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Jack & Me in The New York Times: Gay Hospital Horror Stories

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Tara Parker-Pope reports in the “Well” blog in the April 19 New York Times.

It’s half a dozen horror stories of Lesbian and Gay couples, and sometimes their children, being denied access to their loved one during medical emergencies.

Ms. Parker-Pope was following up on President Obama’s executive order to Medicare- and Medicaid-funded hospitals to let domestic partners in. She points out how spotty enforcement is, and is likely to remain, no matter what legal status and documents Gay partners have.

She did a nice job and spent a lot of time on the phone with me. She chose me to interview because of a comment I left on the subject last year on The Times website. (Who knew reporters actually read the comments?)

My only objection is the headline, which she didn’t write: “For Same-Sex Couples, Equality in the Hospital.” That should be INequality, dummies.

But I’m glad, even though Jack’s gone, that some small part of his suffering made it into print in the “newspaper of record,” or if not in print, at least online. Most injustice and human suffering never sees the light of day.

Getting Over the Loss of a Love

Jack & Josh, wedding night.

It’s been years now. I should be over it, right?

Yes, actually, I should. And starting with this post, I’m over it.

There was this guy, see? He was smart and nice. I was in love with him. If that’s too much for your brainwaves, get lost.

I don’t apologize for being Gay and I don’t apologize for loving Jack Ferguson.

But I am starting to rethink my marriage vows, and wonder what the hell I thought I was doing.

I’m not going to retell Jack’s story now; you can click on the Jack category in the sidebar. Take it from me, he was a great guy.

I was 33 when we met; he was 38. He died a couple of years ago, having suffered for decades with a terrible disease that disabled him and put him in a wheelchair as an amputee.

There were many times I thought he was a goner; the guy was so sick. In the midst of one crisis I proposed to him, and he accepted. We were married in front of an Episcopal priest named Wayland Melton and 40 guests in, what, 1991? That long ago? I should check my wedding ring, because we had the date inscribed inside.

The price of gold is through the roof these days but I’ve never given up that ring. I remember when we bought those matching rings, at a chain jewelry store in the Western Hills Shopping Center in Cincinnati. We didn’t apologize, we just bought ’em, and the guy who waited on us barely blinked an eye.

They’re pretty rings; classy, elegant. We mighta spent 200 bucks plus tax.

My mother came to the wedding; so did Ronn Rucker and a whole bunch of friends. We were Gay and AIDS activists then, publishers of a Gay newspaper that was fierce in its defense of queers.

We may not always have been right, but we sure felt our power. He gave me the nickname Stud Reporter.

That little bit of power we claimed — every newsroom in the state subscribed to us, and if Josh got pissed about something there was always a story in it — was due in no small part to the masculine man I married, ex-Navy, Vietnam, high school track star. He was an analyst, not an initiator, but I relied on him. We were two minds, not one; that changed everything. Journalism is a collaborative craft.

Three or four years later we separated. We’d moved to Columbus, Ohio and he got homesick. I didn’t see it coming; I thought it was the happiest year of my life.

Maybe he also got sick of me, but he never said so. As far as I’m concerned we were close the rest of our lives.

When Gay marriage isn’t legal, what do you do when it’s time to divorce?

What do you do when you promised God, a priest and 40 faithful people that you’d love this man to the ends of the earth?

I did the only thing I knew; I loved him to the end.

A few years ago now; maybe it’s time I stopped mourning.

Maybe it’s time I finally started living for myself again.

I’m never going to have another lover; I’m old and ugly and I’m too out of the loop. For years I prayed to God to give me a lover, but God didn’t and… that part of my life is over. I’m okay with that now, kind of, though for the first decade and a half, After Jack, I used to beg God to give me someone to love.

I was born for marriage; I was born for love. I’ve loved well in my life, so don’t feel sorry for me. Jamie, John, Frankie, Eddie, Randy — I’ve been well loved by incredibly nice guys. (All were kinda hot, too!)

But now I am alone, and this is my state, and I want to come to grips with it now.

I’ll never really know whether Jack said one thing to his friends about me and another thing to my face. Some evidence says he did, but no one’s ever come out and said as much.

I didn’t go to his funeral. The people who were taking care of him in his last days pretty much shut me out, and his plans, or theirs, for the final disposition of his body offended me. His ashes are supposedly ensconced at sleazy little dive bar on Walnut Street in Cincinnati.

Guys used to fuck in the bathroom there, if that tells you anything. I bet they still do.

Here is the current reality: when Jack left, I lost everything important to me; my lover, my home, my job, my business, my career, my status and role in the GLBT community. I was a leader, with an aggressive voice, a talent and a venue.

Then he got homesick, and a year later it was all gone.

He was important at the newspaper; I couldn’t do it without him. Together we made enough money that I could support him; but apart my life fell to pieces. I tried to keep the work alive for another year, but then my mother got sick, she needed a live-in caregiver and I was relieved to move back home.

She died shortly afterwards, and I immersed myself in the ecstatic but not remunerative task of composing novels. One actually sold fairly well. The other bombed.

Nothing’s been the same since. I wonder if my great artistic fulfillment (and modest trust funds) meant I postponed doing the emotional work of mourning that I ought to have done. Grandiose fantasies are very entertaining while they last.

I have managed in the post-Jack era to do a couple of things I’m very proud of; a few years of working as a suicide and homicide prevention specialist in Gary, Indiana and starting a website that helps people to pray online every morning, noon, evening and night.

That site and its blog have reached 800,000 page views in five years. It sure isn’t Twitter but it’s not bad for the Book of Common Prayer.

I plan to keep doing it at least until a million hits. It’s the second-largest Episcopal church in the world, although it’s only virtual.

That’s the kind of thing Jack and I used to do together; not the praying, but the public impact. We had so many successes together; mostly my work but man, was he essential.

But that was then, and now is now, and what did I mean when I stood up next to my double amputee and promised God and the whole world that I would love Jack for better, for worse?

I stayed married when Jack did not. (I’m told he later had sex as an amputee that he’d never have with me, who loved him because he was still the same person he always was.) I was no saint, but I made a commitment and kept it.

I’ve always thought that was the finest thing I’ve ever done, but maybe not. It doesn’t serve me today.

Three times in my life I’ve stood up before God and the Whole Company, and made vows; confirmation, commissioning and marriage. I meant what I said every time, in sickness and in health.

If you take God seriously and you’re about to solemnly swear, you’d better mean it. And I always have.

My job now is to recognize that my marriage vows are over, and Jesus is my Lover from here on out.

I don’t sexualize the Second Person, but Julian of Norwich knows what I’m talking about.

The mistake I’ve made is to deny the depth of my mourning. Jack and I were never rich and famous but God, we had the perfect life!

“Let justice rain down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” And we got to live that!

Then one day we didn’t.

The man’s dead. I need to stop my self-destruction. As if I could somehow share his, by empathy.

I’ll never be rich and famous, or influential, or have any power as a spokesman or advocate for marginalized people. Those days are gone. I live in obscurity, without much media access and no one clamoring for my defense.

What I’ve got are the prayers. And those are quite enough.

I can’t fully tell you why Jesus moves me as he does; that’s a product of childhood, a young adult encounter with beauty, civil rights, social work, social justice; the firstfruits of Gay liberation, a period of peer recognition and the experience of being loved by a succession of gorgeous Gay personalities, of whom Jack was the ultimate. Not perfect, he couldn’t stand confrontation, but Gay and masculine, brave and funny, courageous and garden-variety heroic.

Scratch me a millimeter and you’ll find that’s what I think ALL Gay men are like. My term is the “shared Gay personality”—and the women are much the same. Good God, what women have done in my lifetime!

Now I’m entering a new phase, the start of my last one, as a “young old” guy. No more self-destruction; now it’s time to live for God. We’ve got a pretty nice relationship, but up to now I’ve resisted going deeper into “the cave,” that depth in every soul where the Divine dwells in us. I’ve had more work to do; I’ve left mourning unfinished; I’ve left sadness unfelt.

I have to let go of things that don’t exist anymore; my own aspirations, I suppose. I’m never going to be on Rachel Maddow; I used to be Rachel Maddow, young and smart, goodlooking and funny, utterly without fear.

So you go, girl, all the way. I don’t need to be you. I’ve already been you in 1986, so now I can sit back in my rocking chair and wave at the parade.

I also don’t need to be married to Jack Ferguson anymore. Fuck him if he can’t take a joke. He was married to young, smart, courageous and ambitious and he wanted to move back to the Ludlow. Now his ashes rest 30 feet from a toilet that stinks.

I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you. Such a sweet man.++

Healthcare Bill Would Remove Gay Tax Inequity

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So, the House has passed the long-awaited healthcare reform bill, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is basking in congratulations. Good for her, and good for the country. It may even be good for partnered Lesbians and Gay men.

The New York Times points out today that the House bill contains a provision to remove a little-known injustice in the tax code that penalizes Gay domestic partners, where one gets health insurance through the other’s employer:

As a high-priority bill for Congressional leaders and President Obama, the legislation has become a vehicle for many other initiatives large and small.

Supporters of gay rights have long been trying to change the tax treatment of health benefits provided by employers to the domestic partners of their employees. In effect, such benefits are now treated as taxable income for the employee, and the employer may owe payroll taxes on their fair-market value.

Under the bill, such benefits would be tax-free, just like health benefits provided to the family of an employee married to a person of the opposite sex.

Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, who proposed the change, said it would “correct a longstanding injustice, end a blatant inequity in the tax code and help make health care coverage more affordable for more Americans.”

Joseph R. Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group, said federal tax law had not kept up with changes in the workplace.

“I meet people all the time who are gratified they work for companies that offer domestic partner benefits,” he said. “But they pass on the benefits because they cannot afford the taxes that go with the benefits.”

M. V. Lee Badgett, a labor economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said employees with domestic partner benefits paid $1,100 a year more in taxes, on average, than married employees with the same coverage.

This is just one of over a thousand tax breaks written into the IRS code favoring people who are legally married. I have no problem with those subsidies—but they should be applied equally.

Consider why the marriage privileges were inserted into the tax code in the first place: not just because of religion or because “the family is the building block of society,” a grandiose and untested claim treated as if it was common knowledge, but because, all other things being equal, committed relationships are more stable than ones without measurable commitment. Tons of research show that marriage leads to favorable social outcomes; married people live longer, and that’s only the start of the benefits.

That means we should want as many people married as possible, including the Gay ones. Yet Congress provides financial incentives for Straight ones only, while the Gay people have to pay.

Thus the state-by-state strategy on Gay marriage has a built-in flaw. Though marriage laws are administered by each state, it’s the Federal benefits for married people that cost big Gay money.

As helpful as it is that last Tuesday Oregon voters agreed to eliminate all state inequities for domestic partners, state taxes are not the biggest bite in Gay paychecks. The IRS and Social Security eat big chunks. Those are Federal programs. And the Feds have a “Defense of Marriage” Act that writes discrimination into law.

All 50 states could do what Oregon has done—”Gay marriage without calling it that”—and it wouldn’t make much of a financial difference. Most tax money goes to the national government.

The Feds’ biggest wallop in your wallet is the inheritance tax. Being a legal “spouse,” or not, makes all the difference in the world. Being Lesbian or Gay can cost you millions.

And the IRS couldn’t care less that you were together for 50 years, that you worked to put your lover through law school, or that you provided tender loving care all the time that s/he was sick, only to be kicked out of the hospital room by some unknown aunt from New Jersey. All the IRS wants to know is “spouse or not.”

This may not matter to you when you’re 25, penniless and in love, but it will matter a great deal when you’re 75, with a lifetime of assets you worked for, and widowed.

LGBT leaders need to do a lot better job of illustrating the built-in inequity of DOMA as applied to the tax code. We did it earlier with the “kicked out of the hospital room” scenario, which has resonated with fair-minded people. Now let’s defend Uncle Harold, forced to sell the condo at 75 to pay the taxman.

Let’s accept that, as in Maine and California, the #1 weapon of anti-Gay marriage politicians is “protect our children from queers in school.” Since the whole wingnut conspiracy machine is geared to stoke heterosexual fears (and always has been since the days of the Briggs Initiative and Anita Bryant, as depicted in the film “Milk”), we need to do more than get sarcastic when opponents suggest that teachers will take 6-year-olds on a field trip to a Lesbian wedding. Of course the claim is ludicrous, but we know that will be the battleground, so let’s pre-empt it. The Lesbians at the wedding are not zoo animals to be petted, and Mrs. Palmer’s first grade class ain’t invited.

Write a schools exclusion into the Gay marriage bill.

If homosexuality was catching, the entire country would have it by now.

It can’t be infectious, because there’s nothing you can do once a teenage boy discovers girls. Heterosexuality cannot be cured.

It’s not like preachers and whacked-out shrinks haven’t tried; imagine the Straight women who would give anything for a little purple pill that turned down the testosterone level at home and in the office. Straight men are incurable!

But their spouses shouldn’t have tax benefits no one else gets; that’s unfair.

Congress and the IRS should not make Uncle Harold sell the condo.

Kudos to Rep. Jim McDermott for chipping away at heterosexual subsidies enforced by the IRS. The man isn’t famous but he just helped a lot of people.

RepJimMcDermott

From here the action shifts to the Senate. A lot can still go wrong, but Pelosi corraled the Democrats for President Obama, and healthcare reform now has the momentum.++

Pelosi.Obama

Mob Kills Pakistani Christians

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A Pakistani Christian couple in the ruins outside their home. (Reuters)

The New York Times has original reporting today about an attack Saturday on a small enclave of Christians in Pakistan. A mob of 20,000 Muslims killed 8 people in one family, who happened to live in the first house they came to. The story is both grotesque and fascinating, and though it’s written with the usual Times understatement, the headline is strikingly honest: Hate Engulfs Christians in Pakistan.

It got me thinking about two examples of this kind of violence closer to home: the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller, in church no less; and the incredible (and sometimes threatening) invective on a hate website which seeks to destroy the Episcopal Church, called Stand Firm.

In Pakistan, the mob was incited by an outlawed group of Muslim terrorists, who then got enraged by a phony rumor that some Christians at a small wedding had burned the Koran. That was all they needed to spring into action. Besides the murders, 100 homes were looted and destroyed.

But it wasn’t just the terrorist group or even the mob itself that was responsible. The Times reports:

“We were afraid because the clerics had been railing against us in the mosques,” said Riaz Masih, a Christian and retired math teacher whose house was gutted. “They said, ‘Let’s teach them a lesson.’ ”

The clerics had been railing against us in the mosques. This is just like the Fox News rabble-rouser Bill O’Reilly, who gets ratings (and gets rich) by inciting hatred (“Tiller the Baby Killer” on 29 shows), and like the hate website, whose main reason for existing is to incite anti-Gay prejudice.

I’m happy to say that the Episcopal Church, with the recent departure of four anti-Gay bishops (and their dioceses, half their parishes and millions of dollars in property), has mostly put this crowd behind us. The recent church convention consistently voted 2-1 or even 3-1 for Gay, Lesbian and Transgender inclusion. (Bisexual folks really don’t make it onto the Church radar screen because, face it, we’re into committed relationships and monogamy.) Transgender advocates (that is, church members who are Trans) were shocked and thrilled by the votes; the Lesbian and Gay crowd mostly expected to win, I think, but still, we batted 1.000. That’s never happened before.

In recent days three openly-Gay people, two women and a man, have become finalists for elevation to bishop. Two of them are friends of mine. Bonnie Perry of Chicago is a rousingly successful priest who has “bishop” written all over her; I’ve been to her parish, which is kind of a fallen-down wreck, yet she’s made it vital and alive. John Kirkley is the rector of a parish in the Mission district in San Francisco, and if you know the city, that neighborhood’s not exactly posh either. He leads a lively congregation that’s plainly on a quest for God in their midst.

So how does Stand Firm, the online bigot convention, react to their possible elevation?

• A joke bishop for a joke church.

• It is not God that Kirkey worships.

• so-called priests in an insane church

• here is a man whose only relationships with other men are purely sexual in nature.

• Of course, he’s a pervert, so I suppose I should be more surprised

And that’s just five random comments on one blog post; they do a dozen posts a day, a fairly large and well-funded operation for a blog.

This is how the mob grows to 20,000: “We were afraid because the clerics had been railing against us…”

Gene Robinson, another friend who’s Gay, had to have a security detail and wear a bulletproof vest when he was consecrated bishop of New Hampshire in 2003—a fact the hate-site loves to mock.

Demonize people long enough (which is all the hate-site does) and sooner or later, someone will take matters into their own hands.

Dr. Tiller was ushering at a Lutheran church in Wichita when an Operation Rescue contributor (allegedly) showed up with a gun and shot him to death in the vestibule.

It was so important to “stop the killing” that the gunman did some killing himself. The anti-abortion industry has a long history of this kind of violence, from Eric Rudolph to Jon Brockhoeft. Brockhoeft was the most menacing guy I ever saw; he used to haunt the Cincinnati City Council (even though he didn’t live there) to damn everyone to hell if an LGBT rights bill passed. He had this long hair and beard (so he’d look like Moses, I suppose) and you could tell by one look in his eyes he was crazed with anger.

In Pakistan, Christians occupy the lowest rung in society, according to The Times. Half the mob stormed their village not just to kill and burn, but to loot their possessions. The criminal motive is clear; and the mullahs started it.

The Anglican archbishop of Nigeria does the same thing to Gay people, demonizing in order to hold onto power. Breakaway Episcopalians in Virginia (including Bush/Cheney neocons who gave us the Iraq war) are now publicly aligned with this man Peter Akinola, who claims it’s Christian to persecute and imprison Gay people.

The archbishop of Canterbury goes along with this in a convoluted appeasement strategy—but the Episcopal Church does not. That’s why our convention voted 2-1 to welcome us in the door, even up to the altar as chief pastor, and a special committee will now start compiling same-sex marriage rites for formal examination at the next convention.

Some “religious” people are scary, and they’ll kill ya. But what do you do if you still believe in God? What if you will always believe in the Greatest Story Ever Told, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

You turn into Bonnie Perry, John Kirkley and Gene Robinson; you do your best to fight hate with love, as Jesus did. It’s all we can do, but it’s enough.++

GreatestStoryEver

Maine Catholics Lobby Against Gay Marriage

UPDATE: The legislature in Maine passed the Gay marriage bill May 6 and Gov. John Baldacci signed it. Whaddaya know, Democrats who act like Democrats. Hooray for Maine!

richardmalone

Richard Malone, Bishop of Portland, Maine.

I guess it’s no surprise, the Catholic Church hates Gay people, and calls us such charming phrases as “intrinsically disordered.”

In your being, you’re no good.

No surprise, Gay people hate the Catholic Church right back.

The state legislature in Maine is about to pass a Gay marriage bill, recommended forthrightly by the Episcopal Diocese. (Thank you, Bishop Lane.)

The official Catholic position is against the bill, and the bishop is paying lobbyists to fight it. No rights for queers!

Sure is good news, huh? Some kind of Gospel. Let’s all follow Jesus, that well-known Gay hater who never said a word about it.

Down is up and wrong is right. God is love but Jesus hates. Priests can never have sex, but meanwhile they’re abusing every child in sight.

How did the Church go so wrong? What can be done about it?

What does God really think about sex? Any kind of sex, not just my kind; whuzzup, God?

How can we tell people that Jesus is the incarnation of love when your alleged followers are so full of hate that they want to deny human rights to non-conformists? It doesn’t work. They don’t believe us.

To save their own skins they’re running as fast and as far away from the Catholic church as they can get.

How can we sing a new song in a foreign land?

St. Peter was married, but his alleged successor in Rome, who calls himself Pope, is the world’s leading crusader against sex.

Priests must never have sex. Of course they do it all the time like everyone else, but only in the closet.

It’s what my pal Leonardo calls the Land of Let’s Pretend.

What does God have to say? Everybody gather round, listen hard, keep still; maybe we’ll hear God’s little whisper.

Or maybe God’s shout; if I were the King of the Universe I’d be shouting about now.

What does God say?

“I love you just the way you are,” in your maleness, your femaleness, your queerness, your Straightness, doesn’t matter. “I love you just the way you are.”

“I love you.” Get used to it.

I am very, very proud of the Episcopal Bishop of Maine. He’s doing what he can to spread good news, and I love him for it.

I am equally ashamed of the Catholic Bishop of Portland, using church dollars in a hate campaign.

Here’s what’s going to happen, I think. The Maine Legislature will pass the bill. The governor may or may not sign it; he’s no friend of Gay people and he doesn’t know what to do. In fact he’s a minor player because even if the bill becomes law without his signature, the Catholics in Maine, along with all the other haters, will gather names on petitions to try to get a “people’s veto” to nullify the law.

Every dollar of that campaign is a dollar that doesn’t feed the hungry, but Catholics won’t care. They’ll tell themselves the Virgin Mary made ’em starve people to death to prevent same-sex marriage.

Every Gay person in Maine will run screaming out of their churches, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, it won’t matter—ALL churches will be suspected.

Jesus will wonder what happened to his congregation. But then he’ll know, and he won’t be pleased.

The atheists will be; they love to poke fun at the comic-book God. And who can blame them, when the Catholic Church itself promotes a comic-book God?

This is the same church that has ruined its reputation in Europe, and it’s fast approaching here. No one goes to church in Europe anymore. All those cathedrals? Empty. Tourist attractions. “Remember when.”

Only when the Catholic Church is faced with imminent collapse—financially, nothing else will get their attention—will it decide, “Maybe priests can have sex after all. Maybe, in limited circumstances, with permission from the bureaucracy, at certain times, experimentally, every other Tuesday, maybe.”

Whereupon every priest in the world will petition the bureaucracy to get married, for it is better to marry than to burn, and better to have sex in the bedroom than the closet.

God made your gonads, and gave you raging hormones for a reason: sex is a little taste of heaven.

Humans are constantly misusing sex, but the impulse itself is divine.

God is love, and humans get to make love. See how this works?

God wants us to make love.

As Norman Pittenger said, there is sex that is good, better and best, and God wants us to do it the best way; but sex is good.

Which is why priestly celibacy is so destructive, stifling, even murderous. The Catholic Church is exactly wrong on every sexual issue. Completely, totally, dead wrong.

Gay marriage, like Straight marriage, is a holy, wonderful thing, a blessing, an act of God.

What is the distinguishing mark of holy matrimony? Two people stand up, in public, and promise to love each other. They say all this where everyone else can hear.

There is no other act like that. Promises made, given and received, in public, “I will love you forever.”

Wow.

Let me end now with a personal note. I am finally working through, after five decades, my understanding of Gay love, sex and God. I have finally been given some integration of personality, spirituality and physicality. I am very grateful for this one-ing.

The universal Church teaches that God should be at the center of every marriage. But I didn’t know how that could happen; if I have lust for my husband (and I do, believe me), how can I love God more than Mr. Right? Does God demand that he get between us? What kind of God would do that?

But no, my thinking’s been all wrong. God is at the center of the one I love. I may or may not perceive God there, but in my loving, God’s right there.

The one I love is the one God loves. What I love about my man is what God loves about him too—so much, that God lives inside his body.

When I love my man’s body I’m doing just what God intends, for both of us. God so loves Derrick that God wants him made love to; and God so loves me that he gives me Derrick to love.

Thus if we are open to God at all, we cannot help but have a holy marriage. And this prefigures the bliss of heaven itself.

When we die our soul will be one’d with God. In the meantime, my body is one’d with Derrick’s. We use our bodies to one with each other in heart and mind and soul.

There is nothing greater than standing up in public and saying, in front of God ‘n’ everybody, “I will love you forever.”

And yes, maybe I lust after your body and yes, maybe I don’t; but regardless, “I will love you forever, because I see God in you.”

A public promise; a vow, a sacred thing.

Jesus loves it when people get married. He hopes and prays for the best, that everything works out; he knows it doesn’t always happen, but he prays and blesses our vowing.

He knows they’re going to go home and screw like rabbits, but that’s how God made ’em and it’s private, so let ’em go at it.

God made them to worship each other’s bodies, because that’s the closest we’ll ever come to knowing what real worship is.

Derrick isn’t God, but he’s real, real close. God loves it when people love each other.

By giving me Derrick, God develops my capacity to love. Marriage is the training ground for heaven.

Stupid Catholics; Episcopalians have more fun.

As for all the screaming people fleeing, look up; you’re running right past an Episcopal church, and the people inside are learning at last to be students of loving. A few of them, like Stephen Lane, are getting pretty good at it.

From Episcopal Life Online:

Lane said that the church “long ago, concluded and publicly proclaimed through its own legislative body that gay and lesbian persons are children of God and, by baptism, full members of the church.

“We have also concluded that sexual orientation, in and of itself, is no bar to holding any office or ministry in the church, as long as the particular requirements of that office or ministry are met,” he added. “And we have repeatedly affirmed our support for the human and civil rights of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered persons. In many of our congregations, both here in Maine and around the country, faithful same sex couples and their families are participating in the life of the church and sharing in the work of ministry and service to their communities.”

That’s the Jesus I know, and proclaim, and defend, and love, because he first loved me.++

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God’s Total Approval of Us

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Mark Dukes: Wedding Icon, St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco

This post is going to be the most experimental yet, because I’m writing about something I barely know. And yet I do know it, it’s just hard to pull together facts to cite to back up my claim.

God approves of Gay sexuality, exactly like God approves of Straight sexuality: wholeheartedly.

This isn’t to say we all don’t have to have high ethics, because we do. Don’t say you love God and then treat yourself and others like dirt; do unto others. (And do well unto yourself as you do well unto them.)

Every time a bride and bride, or groom and bride, or groom and groom say “I do” and mean it, God is there saying, “I do too.”

Sexuality is of the essence of humanity—and of the essence of God too, right at the core.

This is a major part of the Revelations of Julian of Norwich. If you can read her and not believe every word she says, you’re a better man than I am.

God is Mother and Father, she says. So is Jesus, an obvious man in his mortal self. So is the Holy Spirit.

(A little digression: I don’t think Julian understands the Holy Spirit very much. The Spirit’s always an afterthought to her, included simply to invoke the Trinity and affirm the Church’s teaching. In my view, the Holy Spirit is the leader in our relationship with God; that’s her job description. Creator, Redeemer and Here-With-Us-Right-Now. When we perceive God’s presence and activity, that’s the Spirit inside and among us. She has a much more central role in our lives than anyone but Pentecostals gives her credit for—not that I do the holy roller jibber-jabber, it’s not my style. Which is fine with her, she doesn’t need it anymore than I do.)

What God has done through Julian is to open up the sexuality of humanity and God in all its central glory. God is our Lover, simple as that. And yes, that means lover as Gay people use that term.

The human being we love sexually and emotionally is a partial figure of the God we love those same ways.

This is not to “sexualize” God, to invent some pervy way of looking at the Divine so that people can say, “Hey, we can do anything we want!” Not at all. We must never do anything we want, it’s not good for us.

Julian was celibate, an anchorite. But she was intensely, overwhelmingly sexual, which may be why God chose her to reveal himself. He found/created a woman who was fully open and out of the closet to herself. So she became the vehicle for expressing God’s divine sexuality.

It’s the total uniting of self to God that is the point and climax of our salvation. We are to be resurrected in our bodies; those are sexual now and they will be then. Truly, we are the Bride of Christ.

That church in San Francisco gets it, better than any other in the United States.

(They also have some practices that are theologically controversial, but that may be their charism. It’s not for me to say God’s not doing something new with them when it’s obvious She already has.)

It’s all about the Wedding Dance.

Now how this complete spiritual-physical union with God takes place in heaven, I do not know and won’t speculate. But in some fashion I believe it does occur. The Creed says, “We believe in the resurrection of the body.” Jesus was resurrected that way; if he hadn’t been none of the apostles would have believed it.

What we don’t know is what God means by the resurrection of the body, what the Plan is “from without beginning,” in Julian’s phrase. We don’t know how this takes place—but I believe it does take place in heaven right now, that we don’t just all wake up on the Last Day. Why should God wait when he loves us now? Heaven is the uniting of all with God, body and soul. I can’t picture it, but that’s how it is. The how is a mystery.

But here’s the central implication perhaps for Gay guys: you know how you feel when you make love, when you hold your lover in your arms and are held by him? That is the smallest taste of heaven. God is your Lover. And the feeling to come is everything you already feel—tenderness, joy, passion, excitement, orgasm too. Orgasm especially, in some way we cannot imagine.

Self-destructive guys: you’ve got it all bass-ackwards. Me especially. (Leonardo’s been trying to tell us on his blog and this one.)

Heaven is ecstasy in ways we can’t imagine. But we have some experiences of ecstasy already in this life; we’re experts in ecstasy.

I hope my friend Rob will get what I’m telling him in his nakedness. He’s A-OK right now.

Fantasy is holy. Just do it right, that’s all.

Our best evidence is that Mary Magdalene was never a whore, but even if she was, Jesus didn’t care. He loved her; she loved him.

The man Jesus had sexual feelings for many of the people he met; his dear Mary, his beloved disciple John, the Centurion and doubtless many others. Jesus was a man, and he was doubtless packed with hormones. He couldn’t experience humanity any other way. As God he couldn’t show partiality, but he knows exactly what we go through. All of it.

In my theological speculation I have to draw boundaries, as we all must do in human relationships as well. It ain’t one great big fuckfest in the sky. We have no idea what to expect, it’s beyond our imagining.

But physical intimacy that we already know here and now is part of it, even the essence of it with all its spiritual and emotional aspects. God gave us sexuality not simply to reproduce; as high a priority as that is, it’s only equal to sexuality as a foretaste of the Divine.

In my previous post I wrote about my dream of the Blue Cave; it’s published below. What is a cave, fellas?

It’s an opening. It’s a hole.++

blue-cave

New York Gov. Patterson Remembers His Gay Uncles

THE INNER CIRCLE

Gov. David Patterson of New York (Associated Press)

Dear Governor Patterson:

I write as a former New Yorker to thank you for your sponsorship of the Gay marriage bill.

You are absolutely right, the Legislature should vote it up or down.

The state has suffered for too many years from the pernicious practice of a tiny group of Albany politicians, meeting behind closed doors, deciding the fate of tens of millions of citizens.

I am particularly proud that you have put forward your Uncle Stanley and Uncle Ronald as role models and reasons to pass this bill. They must have loved you pretty seriously, back when they only had each other and a few friends for support.

Now you are returning their esteem. What a beautiful thing.

In 1984-85, as a graduate student in social work at Columbia University, I was a counseling intern at Gay Men’s Health Crisis in Chelsea. This was shortly after Dr. Joseph Sonnabend’s condo-mates trashed his office and put him out on the street for treating people with AIDS. The actor Rock Hudson was jetting off to Paris in search of a miracle cure, and I had to caution my clients, who didn’t have Hudson’s money, against following him until they knew what results he got. Others took off for Mexico to buy “laetrile,” a worthless almond extract said to boost the immune system. President Reagan couldn’t even pronounce the word AIDS.

Those days are burned into my memory. A very handsome fellow named André St. Jean was a former stripper at the Jewel Box Theater in Times Square; a few years earlier he was a Midwestern schoolboy, the national baton-twirling champion and butch to boot; he looked like the Marlboro Man. Another client was a millionaire on the Upper East Side, desperately lonely after all his friends abandoned him; he lived in a penthouse but no one ever came to call. Another guy in my therapy group was hospitalized for weeks with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia; his fundamentalist parents finally drove up to the city from North Carolina to supervise his care (once he was clearly dying; they’d shunned him before that) and to cut off all contact with Gay people, who “gave him God’s curse.” He wasn’t Gay, they said, it was those terrible homosexuals he fell in with. He loved his parents and was totally intimidated, until he finally demanded that they let me in. His parents refused to look at me or speak to me, the first time I was ever shunned. When I got inside his little room I tried to say the right things, but the point was to listen to him; he was Gay, he said, and he forgave his parents, and shortly afterward he died.

He affirmed his Gayness in that gasping chat, and I was the one privileged to hear him.

I spent that Christmas Eve 1984 going from hospital to hospital on the Upper East Side, just visiting, trying to spread a little cheer, instead of going to midnight mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. It was a dreary, rainy night, and even though the cathedral was just a few blocks away from my nasty SRO Columbia dormitory, I couldn’t bring myself to go. I felt like I’d already visited the Christ child, and his mother didn’t want him. On Christmas Day I ate pork fried rice at the dirtiest Chinese restaurant you’ve ever seen.

Now you come with a blessing for Uncle Ronald and Uncle Stanley. Thank you, Governor, they deserve your honor—and you deserve mine. Thank you for this historic initiative, no matter what.

Josh