I have a son now

My inconsistency in posting can be attributed, in part, to having recently had another baby. It’s our first boy. Thank you. It’s pretty awesome.

Having a son feels very different to me than having a daughter. It’s hard to put my finger on why, but perhaps part of it is I feel a responsibility for his sexuality and gender identity that I didn’t feel so strongly for my daughters. They will learn femininity primarily from their mother, but he – he will learn masculinity from me. (!)

Me! Of all people! Me, who has it less-than-together and sometimes completely backwards! Crap.

I’ve been brooding over all the things I want to / have to teach him. Particularly the things I was never really taught. How am I going to teach him to clean his peter when mine is cut and his isn’t? Will that weird him out? How will I show him to be modest but not because of shame? How will I make locker rooms a non-terrifying experience for him they they were for me? How will I show him to bond with other boys but to have appropriate boundaries? When will we have /the talk/ so that I get to him before google or his classmates do?

He’s an infant, so now seems like a great time to freak out a bout these things.

The Internet is a funky place. All my questions have mutually exclusive answers from sources both reputable and questionable. And the Bible doesn’t give much direction on the specifics here either.

I take comfort in the fact that I’m probably going to do a decent job simply because I’m being intentional and proactive. That’s was my family’s Achilles heel: radio silence that lead to missed opportunities. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’ve given a lot more thought to these questions than my dad did when he was my age. And even when i find out later on how he’s screwed up sexually, I’ll be able to say “you came by it honestly” and love him anyway. My dad was a paragon of purity which made conversation about my shortcomings difficult. (A wonderful problem, I know.)

So, if you would, pray for me and my son to have the wisdom of Solomon. I want to do right by my son, my wife, and my God.

Turn-ons and Turn-arounds

One issue has been coming up between my wife and I lately, more so now that she’s pregnant (again) and showing: the issue of beauty and attraction. My wife, naturally wants to be beautiful, and wants me to find her beautiful and attractive. Especially when she’s keenly aware of a football/basketball/watermelon/whale duct-taped to her midsection. She already doesn’t feel sexy, and (insensitive jerk that I am) I tend not to make lots of reassuring comments about her stunning beautifulness.

Orientation complicates this issue, of course. It would be perfectly reasonable for her to assume I don’t say much about her beauty because I don’t find her attractive, especially when she’s pregnant. However, that’s not the case. In the first place, I do find her attractive (as I think anyone with eyes should—she’s stunning). Secondly, she’s one of those pregnant ladies who just glows and I find that even more attractive (which is good because she’s spent 45% of our married life pregnant ).

The real issue here is not one of orientation, but of expectation. Dozens of people informed her before we wed that “Men are visual. He’ll want to see you—that’s what really turns a man on. Be visually generous and he’ll be panting for more.”

But as it turns out, I’m auditory—not visual. I’m perfectly happy having sex mostly clothed or in the dark, so long as I can hear her voice or her breath.  Sound matters to me. Silent sex basically tells me you’re mad at me. Make a little noise and I feel very close to you. Totally different ideas of sexy. And it puts a lack of “You’re so pretty” comments in a different context.

Two takeaways:
1) Not everyone fits the stereotype you expect, so relax and figure out what your spouse is really saying (instead of what you think it must mean).

2) I totally need to up my “words of affirmation” game.

Honesty

I don’t publish all the comments I get on this blog, for various reasons. But one that come through recently made me realize that there’s a significant part of my relationship with my wife that I may not have made perfectly clear: She knew I was gay when we were just dating. I guess I took it for granted that people understood that, but I guess not.

I advocate for mixed-orientation marriages, but a core part of a successful MOM is honesty and everyone knowing ahead of time what they’re getting into. I hear stories of folks who found out AFTER having tied the knot that their spouse was gay, and I mourn over their feelings of betrayal and loneliness. No one should ever have to experience that. But up-front honesty means that doesn’t have to be the case.

I’ll be the first to admit, we didn’t know completely what we were getting into — but that’s the nature of marriage. We knew enough to make an informed decision.  We wanted this; we wanted to be married to each other. Our eyes were open.

If you’re a gay man considering an mixed-orientation marriage, I’ll testify that they can work. But only if you’re honest.

Gender Roles

One thing I hear from folks in MOM’s is that the issue of gender roles is often confusing, or at least starkly contrary to stereotypical marital roles. Not that this is unique to those of us in this situation—plenty of straight marriages get lots of laughs at how badly they fit the traditional roles. But when one if you is gay, it can be less of a laugh because you’re not sure if you don’t fit the traditional role because of that and you aren’t sure whether it’s OK to laugh about it or not. Is the traditional stereotype a kind of goal we should be striving toward, or is it just a stereotype with plenty of God-honoring wiggle room? And do we not fit the mould because of our orientation, or just our personality? Is there a difference? Are we meeting our spouse’s expectations? Do our expectations need to change, or theirs? Are we overthinking it? Or worse, under-thinking it?

Cue existential crisis.

I’m pretty sure I tend to overthink things.

I also think (more and more) that I over-attribute my differences to my orientation. Sure, same-sex attraction is a thing, and it’s something I deal with, but it’s not at the core of who I am. At least, not anymore. And the fact that I’m in touch with my emotions, crave male touch, enjoy musical theatre, and [insert other gay stereotypical behavior/preference here] are not, in fact, due to being attracted to dudes. (If anything, it’s the other way around.)

Most of my marital idiosyncrasies are the result of being an idiosyncratic person married to another idiosyncratic person. I’m quirky. And so is my wife (thank God).

When she tells me her feelings, she’s usually looking for advice and validation. When I tell her mine, I just want to be heard and understood—don’t try to fix me with while wearing your little “Mrs. Fix-it” hat! The Love and Respect people, along with most of the guests on Focus on the Family might think we’re nuts, but somehow, I think we still fall within the holy margin of marital error. (Even if we don’t always feel normal.)

housekeeping

Aside

<obligatory note apologizing for the lengthy absence>

So, my wife is pregnant again. Also, spring is the busy season for my job. So, sorry I’ve been gone. I hope to not leave y’all for so long—at least not for a while. No promises when there’s yet another kiddo keeping me up at night.

</note>

Frailty

I like to pretend I have things pretty well together. My existential angst is well-managed (and/or medicated), my sexuality is tightly controlled, my vocation is fulfilling, my family is idyllic, and my life as a whole is well-ordered and satisfying.

I’m a great liar.

But the one I lie to the most is myself. The truth is, I’m pretty frail and fragile, emotionally and spiritually. But when things aren’t spiraling out of control, it’s pretty easy to convince myself I’m in good shape. After all, everyone has a bit of self-delusion and ridiculous self-righteousness and self-reliance in them, right? That’s par for my course—but it’s not what this post is about.

I only mention all this because when someone else shows their frailty *coughcoughmywifecough*, I get really weird about it. When they start falling apart, I treat them like they’re unclean, as if they’re just being ridiculous. I give them that “Why can’t you have it all together, like me?” kind of look. They could be having a panic attack and I’m thinking “What’s wrong with you? Why are you getting so worked up over this? Get it together!” Which, of course, is always super helpful.

I don’t know why I do this.  Maybe it shakes my trust in the other person, and makes me re-think my opinion of them and whether I can trust them or not. Maybe something about other people’s struggles makes me afraid that I might lose it someday myself. Maybe I’m just super self-righteous and proud and really do think, deep down, that I’m better than other people. Maybe all of the above.

Maybe if I were more honest with myself about how often I’m hanging by a thread, it’d be a lot easier to show compassion when someone else is holding on for dear life. Of course, if I were really like Jesus, the “me” part wouldn’t matter. Jesus totally had it all together for his whole life, and yet had no trouble showing compassion and empathy. Which leaves me with  even less of an excuse than before.Maybe, with his help, I’ll get better at listening, empathizing, and being less of a prick.

[Hon, I’m sorry for getting cold, withdrawn, distant, and judgmental when you’re struggling. There’s no excuse for that. You treat me way better than that. So does God. I know you’ve already forgiven me (*whew*), and I’ll try to be less of a self-righteous douchebag to you.]

What’s a church to do?

When you mostly follow gay Christians, your Twitter feed is always lively. I’m not very vocal on Twitter, but I do listen to what’s going on in my friend’s lives. Sadly, the most common theme I read is that of feeling unloved, unknown, misunderstood, and marginalized—not by the world, but by the church. As someone who hasn’t come out to my church yet, I understand the level of fear and anxiety attached to the hope of getting some support.

In addition to those who don’t feel like they can’t come out (for legitimate fear of backlash, excommunication, misguided attempts to “fix” them, etc.), there’s another set who *have* come out, but *still* feel alone. Many churches don’t know what to do with single men who aren’t looking for a wife. How many “singles groups” are more accurately “dating pools” that don’t have much to offer those wanting to remain celibate? I’ve never been to a church with a celibacy support group.

It would be easy to be angry with the church here. I mean, isn’t it the church’s basic job to love the marginalized and hurting? Get it together, church! Amirite?

But that’s not really fair, either. The church is made of broken people who are terrible at their job, just like me. And it would be awfully eye-planky of me to be mad at folks that I don’t know what to do with, because *they* don’t know what to do with *me* either.

I have been in the church my whole life. I love the church—and not just my church, *The* Church (big C). My church is pretty great (I’d give it a 6.5 out 9) but The Church is awesome. I’ve been around the world and seen amazing things that God is doing in and through his people—and it just inspires me. I’m crying right now thinking about things I saw last Sunday that show me how God is at work. There’s lots of room to grow, for sure, but we are growing.

I’m in a position where if I wanted to start a ministry of the church, I could (and I have in the past). If I were to propose something to my pastoral team about reaching the LGBTQ in our community, they would probably say yes. But here’s the thing: I don’t know where to start!

So I’m asking for help, ideas, resources, etc. Here are 4 questions I’d love to get your feedback on, either via comments or email:

  1. What specific felt-needs could churches help meet in the lives of their members who struggle with homosexuality? (i.e. loneliness, accountability, discipleship, doubt, temptation, mental illness, etc.?)
  2. What kinds of programs/interactions would best serve that purpose? (i.e. preaching, small groups, counseling, mentoring, Bible studies, support groups, something completely different?)
  3. Who is already doing this? Is their model biblical, reproducible, and sustainable?
  4. What’s the next step for your church?

Please don’t ask me to dance

Where I come from, people don’t dance. It’s just not a thing. Heck, my music pastor had to have a special workshop for to teach the choir how to SWAY. Thankfully, our church is becoming less white each year. But you can imagine how freaked out I was when I went to my first wedding out-of-town and people started dancing at the reception.

My wife, on the other hand, dances. Not, like, professionally or exotically, but when it’s time to do the electric slide, she’s there. She’s not intimidated by the Charleston, the Texas Two-Step, a Waltz, or the odd tango. She may not be an amazing dancer, but she has fun and that’s what’s important, I guess.

Going to weddings suddenly gets complicated.

Well, the ceremonies are easy enough. Smile a lot. Stand, sit, bow your heads, cheer, etc. But receptions….eesh. I feel so awkward dancing.

But last week, thanks to the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (and possibly a few other spirits from the delightful open bar) I danced with her. In front of everybody. I promised her I would give her at least one dance. I was waiting for a slow song, preferably late in the night when people were mostly leaving. But I didn’t get the chance. The first song came on and she rushed out on to the floor while I sat at the table, finishing my coleslaw.  One verse later and she comes over and looks me with her big brown eyes and says

“I feel awkward out there by myself. Will you come be awkward with me?”

How can you say no to that?  That’s kind of the essence of married life, right? So I gulped down the last of my wine and danced. I’m sure the wine helped, but it was actually kind of fun. And if anyone was looking at me funny, I didn’t notice. But I think they were too busy having fun to bother watching me anyway. Which is as it should be.

David and Jonathan

These passages about David and Jonathan (listed at the bottom) always struck me. They made me sad. They made me a little jealous, to be honest. Here’s David, and he’s kissing his best friend, who loves him deeply. Jonathan risks his life to spend time with him, and they weep whenever they leave each other. Their love is amazing. They keep making covenants together. If I didn’t have reason to think otherwise, I would totally think they were gay lovers (and I get why some people assume that).

I want a friendship like that.  (In fact, I want all my friendships to be like that.)

Our Sunday school class was looking at the first covenant they make together, and something popped out at me for the first time: David does practically nothing, while Jonathan initiates, gives all these amazing useful and symbolic gifts, and changed David’s life. It’s a very one-way relationship at first (although it clearly is reciprocated later on). This Holy Spirit-inspired love for David envelops them both and knits their souls together.

I want to be David. I always want to be David. The special one. The one with the devoted friends who love and help him.  But in this story, Jonathan is foreshadowing Christ: the royal son who give himself up for our benefit and changes our lives. The kind of love I always want is the very kind of love God has shown me. 

I’ve also been praying one of St. Francis’ prayers a lot lately, especially the part that says “Oh divine master, grant than I may not so much seek to be loved as to love.” It’s reminding me that I should seek to be Jonathan, rather than David. I already am David in God’s eyes. And because of that, I can afford to give myself up like Jonathan. Occasionally, I get to do that, and when it happens it’s super cool, because I know it’s the Holy Spirit at work. But most of the time, I just need the reminder to love, rather than seek love I already have from God.


The passages in question—for context:

1 Samuel 18:1–5
As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.

1 Samuel 20:41–42
And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times [before Jonathan]. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most. Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.

1 Samuel 23:15–18
David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.

2 Samuel 1:25–26
“Jonathan lies slain on your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
very pleasant have you been to me;
your love to me was extraordinary,
surpassing the love of women….”