Thursday, August 27, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
I went camping to Cypress Hills this past weekend with one of my closest friends. We discuss a lot of stuff. He vocalized this weekend that he decided, a long time ago, that he is incapable of providing wisdom in our relationship because he simply can't be aware of what it is like to be gay and the enormous challenges that it demands.
But he always manages to make me think - despite his apparent lack of wisdom.
We often have many topics to discuss. Homosexuality tends to be the commanding theme, but sometimes we discuss concerns about spirituality. This weekend we managed to discuss worship, and Hope. I actually managed to have a discussion about hope.
My friend, eternally wise and positive-thinking, asked me what provides me with hope in this world. The list was small, and focused on the enormously selfish reality that I am gay, but let me try and re-create it here.
- I was able to talk to him, a deeply spiritual and undeniably Christian person, with complete openness despite the fact that he knows of my sexuality. We could go camping together. He trusted me enough to stay in the same tent as me.
- I have many other friends that know I am gay. One had it confirmed through this blog. All but one have remained my friends, and the one who was lost remains an acquaintance.
- I can remember the specific date when Jean Chretien managed to have marriage redefined in Canada to include the union of same sex couples. I was in high school. And I celebrated very privately, and entirely internally. I am certain that I walked around for week with a smile.
Imagine that this part of the conversation took about five minutes and you would be correct. They were quickly segued into reasons to be filled with despair. For an hour and a half.
- I can also remember every moment in my life that I have been told that being gay is something that somebody doesn't admit. Once was in the back seat of my car, trying to tell my brother and father a joke where, because of somebody's dick size, they discover they are gay. They both told me that nobody would admit to be being gay.
- I can also remember the debates that took place when Chretien was putting forward his new law for marriage redefinition. People debating the morality of it. The morality of gay people, and their capacity to participate in a single relationship.
- I know that I have to tell a lot of people still. People that will end our relationship as a result. I can't even begin to presume how my grandma will react. My parents. One of my best friends, recently engaged and just finishing her work term in Calgary, who has often told me about how immoral homosexual people are.
- After I do come out, I will be removed from my church, and there will be suspicions about my relationships with some of the youth in the ministry. Because my conduct as a gay man is instantly more suspicious than my conduct as a straight man. Because we are less moral.
- I won't ever be able to participate in youth ministry again, something that I have a great passion for because of the relationships that develop. I want to go back to camp next year, despite my disbelief, because I have a vision for what that place can become. But I won't be allowed to.
- I can expect to have a harder time finding a job teaching than my straight counterpart. The entire time I will be teaching, I will have to be more aware of my conduct than straight teachers, because I will more easily accused.
This continued for 90 minutes.
In essence, my life from now on becomes a life of defensive strategies. Moreso than ever before. And I have to be more understanding of why I am "oppressed" than the "oppressor" is expected to understand me. I have to know why people will dislike me.
My friend, eternally wise and positive-thinking, at this point told me that he had no wisdom to offer.
And then, on the drive home yesterday, as the residue of this conversation crept in, my friend reminded me of the things that brought me Hope.
Essentially, there is so much in the world that sucks the life out of somebody. So much that can cause despair, and so few things that can lift us out of this despair. Particularly when we are lonely. But we should still remember those things, however few they are, that bring us hope.
And then I realized that I was happy. Happy with somebody who knew me as well, and better, than almost anybody else on this planet. This man knew me, and loved me as I was. I was not just enjoying myself. I was happy.
And if my friend, eternally wise and positive-thinking, can make me happy, maybe he understands hope a bit better than I do.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
One of the less mundane aspects of my job at Wal-Mart involves completing purchase orders for companies, charities, and the government. Today, at work, there were many purchase orders that I had to write up. One of the more recent ones involved two young women, one a mother, both First Nations. They were purchasing school supplies, with money from the Ministry of Social Services.
The first of the women had some money left over, so she ran off to collect some pens and use as much money as possible to fill out her purchase order. This took her about 10 minutes. And my line grew very quickly in this ten minutes to be approximately 10 people deep. My computer was hung up, waiting for her to come and complete the transaction.
And so I began sharing my frustration with my co-workers - "how long does it take to get pens when they are only twenty feet away?" Some of the customers heard me, including the second of the young First Nations women. She approached me, with her child, and said, "Don't talk about my friend like that."
Now, I'm a prideful prick. And when I am in a situation where I have the power, my prideful prickness pops up at an extreme.
So I said to my co-worker. "I think this woman is threatening me. I can't imagine why. Does she actually expect me to redeem her purchase order when she does that?"
In that instant, this woman was reminded of what it is like to be Indian in a world where white people have the money and power, and where men are not to be questioned by women. This woman was reminded that she was powerless. She was reminded that she was poor, and that she was accepting charity from somebody else (the government) in order to purchase something as simple and everyday as school supplies. This young woman, with child in hand, was reminded of her everyday existence, in the midst of a moment of excitement - the purchasing of school supplies.
And this was because of me.
The events that took place afterwards were of no. I was able to fulfill my duty, and feel charitable in doing it. She was able to fulfill her duty, and feel ashamed for being dependent. She was reminded, because of my body language, because of my privilege to have a job, and because of my willingness to "help" her, of how much more power I have than her.
Not that she needed reminding. Or that I needed reminding. We both know it, we just call this existence, "reality", and make it acceptable because it is "the way things are."
I have felt the scar of oppression - it is because of this scar that I am still in the closet and protecting myself from more direct attacks upon my identity. I rage about oppression - it discusses me when I can dissect interactions and recognize it. But I am an agent of it; I have been contracted out to oppress the poor, the women, the racialized, and the "other". I don't know it, but I am complicit in it.
My behaviour must change.
And everytime that I write about and discuss the oppression that I experience, I must be reminded that I am an oppressor. If my sympathies are limited to superficial ideals that don't affect my behaviour, or to the protection of homosexuals from social harassment, then I am not worthy of any protection or kindness myself.
Desmond Tutu says this: "A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons."
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The title of this blog is Reflections on Majdanek, a reference to one of the most unbelievable moments I have ever experienced. Let me share this moment with you, and then offer some reflection on it.
Majdanek is the site of death incarnate. It is the home of despair. If there is a hell, it is one of its many manifestations on earth. I have visited three of these manifestations with the intention of finding Hell, many more without realizing what hell was; of them all, Majdanek stands out. It is a particularly dark place in hell.
Majdanek is the last place I cried.
Majdanek, pronounced My-donn-ick, is a Nazi concentration camp on the outskirts of Lublin, Poland. It is incredibly preserved, with few signs of destruction as the Soviets "liberated" the camp before the Nazis could destroy the camp and its many records. Lives were not as fortunate as the buildings that once housed them.
I was there at the end of June 2008 with my brother and many friends from across the vast country of Canada, all of teachers, all of us eager to learn. We had spent days in Poland and Germany, attending ceremonies, visiting Polish Jewish graveyards and memorials, entering the gates of death at Aushwitz-Birchenau. Walking until the rotated "B" of Arbeit Macht Frei - work will set you free.
If there is a hell, it has many manifestations on earth.
But Majdanek is where I cried.
Right next to the burning chambers of Majdanek, which could be once again functional in 24 hours, was the image at the top of this post. Only in three dimensions; it could be walked around, it could be scaled. If the rain fell, it could be smelt in a new way. This building is called the Mausoleum. In it are the remains - ashes, bones, skulls, teeth - of some of the camps more than 70,000 victims. It is located on the site of death; where, on 3 November 1943, 18,000 Jews were killed by their persecutors. This event was known as the Harvest Festival to the Germans, as Bloody Wednesday to all else. It was the largest, single-event of mass killings of the entire Holocaust.
Majdanek is where I cried. And where I sang, with friends, a Canadian folk song of hope.
That as sure as the sunrise
As sure as the sea
As sure as the wind in the trees
We rise again in the faces
of our children
We rise again in the voices of our song
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean
And then we rise again
A message of hope. A daring message of hope, at the site of death, in the heart of Hell. Where 18,000 single lives, stories, masses of experience, of knowledge, were ended. Audacious.
Majdanek is where I cried; it is where I sang. It is where I was comforted. It is where the story of Hope transcended understanding and became a belief, despite all evidence otherwise.
Hell does exist. It is humanity at its worst. God is debatable. It may also be humanity at its worst.
Here is my reflection - how dare I feel overwhelmed, lacking in hope, when the nations of Jews can encounter Hell and survive, and then call themselves, Israel, the "home of Hope." How pathetic of me. Self-serving, human.
Go read Halina Birenbaum's Hope is the Last to Die.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
It is one of those few words that we all know, and we all understand. Everybody I know can associate some experience, some memory with this feeling. And we all know how entirely inadequate the word is in expressing the moment that one feels it. Shame; it is far too small, easily said and easily forgotten and we only know the reality of it when we are reminded of its existence. And that doesn't happen with the word, but only with experience. Five letters is nothing. Shame is everything.
Tonight I had an experience of shame, developing out of extreme confusion and anger. Intense shame, that has lead me to this bottle of Millers Genuine Draft.
I received an e-mail from a close friend; a man that I love a great deal. I admire him for his love of humanity, of people, or the possibility of hope - he is a man of inspiration. In the e-mail were contained the following words:
"Do you really think I didn’t know?
I’ve known for a very long time and I’ve been waiting for you to tell me."
My 8-hour response process has involved intense shame. I have asked myself so many times what gave me away. Was it a glance? I glitter in my eye, revealing something that my mouth would never admit? Was he uncomfortable, and did he want to confront me on it? Did it distract him? Did he enter every dialogue with me as frustrated as I entered them with him, wondering if the time of confession had arrived?
Most of my shame developed out of a sense that I made this friend immensely uncomfortable with my dishonesty and my lacking integrity. I was ashamed that perhaps he felt, in any way imaginable, even remotely violated by me - had I ever "checked him out", and had he ever caught me doing it? Had he ever seen me admire other men, been urged to ask me, and then stopped himself?
How many times did I deny him of a conversation he may have wanted to have?
Who else am I doing this to?
Is this why people want to talk about homosexuality around me? Do they want me to step out of a dream and stop pretending?
Are they actually ok with it, or are they just accepting the idea of it?
Maybe that is a question I need to ask myself more often.
My parents don't know. But they do. They are just waiting to be told.
Monday, August 10, 2009
It is amazing the things that can happen when you encounter magazines.
Wal-Mart. This past week. I was working. This magazine was brought to me as something that had been misplaced on a shelf somewhere by a customer. These things get brought up to me all the time.
Just not with Channing Tatum on the cover.
It is my responsibility to reorganize these items (hundreds a day) so that they get taken to their proper departments.
But I didn't do that with this magazine, because it had Channing Tatum on the cover. And there is a rumour that he is bisexual. And I am like a 12 year old girl whose dream in life is to marry Justin Timberlake. Or Channing Tatum.
Back to Channing Tatum being bisexual.
A co-worker comes behind my desk and we start hanging out. This woman is middle-aged, but definite a sexual prowler. She says I wear nice pants. She isn't the only person at work who says it, but she is the oldest. And maybe I do wear nice pants. They get the job done.
I tell the co-worker that this guy on the cover is bisexual.
She says, "Thats too bad. He's going to die young."
My response. "Huh?"
She says, "He'll get AIDs from the guys."
Moments like this hurt more than I can show. Not only because this is a completely secular person who has shown some degree of prejudice, but because I know that once I am "out" people will still have these feelings, and have them about me. And they won't tell me about them, because they don't want to hurt my feelings.
Moments like this make me more aware of why some First Nations want to be white. Why some women wish they were men. Why the poor wish to be rich. And why the Quebecois never want to be English. Why I wish I was straight, but never like that.
Its easier to be powerful. To relate to the people who are powerful. You just don't want to be like the scum of the earth.
One day I am going to have to give up this false power that I have, and have people talk about me behind my back.
Friday, August 7, 2009
I just watched the recently released documentary "for the Bible tells me so." It felt like the story of me - a story that I want to share with the world. I cannot recommend it enough. If you want to view a copy, let me and I will get it to you - I've e-mailed the maker and asked for a digital copy. If that doesn't go through, I will get several copies.
Then the revolution can begin. It has to. The church cannot be a part of hate, hate that leads to suicide, suicide that leads to death and pain. This is not God. God cannot accept this. As I have said before, this is because God is everything but Hate.
If he exists.
I wonder what my life is like in a post-gay existence; where it is simply part of me rather than the central aspect of my thought. My everyday, simple, natural existence. I cannot wait for the fact that women don't make sexual sense to me to be open.
But it isn't going to happen right away. Can you imagine this conversation? This is the conversation parents know is coming, that parents don't want to have. This is the conversation that children know is coming, but that children know they have to have - this is the moment at which one admits that one is NOT the same. For biological reasons. For reasons that cannot be recognized by sight, but for biological reasons.
A couple nights ago I couldn't sleep. My parents had been out of town, and coming home the day after. I was crippled with fear, feeling that the moment for this conversation had come. (I realize this moment has been coming for 22 years, and still hasn't materialized. I'm working on that. Give me time, and a couple shots of tequila at a coffee shop.) I stayed up late, writing a series seven of spastic poems. I don't do this. Write, or write poetry. Music is my method. But words tortured me.
This is intimate stuff. It can get intimate. But I am going to retype it here for you. You may not like it - I'm not Leonard Cohen, William Blake, or Shakespeare. I'm only Neal Robert Adolph. And I don't really know what I am saying, except that there is truth in it.
I. Misery makes sense to a gay man, because nobody knows his name unless they read his birth certificate.
And even then they only know his name.
Happiness confuses me.
It is unfamiliar and frightening.
Misery feels like home.
II. I'll sit around my home, reading about God,
and wishing that my friends were not so inspired by him.
Because I am impressionable and lonely.
What inspires them can temporarily inspire me.
Because I am lonely.
Even when I am inspired, I know God doesn't exist.
Why would he want to.
III. I am so capable of allowing fear to paralyze me.
I can't imagine what it is like to feel somebodies lips on yours.
I propose it is like encountering God for the first time.
Like heroin. So damn good. So false. fleeting. Never to be captured again.
I want somebody to play with my arm hair.
Caress the hair on my thigh.
Is it actually electrifying? Does it paralyze? Will I even like it?
These thoughts arrest me. Why be something that I am not convinced I will enjoy?
IV. A confession is always on one's mind, but never on one's lips. The fear of rejection prevents words to form in the mouth that they have lived in for years.
They are nesting.
They aren't interested in learning how to fly.
Because escape from prison is only tempting when the sun is out, and a rainbow is in the sky.
And even then the nesting cage is familiar. Safe, dark and lonely, but familiar. It makes sense. Just like misery.
Misery makes sense to a confession.
V. Nobody hates a gay man quite as much as he hates himself.
VI. I've written novels about myself a dozen times. The first one was written in 2003. I was 17, and I was about to commit suicide. The words never materialized, but the novel was written.
In the style of a disappointing romance novel. Lots of lust. No sex.
VII. I say to you, O protector of children from freedom their parents do not desire,
to you, O protector of adults from freedoms their God does not desire,
to you, O protector of mine, sitting in your fortification north of Saskatoon.
You are bastards for letting me lie.
I'm sorry for blaming you.
I may have fallen in love with Bishop Desmond Tutu. A man, across an ocean, and of elderly blood. He says this, and it is sexy. "I can't, for the life of me, imagine that God would say, 'I will punish you because you are black. You should have been white. I will punish you because you are a woman. You should have been a man. I punish you because you are homosexual. You should have been heterosexual.' I can't - I can't for the life of me believe that is how God sees people."
The God of Desmond Tutu is sexy.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
"Homosexuality is only a part of the whole. I like to think that sexuality doesn't determine the entire person."
Ok, that isn't a direct quote. Don't go searching for it - you won't find it. But it was similar to that. And I loved it. I probably wrote it down and lost the piece of paper at some point.
I like the idea that this blog can act in some format as a venting piece for my interactions with my emerging homosexual existence. I want it to exhibit the dialogue that I need to start having with the world around me. But, as per Hugh Jackman, I need to include other parts of my dialogue with the world.
Thus, this post, where I begin to share some of my concerns with the world, responding to events. Maybe you'll get a better sense of the whole of me. I am more than just gay.
I was at a friends wedding last weekend - a wonderous event, as weddings always are. This friend is an inspiration amongst men; an intelligent man, who is passionate about God and God's people. He is also a communist. I cheer for him.
And he hasn't walked into a Wal-Mart in 3 years.
I work at Wal-Mart, as a customer service desk employee. And I am well aware of why this man refuses to shop at Wal-Mart. They treat employees poorly, choosing to understaff stores and giving people insufficient hours or wages to allow for a living. They don't treat customers well, because there is not enough staff to care for their needs. They don't have expectations for how the employees of their producers are treated. They encourage people to spend beyond their means by making purchasing easy. They have poor environmental policy. They direct enormous volumes of money from the communities where money is earned to a head-quarters and into a corporate bank account. Money leaves communities because of Wal-Mart.
I don't like Wal-Mart. I enjoy my job though. And I enjoy the people that I work with; they are good people, with great humour, great hearts, and great intentions that just have the unfortunate experience of working at Wal-Mart.
And so I have plans to never shop at Wal-Mart again. Which is hard, because I tend to buy a lot. I am a Wal-Mart consumer - impulsive, dangerous, unconcerned with my bank account or how my purchases are affecting people around the world.
So I am going to start a system, online, with this blog, displaying my non-Wal-Mart purchases.
Canadian Tire. 2 Items
- A Key cut. $2.99
- A Hidden key kit. $2.99
- Taxation. $.060
Total not given to Wal-Mart: $6.58
I'm looking forward to living out my morals rather than merely discussing them.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
My discussion last night with Joel made me realize how little faith I have in the world that I live in, and how little faith I have in the inspiration of God to change the world; to make it an environment of love.
Joel suggested that there are people in my church are much more capable of love than I want to give them credit for. I have my doubts. But Joel said that there are people in my church that are aware of the radical love of God's kingdom, and try their hardest to live it out. People that know that God's love is far too radical to allow for hate - not just because they are a dueling opposites, but because God is not hate.
I want to be able to afford that radical love to the people of my church. To the pastors of my church. I want to have faith in God for change. And I should be so inspired by the change that has taken place for the gay community at large.
But then shootings take place in Israel at a gay community center for teenagers.
And I hide in my closet. The revolutionary in me dies down. I am quiet. I stumble in the dream of being straight.
Damn my fear. Shit on my cynicism. I wish to dispose of them and become a good person again. The person I want to be.
Joel is a good friend.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
This song, a Beatles classic, comes to mind tonight for two reasons. Firstly, I was listening to the Across the Universe soundtrack, and I quite enjoy this scene from the film. Secondly, because of a discussion I have with a friend tonight. Maybe I should get it tattooed to my body or something.
I was discussing frustration in my church with my friend. If anybody is reading this blog at all, then they would have have read my recent post on why I attend my church. Well, I should perhaps inform you that this reasoning is not particularly sustainable - though ideal, it doesn't last long. I was on the verge of collapsing today and asking my pastor for an exit interview. I may still do it.
I was having a conversation with somebody that I have been "out" to for about a year. I kind of forced myself out to him on the eve of Heath Ledger's death, in a kind of shock response to his death, and a ode to his incredible acting ability in Brokeback Mountain and pretty much everything else. He was locked in my car. For about 2 hours. Playing word games with me while I imagined methods of coming out to him.
If you've been reading, you'll know that I have moved onto e-mailing distant cousins and close friends. Perhaps a poor policy. I'm still in a state of no-response limbo. I hate this.
Anyways, on to the point.
I shared my frustrations with my friend, Joel, who listened. Recently my church's senior pastor has decided that young adults are not prepared to ask questions regarding the complete validity of the entirety of Christian scripture. My best friend from high school (the first to hear of my sexuality) is in the role of leading this group of young adults, and had his heart destroyed when this took place.
I was thoroughly unhappy with the result, or the process. This pastor is horrible at resolving conflict, and making people uncomfortable, and providing people with opportunities to be challenged. And this is the church in which I must find solace once I go through the process of "coming out" publicly.
Which I think I am nearing. Joel could turn me into a revolutionary.
I attend a Mennonite Brethren church - which is Christian talk for conservative central. We aren't particularly well known for changing our ways, or our thoughts and approaches to social concerns. We are known for helping those in need around the world, but keeping to ourselves locally.
And just to avoid the questions - I drink alcohol. Regularly. I dance. Regularly.
I don't take a horse-drawn cart to church. Ever.
I think I am normal.
My friend Joel is telling me that my church needs to change - that there is no way that the old-school way of viewing Christianity will survive another 50 years because there are very few youth that are interested in carrying the torch anymore. We have been inspired and infected by social liberation theology.
Me being gay could make this obvious. It is a decisive matter. The church would be separated on it - they would confront the disunity and have to respond. The young and the old would disagree.
But I hate that part of revolution - where people don't agree or get along.
But people shouldn't get along while others are oppressed. Ignorance is bliss, but unacceptable.
So do I start a revolution? It is damn tempting.
But it isn't quite so simple, just as it never is. And if a book is ever written about the gay Mennonite that changed the world, I don't want it to present it as simple.
I help out with youth ministry. Children.
And I am gay.
Special questions arise. None of them are valid questions, but they arise. Have I touched little boys? Have I convinced other boys that they are gay? Have I turned others gay? Maybe these are questions that need to be confronted so that we can become aware of how barbaric our image of gay culture is.
But do I have to be the person who is hurt throughout the process?
“Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Mk 14:36)