Archive for May, 2008

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I Love My Town

May 28, 2008

Scottdale is a small town, just under 5,000 people, and covering an area of about 1.2 square miles.  That’s slightly smaller than Central Park in NYC.  So you understand, this is a small place, a tightly knit community, and one that has a particular amount of pride, a sense of what is honorable, and an understanding about respect for each other as well as respect for traditions that hold a community together. 

 

This past Monday, we celebrated Memorial Day, like so many other towns across the nation.  Our veterans lead the parade followed by the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, and our high school marching band.  This parade is not like the ones I marched in as a youth in a town just a few miles away.  Scottdale’s parade is not much of a celebration.  It’s a somber occasion, and one that the residents take very seriously.  The band does not play a selection, no rousing marches, no spirited patriotic tunes.  No, this is a solemn morning, a time for reflection.  The only sound is a funeral cadence. 

 

Many watch the procession, applauding the veterans, removing their caps for the flag, and wave to the firemen following the marchers.  As the firetrucks signal the end of the parade, most of the town follow them to the cemetary at the edge of town.  We gather quietly amidst the final resting place of our relatives and friends.  The Scouts stand at attention, the band forms in a clear area, and the local dignitaries take their places for the ceremony.  We are welcomed, and we begin the task of honoring our local heroes, thanking our veterans, and praying for those who serve in the military now.  This is the celebration, the band performs a few patriotic songs, an honored guest offers a speech, guns are fired in salute, and taps is played to honor those men and women who gave of themselves to preserve our freedom. 

 

I’m proud of the way our community celebrates this day.  These people show up for this solemn event.  They greet each other quietly, hold those who’ve recently lost a loved one, and honor not only those who have passed, but those veterans who served.  One can see on their faces the respect they have for each other, and as music plays, names and faces are brought to memory.  Single tears can be seen on the faces of the old and young. 

This was a beautiful Memorial Day, not only in the way the weather heralded the beginning of summer, but more so in the way this small town paused to commemorate this solemn holiday.  Before they fire up their grills, open their pools, or pack the picnic lunches and head for the lake or the state parks, these good people stop and remember, gather and build each other up, and honor those who make it possible to live the lives we have been granted.

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75 Days to Go

May 24, 2008

The wedding is approaching quickly and by the time most of you see this post, we will be at the 75 day point in the countdown.  There seems to be so much to do, and yet so much has been done already.  So let’s just review what has been done in the past few weeks.

  • Wine kits were purchased to make the favors.  We have 12 gallons of wine fermenting to give to our guests.
  • Labels have been printed for the wine bottles.
  • Vows have been selected, including a ring ceremony, invocation, benediction and a few other features unique to our wedding.
  • We have agreed on the wording of the invitation.
  • The invitations have been printed.
  • A deposit has been mailed to the DJ.
  • Unique, personal stamps for the invitations have been purchased.
  • Plans for the cake have been discussed with the baker, silk flowers for between the layers have been selected.
  • The guest list is being finalized and addresses for those people have been acquired.
  • Scott and I have had a discussion about our “first dance”.  Do we need lessons?  Can we watch a youtube instructional video and do this ourselves?  I don’t want to get out there and waddle back and forth like so many couples.  We’re gay!  We’ve got to do this right and do it big!
  • Discussion with the musicians is ongoing.  I knew this part would be tough.  Being a musician, I have so many ideas of what I like and making a decision has been difficult.  My friends who are singing and playing are no help as they assure me that they will do whatever I ask them to do. 

It’s exciting, and nerve-wracking, and wonderful to plan a wedding.  It’s amazing to be so in love that we feel compelled to get married.  It’s also disheartening that the marriage won’t be legal.  In many ways, it doesn’t matter that the government won’t recognize this marriage.  When we say our vows, make our commitment to each other in front of friends and family, we will be married.  That marriage will be as strong, as valid as any other marriage;  it just won’t be legally recognized here in Pennsylvania. 

I suppose that I should warn all of the straight married couples now, Guard Your Marriage!  As of August 9th, 2008  Steve and Scott will be married; your straight marriage is in danger.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself arguing more with your spouse.  Your husband may call to say he’s “working late” at the office; your wife may be especially vague about her weekend visit to her sister’s house.  Check your cell phone bill carefully and note any unfamiliar numbers and the time of the calls.  These are all signs that your marriage is crumbling and it’s most likely caused by the gay couple in your town who decided to get married.

 

 

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For Kyle

May 15, 2008

Recently, I engaged in some discussion on a blog that is less than gay-friendly.  In the interest of being polite, instead of calling them homophobic, I’ll just say that these good people are worried that some folks they don’t like, just might end up sitting beside them in heaven.  This particular blog and most of its readers are doing their best to make sure none of the “wrong kind” of people slip into not only heaven, but churches here on earth as well.  After I stated that I believed being gay is not a sin, and not addressed in the Bible, one commenter had some questions for me.  Here is Kyle’s essay question for me, and I will attempt to address it, as best I can, following the quote:

Keltic,

What academic research claims that your lifestyle is not sin?  Do you honestly believe that gay male sex is physically compatible?  You really think God would create your system to accept this lifestyle?

Look at your body which was brilliantly created by the creator.  Look at the natural purpose of each system in perfect harmony.  There is no way from physical evidence that you can say that homosexuality is correct.  None!  The male and female anatomy is perfectly fitting, with mutual pleasure, and purpose beyond mere pleasure.

Gay male sex introduces the body to disease and illness because the system which was designed for the removal of such is being damaged and results in fissures opening up the body to microbial[sic].

As for your desires and same sex attraction I am sorry that is how sin manifested itself in your life.  And guess what your [sic] not a victim because many people have suffered from SSA but that never gave them a license to engage in such.  Rather, like ALL sin in our nature some went to the cross of Christ and laid everything down at the feet of the cross.  Surrendering everything and repenting resulting in the healing process regardless of the manner by which sin manifested.  What do I mean by this.  Your SSA you felt at whatever age is no different than any other desire to sin.  Sin is sin and without the cross you are dead in it.  Why should you have the luxury of claiming yourself saved and gay while others had to repent of EVERYTHING?  Do you understand what I’m saying?  Why should the alcoholic, the murderer, the abortionist, the liar, the thief, the adulterer, the fornicator, the porn addict, the boaster, the arrogant, the idolater, the pagan, etc, etc have to repent but you do not? What is so special and holy about homosexuality that you put it on an untouchable pedestal while Christ died for every other sin “except” homosexuality?  you think WE are close minded. No my friend it is you who are close minded to the truth.  Who are you to tell God that just because you “feel” a certain way that it is OK.  I have a lot of “feelings” too but I am not about to engage in them.  There is this girl at work in which I have certain “feelings” which come about but I wont [sic] engage in them.  I have a lot of “feelings” my friend.  My flesh is so corrupt and wicked that if I wasn’t saved and I didn’t have the Holy Ghost restrainer within me I would be quite a wicked individual.  Thank God however I am saved.  I look forward to the day when I am given a new body fashioned like the Lord and Savior and will never “feel” or desire any sin.  What an awesome day that will be.

Kyle

Well, let’s be kind and not mention the run-ons, fragments, and lack of punctuation.  Kyle’s passion more than makes up for his lack of writing skills.  So let’s just concern ourselves with his concepts.

Academic research that claims my homosexuality is not sin: 

McNeill, John, The Church and the Homosexual 4th ed., (Boston: 1993, 1st ed. 1976)

Scroggs, Robin.  The New Testament and Homosexuality.  Philadelphia:  Augsburg Fortress Press, 1983.

These are but two sources, but one that might help you understand is a website, A Letter to Louise.  This open letter was written to a woman who believed her gay brother was doomed to hell by God because of his orientation.  It explains things in much less academic terms. 

“Do you honestly believe that gay male sex is physically compatible? You really think God would create your system to accept this lifestyle?”  Oh, dear, I’ve got several questions of my own for this one.  For instance, physically compatible with what?  Why, Kyle, are you only concerned with gay male sex, and not female lesbian sex?  And as far as what God was thinking when he made gay people, I’ll ask God when I get to heaven. 

I think Kyle is addressing the notion that a penis is supposed to be inserted into a vagina.  This is a weak argument.  Physical intimacy among the heterosexuals is comprised of quite a variety of activities.  For straight people, I’m certain that there isn’t just one sexual position and a sole sexual activity.  Kyle, are you a breast man?  Leave those alone, those are created to give nutrition to babies.  Do you like oral sex?  No! No! NO!  there is no way procreation can be achieved by doing THAT.  I’ve even heard that some straight people are doing what the gays like to do:  take it up the butt.  I’m assuming from your questions, that this too is wrong. 

Now, as for your assertion that “Gay male sex introduces the body to disease and illness.”  Heterosexual sex does the same thing.  AIDS is not a gay plague, syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes and the like know no gender or orientation.  Medical studies that say gay men have shorter lifespans and experience more illness, including MRSA, have been proven to be flawed, thus not reflecting the reality of the health of homosexual men.  Again, for some reason, women are ignored.  Let me add here, that women experience fissures or tearing as a result of vaginal intercourse.

And since I’m addressing this part of the comments, microbial is an adjective.  What was the word you meant to use after “microbial.”

 

I do not suffer withSame Sex Attraction, I enjoy it because it is natural for me.  I resent the implication that you think I have not “been to the cross.”  I am a Christian, I have made a public statement of faith.  Living as God made me, a gay man, is honoring to God.  Trying to live as a straight man would be living a lie, and as such, would be sin in God’s eyes.  It’s not a feeling, it is the truth that God has revealed to many, not just me.  The six verses that some Christians use to clobber homosexuals have been proven to be speaking about other issues.  The Levitical code was for a certain time and place, which becomes clear when we see Christians wearing poly-cotton blends (forbidden in Leviticus 19:19)  or eating shrimp (forbidden in Leviticus 11:11) and when they don’t stone their sassy children (commanded in Leviticus 20:9).  Sodom and Gomorrah was condemned by God long before the men of town came to rape (that’s right, rape, not have sex) the strangers that were staying with Lot.  In Romans 1, Paul is setting up the intended readers, he’s allowing them to feel smug and self-righteous because they don’t do as those idolaters he describes.  The letter continues in chapter 2, (chapter and verse were assigned randomly in 1205 by Stephen Langton) to say that we have no excuse when we judge others:

For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:1a-5, English Standard Version)

And Kyle, if you’re thinking impure thoughts about that young woman at work, Jesus has something to say about that: 

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 English Standard Version

I’m troubled by your final sentences, Kyle.  “I look forward to the day when I am given a new body fashioned like the Lord and Savior and will never “feel” or desire any sin. What an awesome day that will be.”  How very sad for you that you want a body that feels nothing, you look forward to feeling nothing, and assume that Jesus felt nothing.  I don’t believe it for one moment.  Jesus felt and continues to feel our pain, the pain that is heaped upon us by well-meaning, but misdirected Christians who judge others.  Jesus feels the pain of the outcasts, the disenfranchised, the people who are standing at the door of the church asking to be ushered in, while people like you, Kyle, continue to slam the door in their faces. 

Loving the person that I love, honoring him in our sacred commitment to each other, and simply being attracted to people of the same gender is not a sin.  In your list of sins, each vice results in harm to someone, either one’s self or another.  My love harms no one. 

16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:16-21 English Standard Version

 What is it that you fear, Kyle?  Could it be that you fear allowing homosexuals to be part of the family of God that you and others will lose their place of honor in the Kingdom of Heaven?  Do you agree that calling me a phoney and a hypocrite was hateful?  How do those words, spoken by the owner of the gcmwatchblog align with the verse in red above?  I asked if gcmwatch would feed me if I was poor, or visit me if I was in jail, and the response was “If you requested it.”  THAT is nowhere to be found in the Bible.  What version of Christianity are you following over there?  You and so many others like you, live in fear of a God that will strike you down for committing the slightest sin.  You live in fear that you will forget to do something, or accidentally commit a sin and neglect to fall on your knees to repent.  You throw God’s grace right back in his face, then look around to find someone whose sin is worse than yours, and heap even more burdens upon them.  You are a modern day Pharisee. 

I’ve been delivered from that kind of thinking.  Praise God and Amen.

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Way to Go California!

May 15, 2008

Grooms

 

California strikes down the same sex marriage ban clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to get married legally!  That makes 2 states who have recognized they can no longer deny equal rights to couples based on their orientation.

Story from Yahoo News here.

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We’ll Have a Gay Old Time

May 13, 2008

My supplemental contract at my teaching job required that I travel for the weekend.  So on Friday morning, I climbed on the bus with the students and headed for Harrisburg, Six Flags NJ, and Philadelphia.  I had no expectations of this trip other than what the director had described in the itinerary:  a performance in the rotunda of the Pennsylvania state capitol building, an adjudication of the choral group followed by a day at Six Flags Amusement Park in New Jersey, and a stop at Independence Hall on the way home. 

What a gay weekend it turned out to be!  We had some extra time to tour the capitol building, and I realized that I could pay a visit to my State Senator’s office.  SB1250, the so-called  “Marriage Protection Amendment”  was recently tabled and the reason given, courtesy of Equality Advocates PA, was this:

The prime sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Michael Brubaker (R-Lancaster), stated that he was proposing the legislation be tabled because the Speaker of the House, Dennis O’Brien (R-Philadelphia), was going to assign the legislation to the House State Government Committee if it passed the Senate.  The House State Government Committee is chaired by Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia), a strong supporter of the LGBT community, who is opposed to the legislation. Rep. Josephs has stated that she would not move the legislation out of committee.

That happened on Tuesday, May 6, and I had not heard any more information since then.  I decided to pay a visit to Senator Kasunic’s office, gather more information on the status of the bill, then ask again that my Senator oppose this proposed amendment.  I wandered the halls with the paper from the information desk and eventually found his office.  As I suspected, the Senator was not in, as it was a Friday, but I did speak to a gentleman in the office.  I was caught off guard.  He told me that the bill was going  “nowhere.”  I was a bit speechless.  I asked more about his statement.  In our discussion, I learned that there was a lot of dissension among the Republicans about the bill.  I also learned that very few of the Senators wanted to cast a vote on this bill during an election year.  It would appear that SB1250 is dead, and those who wish to write discrimination into the state constitution will have to start from scratch during the next legislative session.  This means that the earliest such an amendment could go to a public vote would be 2011. 

PA Senate Chamber

 

On Saturday, we spent the day at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.  I don’t usually like theme parks unless I’m with my kids or my partner.  I rode some rides with the students and the moms who were chaperoning the trip.  It wasn’t long before I started noticing “family members” in the park.  There were groups of gay men, couples enjoying the park.  At one point, I noticed a lesbian couple that had a great situation:  one of the women was butch enough for them to look like a straight couple.  They walked through the park hand in hand, and virtually unnoticed by the thousands of visitors. 

On Sunday morning, we loaded the bus and headed for Philadelphia for a visit to Independence Hall.

 

Independence Hall

Gay Rights Historical Marker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we rounded the corner to the Independence Mall, I felt welcomed by the Equality Forum banners hanging from the lampposts.  Of course, I was a few days late for the events.  I left the bus to explore on my own before our scheduled tour of Independence Hall.  I discovered the historical marker you see above on the corner across from Independence Hall.  It intrigued me, and when I returned home I did some research about the demonstrations in Philadelphia that pre-date the Stonewall riots.  I discovered that there is some disagreement about the influence and importance of the Philly demonstrations, but have decided that any public demonstration that early in our quest for civil rights is of some importance. 

The weekend that I thought would be lost, save for the obligations placed on me by playing piano for the choral group, turned out to be a learning experience and provided several affirmations of my life, my interests, and my goals of working toward equality for LGBT people.