Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 5:44 PM
so i got your text…why didn’t you reply?! what happened?! how did you respond? so many questions!!! are you ok?
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 8:13 PM
subject: Re: ummmm
sooooo sorry about not replying. my phone died almost as soon as i sent you the text and i had to go to a bunch of meetings. anyway. yes, one of my students kindasorta outted me today, though i did help him…lol. things are fine, though. well, except, the whole thing made me think of mp much too much. so i kinda just sat here for a while when i got home and tried not to think. but then i wrote or whatever. it’s been a while but read this …
dear moth’s powder,
i can honestly say that, for the first time, i did not know how to reply to students in my class. we’ve been having a good time this semester so far, began with teaching them Baldwin’s Just Above My Head a few weeks ago, and pretty much put a lot on the table in terms of how we might think and talk about sexuality respectfully. i’m lucky, i guess, that at least four of my students have worked with gay-straight alliances when they were in high school, so they really try to help their classmates out. but i was totally caught off guard today by one of those students. he was like
professor a! i found your blog…or, i think i did! is this yours?
he then turned his laptop screen around so that i could see it. and, sure enough, it was mine with that picture of us. you know, the one where my arm is around your shoulder and you have the hella serious face on, glasses on the tip of your nose trying to look “scholarly” (lol), gingham shirt on, fresh cut, lookin like you look…which was hella sexy. and in that same picture, with my arm around you, was me being silly, was me with my lips on your cheek, my own cheeks puffed out and you can almost see the laughter about to break out in both of us. those were, indeed, the good times, the best days.
yes. that’s the blog he saw. yes. that’s the picture he saw. i replied in the affirmative that it was, indeed, mine.
is that your partner?
he asked with not even a hint of disdain or whatever it was i’d come to expect from young folks asking questions that pried too much. of course, some in the class became incessantly silent, it sorta hung over the classroom like a wet blanket, all eyes, they might say, on me. some snickered about a bit and others put their heads down. it only felt like eyes were on me. but i don’t really know since i lost focus. it was just uncomfortable. the air was sucked out of the room. they awaited a reply. the picture confirmed before i opened my mouth…so why did they even need an answer.
i felt the curious feeling of sweat beginning to form just under my skin on the forehead…but my underarms? they were, within these very few seconds, filled with all sorts of perspiration, so i had to keep my elbows tight close to me, unmoving, stilled. i’m sure i looked stilted, even.
yes. well. sorta. i mean, he’s no longer alive. but he was.
and then, a long pause. nobody said anything. then.
i do miss him. a lot.
another long pause. the student finally continued his questions.
well, i was asking because i read everything on your blog. and you write about church and being gay a lot and you write about church as if you love it so much. but how can you write about something with so much love when it refuses to love you?
i did not know how to answer. i was, as i’ve said too many times already, thrown off guard. out of the many questions i could have been asked, i was not prepared for that one.
well…i sorta write with the hopes that it will resonate with someone. and if it does, then my job is accomplished.
it was both the truth and a lie. truthful because i do write hoping to enter into some sorta dialogue. like, i’ve always wondered what people say about me now that i’m this dude who doesn’t go to church, how they think about me and my life or whatever. are they afraid to tell me? but shit…i don’t really wanna know because i know i wouldn’t like what i’d hear anyway. so i just assume they all think i’m bound for hell or whatever. not that it matters. but my response was also a lie because it was hella rushed and not very intentional at all. and sometimes, speaking off the cuff can elucidate all sorts of truth….but not this time. it just felt insidious and wrong and protectionist. i really did just want to cry. so that’s what i did when i got home…but not before i played a lot of music in class in order to avoid further conversation. played a lot of Afrofuturism: Hendrix, OutKast. anything to leave the past. no gospel. at all.
why did i tell them that i miss you? that…that i can’t figure out.
i got home. sat on the couch for about an hour, in the dark, with only but a few tears. had to think without thinking, see without light, let the lack of light teach me something. i wrote to my students because i have that sorta relationship with them. but are you surprised…i write too much now. they probably just delete or whatever. but here’s what i told them…
i know today began a bit stilted but that was because i was not prepared for the questions i was asked. i want you all to know that i am not ashamed of being queer-identified. if i were, i would not have pictures up of myself and my former partner on my very public blog for everyone in the world to find. though, to be honest, i never thought anyone would find it anyway…(smile). so the questions about my sexuality and my partner were not what made me uncomfortable. it was the question about my relationship to church, about my relationship to writing, that i both think about all of the time but never thought about in quite those terms. and those terms were what made me stumble over my words and rush towards playing music.
now that i’ve had a bit of time to think about it, i will say that i write about the things that i love, not with hopes that it will reply, or accept me, or change. i write about the things i love simply because i believe love is the greatest force against all manner of injustice and evil in the world, whether it be experienced on personal, institutional or systemic levels. i write about what i love because to write about things i hate would be too difficult. i write about what i love because i do believe in the transformative power of words but am not delusional enough to think that whatever i write alone will be enough to change someone’s heart or mind about this or that issue. i write about what i love, even if it does not love me, because my that’s what love does when it is enacted…it insists in the face of injustice, in the way of evil, that there is another way to be in the world. i write about what i love because, in a very weird way, it was a strain of theology in the church that allowed me to accept myself, even as the church preached that homosexuality is sinful.
i write about what i love because i miss the food and the people, because i feel that i’ve been abandoned by abandoning in a certain sense.
in other words, life is fairly complicated. it’s never easy to just leave something, even with all of its problems. so since i’d like to talk more intentionally about this, reread the section of Baldwin’s Just Above My Head when Arthur and Crunch first discover love for each other, when Peanut and Red begin calling them “lovebirds” and when the old songs they sang gained new life because of their new love. we can talk about this because i want us to think about the possibility for creating a new world with the stuff we have with us now, how we do not need a utopia, but we simply need each other. and yes, we can talk about theology too…if you’d like.
have a great weekend,
well. i mean, i tried to have it make a bit of sense. what i found so curious about the entire exchange with my class was how so very much it made me think about me and you, and not the question about us but the question about my relation to church and to writing. it’s like, underneath all the stuff i try to do to engage the church is this sadness because i no longer commune with the folks in the ways i did before, that my communion seems to be agonistic and antagonistic even though that is not my desire at all. you know, my writing was and will always be about finding new ways to engage with folks i know, i love, but it seems to inhibit such potential with each and every blog post, letter, email or journal article.
and, really, so it was with you. but we already know that. and maybe i should stop writing you. let you rest. so that i may rest. but until such time…
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Wednesday, January 28, 2010, 6:13 AM
subject: Re: ummmm
sorry for not replying last night but i fell asleep early…and now, your godchild just woke me up, so here i am. first of all: WOOOOOOOWWWWWWW!!!! i can’t believe that happened! but you’re such a good model for your students. i don’t even think what you said in class was insufficient but the fact that you followed-up by trying to address their concerns head-on is type wonderful! love you boo!
but wait. i’m all confused by a bit of it. you know i love your writing. but really, are you saying that homophobia in the church helped you leave the church? lolol…i don’t think so, but maybe this is a blonde moment…
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Wednesday, January 28, 2010, 9:18 AM
subject: Re: ummmm
well…sorta. what i’m saying is that the church i grew up in has this theology of “deliverance” – you know, if i just wait on the lord, he’ll deliver me from my sins of homosexuality. and they also taught that what we do is not who we are, that are behaviors are not reducible to our identities. and that’s some hella queer theory shit, in all honesty [but i don’t think queer theorists are ready to admit it…lol].
so yeah, when my church would say to folks that they can be delivered, what they were implying is a critique of – to be all Kantian for a second – a predetermined teleology but they did so in the service of a predetermined teleology. the word “can” was to tell us that we do not have to be whatever sinful thing we thought we’d be if we didn’t want to be that thing. so they were presenting an alternative future, a different endpoint by disrupting a normative teleology – end point, narrative arc – of where whatever sin we engaged in would lead us. so though they wanted to create a different narrative arc – the possibility of deliverance that would have us end up being “saved, sanctified and filled with the precious gift of the holy ghost” – they had to disrupt the one already set in place BY the theology of fallen humanity, of Adam, Eve and fruits, and Jesus as savior and whatnot. they had to place the theology they preach to the side in order to give us a theology of deliverance.
the problem, of course, is that the “can” of deliverance is only one such possibility…there are, we know, infinite possibilities and i definitely didn’t choose the deliverance camp. but it was in the fact that the church even believed that one’s future was not predetermined that gave me enough time to say that my present and future were not codeteremined, and this was sufficient enough for me to “wait” to see what the future could be for me. sure. i wanted to be delivered but while i was waiting, there was this other possibility that was already in me that began to flourish. and, shit, well…it just made sense.
i guess what i’m saying is that the theological life was hella complicated and i can’t just retrospectively dismiss it as if it were ever somehow white and black. but i also realize that what i made of the theologies were my experiences. so yeah, as convoluted as that might be, that’s my tentative reply…lol
anyway. love you…talk to you laterz…
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Wednesday, January 28, 2010, 10:05 AM
subject: Re: ummmm
hahaha…i think i get it but i’m gonna read it about fiftyleven more times before i tell you if i do or don’t…lol