“Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision’, which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” –Ephesians 2:12
Recently, a friend of mine asked me to review a book written to parents about raising sons that happen to be gay. It hasn’t been released as yet. Though it’s relatively short and very beautifully written, I’m only halfway through it. Emotionally, I found it too much to read in one sitting.
In one chapter, it details all the psychological dangers faced by gay teenagers. I had never seen them listed so concisely in one place before. It brought up and explained a lot about my high school years.
Without “giving the plot away”, I’ll say the book made me realize how I “disconnected” from myself and life (some people would say I still am) I was. I couldn’t feel a continuity between the world I was presented with and the world within myself. The world I was presented with was very heterocentric. I therefore lived on its social fringes. It worshiped a heteropatriarchal discourse on power. I was useless to that world.
The world I have uncovered within myself, on the other hand, is very much about God and beauty, colours and design, numbers and elegant music notes, justice and prosperity, salvation and divinization, Christ and glory – I love that word – redemption and grace. It’s about biblical dispensations and unexpected “But now” Pauline turn of phrases especially in Romans. It’s about election to salvation, the eternal purposes of God, creation and the high, holy mystery of existence.
And somehow or another, it’s gay. It’s very gay. The sight of a good-looking man or the sound of some men’s voices can send shudders reverberating through me from the pit of my stomach. It reminds me of my creatureliness; of my being called-from-nothing, hewn from dust into some exquisitely sensitive musical instrument that plays silent but oh-so-poignant notes of longing. And I’ve never been able to help the feeling that it’s all part of the same mysterious pattern that resonates with themes like crucifixion and burial; regeneration and resurrection. The pattern I experience as my inescapable identity, hewn together by the hand of a God bigger than I can understand.
More beautiful was the helplessness of not knowing what I would do with that good-looking man, if it turned out (as it sometimes does) that the feeling is mutual. Would I kiss him? Did men kiss romantically? Was such a thing even possible? Was it wrong? Would masculinity get lost? What if it wasn’t wrong? What if society has denied and repressed something holy and healing? Would we then be in the cross-hairs of its judgmental ignorance? These questions, their accompanying wistful longing, the feeling of heaven brought so near only to be denied or its moral permissibility left unexplained – all of it felt, oddly, like an enigmatic divine message to only be understood upon death or a long, courageous existence. Like a cruel hoax played by a cosmic genius who can best make my heart sing when it’s piqued to the brink of unbearable agony and aching desire.
Not knowing what it all meant amplified the helpless, beautiful, pathetic weakness of being thusly attracted to other men. These feelings didn’t just feel human, but deeper than human. They made me feel like I’d assembled with angels in a former existence. They were the terrifying, beautiful colours of my soul.
At that time, they had no correspondence with anything external except disdain in the social world I grew up in. So I suppressed and repressed them though I knew they were there. I lived with bullying and scorn both from people who knew and people who didn’t know. When I came out to my mother at twelve, she told me that she already knew and said to just do or be whatever I needed to do or be in order to get through life in one piece. She also assured me that God loved me. For this I am eternally grateful. My father only had his suspicions confirmed very recently but he doesn’t seem keen to discuss any of it.
I reached a point growing up where I wasn’t living but existing. I was on and off antidepressants. I remember someone asking me what I wanted to do after school. I cringed at the question. If life was that much of an answered question then, I didn’t want more of it beyond high school. I had pat answers about what I would do, and I gave those answers to people who asked, but deep inside I was convinced that I didn’t need plans for the future because I had none. It was all a big, blank nothing ahead of me.
But to my surprise, time didn’t – and wouldn’t – stop as life went on. I’m still here, and I’m still at the same place most people are in life when they’re fresh out of school, just coming out of my paralysis. I’ve always been fairly disciplined in some facets of my life but I’ve never been committed to anything long term. It’s very recently that I’ve sensed a calling to add my voice to those working to shift the perceptions of Christians about lesbians and gays. That, I am committed to doing.
I remember at the end of school when the dreaded prom came. Everyone encouraged me to go. So profoundly did I fail to see its point that I didn’t go. “But you’ll have so many amazing memories when you’re older” they said. That’s exactly what I didn’t want to hear. Being not-grown-up was safer for me. School was like the womb, and I didn’t want to leave. Ghosts – even ghosts that look alive – don’t go to proms. Ghosts are memories, shadows, of people that once existed or never lived, and memories don’t need memories.b I was a memory. I didn’t need more memories.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus often speaks about himself as though he, too, were about to become an invisible memory. He speaks of himself in the past tense and in the third person. He speaks about the Holy Spirit, whom the world doesn’t know because the world had never seen him.
The first time I read the Gospel, I felt like I’d been caught out. That someone had seen everything I was, and written a story about someone else, and that there was an intimate connection between his story and mine.
It is ultimately only in Jesus that I have been known, given an identity, an existence, a meaning, a purpose and a life.
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