Every Day is White Pride / Straight Pride / Men’s Day in America

I originally wrote this blog on 17 September 2015 in response to two different Facebook posts.  I was hesitant to share it, but since the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, with the shooter allegedly in conflict with his sexual orientation emerging as one of the possible motives of the shooting, I feel it actually is more important and more relevant than ever.  In addition to members of the LGBT community facing higher rates of suicide and homelessness, I need to add we also face a higher risk of violence towards us.

Yesterday (16 September 2015), I saw two different posts on Facebook that inspired this blog.

One was a post by a friend of mine, who is African American, in which she was invited to a friend’s house for a gathering, and ended up talking to another attendee who was Caucasian. Well, I’m not sure I should say “talking to” as it seems, from what she posted, she was being “talked at”.

This man “ranted” at her for a while and ended this rant with: “…And where does this leave the white man?”

Um, what?

Read Every Day is White Pride / Straight Pride / Men’s Day in America

Sex Education, Lutheran Style

Warning: This post talks about sex education and mentions a sexual act by name.  It doesn’t actually talk about what happens during that act, but it mentions the word several times anyway.  If you don’t think you can handle it, don’t read it.  If it piques your interest and you can’t help but read it, go ahead.  Proceed at your own risk.

Sex Education

When we were in fifth grade at St Paul Lutheran School, the teachers gathered all the boys from 5th through 8th grade in the upstairs 8th grade classroom in the school’s addition and all the girls from the same grades in the 5th grade classroom in the school’s (old) main building for our one and only lesson in sex education.

Now, the reason I’m relaying this story is because James and Jacqui’s daughter Charlotte is getting “the talk” soon at her school, although this seems to be a little older than when we got that same talk.  Mind you, I don’t think we had as many boys in the classes ahead of us, so it might’ve been easier for the teachers to just chuck us all together to give us the talk all at once.  “Never mind the boys in 5th grade are 10 and 11, they need to know this stuff.  Let’s get it done and over with in one fell swoop.”

I remember being very nervous because it wasn’t something we probably talked about or were terribly too much aware of at that age.  Mr. Matthias (one of the junior high teachers) said a few words about different things, and I think I was so in shock that I honestly don’t remember much of the day to this day, other than a film the teachers put on to explain sex, Lutheran style.

Of course, I’m sure there was a bit of snickering by using anatomical names for the bits that make boys boys and girls girls.  But I get the distinct feeling that the male teachers, unsure on how best to approach the subject, decided they were in deeper water than they dare tread, so, like many teachers before them paddling in an ocean they weren’t accustomed to swimming in, they resorted to the best teaching aide they could: the film projector.

The movie went through the normal things: as you get older, your voice drops, you grow hair everywhere, blah, blah, blah.  That wasn’t too much of a shock because some of the boys in our class (and definitely in the classes ahead of us) were going through this already.  I’m not sure about everyone else, but I noticed it and thought, “Oh well, you have to become an adult somehow.”

The funny thing about that movie is that, other than the changes to our body we might expect, I don’t think it actually taught us anything we needed to know in a straight-forward and scientific manner.  It was full of, pardon the word choice, innuendo.

The story I tell everyone, because this is what I remember the most, is when the film approached the subject of masturbation.  The protagonist of the story — let’s call him Johnny — was in a library, looking around at different books and things.  He picked up a book, looked around sheepishly, and then went to the bathroom with it.  The next shot showed stalls side-on; all you could see of Johnny was his feet and lower legs entering a stall (as if you were at the end of 3 stalls and peering underneath, and he’s in the furthest stall from you).  He opened the book and put it on the floor, then he hiked himself up on the toilet, with his pants around his ankles.

The announcer stated something like, “Masturbation is bad.”

Now, to my 11 year old, slightly over-analytical and quite literal mind, masturbation was a word I had never heard before, so obviously, the definition of masturbation in my head was “reading on the toilet”.  That’s what’s shown on the screen, so that must be what the announcer was talking about.

I was in shock.  Dad took a book or magazine to the toilet to read.  Quite a few people I knew took a book or magazine into the toilet to read.  It even seemed to be a Fack family trait.  I didn’t know this was a sin!  Did they know?  Should I tell them?  Would God punish me for taking a book into the bathroom?  And why?  What was so wrong about that?

Would God be angry with me for taking books or comics or anything into the toilet with me before I knew it was bad?  He seemed like a very angry and vengeful God in the Old Testament; maybe He would hold my sins against me before I even knew that bringing reading material into the bathroom was a sin!

I’m not quite sure when or how I discovered that the word the announcer was talking about in the film and the act it referred to were not the same thing.  I’m sure it was during some conversation that I highly embarrassed myself by showing my naivety.  My mind wasn’t developed enough to capture the implication or context between the two things.  And while the film makers (as adults) obviously knew what masturbation was, and they decided not to go any further other than to say it was bad, they didn’t take into consideration they were putting adult values on what was meant to educate children and young adults about subjects they didn’t know about: puberty and sex.  They wanted to imply the sexual act but assumed that children and young adults would pick this up somehow.

I think I went about 6 months or so where I was terrified to take anything into the toilet with me when I had to go to the bathroom.  Probably my friend Tommy or one of the other boys in my class told me what masturbation was or I didn’t think God would be so petty as to punish a child for taking reading material in the toilet, so, sometime later, I ventured into the toilet with a Transformers comic or something like that.  God didn’t strike me dead, so that was a good thing.

In short… if you have kids, and it’s time to have “that talk”, as uncomfortable as it may seem… Have that talk.  And don’t be embarrassed about it!

What?!?

It’s been a while since I have blogged, and I apologise for this.  For those of you who know me closely, loss is something I handle very poorly and I needed time to recover from the deaths of our cat Celeste and dog Nyota.

As some of you may know, Noel and I went up to Auckland recently to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the Musical.  For the second time!  It was a great break from everything, especially since Nyota had passed away very suddenly only a few days before.  Nothing like a break from normal life and routine to recouperate from everything.

Anyway, we stayed at the Prince’s Wharf Hilton, one of our most favourite places to stay.  I have several stories related to the Hilton and this trip, but I’d like to talk about one specific one here.

The first day we were there, we noticed a small ship moored on the opposite side of the wharf.  It was old… There were so many layers of paint on it that you could see some places where the hull had been repaired or maybe even loss the outer layer.  The paint was thick on the hull plating.

There were two gangplanks from the ship to the wharf, and we saw people getting on and off the ship.  We didn’t think much of it, assuming it was an old cruise ship sailing the waters of the South Pacific.

One night, heading back from dinner, we realised it was open for the public to view.  As those of you who know us know, we love the ocean and love cruise ships.  So, with an opportunity to view the ship, we went aboard and had a bit of a look around.

We discovered the ship, the Doulous, toured the world, taking books and educational materials to those in countries who might not be able to afford it.  There were several other good things the crew did as well (I am sure), but, off the top of my head, I can’t remember them.  I do remember the crew were multinational and worked on the ship without pay.  Basically, everything done on the ship was done out of some sense of humanitarianism.

Near the end of the journey on the ship, we found a make-shift bookshop.  The walls and ceiling were comprised of tarps jurry-rigged over the deck from the port to starboard sides.  The shop wasn’t small, and seemed to have a great selection of books at first glance.

The system of buying books was interesting.  Instead of putting a dollar value on books, they were rated in credits or points, so a book might cost 100 credits and, in New Zealand, that equated to $4 (or something similar).  The books were relatively inexpensive, anyway, especially in light of being at Whitcoulls (the local bookchain) during the day and seeing some paperbacks at the hefty price of $50NZ.

We browsed around and found a lot of books.  Somewhere along the line, we discovered the ship was a Christian ship.  I don’t have a problem with that or any charitable organisation being of one religious belief or another as long as they don’t push it down non-believers’ throats.

On a brief but relevant diversion from the topic, I believe you express your belief and your faith through your actions.  As a Christian, albeit maybe a very liberal one, I believe my actions should show my faith, not how many times I attend church or how many “heathens” I attempt to convert.  Some of my friends are atheists.  Some are agnostic.  Some are Buddhists.  But I don’t believe in pushing over my beliefs on others.

So, with browsing the books on the ship, they seemed to have everything.  But near the check-out area, we stumbled upon the Christian section.

I don’t have a problem with Christian books.  As a matter of fact, I’d bought a Christian-themed book earlier in the day at Whitcoulls from an Australian lawyer who wrote a book arguing why God exists.  I think, though, quite a few Christian books approach the subject, as the author in the book I’ve bought has said, from a level of the reader being overly familiar with the Bible.

But one of the books ruined the experience for me.  I did try to joke to Noel about it (and I’m sure he found it funny), but I took offense to it on a ship I believed would be more advanced than to have a book like this on it.

The book was entitled The Gay Agenda.  Now, I’m gay.  Noel’s gay.  Some of my friends are gay.  And I’m not sure whether the New Zealand or US branches haven’t gotten the memo or anything, but I don’t know about any “gay agenda”.  I mean, I know about gays and lesbians wanting to be treated equally as their straight counterparts, and, kicking religion out of the equation, I strongly believe if I pay the same (or in the case of most states in the US, more) taxes as straight people, I should have the same rights.  That’s only fair.

But “The Gay Agenda”?  It makes it sound like we’re trying to take over the world or something.

I joked with Noel.  “Did you get the memo?  I didn’t get the memo.  When did we get an agenda?”  He laughed.  But the book’s subject matter made me uneasy.

As a gay man, I guess we have a long row to hoe to be treated fairly and equally with others.  (To be honest, women and other minority groups have also had a long row to hoe, and I sympathise with their movements as well.)  And it was a very sobering moment for me.  It did put a dampener on my few days away.

My Grandpa was a man who took people for who they were: individuals.  He’d sit down and talk with anyone, and he gave people, no matter what, a chance.  You see, he’d been judged his whole life.  He had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.

But he taught me so much about dealing with others.  I never saw the curve in his spine, never saw the deformaties other people did.  He was Grandpa, my Grandpa, and I saw him for his soul, his personality, not what he looked like.  As a matter of fact, his scoliosis never really ever dawned on me most of the time.

When I came out, he never judged me.  He loved me unconditionally, which meant a lot for me.  Maybe it was because I loved him unconditionally; I’ll probably never know while I walk on this mortal world.

The point of this whole blog is we can get along as humans.  I honour the author’s right to exercise his point-of-view, but, honestly, who cares?  Is he gay?  How do gay and lesbian people impact him negatively?  Why do others feel they have the right to impinge on the rights of others?

I just don’t understand people like that.  It leaves me thinking… What?!?

Noel and I bought the books anyway, and we made a major purchase (as we felt it was going to a good cause overall) compared to the others who were on the ship at the same time we were.

The crew were friendly enough.  But I wasn’t sure what to do.  Buy the book and burn it?  But wouldn’t buying the book mean I was supporting the author and the bookstore’s perception the book was popular?

Should I complain?  I’m sure these people were only stocking all opportunities.  I’m sure some people might have found the Alice in Wonderland book offensive for some reason or another.  But that’s classical literature.  Was The Gay Agenda?

Would complaining about me finding the book offensive make me just as bad (in my opinion) as the author?  Or had others complained about the book throughout the day?  It’s a fine line to tread, I guess, between freedom of speech and freedom of the individual.

My Opa (my other grandfather) believed to the day he died the Holocaust was made up by the victors in WW2.  Even though he fought for the Nazis, he was a victim too, his mother, too Russian and not mentally stable enough to fit into the Nazis’ New World Order, dragged off and never seen again, his father forced to remarry an echt deutsche Frau (true German woman), and he ran so far tha the ran into the arms of the very people who hurt him deepest.

But he believed, fervently, it was all a lie.

You see, he read these things in books. Books he’d find somewhere in Borders or Barnes and Noble or wherever.  Books my family would sometimes reluctantly buy him for Christmas or his birthday when that’s what he wanted.  (Me?  I never would have the confidence when I was younger to buy him a book like that.  I didn’t want to fuel the fire.)

What I mean is, the people we see or believe are evil or villians don’t just suddenly end up that way.  Somehow, something, some event or chain of events twist them and turn them into the people we see as those we can’t agree with.

The whole point, the other side of the coin, is he was my grandfather.  He should have the right to choose the books he read, have the opinion he had, believe what he wanted as long as he didn’t hurt others with it.  And, even though I didn’t agree with his opinion or his views, I would defend his views to the end.

So was I overreacting about The Gay Agenda?

Maybe it’s just been a long year, but, to be honest, I’m sick of being judged for what I am, or where I work, or because I’m larger than what’s considered normal, or because I have an accent compared to others in New Zealand.  I don’t judge others on that.  I try to be open-minded and loving, like my Grandpa taught me as a child through his actions.

Maybe it’s just the year getting me down; I don’t know.

Maybe I’m just getting more confused by some peoples’ motivations as I get older.  it leaves me thinking… What?!?

Soulful

She shocked me by what she’d just said.

I was 11 or 12 at the time, in 6th grade at Saint Paul Lutheran School in Mount Prospect. Our class was talking about heaven and things like that, and the teacher had asked us what we were looking forward to seeing in heaven. (Looking back, it was a very morbid conversation!) Classmates were saying things like their grandma or favourite aunt, but I hadn’t had any close family members who had died at that time.

Now, when I was growing up, we had an Irish Setter named Cindy. She would follow me around faithfully. When I got too close to the chain-link fence, two German Shepherds barking and snarling on the other side, Cindy would wedge between me and the fence, pushing me away from danger. I even remember, being very young at the time, staring out of my crib at night, the room dark but the door open, the light in the hallway streaming in across the floor, shining on Cindy lying on the floor, her brown eyes gazing up at me to make sure I fell asleep safe and sound. I only have fond memories of Cindy.

So when this discussion came around, and it was my turn to say who I was looking forward to meeting again in heaven (again I still think this was a morbid conversation for 11 and 12 year olds), I said, “Cindy”.

The teacher was a bit perplexed and asked who Cindy was, so I explained. And, quite flatly, with a scoff and a dismissive air, my teacher proceeded to tell the entire class in a mocking sort of way, “But dogs don’t go to heaven.”

Being the rational-minded person I am, I asked why. Why, if dogs are God’s creations, don’t they go to heaven when they die?

Because, she said, dogs don’t have souls. No animals have souls: only humans.

This greatly upset me and angered me. It rocked my foundations to the core and started me questioning my faith.

Up to that point, whatever teachers had said was the truth; I don’t believe I ever questioned anything up to that point. But her comments I questioned. It started me diverging from the Christianity of the masses to the Christianity I believe in today.

Jenah, as some readers may know, is our big dog. (We do have two Chihuahuas, Levi and Nyota, and I can use examples on all three, but Jenah is the easiest.) She has personality plus. When she found out she wasn’t a human — she looked in the floor to ceiling mirror with Noel and me standing behind her, looking down at her face, then up at us, then down at her own again, then walked away slowly with her head down and her tail down — she was depressed for weeks.

When I cry, she comforts me. She even tries to cheer me up! When I’m happy, we play with her toys or joke around. When she and I are tired, she lays down with me and we fall asleep. She plays games with us. She learns words quickly. She knows peoples’ names and knows when they are coming over. And each person, she treats differently. Noel’s mother for example: Jenah is very attentive, very loving but very careful around her (as she is 90, you know).

Looking into her big brown eyes, there is intelligence and personality in her. She is loving and caring towards all the other animals and us and every person who has walked in our door bar one. Even right now as I type this, she’s staring at me, big smile on her face, with her ears up and her tail wagging.

I love her, and she loves me.

So, with all that in mind, how can she not have a soul?

Christmas Observations

Well Christmas has come and gone but I still love looking at the lights at our place.

Just a few observations on Christmas:

  • Christmas brings out the best in some people and the worst in others.
  • Christmas is a time of giving… and some people are only good at taking (LOL)
  • Christmas is a time of giving… and some people graciously give too much (but hey, we’re not complaining about that)
  • Christmas is a time of good cheer… and some people who aren’t cheerful all year ’round adequately demonstrate they aren’t cheerful at Christmas either
  • The shops are shut for a day. For f*ck’s sake! (My fav phrase although it’s on the Little Britain: Live DVD!!!)
  • Even if you say Merry Christmas or send someone a Christmas text message or whatever, you might not get that back… but hey, if you did it out of the goodness of your heart, who cares?
  • Christmas is a time to spend with good friends and family… and I am fortunate enough to have my good friends here to spend Christmas with, and fortunate enough to live in a country (and have a lifestyle) that allows me to talk to my family for an hour and a half on the phone on Christmas (um even if Grandma’s old phone was a bit dodgy, i.e. Brian turned up the volume to hear with and all he could hear was him talking louder!!!)
  • Christmas is the best day (well, besides birthdays) to spoil the kids! It’s great to see their faces light up with the cool toys and gadgets they get in this day and age.
  • Christmas (and to a degree Thanksgiving and New Years) makes me even more thankful for all the blessings and opportunities and lovely people I have (and have had) in my life. For those who I am close to (and you know who you are), I love you dearly. So when I say it, I mean it!!!

Anyway… I’m not mentioning names for some of these (um, the bad ones are to people who aren’t even on myspace as far as I can tell) but are just some observations I wanted to share with everyone.

Scott 🙂