Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A bit slow this week...

My next post is going to be a very difficult one for me to write, and its taking me some time to get through.  I've informed those necessary of the general contents, and now I need to listen to a relevant story one more time with a friend before I truly put pen to paper.  There will be an appropriate trigger warning on the post, and I suggest if you are the sensitive sort to wait until the post after to get back to reading.  In the meanwhile, please enjoy this magnificent episode of This American Life, take some time to catch up on anything you've missed, and turn your attention to new articles on my blogroll.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 31, 2011

New Post from Invisible Girl

As I've mentioned previously, a friend of mine has recently started a blog.  Her latest post is about growing up and moving out.  While not directly on topic, she touches on issues relevant to the fears and concerns ever-present in the coming out process, namely the distress inherent in the uncertainties of changing relationships and the simultaneous bliss and terror of increased independence, whether forced or (in her case) chosen.  This goes for any coming out experience, whether as gay, atheist, or for her, an adult.  Do give her a read and leave a nice comment.  :-)

What Doesn't Kill Me Doesn't Kill Me: Growing Up

P.S.: Thanks for helping me surpass last month's pageviews!  Its exciting as a new blogger to get so many hits on my site.  Hope to see more of you next month, and let me know if you have suggestions for future posts.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hide Yo Kids, Hide Yo Wife, Hide Yo Self...?

I know Antoine Dodson is so last year, but being a queer blogger introspecting on self and presented identity, he absolutely fascinates me.  Last month, Womanist Musings, a feminist blog (which I discovered thanks to a friend and new blogger, Invisible Girl - please give her some love!) devoted to ideas relating to privilege, gender, race, ableness, and sexuality, among other topics, had a post from the site administrator entitled Antoine Dodson Goes Straight to Buffoon.  While I find myself frequently agreeing with her posts (it is clear she and I disagree on plenty, but I tend to agree at least on her main points), I felt this one was entirely wrong thinking.  Speaking on a rather unfortunate and obnoxious new video (below) he'd released for Christmas, she commented:
"I am not saying that Dodson has to be a good representation of Blackness or queerness, but I am suggesting that performing on cue like this for the amusement of others (people are laughing at him not with him), is affirming the right of others to view Black, queer bodies as inferior."
In response, I commented (uncensored as per my preference on my own blog):
"Back when I was in high school, I was the band, choir, and theater fag. I loved performing and the escape it provided me from the hell of my everyday life, but it took a long time for me to finally embrace the things that I was made fun of for as part of me. When I performed Monty Python (dressed as a stereotypically gay artist) and Chicago at my senior talent show, I got more laughs and applause than anyone else (I even made a few girls in the audience cry). Could someone say I was pandering to the public, performing on cue, and reaffirming gay stereotypes? Certainly! But I was also finally embracing myself as the unique individual I am and to hell with what anyone in the audience thought and whether they were laughing at my jokes or at me. I say, if he's happy with what he's doing and its meeting his needs, let a queen have some fun! "
It is hard enough for a queer person to figure out how to express oneself in an honest way with the straight of the world breathing down our necks and telling us how we should behave and dress and walk and talk and act.  Add to that the pressures of the gay community to "pass," and the aversion of the more "straight-acting" to all things effeminate.  Further, we have constant media coverage showing "fags" at the beckoned call of their "hags," helping them find the right dress to wear and giving them sassy gay advice for snatching the next sexy boy and expecting nothing but whining and masked homophobic remarks in return.  Queer Eye tells us that gays are here to make you fabulous, Gay, Straight, or Taken? proves that if there is a good incentive, gays can act convincingly straight (and maybe should all the time), and Sex in the City makes it clear that all a gay man wants is to help his hag find a man and to be adorable while doing it.  We don't need so-called allies telling us when, where, and how we can or should express ourselves.  All the more so, we don't need it from each other.  So next time you want to make a fuss about someone who is "performing on cue" or acting "too gay," take a moment to think about your own OGTs (obviously gay traits), how you express yourself and your identity, and how you would feel if someone attacked you for it all.  No one should have to hide themselves because some stranger thinks they are "affirming the right of others to view [their various identities] as inferior."

(If you liked the last video, find more here.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Last night's post was quite political, and since I tend to aim more toward the personal side of things, I wanted to share the following, influenced by Alanis Morissette (link to the video below).  Her music has been an inspiration for me for many years.  All the names are fictitious, but the sentiments are real.

Dear Jen,
You have to admit that we were cute together.  You and I had a lot of fun, but we were way too young to really appreciate each other.  Our relationship was new and exciting, but when neither of us really had any interest in anything beyond a hug, it was never going to go any further than it did.

Dear Natalie,
I did really like you and I have to admit you are very pretty.  My first kiss was with you and I thank you for bringing me out of my shell.  But you wanted me to be your escape from an abusive grandmother and parents who abandoned you.  I wasn’t willing to have sex, and the lies you told to make it happen doomed our relationship.

Dear Mary,
You were the first person I ever really let my guard down with.  When I came out to you, you were supportive and loving, more than I ever could have expected.  When you came out to me years later, I was relieved, but it appears you indeed were just going through a stage.  I’m sorry for hurting you, and I will always wonder how you’re doing.

Dear Don,
I found true friendship with you, something I hadn’t had in years.  I really loved you.  I only wish I hadn’t been so scared.  I will always cherish our short time as a couple and the experiences we shared before and after.  I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach when we held hands in the parking lot as we agreed that we shouldn't be together until I was ready.  I hope you will realize that you are a beautiful man and didn’t need to lose all that weight, the color in your hair, or the goatee.  You were my first love and I will never forget you.

Dear Brad,
You were so cute back then.  You were such a resource for me when I was trying to come out.  I wrote all those long letters from the heart, along with the bad poetry.  I’m sorry you were hurt when my dad made me break up with you, but I’m glad it ended when it did.  You weren’t a very nice person.  I can’t believe you outed me in retribution.

Dear Jaycie,
You wanted more than I did, but we knew from the start that it wouldn’t last long.  You never meant to leave your parents’ home and I was heading out of town for college.  We had a lot of fun together.  We shared movies and music and good times.  You were a child and it had to end when it did.

Dear Seth,
We just missed each other, and I wish things had been different.  If you had only invited me back to your room in college, it would have been.  We tried to make long distance work, but it was just too hard.  Sometimes I cry over what we could have shared.

Dear Kevin,
You were my best friend and I wish we could have been together.  You are the reason I believe in love at first sight.  As the years went by, it grew harder and harder to hide my feelings for you.  I wanted nothing more than for you to hold me in your arms.  Every time I looked at you, my heart beat faster.  I was willing to look past your faults and lies and all those times you abandoned me without a place to stay or a ride home or a friend.  When you decided your pocketbook and location were more important than my safety and friendship, I couldn’t ignore it anymore.  You left me homeless and alone, unsure where to go.  If you were gay, I think you would have hurt me even deeper, and I am happy it ended when it did.  Goodbye my love.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On Martin Luther King Jr., Loving, and Homonormativity

Call me a sap, a hopeless romantic, homonormative, or just plain stupid, but I really want to get married some day.  I admit, I love romance flicks (good ones preferably) and cried like a baby the first time I saw Love Actually.  Weddings are nigh on unbearable as a single gay man with no prospects.  It is from here that I would like to start.

If you recall my previous post, I mentioned my old Yeshiva friend's wedding.  It was absolutely beautiful, and being a small, homespun affair, I was happily thrust into the midst of making it happen.  Throughout the day, from setup until leaving, I was bombarded by questions and set-up offers from total strangers.  "You're how old?  And not even dating!?  Its time!  I know the perfect girl for you."  While they were certainly well meaning and generally backed off when I said I wasn't really interested (except one very persistent woman who wouldn't take no for an answer), it was really painful to not just be alone at my friend's wedding, but to have to actively hide my orientation while turning down offer after offer, and to know that even if I found someone wonderful that he may not be accepted by my family and that we wouldn't have the right to get married ourselves.

Some 44 years ago, Mildred and Richard Loving won their landmark case (Loving v. Virginia) in the Supreme Court which brought to an end all racially motivated legal restrictions on marriage.  Until then, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 backed by Pace v. Alabama blocked marriage by interracial couples.  The Court recognized this discriminatory law as unjust, calling marriage one of the "basic civil rights of man" and "fundamental to our very existence."  Yet today, this basic right is still denied to many.  Gay couples, lesbian couples, cis/trans couples and others are yet unable to marry in most states.  Mildred Loving is among those who realize the injustice yet standing; hopefully someday soon, our nation will recognize the rights of all to marry whomever they choose.

Yesterday, we celebrated the life and influence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (z"l) and the pervasiveness of his dream that all people be treated as equals.  I am afraid that his dream is yet unrealized.  Integration, at least on the surface, is a struggle of the past, yet even then, not all were recognized as deserving of freedom, security, and comfort.  Still today, Blacks are treated with fear and hatred, Jews suffer antisemitic slurs and attacks, and all minority groups must deal with their lack of privilege.  "We cannot be satisfied" until all are treated as equals, "brothers under the skin," in both word and deed.  There is still much work to do.

When I finally find Mr. Right and fall head over heels in love, I do hope that he and I might be able to share the same rights and privileges as our straight married friends.  I pray that he and I might have the right to marry, to celebrate our love in a public way like anyone else.  I dream of being able to walk arm in arm down the street or share a kiss in the restaurant on our anniversary without fear of violence or persecution.  "To kiss in the sunlight and say to the sky: behold and believe what you see.  Behold how my lover loves me."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Uncertainty Principle: My current struggle

As I was walking to the bus the other day and listening to RadioLab, the concept of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle started circling in my head, and after a few moments, the idea for this post materialized.  I was still poking at it thoughtfully when I got home, not quite sure exactly what to write.  As I often do, I got to reading a few blogs for inspiration and discovered that one of my favorite bloggers had finally posted something after a little hiatus.  To my horror, he had used exactly the same title!  Luckily, my idea was dramatically different and so I don't feel bad sharing, but I do feel it appropriate to link to Gay in Golders Green's The Uncertainty Principle.  Do give a read.

[Disclaimer: Physicists, please don't hate me.  If you are angry, listen to the introduction to This American Life's Family Physics.  I hope this should assuage some hostility.  If not, I will understand if you feel the need to write your own post about how much you hate laymen using scientific principles out of context to explain things they have nothing to do with; I would even love to read it.  If your post is good, maybe we can republish it here.]

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle states that the more precisely one can measure certain properties of subatomic particles, the more uncertain he is of other properties.  In finding a precise momentum, one loses track of location, and in measuring location, loses sight of the momentum (this is a very simple breakdown of the idea; for a more complete explanation, see the article linked above).  As such, it is not possible to gain a full picture of all aspects of these particles.  My life has recently fallen into an uncertainty in various regards much like Heisenberg explains.

This past Shabbos, I attended an Orthodox shul for the second time in months, and the first time entirely for my own sake (the previous time, I was attending my friend's auf ruf).  While there, I felt at home in prayer for the first time in a long while.  Although I didn't feel the same spiritual attachment to the services that I used to enjoy, I certainly felt a strong connection to the community, the structure, and the melodies.  In the moment, I was certain that my place in Judaism lay somewhere within the Orthodox fold, if only as a frequent guest at some shul.  Yet when the Rabbi there asked me how I affiliate, my best answer was "question mark."  Indeed, as I walked home, I found myself very unsure of where my spiritual path is leading me.  Yet in the last few months, either not attending religious services or attending Reform or Conservative services, I never quite felt comfortable with the worship style.  I was entirely certain that I was moving in a leftward direction in all respects towards something along the lines of Humanist or left-wing Reform Judaism.  All the while, I had absolutely no idea where I actually belong synagogue-wise or how I see myself affiliating in the future.  Since Shabbos, I am hovering somewhere in the middle of these ideas, not quite sure where I will end up next.  It appears that the more certain I am of where I belong synagogue-wise, the more uncertain I am of my current direction, and the more certain I am of my direction, the more uncertain is my place of belonging.

Over the last few months, I have been looking deeply into the ideas and writings of various atheists, most notably Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion (thanks to my friend, Baruch Pelta, for recommending the book).  It has been very interesting reading, and strangely inspiring.  All the while, I have felt no personal connection with the idea of atheism; my faith in some higher power has been rather strong.  Still, as mentioned above, I couldn't quite see where I fit in Judaism.  Nothing quite felt right in services or felt intellectually honest to me.  When I attended the services this Shabbos, it just felt right, and as I said above, I felt at home.  Yet suddenly, I was gripped with a deep foreboding that perhaps the God I believe in may not exist at all.  While singing Zot haTorah asher sam Moshe and Aleinu, my stomach was churning as my mind wandered toward the idea of atheism.  The more certain I am of the existence of God, the more uncertain I am of where I belong within Judaism, yet the more certain I am of my place, the more uncertain I am of the existence of a god.

At present, I don't know where I am and I don't know where I am going.  Until now, I had thought that the more time passed, the more comfortable I became with myself as a gay Jew, the clearer my path would be.  Today, I don't know if I should delve too deeply into what I want or where I am at all, because the more certain I am of some things, the more uncertain I become about others.  "Is a puzzlement."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Love Supreme

I have way too much music on my computer.  Well, I don't think its too much, but being that my music library has exceeded a month's continuous play, I recognize that some may see that as too much.  Every day brings the new and unique challenge of finding exactly the right music for my mood, and that isn't always an easy endeavor. Sometimes I will cycle through ten different artists before finally settling on the right one; sometimes I discover after an hour of listening that I chose wrong and have to start all over.  Tonight was not one of those nights.  Tonight, John Coltrane was beckoning and I obliged.

My first Jazz album was Blue Train which, admittedly, took a while for me to appreciate.  Years after acquiring the album and some time after I realized the genius contained within I was driving home from Synagogue when NPR aired A Love Supreme in its entirety.  I was so captivated that when I arrived home only 20 minutes into the suite I couldn't get out of my car until it was over.  I sat there for another half hour just listening.  Now, some eight years later, Coltrane can still move me to tears and keep me on the edge of my seat all the way through.

Getting ready to pack it up and head to bed tonight, I discovered I was just as enthralled by the album as the first time I ever heard it and I couldn't take my headphones off.  I got to thinking what made this listen in particular so special.  It hit me that this is the first time I have played the album through since I came out and stopped keeping Shabbos, etc.  A Love Supreme is all about one's personal struggle with the idea of faith, for Coltrane, acknowledging a higher power as the source of his talent and success.  For me, this has always been the message until now.  Where I am in my personal and spiritual life, God has become a much more abstract concept.  How then can I now relate to the ideas of one of my favorite albums of all time, music which has been an inspiration for me spiritually and artistically?

I think the answer is to look outward rather than upward.  Artists like Coltrane have over the centuries inspired the world to great things.  If Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring can cause a riot and surgery can be performed with no anesthetic save Mozart, music has enormous power.  If something so ephemeral can be so timeless, something so incorporeal can have such real power, how much more so can be said for our lives and day to day actions.  If a song can change the world, so too can a book or a science experiment or a little mistake or a simple gesture of kindness.  Had the higher-ups not gotten involved in the Breakfast and Christmas Truces of the Great War, perhaps the whole bloody thing could have been resolved by the soldiers in the trenches.  Had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. not spoken of his dream, perhaps we would still be sending our children to segregated schools.  There need not be a personal higher power to see beauty in humanity or purpose to our lives.  The purpose of our lives is to live.  And should we create something which inspires or helps or saves, we have improved the quality of the lives of others.  Therefore, on your next listen to Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Acknowledge the amazing things you can do for the world simply by living in it, Resolve to create and preserve and improve and inspire, Pursue the talents and ideas which make you unique and the ideals which matter to you, and work to leave behind your own Psalm, a story of the magnificent impact you have had on the people around you.