Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’

Last Wednesday evening, I donned a wig, fedora, red satin jacket, black surgical mask, and a sequined glove to go watch Michael Jackson’s This Is It – a documentary chronicling the King of Pop’s last days. Before leaving, I jokingly referred to the four people accompanying me as my “entourage.” It turned out to be not far from the truth when they almost had to drag me to the car a few hours later.

As soon as we arrived at the theater, two women spotted me and freaked out. As other fans arrived, several began to ask if they could either photograph me or have their picture taken with me. Some brought their children to greet me, whispering in my ear that they wouldn’t know the difference. This scene continued up until we were able to go into the theater and grab some seats on the top row.

I had been looking forward to seeing this film for weeks, and it exceeded all my expectations. I saw Michael Jackson as I had never seen him before – a man in charge of the smallest detail, but a human being who was full of love and graciousness towards others and filled with concern for our planet. I have no doubt that the concerts he was rehearsing for would have been some of the best that the world had ever seen. It’s a shame that this is the closest we will ever get to seeing the final product, but also a blessing that his death has exposed so many more people to his message.

I had been expecting to have a strong emotional response to the film, but found myself only tearing up a few times – once when Michael referenced his brothers and parents, and again when he sang a few lines of “Speechless.” MJ was thin, but amazingly energetic and his voice was flawless. It was much easier to be enthralled than emotional.

As the film ended and we made our way toward the exit, people once again started coming up and asking me for photos. I met one very nice lady who insisted her kids stand beside me for a picture. She adjusted my hair, stood beside me for a snapshot, and then gave me a hug as other fans gathered around with cell phones and cameras pointed in our direction. She began talking about what a wonderful person Michael was and her eyes welled up with tears. As she walked away, I heard her daughter ask, “Mom, are you sure that’s not Michael Jackson?”

After posing outside the building with a few more beaming MJ fans, my partner insisted that I go to the car. I was getting quite a head rush from my five minutes of fame and also felt inspired that so many people in my area are fans of Michael Jackson.

There is an instant kinship among Michael’s fans. We understand what it means to love someone that the world considered to be outside the concept of normal. We know what it’s like to be ridiculed for having that appreciation, and to constantly have to defend someone whom most of us never even had the privilege of meeting in person. As crazy as it might have seemed to some, I felt honored that these people allowed me to be their substitute for the evening; a way in which they could continue to physically cling to the thing they miss the most.

Deja vu

Coming out is a never ending process. Exiting the proverbial closet is just the first step in a lifetime of disclosures about one’s sexual orientation, and I find myself constantly coming out to complete strangers – usually more out of necessity than anything else.

I recently decided to face my inevitable mortality and purchase life insurance – something that I’ve avoided even thinking about up until the past few months. During a telephone conversation yesterday with an insurance salesman, I explained that I wanted my partner to be the beneficiary on my policy. “Business partner or personal partner?” the salesman asked, providing me with yet another opportunity to out myself. He seemed unfazed by my answer, which is usually the case.

We are in the process of getting central heating and air conditioning installed in our home, which has resulted in several strangers having access to the house while we aren’t there. Although we haven’t had to verbally confirm our relationship, I am sure our lifestyle is quite evident. I noticed last night that I had a book laying on the desk in our office titled Love Makes A Family: Portraits of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents and Their Families. We also have photos scattered around the house of ourselves as a couple.

Up next, hiring a lawyer and setting up a will – one of the many legal precautions I have to take as a gay man to ensure that my partner isn’t left homeless in the event of my passing. Almost fifteen years after first summoning the courage to tell another human being the truth, I’ll get another chance to do it all over again.

Hypocrite

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

“Brian is a hypocrite. He believes his works will get him into heaven.”

Those words were spoken right in front of me the other day. What hurt more than anything was that it came from someone I care about deeply – a close relative from the same religious background.

I immediately pointed out the irony of such a statement from a person who clearly doesn’t rely solely on grace as a means of eternal life – something evident in both dress and action. Nevertheless, the words stung.

From the time that I started attending the United Churches of Christ, I have known that most of my family would not be supportive. Anything outside the religious beliefs of my childhood would be considered false teachings and deception. It is interesting that the denomination they expect me to be a part of is one that is the least accepting of who I am.

It is one thing to realize that your family doesn’t agree with your choice in denominations or have any confidence in you spiritually, but it’s something else entirely to hear those feelings voiced.

I’m also a little confused about the meaning behind the words that were spoken. What makes me a hypocrite? It is because this person doesn’t recognize my denomination as legitimate or because I’m openly homosexual and attending a Christian church?

I even looked up the definition of the word “hypocrite.”

hypocrite: a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold in order to conceal his or her real feelings or motives; professing feelings or virtues one does not have; deceptive, just pretending to be good.

The words have made me question myself. I want to check and double-check that I am not allowing myself to be deceived or manipulated by others. I want to make sure that the works I perform are for God’s glory and not my own. And I don’t want to simply appear righteous and good, I want to actually be those things – as much as humanly possible.

Regardless, I believe the verses in Ephesians are somewhat misunderstood. They do say we are saved by the grace of God and not our own works, but they don’t provide an excuse from doing good works. The rest of scripture is rife with commandments on how to live one’s life in order to achieve eternal life. I think a person who is truly a Christian will want to do the things that Christ taught, not just for a reward in the hereafter, but because they help us reap treasure while we’re here on earth.

I pray that God will help me to always be a true Christian – one that loves and forgives.