Category: blogging

The Life of a Public Introvert

Most people do not believe me when I tell them I am an introvert.

But you are so friendly. You are so animated on stage. You seem like you love to be around people.

While all those things are true, I am still an introvert. The problem may be in the classic definition of introvert.

in·tro·vert [ˈintrəˌvərt] NOUN
a shy, reticent person.
synonyms: recluse · lone wolf · hermit · solitary · misanthrope · outsider ·

While I often feel shy, I have taught myself to be assertive and even bold. While I benefit greatly from time alone (and lots of it,) I am not a recluse. Yes, while I attend a conference, I often go to sessions alone and carve out time by myself. Does that make me a lone wolf? Almost every definition I find for introvert makes it sound like social disorder or a moral failing.

For me being an introvert is all about where I get or lose energy. In loud spaces with lots of people and chit chat, I feel like an ancient mobile phone quickly losing its charge. Move me to a quiet space where I can be alone or with one person for a deep conversation or time of reflection, and I feel the life pour back into me.

Peterson and Ruth on Tour!

In reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I marvel at descriptions of people who get more and more energized in large gatherings, meeting new people, and with lots of lively activities going on late into the night. It’s not that I don’t like those sort of settings. I really do; I just can’t be in a space like that for too long. No, and it is not just that I am getting older; it’s always been that way with me. As a teen, I would find times and spaces to be alone in my room, in nature, in the toilet. Wherever.

I had the joy of traveling with a fellow introvert while I was on my recent UK tour. Ruth Wilde, who works for Christian Peacemaker Teams and is the national coordinator for Inclusive Church, agreed to a joint three week tour that took in multiple venues in England, Wales, and Scotland. It was a mad and wonderful road trip (with the occasional rail trip) in and out of people’s homes, churches, and universities. Ruth is also an introvert. Together we listened to Susan Cain’s Quiet as an audiobook. Ruth wrote about our time together in a blog post that both introverts and partners of introverts will benefit from reading.

Many people assume, unless I tell them otherwise, that I am in fact an extrovert. Cain explains that the reason many introverts have become so adept at pretending is because we learnt early on that we often need to be extrovert in order to get on in life. We are also often genuinely interested in people- we’re not faking that- but we are just tired out a lot more quickly by conversations and especially superficial chit chat.

Introverts have also developed throughout our lives. When I was a child of 4, I literally hid behind my mum. When I was 16, and in a school where I didn’t have many friends (due to my Dad’s job, we moved around a lot), I often preferred to be alone in the music rooms practicing at lunchtime rather than in the social spaces with other people. In fact, I hated most of my time spent in school because I was a shy introvert. Nowadays, I’m not shy, but I’m still an introvert, and there are still social situations which I find uncomfortable, for example team building exercises in work places where the focus is on enforced small talk with people who are not my close friends!

Ruth’s partner, Ellie, is an extreme extrovert. Ruth put into writing a list of the things that stress her out as an introvert and invited Ellie to create her own list. The outcome is fascinating.

You can see the lists and read the blog post, Being an introvert in an extrovert world, over at the Inclusive Church website.

What about you? Are you more introvert or extrovert. Are you an ambivert? How does that affect your work? Your relationships? I’d love to hear your experiences.

The End of Blogging?

Interior of George Bernard Shaw’s writing hut

In an age of tweets and Instagram pics, is there a place for blogging? Back in May 2004 I wondered if I should blog or not. It meant getting a lot of feedback, perhaps unwanted interactions with people who wanted to start a fight or slam me for being gay.

Through this blog I have met some of my dearest friends, people who I now sit with in their homes. We share meals, sorrows, and secrets. Through blogging we built community for people who survived conversion therapy. I wrote about this for the journal, Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide in my piece Ex-Gay Survivors Go On-Line.

In the past decade, the Internet has exploded with social networking opportunities for countless groups of ex-gay survivors, who communicate through various blog sites (first LiveJournal and later Blogger and WordPress), the Gay Christian Network or GCN (gaychristian.net), and most recently Facebook. In often heartbreaking and raw entries, they have shared their narratives. They have validated the experiences of people who have not been able to live as “recovered” homosexuals but haven’t been able to jump into mainstream GLBT culture either, often finding this community to be hostile to their faith. These forums have also given people outside of the ex-gay community a chance to peek into the ex-gay movement and the travails of those recovering from its deceptions.

Through GCN, I met Christine Bakke, a blogger and former ex-lesbian living in Colorado (risingupwhole.blogspot.com). Like many who recently surfaced from the ex-gay underground, Christine was a woman without a community other than those few people who knew her by an anonymous screen name.

These days I produce a monthly podcast, Citizens Climate Radio, and I write personal essays for journals and anthologies. I am also active on Twitter and Facebook where I share articles I think are important and look at the links friends and trusted sources share. No one seems to leave comments on blog posts much anymore, but the discussions carry on Facebook threads, responses to twitter posts and retweets, and through the shorthand of gifs and memes.

So I am wondering, does the blog matter any more? I am happy to continue sharing resources, book reviews, personal observations, and discussion topics. I get loads of press releases about LGBTQ issues, events, books, and video games. I could share theses, but there is a lot of content out there already.

So, if you are reading this and find this blog useful, let me know. What would you like to see here? If not, perhaps it is time to put my efforts into other platforms. I’m curious to see if there is anyone out there…

🙂

 

How Lucinda Williams Helped Save my Soul

Literally coming out of the closet in my new place on Watauga Street in Memphis, 1999

Literally coming out of the closet in my new place on Watauga Street in Memphis, 1999

Back in 1998 Lucinda Williams released Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, an album so rich and raw and real it jarred me, in a very good way. At the time I lived in Memphis, TN, not far from many of the places where Lucinda sets her songs. Her country-fried, bluesy, rock with heavy guitar licks and her tender growl came to me at the perfect time.

I was beginning life all over again. I spent 17 years foolishly trying to de-gay myself through ex-gay ministries, and I had  just completed two years in the notorious Love in Action program, a Christian residential rehab designed to make gay men straight for Jesus and the homophobic church. In December 1998 I finally came to my senses and begin to tentatively come out of the closet.

A Born-Again Bubble

In addition to needing a new wardrobe and new friends (all the church ones dumped me and the ex-gay ones were forbidden to associate with a “practicing homosexual,”) I DESPERATELY needed new music. From about 1984 I stopped listening to any music that did not glorify God, even if most of the Contemporary Christian Music I consumed was so lousy music it most certainly God repent of creating music in the first place. I lived in a born-again Christian cultural bubble and had not seriously listen to secular music since Billy Joel’s 1983 Innocent Man album (which was far from his best.)

In my new life everything felt unformed, which both was scary and exhilarating. I had a whole city to explore–Memphis–which I had already lived in for two years but was forbidden to go to most parts because it was too gay. I traded in my old car for a brand new 1998 VW Beetle with a sunroof and began to live a new life.

New Music for a New Life

car_wheels_on_a_gravel_road_lucinda_williams__4f6abf0d70There was lots of press around Lucinda William’s new album. I read about it in Oxford American Magazine, and how Lucinda wrote like a poet, influenced by her poet father, and knew how to write and sing about loss and pain and everyday life. That same day I ran out to the big music store on Poplar and Highland (in what had been known as “The Forbidden Zone”) and bought Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

Then for the next six months I played it on a constant loop in my car as I began a new life. The words of the songs are amazing because they sound so simple, something one person says to another. They sound authentic that way. They sound both familiar and nostalgic.

After nearly two decades of living in the a dark, cramped, dusty closet allowing myself to be micromanaged by church leaders, the title song became my theme song as I sped around Memphis.

Can’t find a damn thing in this place
Nothing’s where i left it before
Set of keys and a dusty suitcase
Car wheels on a gravel road
There goes the screen door slamming shut
You better do what you’re told
When i get back this room better be picked-up

Car wheels on a gravel road

Lucinda-Williams-un05

Lucinda Williams

Yeah, I’m outta here! And after living for two years at the end of a dirt track in a house stuffed with oppressed homosexuals repressing everything in our lives, I imagined I was tearing out of that awful time in my life to a new place of sanity and freedom.

But it was the music–the power of it and the meat of it that I needed back then. Even now I hear one of the tracks–Metal Firecracker, I Lost it, or Concrete and Barbed Wire, and I am immediately back in that VW Beetle in the Memphis heat with the AC on high heading to meet new friends at In the Grove or Integrity, still just coming out of the shadows of fear and doubt and shame.

Yesterday I received in the mail the LP (yes, the vinyl LP) of Lucinda William’s latest album, The Ghosts of Highway 20. I have loved all of Lucinda’s albums, some more than others of course, but this new one feels like the first one, but richer–so lush and so tender and so fierce. It tells the story of a strong women who bears scars from the past, still feels the pain, but is still moving forward.  Immediately as the first song played I was back in the VW Beetle, but older and wiser and more sure of myself.

In an age of Spotify and digital songs stuck in my head as I make dinner or walk to the store, I am happy to have my hands on this album so I can sit and play it in my room, listen attentively to it, and praise the Lord and Lucinda and the many friends that have helped me embrace a new life.

I went thru hell when i was younger
Deep in the well you’ll see the hunger
To find the strength i got within me

To wrestle with the ghosts of highway 20

Thank you Lucinda!

The Wonders of the Coffee Nap

Recently I have begun indulging in coffee naps, aka napuccino. In the early afternoon after my noon time swim and lunch, I always feel drowsy. With or without a nap, I typically slow down in the afternoon entering into a dead energy zone from about 2 pm until 5 pm. With the coffee nap though I experience a burst of energy that propels me into an afternoon of activity.

coffee-nap

See also, The Fast Answer to Your Midday Drowsiness by Stacy Knoderer

Here’s how it works. Right before I want to take a short power nap (15-20) I down a cup of espresso. (I prepare my espresso on the stove with my Moka pot then make a cappuccino with condensed goats milk.) Then I crawl into bed and sleep. While it may feel like hours have passed, in less than 30 minutes I emerge from the slumber charged with energy, physically enthusiastic to get back to work. And this is not just some weird hipster urban legend. There is actual science behind the phenomenon.

2e8baa5f460d2cbe26d6e5e647299166

My often used Moka pot with my favorite little South African mug.

 

Behold, the Wikipedia entry on Coffee Nap:

Research suggests that coffee naps were more effective than regular naps in improving post-nap alertness and cognitive functioning.[4][5] The combination of caffeine plus a short nap helps the body get rid of sleep-inducing chemical compounds known as adenosine, according to researchers.[6] Since it takes the body about 20 minutes to respond to the caffeine, the person is fully alert following the nap,[6] and the caffeine does not interfere with the nap itself. One account suggested that it was like a “double shot of energy” from the stimulating boost from caffeine plus better alertness from napping.[1]

Why don’t you try the coffee nap and tell me what happens (unless you are one of those folks who have strange reactions to caffeine like one of my housemates.)

tumblr_negy70rpwr1s54j4to1_500

What I especially love about the coffee nap is that it blends two of my favorite cultural practices together. The Spanish custom of the Siesta with the Swedish custom of a coffee break called Fika. I think I will rename the coffee nap and instead call it: Fika Siesta Resurrection.

The Need for a Straight Pride March & Other Myths.

Over at Facebook I have many different types of friends (like 2200 friends) and of course they have friends who represent many perspectives. Today on a friend’s wall posting about wearing purple in support of LGBT youth two straight folks raised objectives revealing that they felt “bullied” into showing support of gay kids. In frustration one of them said, “We need to have a Heterosexual Pride Parade.” The other agreedMr. & Mrs. Salt & Pepper.

Now I know a lot of straight people. Some of my best friends are heterosexual. In fact, I come from a distinctly heterosexual family that I love. I know that some straight folks feel put upon by all of the recent news about gay. lesbian and transgender suicides and bullying. “Why do we have to hear about THEM all the time?” Hmmmm. Welcome to my world where I constantly have to go out of my way to hear about anything other than straight lives.

Lately I have been thinking of the subtle powerful force of heterosexism, like high blood pressure, I consider it the “silent killer” insistent and constant in its messaging that heterosexuality is NORMAL, the idealized norm, what everyone is expected to be, an identity that is celebrated, rewarded and represented to the exclusion of all others.

Like a low-grade fever or undetected high blood pressure, non-straight, non-gender normative people live with a steady barrage of pro-heterosexual messages mixed in with anti-LGBT messages. Even in US states where they offer “gay marriage” everyone knows it is not the same as a straight marriage because of the federal protections granted to heterosexual couples and denied to all others. But beyond the legal protections or lack of protections in the household, on the job and elsewhere, we get a deluge of pro-straight messages in pop songs, commercials, movies, religious ceremonies, proms–shoot even salt and pepper shakers! I know that there is a growing movement to include LGBT lives and voices in the media and on the agenda of the board of education, but it’s spotty at best and is often drowned out by the heterosexism that exists in almost every encounter silly and sublime.

Here’s an example of straight pride & privilege.

Marueen says, “My husband Bill & I got together w/ our two daughters & their husbands to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and Cindy & Todd’s first baby. At church the pastor said a blessing over the family & we recommitted our vows.”

And everyone says, “Oh, that is so nice.” And it is and there are gifts and cards and photos and public sharing on Facebook and beyond revealing pride and affirmation and celebration of Bill & Maureen’s successful heterosexuality.

Of course most don’t think of Maureen & Bill expressing “Heterosexual Pride.”

It’s just “normal.”

Pondering Gender

Michelle at Quasifictional has a post up about gender and some of what she has learned in the recent past since getting turned onto the Trans-ponder podcast hosted by Mila and Jayna (you girls rock, and your podcast never disappoints!)

Michelle includes fascinating links about gynecomastia, a condition of enlarged male breasts, including the story of a Christian man with the condition who has struggled to know how to respond. Really great stuff, thought provoking and mind expanding. (She even refers to Inga Muscio, my shero)

Yesterday I spent the day in NYC and got to talk to several people about my Transfigurations play and the shift that I have taken to move away from my role in telling my own story as a former ex-gay to focus more on gender issues. There’s been great injustice against trans people among LGB folks and lots of misinformation.

After two days of wet and cold weather, I have put on my PJs and crawled up on the couch with a cup of tea and a new book, Capote in Kansas: A Ghost Story. The prose is weak but the story is strong so far.

Ex-Gay Survivors, Transgender Surgeries & More

Thanks to Noa Resare, I began to use Google Reader for the first time. What a great way to keep track of news’ stories and my favorite blogs. I can use it on my phone as well off-line on my laptop. So here is a little round-up of some of the things happening in the blog world.

Myths over the “Gay Plague”
Jim Burroway over at Box Turtle Bulletin published some articles about MRSA, the staph infection that was in the news this past week. Lots of hype and misinformation going around about this, and some anti-gay folks locked onto the story and gleefully announced a new gay disease. Seems it is not so new and not a gay thing at all. The media now has begun to set the record straight. Check out Mainstream Media Retreats From MRSA Hysteria–Where are LaBarbera’s and Barber’s apologies? and Testing The Premise: Is MRSA The New Gay Plague? Not according to the medical literature.

Quaker Response to violence in Kenya

Peggy Senger Parsons, who has done work with victims of trauma in Eastern Africa, has published some blog entries about the recent violence in Kenya and the Quaker response. Peggy quotes from and links to a beautiful and powerful pastoral letter out of Friends Church in Kenya. She also shares an e-mail from a trauma counselor in Burundi she helped train and his efforts to reach out to and train Kenyans in trauma work.

The Kinder Gentler Marriage Equality Debate
Bruce Garrett quotes an article about the gay marriage debate in Vermont. They have had civil union for awhile now, but the discussion has now opened to consider actual marriage (like real grown-up straight people get to do). Seems this time around the discussion is tamer. A similar debate is happening in Sweden where they also had something less than marriage for same-sex couples. And all these years I heard anti-gay preachers talking about gay marriage in Sweden (along with drunken orgies, anti-god citizens and the decline of civilization as we know it. Having been to Sweden three times now, I have learned a different story).

Joe G is less sucky
Joe G admits that his podcast is getting “less sucky,” so check out Bored Beyond Belief episode #15 (but according to Joe, avoid the first few). In episode 15 Joe terrorizes his family with a serious thoughtful question, and we learn that his family members are much funnier than Joe himself (but Joe sounds sexier).

Mila and Jayna go under the knife

Also, episode 29 and episode 30 of Trans-Ponder Podcast are excellent. Mila and Jayna have gone to Boston for some important surgeries and talk pre- and post-surgery. Great conversation about growing up trans and trying to figure that all out and about the Orchi surgery. They don’t have the shows listed yet on their episode page, but you can get them through iTunes.

Ex-Gay Survivor speaks out some more

Finally, Eric Leocadio shared two more videos produced by Box Turtle Bulletin and Beyond Ex-Gay. In one Eric talks about the isolation and exclusion he experienced in the church and among church friends (and also mentions flirting with veganism after an awesome meal we shared in LA.) In the second one he talks about the Side X (or ex-gay) culture.

Gay Vampires and the Ex-Gay World

Blogger Peter Varvel muses over at his blog Plastic Bubble World about his experience as a gay man growing up in an anti-gay Protestant church,

How lucky am I that I wasn’t raised Catholic? I had enough guilt as it was, having been raised Protestant, especially when it came to my sexuality. So, whenever I was sexually active, both guilt and my imagination fueled my paranoia.

What if the guy I was having sex with was actually a vampire? What if while he was, um, “goin’ downtown to pleasure me,” he sprouted fangs and decided to slake his sudden thirst for blood, right in the middle of it all?

I have never gotten through an entire Anne Rice novel. But I have always thought that the Christianity and homosexuality conflict would make a good background for a vampire story.

Someone who spent time in an ex-gay support group, Varvel expresses some of what he got from the teachings he sat under,

In real life, it would be too simple to say that ex-gay ministry teaches self-hate. It doesn’t fit into that convenient of a nutshell, at least not with the support group that I had been involved in. But I’ll confess that my time with them helped to influence the view of myself as something a bit monstrous, like the poor, deformed Phantom of the Opera, a soul not quite guaranteed salvation.

I don’t miss ex-gay ministry. I’m glad that I checked it out, and that I made an honest effort toward achieving their goals. But I’m also glad that I’m past that part of my life, years past the self-pity of that time, and that I have been able to reach a point of being at peace with–and acceptance of–myself.

Read all of Varvel’s piece Gay Vampires for Jesus (or, Sympathy for the Evil) and check out the dramatic image he provides along side his writing.

Like many of the ex-gay survivors who have written for Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg), Peter Varvel has a much more balanced view of the movement than most gay activist and ex-gay promoters. He admits that they don’t overtly teach self-hate.

It is easy to vilify ex-gay providers and say they are just money-grubby, anti-gay ministers of hate. This is not true. Many of them were kind people who unwittingly shoot out poison darts. Fortunately we can move past the negative messaging and live centered, peaceful, confident lives as lesbian, transgender, bisexual and gay people.

Check out the newest narrative over at bXg where Seth Guyettes shares The Ex-Gay Movement and The Negative Impact it Had on My Life.

A Blogger is Born!

Yes, a new baby blogger, and turns out I am partly responsible. Sweet. Concerned Citizen writes,

Hello there! I see you’ve found your way to my blog. In the coming weeks and months, I hope to inform the public as to my thoughts on current issues as well as give advice to that same public, telling them how they can get involved and affecting change on this wonderful planet of ours. I was inspired to make this blog by my good friend, Peterson Toscano. Peterson is an activist playwright and one-man show. He has his own blog, viewable here. He held a discussion group over the weekend on the subject of activism and how to get involved in your community. One of the mentioned methods was blogging, so here I am, making a blog.

So please encourage this new blogger and read the great post about Zimbabwe and post a welcoming comment.
The Musings of a Worried Mind

Doin’ Time in Rochester, NY

Phew, so nice to blog about everyday things and not one of those L O N G and serious blog entries. I arrived in Rochester, NY yesterday and tonight did a talk, Homo No Mo? A Provocative Evening with Peterson Toscano. I did excerpts from Homo No Mo and Queer 101, (the scene with Chad & Federico Garcia Lorca) and then a little bit from Transfigurations.

The amazing thing about the presentation is that it was only confirmed late yesterday afternoon, and through the wonder of social networking via Facebook, loads of people got invited and a good number turned out. Alex at Pride Network and Nils of the Eco House (who I know from New England Quakers) organized the event. So yes, Facebook is awesome.

I stayed in Eco House, a cooperative living arrangement where they do loads of things to live in such a way to decrease their environmental footprint. They hang their clothes to dry (dryers use tons of energy), they buy local produce, maintain a vegetarian household (then went vegan while I was here–thanks!), they share one car among seven people, they each have bikes including a house bike (yes, I rode a bike around town), and they don’t flush the toilet when one only pees (which I also practice at home–if it’s yellow, let it mellow. if it’s brown, flush it down. But at home it is easier when it is only my urine in the bowl).

Tonight Nils and Gena and I biked down to to Equal Grounds, a queer run cafe/bookstore/gourmet chololate shop below where Alex and Eric live, both from the Pride Network. We all talked about so many things. This is what I love about what I do. It is like being in an advance, independent study graduate course. Eric, from Portland, told me he is studying something like Eco Psychology (I know he called it something different). We talked about E.O. Wilson, the TED talks, the pros and cons of having an LGBT Resource Center with paid staff, the phenomenon of cross-dressing straight frat boys, the demographics of MySpace and Facebook users, Ferdinand the Bull (read by Nils–see the 1938 Disney cartoon here) and the coolness of Portland, OR.

Okay in other news some glad some very sad…

  • Barack Obama got caught up in the ex-gay debate.
  • Dumbledore is gay (and I have my suspicions about Professor Mcgonagall)
  • The US House of Representatives have postponed their vote of the Equal Non-Discrimination Act.
  • USA Today featured the story of transgender Methodist Pastor Drew Phoenix.
  • Doris Lessing FINALLY wins the Nobel Prize for Literature and talks about the state of feminism.
  • Blogger Disputed Mutability is with child and still maintains life as a blogger (kinda, and she has loads of material to share, and I will get to hang out with her soon).
  • Steve Schalchlin muses about the science behind Musical Healing, (not to be confused with sexual healing).
  • Alex Resare has a new blog address.
  • Bruce Garrett is trapped in his new car and refuses to get out.
  • And here is the sad one, blogger Darian Aaron, shares the shocking story of his friend, fellow-writer Ramone Johnson, who became the target of a homophobic physical assault in NYC. Ramone writes about his experience here.

Ramone, contributer of About.com’s Gay Life column shares,

As I write this I don’t know what hurts worse: My stomach or my eye or the fact that a gay bar kicked me out and refused to help me. I’ve spent the past five years trying to empower gay men, hoping with all my heart that we can one day roam the streets without being afraid, and here I sit at my computer, hurting physically and psychologically. If we can’t protect ourselves who will?

Perhaps we need some legal protection. President Bush? You out there? No need to veto all the good laws.

Tomorrow I fly off to Columbus, OH where I will see my buddy, Bobby Painter, in the lead role of Joseph spinning around in his Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat (aka Princess Dress!)