Being effeminate

Years ago, while living with my grandparents for a short time, my grandfather and I were driving home from work when he took the opportunity to bring up some things about me that he had issue with. As he drove, he lectured me about helping them out more financially before getting to the heart of what he really wanted to talk about.

He started by telling me I needed a hair cut. I had been letting my hair get sort of long. It wasn’t even shoulder length, but was several inches long on the top and sides. Although having short hair was a requirement for men in the Holiness faith, this wasn’t exactly the reason he brought it up. As he talked, he recalled a verse in the Bible about being effeminate.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Now we were getting to the root of his issue with my hair. It wasn’t just that it was longer than normal for men in our tradition, it was that he thought I was trying to look like a woman (I was really trying to look like Michael Jackson, but whatever).

Not sure how to respond, I brought up two highly-respected men in the Holiness community who were very effeminate. Both had soft voices, had never married or exhibited any interest in women, and were perfectly manicured. “No,” he said, “They are just different.”

I began to get angry, more at his refusal to admit these men fit the very definition of effeminate than at his insistence that I did. Surely he could see what I saw, but just refused to accept it because these men claimed to be holy. My anger took a more personal slant when he told me I was being a bad influence on the younger males in our church. I realized this talk we were having was more about his fear of me being gay than the length of my hair.

When I get mad, I usually clam up and stew in it. That means I have to find other ways of releasing my anger. When we arrived home and he finished belittling me, I decided to go for a walk. I removed the cap I normally wore to work and let the wind blow through my hair as I journeyed down the country road in front of our house. I always loved the feeling of having my hair in my face, so I enjoyed it as long as possible. Then I returned home, grabbed the clippers, and shaved my head in the bathroom. From my perspective, this was an act of rebellion. If I couldn’t have long hair, I would have barely any hair at all.

After showering and getting dressed for church, I walked into the kitchen. My rebellious act wasn’t seen as such, but was embraced as me having finally seen the light. Both of my grandparents exclaimed how much better I looked, but the damage was done. I knew I no longer wanted to live with them, and I moved out a few weeks later.

It is worth noting that a couple of years later while visiting a local gay bar, I bumped into one of the effeminate Holiness men that I had mentioned to my grandfather during our conversation. That was definitely an enjoyable moment for me.

The other man never married, but maintained a close relationship with a single Holiness preacher. Apparently they traveled around the country together and often slept in the same bed. Maybe they were in love, maybe they weren’t. It was a long time ago and doesn’t really matter anymore since they have both passed away.

So, what does that verse in Corinthians really mean? I don’t know. Some newer translations have changed it to “men who have sex with men,” but I think that’s a bit of a stretch. Perhaps the Apostle Paul just had a problem with women, and by extension, men who looked or acted like women.

Misogynistic, if you ask me.

My exciting little life

Someone recently told me I have led an exciting life. After a few moments of denial, I admitted that my life has been pretty interesting.

A few examples…

  1. Growing up in a very strict household where I couldn’t watch television, wear short sleeves, or attend my school’s basketball games
  2. Coming out to my family at twenty years of age
  3. Creating a Michael Jackson fan site that became the catalyst for a trip to Germany in 2001
  4. Getting to see Michael Jackson in concert on 9/10/01
  5. Being in New York City on 9/11/01
  6. Meeting my partner of 9 years on the internet
  7. Getting to see some of the best performers on earth live in concert
  8. Traveling to various parts of the country
  9. Becoming a business owner earlier this year
  10. Having a scan of my Michael Jackson concert ticket included in an upcoming special on National Geographic

Even though I am typically scared of my own shadow, I am glad I have been willing to put myself out there on multiple occasions. Those are typically the moments that have been the most rewarding.

Judge not

My cousin’s birthday is tomorrow. She won’t be around to celebrate it, because she died in a car accident in 2001 at the tender age of 25. Her father called my mother today and sobbed on the telephone as he remembered. Even 13 years later, the wounds haven’t healed.

I remember Tammy’s funeral. People wept and talked in hushed tones as expected, but this one felt much different from other memorials. Most were quite obvious in their belief that Tammy didn’t go to heaven. Some were so convinced of this they dared to say it out loud. You see, Tammy was reared in a strict Pentecostal home, and she wasn’t living according to those standards the morning she wrecked on an ice-covered road.

Years later another young person I knew passed away. Like Tammy, they had left the faith of their childhood and weren’t living what you might call a “righteous” life. This time, however, things were much different. The same people who judged Tammy clung to hope that this particular person had gotten right with God in the final moments of their life, and the funeral was filled with admonishments about letting God be the final judge. There’s nothing at all wrong with that line of thought, but I wonder why Tammy was treated so differently?

If God is truly love and if God truly loves us more than we can possibly love each other, why would he cast a young person into Hell before they even have a chance to figure things out? I can’t think of anyone who deserves an eternity of torment, nor can I reason what it would accomplish. Even the worst criminal is given a shot at redemption.

I saw Tammy in a dream a few years ago. She looked lovely, and we walked together for a while as I wept. It was probably just a meaningless creation in my sleeping mind, but I treasure it. I prefer to think of her happy and at peace. I just wish those who call themselves “Christian” would give her the same courtesy.

Happy Birthday, Tammy. I remember your lovely smile and your wonderful sense of humor. I remember the fun we had driving with the windows down and the music turned up loud. I hope I made you feel even half as loved as you always made me feel. Maybe I’ll get a chance to see you again one day. Until then I’ll see you in my dreams.

Detective Google

Yesterday evening, after returning home from a long trip, I logged onto my bank’s website to check my balance. I was shocked to see a pending charge for $565 that had an unfamiliar business name attached. I decided it might have something to do with hotel reservations, and hoped it would go away once the correct amount was charged. No such luck.

When I checked my account again this afternoon, the $565 charge had completed and the funds had been deducted from my account. I immediately called my local branch to see what was up. They gave me the business name for an event planner and a phone number.

I called and heard several rings before some silence. Then some more rings. It was obvious the number was being forwarded to a cell phone. I heard the line pick up, but no one said anything. I said hello a couple of times, before hearing a man answer. I asked for the name of the business I was calling. He gave it to me. I said, “You have charged me $565 for some reason.” He asked if I had any upcoming events I had paid for. I said no. He said he was sorry and he would have accounting return my money. He then asked for my name, and said he would send an email to accounting have them refund the money.
After hanging up and thinking over the conversation, I decided something was fishy. He was simply too nervous and unprofessional on the phone. I called my bank back and filed fraud charges. They canceled my card and are mailing me a new one.

I kept thinking over everything this afternoon. I had gotten the date and time of the transaction from the bank, so I knew it happened in a town I was in over this past weekend. I couldn’t figure out who had been able to access my number, since I remembered every place I used it. The hotel, a couple of restaurants, Target, and a gas station. It was driving me crazy.

Finally, I decided to do some sleuth work online. I started by googling for the business name. I found their website, then did a WhoIs search on the domain name. I quickly discovered the guy’s name, address, and a phone number that matched what the bank had given me.

Next, I did a search for his name and city. I found a profile on LinkedIn with a matching name (he had typed everything in lower case on his domain registration and his LinkedIn profile, which is one of my pet peeves). It said he worked for a hotel chain.

Once getting home, I talked it over with Honey. He decided to call the hotel and ask if they had an employee with the name I had found. Not only does he work there, he is the night auditor. A couple of hours later, a police report has been filed and the investigation should start either tonight or in the morning.

Needless to say, I am pretty proud of my detective skills. I am hoping the real detectives get to the bottom of this and get him out of his job and into a jail cell.

Gay or straight: Thank you for being a friend

Honey and I have very few gay friends. This weekend, if all goes as planned, we will travel to watch two of them get married. We were at their commitment ceremony a few years ago, but since they have moved to a state that recently recognized gay marriage, they will make it official this Saturday.

I am not sure why we don’t have more gay friends. We don’t typically visit places where gay men congregate, and the few gay people we have met at church usually offer nothing more than a courteous hello.

Although it is unfair to paint everyone with the same brush, most of us gay men are downright nasty to each other when we first cross paths. It isn’t unusual to get a judgmental sneer or some side-eye. Whatever the reasons, I suspect it has to do with male aggression and competitiveness. Much like a lion defending his pride because of reproductive rights, we don’t want any interested parties sniffing around. Relationships are hard, but because gay relationships have even more challenges to face, it stands to reason that we don’t want to invite trouble.

Although it would be nice to have a few more gay friends who personally understand all the issues that gay people face on a day-to-day basis, genuine friendship from anyone is the ultimate goal. And, frankly, I have wonderful straight friends who are supportive, accepting, and understanding without being judgmental.

True friends are priceless, regardless of their sexual orientation.

What do you know for sure?

Gene Siskel once stumped Oprah Winfrey when he asked, “What is the one thing you know for sure?” The older I get, the more I think about that question and the implications that really knowing something for sure can have on life and happiness.

We have all been told that age begets wisdom, and I suppose that is true in a sense. We definitely have more life lessons to look back on and learn from, but I realize getting older doesn’t somehow mean that all of life’s answers will suddenly become accessible to us. I worry about that, and I hope I can get at least a few of the big questions taken care of before my time is up.

While I may never get answers to the universal questions that we all have (about life, God, our place in the cosmos), I do know a few things for sure right now.

I know that love is worth the pain.

Opening yourself up to another person is never easy, and anyone who does realizes that doing so will eventually hurt. You hurt each other sometimes, even when you don’t mean to. Under normal circumstances, one of you will die before the other. That is going to be incredibly painful. I still know it is worth it to have another human being who cares enough about you to accompany you on the journey.

Most of us don’t have a clue how blessed we are.

Everything is relative, as they say, and complaining comes naturally for most of us, but if we take the time to look around at those who are less fortunate or those who live in countries torn by war and famine, we will realize we have absolutely nothing to complain about.

All humans are created equal.

You may not look like me, you may not act like me, you may not believe like me, but you are every bit as worthy of life and liberty as I am. And I am just as worthy as you.

We can’t do everything, but we can do something.

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” That is so true. We may not be able to change the whole world, but we are certainly able to make our immediate surroundings better. Whether through charity, hard work, or old-fashioned activism, there is something for each of us to do to make this world a better place.

Those are just a few of the things that I know for sure. Life, I hope, will teach me more.

HBO’s ‘The Leftovers’ and childhood trauma

HBO’s new series, The Leftovers, looks very intriguing. And a little scary. After roughly 2% of the world’s population disappears in a rapture-like event, the show follows what happens to those who remain behind. This reminds me a bit too much of the movies I was forced to watch as a child while attending a Southern Baptist school.

I grew up without television, so when our teachers decided to show us a movie it was usually a treat. Not only did we get to feast our hungry eyes upon delicious cartoons like Bambi, we got to skip the monotony of classroom activities. Unfortunately, the movie selection wasn’t always so innocuous.

While still in elementary school, we were shown A Thief In The Night and A Distant Thunder – films that detailed the Rapture and the horrifying events that followed. These movies not only showed people being forced to receive the Mark of the Beast, but what would happen to those who refused. The first movie in the series had a particularly haunting song that is stuck in my head to this very day.

There’s no time to change your mind; the Son has come and you’ve been left behind. I wish we’d all been ready.
Children died, the days grew cold. A piece of bread would buy a bag of gold. I wish we’d all been ready.

Because the Holiness church had taught me nothing about the Rapture but everything about what would happen in the End Times, I knew I would be one of those who was left behind to either take the Mark or be put to death. I wept hysterically throughout both films, so much so that my teacher mistook my tears for a desire to be born again. She led me in prayer a couple of times, but soon realized she was getting nowhere and told me to talk it over with my parents when I got home.

Needless to say, it was a traumatizing experience. Almost as bad as the time my aunt and uncle (also Baptists) showed my family a video of people dying in car accidents and going to hell. Good times.

So, it is with trepidation that I am actually looking forward to watching The Leftovers. Hopefully I have watched enough horror movies and reality television over the past 20 years to desensitize myself.