) and once in Dublin (in St Stephen's Green on a warm day). It matters to me to see that, and to see everyone else ignoring it. It's no big deal. It should be no big deal. And yet it often is. Gay kids. Gay teens. Confused and lonely. They need to see that there's a place for them in the big wide world. They need to see they can be happy. I almost feel it's a duty for me to be publicly gay, and publicly happy.
One day. One day.
I wrote this for a messageboard, and then decided to put it also on the blog.
Choosing to be Gay
Does one choose to be gay? It's a fascinating question, and many people feel that a great deal rides on the answer. If homosexuality is a choice, they argue, it is permissible to restrict the civil rights of homosexuals, and to encourage homosexual (or 'pre-homosexual') teenagers and younger children to 'turn straight'. (Some of the methods used to achieve this end are quite nasty.) On the other hand, if homosexuality is 'hard wired', they should be nice to homosexuals.
James Dobson of Focus on the Family, in his book Bringing Up Boys, disagrees. He argues that the morality of homosexuality is not dependent on whether or not it's a choice. Dobson is a charlatan, and Bringing Up Boys is a collection of pseudoscientific nonsense (the chapters on 'pre-homosexuality' are, anyway), but on this issue he's right. Homosexuality does not harm. In certain circumstances, indeed, homosexual acts may even increase the sum total of human happiness. I can find no logical reason for labelling homosexuality as immoral; and this conclusion does not in any way depend on whether or not it's a 'choice'.
For the record, though, homosexuality is not a choice. Gayness, however, is.
Homosexuality is an orientation. You're homosexual if you're sexually attracted to persons of the same sex as yourself. Gayness is an attitude of mind. You're gay if you can say so, even to yourself, without wincing.
* "There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life."
I was in Dublin today, and popped into Eason, a large and famous bookshop on the corner of O'Connell Street and Abbey Street. I looked at a few books, including The Jesus Jokebook, by Des MacHale. It's less irrevarant than it sounds, its compiler being a practising Catholic (and Professor of Mathematics). One I did buy, though, was Laura James' Tigger on the Couch.
Then, inspired by a complaint I'd read recently about a bookshop which didn't stock any Thomas Paine, I went to the customer services desk to ask what Paine they had. After I'd spelled his name for her twice, the lady found that they had Common Sense in the classics section downstairs. So I descended to the basement to search it out. It took a while, as the books were not all in alphabetical order. Most of them were, but Common Sense was with the other books in the Great Ideas series. I ended up buying it and two of its companions: Michel de Montaigne's On Friendship and George Orwell's Why I Write.
A little later, having read almost half of Why I Write over lunch, I wandered into another bookshop, Books Upstairs, opposite Trinity College, a much smaller place than Eason, with apparently only one member of staff on duty. A chap was asking him for a particular translator's version of a Greek classic, which I now forget, and he was heading upstairs to see what was in stock when he saw me hovering. Again, I asked whether they had any Thomas Paine. "We should have The Rights of Man, shouldn't we?" He said. "I'll have a look."
I hung around till he came back downstairs. "Sorry," he said. "We always have The Rights of Man, but we're out of stock at the moment."
I think I'll be going back to Books Upstairs. I had a glance there at Gunter Grass' Peeling the Onion, extracts of which I've heard on Radio 4, but it was a bit pricy.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Tigger is diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (AD/HD), Predominantly Hyperactive Impulsive Type.
The video I embedded in my first posting on this blog has been removed from YouTube, but this is the same video, as originally uploaded.
"we're so SCENE that we kiss other boys!"
First, I must tell you some back history. In January 2006 I sent an anonymous letter to the Watchtower Society's Brooklyn offices. The Watchtower Society is a coordinating office for the work of Jehovah's Witnesses (it is not, though, as is sometimes reported, the 'official name' of Jehovah's Witnesses: the Witnesses are a religious body, and the Watchtower Society is a legal entity used by the religion).
My letter opened with a discussion of my loss of faith, which was not then by any means as complete as it is now. I then went on to talk about the way that sometimes we believe things we want to believe, and I worried, in the letter, that my loss of faith was due to my belated realisation of my homosexuality. I know that I'm inteligent; I know also that my judgment can be clouded.
I never got a reply to the letter: it was anonymous. What I wanted from it I do not know. Perhaps just the relief of getting my feelings down on paper. The one thing I asked for was an article in The Watchtower or Awake! outlining how hypocrytical people can sometimes be on this issue. 1 Corinthians 5:12 shows that those outside the congregation are not to be judged by the standards applied to those within. I've written about this before on this blog:
The one thing I asked for, I didn't get. As I said in the letter,
If, say, a Witness’s non-Witness niece is having a sexual relationship with her boyfriend she will be treated quite differently than her brother having a sexual relationship with his boyfriend. And yet both are equally breaking God’s Law and neither are his servants. It is not our place to decide which of God’s laws are more important.
This rampant hypocritical homophobia was disturbing me.
So, earlier this year, I sent the letter again, this time with an address on the bottom. The text of the letter explained why I had not contacted the local elders: I was uncertain about how well they'd keep confidentiality, and I really couldn't think what they'd do to help me. Also, at the time the letter was first written, I was uncomfortable identifying as homosexual even to myself, so telling other people who knew me in real life was all but out of the question. In the interim, over the course of the year, I'd become more comfortable with an internal gay identity, and less firm in my faith. I did not redraft the letter, so these changes in attitude were not recorded. They're both rather nebulous, anyway.
Two more short quotes from the letter:
Technically, I could be openly gay and yet one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Am I right? I could say, as I am doing to you, I am homosexual and a virgin, because I’m not interested in having sex with women and God’s Law says that for a man to have sex with another man is wrong. I could, technically, be perfectly open about that. But it’s not actually feasible, is it? You know it isn’t, so don’t pretend anything else.The attitude to homosexuality prevalent among Jehovah’s Witnesses is not one fitting to servants of a loving God. It is actually un‑Christian.
I do not 'suffer from some homosexual feelings' -- I am homosexual. Entirely. That’s what I am. Live with it -- I have to.
That last perhaps deserves some clarification. I think I detect a faint note of bitterness creaping in, and I don't like that. Don't become bitter. I also detect an acceptance there that I am who I am, and that my homosexuality is a permanant part of my make-up, not some temporary aberation. One way or another, I shall have to live with it.
The Society, in defiance of my express wishes, sent the letter back to the local branch office here in Ireland, who showed it to one of the elders in my congregation. I ought to be annoyed about this, and I shall have to work out why I'm not.
The line You've been in communication with Brooklyn did come as rather a shock, but I rallied nicely, and in the end I had a reasonable, friendly, and fairly open conversation with the two elders I was talking to. I've had two chats now, and am in line for a third. I have not yet told them of the extent to which my faith has been eroded, but shall have to do so shortly. It would be dishonest to continue.
I gave a five-minute talk the other week, on the detrimetal effect of grumbling on the spirit of the congregation. One of the elders I'd been talking to said it was the best talk he'd ever heard me give.
In other news, I recently bought Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris. Thought-provoking and challenging. I recommend it.