Thursday, 31 December 2015

Reflections on Ip Man 3

What a great movie to end the year with. I forgot how much I liked the character Ip Man until I watched the third instalment today.

So understated, so humble, so devoted to his wife. All qualities I’d like to emulate.

I cried at the scene where his wife told him that she missed listening to him practice on the wooden man. This was after he told her that his only regret was not being a better husband to her after she declared that she’d been very happy with him for spending so much time with her (since she contracted cancer and was given very little time to live). The martial arts master even took up dancing to accompany his wife and skipped an important duel.

And even after winning a particularly gruelling fight, he counselled his opponent, “What ultimately matters are our loved ones (and not winning fights).”

After watching the show, I felt like I had to do what he espoused. To spend time loving my friends and family. After all, that’s all that matters.

Made me quite reflective after watching it. I pondered upon what’d gone on this year…

Walking out of a service, having not one, but two crises of faith, hearing my friend A. say that she loved me made for quite an interesting year. Not forgetting the rather intense crush I had, of which I am still dealing with its lingering effects…


Well, I look forward to 2016, to a year of more adventures with God and his creation.

Monday, 21 December 2015

A hymn by John Newton

I asked the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.

I hoped that in some favoured hour
At once He'd answer my request,
And by His love's constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

"Lord, why is this?" I trembling cried,
"Wilt thou pursue Thy worm to death?"
" 'Tis in this way," the Lord replied,
"I answer prayer for grace and faith.

"These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may'st seek thy all in me."

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Untitled

It’s 3:15am and I’m awake and typing away because I figured I would be better off churning out a blogpost instead of crying myself to sleep and risking having swollen peepers tomorrow morning.

Why the misery?

Holy matrimony.

Bright and early this morning, I attended my dear friend’s wedding at my church and began thinking about my crush all through the service. Thoughts of her evolved into how if I were ever to have a same-sex marriage (which I wouldn’t), there probably wouldn’t be as many friends and family around to celebrate as compared to if I were to have a regular heterosexual marriage.

Then, I started thinking about how, even if I were to have a celibate same-sex relationship, how it would be met by opposition by many Christian leaders and friends. If I could find someone willing to be my partner in the very first place. I think that would be the greatest obstacle of all.

Whirring round and round the thoughts came and went, making me ever more depressed.

It would be nothing short of a miracle, and I am not exaggerating, if I were to get married to a guy. This is probably the source of all my misery. But honestly, what is wrong with same-sex love?

Sigh.

If only I weren’t a Christian holding onto traditional biblical values.

Lying in bed, I started thinking about my crush all over again and how she doesn’t seem to be interested in me. I guess I’ve fallen for another straight girl yet again. How can I stop doing this?

It doesn’t help that in this Christmas season, Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you” is playing almost everywhere, triggering the same thoughts of my crush over and over and over again.

I think I feel better now. Writing is so cathartic. 


Perhaps I’ll read some haikus to calm myself down before attempting to sleep again.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Q&A: 8 questions with a trans Christian (who's been to seminary)

So I recently got connected with Austen on Twitter and thought I'd feature him here on my blog so all you loyal readers can get educated on what it means to be trans and Christian.

Here we go!



1) Tell us a bit about yourself.

Well, my name is Austen, and I'm many things--a brother, a son, a boyfriend, a lifelong student, a lover of herbal tea--but lately my two definitive qualities have been my faith and my gender identity. I'm transgender, and I'm also a Christian, and even though some people think those two labels don't mix, I find that my faith journey and my experience as a trans man are intricately connected. I graduated from seminary with a Master's degree in Biblical Studies about two years ago (specializing in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament), and for the past year I've been using much of what I learned to create YouTube videos on being trans and Christian.


2) How and at what age did you meet Jesus?

I was raised Christian, and my parents took me and my siblings to nondenominational churches until I was about ten years old, so I don't remember a time when I didn't know who Jesus was. I grew up going to church every Sunday, and going to AWANA group on Wednesday nights, where I learned to memorize Bible verses. Both of my parents were pretty religious when I was young, so faith development was a big part of my childhood. 

When I was about ten years old, though, I had a bit of a falling-out with God, and with the idea of Christianity, and I decided I didn't want to be a Christian anymore. That lasted until I was about 14, when, thanks to many wonderful teachers and mentors who sat with me and helped me ask hard questions, I was able to reevaluate my faith and study it a little bit more. I'd say I was about 15 when I re-met God, and began to think of faith as something that was real and relevant to my life, and not just something that required going through the motions.

It felt a bit like I kept trying to get away from God, but God kept pulling me back and telling me that I was good enough, and wanted, and loved. Finally, when I was twenty-two, I decided to be baptized. I realized that in the end, it's not about us choosing God--it's about God having chosen us--and all we can do is respond with gratitude and love for God and for our neighbor.


3) When did you realize you were trans, and how did you realize it?

Looking back, I can pinpoint moments all through my life that point to my being trans, but because I spent most of my life not knowing that transgender people existed, it took me a long time to figure it out. There wasn't any huge, watershed moment for me when I suddenly just knew. It was more like the knowledge crept up on me slowly, over time, until I couldn't deny it anymore. 

It's really hard for any of us to explain exactly what it feels like to be our gender, because it's so different for every person, and what might be true for one man in America may not be true for one man in Taiwan or Zimbabwe or El Salvador. How can we know that what makes us feel masculine or feminine or neutral is the same feeling someone else has? 

In the end, I realized I was trans because I realized that the gender identity most people experience as "male" was what I had always experienced inside myself, but that gender identity conflicted with the gender I was assigned at birth based on my physical characteristics. Because my inner gendered feelings and my desire to express those feelings conflicted with what other people expected of me based on my body, I had a lot of what we call "dysphoria"--a feeling of deep anxiety, dissonance, and distress. Once I faced those feelings, it didn't take long to realize that the word "transgender" summed up what I was experiencing.


4) What do you hope the average Christian would know about being trans?

I hope that people know, first and foremost, that trans people are not rejecting their faith or rejecting God by expressing their gender identity. Transitioning and coming out as transgender are not things that people do to make a statement, or to be difficult, or to follow a trend. Coming out and transitioning often feels like the last thing that people want to do, because it's very difficult, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. 

I would remind Christians of key Bible passages--that God makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17), that God erases the boundaries that divide us (Galatians 3:28), and that in Jesus God has always welcomed those who don't fit perfectly into society, including people with different experiences of sex and gender (Matthew 19:12). I would remind Christians that transgender people are not an "issue"--we are people who are loved by God, just like you, and we have feelings and hopes and dreams and fears, just like you. I hope we can all learn to treat each other as siblings in Christ, and not as insiders or outsiders.


5) How do you reconcile your gender identity with your faith?

I actually just made a video about this question! 

Check it out here:




6) Do you think that there are biblical gender roles? How can people who don't conform to gender roles reconcile this?

I do think that there are gender roles seen pretty prominently in the Bible, but I think the question is which gender roles are specific to the times and places in the Bible, and which ones are meant to be universal? Some conservative organizations try to argue that things like male leadership and female subordination are universal constants that are seen in the Bible and therefore should always be true. I would argue that in both the Old and New Testaments we tend to see men in leadership and women in subordinate positions because the societies of the time were incredibly patriarchal, but that doesn't mean that it should always be that way. 

Jesus himself treated women and men equally, and there are multiple examples of people in the Bible breaking out of gender roles. In the end, many theologians today agree that the things that we're commanded to do and be as Christians have almost nothing to do with whether we're male or female or both or neither. Our gender does not determine whether we should care for the poor, or love our neighbor, or worship God. There is much more than unites us all as siblings in Christ than there are things that divide us based on gender expression.


7) Do you ever feel uncomfortable in church, or excluded from the community, because you're trans?

When I was a teenager I often felt really uncomfortable in my church groups because I was out to my friends and family as bisexual, but nobody in my church knew. Everything I heard from the media and from conservative pundits told me that Christians believed that I was bad and going to hell for being bisexual, and this made me afraid to talk to anyone at my church about it, just in case they thought so too. My fear of being kicked out, though it was probably unfounded, made me afraid, and made me distance myself from my faith community.

This fear of rejection because of my sexuality was one of the big things that caused me to back away from Christianity as a young teen. Because of this experience, I've found it really important that churches that are welcoming to LGBT folks make that fact known somehow, because once people know that church can be a safe space, it allows them to open up to others, and to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

I've never experienced discomfort in a church community because of my trans identity, but that's just because ever since going through the experience of coming out as bisexual as a teenager, I've always made a point to attend LGBT-affirming churches. Once we can exist in a community that will hold us safely, we can let go of our fear and love and worship the way we're created to.


8) Is queer theology all about breaking down binaries and boundaries? And if so, are there any boundaries which should be maintained?

I think queer theology, as a field, is still very much in the developing stages, and while the deconstruction of boundaries is definitely a part of it, I'm not sure I would use that as it's major definition. I recently read "Radical Love," which is Patrick Cheng's primer on queer theology, and he talked a lot about this kind of deconstruction, so I definitely understand the inclusion of these ideas as a primary aspect. If I were going to highlight primary characteristics of queer theology, though, I think I'd say that it focuses on the recognition of the socially constructed nature of things like sexuality and gender, and that it attempts to bring to the center voices that have previously only been on the margins of faith communities.

My personal feeling is that binaries should indeed be deconstructed, or at least scrutinized, because often those binaries are false. For instance, we might want to say that all humans are divided into male or female--creating a binary--but people who are intersex and transgender show that this binary is a false one. Having said that, though, I don't think all boundaries should be deconstructed. There are definitely many boundaries that have to do with sexuality and gender that need to be recognized and respected--such as any sexual boundary between two people who are not in equal places of social power, like an adult and a child, or a pastor and a congregant. There are some boundaries that we, as a society, put in place because it protects those who may be hurt or abused, and that must be respected absolutely.

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

And there you have it. I hope you've benefited much reading this and if you'd like to check out his YouTube videos on being trans and Christian or would like to follow him on his blog or twitter, you can click on the links down below:


YouTube: Trans and Christian videos

Twitter: @AustenLionheart

Blog: LionheartA blog by Austen Hartke


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Q&A: Growing up gay in a Christian household

Benjamin* is a gay Christian who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity. 


1. What was your introduction to Christianity like?

I come from a Christian household and grew up in Sunday school. In secondary school, I was exposed to philosophy and started reading up on other religions. This was an important point in my life. Some people might use the term “backsliding” to describe me at that point. But after some exploration, Christianity made the most sense to me. Faith to me isn’t just intellectual, it is an emotional experience as well.


2. At what age did you realise you were gay?

Naturally at around 10 - 13. There was no eureka moment, it was a gradual process.


3. How did you deal with it?

I was tormented by it. Being Christian. It was arduous. But I’m much more comfortable with myself right now and am still a Christian.


4. How did you decide to come out to your parents?

(As this was a rather sensitive question, Benjamin declined to answer this question.)


5. How do you integrate your sexuality with your faith?

The sexual act is the sin itself. It’s incompatible with what I believe in. Emotional and companionship is fine.

Something important I’d to point out is this: Although it’s not in the 10 Commandments, it’s still a sin. Just like gossip, hypocrisy and lying. Not having sex with another man is not more grave than lying.

Abortion and divorce are sins too although they are legal. There are therefore then loopholes in the argument against gay marriage. Christians cannot and should not prescribe our brand on faith onto secular society.


6. How was it like growing up gay in a Christian household?

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Getting to know God. I am thankful for upbringing because it led me to know God.


7. What would you say to encourage a closeted gay teenager living in a conservative Christian home?

Always come back to prayer. Only trust God’s voice because Christians are unnecessarily unable to discern the point where human agenda intrudes into human conviction.


*Not his real name

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Second empat perkataan

I am crying. Reading. Weeping. 
Relinquishing, I am grieving. 

Right now, calmer; writing, typing. 
Breathing slowly, tears stop, thinking. 

How strange to be reading, weeping;
Brené Brown's book simply stunning. 

Now I'm sleepy, headed to bed
Lying down now, what's left unsaid?

My first empat perkataan

Monday, 23 November 2015

Transgender Day of Remembrance at FCC


So I attended the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) Special Service at Free Community Church yesterday. To my knowledge, it is the only church in Singapore that observed TDOR and I went in the hope of gaining a better understanding of my trans brothers and sisters in Christ, and just to learn more about the experience of being trans in general.

The service started by us singing a couple of songs, and then Pastor Miak led us to observe a minute of silence for the 90 trans people that were killed worldwide. Seemed like the bulk of them were living in America and Brazil.

Then they collected an offering and showed a video on the life of an intersex person living in Hong Kong. At this point in time I was feeling rather confused because an intersex person is very much different from a trans person and there wasn't much of an explanation for that video. Nevertheless, it proved to be interesting and I just assumed they just wanted to raise awareness of those born intersex.

(On a separate note, I'm reading a very educational book on the topic titled, "Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and the Intersex in the Image of God" by Megan DeFranza and will be a doing a book review once I'm done with that. So watch this space!)

Then, they invited a panel of 6 people up on stage.

Well, although the panel didn't disappoint, I was a little underwhelmed, yet still gained much from it.

They had a panel of 5 people, 2 transmen, Christopher Khor and Mich Chow, 2 transwomen, Tricia Leong and Sherry Sherqueshaa and one gender neutral person, Alex. The facilitator was Pauline Ong and I must say she really did a good job.

So they started by sharing their stories about growing up trans (and gender neutral) in Singapore, the challenges they faced and a significant milestone in their lives. After that was done, Pauline asked a couple of questions and then they opened up the floor for a Q&A session.

Someone asked a good question of how, if they are unsure, to approach a person to ask for their preferred pronouns (he/him/his, she/her/hers etc.). Because if the person were cis-gender (not trans) wouldn't they be offended?

The answer, though not satisfactory, was this: Ask everyone you meet their preferred pronouns.

Another person asked about the use of public toilets and I was surprised to hear that some of them simply do not use public toilets at all. Wow. I never knew. It's a pretty tough life man. Thankfully, there are handicapped toilets which were made to good use.

I had a question, 3 in fact, but because I took so long to think of them, they ran out of time and I couldn't ask the questions.

What I wanted to ask was:

1. What abuse, if any, have you suffered from the Church or from Christians?
2. If so, how would you hope can be done about it?
3. If you are Christian, how do you reconcile your gender identity and your faith?

The third was actually the most burning question and I was surprised that it was not asked or addressed at all by any one of them, FCC being a church and all. But I suppose the focus was probably not on that and more on raising awareness of the struggles on trans people in general.

Well, it is good that a church actually organises a TDOR service and I hope more do, but it seems to me at the moment that in this country we are facing two extremes. One, radical inclusiveness, and the other, blatant disregard. Both have their pros and cons, but as I have said before in a previous post,

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

And on this note, I shall end.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Romans 1, Psalm 37, and a blog post

Been reading Romans 1 quite a bit as I spent time with God and I felt Him urge me to read it. As a result, I feel like I'm gravitating toward Side B more than ever before.

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Today at church, I felt very strongly that God was telling me to stay in this church, in this spiritual family I was planted in regardless of whatever happened and whoever wanted to push me out.

All this as the preacher (Phil Pringle) was talking about Psalm 37:3-5 which is reproduced below:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.

Which is great advice. Thank you Lord. But it made me wonder if I was imagining things or if it was truly the voice of God. Which you will find is a running theme in my blog. Anyway, I'm prepared, so I'll try to stay rooted in this church that I have find myself planted in. Come hell or high water. And hopefully this blog post will serve to remind me of this day in which the Lord has spoken to me.

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Just chanced upon a blog by some guy on Twitter and it was such a word in season reading a post by him. The main takeaway was that we are to put Christ in place of our infatuations. Considering that I've had 7 major crushes in 5 years, I think it's quite appropriate for me. Like the author said, if we are willing to spend 3 hours getting to know a crush, what more Jesus, who should be our One True Love.

Thank you Kenji for writing that post 3 years ago. It really resonates.

And thank you God.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Coming full circle

I first heard Vicky Beeching speak this January and it seems appropriate that after going through a whirlwind of a year where I've felt disordered, had a crisis of faith, developed a new crush (which has since largely died down), that I would come back and listen to Vicky Beeching speak again at a keynote at The Reformation Project conference held recently at Kansas.

I listened to the one hour talk last night when I had a bout of insomnia and was encouraged and inspired once again.

She shared her life story yet again, and then talked about Tribes, Trauma and Trust and that's what I'd like to dwell upon here.

1. Tribes

Vicky mentioned that for many of us, we might have been pushed out of our church family or ministry but that there is a new tribe forming that are for us and with us - LGBT+ Christians and their allies.

We all yearn to belong and it is difficult when one's tribe rejects you.

I know that first hand. And yet, it is not the end of the world. There are people who are for you, I have been at the receiving end of much love and support from so many that I've come out to. And I'm very grateful for that. It took a healthy load of discernment, a fair bit of vulnerability coupled with a dash of risk-taking for me to get to this place.

I've found my own tribe and I hope to enable others to find theirs too. (Attending LGBT+ conferences are a great way to do so and I'm happy that I'm going for the GCN Conference this coming January in 2016!)


2. Trauma

Physically, emotionally or mentally, many of us are suffering. It would be inauthentic if we do not remove the masks on our faces. We need to address these issues and not be afraid to do so.

I'm happy to report that I decided to start seeing a clinical psychologist in an effort to manage my bipolar mood swings a bit better and also a counsellor at Oogachaga to deal with the tension living as a gay Christian. I have benefitted very much from seeing them both and blog about my journey in hopes of starting conversations about mental health issues that are still very much a taboo even in a first world country like mine.


3. Trust

She finally talked about trusting the voice of God. That has been a big part of the struggle for me. I know that God loves me as I am and have often heard from Him that having a partner is fine by Him. But I doubt myself and let the voices of other Christians drown out the voice of God.

In that YouTube video last night, I was reminded to put my trust in God. I am first and foremost a child of God and I really do identify as that above identifying as gay. As a child, I know my Father has my best interests at heart and is with me every step of the way.



Thank you Vicky for speaking and I pray one day we might be able to connect if I ever pop by UK!


If you've got an hour to spare, why not check out the video here, I'm sure you'll be very blessed by it (it helps that she's got quite a sense of humour too):

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Beef lovers, chicken lovers and vegetarians

On Planet E, there were some beef lovers and chicken lovers.

The chicken lovers were in the majority and they sure enjoyed their chicken. They had quite a variety of them - organic, kampong, free-range, factory-farmed and so on. Prepared in a variety of ways, the chicken lovers had them grilled, barbecued, fried, steamed, stewed, stir-fried and more. They loved their chicken and made sure everyone knew it. Breakfast, lunch and dinner all featured chicken. Chicken was advertised in media of every sort - newspapers, magazines, on billboards and even in irritating embedded ads in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Then there were a minority who were beef lovers. Like the chicken lovers, they had them grilled, barbecued, fried, steamed, stewed, stir-fried and more. They loved the taste of beef and couldn’t get enough of it. Some of them, for religious reasons, ate chicken instead. They were beef lovers but could not bear to eat the meat of a cow. So instead, they consumed chicken. But they’d prefer beef over chicken any time. The beef lovers respected their decision although some said that they were denying their true selves and encouraged them to embrace their beef loving side instead. But they could not, in good conscience, do so and decided to live their lives eating chicken even though they were born beef lovers. 

Others, though loving beef, tried chicken in order to conform to the majority. After all, it was easier to be part of the crowd without having to explain why they preferred beef. Some tried and liked it, others didn’t. The latter went back to consuming beef. Perhaps the former really were chicken-beef lovers instead of pure beef lovers. No matter. To each his or her own.

Finally, there were the vegetarians. Neither beef nor chicken lovers, they consumed vegetables instead. They were surrounded by beef and chicken lovers who occasionally tried to convince them to join them. But they just liked the taste of vegetables.


The end.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Perhaps

Had cell group meeting today and had so many thoughts. I'll just randomly ramble on one of them...

As Pauline mentioned how as a young Christian she'd be struck be certain verses and would meditate on them, I found myself coming back to 4 words in Romans 1, The Message translation.

"All lust, no love."

When I read that a couple of months ago, I pondered upon it for a long while before texting a couple of my friends this:

"What is lust?"

And had a variety of responses, some of which were rather thought-provoking (that shall be a blog post for another day).

Perhaps the people Paul were referring to were consumed with lust. Perhaps their problem wasn't sex with people of the same gender, but that it was devoid of love. That may sound a bit far out for some conservative Christians, but I think it's a very valid interpretation.

And so I wondered...

Thursday, 22 October 2015

If

“You are good, you are good, you are good, and your mercy is forever.”

When we got to the chorus, my heart stopped.

If God is good, why did He create me gay?

I could no longer sing. How could God be good? Yet He is. But I am gay. The questions in my mind bounced back and forth. It got to a point where conflict within me threatened to tear me apart - all this as the song was being sung. Thank goodness it ended soon after.

Still, the question remained.

I tried to pay attention to the cell group message that was being preached, and focused on interacting with the new person beside me to distract myself.

Right after cell group ended, I took a picture of the lyrics with my phone, and texted about half a dozen people (and texted even more people later):




Then I continued interacting and eating with my fellow cell members after that. I think I deserve an Oscar. Or have serious dissociation issues. No one asked me if I was alright, so I must have seemed fine. But I sure wasn’t. There was a major hurricane rampaging through my brain.

Later that night, I retreated into my study to try to pray and grapple with God. And ended up sobbing uncontrollably for about half an hour or so it seemed, unable to stop. I think the last time I cried so much was at the beginning of this year. The difference was that this time round, I was seriously doubting the goodness of God. A fundamental characteristic of who He is.


Eventually, I went back to my darkened bedroom spent yet unable to sleep and texted some good friends till 3am when I knocked out.

I woke up on Saturday feeling raw and surprisingly alert. I busied myself with work the entire day to distract myself from the pain. Bawling to God the night before was cathartic, but the fact that God wasn’t good was just too excruciating to bear. I wasn't even able to bring myself to pray because if God isn’t good, why would He even bother to answer any prayer request of mine?

I think it was by the grace of God that there finally came a text from a friend that lifted my heart.

Today, I can sing the following song and believe in it. If you’re on a computer, play it as you read what my friends texted me. 


If you are also struggling with the very same question I grappled with, I hope these replies help. Of course, like everything, some are more helpful than others. There was one that made me smile, one that made my heart boil, one that got me out of my crisis of faith. But they were all coming from a place of great concern and love regardless. That I am very thankful for. God has indeed put us in community for a reason.

(And I realised through this that I actually have a lot of internalised and pent up homophobia. Who knew?)

Once again I must say, I am so grateful for my friends.

Replies from my dear friends:

1. His power will be made perfect in your weakness 

2. Hugs Rachel

3. :( that's why I don't believe same-sex attraction is part of your God-given identity...though I do believe it is a very real struggle. Hang in there...stay connected to the God of hope.

4. Hmm, I don’t have an answer…what have you thought about so far? Why do you feel that “God is good” and you being gay are incompatible? 

5. I don’t have the answer to that Rach… :( but I know through it all He is still good and will be good to u…. Pray ur heart not be weary and will see the goodness of God… *hugs* 

6. Not sure. It’s not about you though. That I know for sure. He will help you. 

7. Help me to understand u a little better k? What about the lyrics that cause you to feel  :(? Are you doubting God’s goodness or His love or That you feel less than or Other reasons? Other days I find that you identify as gay with no issue but today why :( ? But I am praying for you now. For His love to cover you. No matter who what, He still loves you. God rejoices over you. 

Hugs.. Because you are gay that you equal God as not good? Then we have to answer 2 questions before we can say that. 

1) does God make people gay? 
2) is being gay bad? 

Your statement raised many other intriguing questions… I think Jesus must hate God a lot because He made him the messiah, raised him just only to kill him. Nothing more than livestock. Is God bad then?

I asked the same question before why did God make me gay? But I think I stopped asking this question after 2009..

I dunno if it were any consolation.. If you aren’t gay you wouldn’t be able to help me come to terms with my faith and orientation issue last year. If L. wasn't gay she wouldn’t have understood me and help me over my depression. If you aren’t gay you wouldn’t have reached out to E. If Justin lee and wesley hill and Julie Rodgers aren’t who they are they wouldn’t have mattered.

Anyway, I stopped asking the question why did God made me gay. Because answers to these questions bring discouragement, even the best answers do little to lift my spirit but raises more questions.

I like your honesty that you are able to say God is not good. Many christians can’t bear to utter their true feelings to God. 

8. Sigh.. I don’t have an answer either.. 

But I can ask this same question to God in many different ways.. If God is good, why am I born so unattractive? If God is good, why do I keep having such bad skin and so little hair? Why doesn’t He just answer my prayer and grant me all these seemingly simple wishes that others have in abundance and take for granted? 

And why does He put me in a family full of attractive and smart people which further magnifies my shortcomings? Why can’t I just be more like my family? 

There are other more serious issues too.. Like why is he born physically deformed, poor, sick, etc. I mean, if God heals us, delivers us, blessed us in those areas we struggle with, praise Him. But we will never know whether he will do it, in my physical lifetime here. 

So to me, sometimes believing that God is good is an act of faith in itself. I mean, I’ve experienced His goodness before, so that helps me in my belief that He loves me and cares for me. But I still struggle with many weaknesses / flaws / thoughts that have not been lifted from my life. And this daily struggle does make it difficult for me to reconcile with my knowledge of a good God when He doesn’t seem to be doing anything to alleviate my sufferings. But I guess for me I just choose to believe and trust that God is good.

And I believe because I live in a broken world, I guess nothing will be perfect. I think one day when we finally meet him, all these desires / thoughts / feelings will be inconsequential. 

9. Sadly I don’t have a good answer for u. I can only tell you the stuff you already know. That it is not god who creates the flaw but it’s a function of this fallen world. I dunno how to help you except to say that you can only find your answers in god and not in yourself nor me.

I find it hard to believe that too. Esp when we’re looking at it when we’re not having a great time. I think I find it harder to believe that god is good than that there is god. Just maybe a month ago when I was really struggling with this, I read a lot about the issue - if god is good why is there suffering. 

The grief observed by C.S. Lewis, one of the chapters in The case for faith, Philip Yancey’s Where is God when it hurts. And all of it made sense but didn’t convince me. Like yeah, it’s true but my heart feels so jaded and heavy. And I can’t believe that he’s good. 

But then I had a few times when the word really spoke to me and then I was convinced he was good (of course within a few days my faith would leak again and I would have to go and seek god again). Once I felt strongly that god was my father - Heb 12 says that he disciplines those he treats as his own son. Another one was that I felt strongly that he wanted to assure me of the depths and height and length and breadth of his love in Eph. And a few others. 

So you just need to look for god and find him for yourself. Although I have to say I still find it quite hard. Like I feel like god speaks and I’m convinced and then I swing back again to jadedness. Try and see if it works. 

10. God’s plans for everyone is different. Being gay allowed me to understand myself and the plight of the marginalised better. And to understand that this was His/Her plan, that is all out of my control. Instead of seeing it in a negative light, why not see it from another angle, another pespective? 

11. So basically you are saying, ‘God isn’t good because he created me gay?’ Well… if sexuality is your whole life then I can see how you would think that. God himself doesn’t think of you in a box if it helps at all. 

12. ((Hug)) Rachel, God created you to be a worshipper of Him. That is the highest call of every human being. To forsake all others and cleave only to Him - it’s big call. I don’t actually believe He made you gay, Rachel. 

13. Sometimes I think everyone of us needs a reminder to accept and love ourselves every day. Loving someone is a choice right? An action that we make. I think the same applies to our self. 


But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.      1 Corinthians 15:10 NKJV             

I believe God loves you. I know I love you. Being gay or not is inconsequential to the love I have to you as my dear friend and sister. Perhaps that does not make living in this world any easier… Some famous person once said sth along the lines of how “your singleness explains you but is not the essence of you” I think the same is true of our sexuality. It explains us but it is not the essence of who we are, the essence of who we are is Christ and we identify as children of God. 

14. So that his glory and power could be shown in you! You’re amazing

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

What is the conclusion of the matter? If you were to approach me and ask how I'm dealing with it today, I think I'd look you in the eye, smile, and declare that God is good, and that I am most fearfully and wonderfully made.

Cheers.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Counselling at Oogachaga

I'd been thinking about popping by Oogachaga for a spot of counselling for the inner conflict I have between my faith and my sexuality for some time now. One day, on a whim, I decided to call them up to make an appointment.

I was told to email someone, which I did, and was then directed to fill up a form after which a date was then set and a bank transfer of $60 was made.

Feeling a little down yesterday (it's probably hormonal), I trudged my way to Chinatown after gulping down a flat white so that I would be properly awake for the session.

Located near the exit of Chinatown MRT, I found the office rather easily and was ushered into Ginger Room which was nicely furnished and warmly lit. I was 10 minutes early and as I waited for the counsellor, I prayed a bit.

R. came in, was nice and polite and asked me what I was here for. I started off saying that "my psychologist noted that she noticed 'a conflict between my sexual orientation and my religious beliefs' " and he picked it up from there.

He asked appropriate questions where I shared my story and then he picked up where I left off. We talked about other related things and one hour passed really fast.

I was very impressed at the end of it all.

I think my main takeaway was that I realised that my conflict was not so much between my faith and sexuality, but it's based more on my expectations of how people might reject me if I choose to embrace my sexuality and act on what I believe. Honestly, I think God's got no problems with what I've got in mind for my future. He's given the green light for many things. I just wonder if I hear wrongly. What I'm probably more concerned with is with the opinions of others. What a difficult chain to break. This all I realised after talking with R.

I felt much happier after an hour of talk therapy and really gained from it. He remarked that we'd covered a lot of ground even though we'd only met for the first time. I guess people usually take time to open up, especially if it's the first time they are articulating their fears for the very first time. I, on the other hand, have spoken about this countless times.

I'm not sure if I'll go back for a second session, maybe after I process this for a while. But it was really helpful so I might just do so. I wonder what else I'll learn about myself. Hmmm....

Anyway, if you're thinking of counselling, do check it out, I think what I was most impressed about was how R. didn't force a pro-gay approach down my throat but helped me find my own inner direction even though Oogachaga is gay-affirmative. He was very understanding and engaged me on my own terms when I talked about God and all. (I'd also previously indicated that I'd prefer to speak to a counsellor who's preferably Christian. They indicated that they did not ask for the religious beliefs of their counsellors and would not be able to do so, but assured me that all their counsellors would be understanding.)

If you're a student or are under financial constraints but would like to seek face-to-face counselling, do let them know when filling up the form or emailing them and they can make arrangements for you. If you're shy, they have email counselling, a hotline and Whatsapp counselling at the following numbers:

Hotline and Whatsapp Counselling
Hotline: 6226 2002 Whatsapp: 8592 0609 Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7pm – 10pm, Saturdays from 2pm – 5pm.WOW (Women on Wednesdays)Hotline: 6226 6629Wednesdays: 7pm – 10pm.
These services provide an active listening ear for people who would like to share anonymously about issues troubling them, such as sexuality and relationship matters, as well as obtain advice and resources on safer sex and HIV/STI related issues. 
The hotline service was established in 2006, and the Whatsapp service followed in 2013. Calls and chats are handled by a team of specially trained LGBTQ and LGBTQ-affirming volunteers who will ensure the confidentiality of every call. The team is supported by experienced volunteers and staff, and everyone is expected to adhere to Oogachaga’s Code of Ethics for volunteers.
We apologise for these services being unavailable outside the publicised hours, and wish to highlight that the Whatsapp service is not able to accept SMS text messages.
Hope this is useful for you!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Jumbled thoughts from a mixed up mind

So this will be a mish-mash of thoughts about my current crush. You have been warned, it will be a topsy-turvy account of the stream of consciousness that’s plagued me lately.

My crush, my crush, my crush. Do you like me? Your dazzling smile completely besotted me that afternoon when you chanced upon me quite by accident. I replay that image in my mind again and again, looping it indefinitely.

This sounds like an awful gushing of a 16-year-old. But I shall continue.

Could it be? That God you’ve given the clearance? Am I hearing right? Perhaps I am wrong. I need some confirmation. But it doesn’t seem the wisest thing to put out a fleece, or even two. Could it be that You are with me? After all, You’re for us and not against us?

Is she the one? Perhaps she is intersex and just presenting as female? Or perhaps it’s my overactive imagination at work as I’m reading Megan DeFranza’s latest (Sex Difference in Christian Theology - Male, Female, and Intersex and the Image of God). If she’s intersex, would that make the problem somewhat simpler? But they’re so rare, 1 in 1,000 births do they occur. How can it possibly be?

Or perhaps she is truly female. It is unfair to her that I demand celibacy for myself then isn’t it? Most people in a relationship crave for physical affection don't they? Perhaps she is asexual? Haha, that would solve a lot of problems.

Darn, maybe she’s already got a partner. What is all this wishful thinking for then?

I am content to be her friend really. She seems like a rather nice person to befriend.

Lord, not my will, but Yours be done.

The end.


Thursday, 1 October 2015

It is well by Bethel Music - an excerpt

Through it all, through it all,
My eyes are on You. 
Through it all, through it all,
It is well. 

So let go my soul and trust in Him,
The waves and wind still know His name. 

It is well with my soul. 
It is well with my soul. 

Friday, 18 September 2015

IndigNation Queer Shorts

So I attended my first ever LGBT film festival today. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a film festival, but that’s what I’m calling it, because they screened 4 films and the mood was kinda festive. Haha. In any case, it was BRILLIANT!

I got to know about the event one day while idly browsing through my Peatix app and signed up in 3 seconds flat. I didn’t take a very close look at what they were showing to be honest, just the title “Queer Shorts” was enough to make me buy the tickets.

And so did more than a hundred people it seems.

This private screening was so popular that when I told a friend who might be interested about it, it was already fully sold out. 

That’s a good start.

Well, here are the films shown and my feelings about each one of them. 


1. A Straight Journey: Days and Nights in their Kingdom / 从黑夜到白天:为同性恋拍照时,我们聊了些什么

This was basically a documentary being LGB in China. It was eye-opening and kinda what you’d expect, I mean, coming from conservative China and all that. Having said that, you’d sympathise with the subjects because some of the men have a really tough life, having married wives but being unable to have sex with them because they couldn’t bring themselves to do it. When one said he’d not slept with her for 8 years there was a collective gasp in the audience. Haha. That was funny. 

There were light-hearted moments too, for example, when one parent commented, and I paraphrase, “How do you know you don’t like girls if you’ve never dated them? Do you have a (penile) sexual dysfunction? That can be treated you know.”

This lovely movie was the winner of the ShanghaiPride Film Festival 2015.

It was a good start and I quite enjoyed watching it. I think it’s tougher being LGBT in China than in Singapore just because we are so much more Westernized and (somewhat) more accepting.



2. Let me in / 렛미인

I hated this one. Noir and disturbing, it was a Korean film about a women and a teenage school girl. It was very art-house. Couldn't quite follow the plot. But what I gathered was that a girl wanted to kill herself and fell in love with an older woman. The latter then encourages her to do so and is upset when she failed in her suicide attempt. Girl gets angry and later woman appears to have taken the first step to kill herself as well. Girl later then eats poisoned cake and dies too. Then she wakes up (apparently cake wasn’t poisoned), and watches woman fall of a ledge of a building.

It was weird, violent and gruesome. The organisers kindly gave a trigger warning that there would be scenes of suicide and self harm so we were prepared.

Ah well, the joys of attending a film festival.

Thankfully, the next two redeemed the event. Haha.


3. To Mum (Love Me)

This one was a crowd favourite, probably because it’s set in Singapore. It’s about a young closeted lesbian who accidentally outed herself when her mother found a compromising photo while cleaning up her room.

It then chronicles the journey both mother and daughter take as they try to come to terms with the daughter being gay. The mom is a traditional Chinese mother and tries to change her daughter but later comes around.

Heart-warming really.

4. The Younger / 青親

Last film was as heart-breaking as the previous one was heart-warming. 

It was about a young man who worked at a massage parlour to pay for the medical expenses of his grandmother who had Alzheimer’s.

We see how he serviced his customers, fell for one of them, got propositioned by one, and raped by another. Shortly after, his grandma killed herself at home. That was really sad.

This short synopsis does not do justice to the show. If you are able to, I don’t know how, do try to watch this, it’s really good.





I was curious and after the film festival ended, I approached the organizers, Stephanie and Muslim and asked them how they dealt with the notoriously strict Media Development Authority (MDA). They said it was a private screening and as they didn’t advertise, it was fine and dandy. I must say I was very lucky to have chanced on it on Peatix myself then.

They mentioned that they are looking at more screenings in the future but nothing’s been confirmed. I really applaud their effort and am delighted that someone’s doing this. LGBT folks can relate and straight ones need exposure, or some of them at least. I’d go for another screening over a Hollywood blockbuster any time man. 

Well, considering how big Pink Dot is getting, I’m sure they’d be no shortage of people getting tickets for their next event. I’ll be posting updates here when they do, so keep a lookout y’all! Alternatively, follow them at their Facebook page at IndigNation Queer Films.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Minority of a minority of a minority

I am gay, Christian, and celibate. And that is probably not going to change very much in the near future. Each successive label places me in an ever smaller subset which can be both liberating and suffocating. I once wrote a rather awful sonnet creatively titled, “Minority of a minority of a minority” chronicling my experience back in 2013.

A good friend tried to matchmake me with a mutual friend yesterday and the dissonance I felt was rather stark. It’s not only because the guy wasn’t quite my type (I think I’m gay with hints of bisexuality), but because she couldn’t appreciate how much my life has changed in the past 5 years. Not that it’s any fault of hers, I never shared my blog with her, what with me blogging here semi-anonymously for fear of repercussions where my job would be placed into jeopardy if I come out because I’m living in conservative Singapore.

Well, she had good intentions, and I don’t blame her, so for my sake, and for hers, I thought I’d just list down how much each label has come to define me.


Part 1: Counselling and Choices Support Group (2011 - 2014)

I first joined a Christian support group helmed by Church of our Saviour (COOS) in 2012. This was after I’d undergone counselling for the intense internal conflict I faced between my sexuality and my faith. It was like a second puberty as these attractions only emerged when I was at a ripe old age of 23 for reasons we will save for another blog post.

In any case, the support group was awesome. It was helpful to meet people who faced the same struggles that I did. To know that I wasn’t alone was a relief to say the least. I went through 3 modules in this system set up by Sy Rogers in his stint in Singapore and it was progressively less and less helpful as it went on. I found that a focus on distant fathers and domineering mothers was something I couldn’t quite identify with. They call it reparative therapy and I must admit that some parts of it did prove to be rather reparative. But over time, it just got a little annoying.

Thank goodness there was a break in between where I attended my first and the last ever…


Part 2: Exodus International Conference 2013

This was the best conference I have attended ever. It wasn’t the just the speakers. God knows. I was only fully awake when Alan Chambers spoke at the opening night because of the adrenaline rush from the anticipation that was built up the entire day. At other times, I was just falling asleep because of the terrible jet lag I suffered.

What impacted me the most were the Refuge Groups held nightly where a bunch of youths and young adults gathered together to share their testimonies. There were probably a hundred people each night and the stories I heard were extremely healing. Men and women spoke about how God convicted them and led them away from their gay partners, abusive relationships and wrong beliefs. To know that I was part of a bigger collective was the most amazing thing ever. I listened intently to each person, my heart beating fast on the last night because I thought I’d share my story. But I never summoned the courage to before the night ended.

It was kinda different from the support group I had here at home. Perhaps because I heard from both guys and girls whereas at Choices we were grouped by gender. And perhaps it was due to the way Choices was structured, I never got the chance to hear the story of how each person, unlike that night at Exodus.

That was part of what led to my next step in this journey where I discovered…


Part 3: Gay Christian Bloggers (2013 - now)

Twitter is a weird and wonderful place where the world truly becomes a smaller place. I found and devoured authors like Justin Lee, Wesley Hill, Eve Tushnet and more. The first time I read Washed and Waiting, I felt an instant connection, especially in the chapter where Hill comes out for the very first time. It was exactly how I felt, word for word.

Then I found ordinary folks who blogged, people like Julie Rodgers, Brent Bailey, Stephen Long and more.

Then in more recent times I discovered Seth Crocker, Kevin Garcia and Justin Massey.

All of them provided a community, though separated across the Pacific, but one that was brought very close to me with every tweet and blog post they posted.

I could identify with them as they articulated how I felt about the society around me, how the church and fellow Christians treated me, and the somewhat constant, unending, daily conflict I encounter between my faith and sexuality. Though I must say that it’s a lot better these days.

With the closure of Exodus, the presence of these people (whether affirming or not) solidified my identity as one who was celibate just because that was the conviction God’s placed on my heart.

However, my options are open. I look at Alan Chambers and am encouraged. I am open to the concept of marriage in the future to a man, someone of the opposite sex. This would be nothing short of a miracle and it will certainly be a very special man, in every sense of the word.

However, that is not my aim. Marriage is not an idol in my life, thank God for that. Perhaps I might enter a celibate same-sex relationship like what the folks at A Queer Calling model? I don’t know. We will see how God leads.

All I know is that at this moment in time, affirming theology does not speak to me and I feel that I’m committed to celibacy.

As a result, not any other matchmaking attempt would lead to success. It would take a very, very, very special man to come into my life, and it would be a divine appointment. The same goes for any lady God might send.

Anyway, I don’t quite know if I’d let the said friend read this. She did what she did with every good intention, but I don’t know if she’ll understand, or even make an attempt to understand, my rambling here in this post. Perhaps I’ll share with her one day when I think she is open to the things I’ve blogged about here.

Perhaps.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, I’ll journey along with you, my reader, as I attempt to be a compassionate gay, Christian and celibate voice in sunny Singapore. I will endeavour to do my best to speak up for this minority of a minority of yet another minority because that’s where I belong. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

A conversation with my vocal coach

Because I am tone-deaf, I signed up with a singing school to address the problem a couple of years back. I’ve got an excellent vocal coach who has helped me to sing more and more on pitch. We sometimes talk and have such an intense conversation that we forget about singing and just yak on and on and on. Today was such a day and I thought I ought to share it with you because it contained so many insights and revelations it must be divine. I shall put headers for each section so that I’ll try to stay on topic.


On matchmaking and marriage

It all began when she tried to matchmake me with someone we both knew. I didn’t want to shatter her hopes that the guy isn’t my type so I just humoured her by listening to her theory of how people get together and end up getting married. She made quite a lot of sense and it isn’t anything new.

First people become acquaintances, and then friends. Then you hang out together with a large group of friends, getting to know the person more and more. Slowly you grow closer, and then you commit to one another in a relationship and subsequently marriage.

“You don’t want to stay single all your life do you?” she said.


On SDN* by the church

I then revealed to her I’d signed up for City Connexions, our church’s very own matchmaking service. It was more for fun than anything else, but I told her I was very disturbed by what they advertised.

Have a look:




One statement I didn’t agree with was this: “Marriage should be something that comes naturally along the paths of single Christians.”

Excuse me, are you implying that those who are unmarried are unnatural? 

And of course, my understanding vocal coach pointed out that firstly, those who never get married form a minority. Then, she clarified that just because something was not natural did not mean that the converse was unnatural. It was just less common.

“Perhaps they should have said that it is ‘more common’ instead of using the word ‘natural’,” and I was mollified. 


Of homosexuality and hormones

Throughout our conversation, she mentioned how men with lower testosterone levels became gay at least three times. I let it pass, but on the third time I asked her if she could tell me where she got that from.

She told me that she’d watched it on Discovery Channel. Or was it National Geographic? I can’t remember which. Anyway, she said the show she watched featured a pair of identical twins one of whom was gay and the other, straight.

Scientists proposed that in the womb, one had got a regular androgen wash and turned out male and straight, the other got an insufficient androgen wash which caused him to turn out male but gay.

Very interesting.

But what was more interesting was that she said that when the twins grew up, they measured their hormones and found out that the gay dude had more estrogen and less testosterone.

Now I cannot comment and I have to watch the original show to find out more, but the implications are endless.

Because if a shot of testosterone can stop one from being gay and becoming straight, then why hasn’t this been tried? 

Or has it? I don’t know but I’m gonna find out. (And that will make for an interesting blog post for another day.)

It is fascinating because I once remarked to my friend who’s a medical doctor that I suspected that I had higher than normal levels of testosterone than an average girl.


Trans voices

Which brought us to the next topic. 

I told her about how I found out about Aydian Dowling the heart-throb and how even as a trans male who is extremely buff, his voice did not change much from the testosterone and remained rather high-pitched compared to other trans guys who got onto T and I showed her a clip from YouTube. I took my comparisons from 2 different YouTubers Austen Hartke and Ty Turner before and after T. I must qualify that one’s voice quality does not indicate one’s masculinity or femininity although females generally have voices a touch higher than males.

I asked her if as a vocal coach she had trained any trans people, FTM or MTF, in singing. She said she hadn’t but had met an MTF singer in the industry. She commented that it was easier for FTMs because it you are developing forward and deepening your voice as opposed to MTF who cannot reverse the process.

I told her about Point 5cc, a company setup by Aydian Dowling to provide binders and stuff for FTM because there was a need to provide safe binders and stuff that wouldn’t cause one to faint or suffocate.

She looked at me in horror.

And I tried to alleviate the tension by saying that they wouldn’t be able to sing very well with binders on would they?

She said of course, when you crush the ribcage you cannot sing very well.


Inappropriate gender jokes by pastors 

I later complained about how Pastor Kong was insensitive about gender stereotypes and pointed out yesterday’s message where he said the following, and I paraphrase:

“Men can form friendships easily and become buddies but women, when they come together, they may appear friendly, but internally, they say to themselves, “That girl’s lashes are so long, they must be fake!”

And she interrupted me and said that it was a joke.

I was in disbelief and replied that it wasn’t funny.

She said it’s because she knows people who act exactly like that that she finds it funny and that I didn’t know such people and could not see the joke in it.

I couldn’t. And I was complaining to my good friends A. and T. about it yesterday who both reassured me that our pastor was just appealing to the mainstream by pandering to stereotypes. I was telling them that by his definition I could qualify as a man and I didn’t even identify as trans.

Well, I still don’t find it funny and think that it is equivalent to a pastor making such a joke:

“What did God say when he made the first niggers?

Whoops! Burnt another one!”

That is unbelievably racist and alienating and a sensible pastor would not dare dream of saying such words. Why then jokes on gender?

Sigh.

Ah well, I was at least consoled when Sun, his wife, signalled him to move on yesterday, probably agreeing with me. That is my sole consolation.

Alive or dead?

At some point in the conversation I touched on the fact that 40% of trans people commit suicide. I then asked her the question would be whether we want a trans friend who is alive or a dead friend in their assigned gender. 

She replied unequivocally, "Alive of course!" 

We should always choose life she said. 

I was heartened. 


Well then, that was a summary of our hour long conversation and I’ve done my best although certain things have been forgotten or left out. I thought it was a most interesting conversation and am glad I talked instead of sung today.




*Social Development Network: Singapore’s matchmaking agency run by the state


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