Sunday, July 31, 2005

Just As I Am

The past couple of weeks have been ones of travel and visiting with friends. I've thought many times of blogging some of the things that have come up but just lacked the Internet access. It's really something I've missed doing. I think this journal has been really helpful to me and thanks to everyone who has taken the time to bother to read me. I'm really humbled by that. Also thanks for the comments and compliments!

Today I went with my parents to St. Clair Baptist Church here in Toronto. It was pretty cool. The majority of the congregation were Jamacian and the pastor was from Nigeria. On the downside the service lasted two hours and there was alot of shouting. I might go there again but would like to check out some of the gay-friendly churches in the area plus the goregous Catholic church down the street!

I was mediating during the service on the phrase "I AM." Of course God comes to my mind first of all. I AM. In Exodus 3:14, God identified himself as "I AM," when talking to Moses from the burning bush. Also Jesus made many a "I Am" statements in the New Testament, for example, "I Am the good Shepherd" (John 10:11, 14), or "Before Abraham was I Am" (John 8:58).

Then I thought about that famous quote from René Descartes: "I think, therefore I am." My existence, my very being comes from my ability to think.

As a man, I often identify myself by what I do professionally as a career. In this case "I am an elementary school teacher." I've noticed women are more likely to identify themselves by relationships. For example "I am the mother of Billy." or "I am Bob's wife."

Finally being a Baptist, I think of the tried and true, call-to-altar hymn, "Just As I Am" that Billy Graham uses alot in his Crusades. This is a beautiful idea. It's like those "Come as You Are" parties where people are just called up spontaneously and come in the clothes (or lack thereof!) they had on. You don't brush your hair or put in your contacts when you approach God. You don't have to iron your good pair of khakis or worry that you have no clean collared shirts. If you have a pimple growing on your forehead, don't bother with trying to comb your hair over it. You don't have to be anyone but just who you ARE.

To me the lyrics of this song mean that I don't have to be anything more or less than the creation that God intended me to be. When I think of all the energy and effort I still make to make my parents and others proud of me or respect me, a wave of exhaustion just rushes over me. With God and me, it's like a really great friend I can just call up and not have to censor what I say or think two steps ahead to divert the direction the discussion will go.

Simply put, God loves me, JUST AS I AM.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

No More Drama in My Life

I just finished the book "How I Learned to Snap" by Kirk Read. Much of the short stories seemed to read like something you would hear on National Public Radio. A couple had really good endings and I must admit, I misted a bit. Just a tad.

One thing that struck me was how important his school's drama program was for him. He was drinking heavily and smoking pot and not really involved in school. Often a theatre group is where gays and lesbians find acceptance and belonging. I suppose one reason is because we have already had experience acting in everyday life. I remember one Christmas form letter my mom sent out that said "This is the first time Daniel has been involved in drama outside of the home." I got such a kick out of that!

Today I was looking at high school yearbooks and reading old notes. At that time, I was painfully insecure and theatre, forensics and debate were all ways which helped me build my self-confidence. I wasn't athletic but thank goodness for the music and theatre departments! I would love to find my theatre teacher from my hometown and tell her THANK YOU for giving me a chance in that first play "Adaptation." She was so great and had to put up with alot from us. I also had an AWESOME high school debate coach who helped me learn to formulate my ideas on my feet. I am deeply thankful to still have her in my life as a friend. I also wish I could thank my drama professor in university (also gay unbeknownst to me) who stopped me outside and encouraged me to audition for a small part in the musical "Big River." Even a couple of years ago, a co-worker talked me into doing two British pantomimes for charity benefiting the North Korean tuberulosis victims. Prancing up and down the stage in full drag was sort of my joke on this Christian school as a whole, where I wasn't allowed to be out.

Each of the above people saw something worthwhile in me that I didn't see in myself. Each of them maybe even saw that I was doing a desperate act of my own making, just trying to get through the day without being harrassed or noticed. Each of them gave me confidence to value myself and know that all productions, be they on stage or in life, have a shelf-life and then one moves on to a new role. To each of them, I owe a debt for keeping me sane, busy and out of trouble!

It's my hope that now I've moved to Toronto that I won't need drama in my life anymore. I can be in a relationship, work at a job and even be a father if I want. I can just be me. And that feels really good!

A Kind Cruelty?

A good friend of mine once had a quote as her signature line that I found extremely clever as well as profound:
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

Many times this week, it seems that I've pondered issues of self revelation. One situation has to do with a friend's family member who is terminal. The second situation had to do with another friend's help in finding an apartment. In both situations certain subjects were avoided out of regard for the feelings of another.

There seem to be two schools of thought here. One extreme would be the traditional WASP family where real feelings and emotions are never brought to the forefront but always just under the surface. On the other end of the spectrum would be the stereotypical "let everything hang out" family where everything is held up to the light, examined and painfully disected. Should you put your feelings out on the table as soon as possible? Or is it sometimes for the best to let some things go unsaid? And if you choose to let things slide for the sake of peace and harmony, at what point do you "stop being nice and start being real?" (to trivally quote from "The Real World")

For the longest time I didn't discuss my struggle with homosexuality with my parents because I didn't want to hurt them. However, over time, I realized that by not having that conversation, I was hurting them in another way altogether. Yes, coming out was unpleasant and it will be a day I'll remember for probably the rest of my life. It is my hope on that day, my parents saw me for the person I really am, not the person they wanted me to be.

Another day where self revelation was ultimately a good thing was when my dad and I took at trip to Oklahoma together, just the two of us. On the way down, my dad brought up some painful things that I had always wanted to discuss but never had because I didn't want to hurt his feelings. After the dust had settled, we emerged seeing each other with more respect and love. Our relationship grew.

There is always the possibility of our lives being cut short and we will miss have that conversation that we never could bring ourselves to have. That seems really tragic to me. So I guess question is this: are we avoiding being cruel to be kind or could our kindness unintentionally be cruel?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Oh Canada!

Today is my first Canada Day in Canada! Compared to the independence day of it's southern neighbour (new spelling, eh?), Canada Day is a much more muted affair. Of course it stands to reason when you think about how it took Americans a whole war to do what the Canadians did by signing a few papers. One has to wonder if violence as a problem-solving strategy hasn't been entrenched in the American psyche since the very beginning of its existence.

This difference was apparent even in a casual conversation I had today with a local. We were discussing the prison release of Karla Homalka, who helped her husband rape and murder several young women. She is asking the Canadian government to make her release date private. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that she was fearing a vigilante execution as soon as she stepped out of prison (ie Jack Ruby vrs. Lee Harvey Oswald). However, my Canadian companion denied that this is a foregone conclusion here. Apparently despite hard-feelings, no Canadian feels their lives are worth giving up just to off a criminal like Homalka. In the States, there would be no shortage of volunteers.

On a completely unrelated note, I'd like to thank those in the Canadian House of Commons for putting their political careers at risk to approve a bill extending marriage to same-sex couples. When this bill passes the Senate, Canada will join Belgium, Netherlands and Spain in giving full benefits and privileges to all, regardless of who they love (And no, I don't believe this opens the door to polygamy or legalized pedophilla and bestiality. People who throw this argument on the table are just grasping for straws.).

I find it humbling that people care about something that only affects a small minority. Issues like education and health care have much more wide reaching benefits. However when Prime Minister Paul Martin made the following comment, it struck me: the rights of a minority should be the concern of everyone.
"The Charter was enshrined to ensure that the rights of minorities are not subjected, are never subjected, to the will of the majority. The rights of Canadians who belong to a minority group must always be protected by virtue of their status as citizens, regardless of their numbers. These rights must never be left vulnerable to the impulses of the majority."

So on this day of celebration I would like to say thank you Paul Martin. Thank you Parliment members. Thank you Canada!