Sunday, July 30, 2006

No one is to blame.

No race today! So I'm going to play around online a bit.

We got some work done on our third design job this Saturday. It's going to be a bit of a challenge--multiple rooms--but that's okay. Nothing we can't handle.

Last night, I got second place in a karaoke contest. My good friend Yemaya O'Reilly's up here for good now, which is awesome. She told me about the contest because I used to sing karaoke fairly often in Orlando. Then she got pissed at me because I took home second place (and 150 dollars) and she only got third (and 75 dollars.) Well, I think my song choices were better, and I told her so. Like many other people who've sung karaoke more than once, I have my own limited repertoire that just suits me and my voice down to the ground, and I seldom stray from it. She just sang any random thing that looked good. So while she has a better voice than I do, I used what I had better. L'Ailee wasn't going to go, but she went to cheer me on. I would reward her by embarrassing her.

Most of the songs I pick--there are about ten--are sung by male tenors and sort of melancholy. I have a very feminine alto speaking voice, and I don't think I sound masculine when I sing, but I do have sort of a female-tenor range. There are exceptions, but I know what I can do. Who knew that even in NYC, women will argue with you for the right to "Redneck Woman" by Gretchen Wilson? You got three songs as you progressed in the contest; that's what I started with. After I won the dispute over "Redneck Woman," I sang "Drive," by Incubus. Then I sang one that has always reduced me to tears and resonated strongly with me. No One Is to Blame, by Howard Jones. It has always been one of my strongest songs, at least since I was in my late teens. But the song's about wanting to have an affair, right? And I never wanted to have an affair. "Why do you sing that with such feeling?" L'Ailee asked. I just figured out why a couple nights before the contest, when I sang the few songs in that repertoire for practice. I don't change the pronouns.

You can look at the menu, but you just can't eat
You can feel the cushion, but you can't have a seat
You can dip your foot in the pool, but you can't have a swim
You can feel the punishment, but you can't commit the sin

I want to talk about what happened after the tree and the tour of NYC and the kiss goodbye, years and years ago.

When I met L'Ailee, I was in my late teens, still in high school, still a member of the Assemblies of God church and their youth group. I had been part of that church for two years at that point. I was beginning to question whether God really needed me to give up all the music I liked, try to convert my friends, literally believe in creationism, etc. I also began to see that my bisexuality was not a phase, and was less terrified at the idea of growing up to be queer. That is why I came out to my best friend Yemaya (who had also come out to me), why I followed her advice to flirt with women in NYC, and why I encouraged L'Ailee.

But I probably shouldn't have, because I was one conflicted kitty. I hadn't entirely accepted my orientation or rejected what I was being taught in church. I had experienced such wonderful times of fellowship in church. I worship ecstatically; I give myself over to group energy and sing. I loved the feeling of giving myself over and becoming part of a greater whole, all with one aim--to praise and honor the Creator! The non-casual Christians in my family were all Assemblies of God, too. I literally knew no other way to be a Christian, and no other religion had appealed to me as yet. I knew I believed in some sort of Creator, too. Nature just worked too well on its own, without human intervention, to be random.

And you want her, and she wants you
We want everyone
And you want her and she wants you
No one, no one, no one ever is to blame

She actually wasn't supposed to be dating anyone. She had recently been through rehab for alcohol. (She no longer identifies as an alcoholic of any type, and is not, incidentally. It's simply that she was under a lot of stress and had no other coping mechanism.) Her counselor told her to stay away from any kind of sex or relationships. But we could always use more friends, we both thought. The fact that she lived in NYC and I lived in Orlando was a convenient out for both of us--how could we date if we lived so far away? Even if we did talk on the phone a lot and exchange lots of letters and postcards? Even if we did both get our first e-mail addresses for the express purpose of talking to each other?

Meanwhile, in my church, they were talking more and more about homosexuality, both in my youth group and "big church." A new youth pastor came in, and he was strident. No more did we talk about how to handle the temptation to cheat on a test or fight with a parent, as we had with the previous youth pastors. No, it became all sex and secular humanism, all the time, like the 700 Club, which I still couldn't bring myself to respect. He had a burning of "sinful" media. I didn't burn mine; a friend did burn hers, and became really depressed afterwards. Another complained that she wasn't even thinking about sex because she wanted to get into a good college and didn't need to be pregnant, and she had other issues she'd like to hear about. But I still had my friends, and I still had the ecstacy of worship. So I just kept my profile low and stewed every time he talked about the evil ho-mo-SEX-shulls.

You can see the summit but you can't reach it
It's the last piece of the puzzle but you just can't make it fit
Doctor says you're cured but you still feel the pain
Aspirations in the clouds but your hopes go down the drain

I tried dating a couple boys. It didn't work out. I wanted L'Ailee. She came down to Orlando for Christmas, and we had a terrific, if mostly chaste, time. After a few months, her counselor said she could date. She wanted to date me. I kept telling her, I didn't know what I thought about the idea. I knew what my body wanted. (And I believe women have a "little head" too, just like men, if not quite as pronounced or vocal.) I knew what most of my mind wanted. I wanted us to be friends, definitely. But I didn't want to lose my faith community or my family, and I didn't want the problems I'd heard about queer people enduring, and I didn't want to sin. "You should have thought of that before," she snapped. But she never stopped communicating with me. It was weird--talking to her, it seemed right. Talking to anyone else, it stopped seeming right!

Then there were the two sermons in March 1993, back to back.

The first one was about Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer. He'd been languishing in Florida's death row for ages. Now he would die, finally. My youth pastor told us that God could forgive anyone, even someone like Ted Bundy who had tortured and killed many women. He had, after all, converted in prison. So because he accepted Jesus, he would go to heaven. I found that concept a bit troubling, but understood at least that when it was said that anyone could be saved, that meant *anyone*.

The next week, he went back to talking about gays. He said that all "unrepentant" ho-mo-SEX-shulls and less-bians would go to hell. That got to me! He'd said that before, but in light of the Bundy sermon, I found it particularly troubling. Bundy had killed and raped his way across Florida, but he could go to heaven after a prayer? And two nice women would go to hell, just for loving each other? I asked my pastor about that. He asked me if I had anything that I wanted to say to him. "Only that I can't agree with you," I replied. I ran out of there. I cried in my closet when I got home. I prayed and asked God, "Is that really what you meant?"

The response was felt, not heard, and not in my voice. "Of course not. But you know that. You've known that for a long time."

I called L'Ailee to tell her that I was leaving the church. She immediately squealed a happy and triumphant squeal; I had no idea she even knew how to do that, as serious as she was and as deep as her voice is. Then she asked me why, and when I answered, murmured consoling things to me.

The next week, I went back one last time, to say goodbye to everybody. I felt that I owed them that much. And then when I left, I felt 100 pounds lighter. I practically floated out of the church. When I got home, I couldn't go in right away. I ran a few laps around my apartment building, giggling and going "WOOOOO!!!" My mother thought I was drunk at first. Instead, I explained that I was going to take the money I'd saved and spend Spring Break in NYC.

No one, no one, no one ever, is to blame.

Back to 2006. The judges were talking to the singers in the final round for a few seconds, all of us. One of the judges said, "That about made me cry. Are you thinking about anybody?"
"Something I felt when I was 18," I said.
"How did it end?" he asked.
"It didn't." I held up my ring. "We met 14 years ago this month."
People applauded. Yemaya gave L'Ailee a side hug and wouldn't let her make herself invisible. The judge moved on. I smiled through tears.

A few links before I go:

Bye, bye, Lieberman?!?!

Humans keep evolving

Teens defend gay teens' right to hold hands in public.

New documentary on the Dixie Chicks

A kiddie-show host got fired for a safer-sex advocacy ad she appeared in years ago!

Culture War Veterans for Truth: Why to Deny Pat Buchanan's Call for a Ceasefire.

From the Onion--Nonprofit fights poverty with poverty


Tai said...

That is one HELL of a story (pardon the usage!)

I don't believe that an 'omnipotent' being would stoop so low as to keep love at bay.
I also don't have faith in the Christian I guess I have no say, but I sure am happy to see two people who live for each other together.

And, all these years I had no idea what that song was about.
I thought it was just about some one struggling and trying and never succeeding.
"Doctor says your cured, but you still feel the pain."

Interesting what you learn from a blog-friend!


The Fat Lady Sings said...

You see - no one has to judge or hate. It's a choice. I grew up surrounded by enough negativity to sink a battleship. It always struck me as wrong. Even when I'd hear that same crap in church - I knew it was wrong. But then I also had the benefit of doing theatre. I was surrounded by all kinds of wonderful people - every ethnicity, gay, straight and every possibility in between. So I’d look at the negative people and then I'd look at the theatre people; the choice wasn't a hard one. Bye, bye hatred and bigotry. Hello the rest of the world. Marvelous story, my dear. You have a very strong soul. And what sounds like a wonderful marriage. You are indeed blessed!

grace said...

I grew up in the AoG as I can certainly relate to a great deal of your story. It seems to me that much of that sort of teaching we grew up with (you and i) is mostly about controlling a wild and uncontrollable God...making Him so many things He is not, like safe and predictable. Just some quick thoughts. Thanks for sharing! I need to get to rest but I'll read more of your stuff later!

alan said...

I walked away from churchianity a long time ago now...

'Tis love like the two of you have that gives me hope for this world! In the end, that's all any of us ever have, if we're lucky!


partygirljessica said...

I know what you mean. I became friends with a lesbian at webdate and she told me about leaving church too. I guess that would be a really wise move.

Kelley Bell said...

What an inspiring story of a womans emancipation!

Just when i think we are all going to drown in the inhumanity of the patriarchal value systems of "Da Big Three" (Christian, Islamic, Hebrew),

I read a story like this, and remember, evolution just takes time.

*Doctrines of hate, DO NOT come from The Divine.

*Intuition is the voice of Spirit, whispering to the soul.

SassyFemme said...

What an amazing, beautiful story (for lack of a better term to describe reality). For me, God is about love, period. BTW, your love for L'Ailee can easily be felt through your writing about her. :)

Zanne said...

Hey thanks for sharing that-very very moving! It breaks my heart that people are put in positions where they have to choose. Worse still, that being who you are means going to hell according to some "christians."

Can't help thinking that those who choose love are choosing God...

Blessings to you L'Ailee!

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Karaoke is lots of fun!

Peterson Toscano said...

wow oh wow. Thank you for sharing this. It touches me deeply.

On a radio program the other night I just played the achingly poignant Chris Bell song, "You and Your Sister" and thought about all the forbidden loves of our queer youths. So many people never negotiated those loves in my day (and sadly still today for some). I am so glad for you and your love.

Rebecca said...

Good for you! I wish I had your guts when I was your age! I left my anti-gay church at about the same age, but remained in the closet for 25 more years.....