Thank-you.

The posts I have written recently have been prompted specifically buy a national postal survey in Australia asking if people think same-sex-marriage should be made legal. This post won’t change law, but it has caused huge and divisive discussion and campaigning for the two opposing sides. This campaigning has often been less than respectful and has lead to a huge amount of fear mongering by some on the “no” side.

All this aside (or because of all this), I want to say thank-you to all those who have spoken with love and compassion and conducted the (unnecessary…) debate with as much respect as possible, regardless of beliefs. To dear friends on both sides, and to strangers who have made this time that little bit easier – THANK-YOU.

May this time past swiftly and may the healing begin in more earnest.

Peace be with you,

Johansen X

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That portrait behind you.

When someone believes that your sexuality, or in the very least, acting on your same-sex-attraction is wrong in some way, it is nigh impossible to forget. 

Even in the better scenarios where, despite every interaction and conversation being one where spoken judgement or condemnation are reserved, where every response and interaction has been filled with respect, compassion, and love… Still.

Knowing that in some way someone thinks you’re not okay, or rather, that your sexuality is in some way wrong, hangs behind them in every thought, image, and interaction, like a portrait that you can never unsee. It cuts deep. They stand in front of it and speak only kindness, and mean only kindness, but you can still see the portrait and you know that it is still saying, in some way, “there is something wrong with you.”

I am grateful when people can love beyond a sexuality that they don’t understand or struggle to accept or approve of. 

I’ll be more grateful still when that portrait is replaced with a more gentle picture.

Be careful with your words, but please, be even more inquisitive and gentle in your thoughts. Dare to wonder how much you can actually “know”, and for those of you who already do, be brave to hand over even that uncertainty and just love. Take down that portrait. Please.

God surely won’t condemn you for that. Nor, I doubt, will it send the world to hell in a hand basket or be the downfall of society.

Johansen X

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.” Or think again.

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.” Why is this especially harmful for Queer people?

First, I just want to note that I am referring to the common use of the word “sin” here (wrong action disapproved of by God.) Personally, I like to define sin as “intentionally causing harm to self as others” (if I’m forced to use the word at all.)

With most “sins”, it is often a clear and obvious behaviour (or pattern of thoughts) that can be refrained from. Depending on who you speak to, these things can range from anything killing to stealing to smoking.

With most (but not all) “sins”, the behaviour can be separated from the individual, and when the behaviour is ceased, the person is often considered to have ceased sinning.

Being Queer isn’t like that. Queer or otherwise, our sexuality is an integral part of who we are. There are a diverse range of sexualities, but they usually form at least part of ones identity and CANNOT be changed by prayer, will, or therapy. Not engaging in an relationship, intimate or otherwise, doesn’t make a person “less gay.” A single or chaste heterosexual person is still heterosexual. A single or chaste Queer person is still Queer.

When people are told that their orientation is unnatural, against nature, sinful, or an abomination, they are being told (or hearing loud and clear) that THEY are wrong – inherently wrong, wrong to the core. If a queer person remains quiet about their orientation, people will often let their outward expressions of disapproval slide. But inside, the Queer person still suffers because they KNOW that they are still the same person. They KNOW that if they were to express their sexuality in accordance with how they were born, the condemnation would rain down.

This knowing and the shame and self-hatred that result are beyond damaging. Knowing your friends or family (or perfect strangers) potentially think you’re going to hell for loving the way you were created to love is an unpleasant knowledge, to put it mildly. This shame and self-hatred KILL.

When you are are condemning a person for how they were born, for something that they CANNOT change, they will ALWAYS feel that condemnation, regardless of how many times you tell them you love them or they’re still God’s child.

Know the impact of your words, or your beliefs, of your attitudes. Do your research regarding the cause of same-sex-attraction. Your beliefs may not change, but know the impact that they have.

My suggestion? If you know someone that is queer, single or otherwise, leave any possible judgement or opinion on their sexuality up to God. Judgement and their “salvation” is not your business or responsibility and will only serve to fracture relationships, drive the person away from family and community, and impact hugely in a damaging way on their health and well-being. Jesus did NOT teach us to judge.

Believe in God? Leave it to God. Don’t believe in God? Just leave it.

Know the impact of your words. Be careful with them.

Johansen X

 

What your “No” campaign really says to a Queer Christian

I didn’t think this plebiscite (postal vote) would bother me personally. I didn’t think it’d hit me emotionally in a personal way. I’ve been (and am) so fearful for those who are closeted, or unsupported, or children, or people of faith… Why?

All the lies and unrelated anti-Queer campaign material aside, do you know what your “Support Traditional Marriage” signs and message say to a queer person? Especially a Christian one?

From this side they read:

  • “You are not okay” and
  • “You are not welcome here.”

They say “there is something wrong with you”, they say “you are a threat to our society”, they say “you are a danger to our children”, and they also say “you are going to hell.”

Some in the “no” camp believe all of the above. Others literally just want to protect their understanding of “traditional” marriage.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter to the Queer person reading it or hearing it – to us they all say “you are not okay.”

If it is a kick in the guts and a trigger for shame to me – an accepted, supported, out and loved Queer person – what impact is it having on that closeted Queer fifteen year old in your congregation?

Being queer is hard. Being Christian can be hard. Being a Queer Christian or person of faith? That can be a NIGHTMARE.

Careful with your words. 

Have your vote, vote as you see fit, but please, for the love of all that will see or hear them, please be careful with your words.

And for those who are Queer and a person of faith? You are okay. You are loved. You are not a threat to society, and you are not going to hell. Your existence is as natural and acceptable as any non-Queer person, and you should be allowed to marry one day should you so desire. Despite what’s being said, Christians (nor Jews) invented marriage and they do not have sole ownership over such unions or covenants. 

Peace be with you all.

Johansen X

Taking control (social media)

I’ve written about paring down on social media previously, but I’m finding that it is something that periodically needs re-visiting.

Since starting to use “Facebook without friends” (enjoying articles and select pages, but not using it for connecting with friends) about 10 months ago, things have been much better. I have no regrets, despite the decrease in the number of people I communicate with regularly. Quality over quantity and all that, along with the fact that it is exhausting attempting to maintain so many connections and the constant influx of information was incredibly overwhelming. Unlike many others, I’m not a twitter or Instagram (what else is there? Are there others now?) person. I had less to detach from.

After removing the web browser from my phone (with discomfort but a profound sense of freedom) as well as “work” related e-mails, I did slip back somewhat. The browser crept back, the e-mail crept back in. Checking and searching slowly increased again, even if I didn’t actually spend much time at all when checking. My small amount of online shopping also became less contained in regards to when and where I did it. In addition, I also stopped putting my phone “away” (out of site in a special box where I could still hear it if desired), which increased compulsive checking of… the weather (what else was left?)

So, after running myself into the ground with various work things which in turn crossed over into phone use and e-mail checking and the like (it makes it all so much easier!), I stopped to re-evaluate. I needed, for the sake of my sanity, to take stock again.

This time I enabled restrictions on my phone, disabling all web browsers, the ability to download new applications (I.E. web browsers) and also inhibiting my ability to make any further paring down very difficult to undo (deleting my work related e-mail access.)

A trusted party has my restrictions pin number, and I don’t see her for at least a week, if not two. I have too much pride to contact her prior to the scheduled time. I doubt I’ll re-install after a week, but removing the ability to give into temptation in the first couple of weeks makes it much easier to stick to.

Again, there has been a combination of feelings – a profound sense of lightness and freedom, but also that slight discomfort. It is odd not to be able to google the answer to any question at any time. It’s difficult to not pick up my phone and compulsively check… the weather… but it gets easier by the hour. I put my phone away more and do word searches (on paper!) when watching TV to occupy my hands. I play Tetris on my 23 year old Gameboy. I am left to wonder about the answer of what ever I’m wondering about at any particular time; I’ve discovered (again) that it can actually be nice to not always find the answer… there is a nice feeling of mystery just being left to wonder.

Things are more peaceful. My mind is calmer. I am starting to find my feet again.

I still have access to all of these applications on my laptop, which I keep out of my main living area. I can still look things up or tend to e-mails or do work that I want or need to, but it is easier to enforce the needed time away from these things without them in the palm of my hand. If I really want or need to know something, I’ll go look it up. If I’m away from home or in bed at the time, I leave it, and if I care enough or it matters enough, then I’ll remember to look it up later; it’s amazing how rarely I do remember or care enough.

So, that’s my experience. Take something from it or don’t, but either way, it’s working for me.

Johansen X

 

The Phone Box

Phone Box

That? That is my phone box.

Over time, my “smart” phone has become both an indispensable device that helps me organise so many aspects of my life – from calendar to GPS, from banking to shopping list, from music producer to metronome. Not to mention the actual phone that it originally evolved from. In my life, it has also become a constant source of anxiety.

Like many, I frequently find myself checking anything from my E-mail to the weather in that sticky, habitual, rather compulsive way. So often now, even just the sight of the thing generates feelings of overwhelm and aversion.

Breaking such habits is difficult, especially when devices are constantly within our reach and programmed to be “sticky”. At times I’ve considered returning to a “dumb” phone (oh, for the old Nokia 3310!) just to solve the problem, but have realised that the smart phone really has become quite indispensable in my life. This was made particularly clear following a break-in, which not only alerted me (via internet banking and my compulsive checking) to the fact that my card had been used, that my handbag (including my purse and all my house and car keys) had been stolen.  It was the phone that allowed me to quickly cancel cards, contact police, sort-out direct debit issues, re-order replacement cards, and much more.

So, how can I get the most out the benefits of this device without it overtaking my life with the compulsive checking?

I created a “phone box.” This box is where I place my phone for most of the day and only take out when I actively choose to use it. The box is in a place where it is easily accessible, and yet it removes the device from my direct sight. I can still hear it ring or “dings” with a message, but it’s no longer constantly by my side, emanating that mental barrage of stimuli that I know it holds.

Aside from the uncomfortable and challenging adjustment period of learning to do things like watch TV, do my music practice, read, or even cook without being constantly diverted or multi-tasking, it has been a God-send. I am calmer. My head feels calmer. My home feels like a more peaceful place. I feel less overwhelmed so much of the time.

Technology can provide great opportunities and conveniences. When we work out how to use it smartly in a way that benefits us more than it takes away from us, is when we can really make the most of what it has to offer.

The “phone box” is one very helpful strategy that I have discovered. Using the ‘Do not disturb’ option between 8pm and 7am is another one.

May you, too, find your own ways that help you juggle and smartly manage the omnipresence of these oh-so-helpful devices.

Kind regards,

Johansen.

New Year ‘Focus Areas’

Around this time of year there is a lot of talk about resolutions and goals. To set them or not to set them? To aim high or keep them more achievable? Measurable or general?

I prefer choose some focus areas for the year and then explore both now and then explore, over time, what these areas mean to me and what they look like when put into play.

I find that my focus areas often overlap with the ones of the previous years and are generally based very much around my core values and things that are positive for my own and others’ well-being – physical, mental, spiritual, social.

This year’s focus areas are:

Community: continuing to build, strengthen and develop local community. To help create a local environment that helps to meet my needs for local connection and feelings of belonging, as well as to foster the same for others.

Health: continue to undertake activities that are essential to my health and wellbeing. These include things like playing my music, nourishing my body with good food and moderate and enjoyable exercise, a balance of activity and down time that works with my energy levels and volunteering at a local organisation.

Family: continuing to negotiate and develop relationships with different members of my family so that we all benefit from our interactions and connections.

These are my main three. There will be more, but most of them come back to these core ones. There are strategies for each, but I won’t list them here, and they really do evolve as everything is in life does. Change is one thing that I think we can all rely on, whether it is comfortable or not.

This is just the way that I have found that allows me to move into the new year with both something to aim for but with a gentleness that allows me to be both specific but flexible.

I hope you can find your own way to move forward.

J X