31 December, 2006

Worlds in collision

Yet again I’ve allowed a number of weeks to pass without posting anything. There’s been a lot happening in my life, but I don’t seem to have had (or taken) the time to digest it all, much less write about it.

As I look back over the past year, it’s a little overwhelming to contemplate how much things have changed for me. Twelve months ago I was contemplating with great trepidation the possibility of talking with one or two close friends about my sexuality and the challenges I had faced as a result of it. I was starting to have some sense that I could be loved and accepted by God as a gay man (although I wouldn’t have put it that way), and as a result, I was feeling more alienated than ever from my church. Apart from my therapist, I didn’t know a single gay person. Now, I am out to most of my friends and family; I have embarked on a spiritual journey toward something I can wholeheartedly and honestly embrace and believe in; and I have begun to meet and make friends with other gay men and women.

One of my favourite blogs is Two World Collision. Eric’s postings are always thoughtful and thought-provoking, and they often resonate very strongly with me. He has a wonderful way of drawing his readers in with his generous openness and honesty. And he links to a rich range of sites that run the gamut of views and experiences. Eric’s two worlds are his Christian faith and his sexuality. When he began his blog, he was trying to come to his own understanding as to how — or even whether — they could be reconciled. Now, a year and half later, he seems to be much more at peace with these two parts of his identity.

I am experiencing my own two-world collision, but it’s different from Eric’s. Although there are many aspects of my faith that I am reevaluating and questioning, I have no doubt about the compatibility of my sexual identity with my relationship with God. My colliding worlds are my sexuality and my marriage.

During my journey over the past year, my wife has given me unwaivering support and encouragement. She has comforted me when I’ve been down, listened when I needed to talk, always been ready to come to my defence, and shown more understanding than I could have imagined possible. And she has shared her own feelings with me. In many ways, we are closer and our relationship is stronger now than ever before. Yet paradoxically, the more she has helped and encouraged me to embrace my true identity, the more problematic our relationship has become.

Obviously, this is nothing new; in fact, my first posting written last April addresses the same question. So I suppose, along with all the change, some things have remained the same… or rather intensified. As we begin a new year, I pray that over the coming months we will be able to find a path that allows both of us, and our children, to thrive and grow as human beings and children of God.

16 November, 2006

Marie Antoinette and Romeo & Juliet

My daughter expressed an interest in seeing the movie Marie Antoinette, and since I almost always enjoy a period film, and it showed every sign of having some kind of educational value (that’s me — the fun parent!), I was happy to oblige. Besides, my son is studying the French Revolution at school at the moment, so it was quite opportune.

Of course, it’s a movie that has plenty of appeal on a purely aesthetic level: the beautiful shots of Versailles, including its opulent interiors, the spectacular — and, from our perspective, laughably eccentric — costumes, the lavish tables. The soundtrack is wonderfully eclectic with a good dose of anachronisms thrown in with the baroque fare. I found that these, along with Kirsten Dunst’s approach to the role, make it easy for the North American audience to identify with the character. We see her as a whole person — — one who faced her own heartache, and who showed remarkable inner strength in the face of enormous challenges. We see the world through her eyes, and it is not until the end of the film that we see one or two very short glimpses of the commoners who made up the vast majority of France’s population. Otherwise, like Marie Antoinette, we are spared the images of backbreaking toil, inadequate housing, starvation, and disease. As I watched Marie Antoinette shopping for shoes and fabric during her excursions to Paris, or consulting with her perruquier about the design of her next wig, or fastening a bejewelled collar on one of her puppies, I couldn’t help but think that this American-accented dauphine would be easy for many a contemporary material girl to relate to. And I began to realize that the privileged North is not so very different from the Bourbons cloistered away in Versailles enjoying their prodigal lifestyle, completely out of touch with the realities that face the majority who must pay for it.

When the movie was over, my daughter asked, “Why did everyone hate her so much?” Yes, I thought. This is awfully close to home.

Last night, my wife, our friend Maria and I had a very different entertainment experience. We went to a play put on by a small cooperative company at a tiny theatre with seating for no more than 60. It was an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet by Joe Colarco called Shakespeare’s R&J. In a repressive Catholic school, four boys secretly discover Shakespeare’s text and enact it, taking the various roles in turn. It’s a fascinating take on the classic, layering the relationships between the boys on top of the roles they are playing, as they explore feelings of guilt, shame, love and jealousy. I’m no theatre critic, but I found the production quite wonderful. I enjoyed its spareness — two or three risers and a wire fence were the only set, and a long red cloth the only prop — which put the full spotlight on some virtuosic performances. I also liked the immediacy of the small production — being able to see the nuances of facial expressions and tears.

I had been a little apprehensive about inviting my wife and our friend along; I’d wondered if they might feel awkward watching men share a tender kiss (or if I would feel strange watching with them). But as it happened, I needn’t have worried. It was all perfectly comfortable, and they both enjoyed it as much as I did. And that was another thing that made the evening so enjoyable.

26 October, 2006

October update

For the past number of weeks I just seem to have been too swamped with work and other activities to settle down to doing any writing. There’s been so much since my last posting, and I wish I had time to reflect and digest more. But rather than remain completely silent, I’ve decided I should at least jot down some of the things that have been happening in my life.

My wife and I have taken to walking for an hour every morning. It’s not only been great to add that regular activity into my appallingly sedentary life, but it’s also given us a fantastic opportunity to talk. We’re talking more and more openly, and I think with more and more understanding and acceptance. Authenticity is seeming less like a barrier and more like a way to connect.

In September, my friend Maria and I participated in the Walk for Life in support of people in this part of the world living with HIV and AIDS. It was a glorious morning: brilliant sunshine with a refreshing breeze coming off the water. The walk was around Stanley Park, so we had the shade and scent of the towering cedars on one side and the salty ocean, lavender mountains and pure blue sky on the other. The walkers were a typically diverse crowd, from white-haired seniors to babies in backpacks, from the very straight-laced to the flamboyantly unconventional, a rainbow of races, and dogs of every breed. During the two-hour walk, Maria and I talked non-stop about things spiritual and mundane. It's such a gift to have friends you can be truly authentic with.

Later in September, I decided to volunteer at the LGTB community centre in town. I had been there in August, partly to see what kinds of programs and services they were offering, and partly to see how I would feel about going in. The volunteer receptionist was just leaving, but she took the time to give me a run-down of activities at the centre. Then she mentioned that there was no one to replace her when she left that day, and said, “You should think about volunteering.” Although at the time I discounted the idea immediately, it must have stuck in my subconscious, because late last month I was back talking to the volunteer coordinator. It’s an opportunity for me to get outside the narrow confines of my one-person office, meet and hopefully help people. So far I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the woman who’s been showing me the ropes.

Earlier this week, I came out to my dad. My mum had been trying to persuade me not to, so I’d felt the need to wait until she seemed to have some understanding of why I had to do it. I’m so thankful my wife and friends are so understanding and empathetic, because with my parents, I feel the need to have all the understanding and empathy. I do feel for them. For decades, they have been sheltered from what for them is a painful truth, so I can imagine how difficult it is for them. On the other hand, I also can’t help but think – or at least hope – that if one of my children had been carrying something like this for such a long time, I would want to reach out to them and try to understand what they had been through. My dad’s predictably emotionless response was to ask me if I was aware of “reparative therapy”, and quiz me on my understanding of Bible teaching about homosexuality. At least I expected nothing different. I suppose I am coming close to accepting him for who he is, although it still hurts a little. Perhaps, in time, that is how my parents will feel about me.

04 September, 2006

Bible camp

I spent the last week of summer with my family at the annual bible camp we have been going to for a number of years now. It’s become a highlight of the year, providing a final opportunity for summer relaxation with people I’ve felt quite comfortable with. The atmosphere is very different from most church functions — no dress codes, no putting on the church persona, just real people being refreshingly authentic. Lots of spontaneous drumming, and this year a band from England playing great contemporary music. Far from the usual fare with our excruciatingly conservative lot.

The setting is stunningly beautiful, surrounded by tall temperate rainforest and next to a clear mountain lake where bald eagles and osprey dive for fish. My wife and I started each morning with a 30-45 minute walk, which gave us precious time to connect and talk about what was on our minds.

Sunrise over Shawnigan Lake

It was a strange mix for me this year. I have not been to church for a number of weeks now. I have been coming to the realization that that is the only way I can hope to salvage what is left of my faith. Still, I was looking forward to going to the camp and connecting with people I only see once or twice a year, people with whom I feel a special affinity that runs deeper than denomination or religious practice. And in that respect, I wasn’t disappointed. I had some great conversations that inspired me and gave me real hope. I came away with a renewed sense of optimism and opportunity.

Yet at the same time, I felt more alienated than ever. It seemed clearer than ever to me that the mainstream of my community will never be able to accept me and others like me for who we are, or even accept women as truly equal before God. After one of the kids’ classes, I bumped into my niece who exclaimed, “Auntie E’s class was so powerful!” I decided this was feedback the teacher needed to hear, so I went to let her know and thank her for her work. She said how ready the kids were at that age to tackle real life issues — like homosexuality, for example. It was so important, she said, to get the message through early, because once they get to secondary school all they hear is “tolerate, tolerate, tolerate”. I wished I could have pursued the conversation in a context where I could speak freely, but unfortunately E was working like a Trojan throughout the week and there was no opportunity to do so.

I vacillate between feeling that if only people could see us a real people, people they already know and respect, their attitudes might change — and feeling that they would just draw away in fear and hatred.

I was able to come out to another great friend, who not unexpectedly brimmed over with empathy and compassion. Being out to more and more people is amazing. I really had no idea what a tremendous difference it would make to my sense of myself. Thankfully, I have some incredible friends who have made it easier than I could have imagined. So far. Because always lurking in the back of my mind is the likelihood that when I stop carefully choosing, or when word gets around, being out may be a lot less comfortable for a while.

26 July, 2006

July silence

I've taken a break from blogs and blogging for the past few weeks. Perhaps I just needed to get a fresh perspective, or perhaps I was just feeling lazy. I have a couple of postings brewing, but in the mean time, here are some quotes, from books I've been reading, that for one reason or another struck a chord.

“it sometimes happens that when one acts quickly and with great resolve, all the indecisiveness and doubt comes afterwards, when it is too late.” (Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell)

“He began to have the strangest feeling […] the feeling that something was coming to an end and that all his choices had now been made. He had taken a road in his youth, but the road did not lead where he had supposed; he was going home, but home had become something monstrous.” (Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell)

“The captain and sailors sat in the front pews.

All were men with blood on their hands; yet all gazed longingly at the milk-white body of Our Dying Lord, identifying His Agony with their agony and calling on Him to pacify the sea.

The priest said a short prayer to the Patron of Slavers, St José the Redeemed, and a longer one for the souls of the Black Brethren who would be ransomed for the Christian fold.” (Bruce Chatwin, The Viceroy of Ouidah)

24 June, 2006

The World Cup

In 1990 my wife and I were living in a small tropical island country far from home. That was where we caught World Cup fever for the first time. The country didn't have a team in the tournament, and with its population of only a million, it probably never will. But when the World Cup began, nobody talked about anything else. When there was a match on, the streets were deserted. Friends were an hour late for a dinner invitation, and finally showed up with their TV, since we didn't have one.

We knew nothing about soccer (football), but we quickly learned, and discovered how riveting the game can be when played by top-knotch players at the international level. We soon had our favourite teams (the underdog Cameroon sticks in my mind) and stars.

Since then, when the World Cup comes around it's a time of nostalgia and excitement. North America seems to be one of the few places in the world where people don't take much of an interest, and most of our friends think we're nuts. They roll their eyes when we rush home to see a game, or lament because a favourite team was eliminated, or go off our brains about the terrible officiating. But in a way, that just adds to the fun. It's our own excuse to share a little craziness once every four years.

Trinidad and Tobago's goalkeeper Shaka Hislop

Portugal's Francisco Costinha, Nuno Gomes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo
Saudi Arabia's Yasser al-Kahtani
Togo's Mohamed Kader Coudjaba and Emmanuel Adebayor celebrate a goal Switzerland's Alexander Frei and Tranquillo Barnetta share a hug
Mexico's Rafael Marquez
Brazil's Ronaldinho gives Japan's Hidetoshi Nakata a taste of his fancy footwork
France's Thierry HenryHe wears a suit well, too

19 June, 2006


On Friday, we celebrated my son’s fourteenth birthday. Fourteen years since I watched my very premature son delivered by Caesarian section (as I was – “we weren’t born, we were surgically removed,” we joke). He weighed 740 grams (1 lb, 10 oz). The first time I held him, when he was five days old, it felt as if I was just holding the towel he was wrapped in. Now he’s a great tall lad, with a baritone voice, who goes snowboarding.

My daughter will soon be twelve and she too seems far too grown up, trading clothes with my wife and monopolizing the telephone to chat with her friends.

Today I’ve been contemplating what a blessing fatherhood has been. Each of my children has enriched my life in so many unique ways. They could not be more different from each other, and if ever I thought there was a single right way to raise a child, I quickly learned from them that there are as many right ways as there are children. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with both of them from the time they were babies. I have been able to watch them grow and take delight in each new discovery and accomplishment, and share in the frustrations and pain as well.

Even though they are so different, my son and daughter are remarkable mirrors of both their parents in various ways. This helps us understand each other, but can also be rather unsettling when we see our own faults and foibles reflected back at us. Sometimes as I take them to task, I feel as if I’m talking as much to myself as I am to them.

When my son was three, I shaved off my beard for the first time since before he was born. For quite some time, he refused to acknowledge me, and insisted to my wife, “That’s not Papa.” Finally, he agreed to compromise and refer to me as “Papa-without-a-beard”.

I couldn’t help but wonder, as we marked my son’s birthday, what our relationship will be like this time next year. My wife and I agree that it’s important for me to let our children know their dad is gay, and that it will be easier for them if we let them know sooner rather than later. I feel quite confident that they will take this revelation in their stride and that it will help them grow and strengthen our relationship. But naturally, there are nagging worries. Will they see me differently? Will I be forcing them to carry an extra burden they shouldn’t have to bear?