Wednesday, March 31, 2021
One thing the COVID pandemic did was to give us a lot of free time. For many people, it was too much free time, especially in the beginning. When we weren’t scrambling for toilet paper and sanitizer wipes, we were sitting in our homes with every topic under the sun swirling around in our heads. It meant watching a lot of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+, not to mention way too much online shopping. With more time than usual to sit and think, many of us have reconsidered what we find to be important in our lives. The loneliness of quarantines and lockdowns has made a lot of us realize just how much we would like to have a partner by our side.
As we begin moving forward once COVID is a memory, many of us who are single might be rethinking how to go about not only how we date, but who we date. It won’t be a surprise if people take their time and get to know people more often. I think people might be a little more careful and get to know someone better before moving forward. I think it will be important to think about whether this was a person who diligently wore a mask and observed social distancing because it will tell us whether he cares about the well-being of others or if he is just a selfish asshole. Of course, the alternative of just swiping right and setting up a quick hookup will still be available, but I think the COVID pandemic has taught us a lot about human nature. We’ve spent a year and some change with not much else but ourselves and our thoughts, and that longing for human connection could result in a wave of monogamy, something that technology and smartphones seemed to have left in the past.
As the world starts to reopen and we can return to bars and clubs (I miss the monthly drag shows in Burlington), it’s important to remember that while we were alone during 2020, we should remember that it’s not a bad thing to want a solid foundation in terms of a relationship. However, there is a flip side to this because life is like a coin. There are always two sides to every situation. Yes, the lack of human connection has been dismal, but the nonexistent physical contact has been just as bad for many. Once people are vaccinated, we can once again get together with others without fear of contracting a disease that has killed over half a million people in the US alone. We might see a rise in not only monogamous relationships, but a whole lot of hookups because for a lot of people—that’s been off the table for over a year. I recently downloaded a few dating apps again, mostly to see if anything had changed and if the landscape of available men had changed. Men are definitely horny. I’ve seen a lot more interest than I usually do when I log into those apps, but I am looking for something more than just a quick one night stand.
Relationships are probably going to get deeper and more common but there is also going to be a sexual revolution of sorts with more people (dare I say, desperately) looking for hookups. With that, it’s wise to remain cautious not just because of COVID, but also keeping in mind that STDs have not ceased to exist. If you’re not the type that realized a need for a partner after this and just want to hookup, keep in mind that there are plenty of people exiting the pandemic with the same sexual needs. So, it’s always smart to practice safe sex—more so than ever because people are going to be screwing around like well, they haven’t fucked in over a year.
Throughout history, major events have always had an impact on our romance and sexual lives, and COVID is no different. Whether we’re seeing the reality of having someone close at all times, or the power of sex—the post-COVID world might be a wild one.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
New Recruits, c. 1917
By Wilfred Owen
Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men’s are, dead.
Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.
So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
They were not ours:
We never heard to which front these were sent.
Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.
Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild trainloads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back, silent, to still village wells
Up half-known roads.
“The Send-off” describes a group of new soldiers departing for the trenches of the Great War by train, ‘The Send-Off’ was not one of Wilfred Owen’s poems that I was familiar with until I came across it yesterday. Wilfred Owen is most often remembered as one of the more passionate and eloquent voices of the First World War poets. Most of the poems for which he is now famous were written in a period of intense creativity between 1917 and 1918. The poem I am most familiar with is "Dulce et Decorum Est," which he wrote at Craiglockhart hospital near Edinburgh where he had been sent to recover from neurasthenia, better known as shellshock. While at the hospital, he would meet the poet and novelist, Siegfried Sassoon, who had a major impact upon his life and work and played a crucial role in publishing Owen’s poetry following Owen’s untimely death in 1918, aged 25. Only five of Owen's poems were published in his lifetime. Owen wrote a number of his most famous poems at Craiglockhart.
“The Send-off” was written at Ripon, where there was a huge army camp. The poem describes a group of soldiers leaving for the Western Front by train. They had just come from a sending-off ceremony—cheering crowds, bells, drums, flowers given by strangers—and they were being packed into trains for an unknown destination. Note the effect of the early use of an oxymoron: the men are said to be “grimly gay.” They sang as they marched gayly from the upland camp to the siding shed, but the use of “grimly” suggests that they know enough about what lies ahead of them to feel somber and anxious.
The poem suggests that they may have been given flowers to celebrate the bravery of their commitment to the cause, but Owen emphatically compares the “wreath and spray” to flowers for the “dead.” Traditionally flowers have a double significance – colorful flowers for a celebration, white flowers for mourning. So, the women who stuck flowers on their breasts thought they were expressing support but were actually garlanding them for the slaughter of the Western Front. One of the things which make “The Send-Off” a masterful piece of poetry is the way in which Owen suggests the cracks already showing beneath the supposedly joyous and celebratory event of a group of soldiers being cheered on as they depart their homes and head for the Western Front.
“The Send-Off” correctly predicts that those soldiers who are lucky enough to return home alive will find their hometowns and villages to be very different (“half-known”) from the ones they left: there will be no crowds of girls to greet them and cheer them as there was to see them off, and no great celebration of their heroism. And many who returned would never be the same again, mentally scarred by shellshock, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the horrors witnessed. During and after the First World War, many people could not bear to watch a train moving away because this reminded them of a last meeting. His work is full of compassion and outrage and technically highly skillful. Perhaps more than any other poet of the First World War he was able to show the reality and horror of war.
Sadly, Owen was killed in action on November 4, 1918, during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal, exactly one week (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice which ended the war and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant the day after his death. His mother received the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day, as the church bells in Shrewsbury were ringing out in celebration. Owen is buried at Ors Communal Cemetery, Ors, in northern France. The inscription on his gravestone, chosen by his mother Susan, is based on a quote from his poetry: "SHALL LIFE RENEW THESE BODIES? OF A TRUTH ALL DEATH WILL HE ANNUL" W.O.
Monday, March 29, 2021
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!”
— John 12:12-13
Today is Palm Sunday, the Christian holiday that occurs on the Sunday before Easter. The holiday commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, mentioned in each of the four Gospels. Jesus entered the city knowing He would be tried and crucified and welcomed His fate to rise from the grave and save us from our sins. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, which is a remembrance of Jesus' last days before being crucified and rising from the dead on the third day.
Jesus’ entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey to the celebration and praise of the gathered crowd. Jesus’ triumphal entry fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus as King and Messiah. Isaiah 62:11 calls for “Daughter of Zion” to watch for the Messiah, and Zechariah 9:9 depicts the King as “Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”
While most royal processions feature incredible extravagance, Jesus humbly entered the town on a simple donkey. While kings rode horses during times of war, rulers rode donkeys during times of peace as a sign of humility toward the people (1 Kings 1:38-40). Here, Jesus exemplified the peaceful return of a king to Jerusalem. By riding on a donkey, He showed that He came to bring grace and not judgment. Also, it is significant that Jesus rode a colt, which is a young and untrained donkey. Typically, it would be challenging for someone to ride an unbroken animal through a crowded and jubilant scene with an unfamiliar rider on its back, but Jesus was able to ride the colt easily.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was meant to resemble a peaceful royal procession (2 Kings 9:13), yet up until this point, Jesus had consistently avoided anything resembling royal displays (Matthew 8:4, Matthew 9:30, Matthew 12:16). However, He was now ready to present Himself publicly as the Messiah and King. This was Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem, and He chose to enter in such a way as to leave no doubt that He was the promised Messiah who had come to save the nation. No one in the city could miss the procession or the prophecy-fulfilling reference Jesus’ entry conveyed.
On Palm Sunday, parishioners are given palm fronds to represent the fronds that worshippers waved as Christ returned to Jerusalem for the final time before His death. Churches usually keep the palm fronds throughout the following year, burning them the day before Ash Wednesday. So, Palm Sunday does more than celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week. It has a further significance that happens nearly a year later on Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent, the solemn 40-day period of repentance and fasting that precedes Easter. The ashes used to make crosses on believers' foreheads for Ash Wednesday come from burning the palms from the preceding year’s Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday began in the Jerusalem Church during the late third century. Observances consisted of hymns, prayers, and Bible readings as people traveled through the many holy places within the city. At the final place, the site of Jesus’ ascent into heaven, the ministry would recite the biblical passage of Jesus’ victorious entrance into Jerusalem. Then as dusk neared, the people would return to the city, declaring: “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21:9). This tradition continued until the sixth and seventh centuries when the ceremonial blessing of the palms was included. By the eighth century, a morning procession substituted the evening one, and the Western Church was celebrating what we now know as “Palm Sunday.”
Saturday, March 27, 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021
The vaccine shot was a bit more painful than a flu vaccine, but probably not as bad as the pneumonia vaccine. It was nowhere near as painful as the Emgality shots I used to take for my migraines. I did feel a bit flushed afterward for a few minutes. My face felt hot, and so did my arm, but it only lasted a few minutes. So far, I have experienced no other side effects. My arm wasn’t even sore last night unless I pressed on it. I am scheduled to take my second shot on April 15 and will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks later, on April 29. At least I know what to expect next time. I know this process was much better than the hours my parents sat in their car waiting in line for four or five hours to get their shots.
I also had to get my weekly COVID test for my university, which has become a pretty routine thing at this point. We just walk in and register, which involved giving our name and showing that we have the all-clear email from the university’s daily screening system. We then walk to a table where we are told to remove our masks and blow our nose. Then we put our masks back on, sanitize our hands, and move to the next available testing table. We are given a vial with our name and information on it and a cotton swab. We then move to the end of the table, take off our mask, swirl the swab around each nostril five times, and put it in the vial. Then we put our masks back on and once again sanitize our hands before leaving. I should receive my results sometime tomorrow.
It was a busy day, not just because I got the COVID vaccine and test. Wednesday night, the tooth that I had the root canal began to hurt worse than it had been hurting. It’s always been sensitive since the root canal, but it had started to be painful in the last several days, in addition to being sensitive. I called my dentist’s office, and at first, they just prescribed an antibiotic and set up an appointment for April 1. Luckily, they called back because they had a cancellation and could get me in at 3:15. I took the appointment right away. He took an x-ray and tapped around on my teeth and did some bite tests. He believes a crack in that tooth that would not show up in an x-ray is causing a recurring infection there. I discussed with him my trigeminal neuralgia diagnosis from my neurologist and what prescriptions I am on for that. He believes the tooth is aggravating my trigeminal nerve and that I don’t have full-blown trigeminal neuralgia. He said that if there is improvement after taking the antibiotic, he believes the tooth may be a significant part, if not the primary cause, of the pain I’ve been experiencing on the right side of my head. He said if the pain lessens in the tooth, he wants to extract the tooth in hopes that it will relieve the pain.
I messaged my neurologist with what my dentist said, and I am waiting to hear back from her. She and I had discussed the tooth being the cause of the trigeminal neuralgia and what started this pain in the first place. I hope that she and my dentist can get to the bottom of this nerve and tooth pain. I desperately need relief. I have seen very little relief from the medicine prescribed for the trigeminal neuralgia, and the pain has been pretty constant. Since this whole thing began back in November of last year, the pain has always felt different from migraine pain, but it all started at the same time this tooth became abscessed. Now, I have to wait for what my neurologist says and if the antibiotic causes any improvement.
Thursday, March 25, 2021
An Athenian red-figure kylix (cup) dating from around 510–500 BC depicts a young pentathlete pulling his older lover towards him for a kiss. In many of the city-states of ancient Greece, sex between a man and a youth was an accepted – even idealized – form of love, its virtues extolled in works by writers including Plato.
In Ancient Greece, some philosophical reflections even idealized same-sex love. We can find notable examples in the Symposium, the philosopher Plato’s description of an intellectually high-powered Athenian dinner party. One character, Phaedrus, extols the virtues of manly, same-sex love among warriors and legislators: “And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonor, and emulating one another in honor; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world.” This, allegedly, was the inspiration for the Sacred Band of Thebes, comprising 150 pairs of male lovers, which fought heroically at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC before succumbing to the overwhelming forces of Philip II of Macedon.
Another dinner guest at Plato’s imagined symposium, Pausanias, contrasts “base” love (with women and boys) as merely for sexual gratification and therefore inferior, with “noble” love (with young men). The latter, he says, is “pure” and about instilling guidance and wisdom in a pedagogical relationship rather than sex. This rationalization of same-sex love, whether platonic or carnal, had an extraordinary resilience in western societies over the next couple of millennia and beyond. Take, for example, the famous defense by Oscar Wilde at his trial for sodomy and gross indecency in 1895: “The ‘love that dare not speak its name’ in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare… It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it.”
Throughout history, the receptive/penetrated partner in male same-sex relationships has often been seen as the lesser person in the relationship. One of the most famous examples of bottom shaming is Julius Caesar, who has often been portrayed as a macho, militaristic, elite Roman leader. Much of that masculine power revolved as much around his ability to demonstrate his sexual prowess (think Cleopatra) as it did around political prowess. However, his contemporary political rivals saw this masculinity differently and often commented on such. Julius Caesar was nicknamed the “bald adulterer,” which fit the Roman political stereotype perfectly by sleeping his way to power. As a young man, he spent a considerable amount of time at the court of King Nicomedes of Bithynia, fueling a series of rumors about an affair in which Caesar was the submissive party. His return to Bithynia just a few days after leaving to “collect a debt” further fanned the flames. Suetonius tells us that this was the only stain on Caesar’s masculinity. But it was a stain that proved difficult to wash out, and he would be reminded of it throughout his prematurely ended life. One colleague, Bibulus, addressed Caesar as “the queen of Bithynia.” During an assembly, a man named Octavius hailed his co-consul Pompey as “king” and Caesar as “queen.”
Male sexuality and sexual masculinity have been defined throughout history by the role played by the receptive partner. Women have been seen by most of world history as the weaker sex, and because they take on the receptive role in sex, a man who is the penetrated partner for another man is seen as less of a man. A gay man’s position in the bedroom can extend to how he’s perceived in the LGBTQ+ community. Bottoms, those who are the receptive partner, are often not afforded the respect they deserve. Bottoms deserve a lot more respect than they usually receive. All too often, the terms "bottom" and "submissive" are used interchangeably. However, not all bottoms are submissive. Some bottoms can be quite aggressive, thus the term "power bottom."
Even versatile men can have a more submissive side because they may prefer those who bottom for them to be more aggressive, but versatile men may also like those who top them to be more aggressive. The opposite can also be true: a versatile gay man who is more dominant may prefer more submissive bottoms and to take control of sex when they are the bottom. Then there are the “strict tops” who refuse to bottom no matter what. These men are often the least respectful of bottoms, and “strict bottoms” may often feel (or be perceived as) inferior to tops for being the receptive partner. The dichotomy of the top/bottom relationship needs to be more respectful for both positions.
Most tops do not consider that being a bottom takes a lot of preparation before engaging in anal sex—something a top benefit from but seldom worries about. The idea of spontaneous sex might sound like a thrill, but it is an unrealistic fantasy of the gay community seen in depictions of gay life from m/m romance novels to gay porn. We don’t want to think about all the preparation available. It’s similar to something I once read about Henry James's novels that no one ever goes to the bathroom in his novels, though that is true of most novels. However, for a bottom who hasn’t prepared for sex, it can be a stressful and uncomfortable experience. To avoid any awkward mishaps during sex, most bottoms will prepare for it—even if there’s only a tiny chance, they might have sex that day. Even with the most preparation and precautions taken, most bottoms will still hope and pray the entire time that no accidents happen.
Furthermore, it should come as no surprise to anyone that anal sex can be painful at times, and it can take a lot of getting used to before it becomes a fully satisfying sexual experience. When it’s been a while, it’s literally like sticking your finger in a Chinese finger trap, and we all know that isn’t the most enjoyable thing. Most gay men will prepare themselves for bottoming ahead of time. Still, if they don’t know their partner’s penis size, this could make the experience more satisfying if he has a larger than average girth but might be less enjoyable if his penis is less girthy. There is a lot to consider and be prepared for, but it’s also a gamble if you don’t know what to expect. A bottom might ask for “Size?” or “Pics?” from a potential partner while chatting online. Those are not just questions for size queens; they can also be a question so that the bottom can be more prepared for the top. Many men will just see those questions as crude, but the bottom may just be trying to prepare for a better experience for the top.
In the gay community, bottoms are still seen as the more feminine ones. Bottoms are looked at as less than tops in the community. If you doubt this is true, then ask yourself, when was the last time you heard someone refer to a “top” in a derogatory way. Gay men often have insecurities about being labeled a bottom because the gay community all too often engages in "bottom shaming." Why is this the case? It goes back to historical perceptions of gay sex which ingrained in men the idea that the receptive partner was lesser: either they were the younger partner, a slave, etc. Achilles and Patroclus were an example of this, while the exception was the relationship between Alexander the Great and Hephaestion. Yet, even with Alexander, all of his male lovers were not equal, such was the case with another of his favorite sexual partners, Bagoas, a eunuch "in the very flower of boyhood." It’s a stereotype that we must work to change.
The fact is your sexual preference be it top, bottom, or versatile, doesn’t mean a damn thing when it comes to your masculinity. We should be proud if we are a bottom, a top, or a bit of both. We should be proud of our sexuality and not get bogged down in roles because why does it matter? You need to realize it doesn’t matter, and we are all a part of the same community and should uplift each other instead of trying to tear each other down. Tops come in all shapes and sizes, including short guys and feminine guys. Plenty of drag queens out there are tops. Don’t assume someone is a top or a bottom because of the way they present or because of their size. There are also plenty of well-endowed bottoms, and while many of us may find that a waste of a good penis, we should respect their preferences. It boils down to each of us respecting one another.
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
In the gay community, a sexual premium is placed on masculinity, which puts pressure on gay men to be masculine. Dating (hook-up) apps often feature ads saying they are looking for “Masc4Masc” or describe themselves as “straight-acting.” More feminine-acting men are seen as less desirable sexual partners for these men. In one 2012 study about gay men’s attitudes toward masculinity, a majority of those surveyed said it was important not only for themselves to present as masculine but for their partners to look and act masculine as well. Other studies have found that gay men are more attracted to masculine-looking faces and muscular builds. The more masculine one rates oneself, the greater importance one places on masculinity in his partner.
I remember as a child being made fun of because I liked to play with the girls or that I walked with a swish or used my hands to talk. These were seen as feminine, but there was the unspoken belief that if others derided me for that behavior, I’d conform to the masculine ideal. I remember my father even made me play flag football during recess because that’s what all the other boys did, even though I hated it and felt uncomfortable playing football. He did not care. When I reached puberty, and my voice changed, it did not become very deep, and I was often made fun of for the way I talked. Other boys used to mock me with an over-effected gay voice. I spent most of my life in school trying to avoid being seen as feminine or gay. While some may dismiss the reverence of masculinity among gay men as “just a preference” or the ridicule of less than masculine men, both have been documented to have adverse mental health effects. Gay men who are more gender-nonconforming struggle more frequently with self-esteem and experience higher levels of depression and anxiety. Those who prize masculinity are more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies, gestures, and voices.
A primary reason people in the LGBT community have more mental health issues is not only because they experience higher levels of marginalization from society at large but also because of the intense pressure to be, look, and act in a masculine way. However, there is also the larger issue of this social exclusion happening within the queer community itself. We’re judging and excluding one another because of perceived gender roles. Gay culture’s obsession with masculinity hurts both masculine and feminine men alike. Even gay men who endorse their own masculinity feel a degree of uncertainty about whether they are manly enough in the way others see them. There is a certain feeling that they will never be masculine enough.
While such feelings are most common earlier in the coming-out stages, masculine norms continue to affect gay men’s sense of self long after they’ve come out. Many gay men want to fit in and be seen as “normal,” not different. If you pay attention to gay social media personalities, you may notice that the strict division between masculine and feminine appears to be blurring. A majority of Millennials believe gender falls on a spectrum, and a survey from queer-rights organization GLAAD showed 12 percent of this generation identifies as gender non-conforming. Take, for example, the social media personality Tate Hoskins, who has grown in popularity by blurring the gender norms for young men by switching from an ultra-masculine country boy to a femme boy in a French maid outfit and cat ears. He’s taken a lot of flak for embracing a non-gender conforming attitude. Still, he continues to stay positive and have his message heard by his nearly 754K followers on TikTok and his close to 30K followers on Instagram. The following video has more than 2 million likes and has been viewed by many more:
Gay men know instinctually that that masculinity is fluid. Even the most “straight-acting” gay man can’t call everyone “bro” all the time. All gay men engage in code-switching, butching it up in a job interview but letting themselves “queen out” at the weekly Drag Race gathering. Much of this variation in behavior stems from a desire to avoid negative social repercussions from society at large, but gay men also tend to put on their straight faces to be more appealing to other gay men. As young people push the boundaries of gender, an increasing number of gay men feel comfortable questioning gay culture’s idolization of traditional masculinity—and the notion that desire is bound by it. It would take a whole new series of posts to discuss the gay obsession with straight men. In gay romance, you sometimes see the trope of the straight man who falls for a gay man either only to realize he was always gay or that he is gay for just one man. Then there is the genre of gay porn that uses gay for pay actors to get viewers or the gaybaiting of the bromosexual culture. Straight men can be a nice fantasy, but a diversity of gender norms (or lack thereof) can all be found within the gay community.
We should respect the diversity of the gay community more and quit looking outside our community for what is considered normal. Too many gay men only want a masculine, fit top with a large penis. Other gay men have an obsession with the myth of a six-pack gay (a straight man who will go gay after a six-pack of beer). It’s all unhealthy. And while some men exist out there who are very masculine, have a perfect body, and possess a huge dick, they are few and far between, and it’s an expectation that is found more often in porn than in real life. We need to look more for what is in a man’s heart than his outer appearance, whether that is his body, fashion sense, or mannerisms.
Tomorrow, I will discuss how bottom shaming has hurt gay men throughout world history.
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
A Prayer in Spring
By Robert Frost
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.
Robert Frost’s “A Prayer in Spring” is a prayer in poetic form giving thanks and gratitude to God for the blessing of spring. The poem shows how spring is an expression of God’s love. The poet reminds us to give a prayer of thanks for receiving the happiness and pleasure that we experience in springtime because we are given spring as a gift from God. We should remember the present beauty and indulgence of spring and not think of the unpredictability of the future because the future is God’s secret.
The overall theme of “A Prayer in Spring” is an expression of God’s love. Frost wants us to trust in God completely even during spring or times of change. God brings us the beauty of spring, and He has given us everything to reach Him and to ask for His guidance. Frost offers an uncomplicated prayer to God in this poem, focusing on love and gratitude that is traditionally on display during the season of Thanksgiving. As the poet prays to God, he is also inviting his audience to become as delighted in "the springing of the year” as they do in the later harvest which happens in autumn—two seasons away from spring.
Monday, March 22, 2021
I’m back to going into the museum for part of the week. Mondays are my day to go into the museum each week. If I have a program to do, I go in on that day too, but mostly it’s only on Mondays. Usually, I am at the museum with my boss, and it’s just the two of us. Our schedules are only allowing two employees in the museum on any given day, which means we are most likely the only two people in the museum all day. We aren’t getting any visitors right now because we are only open to students, faculty, and staff. No one in the three groups seem to want to visit the museum right now.
Sunday, March 21, 2021
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
—1 John 4:8
When I began accepting my sexuality, I did what I think many of those raised in a strict Christian environment did; I read everything I could about homosexuality in the Bible. I soon began to look at the deeper analyses of the original text of the Bible and the context surrounding the texts used to condemn homosexuality. I learned that the New Testament had nothing in it that condemned being gay and that there were many mistranslations of the Bible. As I historian, I began to study the Old Testament passages such as Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. Why were those passages in the Old Testament? Historically, civilizations, such as the Ancient Hebrews who were most concerned about population growth, condemned homosexuality. The laws of Leviticus mainly pertain to issues to promote health and population growth. Per-Christian civilizations, such as Ancient Greece who had a greater acceptance of homosexual practices, did not worry as much about population growth, and often had people to spare and colonized surrounding lands.
I studied all of these issues because I wanted to be able to explain, backward and forward, how I could “justify” being gay with the Bible, especially to my mother. I wanted to be able to answer every question and accusation. I wanted to be confident and secure. I wanted there to be no question in my mind and to be able to erase every question in my mother’s mind. I believed the Bible was my shield, my protection, to be used to defend myself from those like my mother who would use the Bible as a weapon. I wanted to protect myself.
I did not face the real issue (my own acceptance of myself) because I was too worried about what others would think of me. The perception of others caused a great deal of fear, depression, and hiding, and it took me years to change my thinking about that. I let other people lock me in a closet. Eventually, it took moving 1,400 miles from my family to a state where I made friends who accepted me unconditionally, before I could accept myself and stop worrying so much about what others thought. I realized that I shouldn’t have let other people set the rules of my sexuality and life. Not only that, I would never be able to change the minds of people like my mother, even if I possessed the perfect argument. Maybe one day, if I find a partner, my family will change their mind and accept me for the way God created me. But, I doubt it.
I no longer have to ask myself: “How do I explain my faith and my sexuality to people?” “How do I justify being gay?” I was raised in the Church of Christ, a church that believed their way was the ONLY way. All others who were not members of the Church of Christ were destined for Hell. The issue I had with that is I knew people who were very good people, like my maternal grandfather, who was not a member of the Church of Christ but a Baptist. I could never believe that he was going to Hell just because he did not belong to a particular congregation. It was more about if you were a good person, not the church you belonged to. Also, billions of people live on this earth who are not Christian but are good people, and billions have lived through history that never even heard of Christianity. Surely God did not mean that all of them went to Hell. I realized that there isn’t just one way to be a Christian, nor is Christianity the only path to salvation. The Bible does not have a monopoly on morality, and there are many different interpretations of the Bible. Throughout the centuries, in other countries, and in all of the various churches, there is a diversity of beliefs, thoughts, and practices that fall under Christianity's very large banner.
We don’t have to defend ourselves against the hatred of those who pervert the meaning of the Bible. They are making the best argument against their own beliefs when they show their hatred, ignorance, and disgust because at the same time they ignore 1 John 4:8, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” He who does not love does not know God: nine essential words that hold the essence of all the 783,137 that comprise the Bible. We don’t have to allow other people to set the limits of conversation or define acceptable discourse. We can simply walk away when the conversation makes us uncomfortable knowing our righteousness. We can prioritize our emotional and mental health over and above answering every question asked of us. “God is love, and your hate-filled beliefs go against God” is an acceptable answer in my book. It’s all that needs to be said, if you choose to say anything at all.
We also have the option to change the conversation to one about love and acceptance. Instead of letting someone else define how the conversation goes, we can tell them how our faith makes us feel, how it gives us life, and how it changes the way we live. Tell a story of how God has deepened your faith because of being gay. I know I understand my faith a lot more since I began studying the scriptures instead of just listening to a preacher every Sunday. The story of the Bible is our story, too. No one gets to define our faith for us. Our relationship with God is a personal relationship that no one can define for us. Religious leaders want to define that relationship because that gives them power over you and others. They are just men. They don’t have any relationship with God that is more special than your relationship with God.
Most anti-LGBTQ+ religious leaders will likely never understand or change, even if God appeared in a giant glowing light and told them they were wrong. Recently, the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group that serves as the lobbying arm of the religious right, describes LGBTQ+ people as “unnatural” and “immoral” in a message to supporters. They reminded recipients at the beginning of the message of a Bible verse that commands followers to kill gay people. David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview said, “The apostle Paul explains that humanity has rejected God, exchanging the truth about Him and the things He created for a lie.” Sadly, he is likely never to realize that Paul spoke of people like him who have rejected God’s unconditional love. Groups like the FRC and others like them are likely to ramp up their hateful rhetoric as the Equality Act is discussed more. They will become apoplectic if it passes. However, it’s time we stop allowing these people to control the conversation. It’s time we start telling our own stories in our own way.
We have to quit separating ourselves from religion and instead change the conversation. We have to oppose their hate-filled use of Christianity with the truth of God’s love. It is the only way we can take back the conversation. The religious right has strayed so far from God’s message that we cannot create the world Jesus was brought to this earth to save until we take back the conversation.
Saturday, March 20, 2021
Friday, March 19, 2021
The United States appeared to be changing, and it looked like equal rights and protections were in the future for Generations Y and Z. However, it would not be easy. In 1993, the Department of Defense issued a directive prohibiting the U.S. Military from barring applicants from service based on their sexual orientation. "Applicants... shall not be asked or required to reveal whether they are homosexual," stated the new policy. But it still forbade applicants from engaging in homosexual acts or making a statement that he or she was homosexual. This policy was known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Then in 1996, Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law. The law defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman and said no state was required to recognize a same-sex marriage from out of state. On November 4, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8, making same-sex marriage in California illegal. The passing of the ballot garnered national attention from gay-rights supporters across the U.S. Prop 8 inspired the NOH8 campaign, a photo project using celebrities to promote marriage equality.
As these setbacks eventually have been overturned, Generations Y and Z have grown up in a time of immense change mainly for the better. In December 2010, the U.S. Senate voted to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. Military. On June 26, 2015, in a 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. These new freedoms and equality brought new challenges for the youngest members of the LGBTQ+ community. The “Alphabet Mafia,” so named for all the letters to support the sexual spectrum (LGBTQIA, etc.), has given rise to a backlash from religious conservatives. While more states every year work to pass laws to protect LGBTQ+ people, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals largely have been protected by rulings only from the U.S. Supreme Court. Those rulings are now in jeopardy with the make-up of the current court. The Equality Act passed by the House of Representatives is unlikely to pass the Senate unless changes are made to the filibuster or the filibuster is abolished. Plus, there are bills advancing through state legislatures that target transgender people, limit local protections, and allow the use of religion to discriminate.
The current anti-transgender bills target transgender and nonbinary people for discrimination by barring or criminalizing healthcare for transgender youth, stopping access to the use of appropriate facilities like restrooms, restricting transgender students’ ability to fully participate in school and sports, allowing religiously-motivated discrimination against trans people, or making it more difficult for trans people to get identification documents with their name and gender. Two of these bills, Alabama's HB-1 and SB-10, companion bills filed by Rep. Wes Allen and Sen. Shay Shelnutt, would criminalize medical professionals who support transgender youths’ identity forcing them to choose between the possibility of government prosecution or adhering to the evidence-based clinical guidelines of their field. These bills would expressly prohibit the use of puberty-blockers and hormone therapies, and require school counselors to report instances of "gender dysphoria." They also ban gender-affirmation surgeries or sex-reassignment surgeries on children although such procedures are not performed on minors. If passed through the House of Representatives and State Senate, these bills would make Alabama the first U.S. state to enact an official transgender medical ban. The ban is one of eight anti-trans pieces of legislation being considered by state legislatures across the country. Medical experts and transgender advocates warn criminalizing transgender medical care could lead to a spike in suicides and mental health problems among trans youth.
Since the 1970s, when gay rights began to be enacted in some parts of the country, there has been a conservative backlash. It has happened for every minority that has tried to gain equality. The fight is a long way from being over for the LGBTQ+ community just as it continues to be a struggle for racial and ethnic minorities. Until Congress enacts solid protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and the courts back up those protections, conservatives in the U.S. will continue to find new ways to attack our rights. They will continue to use hate and religion to find exemptions even for protections that already have been enacted. In 1988, only 11 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage. National support for same-sex marriage's legal recognition rose above 50 percent for the first time in 2011. Today, the percentage of Americans who support gay marriage is slightly above 70 percent. I believe the most significant roadblock to LGBTQ+ rights are, and will continue to be, religious exemptions. I think the current Supreme Court will uphold religious exemptions. Until that changes, we will not have equality. The only way to end religious discrimination is for religious organizations with tax-exempt status to lose that status because of their discriminatory practices.
As I said at the beginning of Wednesday’s post, every LGBTQ+ generation has faced the difficulty of: if my family finds out I am gay, will they reject me? or if I come out, will my family accept me? Sadly, until there is universal acceptance of the diversity of sexuality, this is unlikely to change. In the seven generations since 1900, each generation has faced its own unique problems with some of those being carried over to other generations. It is paramount that the living generations of the LGBTQ+ community have conversations about what is important to younger gay generations versus those who remember the Stonewall riots and lived through the AIDS crisis. Whether perceived or real, differences between generations have existed long before the term “generation gap” became popular in the 1960s.
Often, each generation has different views on social, political, cultural, and religious issues. LGBTQ+ generations before Millennials were mostly in the closet and afraid of being outed, losing their job and families, possibly their lives. Many of those generations tried to maintain an appearance of “respectability” by being married and having children. In many ways, Generation X was a transition generation between the old and the new. They were the first to experiment with the internet and begin creating a greater LGBTQ+ community. The gay generations since the Millennials can connect no matter where they live. They never knew a time without the internet and have made the most use of technology. They can be more integrated into the mainstream, and they find it easier to be open about their sexuality within society. They have role models and allies that did not exist for older generations. In my opinion, if we recognize our differences, realize what we have in common, understand our past, and embrace our future, we can come together and be a powerful unstoppable force.
This three-part series of posts is not meant to be an exhaustive look at the problems faced by generations of LGBTQ+ individuals. This final installment is focused on the latest generations growing up in a vastly different world from earlier LGBTQ+ generation, and thus the focus is on how much more still needs to be done.
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Generation X, my generation, grew up in a world where gay men were gripped by the fear of AIDS. Contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was a death sentence. When the AIDS epidemic took hold in the U.S., it surged through communities that the straight world preferred not to see. HIV/AIDS has had a disproportionate impact on certain populations, particularly gay and bisexual men, other men who have sex with men, and racial and ethnic minorities. The AIDS epidemic was ignored by the Reagan administration for much of the 1980s even as the spread of the virus grew exponentially. By the fall of 1981, more than 100 AIDS cases had been reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By February 1983, the first 1,000 cases had been reported. The second 1,000 were reported in the next six months, and the third 1,000 before the end of the year.
By the end of 1984, AIDS had ravaged the United States for at least three years affecting approximately 7,700 people and killing more than 3,500. It is possible AIDS had been present and unseen for years before that. Scientists had identified the cause of HIV/AIDS, and the CDC had identified all its major transmission routes. Yet, US leaders mainly remained silent and unresponsive to the health emergency. It wasn't until September 1985, four years after the crisis began, that President Reagan first publicly mentioned AIDS. But by then, AIDS was already a full-blown epidemic. By the late 1980s, cases had been reported from every state. It took eight years (until August 1989) for the first 100,000 cases to be reported; the second 100,000 were reported in just two years (by November 1991). The half-million total was passed in October of 1995. The cumulative total of cases through December 2001 was 816,149, of whom 666,026 (81.6%) were men, 141,048 (17.3%) were women, and 9,074 (1.1%) were children under age 13.
The stigma and discrimination associated with AIDS and gay men were overwhelming. Public response was negative in the early years of the epidemic. In 1983, a doctor in New York was threatened with eviction leading to the first AIDS discrimination lawsuit. Bathhouses across the country closed due to high-risk sexual activity. Some schools barred children with HIV from attending. When Congress held its first hearing on AIDS in 1982, only a single reporter showed up. In a House floor speech, Representative Bill Dannemeyer of California read graphic descriptions of homosexual sex acts. The actions and words of the powerful politician had a stifling effect on other Republicans inclined to help deal with the epidemic. Conservative politicians pushed for government registration of AIDS patients. In 1987, the United States placed a travel ban on visitors and immigrants with HIV. President Obama lifted this ban in 2010.
In early 1985, the CDC finally developed the nation's first AIDS prevention plan spearheaded by epidemiologist, Dr. Donald Francis. Washington leaders ultimately rejected it on February 4, 1985. Dr. Francis later recounted in an article in the Journal of Public Health Policy that Dr. John Bennett, the CDC's central coordinator for AIDS and the AIDS Task Force chairman, told him: "Don, they rejected the plan. They said, 'Look pretty and do as little as you can.'" On September 17, 1985, President Reagan finally, publicly mentioned AIDS when responding to a reporter's question. He called it a "top priority" and defended his administration's response and research funding. On October 2, Congress allocated nearly $190 million for AIDS research—$70 million more than the administration's request. That same day, actor Rock Hudson, Reagan's close personal friend, died from AIDS dragging the disease into the public's eye.
In 1986, reports from the Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Science and Reagan's Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, advocated for a coordinated response to AIDS. Under pressure, Reagan appointed a commission to investigate the epidemic. Towards the end of 1987, the country began taking steps to raise AIDS awareness by sponsoring AIDS Awareness Month, launching the "America Responds to AIDS" advertising campaign, and mailing the Surgeon General's findings to every American household. Reagan's response to AIDS should sound familiar. Our former, twice-impeached president used a similar tactic during the COVID pandemic. Take, for example, the following early response of the Reagan administration. During an October 1982 White House press briefing, Conservative journalist Lester Kinsolving questioned Larry Speakes, President Reagan's press secretary, about the president's reaction to AIDS which was then affecting some 600 people. When Kinsolving mentioned the disease was known as the "gay plague," the press pool erupted in laughter. Rather than providing a substantive answer, Speakes said, "I don't have it," sparking more laughter. He then proceeded to question Kinsolving multiple times about whether he had AIDS.
It became a joke for the Religious Right. When religious people found out you were gay, you often got the response, “I hope you die of AIDS” or “You’ll die of AIDS soon enough.” Families rejected their gay sons, and even more so if they had AIDS. The church of a cousin of mine who was gay and died of AIDS, refused to allow his funeral at the church or to allow him burial in the cemetery. The family never admitted he died of AIDS. But I knew. My aunt (it was her stepson) had told my mother the name of his doctor. He was the only doctor in Montgomery who would see AIDS patients. Being gay was not only the worst thing you could be, but many like me were raised to believe all gay people died of AIDS. It scared me into the closet for years.
Things slowly began to change as antiviral medications advanced, and AIDS was no longer a death sentence. In 1988, the World Health Organization organized the first World AIDS Day to raise awareness of the spreading pandemic. In May 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Romer v. Evans that Colorado's 2nd amendment denying gays and lesbians protections against discrimination was unconstitutional. In April 2000, Vermont became the first state in the US to legalize civil unions and registered partnerships between same-sex couples. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that sodomy laws in the U.S. were unconstitutional. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage. The state supreme court found the prohibition of gay marriage unconstitutional because it denied the dignity and equality of all individuals. In the following six years, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, and Washington D.C. followed suit.
This three-part series of posts is not meant to be an exhaustive look at the problems faced by generations of LGBTQ+ individuals. This second part largely focuses on the impact of the AIDS epidemic on Generation X, but the AIDS crisis affected all living generations of LGBTQ+ individuals.