Slut Shaming

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From Wikipedia:

Slut shaming (also hyphenated, as slut-shaming) is a concept in human sexuality. It is a neologism used to describe the act of making a person, especially a woman, feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors, circumstances or desires that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations, or that which may be considered to be contrary to natural or religious law. Some examples of circumstances where women are “slut-shamed” include: violating accepted dress codes by dressing in sexually provocative ways, requesting access to birth control,[1][2][3] having premarital or casual sex, or being raped or sexually assaulted.[4]

A couple of weeks ago, the professor of a Women and Gender Studies class at Vanderbilt University asked Sister Ann to come and speak to the class about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The invitation came via Twitter, and it was all very exciting.

I went from work to join the class, so I didn’t have time to manifest (put on my makeup and such). There were around fifteen undergraduate students in the room, and they had just finished watching the movie Paris Is Burning. Cool class, huh?

I spoke to the class for an hour and a half as I answered specific questions about how the Sisters work, primarily in the LGBT community, to inspire joy and banish guilt. I also shared quite a bit about my person journey to become a Sister, and I got to a point where I pulled out my phone to show the students pictures of Sister Ann.

I chose two photos: me dressed up in my interpretation of our official “high-nun” habit, complete with coronet, wimple, bib, sincture, and prayer beads, and another picture that I called my “slutty nun” look, shown above. When I used the words “slutty nun” to describe the picture, the professor said, “I’m not comfortable with that word, “slutty.'”

I paused, and in a moment of connection and clarity I realized she was creating an opportunity, a teachable moment. I had just spent an hour talking about the Sisterly work of banishing guilt and shame, and yet a I had used a word that often induces those feelings in people.

The definition of slut shaming I quote from Wikipedia talks about how the term mostly has been applied to women. Unfortunately, slut shaming is also applied to gay men. It’s thrown at us from the society when folks who don’t understand what it means to be gay think we’re just a bunch of horny men who ain’t control themselves. It became a huge topic in the years following the onset of HIV/AIDS, when many people, out of fear, chose to explain the disease as a consequence of immoral and shameful behavior.

Perhaps most disappointing is the way gay men often slut-shame each another. Men who choose to express their sexuality authentically, perhaps as they date multiple partners, agree to open relationships, or in any way vary from the heterosexual norm as defined by the majority, are often labeled as sluts by other gay men who think what they perceive as normal is the only acceptable way to be sexual beings.

This inside-gay-shaming has increased recently with the release of PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP is a pill that, if taken once a day, can greatly reduce the risk of HIV infection in at-risk populations, some say even moreso than condoms, because many men are so inconsistent in using them. Many who survived the horror of early years of AIDS, and who have preached and somewhat adhered to condoms as a way of life, now are suddenly faced with an new form of prevention that, from their perspective, is a little too permission-giving. The name of the pill is Truvada, and Truvada Whore has become a descriptive term for men who choose to take it. This is slut shaming, pure and simple.

I am grateful that I felt at ease in that classroom. Instead of feeling defensive, in that moment of clarity I confessed my error and said to the professor, “You’re absolutely right! I’ve been talking about the Sisters’ job of banishing guilt and ending shame and I’m throwing around this word that is heavily burdened with those very things.” I looked at the professor and asked, “What would you call that particular look?”

Instead of answering, she turned to the students. What a great teacher! We talked about it for awhile and someone finally threw out the word, “dominatrix.” Spot on, clearer, baggage and shameless, Sister Ann Wenita Morelove had a new descriptor: Dom Nun.

Everybody in the room loved it. I said to the professor, “That was well-done.” She smiled, and a girl sitting across from me slapped her hands on the table and said, “Boom! That’s why she’s the teacher!”

From Ashes to Glitter

glitterheartA handful of Music City Sisters and Sister Mary-Go-Round hit the bars last night, offering glitter blessings in observance of (Sm)Ash Wednesday.

“It’s Ash Wednesday! May we offer you a blessing?”
“Um I dunno…what do I have to do?”
“Well, first you have to decide if you want it with glitter, or oral only…”
…We’d banter back and forth, laughing together until eventually we offered these words as blessing:

You are a person of joy.

Be yourself without guilt.

Protect yourself and those you love.

More often than not, the smiles transformed into looks of solemn wonder. I heard things like, “Thank you, Sister.” “That was wonderful.” “Wow.”

Near the end of the night, and after having consumed a few drinks, I was winding up a blessing when, on that last line, this slipped out: “…and proclaim….” I stopped short of saying what I was about to say, which was, “…and proclaim the gospel.” I smiled, laughed and recovered to finish the blessing.
As I walked away, I started tearing up. You see, I was a pastor for ten years in a denomination that, while struggling with the issue, describes homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.” I was quietly forced to leave that vocation after finally coming to terms with my own sexuality.
The tears came when I realized the slip–up wasn’t really a slip-up at all. As a Sister, I am still in ministry. I am still proclaiming the gospel of love. Only now I get to do it with a cocktail in my hand while looking fabulous.

One Gay Man’s Response to “Panic in the Locker Room”

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Here’s the article in The New York Times.

Michael Sam, a college football player, came out gay. While the response from the world of sports has been mostly suppportive, some have expressed fear and frustration, namely, how can a straight man expect to share a locker room with a gay man?

The New York Times op-ed columnist provides some answers to that question, but the article took my thoughts in a different direction and to a place of personal fear.

I work out at the gym five days a week. For every day I work out, I’m in the locker room twice. That’s ten times a week. Every time, I dread it. Every. Time.

As a gay man, I’m afriad somehow the other men will know I’m gay. I am there to work out, and I don’t want to deal with conversations about my sexuality. I don’t want to deal with awkwardness or ignorance. I don’t even want to deal with affirmation. So I never speak to anyone in the gym locker room*. I never make eye contact. I skip the shower if I can get by with it. I’m in and out as fast as I can change my clothes. I’ve approached locker rooms this way for as long as I can remember, junior high, high school, and now as a middle-aged adult.

My reluctance to participate in communal nudity has nothing to do with a damaged sense of body image. Anyone who has met Sister Ann Wenita Morelove knows that I’m not self conscious about my body. Honestly, it wasn’t until dressing with a room full of queer nuns that I felt comfortable getting naked in front of a group of people.

I remember the evening well. A group of Sisters were together getting ready to go out for an evening of ministry when I turned around and there was somenun completely naked. Until that moment, I hadn’t thought about how I was going to get out of my street clothes and into my habit. Others begain to disrobe as conversation continuted and folks went on, unconscous of self, seemingly without a thought to the various stages of nudity surrounding them. There was a freedom to it that I had never experineced. Looking back, I realize I was experiencing for the first time a safe locker room setting.

I realized in that living-room-turned-locker-room, that I felt safe. In that safety, there wasn’t any risk involved in being nude because there wasn’t anything for those present to find out. Those Sisters knew me and accepted me. There was nothing to fear.

So think about that, Michael Sam teammates. Realize that he is quite possibly much more frightened about what you are thinking about him than you should be about what he may be thinking about you. Give him a smile or a pat on the back in that locker room. You have nothing to fear. Make sure he knows that, too.

*Wouldn’t you know it? I had a long and enjoyable conversation in the locker room the afternoon of the day I posted this article. The anxiety and fear is deep in my psyche. Often there is no bases for it, yet there it remains.

Called a Faggot for the First Time

RenderedImageSaturday I participated in the Nashville AIDS walk, which starts at Riverfront park, loops around LP Field where the Tennessee Titans play, and ends where it starts. On the last leg of the 5k walk, a man, who appeared to be in his twenties, ran by our group and called us faggots.

I’m forty-eight years old. I’ve lived with my partner (we can’t get married in Tennessee yet, or he would be my husband) for thirteen years. My “partner” and I have raised four children. Because we’ve lead a somewhat isolated suburban life, we may have been isolate from hate speech. This was the first time I have been called a faggot.

My “partner” and I are members of a group of queer nuns called The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. We were with that group, dressed in outlandish (but tasteful) outfits and wearing clown makeup, when the man, presumably out for his morning exercise, ran past and called us faggots.

When we’re out as Sisters, we get a lot of attention. People want to get pictures made with us. We move about ten feet, and then we stop and pose for the camera. People also want to know who we are and what we’re doing. I usually respond with something like this:

We’re clown nuns. We raise  money for local organizations. We’re all about safer sex, so you if you need a condom you can always get one from a Sister. We dress up like this so anyone we meet will feel comfortable with who they are because, if I can look like all this craziness, anyone else can be exactly who they are and feel good about themselves. Mostly, we like to have fun!

When the runner came by, I had shared that brief bit of information about who we are with many curious people. In addition to condoms, I keep stick-on hearts in my purse to give away. Kids love to get stickers, and I’ve learned that intoxicated adults in bars do, too. My name, when I’m dressed up as a Sister, is Ann Wenita Morelove. I am the valentine nun. That morning, I ran out of heart stickers because I gave so many away to children, teens, and adults. The contrast was jarring when it happened. More love versus more hate. Or perhaps more fear; I can only guess at the runner’s motive for calling us faggots.

Merriam-Webster simply defines faggot as “a male homosexual usually used disparagingly”. Its origin is from a “contemptuous word for a woman or child.” That makes sense. Use of the word faggot is meant to feminize a man, to strip him of his masculinity.

_MG_7471There’s quite a bit of irony, or something, going on here since I there I was, on a public Nashville street, wearing a maxi dress from Ross, and I had spent an hour and a half putting on makeup. I was a feminized man alright, so I had become a faggot, intentionally. At least partially so. I don’t get the contemptuous or disparaging part of the word. As a matter of fact, I think I looked damn fine. I was especially happy with my eyebrows. It’s the first time I have successfully drawn them on in over a year of doing this and been happy with the results. At any rate, before I could even think, when the runner shouted, “Faggots!”, I yelled back an affirming, “Yes!”

It turns out that affirmation was right on target. I realize that now that I’ve had time to reflect upon the meaning of the word.

There’s more irony, or something, going on here in that a crowd of people can come together on a beautiful day in early October and walk or run for a life-affirming, life-giving, life-loving cause, while others would rather speak contemptuous and disparaging words of hate or fear.

Perhaps the most irony, or something, going on here is that the runner had naturally amazing eyebrows. I noticed them with one quick glance when he ran past and called me a faggot. I bet he didn’t even notice mine.

Together…With God’s Grace

“America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.

“And together with your help and God’s grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth.

“Thank you, America. God bless you. God bless these United States.”

—President Barack Obama, November 7, 2012

John Kinnear: Dear Hypothetically Gay Son


Tears begin rolling down my face, followed by bed-shaking sobs, as I lay in bed reading this Huffington Post article. Please take a few minutes to read it now.

I had a relatively happy childhood/young adulthood. So why the tears?

I cried for every gay man and gay woman of my generation who would never have dreamed never of sitting at the dining table and telling his parents he was gay.
I cried for woman and gay of generations who have have sat at that table but who were abandoned, rejected, or in even some small way made to feel less-than.
I cried out of gratitude for a mother, a sister, a life-partner, children, and friends who not only accept me, but who love me for who I am.
I cried because once more I remembered that it is my job to love my own children just like what I read in the article, and not just my children, but all God’s children, even (and especially!) the ones who may reject me and find me unlovable.

I believe that, no matter who you are or what you believe (gay, lesbian, bi, questioning, transgendered, intersex, straight, conservative liberal, democrate, republican, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnositc FILL IN THE F****** BLANK) that’s your job, too.

Because we are, all of us, human.

Still Waiting

image Thank you for your courage, endurance, and hope, Yoryi.

Our stories are similar. And while I continue to hope for change, I do not believe it will happen in the United Methodist Church.

I am finally reaching a place of acceptance. It is happening as I find acceptance outside of the UMC. It grieves me to realize that the ties that bind are loosening for me, mostly for the sake of my children. But by grace they have grown to an age where they are able to make choices of their own, and I have to admit that, when it comes to the Methodist stand on homosexuality, my stubbornness in sticking with it hasn’t done them any favors.

Until that day, when justice shall roll down like waters, and righteous like an ever-flowing stream, I am still waiting. Hope, however, left me years ago. I’m only now admitting it.

gay angry jesus « LOVE IS FIERCE

Are anger and love two sides of the same coin?

“…they dance together Anger and Love, and for every spin that Anger makes, Love makes an equal move; each twist of Love is balanced by a twirl of Anger.  They move together through our lives. Love is vast – and so is her anger.”

Read what a blogger named David has to say in this post: gay angry jesus « LOVE IS FIERCE.This guy is good!

And the Gays Score a Knockout!

I don’t want to become a one-horse issue poster, but…UGH!

Here’s the background: a soccer coach at Belmont University was terminated because she told her class that she and her partner were expecting a child. Since then, the university revised its policy to include anti-discrimination language regarding sexual orientation. Yea for Belmont.

Because Belmont University used to be closely tied to the Southern Baptist Church, good folk from here in the buckle of the Bible belt (Nashville, Tennessee) felt compelled to weigh-in on Belmont’s policy change. I made the mistake of reading some of the editorial comments (and comments on the comments), and I let it get to me. Continue reading