31 October 2007

The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin (Part Four)

Donnie McClurkin

The interview concludes:

Clay Cane: Would you say that Donnie’s Bisexual or Gay?

"Rob": I think he’s Gay! He’s not Bisexual.

Clay Cane: Do you feel sorry for him?

"Rob": I do. I (felt) sorry on those days when he’d cry. Saying he’s going through this, he’s going through that . . . he’s lonely, he’s horny. I’ve heard he’s had relationships with guys in Atlanta, guys in New York, guys in LA.

If McClurkin really is living this kind of reckless double life, he can't keep it up forever. He's made too many enemies with his high profile anti-Gay pronouncements! I predict there'll be more interviews of this kind in the future. Hopefully, one of his alleged sex partners will have the courage to be named!

Clay Cane: You are not heterosexual, and you’re Christian. Do you think you’re going to go to Hell for not being heterosexual?

"Rob": No, I strongly believe that I am who I am. We’re saved by grace. God can save whoever He wants.

Clay Cane: Do you think being Gay is a sin?

"Rob": No, I don’t because . . . why are we here? God saved the criminal. Anyone can be saved.

So Gay people are like criminals? Yet another revealing statement!

Clay Cane: Do you think homosexuality is something people need to be saved from?

"Rob": No! Not at all, and (Donnie and I) had debates about that . . . I said, “I think you’re born this way.” I would tell (him) that.

This is one part of the interview that I don't buy! Judging from his own previous statements, it's obvious that this man thinks same-gender love is sinful, just like Donnie McClurkin does. The only difference is, he's much less conflicted about his "sin". However, if he had no inner conflicts at all, he wouldn't still be in the closet, would he? It all comes down to shame.

Around the time I entered junior high school, I became involved in the Youth For Christ movement. I remember a mantra that our YFC ministers had popularized: Come as you are!  We were encouraged to come to God exactly as we were. In one sense, the slogan meant that you didn't have to dress up in fine clothes to go to church. It had a broader sense, though: That it wasn't necessary to make yourself respectable in the eyes of the world in order to enter God's temple and worship at His throne!

God's concepts of respectability are different from the ones human beings have! The world may think your skin is the wrong color, or shun you because of the social class you come from, or consider you a sexual pariah of some kind. God sees past those superficial concerns! However you were created, and whatever your circumstances, the Lord welcomes you into His presence. You are His child. Not only does He want you to come as you are, He insists on it! You can't present yourself to God wearing masks and disguises! Nor should you try to deceive your sisters and brothers in Christ.

Gay people like Donnie McClurkin (yes, I said it!) believe otherwise. They're deluding themselves, but it's easy to understand why they think as they do. Just like the rest of us, they're victims of miseducation!

What passes for Christian doctrine today is a far cry from what Jesus Christ actually taught! Set upon by Satan's poachers, who disguise themselves in shepherd's clothing, LGBT lambs are tricked into following their corrupt lead. Deceived! Misled! Fooled into believing that penances imposed on the ancient Israelites also apply to us! Blinded to our presence in Scripture (the 14th chapter of Revelations, among other passages)! Pressured to give the directives of prophets and apostles the same authority as the directives Jesus Christ gave us, even when those directives differ! Manipulated into worshiping the Bible, a man-made text, as if it were a substitute for God! We've all been distracted from the message of salvation our Savior preached.

Those of us who come from an ethnic background also have to deal with strong cultural biases that severely regulate gender roles. The appalling behavior modification training that McClurkin got from his church elders mirrors what my own parents told me as a child: Stop acting like a girl!  Be they Christian, Muslim or otherwise, African-Americans demand a strict separation between masculinity and femininity. How easily they forget that the God they worship is simultaneously male and female, and how difficult it is for them to accept that some of His children are, too!

Donnie McClurkin didn't just suffer rape at the hands of his male relatives. He was also raped by his church! In both cases, wicked people sought to impose shame and degradation on him. They perceived his alternate gender identity, targeted him because of it (something I believe pedophiles routinely do to Gay children), violated him, and made him feel as if he deserved punishment. In this diabolical way, they took control of his mind, and programmed him to punish others like himself. They call it "evangelism", but it's really recruitment, combined with a form of sexual harassment that Rev. Jerry Maneker calls "genital theology" . . . not very different, really, from what Fundamentalists accuse Lesbians and Gay men of doing!

This is the method organized religion uses to manufacture Fundie closet cases, a procedure that no doubt goes back many centuries. So effective is this method, it's miraculous that anybody escapes its cruel indoctrination! God, the architect of Gay identity, makes such miracles possible. He inspires us to burst the bonds of self-loathing that Satan's trickery places on our souls. Every day, millions of LGBT Christians are breaking free from shame, challenging lies told from the pulpit, seeking and finding their true identities through prayer and research and therapy (the legitimate kind), and the evidence of their own life experience. Would you believe some of these newly enlightened folks are even preachers?

The various religious communities we belong to may never make peace with Gay identity. That doesn't mean we can't make our own peace with it. We can! We don't have to suffer lifelong victimhood. We don't have to fear Scriptural terrorism. We don't have to be "Bible believers"! As Christian converts, we only need be Gospel believers!

The Gospels are where our salvation lies, and that's where Jesus Christ speaks of us. Yes, He does! Don't believe the Right Wing naysayers. The proof can be found in the 19th chapter of Matthew, verses 9-12: The Savior calls us eunuchs who have been so from birth. (In Biblical times, a "born eunuch" was the equivalent of what we now call Gay men.  For more information, visit the Born Eunuchs website.) He exempts all eunuchs from heterosexual marriage, and links their unique status to the kingdom of Heaven. That sure doesn't sound like condemnation to me!

What's more, in verses 16-19 of that same chapter, Jesus Christ lists the specific commandments that apply to his disciples. Guess how many of those commandments prohibit same-gender love? Absolutely none of them!

What more does the Savior have to do before we stop thinking of ourselves as abominations? Who can vilify us when God does the opposite? Why do we let false prophets come between us and God? It's foolish! Do we enjoy suffering needlessly? Do we think God wants to inflict pain on us? What's the percentage in ending up a guilt-ridden, self-destructive wreck? How does that make us better Christians? It damn sure hasn't brought Donnie McClurkin closer to the Divine! His opportunistic, mask-wearing Gay colleagues in the Gospel music world aren't exactly good spiritual role models, either!

A couple of years back, McClurkin was interviewed on the PBS TV series "Religion And Ethics Newsweekly." He took advantage of the occasion to liken Gay people to serial liars! He also said:

Anybody who has a lying problem, they get to the point where they hate (it), having such a lack of character, (and) they (want to) make a change.

Subconsciously, he was surely talking about himself in regard to lying; could it be that he was also talking about himself in regard to changing? If everything said about him in Clay Cane's interview is true, Donnie McClurkin knows in his heart what kind of change he needs to make: One that involves total honesty with himself and others, renunciation of self-serving bigotry, and freedom from crippling shame. He must walk the difficult path openly Gay Christian artists like Jason and DeMarco, Jennifer Knapp, Ray Boltz and Tonex had the courage to walk.  For his sake as well as our own, let's all pray that God empowers him to follow their examples of integrity!

16 October 2007

The Angel Gabriel (Part One)

Angel

Gabriel Rotello is something of a Gay renaissance man. He’s an author, editor, newspaper columnist, musician and documentary film producer. His op-ed pieces have appeared in The Advocate, The Village Voice, The Nation, and many other nationally-known publications. Among his film credits are The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, a film focusing on the life of the late evangelist Tammy Faye Messner, and Hidden Führer, which speculates on the sexual orientation of Adolph Hitler.

His best-selling books include Sexual Ecology, an environmentally-based consideration of Gay men and the AIDS crisis, and Keep On Dancin’, the autobiography of Disco impresario Mel Cheren. Rotello is probably best known as the founding editor of Outweek, a controversial magazine from the early 1990s that was affiliated with the direct action group ACT-UP. Pundit and talk show host Michelangelo Signorile initiated the practice of “outing” closeted public figures in Outweek’s pages.

I've been upset with Gabriel Rotello for a long time, and I've had good reason to be! He's the guy mainly responsible for so many LGBT people calling themselves "queers" in public. As editor of Outweek, he coined that odious word as an "umbrella term" substitute for the acronym "LGBT" and encouraged his contributors to use it. Over the last fifteen years, it has spread like cancer throughout Gay discourse!  Now, Gay activist organizations blissfully add “queer” to their titles, Transpeople describe themselves as “gender-queer”, and Straight folk increasingly feel comfortable lobbing the slur at their LesBiGay friends.

Popularization of the Q-word has opened the door to an avalanche of oppressive idiom; not satisfied with answering to just one derogatory name, younger Gay people have begun “reclaiming" other offensive epithets like "f*ggot" and "b*lldyke". It’s a disaster! Mr. Rotello has a lot to answer for! However, as the New Testament evolution of Paul the Apostle demonstrates, even the most misguided among us can repent and change.

Gabriel Rotello has expressed regret for foisting oppressive idiom on the Gay diaspora, and he no longer uses the word "queer" in a casual way (see his 15 August 2000 op-ed in The Advocate titled “The Word That Failed”). Happily, he seems to have exchanged irresponsible action for profound thought. In a Huffington Post op-ed dated 4 October 2007, he presents an analysis of LGBT experience that's more profound than anything I've read to date. This compelling opinion piece was inspired by controversy over different versions of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA); these separate-but-unequal bills, designed to outlaw discrimination against Gay people on the job, are inching their way through the US House of Representatives even as I write these words.

I'm reprinting most of his brilliant essay here because it echoes much of what I wrote in a previous post called "Why Gay People Exist", Parts One, Two and Three. I must say, he makes the same points I made much more concisely, and with far more clarity and forcefulness! I haven’t quite forgiven the man for popularizing an anti-Gay slur, but I'm not nearly as upset with him as I used to be. I think he's just about redeemed himself! When you read the following excerpts, you'll understand why:

The decision by the Democratic leadership in Congress to eliminate Transgendered (sic) people from ENDA, the bill to ban discrimination against Gays (sic) in the workplace, has ignited a genuine firestorm in Gay political circles. It's heartening to see that LGBT activists are coming out of the woodwork to insist that any meaningful bill that does not protect the Transgendered isn't worth the paper it's written on. But criticism that the bill is a betrayal of the most vulnerable among us, while well-intentioned, doesn't go anywhere near far enough. A bill to protect Gays (sic) from discrimination that excludes Transgendered (sic) people isn't merely a betrayal of the Transgendered; it's a betrayal of all Gay people! Because (as I wrote in an Advocate column a few years back, which I will quote from liberally here), in a very real sense, all Gay people are Transgendered . . .

This idea stems in large part from the growing body of research into what sexual orientation actually is. The jury is still out on whether the roots of sexual orientation are biological or environmental, or both or neither, but this much can be said: Researchers have found that the heterosexual majority and Gay people differ in far more than just the most obvious sexual respect. Most heterosexuals (sic) tend to feel and act and desire and respond and present themselves to the world in what researchers call a fairly "sex-typical" or "gender-typical" way: Pretty much mostly male or mostly female. Gay people, on the other hand, exhibit a whole range of "sex-atypical" characteristics, meaning characteristics that are commonly associated with the opposite sex, at least among the heterosexual majority. These traits obviously, and perhaps most importantly, include our attraction to members of the same sex. But they also include our inner feelings of maleness or femaleness, our outward appearance as "butch" or "femme", the unconscious way we speak and move, even the way we throw a ball or change a tire.

For reason(s) yet to be understood, most Gay people exhibit sex atypical traits most clearly when we are very young. Many Gay boys, the vast majority in some studies, report that they identified strongly with girls when they were very small. Many even thought of themselves as more female than male. The opposite seems true for most Lesbians. As we grow older, these feelings tend to subside for many of us, so that as adults the only major sex-atypical trait that we retain is our sexual orientation . . .(but) some of us grow up to be mannish women or (effeminate) men. Some become occasional cross-dressers or "drag kings" or "queens". Some become Transgenderists (people who live full-time as the opposite gender without desiring surgery). And some become pre- or post-operative Transsexuals. Researchers now think that . . . Gay and Transgendered (sic) people occupy places on a continuum between the two main genders . . .

"The Angel Gabriel" concludes with Part Two.

15 October 2007

The Angel Gabriel (Part Two)

Angel

Not only does this idea offer a more expansive definition of what we really are, but it also better explains why we are oppressed. Homophobes don't merely hate us because of how we make love. Rather, they hate how we make love because it violates our expected gender roles. Really, we are hated for gender transgression! For example, when I was ten and was taunted for throwing a ball "like a girl," I'm quite sure those school-yard bullies did not suspect me of actually sleeping with members of the same sex. They bashed me for not being "boy" enough. That goes for almost all of us. Whether we face prejudice for being too "butch" or too "femme", or for being cross-dressers or androgynes, or for simply being perceived as Gay or Lesbian, we are all ultimately disliked for the same basic reason: Transgressing our expected gender roles. Sexual transgression in the bedroom is just one aspect of that . . . so just as all Gays (sic) are in a basic sense Transgendered, all homophobes are first and foremost "transphobes."

This new understanding is revolutionizing researchers' conception of sexual orientation as just one aspect of a larger kind of difference. And I believe that if we're smart, it could revolutionize the way LGBT people look at ourselves, both as individuals and as a movement. The modern Gay world was born out of a limited 19th-century psychological concept: Namely, that some people, "homosexuals", are inherently attracted to members of the same sex. We accepted that limited idea, and built our identities and our movement around it . . . now, however, 21st-century research has produced a new concept: That the root of our difference is not merely how we make love, but the larger fact that we exist between the two genders in a variety of gender-atypical ways, some sexual and some not. This idea has immense implications, because if the ultimate cause of our oppression is gender transgression, then shouldn't it also be the focus of our identities and our movement? Shouldn't we stop being the LesBiGayTrans-whatever movement, with a new syllable added every few years, and simply become the Trans movement?

I think we should. And ultimately, I believe we will. Once we stop thinking of ourselves as oppressed by what we do in bed, and start thinking of ourselves as oppressed because we occupy a space between the socially-expected norms of the two (sic) genders, the sexual differences between us will fade into unimportance, and our common humanity will emerge into the light. If that's not a higher form of liberation. I don't know what is!

It certainly would be liberating. However, I know better than to believe Lesbians and Gay men will find it easy to think of themselves as Transgender people! On the contrary, the concept will be harder for them to accept than for the Straight population! Among most Gay and Pansexual folk, transphobia is rampant! We're extremely self-conscious about how society perceives us, and that's understandable. Society can be brutal when it comes to enforcing its gender rules; if you're perceived as a gender-bender outside of a theatrical context, it often results in persecution of some kind.

Homosexual men and women have been burned by widespread myths that we all secretly desire sex changes, and that we all have a fondness for cross-dressing. How many times, as a child, was I falsely accused of wearing women's lingerie? I can't count them all. I know from experience that we get confused with transvestites and Transsexual persons on a regular basis, and we're punished for that reason! Consequently, we obsessively try to observe the heterosexist mandate that a man be "all-man" and a woman be "all-woman". Fear of guilt-by-association makes many of us shun very masculine women and highly effeminate men, even while we conceal our own "butch" and "femme" traits.

To a large extent, that's what the supermacho "clone" look of the 1970s was all about: Buzz-cut hair, lumberjack shirts, button-fly jeans, "miner '49-er" handlebar mustaches and rippling muscles. Gay men wanted to show a heterosexist world that we were as capable as any Straight person of conforming to gender stereotypes (if only in appearance)! Defensively, we got into the habit of saying the only difference between homosexual and heterosexual humanity was our bedroom habits. As Gabriel Rotello so eloquently points out, that's a lie; but even if it were true, those habits would be enough to brand us as gender non-conformists. Nothing defines gender conformity more precisely than heterosexuality, and that'll be the case for as long as hetereosexual folk continue to constitute a majority on this planet!

Rotello said it in a nutshell: Since Lesbians, Gay men and (to a lesser extent) Pansexual people fall outside the predominant male-attracts-female sexual dynamic, Straight people overwhelmingly perceive us as challenging traditional gender roles; there's simply no getting around it! We may draw sharp distinctions between gender identity and sexual practice, but our persecutors don't. We can boast of being Gay "he-men" and Lesbian "girly girls" until the cows come home; the minute our sexuality becomes known, we're gender outlaws!

Congressional representatives who favor excluding Transfolk from ENDA seem to believe bigots are more accepting of homosexuality than transsexuality. Wherever did they get such a crazy idea? Hetero-bigotry is always triggered by non-traditional expression of gender, regardless of what form it may take. That's why passing a version of ENDA that doesn't protect gender expression is a total waste of time, just as Rotello argues.

Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank has long been considered a hero by LGBT Americans. By championing this non-inclusive ENDA bill, he's shown himself to be anything but heroic! Really, he's no better than a hatemonger . . . in the name of political expediency, Frank has imposed super-pariah status on Transfolk, and that's worse than reprehensible! However, in so doing, he's snatched the covers off of Gay and Bisexual Americans' dormant transphobia. Here's what lies beneath those rumpled sheets, culled from the comments section of media critic Keith Boykin's blog:

I don't get why Transgender is even attached to Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual people! As someone else said, a lot of them don't consider (themselves) Gay, just that they were born the wrong gender. It's a completely different issue . . . I'm not saying Transgender people are wrong or anything, if they feel they should be someone else, then all the power to them. But I wish someone could explain clearly why it's considered by some to be even close to the same thing as Gay or Bi.

There will always be purists out there for just about every issue known to man . . . and those same purists will never be satisfied with anything . . . if this (Gay-only) bill gets passage, it will be monumental for millions of people . . . the Transgendered will live on to fight another day . . . in the meantime, Gays and Lesbians need the equal protection this law will provide . . . people should leave that altruistic bullsh*t at home, and try to think more reasonably . . .

This kind of uninformed, homocentric commentary has been proliferating in the Gay blogosphere ever since this ENDA controversy broke! It exposes a high degree of denial about Gay identity, a lack of moral principle in our political strategy, and a deeply divided community of activists. I predict this rift will spawn a Transgender Rights struggle that's increasingly distinct from the Gay Rights movement.

That's exactly what should happen, too! For years, Transgender persons have complained that Gay organizations marginalize them; the Human Rights Campaign's support for the gutted version of ENDA certainly validates that complaint. The "T" in LBGT must split off, go its own way, and reclaim its own voice if issues of specific importance to Transfolk are ever to be prioritized! Hopefully, though, this split in the movement will be temporary. Trans-activists can and should reunite with their Lesbian, Pansexual and Gay brethren at some future date, but only after we all begin to understand and acknowledge what we have in common. We're not there yet!

We must learn to reject the tyranny of "all-male" and "all-female" concepts of gender. We must accept the evidence that exists within ourselves that God created genders that exist between male and female. We must dare to own those genders! Once we do, we'll finally have the "umbrella term" that Gabriel Rotello was looking for years ago. We'll abandon imprecise descriptions like "homosexual", "Lesbian" and "Gay", repudiate derogatory epithets like "tranny", "d*ke" and "queer", and come together under the name that best describes us all: Transgender! People who transcend gender, per the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition. People possessing "Fullness", the power of androgyny! God's people, with souls designed in His image, like Adam's soul before his female essence (Eve) separated from it. When that happens, we'll surely be a force against ignorance and injustice more powerful than anything the world has yet seen!

GNOSTIC GOSPEL OF THOMAS 22: 1-7
Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to His disciples: "Those nursing babies are like those who enter the kingdom. They said to Him: "Then shall we enter the kingdom as babies?" Jesus said to them: "When you make the two into one . . . when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female . . . then you will enter (the kingdom)."