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DRACHMA LGBT ACTIVITY ON THURSDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER 2013
On Thursday, 19th September Drachma LGBT organised a celebration at the University Chaplaincy, which was well attended by members and the public. Members of Drachma shared experiences and reflections on their LGBTI experience and their struggle and continual process of integration of their faith and sexuality.
This meeting also brought together the various sections within the Drachma family: Drachma LGBT, Drachma women, Drachma TS, and Drachma Parents that organised this celebration to kick-start the year of events Drachma intends to organise for its 10th anniversary in 2014.
Below, you can read two of the reflections that were shared by these members:
Becoming more of You – becoming relational!
Today, we shall be speaking about ‘Relationship’, which is a core Christian theme and a core LGBTI issue. I want to share with you four points, taken from the Genesis, which I think are crucial for this theme:
1. He created them as Man and Woman
Looking at it from one angle, we as LGBTI people might feel left out of this male-female binary, especially if it were only to imply heterosexual people. Today, I believe, that, at least 10% of the population is gay; that would mean at least 40,000 people in Malta.
In addition, if the male-female binary is taken as a rigid form of category, then it would leave out many people who do not feel themselves to be completely male or completely female. I used to think that transgender people and intersexed people (people that have both sexes) were few (so they were just an exception); yet only a couple of days ago I discovered that one in every 2000 people is intersexed! Before I used to think that we were a very rare species, that we were so few that we were practically irrelevant.
A third element here is that many people out there might believe that being LGBTI is an option, meaning that people choose to be their gender and choose their sexual orientation. You can ask yourselves, as I do myself: have I chosen my sexual orientation? Have you chosen yours?
So, whenever I read the Genesis and reflect on it in those three narrow senses that restrict humanity to heterosexuals, to the rigid male-female binary, and to the issue of choice, it leaves many people out from God’s creation, which I know is not the case. Yet, if in reality we are so many and we are so different, how come, the Bible and society at large still consider the Male-female and the heterosexual norm as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’? So what are we? Freaks?
And God created Humanity as Man and Woman
If I were to re-read this same text and place it in its wider context and wider biblical meaning, the focus on ‘male and female he created them’ is an emphasis on relationship. God is Himself ‘relational’. God is Trinity, three divine persons in communion, different and complimentary. And the emphasis the biblical author wanted to make is that Man is also created relational and must forge beautiful complementary relationships in a beautiful world made out of difference. The biblical text there may only refer to Man and Woman and might seem to exclude other differentness. Yet, reading the Bible more intently and profoundly, we would discover a lot of differentness, which we normally tend to ignore or put aside. Yet, the Lord is here and He blesses this differentness!
A complementarity and respect that extends to all creation
Reading the Genesis text again and again, one also notices that this ‘relational’ aspect also extends to Humanity’s relationship with the rest of the creation and especially the animals, that God created as ‘companions’ to Adam. It is true that the Genesis says that Man was to ‘master’ the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle and every creature that crawls on earth. However, the verb ‘master’ in the Biblical language and God-logic as a whole has never been ‘lording’ over as dictators or exploiters and power mongers. It is not intended for man to master the world to fulfil his or her egotistic needs. Rather, Jesus gives a very different meaning: Jesus is Our Lord, but He does not lord over us, as if he were our owner. He is Lord by serving. Look at John 13 (12-15), when Jesus washed the feet of his apostles. To his apostles and to Peter in particular he said: ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, the, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, so you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you’. So the relational element also comes into this, because our relationship with others and with creation should be one of complementarity, respect as well as service that extends to all creation.
2. And God saw that everything was good, very good
If indeed, all of creation is very good and so marked with differentness, then no one can be said to be a misfit or a freak. Looking at the whole of creation, I realise that nature is so abundant, complex, beautiful, multi-layered, multi-layered and what appears to me as an exception, is not really an exception but a reality in its own right. Diversity is all around us. Why should we kill it off and present a boring monochrome norm? Look at us here people, is there anyone of us who is identical to someone else? We are all different. God does not create clones. Indeed, the best ‘picture’ of God’s creation is the image of a mosaic: every single piece of the mosaic is different and yet, together they make such an awesome picture! Yet, society prefers to put people in categories, to expect everyone to be like everyone else. As if we were clones! We are NOT clones! We are NOT robots! We are, each one of us, unique individuals, to the point that God himself exclaims through the Prophet Isaiah: Your name is engraved on the palm of my hand! Above all, we are good! Very good! How lovely to be Your creation, Lord! How privileged! With St George Preca, I must say with great emotion: I am the work of Your hand! How blessed!
Created in His Image
Man is created in God’s image. But what kind of image? Does God have a face? Is it one face? Does He have a beard? No not that kind of image! So how are we His image? Is it because we think? Is it because we are creative? And that makes so proud! We are so intelligent! Look at us. God created the world in millions of years and we are destroying it in less than 200! Quite a record!
Yet, I believe, this is not the proper meaning of being created in God’s image. Who is God? The answer is given to us, very beautifully, by John, in his first Letter, when he gives the most concise but most perfect definition of God: God is love. That is all. No need to go beyond. In other words, when God created Man in his image, he created in Him the capacity to love God and others. Listen to John’s advice in the same letter (Chapter 4), which still makes sense to us Christians today:
7 Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because he first loved us. 20 If any one says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John (RSV) 4)
Taken from this perspective, being in His Image means that I have the capacity to love. I am called to love and love is freeing; love is joyful; love is beautiful. And love is really for all.
4. ‘This is why man leaves his father and mother to be joined with his wife and together they become a single body’
This opens up the last point. How am I to love? Whom can I love? To whom can I give my intimacy? And to what extent? If I were to take this biblical text from a very narrow view, it would seem that the Biblical writer wanted to reduce things to merely man and wife, a limited binary that leaves out the entire LGBTI population. The issue of love is here simply reduced to the issue of the right or wrong and the normality of sexual acts. Put differently, the concept of loved is basically boxed in a very narrow moral framework that considers homosexuality as intrinsically and objectively disordered.
With such a definition, our love is written off immediately as out of place, bad, disordered and maybe evil. But, the problem with all this, is simple: we are putting more emphasis on sex than on the actual people who are having sex. As one intersexed person once commented: ‘People have genitals but genitals are not everything. People are not genitals!’
To be fair, the Bible does present us in its entirety and beautiful completeness various and diverse intimate relationships and these were rich, diverse and profound beautiful ones. Look at the beautiful intimate relationship between David and Jonathan, or between Ruth and Naomi, or between Jesus and John the Evangelist. Intimacy and love has so many levels, which we tend to forget. There is such a richness in this intimacy that goes well beyond the usual moral and doctrinal over-emphasis on genital activity.
Here maybe Richard Woods book Another Kind of love comes handy:
‘Real sin and guilt must be discerned in terms of the fundamental attitude of the individual person toward other persons, toward himself or herself and toward God - the totality of life's values and meanings. The "essence" of sin in the personal sphere is the elevation of myself to an all-important status, so that everyone, or, more accurately, someone is reduced to the status of an object for my desire or use without regard to his or her dignity, needs, desires, or well-being. Sin is not just selfishness, but also "otherlessness". Ultimately, it is the failure to love, whether by refusal or by violation' (p. 127)
What Woods is trying to say is that love is about loving persons in their entirety, not reducing them to objects of lust or abuse, even if mutual, but to serve, to be sensitive to that person, to be one with the other, not just sexually but in all senses. To become a companion to my loved one, not just a partner as if we were doing some business deal, or a lover just as if sex were the only important part in life. The love of my life must be my companion, someone to love tenderly and to walk with humbly. Just as the Lord himself does with us.
I conclude by quoting a beautiful psalm, Psalm 139 that shows how the Lord loves and knows us completely:
1O LORD, thou hast searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You know my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O LORD, You know it altogether.
14 Wonderful are thy works! You know me right well;
15 my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.
16 Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Let us love the way God loves! Let us look at the person as a whole being. Let us respect and give ourselves entirely to the ones we live. Let us be Agape!
Waking up every morning and expecting things to get better, felt many times like a big mistake of helplessness and futility. For most of my life, I considered that not having a special someone in it, my better half, was my personal failure.
A wise man once said:
It is clear that I must find my other half,
but is it a he, or a she?
What does this person look like?
Identical to me?
Or somehow complementary?
Does my other half have what I don't?
Did he get the looks?
Were we really separated forcibly,
or did he just run off with the good stuff?
Or did l?
Will this person embarrass me?
Can two people... actually become one...again?
I set targets and age limits. I said to myself that if I didn't find someone by 23, then I’m doomed. Damned forever to be alone with twelve cats in a smelly flat till I die! Three years passed by with no proper success. So after some gruesome negotiations and the fear, now, of cats, I gave myself another 2 years and soon moved it again by 5 to when I’d be 30. Was I destined to live a life spent wondering from one quick fix to the other? From one vice to another? Of one-night stands? Am I to live a life of self? Of consuming? Of self-gratitude? Of just pleasure? Is this my life? Isn't there more to life than this? I examined myself and blamed my loneliness on the lack of money, on my weird sense of humour or maybe I was too fat or perhaps I wasn't charming enough or amply witty. Is it worthy to live a life like this?
The world around fooled me to believe that a girl would magically fall, slowly from the sky amongst angels singing, amidst the sound of harps playing and birds chirping. She’d be my soul-mate and we’d have 2.3 kids and live happily ever after. But what happened? Where did I take the wrong turn? Should I have done something in particular but didn't? Am I lost? Being gay, it felt that God’s representatives on Earth didn't accept me, so how could He even love me? I didn't think I could expect or even deserved God’s love. I felt shunned so I thought I got absolved, that I did not need to live a life bound by values and principles; that I somehow didn't need to adhere to being a good person. I was a minority, so the rest of the world could go and get stuffed! I figured that if God is not accepting me for who I am then I do not need to accept Him and His rules. That will show Him! I surrendered to the fact that being gay, I was destined to hell, so why bother with all the hassle of religion and correctness and love. I often even joked about it.
I compared myself to my fellow friends and peers from University and asked why I wasn't lumbering a pushchair and a milk-bottle in a shopping plaza on a Saturday afternoon, already, like everybody else. Society seemed to have forgotten to plan for me. I felt like the remainder; the anomaly; left uncatered for!
What I didn't realise was that if I couldn't find happiness and completeness within, on my own, then no one and nothing could.
If God didn't plan a family and children for me, he surely had something else prepared. He surely must have recognised that creating a unique human from scratch would take around 9 months and lots of care and effort. And besides that, a human is annoying and noisy and dirty for the first 15 years! At least! He surely had a purpose for me after all that hard work? You wouldn't even raise a finger to buy a toaster if you had no use for it!
Quickly approaching the end of my sanity and desperation, I needed to find some respite and a sense of community, so through the marvels and wizardry of the internet, I stumbled upon Drachma. To be honest, I wasn't immediately quite sure if this was going to do the trick. I wasn't going to start attending purċissjonijiet , saying the rosary or beating on my chest for all of humanities sins anytime soon! However, as they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So I wasn't going anywhere before I had a good taste!
Pretty soon Drachma made me realise that I am not alone after all. It made me realise that other people like myself, want more from life, apart from the obvious. We’re definitely not the norm, but pretty much normal. As normal as left-handed and green-eyed people … who play the banjo on summer evenings. Surely they too are not the norm, especially here in Malta, but certainly normal. God never gives us a load heavier than what we can put up with. So it’s obvious that we are highly thought of, up there, to give us the load we carry so fabulously!
It dawned on me that I needed was right in front of me. I had a caring family, sincere and real friends. And once you realise how truly blessed and how easily everything can be taken away, you cannot but start valuing everything. I realised I am starting to form part of a community that is weaving itself. A community made out of the most special of fabrics. That the secret to happiness was simply to love! To empathise and connect with one another. To make each other’s short time on this planet, somewhat better. To love … with no scope or agenda.