Boy Scouts and adult volunteers wore their uniforms Sunday as they marched in Utah’s Gay Pride parade — defying a leader of the youth organization who had said they couldn’t do so under the organization’s guidelines prohibiting advocating political or social positions.
“It just feels like the right thing to do,” Kenji Mikesell, an 18-year-old Eagle Scout and high school senior still active with his troop, said before leaving for the parade in Salt Lake City.
Peter Brownstein, a Scoutmaster who helped organize the Boy Scouts participation in the march, said a few adults and youth marched at the front of the parade in uniform, including a Cub Scout, an Asst. Scoutmaster, and a father and son team despite the fact that a local leader of the Boy Scouts had said Friday that they were forbidden from doing so.
We as a Scouting movement do not advocate any social or political position” said Rick Barnes, chief scout executive of the Great Salt Lake Council. “We do not, as Boy Scouts, show support for any social or political position. We’re neutral. If he wants to attend the parade and others do that are Scouts or Scouters, they’re welcome to do so as private citizens wearing whatever they want except their uniform.
In a statement, Deron Smith, a spokesman for the national headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America, said it was up to the local council to determine any punishment.
“These individuals stated a personal opinion and do not represent Scouting,” said Smith. “Scouting teaches young people that often in life one finds rules they don’t agree with, but a Scout is to be obedient. To simply disobey a rule because you disagree with it is not an example to set for youth. It is up to each council to determine how best to hold their leaders to the standards of Scouting. We will support the Greater Salt Lake Area Council as they determine the appropriate response.”
One of the most profound changes that occur after we realize that we are LGBT is how we begin to analyze every other facet of our lives. As a result of realizing our sexual identity and nature, we question the validity of everything we’ve been told to believe throughout our lives. From rules set by our caregivers that guide and discipline us to what our religious and spiritual leaders tell us about God, this becomes a time of great introspection and discovery. Most notably the time is marked by a series of questions and what religion and our faith are able to bring to our lives. We question if we can still believe in a religion or rather teachers of that religion that being gay is wrong.
Faith is believed to be blueprint to our morality as it sets to guide us through all aspects of our existence. To an extent, faith is believed to be the figurative parent to our morality. We know that this construct of what faith means is different for everyone. As we have our own unique experiences and upbringings we discover that no two people believe in the same way. So when I was asked a while back to discuss religion and sexuality I had a hard time collecting my thoughts in a way that made sense.
Luckily through social media I had the great privilege of getting to know author and interfaith leader Chris Stedman and he was able to shed some light on how our beliefs growing up may effect how and when we come out. And as time went on he agreed to have a phone interview to learn about his latest book, Faitheist. This narrative work that is both biopic and applicable principles to today’s society chronicles Stedman’s journey of self-discovery as a result of initially wanting others to come together and share differing ideas all the while building a sense of community and acceptance. This serves as a steady bridge for me to approach the subject of faith and sexuality.
I knew that discussing Stedman and his principles would provide clarity of my own thoughts on religion/faith in this discussion and how it could relate to the LGBT community. Let’s face facts; this is a sensitive issue regardless of your stance because our beliefs are always associated with our morality. We are passionate about what we believe in and too often when the subject comes up, especially when it relates to members of the LGBT community, emotions are heightened to a state where emotions overcompensate for reason. Facts are misconstrued and beliefs are treated as vengeful weapons against any opposition. I don’t want this discussion to go in that direction. That’s why reviewing Stedman’s position on the matter shows how differences in beliefs can come together.
Within the first five minutes I learned initially as we discussed atheism and group identity how different my own beliefs are from Stedman’s principles but still related to so much with what he advocates. Always at the ready to having meaningful dialogue, whether that be on his blog or his twitter account, I know that we can discuss this without conflict. When he explained pluralism and how Faitheist demonstrates inclusion of all beliefs it helped erode this stoic, detached persona so erroneously associated with atheists because of their beliefs. Even when Stedman admitted he feels that most of those that have a belief in God or deities are wrong that does not prevent us from knowing one another. His belief does not condemn me or anyone else and we can still relate to each other.
To further advance the reasoning behind his principles, Stedman brought up that while growing up he felt that he couldn’t be both gay and a Christian. He then told me about a religious cross he wore as a symbol of his faith and how he received a lot of teasing and criticism. Of course he was not suggesting that this lead him to atheism but it is something we need to observe because it shows an example that as LGBT men and women we do not belong to just one identity or community. Dichotomies exist within our community that we often enough do not discuss and duality can affect many aspects of our lives. Not only in faith but in racial/ethnic minorities, and even gender and socioeconomic status… Stedman believes that when we talk about this it creates an ethos that will foster experience.
Stedman helped me realize again how cooperation and acceptance are paramount as he discussed how his experiences shaped this principle. When he talked about him growing up in what he described as an irreglious home, he became a born again Christian at age 11 after his parents separated. Before he recommitted to the church he read about different cultures and perspectives and it taught him a greater depth of empathy. Shortly after his parents separated he sought out religion for normality and structure, and a community that was willing to support him all the while giving guidance from a position of authority. Felt their rigidity would provide clear answers.
As I write this I remember a song by George Michael, How you gotta have faith. The video was expressive about sexuality and having faith in your ability to love yourself. Looking back on it now I know the reason I was so drawn to this music video at 8 years old was because George Michael had a nice smile was doing throughout it was because of my developing sexuality. But it also made me question what faith was because I remember asking my mom after watching it what faith meant. She simply referred to it as “something you know to be true”. At that time I wanted faith because I thought it was cool. But I did begin to seek out comfort from it.
Both of our narratives, though completely different in our youth were looking for answers to faith with different environments and outcomes but the stories do reflect how we search for meaning at a young age. Looking for answers to why we feel the need to belong and what that means for ourselves. I think one of the greatest lessons we learn is deciphering what faith means to our self-worth. No matter what one’s own beliefs of faith or non-faith you have to reach a point in which you rely on the strength that resides inside you. A willingness to trust that we are indeed made this way naturally as it was meant to be, by biology or God.
We know that there can be many obstacles that we face before, during, and sometimes even after we come out of the closet. One of the things that we question most is our belief in God. We begin to speculate if we were truly meant to be LGBT because of what we’re taught about homosexuality and wonder if our sexuality is natural. Faitheist is a narrative of someone’s own journey that is continually seeking a sense of community and a celebration of our various differences. The concept of pluralism the respects the differing opinions, beliefs, and philosophies without the need of ostracizing. It gives the reader a relatable account of coming to terms with faith and sexuality.
I loved how inclusive his work is in both his literary work and his ability to apply that people of all walks of life. Faitheist is at its most general definition a story of inclusion. I truly marvel out how when there is conflict of beliefs, whether it’s critics or social media can be done diplomatically. As we delved deeper into this interview I asked Stedman about if the nature and principles of atheism makes it easier for LGBT men and women to process and accept their sexuality and come out. Detailing later in a humble response noted that the issues that face as we process our sexuality and our experiences are not that simple:
Once I began to question certain norms, it opened me up to questioning others, including the normative religious beliefs I had adopted. But I wouldn’t say that I became an atheist as a direct result of coming out, since I was a Christian for the first number of years that I was out of the closer as a queer person. Whether a queer person is religious or not, and whether or not that changes in conjunction with the coming out process, I think that there is a common experience of challenging assumptions and traditional ideas that most of us experience as we come out.
This is one of the reasons that I discuss the topic of coming out so much. Because so often when a person surprises one aspect of themselves, they are likely suppressing their ability to actively question other aspects of who they are. During our conversation I was completely fascinated with the empathy and compassion expresses throughout his work and his pluralistic approach. Onward as we discussed more about the principles he felt necessary like open dialogue are necessary to bridge understanding between belief and non-belief:
Sometimes it isn’t always clear which came first, but they necessarily inform and support one another. Meaningful dialogue, where all parties listen and strive to understand, engenders compassion and empathy; likewise, a compassionate approach enables dialogue in the pursuit of common ground, making it more accessible and more effective.
It takes people out of these their comfort zones when we discuss differences. When we hear stories about conflicts driven by media that are divisive “conflict is the exception to the rule” he stated which suggests that instead of defending their own beliefs we are simply arguing to see who’s right. So we need to approach of our own stories, our own identity as a whole, and not just about what we believe. It’s all about humanizing our differences. Options that both Stedman and I did were not afforded growing up.
But this made me think about the process more and how difficult it can be as a result of religion so I asked if he felt this would eliminate prejudices. We know how religion is used against this community so it’s understandable why many feel that if religion no longer existed that we would have an easier time processing and accepting our sexuality. However, during our conversation this assumption was the one thing that Stedman disagreed with most.
Stedman did not feel that the elimination of religion would lessen our issues as we are naturally have the dynamics of tribalism and a feeling of wanting to fit in with the majority. After thinking about it for a while I see why he came to that conclusion. We will always want to feel like we belong and as a result any inherent differences would potentially stagnate acceptance. It’s also important to note that Stedman expressed that the first people to accept his sexuality were his brothers and sisters from his church before realizing he was an atheist. He hadn’t accepted atheism until years after he came out.. So it is not about beliefs in God, it’s about tribal natural need to belong.
Attempting to think in even more abstract terms I asked Stedman if he felt that atheism was more a philosophy than a grounded, secular belief. When he decided he didn’t believe in God it was sadness and the way he expressed this epiphany felt to me that he was describing the loss of a loved one. Letting go of a concept that you have believed in your entire life has to take some time to process. But atheism brought comfort to Stedman because it taught him fortitude and a faith in himself because no one else could accomplish his goals and overcome any challenges. It motivated and empowered him to become more active.
The incentive of taking ownership becomes stronger and more rich. This concept reminds Stedman to live in the moment as time is finite. It suggests that at some point when we are accepting who we are that we have to take the initiative to persevere no matter what. We have to take control of our challenges and look at our actions in how they will affect that outcome. Being LGBT teaches us that it is up to us to make our lives and our environment better. It may not always come easy or in the time of our choosing but when we hold ourselves accountable for the direction our lives are going it truly invites us to be who we are. It encourages us to live. This point is what resonated with me the most during our discussion. You become appreciative of time when you know it is limited.
It’s important to note that Stedman and I are not suggesting that this discussion was meant to suggest we believe people who are LGBT and in the process of coming out would have an easier time if they became atheists. Far from it. But I do believe those that are going through this process should be ready for how this aspect may have on a subconscious level affected many other facets of their lives and personality.
I believe what Stedman expressed both in his book, and in our conversation, is that examining our beliefs in all areas of our lives gives us a greater sense of self. Throughout this process that we go through in coming to terms with our sexuality and our beliefs we have to trust ourselves more than anyone else, regardless of whether or not you believe in God. Homogeneity is celebrated in our community more than individuality and Faitheist provides examples of how we can approach our different outlooks with diplomacy.
The biggest advantage to reading Faitheist or starting any discussion about faith is that dialogue will allow you to process your opinion and your beliefs openly. No matter those beliefs, with an open mind you can be honest about them and I will always advocate for that. We need more dialogue and opinions and beliefs not only in this community but society as a whole. You can have meaningful relationships with people of different backgrounds and beliefs with respect. This interview along with Stedman;s book accurately and passionately demonstrates that faith is not synonymous with morality. Morality should always be met with humanity and respect. We have to always remember that when we talk about faith, no matter what you believe. But we have to be willing to make that first step. So reach out. Talk.
In my last piece I focused on the beginning of our process. The time of innocence and discovery that allows us to see how we’re different. And now this tale is about the middle part of this journey. It’s darker because this is when the internal conflict of accepting who you are and what everyone else believes you are. During this time of the process we are presented with pushes and shoves that drive us to acceptance. Some are subtle yet linger with us while others are overt direct conflict that consumes every aspect of our daily lives. The time in which we leave our adolescence and begin adulthood is marked with these shoves during our process. Even though this is not as lighthearted and carefree as the first tale, it is just as important. Maybe even more so.
So I had learned I was different in third grade. Even though this discovery is monumental, the way I came about it was so carefree and innocent. And I was not prepared for the dark twist and turns of development coming my way. As we get into adolescence and later adulthood, we start to feel those push to understand and accept being gay. The first shove was to understand why I was different. Why I thought about guys instead of girls. Why I felt the need to want I wondered for what seemed like years why I didn’t like girls the same way. I thought girls were great. Still do. They’re nice and have amazing hair that I always want to play with for hours on end. But that shove to be like all the other guys was strong; I was never quite able to be as they were.
It lead me to take on more androgynous behaviors and to this day I am still not sure if it was intentional or because I enjoyed those activities. And this understanding leads me to my first dark period. Bad hair, bad clothes and a sullen guy that listened to R.E.M. on repeat every day. That was coupled with my brief consideration on whether or not this was truly what God wanted for me. I also knew it was about how I didn’t fit into everyone else’s mold of what a stocky 6’4 guy should be like. I quickly learned not to care what others thought about every other area of my life but I still refused to confirm what a select few had suspected. And the representations of what I thought gay was did not resemble me at all so I didn’t know how to be gay. Or maybe I was just stubborn.
Those awkward years ended and finally I was an adult. I felt like as soon as I arrived on my first day that I would feel this euphoria and be able to just come out, everyone would be cool and I wouldn’t care either way because I was happy. And even though that year was the best of my life I still felt hollow. Because I still hadn’t come out yet. The shove of a new life and new beginnings was not enough for me to come out and fully accept my sexuality. I knew and accepted it years before. And more importantly to me, my parents knew. At that time their opinion and support was all that mattered. I often wonder if it was fear of being judged on one more thing I could not change. Because of my race I had faced discrimination. And I did not want to have to always be aware of something everyone else would constantly judge me on. But until I had that final push came the first of much one summer night. Or maybe I was just scared.
And during that summer after my first year of college came another shove. I had the privilege of making friends to two men like me that felt they could trust me with their secret. I was the first person they told that they were gay. That secret that was also my secret, but I just wasn’t brave enough to do so. One friend was there on campus working during the summer months after my freshman year, also known as one of the best years of my life, with me. One night he pulled me aside and asked me to go out for a walk with him as he had something to tell me. And I obliged wondering what he had to say.
We walked across the street and sat on the surprisingly cool steps of our university’s conference building and stared up at the stars, our favorite pastime. But Mick (I nickname all my close guy friends that, I don’t know why) was so quiet that night. And I sensed something was wrong. He turned to me with a tear falling down his face and said, “I don’t want you to hate me, Sly.” And my heart sank for him because I couldn’t take away his pain. I assured him for several minutes that he didn’t have to be afraid of him and that I will support him no matter what. And he said. I’m gay. And I said okay what else is there? And he smiled. Letting out a huge sigh of relief he started to cry tears. I’ll never forget this expression of ease and freedom that was so visibly etched on his face. And then I began to cry.
My heart felt like it was in my throat because I so desperately wanted to say “So am I, Mick” but I didn’t. And he asked what was wrong, holding my hand and more tears strewn down to the ground. The push was one of the most intense feelings I’ve ever felt. So torn on when to come out. I kept thinking would I take away from his moment or would this be a double celebration. Finally I recovered saying I’ll always be there for you and support you no matter what. This doesn’t change anything between us. And even though I meant those words they felt like cruel malicious lies because I was unable to say that I’m gay too and you’re not alone. We talked and laughed and when I went back to my room I cried until I fell asleep. The push, or this internal desire was not strong enough to do it. Or maybe I still felt alone.
The next shove was the most subtle and the most powerful. It has the scale and drama of those relentless romantic comedies I avoid religiously. Because one of my last shoves was love. I had met a guy the very first day of college and I was in awe. He was lanky but still so statuesque. A business major with charisma that could woo the most uptight person into having a good time. He was smooth and I was in love. And even though neither of us was out at the time we were drawn to each other as if we knew each other’s secrets. A common trait of mine is to hide my greatest treasures away from everyone else in order to preserve them. Or maybe I’m just a little selfish.
We flirted off and on for years and came so close to something happening. But knew the moment either of us gave into our desires, we would have to share that secret about us. We weren’t willing to do that yet. We’d lose touch with each other then randomly find each other. But we still were unable to commit to announcing that we were both gay. Then during the summer before I started grad school I saw him randomly again. Before we had a chance to say hello we kissed. Impulsive and right in public. We hugged and talked as he asked me about when I finally had come out and I said I hadn’t yet. This changed the tone and he wanted to give us a real chance at something but only after I was out. But I still wasn’t out yet. And we hung out more and I felt the shove to embrace my sexuality more than anything because I wanted to be with him. He went on his way later that week and we kept in touch. I wasn’t fully ready but I was closer than ever.
And then a few months later my last shoves came. They weren’t sweet with hints of love even though I thought about my sexuality more than anything. They were dark and cold. The last shoves were death itself. I had been so stressed with school and grades I thought my appendix erupting was a simple flu virus. When I finally arrived at the hospital they had me prepped for surgery within 15 minutes because I was bleeding internally and were uncertain I would even survive the procedure. They said I should make a quick phone call to my parents and I did. This acceptance of being gay had consumed my thoughts so much that I ignored my own health. And as they rushed me to the operating room, O remember the bright fluorescent lights above me and I vowed that if I made it I would live as openly and authentically as possible.
Then news came of a college friend that had committed suicide because he was gay. Reading and hearing about it as I was healing from major surgery, I remember crying because I wasn’t just sad. I was livid. Because I felt that maybe if I were out sooner that he wouldn’t have felt so alone. I know that it’s not my fault, or at least convinced myself that I had no control over his actions. But I will always wonder had he been around more people that were completely out would it have changed the outcome and that I believe is true in anyone’s life.
So I had shoves in all states of my being. From the emotional, what felt like physical when confronted with how someone else’s truth was also my own and the spiritual side. Sometimes all at the same time, all shoving me to either come out or be alone forever. And I was terrified of both. You see there’s this push and pull. This shoving and stalling the entire time until you are full out. There is time of frustration and anger throughout. I felt even with all I knew and awareness I felt I possessed I still couldn’t own it yet. Even with my parents’ support I still hesitated for years in completely embracing my sexuality. Because that conflict, that pushing and shoving doesn’t end until we allow that process of understanding that we are different in one aspect than everyone else. Self-acceptance comes on its own time when you are willing to accept it. It took years for many of us. But thankfully that is changing for the better.
Again, I tell these stories because I feel we all need to share them. Because even though the newer generation of gay men and women have it better than us it still does not make that process any easier. But the way we make it easier is a result of them reading our stories and life lessons and insights so that maybe they avoid some of the things it took us years to learn. And for them to know that their feelings and emotions through this process is normal. Because it is about their development. So maybe they find more tears of joy than sadness. To know that they are not alone.
In this sounds hopeful news an Evangelical pastor from the UK, Rev. Steven Chalke is calling on other Christians to be more accepting and welcoming to members of the LGBT community:
Rather than condemn and exclude, can we dare to create an environment for homosexual people where issues of self-esteem and well-being can be talked about, where the virtues of loyalty, respect, interdependence and faithfulness can be nurtured, and where exclusive and permanent same-sex relationships can be supported? … Tolerance is not the same as Christ-like love. Christ-like love calls us to go beyond tolerance to want for the other the same respect, freedom and equality one wants for oneself. We should find ways to formally support and encourage those who are in, or wish to enter into, faithful same-sex partnerships, as well as in their wider role as members of Christ’s body.
Are we beginning to see this trend among religious leaders? By some of the responses to Rev Chalke’s declaration, that seems like a plausible belief. Evangelical Tony Campolo that regardless of the position many take within the c\hurch that it is time that it’s members rethink their often close minded views about homosexuality.
If only we would hear more stories of acceptance from religious leaders every day the world would be better. How amazing would it be if these leaders began to actually honor the principles of respect and non-judgment that they preach? Is it going to change overnight? Of course not. But this does give us hope.
IN “this is so stupid” news a self proclaimed author and “actor” Nicholas Brown found it pertinent to divulge the trials and tribultion of a straight actor playing a gay role. In the oh so (NOT) riveting Why Do I Still Feel Uncomfortable Playing a Gay Man on TV?, Brown questions the thougtht processes that he goes through to portray a gay man, accurately or otherwise. Overall in a very vague sentiment of history, stereotypes, and prejudices, Brown recalls how gay roles are very trying, even though he has a plethora of friends and family who are gay:
I am not gay. I have no shortage of gay friends. My uncle is gay. I’ve marched in a gay pride parade. More than half of the roommates I have lived with are gay. I support marriage equality.
So it comes as a shock to me when I realize that, actually, if I am honest with myself, I’m not comfortable with kissing another man on camera. I really don’t want to book this part.
I don’t want people to think I’m gay. And I’m even more uncomfortable because that isn’t a thought that I want to have.
Acting is a curious profession. The Oscars tend to award actors who transfigure themselves. Think of Charlize Theron in Monster or Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote. And most actors actively want to stretch outside of themselves. That is, after all, why we tried to make a career out of pretending. But people tend to assume things about you after they have seen you onstage. The character and the person are conflated.
Still, I wouldn’t turn down a commercial that required me to pretend to slap a child, or one where I played a Nazi. And—assuming the ad wasn’t advocating child abuse or Nazism—I don’t think I would feel odd about the audition.
Alright enough is enough. The rest of the article reads as some power point to justify Brown’s “bold” declaration. And since Brown is so forthcoming, I’ll return the favor. Your article is insulting and I am so sick of these vain pretentious actors like you Brown being praised and recognized for playing gay characters. And here you go thinking that they’re “brave” and then complaining about how uncomfortable you felt during the process of doing YOUR JOB? Please shut the hell up.
Every time you go out and say something so inanely stupid further perpetuates this inaccurate stereotype that being gay is a chore. That being gay is some big effort that requires a lot of effort.And on some subconscious level, you talking about being “uncomfortable” implies to the reader that gay is a choice. Because you imply that you can play an abuser or murderer with ease, but something that involves a nonviolent kiss with a guy gives you concern and you have to make a conscious effort to participate (instead of just not going for gay roles, which would actually make sense).
You choosing a r0le is a choice. Me responding to your ignorant article is a choice. Being gay is not a choice. Even when discussing the matter of the discrepancies of gay actors being denied playing straight characters and giving justifications isn’t about you wanting to expand your talent. It’s about money and your wallet. Since you’re taking this existential journey why not go all the way and be honest about it. I think what you were trying to do was discuss it as a process like any normal job preparation but instead tried to justify why you and others feel that way. Well let me tell you, you missed the mark.
You’re probably wondering in astonishment why I am being so confrontational about your statements, failing to see my issue is. Well, for the most part, we spend on average about the first two decades or more of our lives finally accepting our sexuality. Some of us still repress it because there is still a need to fit into society rather than accepting and completely owning that we are sexual beings.. Not that being being gay is difficult but because life is difficult. Acceptance is difficult. Society is difficult. Out culture that slowly moves towards equality and on a consciously accepts on a moralistic level to demonize gay makes our lives difficult. Misconceptions and ignorance is the catalyst to all of this and Brown, you’re serving up a hefty pile of it in your article.
In all fairness, Brown does try to repair some of his verbal damage by issuing an apology, and it is suggestive, albeit not clear, on wanting to change that part of himself as he recognizes this flaw in himself:
I, at least, am sorry. You don’t have to believe in a Judeo-Christian god to find something redeeming in confession. I am sorry that I balked at the idea of pretending to be gay. I am sorry that my uncle went home alone all those years. I am sorry for the whole ugly human history of slights and hate crimes and exclusion.
It seems important to acknowledge the depth and power of our biases, particularly at a time of year when many of us try to devote ourselves to being better people. There is something vicious in each of us. Depressing though that may seem, focusing on our flaws is a first necessary part of wanting to be better. The hope that we can be better, it seems to me, deserves great celebration.
Even in your apology, you congratulate yourself but offer no substance to it like how you would work to understand why this uncomfortable stance exists within you. That would be an actual benefit but again, your vague reasoning is so aloof from substance.
And your weak, strained opinion on how hard it is for you to portray a gay character further represses us. We get enough of this shit from NOM and FRC but I sometimes wonder if people like you are the ones that do the most damage. People that claim accpetance, seeminly nonintrusive and welcoming, spreading ignorance and a pompous air of accomplishment. We already have vapid nihilists like Bret Easton Ellis for that Brown so we doon’t need you adding to the collective pool of derisive ignorance. You or any other actor making the same stupid statements are not brave for making this declaration. You’re assholes.
We look for signs everywhere in our life so that we can learn how to be balanced beings to live a productive life. We constantly examines ourselves both consciously and unconsciously to define who we are and what that means to us and those around us. We seek a balance in our thoughts and behaviors as it serves as a roadmap. And often due to the process of coming out and fully accepting our sexuality we somehow struggle with the concepts of masculine and feminine meanings and significance. Why does it seem like these concepts so often at odds with each other in our community rather than embraced?
When i examine where this conflict comes from, I always refer to the ancient philosophy of Yin and Yang. It describes us best to the principle of finding balance within ourselves. Both light and shadow, dominance and submission, the need for freedom and the need for comfort. These aspects are given feminine (yin) and masculine (yang) terminology, both not able to exist without the other. they pull strength from each other to become a complete being and maintain balance and harmony.
The concept of yin and yang is the thing we struggle with most as gay men because it encompesses so many aspects of how we see ourselves and how we live our lives. From awareness to society to self esteem, it is the one thing that we question the most. Some of us even openly categorize each other as “masculine” “straight-acting” or “feminine” and even with us gays, feminine given the bad (and inaccurate) reputation of being weaker. Are we doing that because it pacifies the notion of what strong is? What we see as weak? Dominance over submission? Or is it just about control?
These ideals of strong (masculinity) versus (feminine) weak are gaining momentum in the newer generation of gay men as so many only see a dominant top or power bottom. It creates more of some type of hierarchy rather than a classification of attributes. It’s odd that once we claim our sexuality, sometimes, some of us go out of our way to prove we’re still in step with this concept of what “real men” do and it leads some of us to shame the other.
You would think that coming out would be the greatest challenge we face but in truth it is only a step to an even greater process of acceptance and self awareness. And somewhere along the way we carry some of the stagnant ideology of what men say or do from our flawed society on to each other. It’s not the ideal or principles that I want future generations to inherit. With as much prejudice and namie calling as we’ve had to endure, I don’t want to see that being what gay means to any one.
I understand where it comes from. Because unfortunately, even in this day and age, we’re bullied. beaten, harassed and even killed for who we are. I understand how masculinity is seen as protection. But I also feel that we can elevate ourselves without knocking someone else down. Femininity is calculative and alluring. In how many philosophies see masculinity as physical strength, femininity is seen as mental strength and not to be underestimated. Even with all that, some still shame the yin to overcompensate for our yang. Some will lash out defiantly at any notion of femininity thereby degrading those of us that celebrate what is seen as feminine.
We struggle with these concepts, regardless of sexuality, within our selves and against our society. Women still have to fight for equal pay, and to have the freedom what to do with their own bodies. And men still have to conform to this ideal of masculinity, comepletely ignoring any attributeds that can be perceived as feminine because sadly, feminine is seen as weak. Most likely this struggle comes from out perceptions of social norms that dictate an archaic code of conduct. As a result a person will deny aspects of which are the most natural. When terms like effeminate are discouraged and masculine embraced when both are required to make us whole.
But to me, it takes so much strength to not only accept but also completely own our sexuality. Because as gay men, we defy and redesign the notion of what being a man means. Yet while doing so, we have to remember not to do the same to the same men fighting these barbaric stereotypes of what strength embodies. That feminine is just as valuable and strong as masculine.
The yin and yang of gay is so much more than the either or mentality we create. It is the greatest most beautiful thing we possess because whether or not we embrace both yin and yang, we have a greater understanding of both masculinity and feminine. We naturally blend elements of soft and hard effortlessly. Many of us had to declare our independence at an early age because there literally was no one else to stand up for us yet at the same time it made us find comfort within ourselves. And this is where our true strength comes from.
I advocate the concept of balance, and the yin and yang of gay not only within ourselves but our community because, more than anything else, I truly believe unity is our strength. All of us are both yin and yang. We are both domininant and submissive, masucline and feminine. Shaming one while praising another makes both weaker both in our community and within ourselves. We have to remember that one cannot exist without the other.
When all of us as a communiity can truly achieve that, we will be unstoppable.
Over the past several months, International Boxer Orlando Cruz has made headlines after he came out as gay. Some may have felt the move in any sports arena to admit being gay would hurt their image and performance, but Cruz proved differently. In fact, Cruz himself says coming out made his performance better:
I have earned myself respect as an athlete. I have only lost 2 out of 22 professional fights. I knocked out some of my opponents in the first round. But I never really received respect as a person. That’s something I had come to realize over the past few years. The end of my boxing career is no longer that far off, and it was time for me to make peace with myself. And there was a second reason for me to come out: I hoped it would make me a better boxer.”
Cruz acknowledges that it took a while to become comfortable with the idea of coming out and that for him it was a process, but also worth it:
First of all, I was forced recognize that I could not manage it alone. Three years ago, I went and got help from a psychologist, and we met every two weeks. He helped me to work out whether I really wanted to come out for my own sake, or whether I was being pushed into doing it. Only once it was clear to me that this was my most deep-seated wish was I was able to go through with it. Six months ago in New York, I met with the founder of an organization that fights for gay and lesbian rights. He helped me with the media relations work. He gave me tips for my press release, and we set up a Twitter profile especially for my coming out, which I now post to in English and Spanish.
Now that he is out, Cruz feels he can focus more on his training:
“Until now, I have kept my personal life and my career strictly separate from each other. No one was supposed to know that I’m gay. This game of hide-and-seek was incredibly strenuous and it took a lot of energy out of me. Now I’m hoping that I can put that energy into my training.”
Cruz did in fact win his first boxing match after coming out several weeks ago. And hopefully this will help others that may be wanting to come out in professional athletics to do so their own way and their own time.
The University of Connecticut Huskies hockey team has joined in the You Can Play campaign co-founded and Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke and his father Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke to promote equality, respect and safety for athletes no matter their sexual orientation by posting a short video on university’s athletic website where the players open up about their tolerance towards potential LGBT teammates.
“As the team captain, I pledge to respect the talent and work of all my teammates,” says forward Sean Ambrosie, who in the 30-second segment is suited up in the Connecticut dressing room.
“I’ll start discussions that promote the acceptance of all my teammates in order to build trust and a winning ethic,” says defenceman Alex Gerke before mentioning the potential for transgendered teammates. “We welcome any LGBT athletes who may be looking for a safe place to play.” .
Last September, the NCAA approved a policy that permits transgendered (female to male) student-athletes to compete in male sports as long as their use of hormone therapy is in line with NCAA policy and medical protocol
But UCONN’s head coach Bruce Marshall feels differently about it and insisits that the public service announcement isn’t “a beacon for the university.” According to Marshall, he warned the Huskies not to join the You Can Play campaign unless they were prepared to deal with negative fallout from opponents.
Other than praise for their video, as of this writing the UCONN Huskies have recieved absolutly no negative fallout from the PSA.
I received this email today from Holly Elle an independent recording artist based out of Nashville, TN. and I’d like to share it with you.
My name is Holly Elle and I am a Canadian independent recording artist based out of Nashville, TN. I moved to the US four years ago to pursue my dream: to create music that will touch people’s lives and make a difference. Last year I became extremely disturbed by the coverage of one teen suicide after another happening right here in America. It consumed my thoughts daily, the idea that a kid could feel so alienated, so hopeless, that they felt they had to go and jump off a bridge. I awoke suddenly at 4am one night with an idea, I quickly wrote it down and the very next day took it to my brother, who is also a trusted songwriting partner. It was to be our own version of an “it gets better” message, an anthem of empowerment, some way to let these kids know that is was cool to be different… if they could just hang on. I knew that this was a message that needed to be heard, and that the song could be a vessel though which real awareness, and therefore change, could occur. I have always believed in the power of music to move people. So I am trying to use what I do to be a part of the solution. I decided to make a video for the song to further the creative vision, something I had never done before and had no idea how to go about doing. Long story short, as with anything important that one is passionate about, I figured it out. Through a series of chance meetings and lucky breaks, combined with a lot of sheer faith and hard work, it happened. I managed to find all the right people who believed in the project so much that they worked at a discount or in some cases for free, just so we could make it happen. And I am so proud of it. Now my job is to continue to try and spread the word of love and acceptance to all as best I can, and that was how I was lead to you. I found a list of the best and most relevant LGBT bloggers and there you were! So I would like to submit the video to you. My greatest hope is that you will love it enough to share it, but even if you only watch it once and move on, every little bit helps. Peace, Love and FREAK!
Thank you Holly.
Your caring and all your hard work is amazing, heart touching and totally appreciated!