Recommended Reading


Highly Recommended

 

Superheroes, Saviors, and Sinners Without Secrets by D.S. Reade

 

This book was loaned to me by one of the leaders of New Direction in Toronto. Just by reading the back cover I knew I would enjoy this book. The title itself was one I could identify strongly – I too want to be known as a “sinner without secrets.”

 

Dave Reade is a gifted story-teller. His prose is in the style of Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. Professionally, Reade is a counsellor, and, even though he does not really talk about his work, I can see him as a master of Narrative Therapy. I am sure that writing this book was a therapeutic exercise by which he retold the story of his life.

 

Reade has been through places I can identify with. His journey with faith and homosexuality has taken many turns. He talks about the sexual abuse he experienced as a boy, and his reluctance to recognize it as such. He talks about riding a bicycle across America. He tells us about his difficulty fitting in with his straight male friends, in spite of his deep desire to be in honest relationship with them. He tells about God giving him a new name. He tries to explain why he has hope, even when he’s not really sure why. In fact, his chapter about hope reminded me of this recent post from College Jay.

 

Reade is definitely made a Side B decision for himself, but honestly talks about his desire to be in a monogamous relationship with another man. He also talks about his struggle as he seeks to live the celibate life that he believes that God has called him to.

 

I found this book challenging, uplifting, encouraging, honest, real. I recommend it to any gay Christians out there who, like me, haven’t quite figured out if they take “Side A” or “Side B”. Somehow reading this book assured me, once again, that being in this storm of sexual identity is quite okay, and that I don’t have to have all the answers right now.

 

I think this book would be particularly helpful for straight Christians who don’t quite “get” homosexuality. It’s not that he explains it. He is simply honest in describing his journey, the emotions he goes through, and how his desires continue in spite of the choice he has made to be celibate.

 

Thanks, Dave Reade, for sharing your story with us. Thanks for telling us your secrets.

 

 

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It’s been way too long since I’ve posted. The summer has been busy, and I’ve had lots of conversations both with my wife and others on this issue of sexuality. I’ve been challenged to take down this blog… I’m reluctant to do that, though. I feel like this blog has contributed greatly to my processing on this journey, and I believe it can help other men and women on similar paths. It also stands as a reminder for myself of where I have been, what changes have taken place in my thinking, what has challenged me. If this storm ever settles, I don’t want to forget what it was like to be in the middle of it. I want others to know that it is okay to be in this storm.

 

Why is it okay to be in this storm? Firstly, because there is nothing wrong with questioning what I believe. There is nothing wrong with speaking the truth about what I feel and experience on a daily basis. Whatever the outcome, in many ways I believe that this storm has been the right place for me to be.

 

It has been hard, oh so hard, on my wife and on our relationship. But I believe that ultimately this is good too. I feel like I no longer need to hide the struggles I go through as a gay man married to a straight woman, and one seeking to do it in the most honest and faithful way possible. I ache some days over the pain she is experiencing, but I know that in the end there will be good that comes out of it. And I feel no guilt over it, because I’ve only resolved to be honest with myself and with my wife. I also believe that eventually my children will understand that, just as it is important to know and understand what one believes and why, there will come times when the experiences of life will severely challenge those beliefs. They need to know that it is okay – healthy, in fact – to be honest about their feelings, and it is okay to wonder about the nature of truth and how we find it. I don’t want my journey and my struggle to be a secret known only by myself and a few close friends. I often think that my journey would have been easier had I known some of the struggles my father and grandfathers had gone through. Maybe knowing about my experiences and struggles will help my children on their sojourns here.

 

Why have I been encouraged to quit this blog? Well, for starters there have been some things on here that my wife may not appreciate the whole world knowing. For that reason, I may go back and edit or hide some of the more personal posts. Secondly, there are also some posts that contain links to other sites that do contain some porn or other material that I do not wish to be associated with. These links were made to illustrate the different paths individuals choose to take on their journeys with same-sex attraction. I will remove some of these links, not for the sake of censorship – everybody has the right to express their views, their loves, themselves – but out of deference and respect for the men and women in my life who are journeying most closely with me through this storm.

 

I have done a lot of reading over recent weeks, and I hope in the coming weeks to post more about what I have read.

 

In the meantime, let me recommend to you D.S. Reade’s memoir, Superheroes, Saviors, and Sinners Without Secrets. While our stories are vastly different, I also find I have much in common with David Reade, and there are parts of this book I think I could have written myself.

 

 

 

I have been reading Amity Pierce Buxton’s The Other Side of the Closet: The Coming-Out Crisis for Straight Spouses and Families.

 

Amity Buxton’s first husband came out in 1983, and she has since devoted much of her life and career to doing research and helping the straight spouses and children of gay men and lesbians come to terms with their situation.

 

I really like the way the book is set up. Each section starts with personal stories about specific families, which is followed with information and practical help for dealing with the issues raised. The sections cover the experiences of the gay spouses, the experiences of the straight spouses, the experiences of the children, challenges to traditional marriage styles, and dealing with the deception and the feeling of having lived a lie.

 

It’s hard to say who this book is designed for – I have found it helpful in coming to terms with what my coming out my mean for my children, and understanding the feelings my wife is currently going through. However, it seems to be designed more for the spouses and adult children of gays and lesbians, and for counselling professionals who might be working with them. Having said that, I think this book might instill more fear into many spouses and children than it would courage. It is very realistic, and the personal stories are very emotionally raw. From the gay husband whose wife and children totally reject him because of their fundamentalist religious beliefs, the wife whose gay husband becomes physically abusive towards their children while suing for custody after he leaves, to the children who talk about the bullying they experience when their whole community finds out that dad is gay, this book leaves little to the imagination.

 

While the forthrightness of this book has meant that it has taken me some time to get through it, I recommend it for the following reasons:

·        This book is totally accepting of any sexual orientation. While painful stories are told, the blame for the pain is placed where it belongs. Sometimes that is on the coming-out parent/spouse, where he or she has been abusive or deceptive. Sometimes it’s on the homophobic attitudes that prevail in our communities and churches. Hence, this book both affirms my sexuality and makes me soberly consider how to be respectful and honest as I work towards living a life of authenticity.

·        This book has helped me consider some of the reactions my children may have when I come out to them. It’s helped me realized that ‘sooner’ is better than ‘later’. But it’s helped me think about how it can be done gently.

·        This book has helped me understand and consider the feelings my wife is going through as she begins to stop denying the fact that she is married to a gay man (not that I feel any better equipped to support her!).

·        This book has helped me understand the source of much of the homophobia in our society. LBGT men and women have been very deceptive (sometimes for good reason), but that very deceptiveness leads others to distrust us. They see the pain that happens to others when we come out, and then want to blame us for causing that pain.

 

On the negative side, this book has increased my fears about coming out, and the impact that will have on my children. So far, I am only out to close family members and church friends, and some of my professional colleagues. This has been affirming enough to reduce my fears about coming-out to others. But I realize that my wife and my children will their own coming-out to do, as they tell others about their spouse/dad. They will need my support if I make them go through this process.

 

This book was first published in 1991. I wonder, if a similar book were written to do, would the stories be much different? I think our society is much more accepting of homosexuality today than it was then, and the stories of spouses coming out in the current decade would likely be different than those of the twenty years ago. Nonetheless, this book is strongly recommended for men and women who need to be prepared for what coming-out means for their families.

I have just started reading N. T. Wright’s The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture. I’m through the lengthy prologue and into the first chapter, and I am feeling invigorated by this work. Wright addresses the nature of authority, and looks at scripture in view of the tradition of the church through the centuries, as well as the changes brought about by the Enlightenment, when we started to appeal to reason (the modern era).

Wright advocates for a view of scripture as a “meta-narrative,” the story of God working through history. We are in the fifth act of this narrative, and hence His will and authority is being exercised in new and invigorating ways, even today.

As a counsellor, I like to use the Narrative Therapy approach developed by Michael White and Tod Augusta-Scott… and somehow Wright’s “meta-narrative” approach to scripture fits right in with the narrative approach to helping bring about positive change in people’s lives. In fact, in some ways I’ve used a narrative approach on myself over the last year as I have moved from seeing myself as an evangelical-Christian-reformed-homosexual to seeing myself as I am – a gay man in a straight marriage who happens to be clinging to Christianity.

I’m looking forward to discovering whatever conclusions Wright comes up with.

Last night my wife and I went to see the Laramie Project, which is a play presented as a documentary on the way the murder of Matthew Shephard. The play was put on by a high school drama team in a neighbouring town (appropriately, this town is known as probably the most “redneck” place in Ontario).

The actors and musician were coached by David Sereda, and I was impressed by the quality of the performance. I was especially impressed by the young pianist/narrator who composed his own music to go with the play, which he played while keeping the audience informed as to who was speaking throughout the play. This was important because the cast of eight actors play at least about 30 different characters.

I’m not sure what to say, except that it impacted me profoundly. It was also significant that my wife came with me… It really is the first time we’ve done anything together that seems to have anything to do with me accepting my homosexuality. I’ll probably have more to say about this, and about the Laramie Project, in the coming weeks.

I am reading Philip Yancey’s latest book, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? On page 105 he quotes this prayer, which seems to put words to what the Laramie Project is all about:

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort

at easy answers, half-truths,

and superficial relationships

So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger

at injustice, oppression, and

exploitation of people

So that you may work for

justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears

to shed for those who suffer

pain, rejection, hunger, and war

So that you may reach out your

hand to comfort them and

to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough

foolishness

to believe that you can make a

difference in the world,

So that you can do what others

claim cannot be done

to bring justice and kindness

to all our children and the poor.

Amen

Quinacridone asked for some reading suggestions… I have been thinking about this a lot, and eventually decided that, rather than just present a list, I’d talk about what I learned from some books that have helped me in my journey. To keep it simple, I’ll keep it to one book per posting.

What’s Important Now, by John Kuypers. 2002. Toronto: Present Living and Learning.

I picked up this book at the November 2006 Promise Keepers event in Toronto. It looked like it had some helpful ideas, and didn’t look too religious. I remember looking at bits of it now and again for about a year. But in 2007, when I told my wife I was no longer going to even try to pretend to be straight, I picked it up and started reading. It is now April 2008, and I’m only just past half way through. That’s not because I have a problem with it. It’s because it takes me about two months to process and begin to use each tool he presents that will help me live in the present, and live according to what is important for me NOW.

The chapter headings are:

1. Listen to your body.

2. Change your beliefs

3. Be authentic

4. Risk disapproval

5. Let go of outcomes

6. Feel your feelings

These are pretty dangerous ideas, especially for someone (like me) entrenched in the Christian church. In Christian circles, listening to your body sounds like giving in to fleshly desires. Changing your beliefs could mean stepping into heresy (and we all know where that leads). Being authentic means taking off the masks we all wear (especially around churches and church people). Risking disapproval is the scariest thing imaginable (especially if we risk God’s disapproval, and how easy is it to separate the church’s approval from God’s approval). Letting go of outcomes sounds reckless (and recklessness is the sin of Balaam). And feeling feelings… shouldn’t we base our lives on the truth, not on feelings?

My only problem with this book is that it seems to place authenticity as the supreme value. While Kuypers does mention values from time to time, and explores the dangers of being authentic (such as “authentically” expressing your road rage), I’m disappointed that he did not devote a chapter to determining a hierarchy of values. As a Christian, I believe that love is that the greatest motivator, and that there are many times when we are required to put our own desires and feelings aside in order to be loving and kind.

That aside, this book has probably been the most significant book I have read in the last… 42 years (except for maybe The Cat in the Hat). It has helped me to embrace the fact that I am gay man, and that coming to terms with that fact will indeed help me get on with my life. I am not sure that this is anything like what PromiseKeepers Canada had in mind when they put this put in their bookstore! But God had them put it there anyway, no matter what their intentions!

Kuypers is a Christian, but this book is written for anybody. He does not quote scripture, he does not use church language, he does not even talk about Christian principles. He is brutally honest and most of his material seems like common sense (even if it is uncommon).

Highly recommended (especially for quin)!