I know a thing or two about denial. I am gay, very happily gay, but I spent seventeen years denying this reality. At age 17 I confessed to Pastor McAndrews, “I am struggling with homosexuality.” He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “In Christ you are a new creation!” I felt relieved. He then added, “Besides there is no such thing as a homosexual. All homosexuals are actually heterosexuals who are misbehaving.” I clung to his words. I was not gay. Sure I indulged in gay sex and my sexual fantasies were exclusively about men, but in my truest self, I wasn’t what I desired.
Over the next five years, in spite of the vast and ever growing evidence that I was indeed gay, I doubled-down on my denial, yet I repeatedly ran right back to gay sex and all male sexual fantasies. In an Uptown Manhattan store-front church, cluttered with books and gospel tracts, another minister, Pastor Willy, offered his theory as to why my spirit was willing but my flesh was super gay. “You are possessed by evil spirits of homosexuality.” He explained the demons must have entered me through a variety of possible doorways. “It might be a generational curse,” he suggested “An ancestor behaved badly, perhaps a great-great uncle who was a sailor. He may have had sex with men then picked up a demon. This demon got passed down through the bloodline.”
In my early 20s I began attending a weekly support group for men and women who wanted to “leave the homosexual lifestyle.” We gathered each Saturday night in Midtown Manhattan, first for a spaghetti dinner, then for an evening of Gospel singing, testimonies, and sermons. I left jazzed up for Jesus and heterosexuality, but the rest of the week I walked around the city feeling lusty for other men. I asked Joanne, the leader of the ex-gay group, for a private consultation, so she invited me up to her apartment.
Can I come out and say it? Sometimes resurrection takes too damn long.
In my current season of life, I can not help but identify with Martha, the sister of Lazarus. You know the one who ran to meet Jesus when he decided it would be a good idea to show up four days after the death of his friend? The Martha who confronts Jesus on the outskirts of the city to ask him “where the hell have you been?” and to remind him (on the off chance he may have forgotten) he was the Messiah. Lazarus would still be alive if he had come when they sent for him. Her brother would still be alive if he had come when they sent for him.
Easter is long gone and Lent even further in the past. We are weeks past Golgotha, the cross, and the death of God. We have passed from there to the empty tomb, to the resurrection, to the hope of new life on the other side of Good Friday. But If I am being honest, It feels like I keep showing up to an occupied tomb.
The stone still in place.
The guards still keeping their post.
No angelic messengers waiting to speak the good news of the risen Christ.
On the last day of June 2018, I celebrated Pride month by coming out to the world as bisexual via social media post, and the aftermath of that decision has shaped the last year of my life, for better and for worse. Indeed, it's been a year full of encouragement, hope, trauma, pain and confusion, often all at the same time. Almost everyone in my life has been so tender with me, so affirming and lovely. But not quite everyone. In certain circumstances, certain circles, I met resistance. Fear. Shame. And it’s really messed with me.
In fact, a question has plagued me in the time since I’ve come out, sparked by hard conversations and suddenly-strained relationships: is God’s love still for me? Am I still included in His family?
To quote gay Christian writer Jeff Chu: "Does Jesus really love me?"
My gut says yes. The first idea I ever learned about God was that He loved me, that I was unconditionally, radically, holistically embraced by the Source of all love and light in the universe.
I enjoy the peace that comes with it, the stillness that settles into my bones when I sit quietly somewhere. I love the calm of early morning, broken momentarily by a passing car, but only for a moment. I am most productive when I go to the library on campus and sit in the “quiet zone,” which is peaceful until students conduct full-on conversations in whispers and I contemplate shushing them (further ruining the silence).
Yet I also hate silence for one major reason — it often makes me feel alone. When I’m at home by myself, I often have to have music playing or the TV on just for background noise — partially because I’m uncomfortable being alone, partially because I’m superstitious and afraid of ghosts. But I digress.
On a more serious note, when I’m depressed, I need sensory stimulation because otherwise my mind will fill the silence with all kinds of negative thoughts. My mind will dredge up all kinds of pain and uncomfortable things for me to relive. That’s when silence hurts the most.
One place where silence doesn’t make feel alone, where silence is healing, is church.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A couple weeks ago, I was FaceTiming with a fellow queer friend, and we got to talking about something that seems to be rather ubiquitous in the queer world, particularly for queer people who were raised in conservative Christian or other conservative spaces, the second queer adolescence that so many of us experience in our late teens, early twenties, or perhaps even later in life, depending on your individual circumstances. While this isn’t an uncommon occurrence or topic of conversation in queer circles, a quick Google search also shows that it’s not talked about nearly as much as many of us have experienced it. So, we’re gonna talk about it, and small disclaimer: there will be a little more academic language in this post, just because I’ve been studying this in grad school as well.
Developmentally speaking, there are usually certain ages and stages in life where people tend to sort through specific things, and for most people, adolescence, generally between the ages of 13-17, is when explorations into identity and sexuality tend to happen. This is usually when teenagers tend to date their first significant other, are sorting out their own individual identity as separate from their parents, and all the things that come along with those domains. Or at least, I should say…for most straight adolescents that is. This is starting to change for the better more recently, but for many of us queer millennials and older, this probably wasn’t the case, which is why we tend to experience a second queer adolescence at an older age.
For queer kids, it's harder than most appreciate to find a safe space.
For those of us studying in Evangelical colleges, even primary and secondary private Christian schools, we're met with open hostility.
I'm one of you.
This is an experience few can understand and many belittle, and your peers' inability to empathize with your situation only adds to your pain. The emotional burden placed upon you time and time again by these same people is immense; most humans aren't asked on a regular basis to provide epistemic justification for their own existence. It hurts no matter the source.
Your family, your friends, your professors, your administrators, your pastors, the leaders pontificating in your space - it's suffocating. Somehow, your desire to love and be loved is a threat to the fabric of society. And you know that doesn't make sense. You know it's not fair.
In the middle of the night, I would hear things. I’d wake up screaming and thrashing. Every night, I’d wake my parents with my screams and then try to fall asleep again on my mother’s side of the bed, clinging to her hand. I had to hear over and over that the dream wasn’t real before I could calm down enough to sleep.
Once I finally started sleeping in my own room, the voices didn’t go away. But instead of monsters, I often thought I could hear my mother’s voice in the middle of the night, usually asking for something (her Bible, some food, nail clippers). No matter how many times she told me she had been fast asleep and to stop waking her up with these “jokes,” I continued to go into her room, convinced that, this time, the voice was real.
In the Old Testament, Samuel hears the false voice of somebody he trusted. After coming to Eli several times, he learns it was the voice of God, but the voices I heard were not the voice of God. They were evil. I was afraid. And later in my life, I continued to feel that God had left me alone, giving me no voice or guidance that I could trust.