From Star Trek to Moonlight

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First—before you read a white person’s opinion of art about and created by black people, you should listen to a black person’s thoughts. Try this interview with young artist and co-star of Moonlight Ashton Sanders, or this review from my hometown’s newspaper, or this group discussion at The Fader.

Cool? Okay. Now for my bit.

When I first read The Lord of the Rings in junior high, a strange detail stood out to me. Over and over, the word “fair” was used to describe characters when they were introduced (along with many other adjectives, of course, because you don’t write the world’s first epic fantasy trilogy by being terse). At the time, I figured it simply meant “attractive,” since all the characters thus described were princes and Elves and other heroic, eye-pleasing types.

It took an episode of Star Trek to educate me, as it so often does. In “The Naked Now,” Lieutenant Sulu, intoxicated by a virus, swashbuckles his way onto the bridge and takes Lieutenant Uhura in his arms. “I’ll save you, fair maiden!” he cries.

To which Uhura deadpans, “Sorry, neither.”

Legend has it that actress Nichelle Nichols ad-libbed that line. Because indeed, the word “fair” has become so synonymous with “beautiful,” that even the relatively progressive writers of Star Trek missed the faux pas of using it to describe a black woman. Uhura is very beautiful—but she is not “fair.”

In Best Picture winner Moonlight (excuse me while I celebrate being able to write that phrase), young Chiron’s mentor recounts being told that, “In moonlight, black boys look blue.” As a teenager, Chiron experiences a significant encounter with another black boy on the beach at night, and the phrase comes to life. It’s something that white people might not know about black skin, a bit of visual poetry that paints its human beauty with a different color than film, or indeed any of our popular culture’s imagery, usually gives us.

Continue reading

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Presently Imperfect

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There are two kinds of perfectionists in the human race—the ones who never finish anything because it’s still not right, and the ones who never start anything because if it can’t be right from the beginning, why bother?

I’m the second one. That white page in front of me looks so clean and pretty before I start writing, like my front yard after a snow fall (I live in LA now, after growing up in Missouri, so excuse me while I remember what snow was like). Once I set foot out there, my prints leave tracks that can’t be taken back.

So I’m prone to sitting at the window and staring at the winter, imagining what the snow could become, without ever taking it into my hands to shape it.

Unfortunately, a lot can happen to the world while you’re watching it, paths carved that should never have been made. And then you wonder what might have happened if you had gotten out there first.

Not that I’ve been completely sitting on my duff. I moved myself out to LA, after all, and I’ve come out publicly. I’ve gotten a few friendly, encouraging notes since then, and I knew I was supposed to keep writing about it, but I didn’t know quite how to approach it. Blogs and books for LGBT Christians abound these days, thank God, and I’ve no desire to waste anyone’s time by being redundant.

But I also don’t want to risk not being there when someone needed to hear from me, maybe some other kid wondering if there was anyone else like him, or anyone else willing to speak up for him. Lots of people failed to speak up this past year, and I won’t be one of them.

And if I’m being honest, there aren’t any gay Christian blogs out there that quite nail the kinds of things I want to talk about, because all of our experiences and perspectives are a little different (insert a snowflake joke here, because I can’t get enough of that snow metaphor).

I’ll try out several shapes for this blog to see what works. We’ll cover some movies for sure, since that’s my thing, and some books and other art having to do with the LGBT experience (or at least, my LGBT experience). I have lots of friends I’d like my readers to meet and listen to, so expect some interviews. If you can stomach it, maybe some theological discussion. I really love me some history, too, which helps give context to the movement we’re in. And social justice. Just, so much social justice, you guys.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in hearing from a gay Christian who grew up in the Midwest, got saved at an early age, and came out at a late one, then mine’s the story for you.

My blog’s title refers nostalgically back to an old classic of Christian literature, but it also implies constant forward movement by people who aren’t quite familiar with where they’re going. That movement take detours just by its nature. Progress requires imperfection. Let’s get messy.

Children, Fruit, and What This Thing Is I’m Wearing

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This is a wristband I wear. They’re all the rage these days. I see people walk around with half-a-dozen of them on their arms sometimes, and I wonder what all their stories are.

This is mine.

In March of 2014, I was only just beginning to officially call myself a gay Christian. Coming out doesn’t happen all at once, mostly because you can’t come out to the everyone in the world at the same time, Facebook aside. I was slowly testing the waters to see how people responded, and if the phrase really described me, my life, and my walk with God.

Several big stories had hit the LGBT world already in just the few months leading up to this day. Exodus International, the leading ex-gay ministry, had shut down with an apology from its founder that they had done more harm than good. Fred Phelps, head of the Westboro Baptist Church, had died. Christian churches in the US had helped support the passing of legislation in Uganda making homosexuality punishable by death.

And on March 24, 2014, WorldVision charities released a statement declaring that professing Christians in same-sex marriages that were blessed by their respective churches would be allowed to work at their organization.

On March 26, 2014, WorldVision charities released a statement reversing their decision. Continue reading

What Is a “Gay Christian”?

GayChristianDiagram04

What is a gay Christian? Good question. I’m glad you asked.

I’m a gay Christian.

There, done.

That needs more explaining, you say? Yeah, you’re right. Let me go into high school grammar-nerd mode and see if I can dissect this for us (if you’re one of the few humans on the planet who was excited to see the sentence diagram in the title image of this post, you’ve come to a good place, my friend).

“Christian” is a noun. Nouns are the foundation of our sentences in the English language. They are the people, places, and things that perform actions and exist in the world.

rocknoun
You could watch a helpful video on the subject if Disney hadn’t blocked it on the grounds that they own the copyright to the English language.

The noun “Christian” may have a lot of subtle meanings to it, depending on who you are and what experiences you’ve had with Christians. Some people these days prefer to call themselves “Christ-follower,” or “born-again,” or to identify with a denomination like Orthodox or Catholic. Some make sure to place the word “conservative” or “progressive” in front of that noun.

Fair enough.

I’d like to believe that the one thing all of these flavors have in common is that their lives and perspectives have been transformed by the life, death, resurrection, and work of one man named Jesus who entered human history about 2000 years ago.

Does that work for us? Ok.

 “Gay” is an adjective, at least in this case. That means it describes the noun and expands upon its meaning. Same as “conservative” or “progressive.” And like “Christian,” it seems to mean different things to different people.

For me, its meaning is pretty simple. It means I’m a man who’s attracted to other men—physically, romantically. Not much more to it, at least as a word.

As an experience, being “gay” has as much subtlety, variety, and history as does being “Christian.” Putting the two words together to describe myself works as a quick introduction, but then leaves a lot more questions hanging.

And one of those questions is certainly, “How dare you?”

All I can say to that is, “Because I am.” I am a man who follows Jesus and who is attracted to men. The term “gay Christian” in this case isn’t so much a political or theological statement as it is a statement of fact. It doesn’t necessarily tell you what I do with the fact that I am gay and a Christian, but it starts us off on the accurate foot—if you meet me, you will meet a man who follows Jesus and is attracted to men. You can call me whatever else you what, but “gay Christian” sums it up pretty well, whatever your beliefs and values happen to be about either of those two words.

Yes, you can leave the “gay” off if you want. The thing with nouns is that they stand on their own. If you want to address me simply as a Christian, then, sure, that works. The thing with adjectives, though, is that even though they aren’t strictly necessary to understand the noun, without them, the noun loses its distinction.

A brick wall is a different thing than a wooden wall. A chicken burrito tastes differently than a beef burrito (though both are delicious). A tall man is a different person than the short man standing beside him. Take away the adjectives, and it’s not clear who you’re talking about. If you want to talk about my particular experiences as a Christian, you have to include the word “gay.”

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A red shirt has a very different life experience than a gold shirt.

You could also talk about my experiences as a Christian writer, or as a white person, or a comedian, or a barista, or as a sci-fi nerd who would much rather be living on Deep Space Nine than anywhere else at the moment. Mix and match the nouns and adjectives to get a different story. It’s the same with your life, I imagine.

This blog is about me being a gay Christian, so that’s what we’re going to stick with for now. It’s also, in time, going to be about other people who are gay Christians, or lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. Call us LGBT. Call us queer. Call us sexual minorities. What have you.

We’ll all have different answers to the question in the title of this blog, as well as other questions brought up by the mere fact of our existence. Some of us disagree on how an LGBT Christian should live in the world. Some of us disagree about whether or not we should use the word “queer.” We are not a homogenous group, but discussion with disagreement is better than silence.

That may sound awfully confusing, just a muddying of the waters after I went through so much trouble to provide a nice, dry, technical description of the term. Life works that way, I guess. We step out the door ready to follow a simple path and discover the journey’s a lot more complicated than we wanted.

So if you get lost in the vocabulary, all the new words and acronyms, just go back to the beginning:

What is a “gay Christian”? I am.

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Of course I used an image from The Wizard of Oz. What is this, a not-gay blog?