Friday, 31 July 2015

Psalm by Jerrold Yam

That night, I didn't know what came over me.
A scene of two characters kissing
brought me to my knees, my elbows
folded on my thighs the way soldiers
prepared for execution, the
human body scrunched and twisted as if
back in its maker's womb. I asked
for wisdom, as Solomon did, anything
to help me understand my making,
if I was thoughtfully constructed
according to plan, if every move of mine
inked its immortality in the loving
pages of your hands. I didn't have a choice.
I didn't have a choice. For years
doubts rode my back like distant travellers
and I tried not to think of them, to be
infinitely echoed in mirrors of self-pity. But 
not that night. Tears and mucus
like two rivers married across the barren
plateau of my face, pungent
drops scattered on the wood I knelt on, I finally
knew how the biggest and brightest boast of humanity
would never be mine. Here I am,
pure and unkissed, completely surrendered to
the fearfully and wonderfully made.

- extracted from Scattered Vertebrate, by Jerrold Yam (2013)

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

How to come out safely

Having come out to a dozen or more Christians over the past couple of years, I thought I'd put this post up just to chronicle my experience and to help those wishing to come out but have never done so. Do note that every coming out experience is different, and that these tips may or may not work well for you. Be wise and prayerful about coming out, especially if it isn't safe for you to do so. However, I generally feel that coming out is generally a rather freeing experience and a way of living life honestly and without deceit.

So here goes...

Step 1: Testing waters
To assess if the person you'd like to come out to is safe or not, try asking questions, bringing them in naturally in the course of a conversation in real life or in a text (I would opt to do this face to face because it is on the whole easier to read body language than rely on nuances in text messaging, so do so only if you can't meet the person). 

Examples: 

"What do you think of the legalisation of gay marriage in America?"

"I'm reading this blog at "agaysingaporeanchristian.blogspot.com", what do you think about gay Christians?"


Step 2: Go with the flow
This would usually lead to the person talking about any LGBT+ friends they might have and their encounters with them. Listen carefully to see how they support their friends, not necessarily affirming their choices, but just being there for them, listening to their struggles in a heteronormative society. If they don't have gay friends, that might ring some warning bells. Gay people can generally tell if someone is safe to come out to or not. But then again, give them the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps talk about other related topics to gauge their response if Step 1 wasn't enough.

Examples:

"This year's Pink Dot had a record 28,000 turnout. That is amazing isn't it?"

"I know of a gay church, FCC. I heard that some of them joined because they were kicked out of their home church. It's so sad isn't it?"


Step 3: Decide whether it's safe to come out
At this point, you should know if the person is loving like God is, or judgemental like some Christians can be. It is your choice if you want to come out to the latter. I generally try not to so as to preserve the friendship or relationship I share with the person. This issue really polarises. 

After having come out to quite a number of people, I generally make decisions on the fly, and if I feel God leading me. But if it's your first or second time, I would suggest you do so prayerfully.


Step 4: Come out slowly
I have never come out to anyone saying that "Hey, I'm gay." Because that is just not me. I add a bit more nuance and generally tell people I blog at this site, or that "I'm not the straightest person in the world", depending on how open I feel they are. Of course there is nothing wrong going straight for the kill, especially if you are a straightforward person. To each his/her own. So if you are like me, it would go something like this...

Examples:

"I can really identify with the blogger at "agaysingaporeanchristian.blogspot.com" because I share so many experiences that she blogs about."

"It's so terrible that Christians are so unfeeling towards gay people because I can understand how they feel."


Step 5: Address any concerns/queries they might have
If you were indirect and your friend/family member was sharp enough to catch it, there will be two likely scenarios (assuming they don't yell at you because I think you've paused long enough at Step 3 to consider the implications.)

Scenario A: Your friend or family member would ask you stuff like how long have you known? Do you have a partner? What about God? And every permutation you can think of.

Scenario B: Silence.

Don't be hurt if you expected Scenario A but got B instead. Some people just don't know how to react. Don't blame them. They just need to be educated. Perhaps you can direct them to this blog?


Step 6: Heave a sigh of relief and thank God
God's with you every step of the way even if you meet with an unfriendly reaction. And ultimately, God's all you need. Although a supportive church family will definitely help, as I can attest to that.

Just remember, do not come out especially if it's not safe for you to do so. Patience is a virtue.



All in all, coming out is a rather nerve-wrecking experience for the first-timer, but it gets easier the more one does it. My prayers are with you.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

On Aydian Dowling



I once read a quote whose authorship I cannot place but it went something like this:

"In the silence of the church, people look to the world for guidance."

This video showcases an increasingly popular Aydian Dowling (with 24,400 followers and counting on YouTube) who at this moment of writing is contending for the top spot to be on the cover for Men's Health magazine for the year 2015. He is trans and that's perhaps why he is being interviewed on Ellen. As I watched the video, I thought of some questions I might ask the Christian reader of this blog. 

If you are a Christian, how would you respond to a friend who is asking for donations to fund his/her surgery?

If you are a pastor/elder/leader in church, how would you advise the parents seeking your advice on how to cope after their child came out as trans and is needs their permission to start on hormones?
If you think that answer is clear cut and simple, consider the 41% suicide rate among transgender people.

Would you rather have a trans kid who has successfully transitioned to a different gender and fully alive, or bury a dead child who could no longer stand his/her gender dysphoria?


But a for a kid watching the dozens of YouTube videos out there on trans people, can he/she wait until 21 before starting on hormones? What if he/she is worried about getting them too late and not being able to pass (to be identified as their desired gender) as easily as he/she could if they started early? How do you prevent him/her from becoming the next Leelah Alcorn?

I don't know the answers to the questions I posed above. But I know that it's time that Christians, especially leaders, starting taking time to pray over these issues.

On my part, I'm eagerly awaiting Mark Yarhouse's latest, Understanding Gender Dysphoria, to gain a deeper understanding into this.

------------------------------------------------

As I had this conversation with two trusted friends of mine, they pointed out a few things I had not considered before. 

Consider individuals who undergo gender reassignment versus those who undergo cosmetic surgery due to body part dysphoria. Nose jobs, breast augmentation, double eyelid surgery, you name it. What about *milder* forms of cosmetic procedures such as liposuction or even a Botox shot? The church doesn't seem to raise a big fuss. But what does God says about vanity?

And then consider the baby born with a cleft lip. Are we to deny him/her a chance to breathe and chew more easily? 

What is the difference?

My friend's stand on this issue is to strive for psychological emotional and physical well-being. There might be trade-offs, but these choices still have to made and consequences have to be borne by the trans individual. The church, family and friends all need to help the individual make informed choices, support him/her and take steps to work towards finding their identity and seek for total well-being.

Another friend pointed out that it really boils down to an issue of contentment. As such, our response should be the same as to those pursuing wealth or fame to gain contentment. This also applies to those who feel they can only be accepted if they live a particular way (i.e. a luxurious lifestyle). Our response is the gospel. Trans people need to know that God created us, loves us, and longs for us to be in communion with him, sending His Son so this would be possible etc. 

My friend's response to someone wanting to undergo cosmetic/gender reassignment surgery is that "they are fearfully and wonderfully made and don't have to change themselves to be loved. God loves them and I love them just as they are. However, if they feel like there's no other way then I would support them because I'd rather have them around."

Of course, if one isn't a Christian, then this might perhaps not apply.

I love talking to my friends! Spiritual, compassionate and loving. The church needs more of such people instead of judgmental ones the LGBT+ community have gotten used to over the years. 

Are you willing to take part in this conversation? To include instead of exclude? To showcase the love of Jesus like he did with that woman?

Because it your words can bring life, or they can bring death. 

Because in the silence of the church, individuals would look to the world for guidance instead. 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

John 8:1-11

Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, "Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?" They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, "The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone." Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?"

"No one, Master."

"Neither do I," said Jesus. "Go on your way. From now on, don't sin."

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Importance of Language

Words kill, words give life;they’re either poison or fruit - you choose.Proverbs 18:21, The Message

Because they do, I believe we have to choose what we say carefully. Especially to our LGBT+ brothers and sisters. Especially those we might find in the church.

Let me share some personal stories to illustrate how innocent words can inadvertently cause harm and damage, sometimes, irreparable.

Incident #1
Throwback to June 2013 when I was at the last Exodus International Conference in California.

I was having lunch and chatting with a middle aged Caucasian lady (everyone was extremely friendly there) and she was telling me about why she was at the conference - her son is gay. She asked me why, and I gave my standard answer, that I struggle with same-sex attraction. She then went on to say, “So, when did you leave that lifestyle?”

Being the naive Singaporean girl, I answered her earnestly, “Actually, I’ve never been in that lifestyle……” and went on to share my story.

Looking back, that was one of the few things about that conference that stuck with me. For good reason. Even for a mother that was pretty aware (hey, she was attending an ex-gay conference man, she’s got that going for her), she could still ask about the “lifestyle” I was purportedly in was saying a lot.

There is no “gay lifestyle” my friends. Some people might be promiscuous, but aren’t some heterosexuals promiscuous too? LGBT+ folks are just like regular folks, some are monogamous like you, and some are celibate like me. Please stop using the word “lifestyle” when describing us.

Words matter.


Incident #2
As I was at a get together with some good friends and were just having some casual conversation, a particularly well-educated friend of mine referred to someone as being “tranny”.

I didn’t say anything, being too shocked for words.

I couldn’t articulate how I felt but looking back at how this incident is imprinted in my mind, I realised that even if someone is quite understanding towards gays and lesbians, one can still make derogatory remarks about trans folks and not be aware of how it affects me too.

I can’t bring myself to tell him about it, but let’s just say that if I fell for someone who’s trans, he’s not gonna the first person I’ll be sharing the news with. If ever.

Words matter man.


Incident #3
After a period of praying and thinking, I gathered up my courage to confide in someone and shared that I thought God was okay with me in a same-sex relationship. Over email - which is not the best medium to hold such a sensitive conversation.

I was surprised when I was lobbed with Leviticus 18:22 in her reply.

I felt like an abomination.

If not for the fact that we shared years of friendship, the relationship would probably have dissolved. 

Please take note, nothing of the sort had happened yet. I wasn’t in a relationship and I wasn’t about to sleep with anyone. I just expressed my honest opinion and she hers.

Sigh.

Thank goodness I didn’t dwell on it. But that email stuck with me all these years later and today, even though I still count her as a good friend, she would definitely not be the first person I confide in regarding LGBT+ issues. Just because I have been scarred so badly.

Please, please, please do not throw Scripture at people.

Now I must concede, perhaps when I was behaving exuding pride like nobody’s business, this same person could have quoted Proverbs 6:16-17, I might have felt that that Leviticus verse was justified. But hey, when I was being an prideful prick, I was just counselled politely, if firmly, on why I should be kind to the fellow Christian I didn’t particularly care for.

It seems like I’m not alone in this.

Why the double standards?

Yes, the Bible did mention that we are supposed to save our brothers and sisters from destruction. But to make them feel like they are an abomination? Is that the way to do it? Did Jesus make the woman at the well feel like an abomination or did he save her from death by stoning by religious Pharisees that condemned her for adultery with him telling her only to “Go, and sin no more.”

Where is the love?

Do you begin to see how words matter?


Incident #4

Now for a happy story.

There was once I was feeling rather disordered for being gay.

After being burnt so badly so many times, I decided to take my chances and share with a trusted friend (who is not one of the above-mentioned).

She reassured me that I am not disordered by am "fearfully and wonderfully made by God.” She told me that “I was whole and complete, not disordered."

I must say that I’ve got her to thank for not ending up like Leelah Alcorn.

If only more people would have this last friend of mine, the suicide rate for LGBT+ folks would probably not be 4 - 6 times more than the average.

That’s all I have to say.


“It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”- Billy Graham

Finding healing in unexpected places

I attended my first ever Queer Book Club meeting on Thursday and it was just lovely. It was a relaxed, very chill kinda discussion wit...