How Christianity Converted Me To Be An Athiest (A Religious Freedom Parable)

I want to believe in a God.  I was baptized in the Episcopal Church at a young age, but my parents stopped going around my 4th birthday.  No reason really, just life and a baby brother on the way, and they have never returned still to this day.  In Junior and Senior High School, I loved reading about Greek and Roman mythology; their Gods of love and war, the sea and earth.  But something else happened around those same school-age years, I realized I was gay.  The how’s and the why’s of this revelation is really not important, I knew it was something ingrained in me, as i could not push these thoughts and feelings aside, and from what little remained of my brief religious teachings, God made me perfect, and in his image, so I was good to go, Right?  I was still afraid to admit it to anyone, but I only had the regular fears of family and friends not accepting me, since this was clearly not the norm I was surrounded with.  I didn’t even think about religious judgement.

Around my 15th birthday, after many years of selling butter toffee peanuts for a free ride to YMCA summer camps, I was able to become a camp counselor.  (Realizing you are gay and spending summers in a cabin full of boys, is a story for a different day).  If you only thought the Y was a big gym and daycare center, it actually stands for Young Men’s Christian Association.  At summer camp, the Y served what I will call, “Christianity Light.”  Every morning we would have “chapel,” that usually consisted of a few ‘Kum-By-Ya type songs, and a parable story about something like kindness, appreciation, and the like. There was also a “Rag” program, that was a voluntary experience about being a better person, and a little closer to God.

I liked the idea of being a better person and really took to the Rag program.  Because of these summer camps, I decided to see what going to church was all about and went with a couple of friends from camp to one of the local Baptist churches.  There was a band, and singing, and Sunday School, usually refreshments, and occasionally a little basketball or volleyball, so it was not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  It took almost 7 months of attending before I really got the opinion of the Church on homosexuality.  I guess I was naive enough, that I didn’t understand til then, that the reason family and friends didn’t accept gay people was because of religion.  I honestly can’t remember what I thought during that time before realizing this.  It was clear to me, that I was not cut out for a weekly church experience.

Although attending church wasn’t a good idea, I still felt the pull to be a better person, and liked the idea that there was a God or something, that has good intentions for us all.  I became the all-encompassing “Spiritual,” in my mind after I stopped going to church.  Let them believe in their God of wrath and persecution, my God wanted more for us, and was much more nurturing, than menacing.  This belief served me well.  I would try to be the best person I could be, still failing at things big and small like we all do, but there was still a grand-design for me to come out on top.

My “Spirituality,” was tested constantly, when I would have to hear stories about Jimmy Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, and of course Fred Phelps, et. al., and all of their fear and hate-based, anti-gay words and actions.  Maybe there was just good and bad people in the world, no matter what their religion or non-religion.  And there is no, “higher-power” who could really give a damn.  Maybe these Agnostics or Atheists, have a point.  I have long thought that the Bible is just a book, but it was becoming more and more propaganda to me, than just a good read.

I can no longer think of being a “Good Christian,” as a good thing.  Between the political religious right and the pastors, they have converted me.  I am now Agnostic at best, Atheist at worse.  And now I don’t consider either of those things bad.  I can not and will not idly sit by, while people speaking in the name of this religion promotes separation and hate.  The Bible cherry picking and total opposite of ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ has become the highest form of hypocrisy.  How can you speak out of one side of your mouth that we are all sinners, and from the other side, say that we must denounce homosexuality more than any other sin.  If all of us are sinners, and all sins are equal, why aren’t there more protests at other “Biblical Abominations,” like at farms growing two separate crops side by side; a clothing manufacturer mixing two fabrics, or protesting the lying lips of almost everyone in Congress?

My point of this entire blog is that we have come so far, that the “Good Christians” of Indiana, in their ivory towers of their House and Senate, have decided to enact a law that frees businesses and entities from serving the public, to those who they feel are opposed to their religious beliefs.  Everyone knows that this is truly a thinly veiled law, aiming to allow people to discriminate against mostly gay people.  Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana, is said to be, “looking forward to signing the bill.”  I cannot in good faith, call myself a Christian if I supported such a bill.  As a business owner, I have decided to open a shop to serve the public, not just some of the public, but all of it, otherwise, I should not become a business owner.  It’s a truly sad day when a religion converts you to stop believing in God.

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Are Boycotts as Out of Style as Dolce & Gabbana

So I am coming a few days late to the party of commenting on the Dolce & Gabbana boycott, called out to we gays and our supporters by Sir Elton John and others.  I would hope that we as people, both lgbt and straight folks, can agree that the out and gay designers, put their foots-in-their-mouths with such offensive and stupid statements.  (Use your inside voices boys, don’t spew hate to a wide-audience interview).  Do they have the right to their opinions?  Sure!  Should all personal opinions be given to the world at large?  Definitely Not!  I think we do have to understand that these men are true Italians in a country that has not been very forward-thinking in lgbt rights and equality, and also a country that has a plurality of Catholics, (c’mon, the Pope-Mobile is parked in Italy), where these issues and right-to-life, are the daily group-thought.

My point in addressing this issue however, is not what they said, or the amount of stupidity that I thought they spewed, but is a boycott really the best we can do?  The first lgbt boycott I can remember, was against the Coors brewing company, primarily for their anti-gay hiring practices.  I guess you can call it successful, as it did bring attention to the issue, and I remember it, but was it successful in changing the practice?  Eventually the practice was changed, but was it due to the boycott that was enacted in 1973?  If yes, that’s a long negotiation, because the boycott wasn’t called off until twenty two years later in 1975.Since then, our lgbt Community as called for other boycotts, including: the Heinz Company, the Salvation Army, Target, Best Buy, Chic-fil-A, and Stoli vodka.  To my knowledge, all these companies are still going, have not really changed the issues that we were boycotting against, and I can tell you that personally, without my trusty Internet, mostly been forgotten.

In today’s day and age, is a boycott really worth our time?  I am not saying there are not acts, both in words and deeds, that should not be rallied against in protection or defense of our Community, but with the technology we have available, and the communication that is available, I think we need to re-think our definition of boycott.  Maybe it is my definition of boycott that is archaic, but doesn’t it still mean primarily to stop using your dollars to support the company or person?  Most boycotts that I am familiar with, start with some great press, but after the initial round of press, you never hear anything about it.

I want to support our Community, but a boycott for me and many like me, are just not an option.  I don’t drink beer, I like my fries with Ketchup dammit, and if I could afford Dolce & Gabbana, I would not still be living in Northeast Ohio.  I can participate in physical and virtual protest that isn’t a solitary purchasing boycott, and I could keep at it until we seem some actual hard line results.  I could create a video-a-week about two men kissing or together in a Heinz ad, and send it to their headquarters every day until I saw them show diversity in one of their ads.  I can write letters to the editor and blogs weekly about a candidate who I completely disagree with their politics, that has been supported by some company’s money.  I don’t want to have to sneak into Target to get my next discounted coffee maker.  Look at Elton John, who days after calling for the D & G boycott, had the misfortune of carrying a make-shift man purse, out of an older D & G bag from a prior purchase, just days after calling for the boycott. (See, social media can be a real b*tch).

Our lgbt Community is online like almost no other, and we have a large range of options we can use to put pressure on companies or persons who spread homophobia, hate, or sometimes, just plain ignorance.  Let’s coordinate email campaigns, micro-protests at storefronts when possible, social media posts and videos that can be shared, and shared again.  I am not trying to oppose the “idea” of a boycott, just maybe the execution of one.  How can we come together as a Community and make it successful, and sustaining until we get the change we are looking for, or the acknowledgement of our complaint.  Anyway, that are my thoughts on boycotts, I would love to know how others feel and what alternatives you have found that are working, or what didn’t work.

Age Gaps in Male/Male Same Sex Dating….. WTF

I had a fantastic date night on Friday.  One of my New Years Goals, (I am never resolute that I will finish them, so they are goals, not resolutions), was to put myself back out there and go on at least one date a month.  Mission accomplished since January! The first one was okay, not my particular cup of tea.  The second one was okay, not his particular cup of tea.  But like the baby gay bear that I am, the third one seemed to have gone pretty right.  His name was Evan, and he was 25.  I am not.

Sunday brunch with the friends, and as I start to talk about my date, it started; the conversation about dating outside of your age range.  Although I have always been attracted to and usually dated younger men, it seems this current age gap needing a little more conversation.  One of my good friends, jokingly said, “you Lance’d him,” which he went on to explain was alluding to screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, dating diver, Tom Daley.  It was a modicum of funny, because we are always making up new words to explain situations, although personally I would have gone for “Dustin’ed” because it can allude to alluring him with fairy dust, which is well, gay.  (Don’t ask me why, sometimes my mind goes really gay, all on its own).  Although I was flattered, since a gay man of any age, would be lucky to date an accomplished and physically exceptional young man as Tom Daley, I also took it to mean that he wasn’t giving my chance with Evan much luck, as he has been leery in the past, (I say jealous), of the high-profile couple’s chances of staying together.  Yes we do waste our time talking about celebrity gay couples, whom don’t give a moment’s time caring about what a bunch of men in Northeast Ohio think of their relationship.  (If that was so, we would have had a restraining order from Dustin and Tom, and soccer player Robbie Rogers and television producer Greg Berlanti, many months ago)!

I think that Dustin and Tom have a real chance of working out.  I have known many couples who have been together from their first date, and lasted decades.  In fact, they may have a much better chance than Evan and I, for a few reasons.  First, whatever their age difference, Dustin’s handsome face already has that youthful, smooth white skin, that you would find on many a young Englishman or possibly a vampire, turned in his 20’s. (I swear he would be a perfect choice for a Vampire Lestat reboot, just saying Anne Rice).  Second, this is no sugar daddy relationship, they both come to the table with money and power.  Dustin’s entertainment and writing career allow him the flexibility to be mobile and afford to go most anywhere, and Tom’s diving career takes him all over the world and I am sure there will be many endorsement deals, plus he has his own media business with his calendars and such.  Third, this is Tom’s first same-sex, out in the open, relationship, which I find can be a plus, especially with the right guy, because there is no baggage and preconceived notions, going into the relationship.  Honestly, I think that their only two obstacles from the outside world is Dustin who could doubt his own self-worth in keeping a handsome younger man, (trust me, this I know from experience), the older one in the relationship tend to get a little jealous of others, and because of their power and fame, others who would try to come between them because they think they are too privileged or entitled to everything with their power.  The only thing I am disappointed about is that I didn’t win the double date with the two of them, where I spent $100 entering to support Dustin and Lance’s charities, HRC and Brain Tumor research, I think Evan and I would have had a blast!

My personal thoughts on May/December romances are mostly positive.  I believe the younger one in the relationship will bring out the older’s personality more, making him feel young at heart and in action.  I think the elder can bring wisdom and experience to the younger one, not in any condescending way, but just through the virtue of having more time on the planet.  That has been the experience in most of my relationships.  Without some of the men I have dated who were younger than me, I may not have learned many of the things I am now passionate about.  You forget about doing bonfires on the beach, what’s new in Anime, or which kid in One Direction is supposed to be the gay one. (Okay, I made that last one up, they have all been called the gay one or fans wished they were the gay one).

I bring a lot to the relationship as well.  I have been well-traveled enough to offer some insights on great places to go explore.  As a chubby bear, I know my way around the kitchen and know where some of the best places to eat on earth are.  I know the real reason of gay Pride and the people whose shoulders we are standing on and should salute for the opportunities we have today.  And I can balance a checkbook without having to look up my balance on an app or computer, so there!  As far as the sexual aspect goes, every partner I have ever been with, no matter what the age, are fairly familiar with the correct body parts to stimulate and each can bring a little magic the other has never experienced.

The debate between my friends and I are far from over, and I am sure we will be talking about the “right” and “wrong” type of person to date, for many more Sunday Brunches to come, but the moral of the story is this: Love is Love!  Isn’t that our new mantra as we gain equality in marriage here in the U.S.?  Is Ethan the one for me?  I don’t know, but there is definitely going to be a second date. (For now you get a picture of Dustin and Tom, after the next date, who knows).  No matter what happens, I will probably continue to date younger men unless some silver fox comes and sweeps me off my feet.  Either way, a man can dream can’t he…………….Enjoy……………S

Watching Discrimination Live in Real Time

First off, it has been quite a while since I have written on my blog.  Sorry, and Not Sorry!  Lot’s of things in life get in the way, and I know I cannot call myself a true writer yet, not until all I can think about doing from the time I wake up, until the time I fall asleep, is wanting to carve out a little time for writing.  Obviously I am not there yet, although I am writing about and commenting on daily, things I see and find, on my social media streams.  Last night, I watched some live streaming on the Internet, that compelled me to write again, and for that, I am thankful.

Charlotte, North Carolina’s City Council last night decided once again, to allow discrimination to exist in my LGBT Community, and it was all captured through the magic of the Internet.  An ordinance was debated and voted on, to include protections to the LGBT Community, that are already available by statute, to most of Charlotte’s citizens.  If passed, Charlotte would have become the first city in North Carolina to pass LGBT-inclusive public accommodations and other protections. That would have meant that LGBT people could not be denied service in businesses open to the public, like restaurants, hotels, bars or movie theaters.  Other ordinances proposed for amending — adding marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression — included commercial contracting, passenger vehicles for hire and regulations for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee.

To the City Council’s credit, the town hall debate, and subsequent vote, were all streamed on the Internet, Live, although that may happen for all City Council meetings, I do not know.  Almost 120 speakers signed-up, and took turns addressing the Council on their opinions of the ordinance.  It was definitely an example of Democracy in action, and I do applaud the crowd for remaining civil and courteous for the most part, and Council seemed attentive and had an overall control of the room.  The citizenry’s comments lasted from approximately 6pm to 10pm, before the hour or so it took the City Council to vote on the ordinance shortly after 11pm.

To my disappointment, most of those who signed up to talk were against the ordinance, and to no surprise, most were Christian Conservatives.  Also disappointing, was the amount of speakers that did not live or own businesses in Charlotte.  I do not believe that they deserved to speak, since they had no real standing in the matter.  There was the usual religious nonsense and homophobia, but the argument most of them were making, was against the ‘Public Accommodation,’ clause and how they were in fear for their daughters of a man being in the restroom with them.  Some going so far as to say that this would cause sexual predators to start dressing up as women, to gain access to them in public restrooms.  While I cannot say that would never happen, I feel it would happen less than the ridicule that would be meted out for a transgender woman to have to walk into a men’s room to go to the bathroom.

It was a surreal feeling, watching so many people speak out against my rights as on openly gay man, who may also be fired, denied housing, and other discriminatory practices that are also legal here in my state of Ohio.  You often hear of discrimination, but it is different to watch it from face after face, out in the open, not ashamed or afraid to deny a group of people their rights.  I have seen “group-speak,” in the form of protesters, speaking out against our LGBT Community, at a rally or pride festival, but rarely have I seen individuals, one after the other, 70 or 80, speak hatred or inequality in a single setting.  It is off-putting, especially when watching from far away, alone in your living room.

There were a good number of people who did speak up for the ordinance, although they were outnumbered. Voices rose from Allies, Activists, Transgendered, and Religious backgrounds, to speak on why the ordinance should be passed.  There were personal stories of hate and discrimination, and soul affirming support from staunch allies.  I believe these courageous people went in with the wind at their backs, depending on the tide of equality that is slowly rising over our country, would help carry this important piece of legislation. Unfortunately, as my friends and I have been discussing recently, equality and acceptance are two worlds still far apart in most of the United States.

After the speakers had their turn, it was time for the Council to vote. An amendment was immediately brought forth and seconded, to strip the controversial public accommodation in regards to bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and changing rooms, from the ordinance.  The debate that followed showed the split the Council had been working with on this ordinance, with two saying it should be all-inclusive or nothing, and two saying that in order to govern and get “some” progress in the city, they would reluctantly vote for the amendment, and a few steadfast detractors of the entire ordinance.  Six of Eleven Council Members must vote yes, to pass any ordinance.  After the debate, the amendment was accepted, clearing what I thought was the passage of the watered-down ordinance.

Surprise!  The ordinance failed after the two Council Members, John Autry and LaWana Mayfield, the ones that did not support the amendment because they wanted they entire ordinance passed, voted against the amended ordinance, thus stopping ANY protections to be passed.  The vote was especially stinging from Mayfield, as she was the first lesbian, ever to be elected to City Council.  As much as I agree that the ordinance should have been passed as originated, I cannot believe that a member of our LGBT Community would hold up any progress that could be made out of the situation.  I am especially concerned, knowing that it took from the first failure of an equal rights ordinance in 1992, until 2015 to get anything on the agenda again for equality.  I understand her point and passion about an all-inclusive ordinance and that excluding any one of us, is a slap in the face to us all, but even a bitter pill staves off part of an ailment.

I am saddened and disappointed by this vote.  I am sadder still to have witnessed all of the outright animosity to our Community that was on display by so many.  This affects me not only as a gay male here in Northeast Ohio, but as a citizen of these United States of America.  My brother lives 25 miles outside of Charlotte.  I am saddened that the next time I visit, and he offers to take me to one of the fine dining establishments they have in Charlotte, I will have to decline.  It is not a community’s fault for discrimination to exist because there has been no act of trying to change that from within their own laws, but to have the chance to end that discrimination, brought before a governing body and purposefully denied, should not, and will not be tolerated.  For a link to this story, you may go to THIS LINK.  

I am happy to have found some passion to write again, although sad it has to be on this topic of eye-witnessed discrimination.  Thank you if you are still following along, and I hope this inspires me to keep at it as much as I love to inform and discuss……………..Scott

The Slow Demise of the Gay TINKs….

I know I just scared half of the older gay males, but don’t worry, and that was not a misprint. I am not talking about the fresh-faced, smooth, young, gay male sub-set of 18-24 year olds, commonly referred to as “Twinks,” I was alluding to the fading presence of gays with, “Two Incomes, No Kids,” (TINKs). Our straight friends often refer to themselves and us gays as DINKS, (Double Incomes, No Kids). One of my best friends and his partner, are the latest to take the leap and adopt a real, live, infant, in addition to the family pets that have been our children for so, so long.

In this cultural renaissance, where we are able to live a little more out and proud these days, and indeed with gay marriage being the law of the land in over half of our country now, more and more gay couples are adopting and creating children in record numbers.  Same sex adoptions have more than doubled, in just 10 years time.  Where before we would be saving our money for the gay pride celebration in Amsterdam, or the White Party Weekend in Palm Springs, we are now counting our pennies for pre-school waiting lists and family health insurance premiums.

For years, what little research and sampling that has been done, has shown that gay male couples, usually make about 41% more than the national average income of couples.  This has created a much bigger pocket of disposable income in years past, and it is still true to a large degree today, although with more gay couples with children, it’s not quite as disposable as it once was.  This is a big reason why you are seeing more and more major corporations marketing to the LGBT community now.  It’s not about the marketing of equality as much as it is about our gay community spending more and more money on the things that “traditional” families have been spending money on for ages.

Unfortunately, the flip side of this shows our lesbian community has not been able to take advantage of the double incomes as much as our gay males have.  Not only have our sisters had to fight for equality in their relationships, they have also had to spread their resources to fight the unfair wages paid to male counterparts across the board.  Most women, gay or straight, still usually earn about 70 cents to the dollar that men make.  Combine this with the fact that a lot of lesbian couples have more children than gay male couples; the cards can definitely be stacked against them.  Looking at the current marketing campaigns for same sex couples that have been increasing lately, it is noticeable that it is mostly male couples being advertised to.  The stereotype of the two male income buying power is still present.

I want to congratulate my best friend on his new adorable baby girl.  I know that he and his partner are going to make excellent parents, and I look forward to being Uncle Scotty.  The new debate in their family is now to decide if they are going to “OINK,” (be a One Income, New Kid), family and have one of them stay home with the little one. Okay, I may have made that acronym up, but the debate is still the same.  I hope they can remain the same power gay couple I have always known them to be, but if not, who cares, they have more important things to spend their money on now.  They are going to be the best daddy’s I know, and let Uncle Scott spoil her rotten with his currently disposable income, I have always wanted an Easy Bake Oven!…………..S

“Won’t You Make My Red State Blue, (sung to Crystal Gale’s tear jerker),” and Other Election Fails!

I am slowly coming out from under the covers and putting lots of pillows on the chair, as I come out of my election day funk, and to comfort the serious a** whooping my fellow Democrats received at the polls on Tuesday.  Sort of like a deer caught in the headlights, I knew it was coming, but you just don’t believe it until it happens.  The Senate, most Governor races, and my own swingin’ state of Ohio, turned, or remained as red as my bleeding heart liberal bias.

Looking at the world a little Left of Straight, I am usually pre-disposed to lean left and liberal when it comes to politics, whether it’s for gay rights, women’s rights, or just looking out for the little guy.  At this point, I am more concerned with the in-action of Congress, than what party is in charge of doing nothing.  This election at the Federal level really doesn’t concern me yet.  There’s no major legislation that a little filibuster or well placed veto can’t slow down or stop.

At the State level however, I am very worried about all of the Republican Governors and State Legislatures and their power to govern.  31 states are now run by Republicans.  These are the people who write the laws that effect day to day life for people like you and me.  We should all be concerned about the Conservative Party’s push to privatize education, prisons, job creation, and anything else they can find to help them make some more money off of.  Now I am all for Capitalism, making a buck is all well and good in and of itself, but growing the rich even richer, at the expense of the disappearing middle class and low income citizens, should not be something that gets you elected to higher office.  My real concern is turning back the clock on equal rights.

Equal rights shouldn’t be a goal, it should be the law of the land, whether you are black, LGBT, women, or whatever.  The Party of smaller government sure has been spending a lot of time legislating about yours and my personal lives.  Has the country really been color-blind since electing a black President?  Do all women really have the right to choose their reproductive decisions everywhere in our great country?  Is it okay that finally over 30 states must recognize same sex marriage, while close to that same number of states allow you to deny housing and employment to individuals, just for being gay? These rights and others are mostly written and enforced at the State level of government, however if you think that the majority of these 31 Republican Governors won’t tow the Party line, you are naive at best, and complicit at worst.

The good news is, we have built into our Constitution a “do-over.”  Every two to four years, we get a chance to decide again on the ideals we have for our great country.  Unfortunately, a lot of damage can be done in that time between elections, so we must keep vigilant of what is being legislated for us.  I am hoping in the next two years time, we see the importance of our elections, and if I had it my way, we would spend everyone of those 730 days educating our young people, how to educate themselves on the power of the ballot box, and how important it is to follow the rights we grant and take away in this country, through our duly elected government.  Only 13% of people under age 30 voted in this mid-term election, down from 19%, just two years ago in 2012.  With numbers hovering near 70% of younger adults agreeing that our LGBT causes are about basic rights as citizens, these are the people we need to reach out to.  We can appreciate their vocal support as much as we want, but until they decide to turn that vocal support into physical action at the ballot box, we are doomed to remain second class citizens.

Yes we got “shellacked” at the polls on Tuesday, yet our government can only fail us if we fail to keep those we have elected, honest, and informed about what is of most to concern to us.  You may not all see the world a little Left of Straight as I do, but I hope you do have a view of what is important to you, and will hold those newly elected officials accountable.  Maybe if we all become a little more involved, we wont need our full “do-over.”  Maybe we can keep the mulligans on the golf course and just elect more people that have the rights of our citizenry in mind.  I will rise off these pillows soon to fight another day, but for now, a good cup of coffee and hot shower, just might do the trick!………………….S

Viewing the World and Living Life a Little Left of straight