Monday, September 29, 2014

Faith, Less, Faith Lost: Fake People (Last in a series)

Who's the "real" Dad?
When my husband I were raising our son we often were referred to as the "gay" Dads.   Which is fine because I am proud to be both. What always amazed me was the curiosity that people had as for which one of us was the "real" parent.  Very often after we introduced ourselves people would make this remark.  Of course if there is a "real" parent, then by order of elimination there would have to be a "fake parent" as well. If there is a "fake" parent, does that mean they get a free pass from PTA? Does the "fake" parent just do the fun stuff regarding parenting like Christmas and Birthday cake? Are they exempt from having to sit at the pediatrician's office or worse, the principal?

I find this to be a recurring theme about gay "acceptance" as well. This idea of real and fake.  I mean in asking about relationships people commonly ask: "who is the woman in your relationship?"  Which of course implies that there needs to be some dynamic regarding penetration, dominance, and some other hetero-normative values. Of course gay culture doesn't diffuse these questions either because gay men (like some straight men) can take Halloween drag to extremes. Then of course are the gender-bending sensibilities that gay men embrace with gusto such as decorating, arts, fashion which until recently were strictly the domain of women and a few effete hetero men.

Those gay boys, so "plastic"
So that brings me to the idea that in general, society sees gay men to some degree as "fake" men. Too often gay men and their female allies address gay men as "boys" or "gay boys" regardless of age and accomplishment.  Too often people can't understand how homosexual men arrange their lives to suit their penises which is probably different for everyone else, I'm not sure.  What I am sure of is that outside of our professional endeavors we are often seen as a bit two dimensional, one of those dimensions being our sexuality the other being our "immaturity." I mean in America, work is work and you're usually judged on how much, or the quality of your work. I work in sales, I make quota, who cares who I sleep with, it's the one place where I'm not "fake". That is a huge advantage we have as Americans. If it's an issue for you, take it up with the Human Resources Dept.

I think where we are considered "fake" is in our new marriages. I remember when I was sixteen and got my new driver's license, my older brother said "what you think you can just take the car a drive around now?"  Yes, that's exactly what it meant. However in his eyes, I was still his little brother he had to drive around.  I think to some degree straight people might still have that attitude. "What, you've been legally married for six months and you think you know about marriage?" is an attitude I'm encountering. Granted we've been together for 19 years and raised a son but those years "in sin" don't count do they? I remember when my former church had a big "gay" wedding and a church member asked me when I would have a "real" wedding at the church? At that point I had been legally married for six years.

Earlier this month I decided to leave my "progressive" church, Coral Gables Congregational.  The Church Council decided the best course of action was to discuss with my husband, the church moderator, that he take away my internet privileges and take down my blog....without my consent. He was asked to "distance himself from me publicly but support me privately". Words like "proper contrition" and "denunciation"were suggested as possible measures. All this from a church that claims "An Extravagant Welcome." I have seen the emails. The senior pastor was copied on several days of emails, and even after my husband resigned as leader of the church, the demands continued.  At several points that week we asked ourselves if this would happen to a straight couple. I mean could a wife or husband in 21st century America really deny their spouse access to the internet or "distance themselves publicly, while supporting them privately". At this point I realized that to the heterosexual council members we were "fake" people.  That somehow we were not whole or real and our relationship and marriage were not real either. Or the council members who proposed this were just douche-bags which I feel is another, very real, possibility.

So, in conclusion. Gay men, don't sell yourselves short. Being called and calling each other "boy" is really demeaning on so many levels that if you think about it, should make you angry. It adds to our "fake" identity as men.  As for everyone else you might think what I have in terms of love and relationships as some kind of(fake) pale imitation of what you have. That gay men are somehow people with "special needs" who want coddling in some kind of "open and affirming" program.  May be, maybe not....but we're not fake. Our struggles are very real, and in a lot of ways, more "real" that what any straight relationships might go through.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A GAY MIAMI SWIM TEAM. Yes, Nadadores of South Florida, Celebrating 20 years of Chlorination.

In this era of gay rights successes, marriage equality and openly gay Olympians why would Miami, or any city for that matter, need a gay Masters swim team.  I mean the landscape for LGBT men and women has changed so much that anyone of any orientation should be able to walk on a pool deck or beach and jump in. Why do you need a Gay Swim Team?

As Team Captain I'd like to say "you are truly welcome here!" We invite people of all swimming abilities from former Olympians to doggie paddlers.  Our program accommodates everyone. We welcome all body types, which is important, because too often I hear people staying away from swimming, or life, because they feel they don't look good in a bathing suit.  We strive for friendliness and camaraderie. You will not be a stranger with us!  

Firstly I'd like to thank John Roe and John Olsen for setting up the team 20 years ago. Mr. Roe was really quite understated about the foundation of the team and really just started it because he wanted to make his job more interesting at the Scott Rakow Youth Center in Miami Beach.   He was dealing with kids all day and thought adding an adult masters team would make things a bit interesting. Knowing other swimmers was helpful, but at the time South Beach was at it's gay peak and he advertised for swimmers in the personal sections of local gay magazines such as Hotspots and Wire. 

Guys showed up and a swim team was born. The name Nadadores was chosen because it reflected the diversity of South Florida and the team's slogan "Go Nads!" is a double entendre was not lost on anyone. Throughout the years the team has competed in international competition in Sydney, Copenhagen, Chicago, Paris, Reykjavik, Cologne and Cleveland.  Several members of the team compete nationally, Cory Welch  qualified for the past Olympic trials in breaststroke and is ranked 1 in the world in Masters breaststroke. 

Miami's bathing beauties....
What do we offer? We offer professional coaching, group and private swim lessons and a good time. Practices occur at an excellent swim facility or join us for our weekly ocean swim on Sundays. Please visit our website at

So how "gay" is our team. Well, is anything as gay as it used to be?  The team boasts a monthly roster of about 80 people. They hail from all over the world and the U.S.  Are they mostly gay? No, the days of us being exclusively gay are long gone. There are plenty of guys and gals on the team, but we don't ask, but if we find out we will tell. Couples have met on the team, and we have officially two marriages to our credit, one straight, one gay.

Having fun in this year's suits!
So getting back to the original premise of the "why" for a "gay" swim team.  Truthfully we could say it's about needing a safe space, or a comfort zone, or a "birds of a feather" experience.  However as LGBT community becomes more integrated, the need for such things is fading away.  What is needed however is a group of people can share a passion for something outside of themselves. To spend an hour submerged splashing around, burning an amazing amount of calories with really nice people. That's what the Nadadores of South Florida is about. It's about fun, fitness and competition. 


Come celebrate 20 years of fun with us a Noche Nadadores!  Thank you Miami for making us a success!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Faith, Less. Faith Lost. An apology to Coral Gables Congregational Church.

What my faith looks like today.

The Apology

I'd like state unequivocally that I am sorry. I do have a bad habit of trying to be truthful. It's hard and often I fail. I have to remember that my truth is not everyone's truth and that I am also a coward at times and hold back, until I just get so frustrated that I vent my truths like diarrhea all over the internet.  I'd like to apologize to all the "newly minted" pastors of Coral Gables Congregational Church.  I could have vented my frustration with each of you personally and instead of just sitting in the pew and smiling my fake smile, I could have shared my concern for you and for the church. At least you might have known you had at least one critic who felt that you had a bit to go before you "nailed it." Which I sincerely hope all of you do one day. I do want you to know that I tried to address this in committee and with church leaders but nobody really wanted to talk to me about it.

I apologize to my husband. Honey I'm sorry my actions caused you to suffer. If it had been different I would have taken  the heat for my actions. I deeply, deeply apologize for the pain that others inflicted on you on my behalf.  You are a gentleman and far more loving and Christian than those who claim to act in Christ's name. 

Losing My Faith on 9/11/2014

So I lost my faith last week. On Wednesday, September 11 to be exact.  It was on life support the week before, and thought my blogpost was a "cry for help" so to speak. I thought my church would say "hey, let's save his poor, scrawny faith, I mean he's on the internet, whining about it."  So the faith 911 went out and the associate pastors and senior pastor contacted me. One actually dropped everything a came and talked to me, let me vent, which was cool. I booked meetings with the other two pastors. This is where things started coming off the rails.  Well, I guess both of them were looking for contrition and a "take back". I didn't want to give a non-apology, apology, because I really do stand by my "truths." 

I promised that the conversations I had with them would remain confidential.  The talks I had with them were unproductive and I guess the hurt I caused blinded them to any explanation I had tried to put up. Which in all honesty was probably lame.  I'm saddened that being called "culturally insensitive" and "second rate" are accusations that warranted the ensuing sturm und drang.    At that point I seriously realized that pastors are really human and don't take criticism very well. My mistake, I had been blinded by my own weakening faith, and belief that these pastor people were something stronger, with god on their side and all. 
What fun, a conga line of unicorns!

A Faith Trampled to death to the tune of Miami Sound Machine's "Conga".

I look at the corpse of my faith and it smells. Tuesday night I had this nightmare that my faith was bound and being stomped on by a conga line of church council members. They were dancing to some stupid psuedo-latin tune played by that has-been band Miami Sound Machine. Since then I've actually gotten nauseous when I hear them on the radio.  I can't figure it out, but suddenly I absolutely hate that band with a passion.


So, yeah I'm leaving. I'm leaving on advice of friends and family. Every Sunday the pastors state the following: "No matter where you are in your faith journey, you are welcome here."  "You don't need to check your mind at the door."  "We are an Open and Affirming Church".   Sadly, those sentiments, god,  and  belief in unicorns are all about the same to me. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Faith, Less. A Seven Year Itch to Leave My Church.

For the first 18 years of Sundays of my life, I was yanked out of bed and told to I was going to church.  As I became a pre-teen and adolescent Sunday mornings were a time of strife, anger and punishment.  We were never allowed to stay home. Once we were there we sat in uncomfortable pews, listened to cryptic sermons,  and if all went well we would be home by noon and free to whatever we wanted for the rest of the day. I can't say I enjoyed the experience, nor did I hate it...too much. I just never really saw the point. 

Fast forward 20 years, on an assignment from work I was sent to Coral Gables Congregational Church to look for volunteers to fight an anti-gay initiative I was working to defeat. My father was a long-time member. I was instantly taken by this wonderful new pastor, Laurie Hafner.  I never realized what charisma meant until I met her. Sweet and soft spoken, a radiant smile, smart expensive pumps, I was sold. Before I left that first day, Laurie asked me if I could "find more gays for the church."   I ran home and told my husband what a great feeling I had at the Church and that he should come the following Sunday.  Already I had my first recruit. 

So almost eight years later I'm trying to figure out at what point that I started "losing my religion."  I've often extolled the power of collective action of organized religion to do good. Great art, music, architecture and ideas have been the product of organized religion. I think balanced against the dark downsides of organized faith (the Middle East and Catholic sex scandals can give some recent contemporary examples) I think its a wash. 

So why am I so disillusioned with a church that is so progressive in its thinking? A church that sees dignity in everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. etc..  A church that says to a gay man "go find more of you, and make them feel welcome".  A church, that on its surface, seems as diverse as the community it serves. I guess these are my reasons.

Firstly and foremost is my difficulty in believing in all the "supernatural" occurrences that happen in the Bible. My church doesn't ask me to believe in it, but I feel a bit fake talking to Christians who actually believe in that stuff. I call myself a Christian, but do I believe he was resurrected? Or in the Virgin birth? Or the parting of the Red Sea? no I don't. I know it's fable and allegory meant to teach us a lesson. That I understand.  However do I need a lesson in Noah's Ark to understand global warming? No, I don't.  Don't even get me started on rainbows. 

Secondly, I see as the church becomes more successful, I see the institution changing for it's own efficiency as staff is wont to do.  For example, our church no longer baptizes children whose families are not members of our church.  When I first heard about this last year, I heard staff complaints that the groups of parents were "loud", "that they left the sanctuary a mess","Not serious about the sacrament." and my favorite: "just another excuse to have a party."  To me this says that the staff needs some cultural sensitivity training. It seems that those of us who grew up in Hispanic cultures understand that parties are a way to celebrate family and unity. Or you can do it the Presbyterian way: go home after the baptism and watch Sunday football, like we did after my brothers baptism.  

Sadly, the senior pastor made her argument that denying baptisms is best for the church because we have no clue what happens to those kids after they're baptized. Also that those baptisms ring hollow, because those parents aren't members and are having a party.  So the church's "extravagant welcome" really applies to "members only."

Thirdly, me being a loud insensitive being, I've collected a few "non-friends" over the years. There was the lady who I called fat, who got me back this year because my new belly (brought on by my diabetic medication) was showing, and she gleefully called me fat back. Years of church gossip, innuendo sometime small, sometimes more, bleed you like a thousand paper cuts. You stop wanting to extend yourself, because of laziness, fear or boredom. Also, with a congregation of 500, you just get tired of some people. 

Finally, I've just found other things that I find more interesting. Brunch with friends, riding my bike. Watching TV.  A parade of newly minted pastors giving second rate sermons is not a valuable use of my time. I understand that they need learn and grow, but why at my expense?  I mean once a pastor has done five or six bad sermons isn't it time to say, hey, maybe you might try something else? Sermons are not your thing. I go to hear charismatic Laurie Hafner, her brilliant sermons and excellent delivery. Nothing drains your energy like a poor public first you feel sad for them, then you're just annoyed.  It's like I am an adolescent all over again, anxiously waiting to get out and have Sunday to myself again.