Thursday, June 22, 2017

LGBTQ: More On Accepting Yourself IN SPITE of Being Gay

I never thought I would get so many views on my last article, "Sometimes You Have To Love Yourself IN SPITE of Being Gay."
I thought for sure it would be, "Internalized Homophobia And The Importance of...Humming," or "Why You Maybe SHOULD Ask If Someone Is Gay." Not even my article about Slytherin being the best Hogwarts house in the Harry Potter universe got as many views. People believe gay is good, but are having more of a struggle with self-love than I thought.
I didn't even think it was written as well as some other articles, because I talked about myself a lot. And it was smaller than others. But I apparently struck a nerve.
It's exhausting, sometimes, to affirm in your own mind that gay is good, in spite of your homophobic programming. You've got to love yourself in spite of it. In spite of everything.

In my experience, Christian songs still pop into my head almost every day, even though it's been about seven years since I listened to any kind of Christian music (except in the occasional Salvation Army thrift store). So of course it makes sense that the same ideas from my childhood would pop into my head also--especially since I occasionally still come across those same ideas, in spite of trying to avoid them for my own sake. (This is one of the reasons I avoid even the best gay Christian sites, because it attracts well-meaning and ill-meaning homophobes alike.)
Internalized homophobia is like having a sharp knife in your mind, that you try to avoid touching. And sometimes your efforts to remove it or dull it only cut you up badly. So it's best to avoid it sometimes, not confront it head-on. That's why I like trying different strategies than arguing with it (which is exhausting and only winds me up and makes me feel even worse).

Internalized homophobia, especially if it is upsetting enough to argue with myself about, makes me feel like scum, like the worst person, for being gay and choosing to accept it and explore my interest in queer studies. (Though not formally at this time, since I don't want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a degree.) And no amount of arguing can seem to help my feeling like scum.
So...what if I am? What if I am the worst person? The worst person in the world? (In a world full of murderers, pedophiles, and rapists--some would argue I'm worse than them. Those people scare me-- what the hell are they doing?)
What if I am the worst person I could be? Shouldn't I love myself in spite of that? In spite of my "non-repentance"? (How long am I going to miserable, repenting? I went for years constantly repenting of everything, before I even consciously knew I was bisexual--when I thought I was straight.)

I tell myself, "I love you, in spite of all that." In spite of everything. And it makes me feel better.
I try to make self-love a big part of my life. I believe it makes people physically healthier, not just emotionally healthier. And you have to accept yourself exactly where you're at, right now--whether it's for being gay, being in the closet, not being out and loud and argumentative with relatives that scare you physically or emotionally, being scared of homophobes or religious homophobia (even without physical danger), or not being fully able to say "Gay is good" yet, without internal conflict. You will get there someday. I think I will get there someday. And if I don't, that's okay too. I will try to accept myself in spite of it all.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

LGBT: Sometimes You Have To Love Yourself IN SPITE Of Being Gay

All of the rhetoric I have seen directed towards queer persons about loving themselves, has been resting on the notion that being LGBTQ+ is not a personal fault or failing. And that is good. Very good. We are harming no one, so we don't deserve to be harmed or unfairly restricted in any way--by God or man.
But what if you can't just shake the notion that you're doing something wrong? That something is wrong with you? Your head is often less stubborn than your heart, and anti-gay or anti-trans programming can take years or a lifetime to fully unlearn. What if you can't stop thinking or feeling that you're bad?
Let me ask you a question: So what if you are?
What if you are bad? What if you are evil? What if you are the worst, most vile human being on the planet? What if you are scum?
Even if everything they say is true--why can't you still be on your own side?

I find myself arguing with the homophobes in my head more often than the homophobes on the internet or in my family. And it's exhausting. Sometimes I write down my own arguments (though it's ridiculous that I have to argue with people for my own life), sometimes I drown out the inner homophobes by humming. But trying to defeat them is exhausting.
So what if the're right? Does that mean that I should just stop taking care of myself, stop trying to be happy, kill myself? I can't do any of those things. I figured out long ago that I have to be on my own side (even against God). If they want me destroyed, they are going to have to kill me. Meanwhile, I'll live my life and try to do things that make me happy.

Maybe you should not try so hard to convince yourself that being gay is good, and you should just say, "I love myself in spite of my faults." And you can save "being gay isn't one of them" for another day. Especially some other day when you have more energy.
And it's not just useful for being gay itself. Gay guilt is also banished with this technique.
I love myself in spite of being kind-of in the closet to my family. (Though it's not my fault that they assume, and their assumptions are stubborn.) I love myself in spite of my closet.
I love myself in spite of my fear of arguing. In spite of a part of me thinking that homophobes are right when they hurt me, and wondering if that means that they're right about me and my sinfulness.
I love myself in spite of the hurt I feel when people are homophobic to me, even though I don't want to care what they think of me.
In spite of wanting to be with another woman, because I would wonder if people really accept me as myself, if I were with a man. (I'm technically bisexual.) In spite of worrying that my extended family would tell themselves I was straight, and not see the real me, and I would never know if they accept the real me, and a big part of me would be invisible. In spite of worrying that being with a man would make me lose a part of my identity that is so new to me, and so precious. Even if my mom says I should not pay attention to gender and just focus on finding a good person. Even if I can't do that, I still love myself.

I love myself in spite of hating myself. And somehow, doing that makes me not hate myself.

I love myself in spite of being gay. In spite of acting on it in the form of reading gay books and watching gay Youtube videos. In spite of cheering on the character Kevin Keller, on the show Riverdale, when he dates that hot bad-boy gangster Joachim. I love myself in spite of all of that.

I love myself in spite of everything. And I'll save combating everything for another day.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

LGBTQ: Internalized Homophobia And The Importance Of...Humming

In black lesbian comedian Wanda Sykes's new tour, What Happened Ms. Sykes, she says that, in dealing with her white wife and children, "Sometimes you just have to hum a Negro spiritual,"
I don't know any Negro spirituals, and I'm not sure how much good they would do to a white person struggling with issues other than race. But I have found that sometimes when I'm stuck arguing with myself, I can actually hum away the bad thoughts.

Sometimes religious songs pop into my head at random moments, even though I haven't listened to Christian music in about eight years. I don't mind those so much. But it's the same with religious arguments against homosexuality--against what I am.Sometimes they pop into my head, especially if I was exposed to homophobic arguments recently (usually try to avoid that).
Long before I knew I was at least bisexual, I always felt like I was not a good enough Christian and never would be. And no amount of Christian "encouragement" did any good. So I know it's a self-esteem issue, not just a gay issue. Being gay is just what allows the negative, self-hating "monster" to hurt me the most.
It's a never-ending battle, and sometimes different strategies--like positive self-talk, grieving for the loss of my faith, or writing my arguments out--work for me, and sometimes they don't. The negativity is sneaky, and each time is different. But sometimes, tunelessly, mindlessly humming, works more effectively than anything else. I find it impossible to listen to the viciously self-righteous inner homophobes when all thoughts are drowned out.

Humming helps to relax you, and the vibrations are good for your body. Some people like to say "om" when meditating, thinking that it's the "perfect" sound, but I prefer to leave off the O. I softly hum or sing "mmmm" or "ahhhh." Occasionally I sing an actual song, but it's hard to come up with a happy and relaxing song when my inner homophobe is attacking. The important thing is to quickly break the pattern of my inner arguing and feeling attacked and defensive.
A cat's purr is said to be healing, especially to broken bones. The closest thing I have to purring is sometimes like morphine to a broken heart. It's probably like a mini meditation.
And according to the teacher of an acting workshop I once took, making your voice loudly vibrate increases your personal power, and the power of your voice--in more ways than one. It empowers you. She said that it especially empowers women, who often have to make their voices small and high-pitched when confronting people, to not have to be "nice" all the time.
So if you can, get loud! But if you can't, hum softly or breathe...well, breathily. Like a character in a novel. (For example, "'I can't be with you,' she breathed.")

Even a few seconds of this can release endorphins and break the chains of your fear and defensiveness. Having the liberty to hum, sing, yell, or even chant, tells your body that it's safe. That you're physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe, that you're loved, and that you have something to sing about. That you have a reason to be happy, if only because you don't have to believe that you're bad and wrong.
I'm not saying that this is better than other methods of banishing negativity. Only that it seems to work better for me right now. Right now, it doesn't always help, but most of the time it does. And there does seem to be something special about it. Give it a try, if you struggle with negativity and self-hate for any reason. Especially if you don't have time or patience for yoga and meditation. I hope this helps someone, like this method has helped me.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

LGBTQ: Why You Maybe SHOULD Ask If Someone Is Gay Or Trans

This article on Everyday Feminism makes the excellent point that the onus should not be on queer people to disclose and fight for themselves, but on straight people to "invite them in" to society and their lives. But what is "inviting in," in concrete, practical terms? The author gives no such suggestions. How am I supposed to figure out exactly what to do, much less some straight person whose hobbies don't include reading about queer studies?

I disagree with the author on some things. I don't think it's always taboo to mention to someone that you suspect they are gay and love them no matter what. My mom asked me if I thought I was gay, while telling me she loved me no matter what, before I was "ready" to come out even to her, even with how close we are. And I figured that it would be easier to tell her now, than bring it up later. So I did. I said, "Okay. I think I like boys and girls."
"Okay," she said, then gave me an extra-long hug that night when I went to bed.
She helped me out, on two levels. And I wouldn't be where I'm at, with accepting myself (and buying the queer books I want to read, in front of her--which also helps me accept myself), if she hadn't.
Her asking made things easier for me. So depending on the person, relationship to you, and circumstances, asking might actually help, not hurt. My mom wasn't a stranger, and we had a very close relationship already. I knew she would still love me, even if I felt scared that telling her would be weird. And she didn't ask in front of anyone else.
But if you are going to do this, be sure to do it while expressing a lot of love.
(Another way to "invite them in" is to mention that you are an ally or you yourself are queer. One friend, defensive about why I tagged him in an inspirational post made by a gay Facebook page--I hadn't even thought about where it came from--admitted, "Actually, I think I might be bisexual too. But don't tell anyone!" when I mentioned my own bisexuality. But don't worry, it happened years ago, no one reading this blog could identify him, and I won't tell you his name.)

So depending on the situation, asking might actually help "invite them in." I am assuming that the author meant "inviting them in" to mean, in part, making it easier to be themselves, and express who they are if they wish. Unfortunately, there is no comment section on Everyday Feminism, that I saw. So I can't ask.
So instead of waiting for someone to come out of the closet, if you have a good relationship with them already, maybe knock on the door and ask, "Are you in there? You know it's safe to come out?" And invite them into the room with you. And if they don't come out yet, or aren't in there at all, that's okay too. Make sure they know that you'll be there for them no matter what.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Please Don't Tell Me How To Feel

When I was younger and trying desperately to be a good evangelical Christian girl, I was always told, or had my own religious ideas about, how I should feel about everything in my life. And it prevented me from actually being myself, and even knowing how I really felt and helping myself.

I remember, when I was thirteen in 2004, Massachusetts started issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, bringing this issue of marriage equality into public consciousness. I saw a picture in the newspaper of two men sitting together at a protest against a "marriage protection" bill. One was holding a sign saying, "I want to marry the man I love."
That broke my heart. I remember thinking, "I wish I didn't have to take that away from him." I wished that God didn't force us to hurt others, and punish people for love. But I had to suppress those feelings.
Our neighbor "needed" my mom's, and my, help, nearly all the time--every day. I hated having to babysit and work in the fields, and I hated being around that loud, dramatic woman. But I had to be a "good Christian," and an obedient kid.
I had to be okay with the idea of getting martyred or raped on the mission field. I had to be okay with hours of tedious King James bible study, with constant mind-prayer, with trying to control my thoughts so much that I couldn't relax and go to sleep, with witnessing when I was an introvert, and with praying for an hour or more when I had no idea what to say. And I had to like everything that was Christian, just because it was Christian.
And through all this, I was supposed to feel close to God, but I didn't. And it's hard to love someone, when you're trying this hard to please them, with no results. But I had to feel love for God--and not just love, but joy in all my efforts to be near him. I could never change how I felt, and all I succeeded in doing was wondering--no, demanding of myself--what was wrong with me, and beating myself up about it constantly.
And the worst part was, I knew that if I shared my struggles with any Christian, I would again be told how to feel, and again hate myself for whatever was wrong with me--that I somehow couldn't measure up, or even relax and stop focusing on measuring up.

And now I am 26, free from the tyranny of evangelicalism, and fully accepted as bisexual by my parents and all my friends. But there are still others who tell me what to feel, sometimes with quite a bit of hostility. And, well, it feels bad. I'm not "supposed" to care, but it still feels very bad and sometimes makes me demand what is wrong with me.
Most of what is out there to watch or read either has no LGBT characters, or makes their stories tragic or fatal. Meanwhile most straight romances totally lack chemistry and feel contrived, cliche, and forced. And according to some "allies" on the internet, I'm not supposed to care.
I have been catcalled a few times, even in my small town, and even when with my mother. And I'm not supposed to care.
My animals sometimes die or go missing and never return. And according to my grandfather, they're "just animals," and I'm not supposed to care. (That one makes me the angriest, because he knows me, knows how much I love my babies, and he cares about me. It's sometimes hard to be gentle with him, and I avoid telling my extended family about these tragedies because I don't want to hear him say it. It hurts.)

But...I do care. About all of these things. And more. And telling me not to care, is not going to change that.
I have found that, if I tell myself not to feel something, instead of dealing with that feeling, it never gets resolved. I end up going around and around in my mind, asking what is wrong with me, feeling like there is something fundamentally wrong with me. That I'm "too sensitive" or "too negative"--instead of just tackling how I feel and feeling better! And I think I deserve to feel better, even if I have to feel bad first to help myself. And I think I would know how to help myself, after all I'm closest to myself.

Sometimes I think that my life consists too much in dealing with negative feelings. But when I let myself deal with them--for example, writing about them, even if it's so negative that I have to keep the writing to myself--I eventually feel so much better. And my life becomes happier. Maybe I have so much to deal with now, because I couldn't or didn't know how to deal with these things earlier.

Telling other people how to feel becomes especially problematic when it comes to feminist or minority issues. If you're not bothered by lack of good LGBT representation in media--whether you're queer or not--then good for you. But please don't tell others that they're wrong for being bothered by these things. If it's okay to feel love, why shouldn't it be okay to feel other emotions too? We deserve to use our energy building good lives for ourselves and being happy--not wondering what is wrong with us.
If you're a man and you don't see what the big deal is with catcalling, please still respect women enough not to do it. And if you're a woman who takes it as a compliment, please still respect that other women feel objectified and sometimes threatened.
And especially if you're white, please don't tell racial minorities not to be bothered by police killings and microaggressions. And I say that as a white person. (Unfortunately, that still carries more weight to some people, whether they consciously realize it or not.)

My mom finally understood that I needed to deal with bothersome emotions my own way, when I related my feelings to grief. (Unfortunately, we've lost a lot of animals and have that in common. But I'm glad she can understand.)
Like grief, sometimes you just have to deal with being hurt, scared, or anything else. It is intense, and scary, but then you can eventually feel better. I have a mostly very happy life, even with the dark times that come and go.
So please don't tell people to just get over things, or that they're not a big deal, or how they should feel about something. All doing this will do, is seriously mess people up--and that's if they care enough to even listen to you at all.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Harry Potter Fandom: Why Slytherin Is The Best House, And All Others Are Stupid Mudbloods (Even You, Ravenclaw)

 Note: In case you are put off by this, I am about to be very condescending about the Hogwarts houses. I'm a Slytherin, what did you expect? It's not easy to forget that you're superior in every way.

A friend of mine recently posted a photo of himself on Facebook, saying that he was just so cool.
"You finally joined Slytherin!" I commented. "Welcome, brother, to the House of Epic Evilness."
This guy is a proud Gryffindor (even though we all know that should be an oxymoron), so he asked why I thought he had joined Slytherin.
"Because you said you were cool, duh!" I answered.
"Still a Gryffindor," he replied, "Sorry to disappoint."
And he calls himself a self-respecting supervillain. Pathetic.

There are many myths involving Slytherin House, and so I thought I would dispel some of them for you ignorant Muggles. First of all, all other houses are just stupid--even Ravenclaw, the "smart" house. Here are the reasons why. I will go house by house:
Gryffindor is supposed to be the brave house, and yet it is far more useful to overcome your fears than to try not to feel them--to feel fear, and to do it anyway. By focusing on bravery instead of courage--feeling fear and doing it anyway--they are unintentionally saying that many children are unworthy of their house, which is especially damaging because they are seen as the good house, and the one at the center of the action in the Harry Potter series.
Ravenclaw is supposed to be the smart house. But studies have shown that when praised for being smart, children's focus is on looking smart, not on challenging themselves. And so they will not attempt tasks they do not think they can perfect the first time. Ravenclaws must answer a riddle before being let in to their dorms, but if they can't, how are they to find out the answer? Are they referred to an appropriate place to look in the library, to better themselves? Not from what I've seen. If you can't answer it, and no one will answer it for you, you're effectively banished, presumably to the "dumber" houses.
By focusing on being smart, instead of growth and learning, Ravenclaw House gives the impression that hard work, especially in intellectual pursuits, is either not necessary, or does not pay off. So kids end up both lazy and easily discouraged when they are not good at something right away.
Which brings us to Hufflepuff, the "hardworking" house. There is nothing wrong with working hard--but to what end? What are they working hard for? If it is academic pursuits, then why is Ravenclaw considered the smart house? Hufflepuff is the one that should have had riddles at its door. Then we would be teaching kids that smarts and hard work go hand in hand.
But that brings up the question, what is their reward for all this hard work? Which brings me to...

Slytherin. The ambitious house. The house that is constantly being told to curb the thing it is most famous for. The house that is a cautionary tale for the houses about ambition. What other house is told not to be itself "too much"?
The other houses could do with their own caveats and cautionary tales. It is precisely these cautionary tales which make us possibly better human beings.

So that is why all of the other houses are problematic. For my second major point, there is no such thing as a Slytherclaw, or a Gryffirin, or a Slytherpuff--the "combined houses". The other houses may combine their defects, but we are pureblood witches and wizards--we don't mix well with others. You can't be half awesome. It's all or nothing.

Finally, even our villains are better. When we become evil, we become Voldemort. When Gryffindors, the "good" house, become villains, they become Peter Pettigrew. We turn into the Dark Lord Who Must Not Be Named. They turn into a disgusting filthy rat.
(And all you people who have pet rats, don't get offended yet. This rat in particular was disgusting, filthy, and pathetic. Even the little Gryffindor blood traitor who was too poor for any other pet hated him. This is your lot in life if you don't time your inevitable corruption so that you're in the only proper house for it.)

And don't forget the invaluable contributions of Severus Snape. Who could do more good than someone who is perceived as bad? Without his spying, Voldemort would never have been defeated. We don't half-ass anything--when we're good, we're very good, and when we're bad, we're very bad. In a way, we're more hardworking than the Hufflepuffs. Ambition motivates you to make an effort, and can also banish fear and make you come up with clever strategies to get to your goals. We embody the good traits of all the other houses.
So we are both better good guys, and better bad guys--always. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Some Christians Think We Want To Kill Them

I recently came across the Christian Harry Potter fan fiction, Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles. (It is online, freely available, and short, and I have a slow-ish computer and don't feel like linking to it.) There is so much wrong with the writing, and even more troubling things about the theology of it.
I thought at first that it was just bad writing, rather harmless, but then I realized just how dangerous this story really was. In the story, Voldemort is an atheist who wants to outlaw Christianity. Hermione is afraid, and cries, "I don't like lions!"
I remembered that because apparently a member of Gryffindor House doesn't like lions. You can probably guess what the Gryffindor symbol is, if you don't already know. And Gryffindor in this story represents "True Christians" (registered trademark). (Although Hermione, in the fan fiction, has a kitten on her hat instead of a lion, because apparently there is no such thing as lionesses, and I guess all the lions are gay. I don't think the author thought through the implications of denying this mighty symbol of Christ to Christian women. If I suspected she was more thoughtful, I would have assumed lionesses were objectionable because they were females and provided for the Pride. But in any case, we should have known Aslan was in the closet.)

But Hermione's comment makes me wonder: Does the author think that that's what atheists want to do--feed them to the lions? I was on atheist forums for a while a few years ago, and still read stuff written by atheists such as Libby Anne of the blog Love, Joy, Feminism (though she doesn't really talk about atheism specifically very often).
But even when I explored the more anti-religion aspects of atheist media, and even when some people were mocking religion and Christians, I have never seen anyone even joke about feeding Christians to lions. If some people do that (and I'm sure there are some, since rape jokes also exist), they're not trying to make it legal to actually do it. (Ironically, there were people trying to make it legal to kill gay people--not only in Uganda, but in California. And I'm too lazy and don't want to upset myself by linking to it.)
But no bills have been introduced to make it legal to kill Christians. Not even from LGBT people, which I'm sure the author thinks just as bad or worse than atheists.

How many conservative Christians think that the days of the lions will soon return? My own family has been paranoid of this happening, and I live in Oregon, not the Bible Belt. A great aunt euphemistically said, "I think things will just get harder and harder."
My uncle has said that Obama was setting himself up as God, and that the government would soon want chips implanted to track people. "But not the gay couple down the street," he added bitterly. I'm not sure there was a gay couple down the street, or if the phrase was a rhetorical device. Either way, he's eventually going to find out that that's good news for me. Apparently I don't have to choose between keeping my soul or my head.
(This was a few years ago, and I recently worked up the courage to tell him that I was afraid of him as a child. He responded surprisingly well, and hasn't said homophobic things around me in a while, so he may or may not have changed in his hostility.)
 Comedian Cody Melcher, in his podcast about strange books, has said what my own experience has proven too: That Christians were also afraid after the marriage equality ruling of 2015. He also says that Christianity as a religion relies on the concept of persecution, that they tell themselves they are the underdogs even when they are in power, and that that is also how they gain power. This is a particularly fascinating episode, if you can stand to hear Melcher and his guests talk about the homophobia in the book they are reviewing (Melcher and guests are all gay):

This is the episode reviewing Counterfeiting The Rainbow by Beverly Rachel, and just to warn you, it is an hour and a half long.

Evangelical Christians think atheists and gays want to kill them. Gays, and maybe atheists (I'm not sure), think that Christians want to kill them--indeed, some do (and just because they're not "true Christians" doesn't mean they're not trying to kill us in the name of Christ).
So we have two groups who are afraid of each other. They can't show compassion to us and give us rights, because they're too scared. And we can't overlook what they're doing to us (out of fear), because it affects our lives. We have to take our rights that they won't give, which scares them even more. What a sad state of the world.
And ironically, anything I say to comfort my group--that their numbers are shrinking, especially among young people, for example--will only strike fear in the other group. So I will leave it at that. Fortunately for them, I have not heard talk of political revenge on my side. If we are vigilant and current trends keep up, I do think things will very slowly, over decades (two steps forward, one step back), get better and better for LGBT people. I believe we will have progress, if we vote, even if it's all-too-frustratingly slow and halting. And I don't think evangelicals will be in danger because of it.