Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mind Your Manners

When I was younger people often asked me if I were gay. Or, rather than ask, people would just assume it and go about making sure everyone else assumed it as well. I've even had friends confess that when they first met me they thought I was gay. Because of that, I've often wondered what it is about me that makes people think that. Is it my looks? Is it the way I talk, or the way I carry myself or move? Is it my expressions? Is it because I've never had a girlfriend, and haven't really shown any interest in having one? Is it all of these things, or more?

I remember it used to really bother me when people would ask me about my sexuality. When I was in middle school, I mostly just took any questions or accusations as a form of insult from people who didn't really like me, and I'd usually just brush it off as no big deal. At that age, I don't think it was really about people thinking I was gay so much as it was meant to be a put down. At the time though, I honestly had wondered about my sexuality. I wasn't really sure how to respond to that question, or insult. I just didn't know. However, during my first semester in high school, a discussion came up one day during health class about homosexuality. The teacher explained to the class certain aspects of that, and I remember sitting there—probably wide-eyed—thinking, I have those thoughts, I've done those things. Maybe I am gay. Even after thinking that though, I didn't want to be gay. I fought very hard against thinking of myself that way. I always have. But after that time, when older students who barely knew me at all began asking me about my sexuality, or calling me gay—sometimes even publicly—and making fun of me, it was hard for me to brush that off as I'd done before as just insult. It became clear that people really did think I was gay, and that bothered me. I didn't want people thinking that about me, and I took it very personally when they did.

A few times, I've felt comfortable enough with the person bringing the subject up to ask them why they thought that about me. Two thirds of the time the answer has been the way I talk and my mannerisms. The other third is usually due to the fact that I've never pursued any romantic relationships with girls. Not that I've pursued a relationship with any guys in the last ten years, but I suppose that doesn't matter. No girlfriend must equal gay to some people. But the three biggest reasons I've been given by people thinking I was gay is the way I talk, my mannerisms, and the fact that I've had no girlfriend.

I'll admit, sometimes I can see why other people would think that I'm gay. I look at myself sometimes and I see such a feminine, non-masculine person. I don't feel very masculine at all most of the time. I try to be though, and I like how it feels when I am, but most of the time it's just not there. I seem to get a boost of self-esteem whenever I'm able to do something particularly masculine, and I guess that's just because my male body rejoices over the fact that I'm doing something it's meant to be used for. I like hard work that actually requires some physical strength. I know I'm not the strongest of persons, but when I am able to use my muscles in such a way I get a shot of masculinity to my system. I feel a little less gay, I suppose.

I've had people at different times in my life question some of the ways in which I present myself. I've had people tell me that I walk like a girl. I've noticed that most guys sort of have a particular stride or swagger to the way that they walk. They typically walk, for a lack of a better choice of words, straight. To be blunt, most men walk as though they have something between their legs, and yet, according to others, I don't walk like that. I tend to cross one leg in front of the other just a bit as I move forward, which is the way I've been told only women walk. I actually don't think I walk too dissimilarly from other guys, but maybe I do. It is a bit hard to see for myself. I've been told that I shouldn't walk like that, but it's nothing I do intentionally. It's just how I walk. There's not one thing deliberate about it. When I've tried to walk differently, it just feels wrong. I feel stiff-legged and fake.

I've also been told that I have a “gay” voice, or a unique way of speaking. Last winter a kid at my church noticed. He asked me, “Where do you get your vocabulary?” I was a little dumbfounded on how to respond to him, because I wasn't sure if he meant the way I sound or my choice of words. I know sometimes I can talk somewhat intellectually, or a bit wordy, but I really got the sense that he meant my sound. I dumbly replied something like, “I don't know. It's just how I've always talked.” And then that was that. But I know my voice is soft, and it's not nearly as low as most other guys. I've actually been confused for a girl at various times during phone conversation or at drive-through windows and the like, mostly when I was in my teens though—and believe me, it's an embarrassing thing when the person on the other end does that and realizes their mistake. But it's usually been the way I talk that has given myself away to people the most in the past. I used to be incredibly shy. I still am, but not anything at all like I used to be. And being shy, I'd often not speak up when I talked. I talked quietly, or sort of sheepishly. In recent years, my voice has deepened some, and I try to speak more confidently when I talk. Because of that, I know I don't sound near as effeminate as I used to sound, but I still have sort of a soft voice. Add that to the mannerisms and hand gestures I typically use when I talk, and I must still come across as “gay” to a lot of people. Most of the time, I don't even realize I'm doing those things. When I do, I try to tone it down a bit, usually, but there again, that's just one of the unconscious things about me. I talk with my hands, my voice is soft, and I evidently walk and move as a girl, none of which is intentional on my part.

Some people would say that all that's wrong. They'd say that because I come across effeminate at times, that I'm sinning because I'm not acting like a man. Thing is, I'm not acting one way or another. I'm not trying to act like a woman. I'm just being myself. If I do any acting, it's to come across more masculine than I actually am. I don't want to think of myself as womanly, and I don't want others thinking that way about me either. I like to think of myself as being manly or masculine. After all, I am a man. But just because I may not always fit all of the social norms that define man or masculinity, that doesn't mean that I'm sinning, or in the wrong, does it? I don't think so.

I think it's okay for people to just be themselves—to be who you are and to be comfortable with yourself. God makes us to be unique individuals. No two people will ever completely be alike. The thing is, just because someone doesn't meet all social norms or requirements for being either masculine or feminine, doesn't mean there is something wrong with them. A guy who doesn't like football or chasing the ladies, or who has a soft voice doesn't mean there is something wrong with him. A girl who likes sports and hates playing with dolls doesn't mean there is something wrong with her. It's okay that there are differences like that. I just wish people would accept the fact that not everybody fits into a perfect mold for either masculinity or femininity—whether gay or straight—and that they shouldn't go around questioning and making accusations against people all the time as they do just because of that. But, speaking of ones sexuality, if a person wants you to know that they're gay, it's their choice. Not yours. If they want to tell you they'll do so when they're good and ready on their own time. If not, don't make any self-assumptions, and definitely don't be so disrespectful to back them into a corner or to go around calling them names or making fun of them.

: “Are you gay?”

Me: (Nervous) “No.”

Acquaintance: “I was just wondering.”

Me: “Well, I'm not. Why would you even think that?”

Acquaintance: “I don't know. You just sort of act and sound gay sometimes.”

Me: (Self-conscious) “Well, I'm not, so just drop it.”

Good Friend: (Nonchalantly) “You know, I actually thought you were gay too the first time I met you.”

Me: (Crushed, speechless, and wanting to crawl into a hole and cry, thinking to myself, I can't escape this).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Questionable Love Found On Valentine's Day

This month, there are two big holidays. We have Valentine's Day on the fourteenth, and President's Day on the eighteenth. Guess which one I like the least.

You've probably guessed wrong. I'll admit it, I have never been a fan of Valentine's Day. To me, it is just such a sappy, forced day put upon people to prove their love for each other through materialistic, phony ways. I see all the heart-shaped boxes full of candy in the stores, the flowers and teddy bears and the cards and the 50% off Special One Time Only “I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY DO LOVE YOU BEST” Valentine's Day Jewelry. It's just all so overblown and fake. And it's just such a shameful exploitation of what true love actually is.

That may sound rather harsh. It's just that I don't feel if you really love somebody there should be one day dedicated each year to expressing that love in phony, fake ways. Expressing your love for someone should be more than just giving them a piece of jewelry, a box of candy, a tear-jerker card, or a candle-light dinner. Those things can be romantic, and romance does usually accompany love—particularly the kind of love (romantic love) that is generally celebrated on this day. But love is so much more than these things.

Here is what the Apostle Paul tells us love is in the book of Corinthians, chapter 13; verses 4 through 8. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

How many of you have known a girlfriend/boyfriend who got angry or upset because they didn't get the self-seeking, selfish, present on Valentine's Day that they'd hoped for? How many women have you seen flaunt the diamond ring their husband gave them, or fall into despair whenever they didn't get one? How many men have you seen purposefully try to outdo the other guy at what gift he'd give his wife/girlfriend? How many people have you seen become envious or jealous of what they saw others get on this day that they themselves did not?

It's for those reasons I dislike Valentine's Day. It isn't real. Love isn't about getting something, or showing off, or getting the special treatment for a day. First of all, real love for somebody cannot be contained within a single day. Real love for someone is about having patience for them. Real love is not caring what the other person gives you or what they can do for you, but caring simply for them alone. Real love is being kind and gentle. Real love is forgiving—including when your husband or wife forgets it's Valentine's Day and doesn't get you anything. Real love is commitment. It's knowing the other person loves you and wants to spend their time, which they could just as easily spend with anyone else on the face of the whole earth, singularly with you. Real love is taking care of someone when they're sick or in a bad place. Real love is about giving, without expecting anything whatsoever in return. Real love is recognizing the person is more important than the materialism.

It's for all those reasons that I dislike Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day is designed to alter what true love genuinely is. It's a day designed to exploit love. It's a day to tell you, if you don't get this or that for your loved one, you don't really love them. And, as far as I'm concerned, I have no use for it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


(This was actually written yesterday, but I didn't get a chance to publish it until now)

As many people know, last night was a night of severe tornadoes to go through the south. People in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Kentucky were either killed or wounded in the 50+ tornadoes that touched down.

I had been watching coverage of the Super Tuesday Primary results on CNN and had seen the reports of the storms. I knew they were heading in my general direction of Kentucky, so I was keeping an eye out periodically on the local stations and kept a watch out the window to see what was going on.

Just before midnight there was a very strong, windy storm that came through. We were under a tornado watch at that point, so we all went to the basement and bunkered down until it passed over. Meanwhile, I was doing a lot of praying for us to be safe.

After about thirty minutes, everything had calmed down. The storm had passed. We came back up from the basement. Mom and Dad went to bed and I resumed my watching the coverage of the primary results. I continued to keep an eye out on the weather, but everything seemed to be fine.

A couple of hours later, I began hearing the thunder rumble off in the distance again. I didn't think much of it though because it sounded a ways off and they still weren't showing anything on TV to be concerned about. I was relatively calm, actually. Then, I heard something scary. I muted the TV but I still couldn't tell for sure (I don't have the best of hearing), so I ran to the front door and opened it. Sure enough, the town sirens were going off. I ran back to my room and turned the TV back to the local station. There it was, a tornado warning for my county. There was rotation on the county line just to the west of us, and the path was headed straight for my town. I quickly grabbed my already prepared emergency backpack and rushed into my parent's bedroom to wake them up. Both of them jumped out of bed and we all ran back downstairs to the basement.

The TV in the basement lost satellite signal after a minute, as well as the radio, so we were completely freaked out. We had no idea what was going on. I had already seen some of the damage these storms had brought earlier in the night and I was just scared to death that that tornado was going to get us. Needless to really say, I was busy praying again for our safety.

After a moment, the satellite reacquired signal and the radio was back on. It had gone north of us, but just barely. And luckily, it had not touched down. I think all of us took a sigh of relief at that.

I went back upstairs and looked out the window. It was raining off and on and still lightning all over the place, but the wind had calmed down. The TV was showing us still under a warning, but no rotation was directly over us. A couple of minutes later we were back under a watch and it was over.

I thanked God.

Now, I'll admit that I usually like storms, but not this sort. I like the sound of gentle thunder or the soft rain, but last night, I was just scared. There was nothing enjoyable about that. Nor was there anything enjoyable about it for those who were killed, wounded, lost loved ones, lost their homes and possessions, or are having to go about cleaning up and repairing all the damage. I saw some of the destruction at Union University in Jackson, TN. That seems to have been one of the areas of worst damage. The images of that school, it just looks like a bomb went off. It literally looks like the place was just blown apart. My heart truly goes out to all those affected in those storms. My prayers are with you.

I think I'm mellowing out a little more as I get older. I used to like scary movies and the adrenaline rush of being scared, but anymore... absolutely not. All those slasher flicks and the like, no, I can't stand to watch them anymore. And I wonder what I ever saw appealing about them. All they are are movies dedicated to glorifying serial killers who enjoy mutilating people. What's enjoyable about that? Life is scary enough without having to add on more fears, isn't it? I used to not think so, but now a day, sure. Sort of the same with that show Nip Tuck. I used to really like that show during it's first two or three seasons (don't ask me why—I think it was mostly due to its periodic soft-core porn), but I quit watching it because all it was ever about was people ruining their lives and hurting each other. I actually turned to watch part of a recent episode the other day and thought I was going to throw up. This woman just graphically killed this man while he was squirming around trying to get free from her. It was just awful. I literally almost threw up. I turned the channel and I certainly don't ever plan on watching that show ever again. What's good about it to make me want to watch? Nothing.

I'm glad there wasn't more people killed or injured last night. I wish none of them had been. I can't imagine how scared they must have been, and frankly I hope I'll never have to go through that. I thank God for keeping us safe. Going to God was my only comfort. I know it would be so hard for me to go through anything like that without Him.

I don't think I'll be looking forward to any more storms for a while now. I think I certainly had my fill of being scared last night. I mean, it's winter for crying out loud! Shouldn't it be cold and snowing so we can go sledding, making snow angels, and building snowmen? We're not supposed be getting blown away in tornadoes during this time of the year.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Gossiper's Corner

For the last couple of months or so, I'd been hearing people talk about a website that was about the people and issues in the county in which I live. From what I had heard about it, I had the impression it was nothing more than a sort of gossipers corner. Because of that, I honestly hadn't had much of an interest in looking it up, but the other night, curiosity got the better of me. I went online and searched for the site. Eventually, I found it and what I discovered was something so vial, nasty, and sad that what followed was nothing short of the wrath of Brandon.

I realized real quick that this was nothing more than a site devoted purely to slander, gossip, innuendo, hate, and trash talk. One particular forum was dedicated solely to bashing a friend of mine from high school, who, yes, has done a lot in recent years that she shouldn't have done, but that still doesn't justify the treatment toward her. She was one of the best friends I've ever had. If I could have gotten past thinking myself gay at the time, I would have probably wanted to go out with her. She was one of the most loving, caring, kind persons I've ever known. Being around her literally was the best part of my high school experience. To read some of the things I was reading about her... I just wanted to cry. At one point I literally just wanted to reach through the computer and strangle all those people who were tearing her down as they were. Here are people who were solely devoting themselves to making fun of her, judging her, and tearing her down like nothing I've ever seen before. It just made me sick to my stomach. The way they were talking about her you'd have thought she was the worst person on the face of the earth. No one deserves to be talked about like that.

Another forum which got my intention was one dedicated to homosexuality. I won't get into detail about that much. Most of you by now should know where I stand on the matter. After reading through most of that, I felt such an anger I don't know if I've ever felt before. It didn't help me any to read what some of my fellow so called Christians in this county had to say on the matter. The love of Christ certainly was nowhere to be seen in their comments.

I had soon read all that I cared to read (it certainly didn't take long), and I posted my own thoughts on the site. If you can't tell from my tone, I pretty much let them have it. Be it right or wrong, I let the busy bodies of my county know exactly what I felt of them. I didn't name call, or get nasty, but I certainly hope I proved a point about how despicable their actions are and how a no good site like that really ought to be shut down. In fact, if I thought it wouldn't draw more attention to the site, I'd write a piece to go in the local newspaper condemning the thing. It's nothing but trash talk, deliberately designed to belittle and tear people down, and I pray it'll be shut down soon.

I have to ask this. What is wrong with people? Are their hearts really so full of hate for their fellow man? Do they really get some sort of thrill out of treating people like that? To watch all the news about Brittany Spears here lately, I guess the answer would be yes. So many people certainly have enjoyed all the coverage of her downfalls. But why? Why do people think that's so entertaining? I find it sad. People who find themselves in a bad state ought not to be made fun of or belittled or talked about so badly behind their backs. They should be helped! They should be prayed for! They should be loved!

Frankly, after seeing that site, I'm embarrassed to call this place my home. It makes me wonder why I even bother to stay here. There again, I know it's not only here that things like this go on. Seems like it's everywhere these days. People don't seem to have any love or understanding, sympathy, compassion or anything else good for their fellow man anymore. Everyone's too busy being selfish to care, I guess. Or too evil? I just don't understand it.

Please think long and hard before you decide to gossip about other people and talk badly about them. I know I've been accused of this in the past, but it's something that's just no good at all. All it does is hurt people. And as Christians, we should certainly know better.