We’ve had two weeks of orientation, finding our way around the campus, being given an overview of the course material, being guided on how to use the library, and being taught how to use the computers to film ourselves (a lot of our homework will be video work). And today, things actually started.
I will say that I didn’t go to the remembrance ceremony this year, after being utterly disgusted with it the year before last.
There’s nothing wrong with religious ceremonies. It is, however, utterly disgusting to foist them on an unsuspecting audience. The ceremony was in no wise advertised as religious, and I attended in good faith, expecting something that would be respectful and which I would be happy to observe.
First, I was handed a candle, asked to participate. Well, okay, I suppose. I held the candle, still expecting something open and respectful.
And then suddenly we were in the middle of prayer and talks of heaven. Let me make one thing very clear: Praying on other people’s behalf, claiming to represent other people in prayer without their explicit consent, is fucking rude and extremely exploitative. Let me make another thing clear: Inviting people to attend an open ceremony and suddenly making it explicitly Christian with no warning is a rather nasty bait-and-switch tactic. I don’t know who organised and ran this event, but I have no respect for them whatsoever, as they clearly had no respect for the people they conned into attending with their dishonest advertising.
These are all general concerns. One other thing from a more specifically LGBT perspective: Many there have been hurt, seriously hurt, by the church. That doesn’t mean that many LGBT people are not still religious, and there is certainly a place for religious LGBT commemorations. It does mean, though, that tricking people into participating in a religious service when they were not expecting it is likely to be more hurtful to LGBT people than it would be to others.
I put down the candle smartly enough, as I did not want to be marked as participating in any religious ceremony, but I did not immediately leave. I don’t mind observing religious ceremonies, and I was hopeful that we would soon move onto more of the “remembering” bits. I was hoping for some anecdotes about much-loved and much-missed friends and activists. (Not my personal friends, as none of my LGBT friends have yet died, but still. I was there mainly to show support.) But no, the religious language went on and on, with quite a lot of “we” language, presumptuously intending to include us all in the prayers, and claiming to speak on all our behalfs. I soon got pretty sick of it, and left along with my friend. Others were leaving too.
I was utterly disgusted by the entire débâcle.
This thought occurred to me just last night:
There are some opinions I understand and agree with. They are based on arguments and presuppositions which make sense to me, and which seem to me reasonable and well supported.
There are some opinions I disagree with. The arguments in their favour seem to me lacking in some way, perhaps by being based on presuppositions which I do not share, or perhaps due to a failure in logical reasoning from those presuppositions.
There are some opinions I disagree with completely. The arguments in their favour are non-existent, or are based on presuppositions so completely alien to my mind that I simply cannot make sense of them, or follow a chain of logical reasoning which I cannot grasp.
It occurred to me last night that the middle set, the arguments which seem lacking, but not fundamentally unreasonable or utterly incomprehensible, is a quite likely to be a reasonably good proxy for how open-minded we are. (Compare Aristotle’s dictum that it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it. What I’m saying is not quite the same thing, but it is a related concept.) It also occurred to me that, for me, the middle set of ideas is, actually, rather small. I find it quite hard to get my head around conservative politics; I find it very difficult to understand or communicate with people who are uninterested in scientific evidence for or against the types of medicine they advocate; and I often find religious concepts difficult to grasp (which last is especially odd, given that I was raised religious).
So, how worried should I be about that?
License: CC BY-SA 3.0. Feel free to repost elsewhere.
- My h2g2 journal, where I occasionally post about things I’m doing, or about books I’m reading. My oldest blog.
- TRiG’s links, subtitled “Reading the Internet”, where I just post links to stuff I found interesting, or videos. This is the most frequently updated blog.
- This one, ostensibly my main blog, actually rarely updated. It hosts the longer stuff.
I’ve been putting up stuff on my links blog to start posting once a day from the second of January on. This means that if I die tomorrow, my blog will continue posting for a while (not a very long while, because I’m lazy, and haven’t prepared as many pre-posts as I should). I’m not superstitious, but I am sometimes a bit morbid. I think thoughts like that.
I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;
Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were.
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.
I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.
For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.
I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.
The aged Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings.
Perhaps I’m in an odd frame of mind, but I’m actually feeling fairly cheerful.
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“.
I love my parents, but I don’t trust them.
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.
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.
Link to Snopes added 2007-05-14.