I accept your thoughts and prayers

prayer-13-04-3We’ve seen the posts and heard the words. “Thoughts and prayers for Orlando.” The same sentiments were shared after the tragic events in Sandy Hook, Aurora, Wisconsin, Oregon and elsewhere. While the words are meant to comfort, too often they anger the people who need the comfort the most.

Why do they create so much division? I have often wondered; I always considered prayer a gesture of empathy. If somebody says they are praying for me, it’s proof that they care. Others, however, don’t see it that way. Prayer, to them, is just and empty gesture that won’t do anything to solve the problem. It comes across as a hollow gesture when many feel that religion has played a role in creating the problem. I get that, and I don’t want to downplay those feelings; being let down too often can lead to those real, raw emotions of abandonment.

Prayer for me, however, has always been more than just words. I was taught to pray for understanding. When I see a person offering prayers for the people of Orlando, I believe they will be searching for understanding. They want answers of how something so horrible could happen and what more they can do to help. Those are tough questions to answer without some sort of prayer or meditation.

When I was taught to pray, I was told to pray for guidance–to discover what I should do next. It was up to me, however, to search for ideas and meditate on which of the proposed solutions would be best.

Whatever the answer, prayer requires me to follow up with action.

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So, when people offer prayers after tragedies like Orlando, I have hope. I have hope that people who don’t understand the pain and anxiety this has created in the LGBTQ community seek to for empathy. I hope that they pray to find out what they can do to help the victims of this horrible crime. I hope they search for what they can do to avoid more tragedies.

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Their prayers give me hope that there will be at least one more ally joining our fight for acceptance and equality.

When others get angry because of your offers of prayer, don’t despair, just pray to understand their hearts. Yes, prayer does have a way of softening hearts, but it usually changes the person who prays first. As we pray, we will learn how to better reach out to those who are in pain, and that is what we all need.

 

 

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Too Late

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I had some strong impressions last week to do some writing for this blog. Over the past year, I had witnessed an increasing number of rants against LGBT people posted in my social media feeds. Whether I saw hateful memes or links to other angry blog posts about public restrooms, boycotting businesses or how confused and sick we are, I remained quiet. I fooled myself into believing that those authors of hate would stop if I choose not to join in the argument.

My urge to write again began last week when I saw several people repost a rant about our local Pride Festival. The author of the rant was upset about the rainbow flag flying higher than the U.S. flag at city hall. Although he was correct that this should not have happened, his rant was really a chance for him to go off on how we as LGBT people are ruining the nation. Every friend who passed on that verbal tirade silently confirmed that they do not consider me an equal.

I wanted to write something to respond, but I couldn’t find the right words. I wanted to let them know that every time they pass on an angry rant against any group of people, they are in an indirect way giving support to the lunatics who intentionally hurt those same people. When we say that we agree with somebody’s hateful ideas by posting them in our social media feeds, shouldn’t we think that we are also giving permission to somebody who sees those messages permission to physically harm others?

We suffered a national tragedy yesterday. My heart aches for the lives that have been lost and the many families who now mourn. I am not sure I can do much about this growing problem, but I know that I can influence my little part of the world. From now on, I will speak up whenever I see hateful messaged passed amongst my friends. I will stand up to the hate when I can. My silence didn’t help.

We Don’t Need Another Martyr

This summer has been crazy, and it has left me with so many thoughts swirling through my mind. There are so many of them that I honestly don’t know where to begin. As I have been pondering what to say to begin this blog post, one common question has come to mind: “when did we become such an angry nation?”

As this summer brought more freedoms to more people, I also noticed the increase in popularity of what I will call Angry Christian Bloggers. From political wanna-bes like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin to talk show hosts Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh down to Matt Walsh and Joshua Feuerstein, I have seen an explosion of anger across social media sites. It frightens me that the angriest people claim to be Christians.

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Instead of explaining in my own words, I am going to go to the scriptures to support my argument that American Christianity is heading down a dangerous path. After all, the scriptures explain things more clearly and plainly than I ever could.

15. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” – Matthew 7: 15-20.

I see many follow these bloggers and personalities in a cult-like manner. They, to me, have become the false prophets of which we have been warned about since the time of Jesus Christ. Now, I am not saying that any one of the people I mentioned above actually claim to be prophets, but all use their Christian beliefs as a means to build up a following in social media outlets. Unfortunately, their message seems to be one of fear, anger and hate, and it scares me how many followers they have.

22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23. Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” – Galatians 5: 22-26.

If the Spirit speaks to use through all of the peaceful means listed in the scripture from Galatians, what does it mean when these Christian bloggers cause their faithful followers to be fearful and angry? I don’t think that’s Christ’s way.

Not a Hero Nor a Martyr

Now, to the Kim Davis controversy. I think Stephen King stated it best when he tweeted “Kim Davis has gotten exactly what she wanted: martyrdom.

Some believe that the only way you can be a true Christian is if you are persecuted for standing up for your faith, so they find twisted ways to become martyrs in their own minds. Too often this perceived persecution comes to people who treat others in ways contrary to Christ’s teachings. These people aren’t really martyrs; they are simply sowing what they reap.

Let’s make Tuesday a Day of Love

Mike Huckabee and Joshua Feuerstein are gathering the angry mobs to protest Kim Davis’s consequences for refusing to abide by a court order. They are using angry rhetoric and scaring good people into believing that their religious freedoms are being eroded.

I propose we create a counter movement and designate the same day as a Day of Love. Choose a happy color to wear: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo or violet. Share messages of love on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media feeds that day. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or do something to lift others less privileged than yourself. Let’s show the world who really has the spirit of love within their souls.

I’m Not a Service Project

You invited me
To sit with you on Sunday.
That’s nice.
But why would I want to sit
In a place where most don’t even care if I am there?
Neighbors fill the pews on Sunday
To learn about love and kindness
And then leave the building
Only to ignore me throughout the week
They avert their eyes when I wave during my morning jog
Or look straight ahead as they pass in their cars.

I’m the stranger in a familiar land
The prodigal who has yet to return
A gentile raised as a saint
Shunned for my selfish sins.

It’s hard living on a street where nobody knows your name
They only know me as the gay guy.

I will sit with you
If only I could be fully included.

But I would rather have my neighbors smile when I say hello
Thank me when I shovel snow from their sidewalks
Inquire about my life
And sit with me in the shade of my front porch.

I will sit with you when it isn’t written on your agenda
Part of a special event
Or an assignment from your priesthood leader;
I would rather be loved
Than be your service project.

The adult bully

Iworkplace-bullying-autism don’t know what has changed recently, but I have had another uncomfortable incident this past week. Another adult confronted me in a hostile manner, but this time I know it was because of my sexual orientation.

I was waiting outside a county rec center after swimming with my local team. A man approached me and asked where the nearest bar was. I told him the closest ones I knew of were downtown–approximately 20 blocks away. He then asked how to get there, and I suggested he take a bus. He left.

His demeanor was a little bit strange, but I felt safe because there was a large crowd finishing a company dinner in a park pavilion near the pool. The sun was setting, and people were busy cleaning and packing their picnic supplies and families into their cars. The man wouldn’t try anything stupid with so many people around.

Soon other friends were gathering in the parking lot. We talked about meeting somewhere for dinner and decided to go to a new restaurant just down the street. The picnic crowd was gone, and just a few swimmers from my team remained. I was talking with a friend, Mike, and we were planning to walk to the restaurant when the intoxicated man approached us again.

“Is this the library?” he asked.

“No, it’s a pool,” Mike answered.

The man started walking to the building’s front doors, which were now locked. I thought he must be looking for a public restroom.

“The building’s locked,” I told him, and I pointed east past the building. “The closest library is that way.”

“I don’t want the library.”

“What are you looking for?” Mike asked.

“Is this where the fags meet?” he then asked.

“What do you mean?”

“The fags. Is this where the fags meet?”

“Why?” Mike asked. “Do you want to meet some fags.”

I laughed, but tried not to let the drunk man see it.

The man was looking in the rec center’s front door, and he then turned and started walking towards us. I experienced a brief flashback to my mid-August altercation; this couldn’t be happening again.

“Let’s get in my car,” Mike whispered. “We can drive to the restaurant.”

“I don’t want to meet fags,” the man yelled. “You guys disgust me.”

Thankfully, my friend’s car was close, and we avoided any more problems. We didn’t say anything else about the situation on our short ride to the restaurant, and we didn’t tell anyone else about it during dinner.

Now I wonder if we should have done more. Should we have stood up for ourselves, or would we have put ourselves in danger for speaking up? Was it our responsibility to let others know what happened so that they can be more cautious at the pool? I am ashamed I didn’t do anything.

What bothers me the most is that I still haven’t told anyone outside of this blog and the police officers about what happened to me during my Saturday morning jog last month. Mike doesn’t know, and I don’t know if he saw how much this brief incident frightened me; he left the restaurant early, and I remained there as other people finished their meals.

I wound up walking back to the rec center alone. I am not going to lie–I was terrified of running into that man again and getting beaten up in an empty parking lot. My car was one of three when I returned, and it was in a darker section away from the light posts. I made it into my care safely, and my heartbeat decreased as I got onto the freeway to my home. I couldn’t get the thought of what could have happened out of my mind, however.

We read so much in the news now about childhood and teenage bullies, but we don’t do much about the adult bullies in our lives. The problem is that much of what an adult bully does is protected under our constitutional free-speech rights. I believe in protecting those rights, but too often such hateful speech eventually leads to crimes. How can we allow for complete freedom of speech and cut down on hate crimes in our communities? If anyone has the answers, I would like to know.

Do I look gay?

 

Yesterday I posted about being assaulted in the park recently. I’m still not sure why it happened. The police officer who took my report suggested that it could be that I was wearing blue shorts. There has been some gang activity across the valley recently, and gang members have been challenged to randomly attack someone wearing the rival gang’s colors. That’s just a theory, but I don’t think that’s the reason.

I believe that something fishy was going on with the people in the parked car. I’ve seen them parked in the same spot early in the mornings more than once. Perhaps they are living in the car, and they don’t want police officers telling them to move the car somewhere else. It could also be that they are meeting people to sell drugs or stolen items. Those are just theories, however.

I didn’t even consider the incident to be a hate crime, but I have received a few emails asking me what I was wearing while running. While not coming out and saying it, I think they were asking me if I looked gay. Could I have been attacked because I look gay? I hope not. I would rather it have been just a random incident that had nothing to do with my sexuality.

Looking back at my running attire for the day, I have to admit that I was wearing a white v-neck t-shirt. I wear them as undershirts most of the time. They are less constricting than crew-neck shirts, and they are great to go under a button-down shirt at work. Unfortunately, they have become stereotypically the style of shirt a gay man would wear.

A quick search on the internet brought some interesting results. I expected to find a lot of posts, but a lot of websites identified men who wear that style shirt as hipsters or another name I choose not to use in my blog. The first entry on my search brought up a Bodybuilding.com forum post where somebody asked “are v necks gay?” I was surprised by the responses. According to another website, an entire nation has declared that any young man wearing a V-neck t-shirt must be gay.

The funniest trend I found, however, is that most people more readily identified the men who wore the deeper v-neck t-shirts as more likely to be gay. My gay friends, however, shy away from the deep V-necks and tend to go for the styles commonly sold at Target or H&M.

 

So, whether I was assaulted because I looked gay or because I was wearing some rival gang’s colors doesn’t really matter as a bigger problem we face in our communities. We are too quick to divide people based on the way we dress or act. It’s long past due for us to honor and celebrate the diversity that we bring to our communities.  I wish I knew what to do to get people get along, and I won’t stop searching for answers.

Chapter 11 – I walk alone

I wasn’t the most popular kid in school. In fact, I knew early on that I would be the type of child that most had to tolerate instead of choosing to include me in their activities. I wasn’t the last one picked for teams, but I was usually near the end of the selections. The way we divided teams during sports activities always caused anxiety; I hated the rejection. By the time sixth grade arrived, however, I had gotten used to the process. I quietly accepted the rejection.

It was also in sixth grade when one of my classmates, Nick, had decided to increase my misery levels during school hours. I didn’t realize it then, but my reactions to his teasing during recess were exactly what he wanted. He knew I hid in the bathroom and cried after our recent recess incident, and he liked it. I was to become the targeted victim in a plan to increase his popularity at school.

It started subtly. Nick made sure I could hear him whispering to other boys in class. Here’s how it usually went:

“Hey, did you know that Colin is gay?” he would say.

“What?”

“Colin, he’s a homosexual.”

“What’s that?”

“It means he likes boys.”

“Huh?”

“He doesn’t like girls; he likes boys!”

“Oh… you mean he’s a faggot?”

At that point there would be some snickering, and then I would get hit by a ball of crumpled paper. Of course, this was all done while Mrs. Frandsen wasn’t watching.

Nick never mentioned my secret—so secret that I still didn’t know it was true—to any of the girls in class. His gossip-mongering, however, lasted an entire week until all 17 boys in my class were informed of my deviant sexual preferences. As far as I knew, none of them bothered to stand up for me, but the worst part was I let it all happen. Some part of my upbringing—I’m not blaming anyone, mind you—something had told me that if I ignored the bullies, it would all stop.

Boy, was I wrong! Finally, the day that Nick had been hoping for arrived. Mrs. Frandsen was called out of the classroom, so we were all there without adult supervision. Nick had just what he wanted—a captive audience of 35 kids and the opportunity to say whatever he wanted. He motioned for his friend Brock to stand at the door and watch for Mrs. Frandsen, walked to the chalkboard, and began pacing the width of the room.

“Attention class, I have a very important matter to discuss with you today,” he said in his best attempt to sound like an adult.

Most of the boys laughed, and so did some of the girls.

“Settle down, kids. This is serious.”

“Sit down, Nick,” Kathy said.

“This concerns you, Kathy, so you better listen carefully.”

“Shut up, and sit down, Nick,” Kathy insisted. She stood up.

“Oh you’d want me to do that because you don’t want everybody to hear what I have to say. We all know you have a big crush on Colin, don’t we?”

Boys and girls laughed and whispered to each other. Kathy looked around for some support, but there wasn’t any. She looked at me with her sad, brown eyes and sunk back into her chair.

“Well,” Nick continued, “there’s a problem with you having a crush on Colin. He’ll never love you back And you know why, don’t you?”

I felt the blood rushing to my face, looked back at Kathy, and watched her sink lower into her seat. Some of the girls were whispering questions, and the boys were laughing.

“You know Colin’s secret, don’t you, Kathy. Well, it’s time everybody knew. You see, class, Colin will never love any girls because he’s a ho-mo-sex-u-al.”

He really let that last word last for an uncomfortably long time. The boys started laughing more, and girls started whispering amongst each other. “Is that true?” “Poor Kathy.” “That’s gross.”

“Let me tell you about homosexuals,” Nick continued. He was getting confident in his public speaking abilities. “Homo means the same, and sexual, well–”

“Cool it, Nick,” Brock said from the classroom door. “Mrs. Frandsen is coming back.”

The two boys returned to their desks and everybody did their best to look like they were busy working on their school work. I could feel people staring at me, and even though they tried hard to stifle them, an occasional boy or girl would let a giggle escape from deep within their gut. I didn’t dare turn and look and see if Kathy was suffering a similar level of discomfort.

Nobody spoke to me for the rest of the day, and they all made sure there was plenty of empty space around me at the lunch table. There’s usually a lot of movement in my class, but the students made sure to go out of their way to avoid my desk. Finally, when 3:15 arrived, all students rushed out the door. I pretended to search for something in my desk while everyone left. Is was easier than seeing their disapproving looks and mean laughter.

Kathy would probably be waiting for me in the hall. I looked at the hook where she usually hung her jacket in the hall, but she wasn’t there. I waited for ten minutes outside the girls’ restroom, but she never came out. For the first time since kindergarten, I walked home alone. I walked alone the rest of the school year.