“This isn’t supposed to happen. People aren’t supposed to be accepting.”

“It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.”

If you remember President Barack Hussein Obama’s State of the Union this year, you’ll recall this powerful part of his speech.

“courage”

“love”

“overrides”

This rhetoric is particularly notable, and upon the completion of his speech, I found myself close to tears, triggered by the reality of a sitting president connecting with a constituency that has long been ostracized by larger communities.

About one year ago, I shared a story about a conversation I had with one of my really good friends with whom I went to college. Here’s a quick grab of that flashback:

Several years ago, I visited a really good friend on the west coast. We had a phenomenal week together, and on my last night in town, we decided to hit up a really nice sushi place to let the goodbye commence. Midway through the conversation, we started talking about religion, and the dissonance between Christians and the gay community. It was great. This particular time in my life, I lived as sponge-like as possible, and I soaked up every bit of knowledge and (#)perspective from those around me. It was important, and still is today.

Seeing a natural opportunity for the inevitable, I posed the following question:

“Do you think being gay is a choice?”

Pause.

“Honestly…yes. I do,” she asserted.

Now, inside I was ready to burst into tears, however on the outside, I kept it cool and appreciated her for her honesty. “How do you resolve that feeling, having so many close, gay friends?”

She thought for a moment. I did too.

Eventually, my friend stood by her initial assertion, and I quickly finished my sushi to, “give me enough time to pack and rest before heading out in the morning.” I was hurt. I wanted my friend to say, “Fuck what I’ve been told, read about, experienced,” and, “You are worthy and beautiful, and did not choose to be gay.” Instead, she validated her faith, and reminded me that I am loved (despite the small caveat living with the confines of her religion). And, truthfully, I don’t fault my friend. At all. In fact, I appreciate her honesty, and the direct approach to our conversation.

But I was still hurt, and I did leave with a huge cloud of Christian guilt over my head (and, my heart). This was when I revisited the religion vs orientation debate going on in my head. For several years leading up to that trip, I had mostly just paused on religion. “Agnostic,” was my response when asked how I identified, and, “Questioning,” shortly after. I’m still questioning. Hell, we should all be questioning.

Moments after this particular post went live, the friend I mentioned in the piece sent me a text to follow up. We went back and forth for a bit of time, and I left the exchange feeling utterly guilty for airing our laundry for all to see online. At the same time, I felt totally inspired by the idea that we are all processing various conversations and interactions in a space and time for which we’re ready (emotionally, physically, mentally, intellectually, and, of course, spiritually).

You see, in so many ways, I expected my friend’s initial response. I provoked her. Where we come from (I talked a bit about this upbringing in a previous post), and at the time, I received very few supportive identity affirmations. I set my friend up. It was unfair.

I also set myself up. I benchmarked my expectations of acceptance around the very areas of self-worth where I was struggling most. Specifically, I existed with an assumption that every person would and should be critical of my identity as a gay man. I know this feeling now (self work is hard, and all of that), as it was further revealed/validated to me, by me last summer when I met my partner’s parents.

It was only over the course of a morning that I spent with them, however it was a first impression, and alas, a terrifying task. We had breakfast, we discussed the beautifully surfaced array of first-impression topics, and we prepared to part ways until the next time I joined them as a kind-of-and-almost-family-member.

As I said goodbye, I was startled by each parent extending their arms to provide a big hug. Two big, tight hugs.

As I was hugging his dad, and just as we walked toward the car, in my head, I couldn’t help but replay the lines, “The isn’t supposed to happen. People aren’t supposed to be accepting.” Much like how I felt as President Obama uttered the words, “It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught,” I was overcome with raw emotions.

This isn’t supposed to happen. People aren’t supposed to be accepting.

For so long, I lived in a world where the mere act of someone accepting me, or accepting those around me, was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. And I’m barely able to keep up. I did this to my friend when I asked her the question about Christianity/choice. I did it to my partner’s parents. And I did it to President Obama (sorry, Barack!).

“It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.”

Do you have the courage to override everything you’ve been taught?

Do you have the courage to declare your worth? To live unapologetically?

Do you have the courage to love yourself unconditionally? Authentically?

Do you have the courage to be still?

Reprogramming,

Michael

IMG_3911*photo of doors, outside of Luther Place Memorial Church in Thomas Circle, Washington, D.C.

5 thoughts on ““This isn’t supposed to happen. People aren’t supposed to be accepting.”

  1. Thank you for sharing your powerful reflection, Michael. I struggle with many of the same questions but in different contexts. Unlearning what you’ve been taught, being still and letting things come to you, being courageous enough to recognize your own worth and love yourself unconditionally can be very difficult for many people for a myriad of reasons. My heart goes out to you, connecting both to pain (maybe not the same pain but pain) and in joy (probably not the same joy but joy) as you heal your wounds and embark on a revived and renewed life. As always, I wish you the very best.

    Like

    • Thank you so much. The learning has been a beautiful and joyous “ah-ha” for me. And Im thankful to be swimming in the dissonance. Thanks for the reflection back to me, and as always, thanks for reading and continuing to spread your own joy – glad we found each other via twitter! Be well, and keep changing lives… MG

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That picture makes my heart explode. That is the kind of visual I want as a representation of my faith. If I am to subscribe to the belief that we were ALL created in His image, then that means all of us, AS WE ARE. Not just some of us who fit within a narrow set of rules and restrictions. That shock you felt by being accepted…..that’s what needs to go away. Acceptance and love should be the rule, not the exception. If I impart nothing else on my child as a mother, let that be it.

    Liked by 1 person

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