Twenty-five times in the entire psalm — that's how frequently you'll find the word "law" in Psalm 119 (at least in the NRSV). For a gay man like me, any talk of God's "law" felt like a knife to the neck, waiting to sever an artery. In my pre-coming-out days when my prayers were filled with supplications for God to change, fix, or straighten me out, the law referred to those passages in Leviticus that pointed out just how broken I was, that reminded me of the doom I would face should I surrender myself to my heathen ways. In short, the law was a tool of shame and oppression. It certainly wasn't something in which I could ever find myself experiencing "delight."
...Every person is attractive to somebody. You are. I am. Jim Bob over there is, too. Every person is probably ugly to somebody, too. You are. I am. Jim Bob over there is, too. Don’t take it personally.
And, we all need to do ourselves a favor. We need to believe people when they tell us we’re beautiful, handsome, sexy, attractive, hot, or hunkalicious, especially when that someone is somebody that we think is beautiful, handsome, sexy, attractive, hot, or babealicious...
We all have fears, anxieties, insecurities. Most of us are scared to death of being alone. We all get angry, or sad, or confused. Simply put, we're all human, and that shared experience is worth remembering at all times, because when we forget it, that's when we go wrong. That's when we miss each other, stop listening, and resort to hurting each other deeply, violently, or maliciously.
A good friend shared with me this morning that he's finally found his calling. Part of me wanted to ask, "Where'd you find it? Was it easy? Did you have to look hard?" For some of us, the experience of finding our place in this world (forgive the Michael W. Smith reference) is not a pleasant or enjoyable one. It's difficult, painful even — feeling layer upon layer of ourselves be pulled away from our skin until, at last, we begin to see our true selves.
Since that deep place in you where your identity as a child of God is rooted has been unknown to you for a long time, those who were able to touch you there had a sudden and often overwhelming power over you. They became part of your identity. You could no longer live without them. But they could not fulfill that divine role, so they left you and you felt abandoned. But it is precisely that experience of abandonment that called you back to your true identity as a child of God.
If I want tolerance, I know plenty of places where I could have such an experience. Sadly, more than any other place that comes to mind, there is the Church. Granted, I'm not talking about congregations belonging to those denominations that are typically thought of as being more "progressive." I'm talking about faith communities where the emphasis is overly placed on personal holiness and where the necessity for justice is almost completely overlooked.
Maybe you heard it first at age nine from the front row pew. Your pastor said it in ten seconds, and it felt like hell and shame hurling down on you. Maybe you heard it in the car with James Dobson declaring to the nation, to your family, that perverts like you don’t get to have God. Maybe you heard it everywhere.
Maybe you opened the Book and saw six or so verses with their crushing words and you felt your soul crack wide open. Maybe you read them with a lump in your throat and tears down your face and trembling hands. Maybe a part of you died.
It's noon. If we were on Jerusalem time, we would be anticipating the moment where the lights go out, where darkness covered the land. We'd be approaching the beginning of the final three hours before Jesus spoke his last words and heaved his last breath. We'd be getting closer and closer to the moment where the veil separating the sacred from the profane. In short, we'd be nearing the end.
It's been awhile since I've written about sex. Today, well, it's on my mind, mostly because of a session with Blake (my therapist) this morning. To be honest, it had been awhile since Blake and I talked about the subject either. Between tackling my physical health and my discernment and emotions around leaving the UMC, our sessions went by rather quickly. Today, however, we made it back to the subject.
A week ago Monday, I went in for a follow-up doctor's visit. I'd been to see my new primary care physician for the first time only three weeks prior. Part of taking care of myself, I realized, was seeing the doctor on a more regular basis for a reason other than being sick. My blood work had come back (except for my cholesterol—apparently there's a possibility of mixing up blood work when you see the same doctor as your husband... oh well). Everything came back normal except for one thing: my testosterone levels.
Ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you that I'm either middle-of-the-road or more effeminate when it comes to my mannerisms. I've never been "butch," except for that one week during the holidays when I would go home to Kentucky and put on my "straight face" there for a while. But I digress... my doctor decided to put me on TRP (testosterone replacement therapy). It's a clear gel (kind of like hand sanitizer) that I put on my shoulders, neck, and chest every morning. For some people (based on the reading I've done), it takes awhile for the effects to kick in. It would seem that I am not part of that group. I felt effects within the first few days: increased energy, improved mood, and heightened libido.
There are two things in my life that I often struggle with: sex and anger. That's one of the other effects of being on "T"... heightened aggression. To be blunt, I don't feel like myself. Instead I feel like that 10 to 14 year-old boy when puberty finally hits and, all of a sudden, he's faced with emotions and "feelings" he's never really faced before. But I've lived through that once before, and like may people, I don't really want to again, especially when it brings to the surface two things with which I've wrestled.
I know what you're thinking: you're married, so either you're celibate or you've gotten past the "sex stuff" enough to be intimate with your partner. And most days, I have. I've grown a lot when it comes to understanding what is and is not a healthy sex life or healthy, ethical sexual practices. If you want to know more about that, feel free to ask. It's a conversation better served one-on-one than in a post written to the entire wired world.
For the record, when it comes to sex, you will rarely hear me use the word "moral/morality." I'm more concerned with ethics, with how we treat one another in such an intimate setting. I do my best not to make faith-based judgments on what is or is not "right" or "godly." Instead, I try to focus on what's healthy, well thought-out, and beneficial for all those involved. The long and short of it for me is this: if sex (whatever one might define that as) takes place in the context of mutuality and respect for the personhood and humanity of the other person(s) involved, then I think that's a healthy sexual ethic from which to begin. Beyond that, I think anyone who is going to be sexually active must learn for him or herself what works and what is healthy at a holistic level (mind, body, and soul).
In my own life, sex has often been used more often to become detached or disconnected than to become intimate or transformed. It's been a way to both face and escape the shame that has come from being a gay man who does not feel called to nor has the strength to be celibate. I have always felt at my best in a relationship, even if said relationship was not the healthiest. But since being with my partner, Frankie, I've been able to experience sex—physical intimacy—in a different, healthier way. I've been able to connect rather than detach. I've been able to face my fear and shame instead of running from it. Now that my hormone levels are stabilizing and I'm back in the "prime of life" as I've heard from so many others, I'm learning how to not turn to sexuality or sexual intimacy as a coping mechanism or a distraction, but instead to use it to show affection and learn something new about myself in every instance. Rather than wrestling with my fear, shame, guilt, internalized homophobia, or anything else that might keep me from being a self-loving whole person, I choose to embrace myself as a full person, hormones and all.