Purpose and the Politician

I spent a few days in Texas. For those of you who don’t know, I went to a Christian leadership school called Teen Mania’s Honor Academy. Acquire the Fire and all that Jazz. In spite of the trauma that was our education, or rather because of it, I came out of there with some amazing friends and memories—one of whom was getting married. Thus the trip to Dallas, Texas.

But as I’m sitting there, watching my beautiful friend get married, surrounded by our old friends from school, I wonder, “Who will be at my wedding? Would any of these people come?”

The thought sent me to the car where I pounded back two hard ciders where a crazy man was walking the center of the street yelling at passerby’s, and I pretended to be talking to someone on my phone because the anxiety of friendless weddings was overshadowed the the anxiety of the stranger man coming at me for not giving him a cider. **Reads back over previous sentence, wondering if that’s actually a complete sentence, and pats back for one long-ass sentence.**

No one really talks about the cost of being gay these days. Which is great! Because there are happier things. There’s gay prom and lesbian marriages and trans-visibility day and surrogate mothers and adopted children.

We’ve come a long way… but it’s still hard.

It’s ended friendships; it’s parentless weddings; it’s no babies that you and your partner create; it’s reaching for your partner’s hand in public and wondering if people care, and it’s getting kicked out of churches and evangelical spaces, spaces you found a lot of purpose and belonging and passion…

I watched the Politician tonight. If you haven’t watched it, do it. It’s a stroke of genius. But as I’m watching, the main character, Payton Hobart, is depressed and hopeless while playing the piano in a local bar and it’s because he lost access to his passion. To deal with the loss, he killed any hope of returning to the very thing that gave him life: politics.

I’m not political. At least not like Payton. I’m not sure if anyone is as political as Payton. But to steal one of those annoying pages from those middle school grammar books: Payton is to politics as Brandon is to ministry.

Stressing to sell out an event. Staying up till four to set up a stadium. Kneeling in the snow as a fake Jesus in a skit you’ve done for the 200th time. Praying with a stranger. Holding a dying woman’s hand. Laughing and spooning friends you met three months ago, but you’d call them family. Talking with a kid over coffee about Jesus. Leading a congregation in worship.

All of it. I miss it.

When I came out, I felt as though I was disqualified from all of it. It was as though I was sacrificing all of these things related to ministry and family and friends for the sake of love, which is why I felt like my relationship needed to be perfect. If it wasn’t, why was I giving all of this up?

Watching Payton Hobart come alive while debating politics made me miss the things that make me come alive, the things I feel so disqualified from.

“My people perish for lack of vision.” It’s a verse… somewhere in the Bible. I could go look it up, but I’d rather keep writing.

I feel that. I feel a perishing or squandering in myself that yearns to wake up and feel and know it’s worth living, to know it’s doing something only it can do, a sense of purpose and destiny. I miss destiny. I miss believing every word and movement had intention, a kiss of the eternal, and not something passing and wasteful. I miss that.

I yearn for a kiss of destiny, to burn again.

How does one get fire back when life has thrown snow and rain on not only the embers but the wood and coal? How do we rekindle the flame?

I miss that Brandon. I want him back.

A Criticism of Gay Culture by a Gay Man

“Don’t end up with a dude, Zach. They’re all terrible!” Matt blurted as Zach and I sat on the couch, drinking martinis.

Matt and Zach are roommates, gay/bi (respectably), and not partners. In fact, when Matt introduces Zach to his gay friends, it normally goes something like this: “So-and-so, meet Zach, my roommate. No, we haven’t had sex. No, I’m not lying.”

“I’m serious, Zach. All men are terrible! You’re better off with a woman.” Matt was on his third martini and was getting more and more vocal, more and more slap happy. I have red marks on my thighs to prove it.

Zach had been exploring the sexual rainbow for a few months, trampling all over the spectrum. He’d been with men, women; young, old; ugly, sexy. It didn’t matter who it was, Zach just wanted to have sex. However, Zach and Matt had just come back from Denver where Zach had a rough encounter with a group of gay men.

“I genuinely thought gay men were different. I thought I could be myself and be accepted, but these guys were assholes!” Zach said. The two of them were catching me up on their escapades over the weekend.

“What Zach is trying to say,” Matt elaborated, “is that he pissed these gay men off because he said, ‘All gay men are easy’, and they tore into him!” Matt slapped Zach on the arm, laughing.

“What? It’s true!” Zach said. “It’s a whole lot easier to get in a guy’s pants than a girl’s.”

“You think that’s true, Matt?” I pipe up from the other end of the couch.

“Most homosexual men I meet are trying to become sexual as quickly as possible,” Matt said. “Even with my ex, we had sex on the second date. I thought that was going a bit fast, but he didn’t.”

Honestly, Matt had a point. With my ex-boyfriend, we had sex on the second date too. And outside of dating, I could get a hook up with a guy a whole lot faster than with a girl.

This past summer I visited a friend in Oakland. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend, and I just wanted meaningless sex.

So what did I do? I do what every gay man does when he wants booty as quickly as possible — I downloaded Grindr.

The following are ACTUAL profiles on Grindr:

Looking for now. GloryH0le. Let’s play RN. Horny. F***MyHole.

What the profile names on Grindr lack in creativity, they make up for in blatant candor.

Within two minutes of downloading the app, I had a boy and apartment at my disposal. And that’s exactly what it was — disposal — both men using each other to get something out of the other. It’s not a night of passion. It’s a transaction.

***

“What about gay marriages?” I ask.

I’m back with Matt, attempting to eat ice cream while driving, failing miserably. The steering wheel is covered in sticky liquid sugar. Meanwhile, Matt gracefully lapped his ice cream with a napkin on his lap. He was a lot better at this than I was.

“I’m cynical of gay relationships.” Matt said.

“Why?” I replied.

“I am very suspicious of any homosexual, male couple because I feel like they are all open.” Matt went on to talk about his good friend on the East Coast. He had been married for three years but had recently solicited Matt for sex.

“What the hell?” Matt said. “Does anyone believe in sanctity anymore!”

I was fuming, and not from the brown goo dripping down my arm. But why? Why was Matt so upset about this? Why was I so upset about this?

I think it’s because we are all holding our breath, hoping someone will be different, hoping someone will break the stereotypes, but we keep getting let down.

In my years of coming out and stepping into the gay culture, I have yet to meet a gay couple that hasn’t been open at one point or another.

“What about gay role models? Do you have any of those?” I said.

“Gay role models??? I feel like that’s an oxymoron.” Matt crunched down on the last bit of his cone and slaps his hands free of the crumbs. Matt then shared there isn’t a single gay man he looks up to and how he views most gay men as “damaged goods.”

Many of my gay friends and gay strangers alike have used this exact phrase on multiple occasions — damaged goods. It’s always said so matter of fact, as if it’s some reality we just learn to live with.

In fact, one time, while sitting in a hot tub, at a local bath house, a man went at length, talking about how broken and repressed other gay men are.

We’re literally in a bath house, soliciting random strangers for anonymous sex while in a building with cameras and metal doors to make sure people don’t know we’re here, and this guy is criticizing how broken repressed everyone else is in Colorado Springs?

We’re self-destructive, calling out deficiencies in our own culture, eating our own, all the while, contributing to the problem.

Where in the world does this come from? The answer would come so casually, I almost missed it.

***

The first gay club I ever went to was with my now-ex-boyfriend. In an attempt to “act straight,” we found the butchiest thing we could do in a fog-filled, laser-light, go-go-dancing warehouse — we played pool.

As we attempted to look like we knew what we were doing, a gang of lesbians watched us. And it was a gang. Like a pride of lionesses, I felt at any second, they’d pounce on the two gay boys and show us how it’s done. After all, all lesbians know how to play pool, right?

But after I realized I hated pool and that I’m terrible at it, I started people watching. I was so perplexed by this new environment.

Stranger danced on stranger. Bartenders served shot after shot in nothing but thongs. Thunderous bass shook us all to the bone.

By all counts, this should be a happy place. Alcohol. Music. Dancing. But everyone was so somber.

“What’s wrong?” My boyfriend said. I had stared too long.

“Everyone just seems so sad.” I said, staring out through the smoke.

My boyfriend followed my gaze.

“Well, when you put a ton of people that have experienced so much trauma all together, you’re bound to be sad.” He said it so matter-of-factly as he drank his very “straight” beer and went back to playing.

But I was shocked by the comment. He was right!

Yes, LGBTQ individuals have been given the right of marriage. Yes, they now have further protections because of the recent supreme court ruling. But decades of hiding in the closet doesn’t disappear overnight.

The fear and anxiety of being attracted to the same sex doesn’t magically disappear with legislation. The very fact that my boyfriend had to play pool and drink beer to not look “too gay” is evidence enough. In fact, the day he met my parents, the first words out of his mouth were, “I’m gay, but I’m not a faggot.”

The repression continues. The closet continues.

Michael Hobbes wrote a powerful line in his essay on gay loneliness that summarizes this thought. “Whether we recognize it or not, our bodies bring the closet with us into adulthood.” He goes on to share that even though we’re experiencing more liberties as gay men than ever before, more and more gay men are finding themselves utterly alone.

And it’s so true. I feel it. My friends feel it.

The repression that was our ally as a child has become our enemy. The anxiety that kept a watchful eye for potential threats now forces us into a corner. And what happens when a people are repressed for too long? What happens when a piece of you has been shoved into a corner for years? What happens to a child that will not be heard?

The child screams.

And just like a child, I think our sexuality is screaming. It’s demanding to be heard, and the only way we know how to get that sobbing piece of us to shut up is to appease it with sex.

***

“Where do you think this comes from, Matthew?” I asked.

“An entire minority group has not been allowed to express themselves, and then suddenly being able to express their pent-up sexual identity,” Matthew said. “I think we’re still feeling the reverberations.”

I agree with my friend.

So does this mean the LGBTQ+ community is screwed? We’re just all too damaged?

I don’t think so. Things are changing.

I have been privileged to work with Gen Z as a student teacher and interview them with my job for the Indy, and because of the changes on a cultural level, I see changes in these students on a personal level.

They meet partners in after-school clubs. They hold hands in the hall. They take each to the dances.

They don’t let shame and fear rule them because they never needed them as protectors. They’re not hiding in the closet because the day holds more hope, holds more life.

When I look at Gen Z, I truly get excited. They’re making better choices than I did at their age because they have support systems to help them navigate their sexuality in safer ways, they have legislation to protect them from unfair employers, they have friends and family that want to be involved in their dating life.

Things are slowly changing, and the LGBTQ+ community is experiencing more health and more life than ever before.

And it makes sense. After all, what plant thrives in a dark closet? What animal lives long behind locked doors?

As we continue to erase the closet from our culture, we’ll continue to be less haunted by its power, the power of fear and shame.