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Gary Horton: The change must be about us

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: May 18, 2010 4:14 p.m.
Updated: May 19, 2010 4:55 a.m.

This past week, quite unexpectedly, I found myself between the sheets of a wonderful Pacific Islander, ex-Mormon lesbian from Avalon. This unique woman had great hands, and they were oiled up and all over me.

Strangely, this unanticipated episode began a scant seven hours earlier, deep inside my boat’s engine room, with me hunched over, struggling to repair a broken 110-volt shore power cable. Twisting and pulling too hard triggered a “pop” from my back, as my spine reverberated in sharp, “take you down” pain.

The trip should have been over then and there, but my boatmates had serious ocean fever. Pain or no pain, Capt. Gary was cajoled to the wheel and winced his way to Avalon.

Upon arrival, the first question to the harbormaster: “Is there a good therapeutic masseuse on the island?” Ten minutes later, I was happily face down, receiving the strongest, deepest and most helpful massage therapy I’ve experienced.

I’m not one of those go-to-sleep-on-the-table guys. I chat and listen. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, when you engage people, everyone has a story, and most of them are fascinating. Face down on a massage table is no different.

Andrea is Samoan/Pacific Islander. Like many from the region, she is strong and athletic — and she applied force like a lineman rushing a sack. There I was, pinned between her sheets, my reverberating spine pummeled to submission, while we chatted and chatted. Well, she chatted. I could hardly aspirate a sentence.

It turns out we had some common faith history. Andrea grew up Mormon. She was raised in a large Latter-Day Saint family with strong religious leadership. Andrea abided by the strictest morality of her faith. She didn’t even experience her first kiss until she was 22.

So Andrea caught me off guard when she said that at 25, she concluded she was gay.

“Nothing there with men,” she said. Men, she finally realized, “didn’t work for her.” No impulses toward men; no attraction. Rather, she’d struggled to tamp down her attraction toward women for years. Now, she’s been in a steady relationship with a woman for some time.

When Andrea came out as lesbian, she incurred repercussions from her church and estrangement from her parents. To be fair, the same would have happened with most families and most faiths.

But today, Andrea is part of an increasingly vocal group that has the integrity to be honest — with themselves and others — about its sexuality, but also finds the steep price of that integrity is often estrangement from family and faith.

Given current religious events, it’s interesting that Andrea’s coming out was couched within the context of her struggles with the norms of her faith. Sunday’s news reports the Episcopalian Church just ordained its first two female bishops. One was straight, the other a lesbian in a committed relationship. These ordinations conclude a long struggle between conservative traditionalists and the larger group of multigender-inclusionists.

“This is an interesting social harbinger,” I thought when the Episcopalian chasm first went public. Just think what reflective people of faith might be asking.

“Are gay people God’s creation like everyone else, or did something go wrong in His plan, with millions doomed only for their innate sense of selves?”

“Why wouldn’t God love everyone the same if they’re acting honestly with their instincts?”

“How can modern religions not abide gays when many are demonstrably such from birth? Should faith adapt with scientific progress or changing social realities?”

Plainly, everyone has their own answers to such questions. Things have gotten more interesting for me lately with my own Lutheran church making the same, turbulent trip the Episcopalians forged. Long known for conservative social pragmatism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America stopped half-stepping the issue and went full stride with an unabashed statement of faith accepting gays and straights equal before God in all regards — including church ministry.

Like Episcopalians, some members loved it; others were aghast. It’s sad for all, I believe, because a great church doing great things is now distracted with the discord of principled people disagreeing in principle about something actually quite distant from most.

For now, Andrea gets a full-ride ticket with official Episcopalian and ELCA churches. But where breakaway congregations and other conservative faiths are headed (or staying, depending on your view), Andrea will still be made to pay for her sexual sensibilities and integrity.

Andrea’s “gayness” in the face of her substantial conservative religious upbringing bolsters the case that more than not, we’re born what we are, despite all efforts to shape us.

Two hours under her therapist sheets helped convince me that what happens between bedroom sheets is not an important difference between us. I’ll take Andrea’s genuine warmth and self-honesty for what it is.

Most scientists observe sexuality as a continuum. We’re not “one size fits all.” We don’t get to pick where we land on the line. From effeminates to studs, from androgynous to curvy — we’re a big bunch of swirled-up, mixed-up hormones and genetics.

I’ve got a friend from a strong religious family. All the “right” training went into their kids. But today, his little tomboy sister runs a backhoe and lives with her female life partner of 15 years. No way mom and dad saw the lesbian backhoe operator when they bought the cute pink receiving blanket for their baby girl.

Sexual orientation, I suppose, “is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” But this much is known. Andrea won’t change.

Change must be about us.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesday in The Signal.


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