Religion: You’re doing it wrong

Over the past several years, I have went through quite a cycle in my life with regard to religion. Even while attending church off and on, I have never been able to successfully drown out the nagging questions I have always had about anything to do with faith and its practices. But it has only been over the past couple of years that I have developed such a distaste for religion that overcoming those questions has transitioned from unlikely to nearly impossible.

It has gotten to the point where I view religion as my enemy. The loudest opponents to equality and rights for the LGBT community in America typically consider themselves to be conservative Christians (the liberal Christian is a rare bird, indeed). Most days, after a glance at the news, I spend much of my time feeling helpless and angry.

I get angry when I hear that American Christians and their Republican counterparts are funding and fanning the flames of homophobia in Uganda – where things have gotten so bad that the average Ugandan believes lesbians should be raped and gay men should be killed.

I get angry when I hear that Josh Duggar has molested multiple girls much younger than himself (including his sisters), yet his mother made robocalls last year to tell everyone to vote down a non-discrimination act for transgendered people, wherein she said men would dress as women to get into women’s restrooms to molest little girls.

I get angry when someone I have never met comes on this blog and posts a comment saying I will be “anally raped by the Devil himself in hell,” and then threatens to kill me.

I get angry when the Vatican says Ireland’s recent vote for marriage equality was a “defeat for humanity.” One would think they would direct their outrage at child-touching priests instead of consenting adults who simply want to get married.

I get angry when Christians habitually discriminate against anyone that doesn’t fit their narrow, bigoted view, and then scream about religious oppression when they get called out on it.

So, when I stop to get gas and the store is playing contemporary Christian music over the loudspeakers, I roll my eyes. When I see parking lots full of church attendees, I feel nothing but contempt. When I hear someone ask for prayer over the most mundane thing possible, I cringe. I don’t hear or see genuine faith in action; I see weak minds and pettiness. I don’t see unconditional love or people helping the poor; I see people who are most likely spending their time and money to work against the very things I want out of life. I see enemies of equality and freedom, and enemies of myself.

There are good Christians and there are bad ones, but even the good Christians I know are usually perfectly content to be ignorant of anything outside their bubble-shaped world. For example, I recently had someone ask me why certain gay men like to dress as women, but as I tried to explain drag queens, they became overwhelmed and said they didn’t want to hear about it. If you don’t want to know, then don’t ask.

The more time goes by, the more I find myself agreeing with the old quote, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Onward and upward

It has been a long time since I wrote anything here, but I wanted to detail a huge change in my life that I am very excited about. As of June 1st, my father, a former coworker, and I are partners in owning and operating a small business. Although I legally became a business owner at the beginning of 2014, we have only just now been able to purchase and take over operations of an existing business where we were employed.

We also purchased a new 12,000 sq. ft. building this summer that we hope to be in by the end of the year. The building required quite a bit of demo and construction to make it fit our needs, but things are rolling along nicely.

As the person who manages and takes care of most of the administrative duties of our new business, I have been receiving a lot of “on the job” training in the responsibilities of business ownership. There are things I never dreamed of worrying about that I now have to stress over in the evenings when I should be relaxing, but I believe most of my worrying will settle down as I become more comfortable in my position.

One of the hardest parts of my new position is being responsible for the company’s finances. We currently have a great crew of six full-time employees, and it is a heavy weight to realize you are responsible for not only your own livelihood, but also the well-being of your employees and their respective families.

I was once told I was a “yielder,” so being a boss isn’t something that comes naturally to me. It is even harder when you were nothing more than a coworker to most of them only a couple of months ago. It is usually difficult for me to say something to someone about being late, or taking a long break, or not respecting the rules, but, again, I believe this will improve with time.

I hope to be respected by my employees and seen as fair and empathetic, but I also don’t want to be seen as a weak pushover. While reading Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert I. Sutton, PhD, I learned that all of a boss’s characteristics (good and bad) are exaggerated in the eyes of their employees. I am trying to be cognizant of that on a daily basis.

It is nice having two business partners who not only excel at their own responsibilities in running the company, but who recognize what I do and don’t take it for granted. All three of us get along well and have mutual respect for one another.

I am so thankful for the opportunities I have been given in life, and it is with a grateful heart that I look toward the future.

Impasse

I am done.

I no longer feel the need to change your mind, to make you see the truth, to convince you that some things are as obvious as the nose on your face.

Your bigotry is astounding, your religion is as flawed as your logic, you make my head hurt and my stomach turn.

I am tired. Twenty years of arguing and pleading my case has left me worn and weary. I can only imagine you are just as bored with those same talking points you have been using for so long, even though you keep throwing them like daggers in hopes they will stick in someone every once in a while.

I used to care what you think. About me. About people like me. About people completely unlike me who you insist are my bedfellows simply because we share the commonality of belief in human dignity and justice.

But I don’t care any more.

You are so hell-bent on hatred and bigotry that nothing could convince you to change your mind. You revel in your role as victim, and you nurture your prejudice under the umbrella of religious freedom.

You make me sick.

You read your book, say your prayers, and flood the internet with your attacks on the “least of these.” You say God made us all in his image in one breath, then damn us all to hell in the next. I can only hope there is no afterlife, because I can’t stand the thought of spending eternity with you.

So we have reached an impasse, as it were. I can’t change your mind any more than you can change my sexuality. The only thing I can change is whether or not I waste another minute of my life on you.

You are the past, but I am the future.

Celebrating 10 years

A couple of weeks ago, Honey and I celebrated our 10th anniversary. Because we aren’t married (and can’t get married in our home state of Kentucky), we annually recognize the day we first met.

We wanted to travel somewhere special for our big year, so we decided on Savannah, Georgia. This was a first visit for both of us, but some of our friends have been there and highly recommended it. We settled on a condo in Tybee Island, which is about 20 minutes from historic downtown Savannah, and made reservations at a few restaurants that looked promising.

Our condo was beautiful and inviting, with floor to ceiling windows facing the Atlantic Ocean. We could sit on our balcony and watch gigantic commercial freighters slowing going out to sea, before they dropped out of sight on the horizon.

View from our condo on Tybee Island.
View from our condo on Tybee Island.

We visited Paula Deen’s Lady & Sons restaurant for lunch on our second day in town, and it was just as delicious as expected. We walked off some of the buttery goodness with a long trek to Forsyth Park to see the famous fountain filled with mermen.

The Lady & Sons restaurant in Savannah.
The Lady & Sons restaurant in Savannah.
Fountain at Forsyth Park in Savannah.
Fountain at Forsyth Park in Savannah.
Live oaks with Spanish moss in Savannah.
Live oaks with Spanish moss in Savannah.

The weather was overcast and rainy for the first two days of our vacation, but things changed dramatically when the day of our anniversary arrived. I snapped a photo of a beautiful sunrise from our balcony as my heart almost exploded from contentment.

Sunrise on our 10th anniversary.
Sunrise on our 10th anniversary.

We learned of a movie being shot on the beach about a mile from where we were staying, so we walked there to do a little snooping. Zac Efron’s character takes his grandfather (Robert DeNiro) to spring break in Daytona Beach, Florida, but they chose Tybee Island for filming because it wasn’t as crowded.

Movie shoot starring Zac Efron and Robert DeNiro on Tybee Island.
Movie shoot starring Zac Efron and Robert DeNiro on Tybee Island.
Another view from our condo.
Another view from our condo.

We chose Alligator Soul as our dinner spot for the evening, and it was the nicest restaurant I had ever entered. I felt slightly out of place as our waiter completely reset the table between courses (and even used a crumb scraper on the table cloth), but it was a lovely experience with incredible food.

Lamb chops from Alligator Soul in Savannah.
Lamb chops from Alligator Soul in Savannah.

The next day was our final full day in Tybee Island, so we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather with a dolphin tour. I didn’t really have high expectations, but Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure knew exactly where to go to get the amazing creatures to interact with the boat. It was definitely one of the high points of our trip!

For our final dinner on vacation, we gorged ourselves on seafood at The Crab Shack. Our “Dinner for Two” included snow crab legs, shrimp, crawfish (yuck), mussels, potatoes, corn on the cob, and sausage. It was pretty amazing. We enjoyed seeing the baby ‘gators outside in the lagoon.

Dinner at The Crab Shack.
Dinner at The Crab Shack.
Young alligators at The Crab Shack.
Young alligators at The Crab Shack.

It is amazing how fast ten years can go by. I am so proud of our relationship, and so thankful to be sharing my life with such an outstanding person. I am looking forward to the future with great hope (here’s looking at you, Supreme Court!), and I feel like one of the luckiest people alive.

To thine own self be true

Much has been made recently of comments made by Russell Tovey, one of the stars of HBO’s gay-themed Looking. During an interview with the Guardian, he said the following:

I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path. Because it’s probably given me the unique quality that people think I have.

While he has since called his statement “inarticulate,” it is easy to see why so many in the LGBT community found his remarks insensitive and outright homophobic. After all, how many of us grew up in similar circumstances where we often felt the need to hide our true nature from family members and friends in order to fit in with social expectations?

We live in a time when the effeminate male has become a bit of a pariah within the gay community. The standard for a desirable man is often described as “straight-acting,” and many guys are quick to point out they only want masculine, non-effeminate men. Because so many of us exhibit behavior that could be considered feminine, one has to wonder if this is symptomatic of self-loathing within the gay community.

I certainly wasn’t what one would consider a boyish child. Sure, I did my fair share of tree-climbing and the like, but I was just as comfortable playing Barbies with my sister or going shopping with a car full of women. As I got older, there were times when this kind of behavior was discouraged by adults, but most of the negativity I received as a child came from other kids. I absolutely despised being called a sissy. “Only girls play tambourines,” said one boy at church, much to my chagrin.

On the other hand, my maternal grandmother practically encouraged my girlish behavior by saying I should have been born female. She even gave me, my sister, and our two girl cousins matching dolls and strollers for Christmas one year, explaining, “I didn’t want him to feel left out.”

Even though I tried to alter some of what I thought were undesirable traits as I grew older, I never was able to morph into the idealized concept of masculinity. As an adult male, I still have characteristics that most guys would consider feminine. I cry easily while watching television. I love dancing like a slut to Beyoncé music. I worry incessantly about how I look. I’m pretty sure I have at least two periods a month.

But really, why do we care so much more when female traits are exhibited by a man than when masculine traits are exhibited by a woman? I suppose our patriarchal society can’t help but attribute power and strength to masculinity while relegating anything feminine to the weak and defenseless. It does a huge disservice to women when gay men allow themselves to be brainwashed into such a misogynistic way of thinking.

Human beings are complicated, but I wish we could evolve beyond our imperfect expectations of what we think male/female and gay/straight should look like. I wish we all could just accept ourselves as unique and whole persons without pressuring ourselves to become something we can never be.

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” – William Shakespeare