When I originally wrote that line, they were the title of a poem. A long, messy and cheesy, but frustrated poem.
I want an easy way to explain why I want to spill my guts and gather them all at the same time Maybe, leave each of my friends with little pieces of my intestines like a nice souvenir, so they know the feeling’s real
I’ve used tools such Myer-Briggs, astrology and the Enneagram over the past couple of years to try to understand myself and why I am the way I am: the shyness, the bursts of unforeseen energy, the constant need to self-protect, my impatience with small-talk, and my love of love (both love with a lowercase and uppercase). The first time I was introduced to the Enneagram, I was 20 years old working on a farm. All of my teammates at the farm were raving about it, eagerly learning and discussing their types. The online test that I took described me as a Type Four, but not only was I assigned a Four, the particular test I took described me as an unhealthy Four. I responded by bursting into tears. The label of “unhealthy” slapped me in the face. I didn’t want to be reminded that I wasn’t well, especially after being sent home from a service year program because they couldn’t provide the mental health support that I needed, despite their best attempts.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote a blog post about how my church split, and it pissed off a lot of people. People I knew were reading what I wrote and talking about it on Facebook. Many of my friends were supportive of what I had to say, and that kind of validation was an amazing thing to experience. But not everyone was supportive. Lots of people didn’t like the way I talked about my experience.
They said I was angry.
They said I was looking for things to complain about.
They said I was just imagining things.
Not too long ago, I learned about Muted Group Theory, and something clicked. First developed by Edwin and Shirley Ardener in 1975 to show how white men create the dominant culture and in turn subjugate women through the use of language, this theory also accounts for the ways that dominant culture mutes people of color, disabled people, LGBTQ+ people, and so many others.
Sometimes I feel alone. Like there’s something wrong with me. Like I’m a bad person, a misfit – not fit for friendship. I feel that way tonight. I feel bad.
I think it’s because I’m remembering.
I grew up in the Unification Church. We believed that the Reverend Sun Myung Moon was the second coming of Christ. We were called Moonies.
My parents dedicated their lives to the cause of Rev. Moon – a man I called True Father. Their lives were directed and commanded by leaders in the church, and their marriage was arranged by Moon. Our church community was tight-knit, and even though my life was mostly normal, my identity as a Moonie was central.
Growing up, every morning started with a full bow to a picture of Moon and his wife. I would read his words. When Moon was in the States, we’d go to his mansion in New York and listen to him speak. To make space for all the members to fit in the room and to be as close to Father as possible, I’d sit seiza-style, legs folded under the thighs. I made several pilgrimages to Korea, the Fatherland. These trips cost thousands of dollars. I believed they were worth it. Someday, my parents would arrange my marriage to another member born into the church. Together, my wife and I would join in the work of building God's kingdom on earth.
In competitive fighting games, the words respect and disrespect have odd connotations.
To play respectfully is to play conservatively – you respect your opponent’s ability, and thus are focused above all on avoiding their traps and gambits.
Respect in fighting games is passive and reactive. When taken too far, it results in a playstyle based entirely out of a fear of adversity and failure, fear that your own commitments will be your downfall.
Disrespect, though, is pure confidence. You don’t respect the idea that your opponent has the ability to counter you. It is a complete trust in your decision-making, trust that your plans – whether meticulously crafted or entirely instinctual – will win out no matter what your opponent throws at you.
When a player is playing disrespectfully, they’re either going to crash and burn spectacularly or put on one of the best shows that fans have ever seen.
Collectively, I’ve spent my twenties brushing off abuse from family dynamics and religious institutions which formed my upbringing. Through these words, thoughts and actions of such abuse, I have carefully crafted a narrative to aim at my own being.
It is self-hatred. It is shame and it is deadly.
I am tired of living into the narrative someone else programmed me to believe into and asked of me to lift for my own. I am exhausted with living disconnected from my mind and body out of continued internalized homophobia and regret of my existence.
Who wouldn’t be tired of such a subconscious and conscious assault upon your person?
This is where my mind lives these days. Battling between the illuminated truth and the false narrative of disparage of who I am as a human.
But, there is a new shift here for me in this struggle. I have found the on switch to my body, the on switch to the origin and the on switch to being able to call this treatment abuse.
Today my eight year old son heard a different story. All along we’ve told our child the story of how his grandpa Griffith was a great animal doctor who loved taking care of people’s pets. This is true. We told our son that his grandpa died before he was born, and that grandpa was a good person and would be very proud of his grandson. This is also true.
It is important for me as a mother that my child first hears the story of the blessing of his genetic inheritance from his maternal grandfather: love of creation, love of learning, love of healing, love of life.
Today it was time for my son to hear a different story. Today, just as causally as you’d talk about what happened at school, I told the story of his grandpa’s illness. I told the story of when grandpa’s brain got a sickness and how it changed all of our lives.
It is perhaps fitting that the season of Lent each year begins as Japanese Americans commemorate Day of Remembrance, recalling the day the President of the United States signed an executive order that saw our lives forever overturned. Only in recent memory have many of these stories begun to be shared out of silence: my uncle Lenny’s dad was a successful businessman before the war. Like so many, he “lost everything” when the camps were raised. Shortly after his release he drank himself to death. My auntie Sasaki was born in one of the open-air prisons. She still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, more than seventy years after being born in a place she can’t even remember.
Fear comes in many shapes and sizes, most notably in the eight-legged variety.
I attribute the last how-ever-many-years of screeching when discovering one of such creatures to an infamous moment when I was little and excitedly on my way to a swimming pool in my grandparent’s backyard. In my delight I failed to noticed there was something across the path and ran right into a giant spider’s web and a giant spider.
It was not a good day.
If there is one place spiders love, it is the bathtub. Or the folds of the shower curtain. Or on the edge of the bathmat. Or just hanging out in the corner by the bathroom fan.
Over the last 6 months, my views on spiders have been changing. Previously, I would find a spider hanging out in the tub – scream – and then go get someone to remove it from the tub (or this world). A few months ago I started to remove them gently myself, with a long, long, long stick, and put them outside. Then the other day, I found one in the shower curtain fold, and I just let it be.
This occurred at a gay club, on Latinx night. Let’s be clear about that. The media, your social circles, your pastors, probably glossed over this detail. The victims were queer and trans people of color, many of them Puerto Rican like myself. Innocent lives, gunned down in senseless brutality.
Bodies that were queer and brown, just like me.
There is a profound horror in that.
It arrests me at every moment, washing over me in waves.
It could have been me, I tell myself, over and over.
I’ve been intending to write about my sex-positive beliefs for some time, and this post has been precipitated and sponsored by STDcheck.com, an organization dedicated to safe and healthy sexuality by providing private, affordable tests for sexually transmitted diseases. Their work is important! Furthermore, anything I write here is a personal position and recollection of my experiences–not a reflection of my employer(s).
It’s wonderful, gross, beautiful, entirely underwhelming, and pretty fucking great.
Up until a certain point in my adolescent development, I prided myself on my relative “purity” to that of my classmates. This, of course, was complicated by my confusing thoughts and feelings directed at male peers, late-night internet searches, and varied experiences throughout my pubescent years–still, I’d never slept with a girl nor provided myself any opportunity to.
My virginity was in tact, whatever that meant.
When my awareness of my queerness expanded in college through the painful introduction of that nebulous concept we call love, I realized things were pretty dang complicated for me. And after I began dating the boy who would become my husband, the hard truth made itself known:
I spent my whole life guarding myself from experiences I would never have nor want.
When Christians start talking about “the law,” pay close attention. This might be code for anti-LGBTQ theology. I was enjoying a perfectly lovely day with Christian leaders exploring how to create an experience of church that would be meaningful for people currently in their 20s and 30s. Themes such as LOVE, JUSTICE, and BEAUTY were lifted up as foundational values of this generation.
Then after lunch things got weird. Someone in the front row asked the presenter the question “but what about the law?” And the room got quiet.
All of the sudden the room full of Christians wanting to make their churches more meaningful for young adults turned their attention to this question of how to make space for LGBTQ young adults in church when “they” are in violation of “church law.”
And in reply the speaker said, “I’m theologically opposed to marriage equality, but I accept them as members (of the church).” He then went on to ask why this sin of homosexuality gets more scrutiny than the sin of pornography or infidelity in marriage. My heart sank.
My dad is a mystic and dreamer. Throughout my childhood, I often heard the phrase “you can pick you friends, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose”. With such wisdom and humor, my dad consistently brings laughter and moments of “what in the world?!” into my world.
For most of my growing up years, my dad was a pastor, and I watched him hold space for people to grow, break down, discover themselves (and sometimes God), while he listened with an open heart. He has been a chaplain, sitting with people in crisis, grief, huge and sometimes sudden change, giving them space to feel their feels and making them tea or a sandwich. I’ve always admired my dad’s ability to stay calm when someone else needs to freak out.
In “Advent and Queer Bodies,” Joey Rodil waits with his queer siblings, in the face of homophobia and transphobia, for the coming of Jesus whose table is for all.
But we’re still waiting…
This past summer, I remember walking in my neighborhood in Chicago to meet a couple of friends. As I approached a group of men waiting outside a restaurant, one of them yelled, “Look at that f@& in short shorts. F@&!” Walking by myself, my body seized with fear and I learned quickly that I am more of a “flight” person when I feel my life is in danger. I crossed the street and ran down the sidewalk as I passed them. For a second, I feared they might attack me physically, but fortunately they only resorted to verbal harassment.
As a cisgender gay man, I am used to these occurrences, but I know that others have fared far worse. As of November 2018, the Human Rights Campaign reported 29 transgender deaths this year*. My transgender siblings were violently killed. Their queer bodies and lives taken away from our community because… well … we’re still waiting.
We’re still waiting for our bodies to be viewed equally as human.
We’re waiting for our bodies to not be seen as a threat to the church.
One fresh spring morning, I sat down in the sparse meetinghouse I used to worship in. Sun streamed in through the window in the ceiling onto the bowed heads of people breathing deep and grounding down. We were all seated in a circle. Chairs and benches were the only furniture in the well windowed room. Everyone was bathed in light.
The silence was baited, tense. Waiting to be broken.
Then, out of a bench in the corner, a loud belch rose up into circle.
And for the rest of the meeting, this old, drunk man belched and snored cacophonous snores the whole time.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are different kinds of vocal ministry. And this man, in his big tattered coat and authentic presence in his body was the big fuck you to liberal quaker piety that meeting needed.
I have some friends where you can tell they experience their bodies as a residence, as a space. With some of them, it’s like they’re visiting their bodies. In their eyes you see them peeking into the world.
Their minds are their sanctuaries.
I’m not like that. I experience my body as my self. In fact, sometimes I struggle to stick with my thoughts long enough to think about what I’m thinking. Sometimes I’m not really sure what I’m feeling. Or how I’m feeling.
What I’m trying to say is that I’ll be out for a run – running – when all of a sudden I’ll feel rage or heartbreak or fear, rising up from my chest and catching up with me. I just keep running into my feelings. Sobbing. Shouting.
I think this is part of why I’m pentecostal. My body is how I know God. When I first came to know Jesus, I felt it. It was an emotional experience, yes, but convincement wasn’t a decision for me. Instead, I was overwhelmed. It took over my body. There were weeks of confusion over feeling compelled by Jesus, and I didn’t necessarily want to be. I tried to push it away. But I was falling in love. I was possessed by love, and I prayed. My whole body shook and shook, and there on the ground, on my knees, I knew God.
When I was five years old, my dad brought home a Dalmatian puppy for my birthday. He named her “Candy” for her sweet disposition. I did not want a dog. To make matters worse, Candy was not a nice dog. She barked, and she bit ankles. I was afraid of Candy.
I asked my dad to find a new home for Candy, suggesting that maybe Candy needed a family that would be more patient, more understanding, better equipped to love her in spite of all of her problems. My dad laughed. He thought I was funny. But I was desperate. So I prayed. I had learned in Sunday school that God answers prayer, so I asked God to kill Candy and take her to live in heaven with the angels.
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.” ~ Psalm 139:13-15
For Transgender Day of Remembrance 2018:
I wanted to write something eloquent to honor your lives
To remember all your beautiful faces and mourn you properly
But all I could think of was how your lives were cut short
I wanted to write something powerful to honor your lives
To remember all your names (YOUR names) and grieve you somberly
Well, I guess it wasn’t so simple. I grew up in a missional church, and one of my favorite aunts was a missionary. And when I looked into her eyes, and when I saw her come home from long trips out of the country in her Birkenstocks and her battered up guitar case, and she brought me a small ceramic dish from Turkey, I felt her commitment to God, no matter what.
I wanted her commitment to the lord, but it was all mixed up with my colonial gaze.
So when I graduated high school, I decided to go YWAM, an acronym that stands for Youth With a Mission. They had a program where for three months, you pray and study with other young people hoping to go into missions under the tutelage of more seasoned missionaries, and three months you went on an “outreach,” where you do charity work and preach to people in another country.