Tidyup

So, yesterday and today I moved timothy.green.name to a different server. It’s now on the Dotser webserver: my boss offered me free hosting for my websites on the company’s server, and since I wasn’t happy with the existing provider it made sense to switch. I hope nothing on this site is so inflammatory that he asks me to move it again!

Before moving over, I went through and tidied up stuff. I started this blog by importing posts from three old blogs: Voice of Timothy, GreenTambourine, and PoliticalTambourine. The first of those was a lighthearted Blogger blog I created to supplement my h2g2 journal, largely because you can’t embed pictures or videos on a h2g2 journal. The other two were a place for me to vent and to think out loud when I was coming to terms with being gay. They were also written with a different Blogger theme which didn’t have titles on posts, which created problems when I imported those posts here: the posts appeared, but didn’t have a slug (permalink). I dealt with that by simply setting them all to private and deciding to sort it out later. Well, I sorted it out yesterday, going through all my old private posts, giving them titles (in many cases they already effectively had titles, in the form of some bold text at the top of the post, which I could pull out of the post body and turn into a real title), correcting some of the more noticeable spelling errors and fixing some of the formatting, and then resetting to public. It was a strange and slightly unreal experience, rereading those old posts. I was a different person then, cautiously feeling my way into a new sense of self, and yet much of the writing is somewhat bombastic in tone (and some of it isn’t: it’s a bit of a mixture). You can find all that stuff by looking for anything written by The boy with the green tambourine. (I rather liked that pseudonym; perhaps I should resurrect it.)


In other news, while I was moving the database from one server to the other, I took the opportunity to trim it a little. I got rid of all the metadata Akismet (the default WordPress spam filter) stores about each comment, and I deleted a lot of the spam comments. It was fairly easy to go through the database and find and delete every comment from “The Official Louis Vuitton Store”. Much quicker and easier than using the web interface. It’s amazing how many of the spam comments (Louis Vuitton and others) were trying to sell sports jerseys. (The other major spammer product was Dr Dre headphones.)


This is completely unrelated, but it’s in my head right now for some reason, so I’m including it. This is Tim Minchin’s song “Greed (Balsa Wood and Glue)”. It’s amazingly catchy.

And while I’m posting Tim Minchin songs, I may as well include a seasonal one, so here’s “White Wine in the Sun“.

Hate the Crime?

Here’s a brief quote from a post on a messageboard (now removed):

For those people who do hate crimes against homosexuals, shame on you!

And here’s my reply:

Of course. But it’s more subtle than that.

Beating a person up because he’s different is a shameful and despicable way to behave, I hope we can all agree. (I did see one poster here suggest that gay couples who dare to show any degree of affection in public are asking to be attacked, but he’s a nutcase I hope no one takes seriously. Anyway, I haven’t seen him around recently. He must have gone Elsewhere.)

But there’s another part to it. I grew up in a strongly religious household (my family are Witnesses). And I believed it myself. Being academically inclined, and reasonably intelligent, I enjoyed learning the intricacies of the abstruse theology of the religion. There are bits now I understand better than some of the elders in the congregation. (Would you like me to explain the concept of the prophetic year of 360 days?)

But through it all, from my very early teens (perhaps even before), I had to hide a large chunk of myself. I had to hide it from my friends, from my family, and also from myself. Adolescence is perhaps always confusing, but mine, spent refusing to think about what should have been the delightful discovery of my awakening sexuality, was probably more confused than most. Melikio once wrote that he lost a large part of his childhood. I can sympathise.

I remember my mother and my little sister once discussing a cute guy together. They wouldn’t usually do that, but this one was safe. They wouldn’t be seeing him again. He played the Genie of the Lamp in a proper traditional version of Aladdin in Kent. Gorgeous, he was. All I could safely say was that he seemed to be enjoying himself: he did have a big grin.

All I could safely say? All I could safely think! As if hiding it from others wasn’t enough, I hid myself from myself for far too long. Finally facing up to it was such a huge relief.

Your very words, spoken with the voice of authority, may condemn young people, perhaps your own children, to a broken and shattered life. The suicide rate among homosexual adolescents is by all accounts frighteningly high, though proper statistics are of course hard to come by. And it’s not hate crimes that causes that.

The doctrine that homosexuality itself is a sin is a pernicious evil. Do not allow it to be perpetrated. It causes too much misery.

For a believing teen, the thought of a lonely life ahead is burden enough, without that extra load. (Matthew 23:4.)

Originally published on GreenTambourine.

This Life

I love my parents, but I don’t trust them.

Awkward.

I know they love me, but I still can’t trust them.

I need to find myself an independent job, so I’m no longer working for my Dad. I need to move out of home. And then I’ll tell them.

And if I find that it’s okay, that I could have told them earlier, I’ll be sorry I didn’t, sorry I wasted so much time and mental pain.

But, where I am now, I can’t take that risk.

I haven’t even really told them I’m an atheist yet, though they do know I’m asking lots of questions and no longer trust the answers provided by the Watchtower Society.

It’s a mess.

Why do I want to tell them? Because I can never have a proper relationship with them until I do. I may not have a proper relationship afterward, either, but with a bit of work it should grow back. I hope.

Why do I want to tell them? Because until I tell them I can’t explain why I so despise the Watchtower Society. They taught me to hate myself. I can’t forgive that.

Why do I want to tell them? Because I want to tell everyone else, and I owe it to my parents to tell them first.

I do want to tell everyone. Not directly, perhaps, but I want to stop hiding who I am. Go to at least one Pride parade (depending what I see there, I may or may not go to more).

I have never seen an openly gay couple here. I’ve seen gay couples kissing once in Madrid (Atocha Railway Station, if you want to know) and once in Dublin (in St Stephen’s Green on a warm day). It matters to me to see that, and to see everyone else ignoring it. It’s no big deal. It should be no big deal. And yet it often is. Gay kids. Gay teens. Confused and lonely. They need to see that there’s a place for them in the big wide world. They need to see they can be happy. I almost feel it’s a duty for me to be publicly gay, and publicly happy.

One day. One day.


I wrote this for a messageboard, and then decided to put it also on the blog. The messageboard has since been redesigned, and all old posts have been removed. This was previously published on my GreenTambourine blog.

Choosing to be Gay

Does one choose to be gay? It’s a fascinating question, and many people feel that a great deal rides on the answer. If homosexuality is a choice, they argue, it is permissible to restrict the civil rights of homosexuals, and to encourage homosexual (or ‘pre-homosexual’) teenagers and younger children to ‘turn straight’. (Some of the methods used to achieve this end are quite nasty.) On the other hand, if homosexuality is ‘hard wired’, they should be nice to homosexuals.

James Dobson of Focus on the Family, in his book Bringing Up Boys, disagrees. He argues that the morality of homosexuality is not dependent on whether or not it’s a choice. Dobson is a charlatan, and Bringing Up Boys is a collection of pseudoscientific nonsense (the chapters on ‘pre-homosexuality’ are, anyway), but on this issue he’s right. Homosexuality does not harm. In certain circumstances, indeed, homosexual acts may even increase the sum total of human happiness. I can find no logical reason for labelling homosexuality as immoral; and this conclusion does not in any way depend on whether or not it’s a ‘choice’.

For the record, though, homosexuality is not a choice. Gayness, however, is.

Homosexuality is an orientation. You’re homosexual if you’re sexually attracted to persons of the same sex as yourself. Gayness is an attitude of mind. You’re gay if you can say so, even to yourself, without wincing.

I found myself homosexual, and chose to be gay. The alternative was to be self-loathing. Some people (Ted Haggard* and Larry Craig spring to mind) seem to have taken that option.

* “There’s a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life.”

Originally published on GreenTambourine.

I was in Dublin today

I was in Dublin today, and popped into Eason, a large and famous bookshop on the corner of O’Connell Street and Abbey Street. I looked at a few books, including The Jesus Jokebook, by Des MacHale. It’s less irrevarant than it sounds, its compiler being a practising Catholic (and Professor of Mathematics). One I did buy, though, was Laura James’ Tigger on the Couch.

Then, inspired by a complaint I’d read recently about a bookshop which didn’t stock any Thomas Paine, I went to the customer services desk to ask what Paine they had. After I’d spelled his name for her twice, the lady found that they had Common Sense in the classics section downstairs. So I descended to the basement to search it out. It took a while, as the books were not all in alphabetical order. Most of them were, but Common Sense was with the other books in the Great Ideas series. I ended up buying it and two of its companions: Michel de Montaigne’s On Friendship and George Orwell’s Why I Write.

A little later, having read almost half of Why I Write over lunch, I wandered into another bookshop, Books Upstairs, opposite Trinity College, a much smaller place than Eason, with apparently only one member of staff on duty. A chap was asking him for a particular translator’s version of a Greek classic, which I now forget, and he was heading upstairs to see what was in stock when he saw me hovering. Again, I asked whether they had any Thomas Paine. “We should have The Rights of Man, shouldn’t we?” He said. “I’ll have a look.”

I hung around till he came back downstairs. “Sorry,” he said. “We always have The Rights of Man, but we’re out of stock at the moment.”

I think I’ll be going back to Books Upstairs. I had a glance there at Gunter Grass’ Peeling the Onion, extracts of which I’ve heard on Radio 4, but it was a bit pricy.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Tigger is diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (AD/HD), Predominantly Hyperactive Impulsive Type.

This post was originally published on GreenTambourine.

Well, life has not been boring.

First, I must tell you some back history. In January 2006 I sent an anonymous letter to the Watchtower Society’s Brooklyn offices. The Watchtower Society is a coordinating office for the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses (it is not, though, as is sometimes reported, the ‘official name’ of Jehovah’s Witnesses: the Witnesses are a religious body, and the Watchtower Society is a legal entity used by the religion).

My letter opened with a discussion of my loss of faith, which was not then by any means as complete as it is now. I then went on to talk about the way that sometimes we believe things we want to believe, and I worried, in the letter, that my loss of faith was due to my belated realisation of my homosexuality. I know that I’m intelligent; I know also that my judgement can be clouded.

I never got a reply to the letter: it was anonymous. What I wanted from it I do not know. Perhaps just the relief of getting my feelings down on paper. The one thing I asked for was an article in The Watchtower or Awake! outlining how hypocritical people can sometimes be on this issue. 1 Corinthians 5:12 shows that those outside the congregation are not to be judged by the standards applied to those within. I’ve written about this before on this blog:

The hypocrisy of these people who dress up their personal distaste for homosexuals in the cloak of a high-minded religious and moral objection began to disgust me.

The one thing I asked for, I didn’t get. As I said in the letter,

If, say, a Witness’s non-Witness niece is having a sexual relationship with her boyfriend she will be treated quite differently than her brother having a sexual relationship with his boyfriend. And yet both are equally breaking God’s Law and neither are his servants. It is not our place to decide which of God’s laws are more important.

This rampant hypocritical homophobia was disturbing me.

***

So, earlier this year, I sent the letter again, this time with an address on the bottom. The text of the letter explained why I had not contacted the local elders: I was uncertain about how well they’d keep confidentiality, and I really couldn’t think what they’d do to help me. Also, at the time the letter was first written, I was uncomfortable identifying as homosexual even to myself, so telling other people who knew me in real life was all but out of the question. In the interim, over the course of the year, I’d become more comfortable with an internal gay identity, and less firm in my faith. I did not redraft the letter, so these changes in attitude were not recorded. They’re both rather nebulous, anyway.

Two more short quotes from the letter:

Technically, I could be openly gay and yet one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Am I right? I could say, as I am doing to you, I am homosexual and a virgin, because I’m not interested in having sex with women and God’s Law says that for a man to have sex with another man is wrong. I could, technically, be perfectly open about that. But it’s not actually feasible, is it? You know it isn’t, so don’t pretend anything else.The attitude to homosexuality prevalent among Jehovah’s Witnesses is not one fitting to servants of a loving God. It is actually un‑Christian.

I do not ‘suffer from some homosexual feelings’ — I am homosexual. Entirely. That’s what I am. Live with it — I have to.

That last perhaps deserves some clarification. I think I detect a faint note of bitterness creeping in, and I don’t like that. Don’t become bitter. I also detect an acceptance there that I am who I am, and that my homosexuality is a permanent part of my make-up, not some temporary aberration. One way or another, I shall have to live with it.

***

Episode Next

The Society, in defiance of my express wishes, sent the letter back to the local branch office here in Ireland, who showed it to one of the elders in my congregation. I ought to be annoyed about this, and I shall have to work out why I’m not.

The line You’ve been in communication with Brooklyn did come as rather a shock, but I rallied nicely, and in the end I had a reasonable, friendly, and fairly open conversation with the two elders I was talking to. I’ve had two chats now, and am in line for a third. I have not yet told them of the extent to which my faith has been eroded, but shall have to do so shortly. It would be dishonest to continue.

I gave a five-minute talk the other week, on the detrimental effect of grumbling on the spirit of the congregation. One of the elders I’d been talking to said it was the best talk he’d ever heard me give.

***

In other news, I recently bought Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris. Thought-provoking and challenging. I recommend it.

***

This post was originally published on GreenTambourine.

The Road Ahead

There are two things I need to tell people; to tell my friends and more importantly to tell my family.

I need to tell them that I no longer have any firm belief in the existence of God and I need to tell them that I am gay.

On the first issue, my parents already have an inkling that my spirituality is on the wane. My mother has talked to me about it. She’s quite concerned. I’d be worried if she wasn’t.

The second issue is separate, and must be treated as such. I shall not leave the Witnesses because I am gay. That’s no reason. I shall leave because I no longer believe what they teach. Then, having left, I shall have no further reason to fight against my homosexuality. I have that sequence very clear in my head, and I want it to be clear for everyone else too. To me, it’s a matter of moral integrity.

Well, wish me luck. You can pray for me too, if you feel like it.

Originally published on GreenTambourine.

Where I Am Now

I have, over the past year or so, lost much of my faith. This is for many reasons. One is an increasing understanding of science. Many things which previously seemed impossible without divine origin now admit of an alternative explanation. Another is an exposure to different interpretations of the Bible, which suggests that a book which can be read in so many different ways is all but useless as a source of either moral guidance or accurate history. The two creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis are a case in point.

There is, though, another, less valid reason why I have abandoned my religion. Or, at least, less directly valid, though valid reasons may be derived from it. Allow me to tell my story in chronological order.

I have been aware since my mid-teens (and perhaps earlier) of homosexual desires. In fact, looking back, I see that the signs were there in primary school. I even wanted to kiss a friend, and once almost asked him. I lost nerve, though, and didn’t. I wonder how he would have reacted?

I told myself that it was a phase I was going through. And such phases do exist, so the lie was not without foundation. I should have known it was a lie, though, from the fact that my desires have always been exclusively homosexual, fixing on different boys around me. I never fancied a teacher, so I escaped that cliché, at least.

For a long time — right through my teens — I would masturbate almost every night while indulging in homosexual fantasies. And then I would pray for forgiveness for these twin sins. Sometimes I would pray beforehand for the strength to resist, but it rarely worked.

And then, one day, I had a sudden realization, an epiphany, almost: I wasn’t sorry! How could I continue to pray for forgiveness if I wasn’t actually sorry?

I continued to pray, but no longer at nighttime. I prayed about other matters and I prayed for the strength to overcome my homosexual tendencies. Yes, tendencies — I was still in denial of the fact that I actually was homosexual.

At this stage I had dedicated my life to God. I had no doubt that God existed, and little doubt that the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses were the true representation of his personality. And I was in some senses a spiritual person. I still am, actually. But I had never felt the personal relationship with Jehovah that some people report. I dedicated my life to God and got baptized out of a sense that it was the right thing to do. Do I regret that decision? I’m not at all sure. It makes things more complicated now, but it was in many ways the right thing to do at the time.

It did not take long, though, for me to admit to myself that I actually was homosexual. Strangely perhaps, at this point I began to think less about gay sex. Because I’d admitted that my homosexuality was a part of who I was and of the person I would continue to be, I was free to start thinking about love and relationships, not just about boys fooling around.

A quick word about my fantasies: Most of my daydreams, sexual or adventurous, are in the third person. Sometimes there is one particular character I identify with, but often, especially in the sexual ones, there isn’t. I often spend a long time reworking dialogue, even in the sexual fantasies. The plain sex fantasies were often about two boys sharing a bed for some reason and deciding to have some fun together while they were there. They rarely included either kissing or anal intercourse. This is possibly because the boys weren’t intended to be in love or actually gay. Later daydreams have focused more on love, romance, cuddling, and different ways to ‘come out’. I think I favour the approach of treating it as no big deal, letting it slip out in conversation. I can’t imagine that working in this family, somehow.

At around this time, I wrote a letter to the Watchtower Society asking for guidance, reassurance, and one other thing. I was becoming uncomfortably aware of the double standards of most Witnesses with regard to homosexuality. They most definitely did not treat homosexual acts in the same manner as any other ‘sin’, which is essentially what the Society recommends. The hypocrisy of these people who dress up their personal distaste for homosexuals in the cloak of a high-minded religious and moral objection began to disgust me.

One particular incident comes to mind. I was in a car with two chaps whom I shall call Luke and John, for these were their names. I forget which of them was driving. I was alone in the back seat. Luke was telling John about his recent holiday in South America. He mentioned that homosexuality is becoming more open in that society now, and that it causes some problems in the congregation. One of the elders there had asked Luke whether the elders in Ireland often had to counsel the brothers about homosexual acts or inclinations. Luke had replied that he didn’t know. He was now asking John, an elder. It was John’s reply which shocked me. He said that he personally had never had to counsel anyone for homosexual tendencies, but that another elder had once pointed out to him a brother who had been counselled on that matter. And then he made some infantile joke about seeing him in the toilets. Well, so much for confidentiality! That John’s an old gossip, anyway, and he’ll never be trusted with any secret of mine. He did not, on this occasion, tell us who the brother concerned was, but he was obviously unconcerned by the other elder’s breech of trust.

My letter to the Watchtower Society did not include a reply postal address, only an e-mail address. I received, after some delay, an e-mail asking me to supply a postal address. I did so, both by e-mail reply and by post, but never received a letter in response to mine. Nor have the Society done as I asked and published an article about proper treatment of homosexuals within the congregation and proper attitude toward homosexuals outside the congregation.

I said that valid reasons may be derived from invalid ones. To reject a religion merely because it didn’t suit me would be invalid. But to reject a religion because its adherents are hate-filled hypocritical bigots might be more acceptable. If you have them available, look up the articles “The Homosexual Life-Style—Just How Gay Is It?” in Awake! of March 22, 1986 and “Is the Gay Life Really Gay?” in Awake! of June 8, 1976. It would take a lot to convince me that this vitriolic garbage was written and published by an organization which is the earthly representative of a God of love. Now, these are old articles, and the more recent ones are a little mellower, but the principle still stands.

I’m a hypocrite myself. I have once made the argument that homosexual marriage should be legalized, to a Witness sister who fully agreed with me. But I did not stand up to John to tell him how much he disgusted me, and I did not make any fuss at the Group when Paddy got hold of the wrong end of the stick about material used in some schools to ‘promote homosexuality’. This stuff is actually an anti-bullying tool, so that kids with gay parents (adoptive or natural) are not treated as weirdos. It’s hard to make an argument against that, but it’s easy to go off on a fury against something you’ve only half understood. A pity, because Paddy’s usually better than that, in spite of being a Daily Mail reader.

I’m a hypocrite myself. I have lost my faith in God, but I’m still going to meetings and even on the door-to-door work, spreading my ‘faith’ to others.

I’m a hypocrite myself. I think and feel that there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality — it’s okay to be gay. And yet I have yet to tell anyone anywhere that I’m gay. I hope to fix that soon.

Originally published on GreenTambourine.

Link to Snopes added 2007-05-14.

YouTube: Str8 Twinks are Kissing

YouTube: Str8 Twinks are Kissing

I’d love to know the background to this. I take it the boys are not (openly) gay. They were dared to kiss, and they did so. Yes? How much convincing did they take? And, when they’d finished, they were told to do it again, and did so happily. It didn’t take much to talk them into that second time, did it? And then that annoying girl on the sofa pulled them apart, and they got back together to smooch some more, without anyone talking them into it at all. And then Adam stopped to talk about a time they’d been naked together (as kids, was it? I didn’t catch all of that) and the other chap pulled him back for some more snogging. Sexy!

In other words, they got more and more into it as the video went on. After the first session, they became more unaware of their audience. The screaming girls ment nothing to them, they were interested only in each other. That’s what it looked like, anyway.

What happened afterward? At the end it seems they were planning to do it again with a male audience. “No, Levi’s not going to make out with me. You’re going to make out with me, and he’s going to watch.” And there it ends. Did they? And have they kissed again since?

It is sexy, yes, but it’s also very sweet. And I’d love to hear the story behind it. What started them off? A dare? And what happened afterward?

Tambourine.

Originally published on GreenTambourine.

The video has now been taken down from YouTube, but I’m republishing this post on my new blog anyway, largely because of the interesting conversation in the comments.