Gay Church

Every group of people has shadows that need to be shaken. For gay men, we’re often a bunch notoriously obsessed with our looks. Centuries of social isolation have given rise to plastic airs even our own kind have difficulties keeping up with. Human behavior can only be understood when the complexities of the layers beneath the surface are examined.  Identity is a myriad of personal circumstances. The gay experience is best viewed through a rainbow lens.

There’s an old adage in homo-culture that states “the gym is gay church”. While it’s a tongue-in-cheek statement, it’s also darkly ironic. There’s an expectation in gay male culture that bodies be slim, trim, and spryly sculpted. I know many who spend hours a day working out to obtain an Adonis-like physique. Eating disorders are rather normalized among many same-sex peer groups. When my chunky 15 year-old self came out of the closet in high school, I was quickly informed by a classmate that I couldn’t really be a homosexual. The reason? Well, you have to be hot to be gay! Thankfully, human sexuality is much more nimble than tepid social illusions!

That remark haunted me for years, though, and the allure of Adonis remains a dank cloud over the gay community. To get to the core of this complex, we have to dig beneath its plastic exterior.  It’s easy to make our bodies a sanctuary when we’ve been driven from our own houses of worship. Churches, mosques, and synagogues are where many find comfort, but many times it’s religion that begins the self-loathing process. When you “love the sinner, but hate the sin”, there’s a transfer of negative energy that can have dire consequences.  Hate becomes the operative word, and often we go to war with our bodies as a result of other people’s uncomfortability with our presence. We can’t make people change, but we can change ourselves. Let’s face it; it’s a lot easier to lose weight than it is to work through deep-seeded emotional pain!

Rejection isn’t always synonymous with religion, though. Many times it’s just plain ignorance that drives a wedge between gays and their friends and family. Sure, we’re making progress. With alarming stories of gay kids offing themselves, though, we obviously aren’t close to the end of this journey to acceptance. It’s easy to outcast people who aren’t like us. It’s also easy to forget how truly isolating it can feel at times to be gay. Well-meaning hetero-pals usually aren’t aware how lonely it can feel to only have a highly reduced chance of meeting someone who shares your sexual orientation.  In the Midwest, where urban migration moves many gays away and the closet locks many more inside, that feeling is intensified. When we spend too much of our time building lean muscle mass, we aren’t spending enough of our time bridging gaps in understanding. We let ourselves believe that a svet physique is the only ticket to companionship. We pursue perfection to escape isolation.

It’s a problem when developing your personality takes a back seat to mounting a six-pack. It’s your aura that draws people in, not the size of your waist. That famous gay rainbow is supposed to symbolize the diversity within our community, and we have a menagerie of body types. Body image issues plague people of all sexual orientations. Let’s melt the plastic and get to the point!

 

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Culture War Curtail

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photo by David Quick

When it comes to discussions about sexual orientation, the “culture wars” seem to be a constant theme. For over three decades, American politics has largely been defined by a battle in which Christian soldiers armed with moral truth aim to use the political process to codify their values into law. Meanwhile, LGBT activists armed with the truth about their own lives have aimed to involve themselves politically to find broader acceptance in society and gain legal rights and protections.  It’s a conflict that has manifested itself in the form of an outright revolution.

We’ve been so busy battling each other that we’ve forgotten the very basic fact that, despite the seemingly deep values chiasm, we aren’t all that different.  All of us want a better world with safer, stronger communities.  All of us want to be respected. All of us want the freedom to live our lives according to what we believe is right. For these reasons, I believe it’s time to end the culture wars and move beyond political rhetoric that labels and limits our potential.  We need to stop battling each other and start peacefully coexisting. We can do this right here—in Wichita, KS and set an example of civility for the rest of the country.

To do this, we have to start talking to each other and begin some uncomfortable conversations. We have to stop fearing those who are different from us, and we have to start engaging them. Christians need to understand and acknowledge that gay does not equal godless. There are plenty of LGBT individuals of faith who are actively involved in multiple denominations and congregations. They have families who want their children to grow up with strong moral convictions and definitive ideas about right and wrong. Their God is just as awesome as anyone else’s. Many gay people have been hurt by religion, but to move forward we need to be forgiving. We have to stop greeting with hostility those who identify as religious or conservative. We need to be as accepting of others as we want them to be of us. This means we won’t always agree with a particular person’s beliefs. We can disagree with people on matters of philosophy and politics. We should all agree, though, that we’re on our own spiritual journeys. Judgment should be reserved for someone with higher authority.

It’s very easy to fall into an “us vs. them” mentality. Real progress is made when you can rise above the status quo. We’ve been fighting wars with each other for too long. It’s time to start working together. That doesn’t mean you compromise your own integrity or cheapen your personal moral code. When it comes to safer streets, connected neighborhoods, and a more vibrant local economy Wichita needs everyone to move forward.

Putting an end to the culture wars won’t be easy for everyone. Inevitable, some will always cling to conflict. For them, we must lead by example. That old adage about lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness comes to mind. Loving thy neighbor means accepting that you won’t always understand your neighbor’s beliefs or way of life. We should all make strides to get to know each other and learn to respect each other, though.  That’s a Kansas value that could revolutionize the world.