Saturday, May 12, 2007

My NYC adventure (part 2)

This is the second installment of my NYC adventure posts (part one is here).

After Jed left, and I took some congratulatory phone calls, I got busy scraping off the GMA makeup (although I wasn't able to get all of it off—I wonder if the makeup folks were expecting me to cry because they used some heavy duty stuff that took a lot of work to remove).

On my way over to the Glamour offices (they graciously let me use a free computer in their offices for a bit so I could catch up on some online stuff), I stumbled across the Naked Cowboy...not that this is hardly a feat in Times Square, but still...

The megalomaniac Naked Cowboy can be found in all weather playing his guitar and posing for pictures with tourists in exchange for tips. His website contains chapters from his autobiography and he writes, "My love for life, my dedication and hard work for excellence, my compassion and open-mindedness will be world-renowned, recognized ,and sought after, if not emulated by all. [...] As the most celebrated entertainer of all time, naturally I feel a tremendous responsibility to inform the public what exactly went into the making of my legend and my legacy."

It's always summer in my world. There's just certain times throughout the year when it's harder to convince myself of that.
—Naked Cowboy

"I'm thirty years old, I sing and play guitar in my underwear for a living. What could be bad news next to that?"
—Naked Cowboy
Just goes to show that you always have to keep an eye on those living the straight lifestyle. His effort to convert me didn't work.

(The Condé Nast building where the Glamour offices are located)

When I got over to the Glamour offices, I met a lot of the people I'd only previously talked to on the phone, or met via e-mail. I'm pictured below with Jill Herzig, the Executive Editor at Glamour, following a great discussion we had about the difference between being a lesbian versus being a gay man in the ex-gay world.

All the people at the magazine were very kind to me (I don't know why, but I had this idea that I'd walk into the office and they'd take a picture of me and put it on their "Don't" page). Jill even gave me a great tip for removing the stubborn gobs of mascara (baby oil, just in case you ever find yourself in this predicament).

I wandered around Times Square the rest of the day, doing touristy stuff. Walking into the Swatch store reminded me that I'm a child of the 80s. I got my first (and only) swatch when I was sixteen, and really wanted to buy this "Sign of the Times" watch, but I was on a tight budget, so I just looked at it longingly. Although not nearly as longingly as I looked at the Naked Cowboy (ahem *coughsurecough*)

From Diane Sawyer to the Naked Cowboy to makeup removal tips from the folks in the know at Glamour. What a day.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Edit me

I think it's pretty obvious by some of my recent posts that I am trying to process all the feedback I've gotten with the recent media attention (and the mail Peterson and I receive on bXg). I had a hunch that it would be difficult for me, who has grown up wanting to please, and spent much of my life aching to be understood (although both of these things have greatly improved as I've settled into myself the last few years). So while I'm actually dealing with this much better than I expected and developing a thicker skin in the process, there have been a few hiccups, and so my readers get a glimpse into the journey.

Within the first week of the Good Morning America interview, I had people questioning things I said, or telling me I should have said this or that, or not said this other thing, or if I really meant x instead of y. It was overwhelming (especially since it was my first time on TV, and I was unprepared for two of the questions, both things I said I hadn't wanted to talk about just yet). Some of it was actually good feedback that I am taking under advisement. It was still a bit much for me emotionally, though.

I finally talked to a friend of mine on about it, and he sent me the following:
All the expectations people have or want to push your way reminds me of a little plaque one of our editors had on his wall behind his desk. It had a simple statement and scrawled all over the rest of the space of the 5 X 7 page were edits and rewrites in various hands. The caption was attributed to Mark Twain: "Few things are more human or more powerful than the desire to edit someone else's writing."

Random reviews

Apropos of nothing...

I have collected a couple of my favorite oh-so-helpful reviews on Amazon.

Here are three of the best:
I ordered this book by accident. It is not a very helpful book. I had read reviews on this book previously that indicated it was not a good book to purchase, but somehow it ended up on my order. To much trouble to send it back, so I am stuck with it.
I didn't read this, but i'm on the phone with a friend who did and she thinks it's ok. She likes it and will probably finish it soon.

I would love to read it, if I had more free time. I just stopped working, and I'm probably watch a little TV and maybe go to bed. When I retire from work, I hope to read this book.

Finally, on Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe:
[cut a paragraph that is essentially a book report]

The book is not that interesting, as tales of desperation and survival are actually quite common.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

In one eye and out the other

I understand people have a need to discount my story. For those currently pursuing or living an ex-gay life, I may bring their fears and doubts to the surface. For those who are everstraight (i.e, not ex-gay) Christians, it may challenge their faith and what they've been told by leaders, and what they believe the Bible says. Maybe it puts a little nagging question in their head about why many Church leaders think it is a "choice" that one can abandon, or why God would outlaw something that seems inherent and utterly unchangeable for almost all of us.

I have gotten some correspondence from those who consider themselves ex-gay, and there have only been one or two that have not criticized my journey or told me something they thought I should do, or what I didn't do. One organization even wrote that I was just a "disappointed lesbian." (Which, incidentally, I might use as a job description from now on: Homosexual Activist and Disappointed Avowed Lesbian.) And when they run out of those criticisms, then they'll often decide that while I did all the right things, I must not have had enough faith, or I didn't trust God fully with my healing.

I know all about this because this is exactly what I did while I was ex-gay. Before I moved to Denver to start my journey toward wholeness (funny how I thought wholeness would come hand-in-hand with straightness), I met an ex-gay online who had been in this process for something like two decades.

She admitted she hadn't experienced any real change, even though she was unwaveringly committed to the process and to being celibate. I read what she wrote, but partly it went in one eye and out the other (well, it was online) because I had so much hope and belief that I'd change, and partly because I found many creative ways to discount her story. Or perhaps not discount it, as much as find (or make up) what I perceived to be holes or gaps in her effort. I was determined to find out everything she'd not done, and wanted to be sure to do those things as well as anything else that was suggested to me.

Failure is not anything I've considered as an option in my life (well, maybe in a few things, and there is that one history class I withdrew from), but generally speaking, I will work hard if I have a particular goal. Even as I write that, though, I know when I used to hear people say this I would think, "ah, well, that's the problem. You didn't just let go and let God." I always managed to find a way to put the blame squarely back on the shoulders of ex-gay survivors. It certainly couldn't be a problem with God, or with the traditional teachings—it had to be a problem with them.

This reminds me of people who have cancer or a progressive disease and are told that with enough faith, positive thinking and creative visualization, they can be cured. And when they aren't, they will often lose some of their friends in the process. I saw this with my friend who has a debilitating disease. Folks were there for her in the beginning, when everyone thought that she would be healed (herself included), and then have a great testimony. But soon they all started pulling away.

Why? I think her illness and the progression of it caused some to question their faith, or God's healing power. They had trouble with belief in a God who could do anything, and then seeing her suffer. In the end, it was easier not to face the pain and the questions. It was easier to ignore the reality that very bad things happen to the best of people, and there is nothing one can do to change or prevent that. Perhaps it made them feel vulnerable or scared.

And that's exactly how I felt whenever I'd encounter the story of a former ex-gay. Sometimes I didn't even stick around long enough to hear or read it, much less really sit with it. I knew to stay away from Mel White, Ex-Gay Watch, Bridges Across the Divide, and anything with "Gay" and "Christian" in the same title. I could not go near anything that might threaten my carefully stacked house of cards (to be clear, I'm not saying that every ex-gay's life is a fragile house of cards, but I think many are).

I am trying to realize there is no way I can convince anyone that I didn't undertake the change process lightly. I had faith that I would change, and a commitment to do all the spiritual, emotional and psychological work. Even though some of the more bizarre things about my story have gotten some press, most of it was the usual, fairly boring ex-gay story of a lot of struggle. Trusting in God, therapy (and lots of it), exploring every inch of my past, having demonic influences cast out, theophostics, and the list just goes on. I don't think anyone who knew me during this time of my life believes I gave anything but my all to God and to this process.

But I can talk about this until the cats come home (which, as you know, is whenever they damn well please), and for some people, it will just go in one eye and out the other. And honestly? I can't blame them, because I had a lot of in and out traffic myself during those years. Now I'm working on letting the criticism go in and out just as quickly.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Seven Passages: Audition in Grand Rapids

Are you an actor in the Michigan area? This looks like a great project.

Seven Passages: The Stories of Gay Christians
Seven Passages: The Stories of Gay Christians will be a piece of devised ethnographic theatre.

Seven Passages is a stark and vital look at one of the deepest conflicts in contemporary culture – that of homosexuality and Christianity. Over 100 gay individuals have been interviewed about the interplay of these worlds throughout their life journey. These stories, along with passages of scripture and an exhaustive bibliography of scholarly sources are now ready to be structured and compiled into a play that will seek to address the question:

“How do we combine the scripture passages that deal with homosexual activity, the weighty tradition of the scriptures and the stories we’ve collected so that when they converge, they foster not oppression, but dialogue?”

The goal of this piece of theatre is to issue a call for reconciliation, to open the door and get the conversation rolling.

Actors have the exciting opportunity to be part of a creative devising process that will compile interview material, scripture, and other text into a full-length play. They will then go into a more traditional rehearsal process to find and bring to life the people and stories that are eventually selected for the devised script.

For more information about casting, audition date and performance dates, head on over to the Seven Passages blog.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

News from Colorado Springs

And it doesn't have anything to do with gays!
COLORADO SPRINGS – Police showed up at Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish after a man threw a pie in Father Donald Armstrong's face – during his sermon about loving enemies.

The man, who has been identified as Marcus Hyde, took off, but church members caught him.

Witnesses tell KOAA they think Hyde may be passing judgment on the minister. More...
I'm sure the pie was used instead of a gun since Colorado Springs has the bizarre law "It is permissible to wear a holstered six-gun within city limits, except on Sunday, Election Day, or holidays" on its books. I feel sorry for Seventh Day Adventist ministers in Colorado Springs though, who have to worry about congregants showing up with six-guns during their Saturday worship.

You can't make this stuff up.

[Update: Aaron commented and said: "Actually, Christine, this has everything to do with gays. We haven't yet gotten a complete statement from Marcus—he's waiting to talk to lawyer—but I suspect the pieing was in response to Armstrong's alliance with Bishop Akinola, whose Nigerian church advocates the jailing and execution of gays. Grace left the Episcopal diocese because of their pro-gay stance."]

Nope, it didn't lead to a baby

Peterson is in town for the weekend (picture coming soon), so we had a great time over dinner with two friends. After I dropped him off at his hotel, a friend texted and asked if I wanted to go to a local lesbian bar. I've been there a whole other two times in the last 7 years, and since I happened to be driving right by it, I went. Since I almost never go out, I think my friends about keeled over in shock.

The big news in all of this? I danced tonight for the first time in my life. I guess I'm going to have to change the "who we are" page on bXg to reflect this. I didn't quite make it onto the dance floor, but I'm almost there.

I'm still realizing the extent of the disconnect and fear of my body, and this was even before my time as an ex-gay.

But the times they are a-changin'

I love my new sense of freedom and accepting my body for what it is. I'm certainly still on a journey with that, but I'm moving forward, and that's the good news.

I still refused to get on the dance floor tonight (that's one of the problems with not's not always easy to lose inhibitions), and had about five people pulling me onto it. I was able to cleverly jump through a gap in a railing to get back on the sidelines (ha, I don't know what to call it). I promised that next week I will get out there.

I'm so excited about my future. This is just a small thing, but is part of a whole package of feeling good about who I am, and joy about whom I'm becoming.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My NYC adventure (part 1)

Here's a photo album of the Good Morning America part of my NYC adventure (click on any picture to see a larger version).

I arrived on Sunday, after a very early morning flight. Because I'd slept through two alarm clocks the day before, and had the local ABC film crew pounding on my door for for 15 minutes, the producer of the Good Morning America segment actually called me twice that Sunday morning, the second time to say "Your car is going to be there in 15 minutes. Are you ready?" (upon questioning, she said that yes, she was going back to bed).

This is with my friend Eduardo, who helped me figure out what to wear the next day. My wonderful friend Jed took this picture. We were heading back from a lovely Italian dinner (where apparently the words "early TV call tomorrow" got us a seat in the middle of the restaurant). I think that this was the first time it hit me, really, that I would be in that studio in the morning; the one behind me with all the lights and screens.

I'm such a tourist, and don't think I've ever stayed in a hotel that had so many floors. I was on the 33rd floor and I couldn't stop looking out the window. Yup, I'm just a small town girl from Denver, and easily impressed.

Here is Jed's story of the next morning (because I was too preoccupied and out of it to notice anything):
4:00am. Jumped out of bed. Let the dogs out, hit the shower. Then raced to the car. Miraculously hit very little traffic.

Arrived 6:00 am in New York. Parked the car. On my way to the Millenium, miracle upon miracle (and you have to know Christine to understand this one), she actually called me.

I raced up the elevator and landed in front of Christine's room. Soon she opened the door wrapped in a towel. Hugs and kisses. 20 minutes later, Christine was half the vision we saw two hours later. A few more phone calls (yes Miss Producer, No I'm not asleep this time, I'm awake and ready...), another hug, and holding hands, almost like a sweet straight couple, we headed to the elevator bank, and met the GMA intern who escorted us across the street and into the stage entrance door.

Filming was already in session. We sneaked past the absurdly squeaking stage door, and tiptoed behind the sets towards the green room.

A few minutes went by and our intern led us to the make-up room. Christine had her own personal hair stylist and her own make-up person. So very ChiChi.*
Soon Christine and I were whisked back to the Green room, the room where you wait forever. But this time not for long.

Someone came out, made introductions and talked to Christine. She asked a few questions, and then, "Tell me about your therapy. What did you do?” Christine ran down the list, including the deliverance (demon exorcism).

Next we saw the producer, dressed in a bright red suit (her daughter said to her that morning she looked like Satan), who introduced herself to Christine. A quick two second run through of what to expect followed. Then, “do you want to do a quick interview on XM radio? It'll be a great run through for you, they'll ask pretty much the same questions that Diane will”...

Christine was barely out of the room, when the make-up lady of another guest wanted to know: “Does she channel people?” “What?” I was totally rattled. “Your friend, does she channel people? What was that about the exorcism?” “Oh, no,” I explained hastily, “Christine is no Sylvia Brown. No, no. She is ex-ex-gay.” Yadi dah. I explained it all. "Oh, oh!" They claimed to understand, yet they all looked so confused.

Red Satan lady (who was actually very un-Satan-like) walked back into the room. The phone rang. It was for her. Someone could be heard over the phone. “Where's Christine? The segments have been switched. She can not be late. This is a LIVE SHOW.” We all heard that one. Satan lady replied, "she'll be there. Stop worrying." She turned around, smiled a warm smile. "Oh, another day at the office."
Seconds later, Christine arrived. She beamed at everyone. One guest wanted to know more about the exorcism. The tech guy began to adjust the microphone, taping it to the inside of Christine's lapel.

“Is Christine ready? We're ready to roll.” Satan is back. We went back through the squeaky door, and tiptoed once again behind the set. Christine settled into her seat while around her was chaos. Camera men chatting quietly, a producer or other running around frantically. I was off to the side.

Suddenly there was a little rush and mad whispers of ”Diane” floated through the air. And there she was, tall, graceful and entirely professional. She walked up the stage and sat across from Christine, leaned forward, whispered an introduction. Then she turned her attention to the questions she would be asking Christine.

Things were getting noisier. Christine sat calm as a rock and I couldn’t see her face. Someone stood next to one of the cameras. Hands lifted high, she yelled five, four, three, two,...
Then the interview was over. People rushed from everywhere. Cameras were changed to new angles, Diane Sawyer hugged Christine. I was pushed up front. “Take a pic” someone said. And so I did, Diane Sawyer hugging my Christine.

Then we were back in the green room. Lots of thumbs up and gentle applause. Quite a few staff members had read the article, and they all seemed to manage to squeeze in a thanks to Christine.

Minutes later we were back outside. A one-second goodbye, and the big iron stage door slammed shut.

Christine dragged me to the front of the studio where there was a crowd eagerly awaiting the anchors to come outside for another segment. Christine was just too much of a tourist not to want to see what goes on. We snuck up behind them, and before you know it, some people in the audience had recognized her. They turned around and started speaking to Christine. Quite a few minutes later, we finally broke away. We crossed the street and turned around for a final goodbye. It was 9:00am, and with the show over, the crowd started to disperse.
We saw a couple carrying a sign saying "Celebrating our 50th Anniversary." Christine squealed: "That's so awesome. I'd love to get a picture of them." We got their attention. They immediately recognized Christine and congratulated her. Very moving they said. I snapped the shot of the couple, Christine and the woman who I assumed is their daughter. A warm wave goodbye and we were finally off back to the hotel. All twenty steps of the way. It was a turbulent morning, but one of the best to be had.

Commentary provided by my dear friend, Jedidjah Oldenburg, pictured above (thank God for friends).

*Other meanings of chichi in other languages:
chichi, a French word meaning false curly hair or fig. humbug
Chichi, an English word meaning fussily affected or ostentatiously stylish, used to describe clothes, interior décor, etc
Chichi, a term used by the British in India and ethnic Indians to refer to people suspected of being mixed race
Chi-Chi, Jamaican slang for an undesirable person, frequently a homosexual
Chichi (pl. chichis), Mexican Spanish slang for "tit" or "breast"
Chi-Chi, Spanish (Castilian) slang for "cunt." It is possible the term is not used in this context in South America.
Chichi, a prison snack consisting of cheese-flavored junk food, noodles, and meat cooked with hot water in a plastic bag
Chi Chi, a slang term used by Indian toddlers to refer to feces

I think if I have to be anything, I'd like to be cheese-flavored junk food, noodles, and meat cooked with hot water in a plastic bag, and not the feces. Just in case you were curious.