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Twentyfourteen.

On January 4th of this year, I found myself in an airplane wondering what on earth possessed me to think that moving from Pennsylvania to California with $12.00 in my bank account was a good idea. In 2103 I found myself going back to school full time and working on a farm to support myself through quite an interesting life transition – from being a full time Program Coordinator at one of the Church of the Brethren’s largest and well known camps and retreat centers to… Nothing. 2012 was the year I decided to stand up for myself and what I believed in and, having reaped the consequences of carrying this out, 2013 was the year of getting myself back on my feet. I could not have done this without those who reached out to me – by whom I mean Dan and Fred. Thanks to them, I had a roof over my head, food in my stomach, an income, and I was even able to go back to school full time.

Time was running out, though. On New Year’s Eve of 2012, I told myself that in 366 days I would be independent again. That by January 2014 I would have my own place and be supporting myself 100% with my own income. I thought that the waiting job I took in Lancaster in October 2013 was my ticket out of Bethel, but boy, was I ever wrong. I worked for three weeks before I got canned for having an “off day” (the day after I found out a friend and former colleague had taken her life). I spent the rest of October and November looking for jobs.

That’s how I ended up on a plane. There was a tipping point in my mind that triggered a very dark view of my disdain for everything in PA. After much soul-searching, I concluded that getting back on my feet after 2012 was important to me, yes, but 2013 taught me that doing it on my own was what I needed most, and in order to do that I needed to start over again. Tabula rasa. I needed to be emotionally, physically, and geographically far, far away from anything that I associated with how I ended up in my situation in the first place. PA was dead to me. I detested it, and there was nothing anybody could do to paint a silver lining around its borders. It was a state of mind that I allowed to fester, if only to add motivation to get the hell out.

I had an emotional breakdown during my layover in Phoenix. I cried unabashedly on my way to gate B12, the connecting flight that would take me to LAX, where I was to be picked up by some guy named Noel. I sat and stared out the window through my tears, looking at the tiny plane that would be hopping me over Arizona and Nevada to be an official left-coaster in SoCal. “This is me picking myself up? On my own? Is this what it looks like? Running away? Am I running away? Why did I leave? I had stability and support. Now I have $12.00 and I’m heading to a job I hardly know much about. Why am I doing this?”

I almost immediately found family in my colleagues and quickly learned that the staff at High Trails is a highly intelligent and wildly adventurous bunch. I spent the first half of 2014 working and playing harder than I ever have in my life alongside the most beautifully captivating people I’ve ever met. It was therapeutic.

In March, I decided that I would like to get back into Program Directing, and I ended up landing a position at a place called Oakland Feather River Camp, a family camp located in Northern California. It was a seasonal position, which is wonderful because it allowed me to work year round, but still kept a management position on my résumé without any large time gaps.

My first season at OFRC was extremely successful. I was told good things. Wonderful things. I was told that I brought life back into the program. I was told that I was a key player in saving a struggling camp. I was told that my staff was the best that the families, some of which had been attending for decades, have ever seen. I had a magnificent working relationship with my boss, who referred to me as a “gem of a man.” There is now even a push to get my job to be a full-time, year round position.

Professionally and socially speaking, 2014 was amazing. I wish I could say the same when it comes to family. I am not going to get into much detail, but during a short month that I went back to PA (between OFRC and Returning to High Trails), I yet again saw some pretty ugly colors come out of my father. He is a manipulative person, who will assume others’ ignorance lie at the drop of a hat to keep his ego and pride in tact. Over a family dinner, one at which my then boyfriend Colton and long-time friend Patrick were present, my father claimed that the reason that all of my stuff that was in my car is gone forever is because the conversation I was referencing that we had (where he agreed to get my stuff out of my car) was completely made up on my part. Minutes later, he referenced the conversation he denied ever having in an attempt to prove me wrong. How one references, verbatim, a conversation he claims was completely fabricated is beyond me.

That about did it between me and my father. It may seem small, but I am exhausted of his mental games. Twenty-seven years of psychological boot camp is enough. My parents both have this thing where they do not treat or talk to their kids (well, I guess I can’t speak for my sister anymore) as the adults that they are. They team up and belittle and seem to have this fixation to remind us/me that “I am the parent, you are the child,” and “I spawned you.” – believe it or not, both of these are direct quotes I have heard from them well into adulthood. Yes, “I spawned you.” You can laugh.

My mother and I also don’t talk, but it is truly for something I have nothing to do with and know nothing about. My mother put up a very accusatory status update about me in response to something my cousin said that I told him to take down. My mother either doesn’t believe me that I have nothing to do with the actions of my cousin, or she doesn’t want to believe me. After my friends started sending me messages wondering what was going on and why my mother would post something like that on her page, I angrily called home. My mother refused to pick up, but she sure did text me some awful things. Name calling and everything. She said she refused to pick up the phone to protect me because she didn’t want to “unleash.” My family – and all of its members – sucks at communicating. They are passive. I am direct. Like everyone else, my communication style can also be to a fault. It is the mixing of how I communicate with how my family communicates that fuels a seemingly never ending nuclear reaction. I therefore constantly look like I’m instigating and confrontational. I get called “mean.” Im not mean. I’m just not passive in confrontations. At all. I hate confrontations and I want them to be over as soon as they begin rearing their ugly, largely unnecessary heads. In my world, in order to diffuse a bomb, you have to open it, figure it out, and decide which wires need to be cut. Denying the bomb’s existence or dancing around how to diffuse it is a waste of precious time you could be using some other way. Like enjoying life without bombs. Mom, if you are reading this, trust me – I have better things to do than spread “vicious lies” about you to my family members, whom I don’t talk to in the first place. The world is heating up, and I gotta, you know, tell kids about that. And also live life. You know, things that don’t have anything to do with you.

When it comes to my sister in 2014, who knows. I wonder what my nephews look like. Hm. Maybe she’s pregnant again. Whatever. It is that my expressing annoyance to her that I found out about the birth of one of my nephews via FACEBOOK PICTURES caused her to lock me out of her life. I guess I should have been more understanding that this is how the world communicates. If ever I get married, I’ll be sure to send a tweet letting everyone know. “@everyone Btw totes marryd now. Lolz! #love #sendgiftsplz”

2014 also sadly ended my longest running relationship. I realized I could not be who I wanted to be in the relationship given the direction my life has gone. I still care for Colton. I do. I’m just not happy with not being able to be who I need to be in a relationship.

2014 also housed my shortest running relationship. While frustrated at his work and life situation, my friend Zack decided to apply to High Trails after the season had started and somehow he wound up on staff. Zack is a guy I met on grindr a while back and we’ve remained friends since. We have a rather dynamic friendship, and while we tried for something when he moved out here, it was very obvious that we do better as friends. Honestly, I need to stop thinking that being in a relationship is something that is necessary for my happiness. I’ve learned a lot with regard to that this past year. Relationships are just a thing I do. I need not to feel like that’s a normal gear to be in. On at note, it is very nice having a friend from PA working here.

So there’s a recap. In a little over a week, I will be celebrating the one-year anniversary of my Phoenix meltdown. I will also be celebrating the progress I have made – the friends I have made – the job(s) that I have – the difference I have made in the lives with which I’ve intersected. I will celebrate the new path I have set myself on my way out of the fun little wilderness of life. I will return to school out here. I’ll find my way to stability and success out here. I’ll travel and meet people and learn about the world around me. Maybe I will leave the country again. Nothing is holding me back or down anymore; I can breathe deeply.

Here is to 2015 and the changes and progress I plan to make, within and without. This coming year’s resolutions are turning out to be more people oriented, so watch out close friends, and also people whom I have yet to meet! Dun dun dunnn!

Ancora imparo – and still, I am learning.
Aaron

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My story, for those just tuning in.

A year ago, I came out to my parents as ex-ex gay. In other words, I was gay again. Actuallyy, I never was straight, but only pretending so I would no longer be the one who was singlehandedly tearing apart my family. I saw terrible things happen to my family in high school, and it was all my fault. Strike that, it was the devil’s fault for grabbing onto my soul and my ignorance of God’s saving power that was at fault here. Regardless, what was happening to me was tearing apart my family and the relationship I had with them. That is, until I developed what I now understand to be a bold faced lie. I was desperate. I was confused. I was hurting and tried so desperately to search for an answer. I tried so hard not to be gay. I prayed. I prayed. I prayed.

Mom and dad told me it could happen. Dad left notes about sexual immorality in my bureau. He quoted bible passages. He told me that I could change. He promised me. And from what I inferred from the bible, God could change me as well, and gayness was one of these things from which to be saved. I, seventeen year old Aaron, was told that once I accepted Christ and repented of my gayness (“denying myself” as it were), I would no longer be gay. I would no longer be tearing apart my family. I would no longer be in a spiritual battle.

At first, I fought them. I told them they were being bigots. I told them they needed to get over it. That I am gay and there is nothing that can be done to change it. My mom lost weight. She lost a lot of hair. My dad threw tables. My phone calls were monitored. My whole life was on notice. It was hell on earth.

Seventeen year olds are young. Their minds are still developing. They are still impressionable. Many of them, myself included at the time, were inherently angry. They are trying to figure out the world around them. They convince themselves they are right about things that they know nothing about. They think they are good at lying. They don’t have it together. At all.

I was seventeen when my life went to shambles. I was seventeen when I was told that God could make me different. That my orientation was the result of the fall of man and that I was born a sinner like everyone else and that my gayness was just one of the many possible manifestations of original sin. I was told that I was a slave to this original sin and that Jesus was the way to break my chains and set me free. I was told that my orientation was able to be changed, just like Donnie McKurklin’s was.

I began to believe them.

I read the bible, and for the first time, it made sense to me. I was sinful. My gayness was sin. The whole world was screwed up. All the gossip and terrible things that went on at school were the result of a fallen world. They did not know God and his love. They didn’t understand how much better he could make life. They needed to hear this! I wanted to share this message! But before I did, I needed to stop being gay. Mom and dad said that I cannot be a Christian if I don’t believe that the bible is God-breathed and if God says that gay is wrong, then I’m not a Christian and I cannot possibly share God with my friends.

I couldn’t stop being gay. It’s not that I couldn’t stop following through on being gay and act upon my gayness; I wasn’t really gay-active at the time.

I just needed to switch that orientation compass to Jesus. Instead of looking at guys, I needed to look at Jesus. Instead of looking at guys, I needed to look at Jesus. Instead of looking at guys, I needed to look at Jesus. Instead of looking at guys, I needed to look at Jesus.

I came out as ex-gay to my family in December of 2004. We rejoiced. My mom slept again. My dad stopped throwing tables and yelling. I stopped being exorcized. I stopped wanting to kill myself. There was peace: the peace that God promised. I was grateful. I went ahead and renounced my gayness to my friends and then boyfriend and started convincing myself that girls were attractive. I began being able to identify what about females that other boys my age said were “hot” and I began “appreciating the beauty” of these specimens who were designed by my creator. I understood that union with one of these beauts one day would be communion with my creator. I got this figured out.

College came. I dated girls. I appreciated them all. I was very appreciative. I appreciated them so hard. I eventually dated a girl named Becca for a very long time. She was beautiful. She had big blue eyes and straight brown hair. She came from a big, bible believing family. My family, who was now “on fire for The Lord,” were very happy for the two of us. Pictures of us lined the cabinets and credenzas at home. We dated off and on for a very long time. At one point I started convincing myself I was going to marry her. It was just perfect. A beautiful, Christian woman. This was definitely God’s design for my life. My parents and family were happy. Becca was happy, her family was happy.

Something was missing. She knew it. I knew it. People we talked to about the other knew it. I tried so hard to figure out what it was. I mean, sure, I still thought guys were attractive, but I wasn’t supposed to, so I didn’t let myself think anything else but “handsome guy.” When I say that, I truly mean it. I was not struggling with my gayness in college. I was busy being enveloped in the warm embrace of God’s intended design for my life. I had great friends. I kept busy leading worship. I had a bunch of spectacular mentors and adults in my life. My orientation wasn’t a struggle.

Something was wrong, though. Becca and I couldn’t connect. We couldn’t connect at all. Here I had this perfect woman, and I couldn’t connect with her. A lot of us tend to put a lot of stress on the sexual side of relationships. While I do think sex is important, I can guarantee you that a spouse who has had their other half passing away won’t be talking about how much he/she misses the sex. There is a connection that is there; an x-factor, if you will, that psychologically, physiologically, and ecumenically attracts one to another. This is the chemistry that makes up the relationship.

It wasn’t there. I appreciated her. I loved what she meant for her in my life. But… Something was off.

During the last few months of my relationship with Becca, I met someone with whom I did experience that chemistry. He worked as a lifeguard at Camp Swatara back when I served on summer staff as a counselor. His name was Ben and he and I quickly became close friends. I remember going on walks with him late into the night. I remember he way the made me laugh always. I remember his eyes; his love for kids; his work ethic; his “Brethrenness.” I remember feeling safe around him – like I could tell him anything. I remember more about him in those three months of plutonic friendship than I do about Becca, having known/dated her for years.

I did a lot of thinking that summer. I came to one conclusion:

I am gay. I am a gay male who will find completion in a partner who is another gay male. It is my orientation.

In a leap of faith, I came on to Ben one night. The feelings were reciprocated and we began a relationship of ups and downs and ins and outs.

I fought it for a while. I tortured myself with Christian rhetoric. I even prayed to God that Ben would die so I wouldn’t even any longer have the opportunity to feel the way I felt about him. It didn’t work and I soon found myself head over heels in love. And let me tell you, for the first time in my life, it felt right. It felt RIGHT. I wasn’t repressed. I was no longer ignoring a side of myself that would ultimately lead to a spiritual calm. I was happy, and calm, and fulfilled. And I was a Christian. I ended up running the program at Camp Swatara, and while even though Ben moved away to Ohio and then Portland, we dated for almost two years before I decided the distance and our life situations were too much to handle and called it off. I don’t recall a time of greater personal and spiritual growth than what I experienced in that chapter in my life, and Ben was a significant part of that.

Why am I telling this story? I am telling it because I came across a blog recently of an individual who up has decided to chronicle his journey of trying overcoming homosexuality. He is extremely transparent about all of his struggles in his blog which is much appreciated.

I have come a long way since my second coming out. I can now, with grace and authority, defend my orientation from a biblical standpoint probably better than most gay Christians out there. As leader of a ministry owned and operated by a church denomination that is struggling with the issue of gayness, I had to really do my homework. I had to know what I was talking about beyond “Jesus says to love. Love love love. God is one big huge teddy bear. Let’s just love. Yay gays!”

The guy who is writing his blog is having the same conversations with himself that I had while going through this process. I can feel his agony. I can sense his worry. I can hear his frustration. His fear in “screwing up.” I can also relate to his justification. I can tell him that I too reasoned this way and that way about my being gay. At one point in my life I too resigned to being celibate all my life. Or being single. Or not. I hoped for the right female person to come along. I too understood God’s design. I too, appreciated my definition of God’s design based on what I inferred from scripture.

I know now that these things are based on misunderstandings. They are based on improper hermeneutical inferences made from scripture that have little to no foundational integrity.

My dad is very heavy on the “spiritual battle” aspect of everything. He has told me time and time again that the reason I am gay and have a boyfriend is because there is a spiritual battle going on around me that has separated me from God. I need to turn from my evil desires that satan is whispering in my ear and repent and walk with Christ. What my dad fails to realize is that the result of a spiritual battle of any kind is that brokenness. It is inward tension. It is feeling distant from your faith and your creator. On the other side, the result of spiritual battle is not a sense of completeness. It is not a feeling of right chemistry. It is not the cause of love for your fellow man and the desire to lay down your life for someone so that they may be made higher than you are in your mind. Spiritual battles do not result in increased dignity and integrity of yourself or of those around you. All of these things are things I have experienced in a relationship. If anything, the spiritual battle that I experienced was when I was with Becca and we were both miserable.

I want to encourage struggling gay Christians to do their homework. I want to tell them that this coin is two sided and that gay Christians who believe in absolute truth actually do have a leg to stand on in a biblical sense, contrary to what the religious right tells them. I want to tell them that singleness is a CALLING outlined by Paul. It is singleness and celibacy are a specific calling; it is not a resignation and that the very first thing God ever said was “not good” was for man to be alone.

I am writing more openly on this blog because I am realizing that more people read it that I realize. In particular, people who are searching wordpress for keywords. I invite conversation, as always, but please remember to be respectful.

Aaron

Weird Straight Phrases

I did not edit this post. At all.

I will never forget the conversation. There I was eating tacos with Brandon, my best friend of seven years. Alongside me was Colton, my then boyfriend of seven months. It was a real treat to have Colton there with us since he lived in Harrisburg and had quite an after-work trek to get to this little dive bar in Jonestown, PA.

It had been rough between Brandon and me. At the time we were in the midst of a long process (and in some ways still are) of recalibrating our friendship ever since I came out to him some months prior. Brandon, to this day, will say that my “lifestyle” is against his “values” (we will get to at later), but from what I understand he has chosen to tolerate it for the sake of keeping a friendship. While I am sure it has been a difficult journey for him coming to terms with the fact that his best friend falls into this controversial topic he had previously never had to face directly and could therefore oppose freely, I am going to out on a limb and say that my journey has been even more difficult for myself as I watched him not only sit in silence while I lost my job and livelihood because of my orientation, but also tell me to my face that he would not be coming back to work at the ministry I coordinated if I were working there as an honest individual.

There the three of us sat at the table, drinking beer, eating tacos, and having an overall good time laughing together and sharing stories about our lives since the last time we hung out – the previous Tuesday. “Taco Tuesday” was and still is a tradition of ours that we’ve had since college. I have come to appreciate them more and more as time has taken us on different journeys and stages in life. It is good to keep intersecting with my best friend on a weekly basis, even at the risk of it feeling regimented. We rarely miss Taco Tuesdays.

I am not sure how we ended up on the topic, but at one point, with the three of us at the table, Colton and I on one side and Brandon on the other, Brandon utters the following statement regarding Colton’s and my relationship:

“I mean, I disagree with it, but I can still tolerate it.”

At this point, I was already tired of dealing with the phraseology that is often used by the religious rite. Words and phrases like “I disagree with it” (often used in conjunction with the word “lifestyle”) or “practicing homosexual” or “love the sinner, hate the sin” or any of the other dozens of newly fashionable quips mean nothing more to me than, “My values and understanding of my indoctrinated Christian theology are more important to me than the credibility of my neighbor’s words and happiness.”

These types of words and phrases are relatively new to modern society’s lexicon, as is the realization that more LGBT people are choosing to be honest about their orientations. The latter birthed the former, and here we are: caught in a whirlwind of passive phrases that allows for conservatives to be blanket their bigoted misunderstanding of the human condition in LOVE. In using this phraseology, they don’t have to do their homework. They don’t have to challenge themselves. They don’t even have to completely love their neighbor. They just have to “disapprove” without hating and boom, they’re like Jesus. So…. next issue…. Next issue….

Next issue….

Next issue….

Not so fast, Brandon.

“Wait, what?”

“We’ll, I mean, I disapprove of it, being gay.”

“You disapprove of this? Colton and I?”

“Right. Well, that lifestyle.”

“You know what? How would I love to sit here with you and Tessa (his then fiancée), look down the ridge of my nose and say ‘you know what, all of this… this relationship…. the good times, bad times, what you work for, the care you have for each other, all of what makes this this…. i disapprove. i disagree.’ How much sense would that make? How would that make you feel?”

“I don’t understand why you’re upset. Just because I disagree with it doesn’t mean anything for you.”

“Stop saying that. That you disagree. That is so unbelievably rude. And it doesn’t make sense. It makes no sense. I wouldn’t ever think along those lines when it comes to you and Tessa so what has given you the right to do that to me?”

Needless to say, the conversation escalated into a full fledged argument and we, embarrassingly in front of Colton, stormed out of the bar yelling and crying.

A weekly letter to straight conservative friends:

To: SCF
RE: passive phraseology #1

It has come to my attention that the passive phraseology that has been developed by the religious rite in response to society’s normalizing of the realization that gays exist not only makes little sense, but it is also harmful and ignorant. As a guide, I have listed a few key terms to help you all out. So as not to overwhelm you with new ways of thinking, I will give you but one word each week and allow for you to digest each word and concept. I will also propose a substitute or solution for each of these words or phrases to help you break from your verbally passive tendencies.

“Lifestyle” – stop using the term “lifestyle” altogether. There are seven billion people on this planet and there are therefore seven billion lifestyles. For example, my “lifestyle” currently consists of going to class, farming, looking for a job, trying to figure out my love-life, eating too much red meat, enjoying fine dining, paying lots of bills, driving a lot, going to church, liking dogs, hanging out with friends, flying airplanes, watching TLC in the evenings, and blogging. That’s my lifestyle. The image that comes with your word “lifestyle” for gay MEN (gay women are often excluded from this stigma) is… I don’t know… Lots of gay sex, leather, glory holes, more promiscuity, being…. Fashionable… Um… Hairdressing? Seriously, what the hell do you mean when you mean “lifestyle?” Promiscuity? Hyper-sexuality? Do me a favor: turn on the TV; heterosexuals had that covered long ago. Everywhere I turn the damn straights are shoving their straightness into my face. But is it an accurate response of me to assume that all straights live this lifestyle? No. Not only do I use my brain, but I think I would be quite disturbed with myself if I walked around assumptively wondering about the sex lives of everyone around me.

Solution: Say what you mean. You mean “gay sex.” You do. Say it. Given the many hardships and frustrations that we “homosexuals” have had to go through by this point in life, it is going to be pretty difficult come across the bashful type. It is my firm belief that if you substitute the real term, “gay sex,” for the word “lifestyle” you will be surprised to realize just how preoccupied you are with the sex lives of your gay neighbors. Therefore, you will see that having an opinion on anyone’s sex life, as you have so proudly declared time and time again with your weird, terribly inaccurate “lifestyle” euphemism, is just creepy.

With love,
Aaron

Note: This post has not yet been edited, but I wanted to post it before I went to Harrisburg to see my special some one, who I may or may not be screwing. While making my way to his house I plan to pass straight couples on park benches and disagree with the sex that they have. Or not. Maybe they don’t have sex. But they could! They probably are. Maybe. I just don’t agree with that lifestyle. Just… Their sex. But I dunno. Maybe they don’t have sex. Well, if they don’t have sex, why wouldn’t they just be friends? Like, celibate straight friends? Isn’t that what friends are? Just two people who are close but don’t have sex? Like, buddies? Why can’t all straight people just be buddies? Wait… if I don’t have sex with my boyfriend or at least remind myself and others that I COULD have sex with my boyfriend, does that mean I’m straight? No no. Of course not. But if people are worrying about my sex life as much as I wonder about theirs… Wait… Boy, I worry about sex a lot, don’t I? Yeah I do. I still disagree with straight sex. They shouldn’t get federal protections.

I, the ever understanding Christian

To whom it may concern:

I, Christian, understand that this world is made up of a diverse population of billions of people, each with his or her own background, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and the like. I understand that one commonality of all of these people is the desire to be loved, accepted, validated, and dignified as human beings; this is my own heart as well. It is my mission as a Christian to bring joy and validation to others’ lives through the love of Jesus Christ regardless of their background or personal calling in life. I, Christian, understand that feeling neglected, undignified, or dehumanized by my fellow humans is a painful experience that is breaking and damaging to the human spirit.

While I, Christian, certainly do understand that my surrounding community is made up of countless and diverse sub-groups of people, there is one subgroup that is particularly disconcerting for me. I understand that while this subgroup has no bearing or influence on my own faith and value system, I must see to it that this particular subgroup experience the will of my God and value system in their lives, even though many do not share my values or beliefs. I, Christian, also understand that while I spend much time trying to make sense of the complicated order God has placed on my own life, often to no avail, I am able to hold certain that I understand exactly the order God has placed on the lives of gays. I am unable to explain this logic, though my concern for gays is sincere.

I, Christian, understand that based on my beliefs (which, again, I understand are not shared by everybody) the gay preference is wrong and that protecting gay people under the law is an abomination to all of humanity and existence, with the “sanctity and holiness of marriage” at the forefront of this my concern of the state humanity’s moral fabric. While steadfastly believing that sanctity and holiness is at the heart of concern for myself and my faith, my track record will show that I, the ever understanding Christian, have been entirely unbothered and perhaps congratulatory whenever any pairing of two non-Christian friends or neighbors become married (and therefore receive their federal protections). I have thought nothing of these pairings, even though by my own definitions their marriage should be considered “unholy” and therefore invalid and perhaps upsetting. I will defend my inconsistent frustration that a gay matrimony is not sacred in my God’s eyes and should therefore be banned and prevented. I am unable to explain this logic.

I, the ever understanding Christian, will remain steadfast in the lawful marginalization of an entire population of fellow human beings even though historically speaking my bible has been used to support attitudes, legislation, and events that have now been deemed discriminatory to entire populations of fellow human beings, and therefore unchristian. Such examples, which have supportive corresponding verses in the bible to this day, include but are not limited to, slavery, anti-miscegenation laws, segregation, the oppression and silence of women, and historical crusades and genocides of epic proportions. I understand that while the bible verses that have been used to support these attitudes, legislation, and events are still in the bible, our understandings of such verses and biblical concepts have changed with time. I, Christian, believe that the Christian ideology and interpretation of scripture surrounding the systematic marginalization of gay people never should change, however, and I am unable to explain this logic.

I, the ever understanding Christian, will hold steadfast to the conclusion that I am continually being persecuted for my beliefs, whereas I am unable to express my disapproval for the gay preference without being told that I am hateful. This is persecution in that it is an inconvenient misunderstanding. I, Christian, do not deem gay human beings who experience things like continually living in fear of losing their jobs, actually losing their jobs, getting beaten up, resigning to hold their loved one’s hand in public with extreme caution, becoming victimized in hate crimes, becoming driven to kill themselves, getting kicked out of their families’ homes, or becoming excommunicated from their churches, as being victims of persecution. Even though gay people clearly have it worse than I ever would in this free country for simply living their lives, it is I who is the persecuted simply because my views are challenged. I am unable to explain my logic, as my safety and well-being has never been compromised for disapproving gayness.

I, Christian, will continue voting for values and imposing them on my neighbors in a systematic way even though my neighbors, whom I love, may not share my belief system. I will become upset not only if my efforts to oppress gay people are for naught, but I will also become upset if I am challenged in my own values, as it is unfair for me, Christian, to be forced into acting on something based on a value system in which do not necessarily believe. I will continue striving to make my gay neighbor less of a protected individual in the eyes of my government based on my ever consistent carrying out of my Christian values.

I will continue to love the sinner and hate the sin, and I, the ever understanding Christian, promise to keep showing love to the gay sinner by keeping hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, tax breaks, and the thousands of other laws that come with federal recognition of committed love, away from said sinner. I believe that actively doing so will attract people to my faith because of very loving nature of my actions and efforts. I am unable to explain this logic.

Sincerely,

Christian

My First Annual Conference Part I #cobac13

For the past five days I have been in Charlotte, North Carolina attending my first Annual Conference for the Church of the Brethren. If I could relive these past few days on a loop for the rest of my life, I would. Actually, I wouldn’t. That’s hyperbole.

As terrible as I am at doing it, there’s something inexplicable that happens to me when I travel alone. My outlook on things change. My sense of self changes. Perhaps it is because I am away from familiar things and therefore feel a sense of freedom; maybe it is because traveling alone forces one to be independent and self reliant – two virtues that I have come to value and miss the past several months while experiencing transitions in life. When I travel alone, there is a direction to go and something to do and the scenery changes quickly, but predictably. I like that.

Oh, and I really really like planes.

Soon after I stepped into the airport check-in area, I realized something didn’t feel right. Instead of experiencing my typical stages of excitement I go through when traveling alone, I became anxious. There became a pit in my stomach and I could hear my heart beat stronger as I fumbled through my wallet to look for my ID to give to the lady behind the check-in counter. Life switched to slow-motion and I became overcome with the only emotion in the English language that sounds as unpleasant as it feels: DREAD.

I hate feeling dread. It is a hard emotion to shake and it seems to slow life down three fold. Here I was, alone in the airport, about to head to Charlotte, NC. I had little sleep and no shower and I was about to lose it.

I stopped. I sat. I breathed. I thought.

Why do i feel this way? Why am I not excited? I love traveling. I love traveling ALONE. I love (big) jets.

Why am I not excited?

Oh. Because I don’t know what to expect when I get there.

I continued to ponder this while carrying out the normal traveling procedures: stripping down at security, buying an expensive book to read a little, taking migraine medicine, sitting at the gate, boarding the plane, ignoring the safety spiel that the flight attends give, taking off, not reading the expensive book. I eventually came to realize, as I sat in a chair 25,000 feet in the air, that I was considering Annual Conference to be my own personal rite of passage into the denomination and culture of the Church of the Brethren. Annual Conference has been a topic of conversation among my friends and colleagues for the past six years of my life – since becoming involved with the denomination in the first place. It is where decisions are made. It is where friends meet. It is where church organizations network. I was headed to ANNUAL CONFERENCE. The thought was overwhelming, and I have been ignoring it the past few months leading to conference.

“Okay Aaron, Let’s process: I will see familiar faces and meet other Brethren. I will need to explain what I am doing at annual conference. I will experience heated and stressful debates about issues within the church. I will see people that decided I could not live honestly and work at camp at the same time. I might be met with hostility from conservatives who beg to say that organizations like the one I came to represent are the demise of the church. I am probably talk about the exhausting story of camp a million times as a testimony to put a face on the name of controversy. I am going to be talking to people all day. I might find myself speaking in front of large crowds. I might make friends. I might change my outlook on life and my place in the church. I might be disgusted with my observations of how the church runs. I might be pleased. Man, there are a lot of “maybes” here. I don’t know what to expect. This is a big deal and I don’t know what to expect. I hope my hotel is nice.”

The only thing I know for sure is that I will be inwardly solidifying my identity as a member of the denomination this Annual Conference. There is no turning back. I am going to meet people and network. I am going to participate in discussion. I am going to learn about and develop opinions about the direction of the church. I will consider myself Brethren after this conference instead of just saying I am. It’s kind of like admitting you’re gay to yourself in the bathroom mirror years before ever having a boyfriend. I’ve been crushing on this guy named CoB for a while. We’ve even fooled around a bit. Lots of people actually think we are already together because of how close we are; we have a dynamic friendship filled with ups and downs. This annual conference will be me finally biting the bullet and jumping into a relationship with him. I’m not experiencing dread… I’m just nervous! Commitment is a big deal! Here and now, there is no turning back. There is no turning this plane around. I hope my hotel is nice.

To be continued…

Marriage Equality: Gay tested, SCOTUS approved.

Right now, as I type this, momentum and tension is building across the country. The Supreme Court is to make a decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (1996) and California’s Prop 8. This decision that will be made by the United States’ highest court will have huge implications on the timing of the course of history this country will take (that was worded ever so gingerly, eh?). I do not know what to expect in terms of ruling, but it feels really neat to live through something that will undoubtedly make its way into a textbook or two in the near future.

Everything happening today in the judicial branch has caused me to think about how necessary it is to contemplate history in this country and learn from it. I remember one of my dear friends arguing with me, saying that the gay debate is not an issue of civil rights and that you cannot compare the plight and struggles of blacks in this country to what gay people are currently up against. He expressed annoyance at gay people who are equating their cause and marches and parades and tragedies and victories and losses to the events that occurred during the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s.

My friend is right. There is little in common with these two movements. The gay population doesn’t experience violent acts against them; gay people feel safe wherever they go. I personally have never experienced a stranger scream the word “fag” at me while holding hands with a significant other. I am sure only very few gay people can relate to the idea that there is a social stigma placed on them that manifests itself through some form of hostility – whether it be verbally or physically. Black people had to go through a lot of that. Riots and everything. I can’t think of a single riot that has ever taken place as a result of hostility toward gay people.

Also, could you imagine being a topic of debate the way blacks were while the civil rights movement took its course? Imagine experiencing the entire nation having a conversation about your very existence and whether or not you deserve to be treated as equal among your fellow man? Could you imagine being debated over something so fundamentally part of you – the color of your skin – something that you cannot control? Gay people have experienced none of that dehumanizing humiliation.

Furthermore, gay people experience no oppression or exclusion from mainstream protestant church the way blacks did mid 20th century. Back then, the bible was actually used and cited to support racism and segregation by church leaders. Not only that, but forget about interracial marriage! When anti-miscegenation laws were being reconsidered by the supreme court back in the sixties, the bible was used vehemently to support the idea that interracial marriage was against God’s design and the religious right warned us that redefining traditional marriage would eventually lead to people doing ridiculous things like marrying animals and cars and other inanimate objects. How could gay people possibly relate to that?

And I mean, before the society began their grumbling and caused the Supreme Court to establish intentional conversations and official rulings about minorities, black people were honestly second class citizens when you look at it. They didn’t have the same rights as whites and weren’t protected and supported by federal law in all the same way whites were. Gays don’t understand the plight of what it means to be given the short end of the stick when it comes to federal protections.

So my friend is right. What is going on right now can not and should not be paralleled to the civil rights movement of yesteryear. To think otherwise would be silly.

About a year ago, I came out to my best friend. It has been an interesting ride, to say the least. We have had very emotional arguments about my gayness. To put it simply, he now just looks past the fact that his best friend is gay. He says “he doesn’t agree with it” (a phrase popularized by we Christians regarding gayness that is so snide and stupid that I don’t even know where to begin), but he treats me as his best friend regardless.

Our friendship hit a few bumpy spots while trying to recalibrate our relationship. Here I was, sitting across from my best friend in a low-class dive bar, being told that his faith is what has shaped his values regarding my being gay, and he therefore “cannot agree with it.” I wondered, and still wonder to this day who says where it stops. I mean, his faith, if taken seriously, also says not to eat or drink with people like me, for I am sexually immoral. I guess he doesn’t take that part seriously. Then again, his value system growing up also said no alcohol, but there we were in a dive bar. I get confused sometimes about the difference between value systems and religious belief. Sometimes people separate the two; other times they put them together so tightly that you can’t even tell the difference.

But I digress… I remember one night, though, informing him that I am tired of living closeted at work and I wanted to be out at work within the year. I told him I was hopeful that the district might be able to see that good things come from gay people too and that gayness isn’t a big deal. Sme people are just gay. The improved image and quality of our marketing that everyone ranted and raved about came from a good leader in the church, and the improved training and higher level of accountability of the staff for all things youth development happened under the watchful eye of a person who just so happens to be gay.

He proceeded to tell me that he would not be returning to his beloved position at camp if I would be “out” to the district. He began to get angry with me. He said his church would not support him working at camp and therefore he could not do it. (For his sake, I’m glad I lost my job.)

Then the conversation took a very interesting turn. In the midst of the heat, he said the following – and I will never forget it:

“You came HERE. You’re not FROM here. And now here you are, coming onto our turf and changing things. That’s what you do. You come into wherever you are and change everything. What, does it make you happy or something?”

Yes, there is no difference between the movements. What I am experiencing – the conversations I am having – the apparent paranoia and territorial mindset of the majority – cannot be compared to what minorities went through before “separate but equal” was systematically abolished in the 60s. No way.

“Our turf.”

You’re not from around these parts. Get outta here, nigger. Get outta here, fag.

In no way do I want to throw my best friend under the bus, either. While I could stay mad at him for those sorts of cockamamie remarks he has said to me, I understand they come out when the argument is heated and emotions are high. I also have an issue with letting things go. I push conversation too hard and I have the tendency to corner others into saying things that would otherwise require a good amount of thought and introspection before sharing. No, the only reason I am sharing this story is to further paint the picture that history repeats itself. Everything comes back. People don’t change. Society and groupthink doesn’t change or stop. Attitudes, while the point of reference may vary, do not change themselves.

Holy….

…….

Right now, as I write this, I have received word that moments ago… SCOTUS has shot down DOMA, declaring it unconstitutional. A moment of silence, please.

[silence]

Wow. I’m going to go ahead and wrap this up so I can riot my way around Bethel.

It is an issue of civil rights. This is history repeating itself. While I must say that there certainly are some major differences between the civil rights movements when it comes to passion and violence and sit-ins and organization and biblical authority arguments and protests (violent and nonviolent)… We are experiencing a history that is all too familiar. Discrimination is discrimination and it makes our fellow man feel like shit.

News flash: Gay people exist. We are your doctors. We are your lawyers. We are your construction workers. Your Program Coordinators. Your church leaders. Your musicians. Your writers. Your nurses. Your athletes. Your teachers. We are your neighbors. We are and have always been on your turf. The change we would like to see is to be treated as equals and have equal protection under the law regardless of how you define us through your “values” that not even everybody shares with you in the first place. Your values are not in jeopardy because your neighbors have inheritance rights. Your turf is not being trampled upon because your neighbors can visit each other in the hospital. Your lives don’t change because your neighbors (whom you love) now fill out their 1040 forms differently. Nobody is telling you what and how to think, and if somehow your quality of inner happiness depreciates because your neighbors got married and committed their lives to each other, it might do you well to go redefine yourself instead of concerning yourself with what the gays have done to so-called “traditional” marriage.

DOMA is dead. Prop 8 is dismissed. We are moving in the right direction. In five years this country will look very very different.

Follow the Horse on a Stick

I have too much to say.

Because I have too much to say, can we just start over? Can I pretend that you, cyberland, have been with me this whole time while I experience all the craziness and transition and excitement and heartache? Can I just share with you how I feel about things as they happen from this point forward instead of the things that have taken me on quite a ride the past few months? Because I honestly don’t know how I feel about some of it… and I realize that this is  okay. Life is moving much too fast for me to spend the vast amounts of energy poking and prodding and pulling the machine apart to see how it works.

But let’s just start over. For the record, though, I am going to have to write down some key words and phrases that have defined the past several weeks so that I might be able to tell somebody about it one day, or write about it all in a book. A lot of it is unbelievable.

 

Karaoke Nights
Pigs
Good Grades and my dramatic A in Sociology.
Honest talks with my cousin 
CRAZY FUN Karaoke Nights
Craig’s List and Hot Neck Steve
Seeing any movie anywhere with Sara
Mom is keeping Bart
Lambs
Bombings in Boston
“Universal Background Checks” are too much for this country to handle, apparently
Pivotal arguments with close friends (in particular, Michael)
The human sexuality spectrum – getting thrown under the bus by a confirmed closet case.
My awesome liberal professors being open and challenging with their ideologies (Dr. Kazi Hossain, in particular)
Anonymous donor from Etown CoB helping me with my car
My father
Operas
An intern for Open Table
Suits
Kevin Felty’s dog attacking the chickens
Personal goals
Being Single… I’m doing it and I’m happy, but I’m honestly just over it. I really am.

 

Good. Are we all caught up? Neat. There’s more, I’m sure, but let’s keep the ball rolling, shall we? Cool. I’ll pick up in a few days or so with come contextualized life story or some crap like that. I dunno. Yay blogs. I’m really good at this.

 

Aaron