Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Good Bishop and What he is or Isn't

Being the asshole that I am, I have cracked many, MANY jokes on Twitter about this whole Eddie Long scandal. I would be remiss to not mention that sometimes when I am having a bad day, I go look at him posing with his hip jutted out in his tangerine Under Armor shirt, and it makes me giggle. I have even commented in private about my recollections from attending his church as a child, recognizing even then the powerful, albeit it unnerving, adulation his members feel for him.

But really, I don't want any parts of this foolishness. I don’t want to comment on what it means for him, his marriage, his family and his ministry if these allegations are true. I don’t want to begin thinking about what the fall out will be if any of his four accusers are lying. I don’t even want to jump into the debate that some women are having, like over at Belle’s spot, about whether or not Mrs. Long should stand by her man.

But I will say what hardly any one is saying amidst the flashy, marquis catch phrases like “gay”, “pedophile”, “Christian”, etc; this is not a homosexual issue.

Sure, “Bishop”* Long may in fact be homosexual. His well documented hatred of gays and lesbians might be rooted in self hatred for his own sexual attractions. On an entirely personal note, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. I have long maintained that NO ONE is that violently, vehemently homophobic without a deeply personal connection to homosexuality that goes far beyond not liking the social idea of same sex relationships.

But honestly, I don’t care about that. Who would be surprised? Who wouldn’t see “Anti-Gay Minister Outed as Homosexual” and think it’s a tired, old headline? It’s almost becoming cliché because it is happening all over the realm of religion, politics and everywhere else. And seriously, who looks at these cell phone pictures of the Tangerine Dream sent to young men and thinks he is sending it to them to, what, encourage their fitness goals?

Let’s be real.

My problem with this entire issue is the intrinsic way that homosexuality and pedophilia find themselves, once again, linked. For the longest, these two terms have been mutually exclusive, especially to those who rage against the “unnatural ways” of homosexuals and accuse them of molesting young people to “indoctrinate them to their gay way of life.” Molestation and pedophilia have long been touted as recruitment tools, or reasons why people have “turned gay”. Especially in many (not all) Christian settings, every “reformed” gay or lesbian has a story of how they were molested or raped as a child and thus they internalized their pain in such a way that manifested itself in homosexuality.


Don’t believe me? Look no further than “cured” gay Donnie McClurkin (who has long fought loud whispers of gay activity himself).

Even on the side of those trying to defend gay rights, some misguidedly suggest that if Catholic priests were allowed to marry, that maybe it would lessen their appetites for young altar boys.

To be fair, there have been plenty of pundants and writers who have taken care to make “Bishop” Long’s record of homophobia very separate from charges of sexual misconduct. (An aside; as a former resident of Georgia, I can tell you that the age of consent is 16 so really, aside from it being incredibly disgusting and seedy, by law if these allegations are true, Long is not a pedophile.) But that doesn’t make quite the same splash as calling him a hypocritical, homosexual pedophile, I suppose.

Make no mistake; if these allegations are true, “Bishop” Long manipulated these boys for a very specific reason. And it is not his, or the victims’ sexual preference.

Sexual assaults are not about sexual acts or gratification. In fact, many perpetrators gain their sexual gratification not through the physical act, but rather the power exerted over another.

And that is what is at the root of this entire scandal. Power.

The power of a charismatic leader preying on the naïveté of the young. The power of a church behind him able to blindly shape the narrative of the human deity they have lifted to insane heights. Power over someone younger, easily coerced by someone filling the void of a father figure, and then using the power of that intimate trust for his own gratification.

At no point there is sexuality an issue.

It is even likely, as is the case with some same sex predators, that Long himself isn’t even gay. Rather, it could be he saw easy victims. These were young men who were easily manipulated, and entrusted to his care on trips that took them far away from eyes that might catch his impropriety. It could simply be the case that the “Bishop” saw the opportunity to exploit their vulnerability, and take advantage of their blind trust in him as spiritual leader.

Despite how easy it is to be lazy and link pedophilia and homosexuality to create the best bang in an increasingly saturated 24 hour news cycle, the fact that more people aren’t taking the time to clearly highlight the behavioral differences and motivations in the two is alarming, and is in fact pandering to increased homophobia, consciously or subconsciously. It concerns me that coverage of this story in this manner gives even more ammo to people who cannot discern that a predator is not one in the same as someone who is attracted to a person of the same sex.

It’s clear that this scandal isn’t going to go away anytime soon. And surely the story of the powerful minister brought down by the very forces of “evil” he claims to be at spiritual war against is one too powerful to not continue to perpetuate. I just wish more people took care to separate a perfectly natural attraction from a psychological need for power through abuse.

*there are no bishops in the Baptist church. I dunno who got y'all black folk to declaring yourselves titles that don't exist, but please cease and desist.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

But That's What you Do

Somewhere between hours one and two of a really great phone conversation with my aunt (who has long since been screened once I realized she rarely calls me to talk to me in as much as she calls to track down/talk about/reaffirm my responsibility to my mother) right after talking about the dog, she said the thing that I knew she was going to say, but still caught me off guard anyway…

“So… do you think there will be any babies in our future?”

“Oh, I dunno. Lemme ask Honey. Honey, are you gonna have babies?”

“No, *first and middle government names* are YOU gonna have babies?”

“I’m sorry- what?!”

We had the inevitable back and forth; her saying I should have babies, me countering that between all my cousins who have babies (all but me and one other) there are MORE than enough kids in the family; her saying I should have babies, me explaining to her why I love my crisp, white, 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and how having a baby shit all over them is not my idea of a party; her saying I should have babies.


Finally, I removed myself from the inescapable circular children argument with the tried and true, “I can’t afford one.”

Which is true, btw. Though I would love nothing more than to get all manner of tax returns because I have pushed a little human out of my snatch.

In recent years, as I move further from drunken, middle of the yard face plants in the snow
(REALLY funny story involving Cuervo and Hypnotic) and draw nigh of the hallowed, adult ground of 30, this conversation has become more frequent. It probably started in earnest a couple years back at the funeral of a loved one when my mother turned to me and said, “You can have a baby. I will help you take care of it. You don’t have to get married. Or even wait for a boyfriend.”

My mom, probably much like yours, spent my entire adolescence preaching, threatening, warning about the dangers of becoming somebody’s baby mama. And now, because I am on the other side of being sent away to “boarding school” when I find myself in a “situation” it is suddenly ok? The irony of this conversation aside, it became a fairly standard practice; my mother bringing it up, me rolling my eyes and making a snarky remark.

But now, it’s not just her. It is peripheral friends who remind me, at every act that could maybe be construed as motherly, how great I would be at it. It’s every ex-boyfriend who resurfaces with a batshit crazy baby mama who wants to wax philosophical on how different it would be had it been me *eyebrow raise* (for the record, damn near every ex of mine now has a baby and, by extension a baby mama. Except one. And he might be lying. And the gay one, of course). It’s the high school friends who look at me crazy when I explain I don’t have kids. And now my aunt of course. If my daddy asks me when I am gonna give him grandkids, I will likely lay down in the street and die.

The earliest I can remember being ambivalent about having kids was around 13 or so. I was with First Love, daydreaming aloud about what our future would be like, as dumb ass children sometimes do in the throes of their first love. There was the wedding (mutually decided upon), the small cottage with a porch in Morningside Heights (me), and 3 kids (all him). Every time he got to that last point, the three kids, I would go silent. As a teenager, I wasn’t quite sure why and didn’t know how to articulate my hesitation. I remember pretty clearly it starting with baby steps; what if we waited the first couple years of marriage to have kids? What about five years? What if we wait until we both finish school? Or until established in our careers? That could take until our early 30s.

What if we don’t have kids at all?

The first time I said it aloud to him, somewhere around 17, after we had been discussing these same ever morphing plans for four years, he looked at me like I told him I got my cardio by setting kittens on fire.

“But La,” he says to me, genuinely befuddled, “that’s what you do.”

It was easier then, in ways that it is not now, to just say no thank you.

Then, you have the built in excuse of being far too young, unmarried, uneducated, un-etc, etc. At 26, while still unmarried, but neither of my previous two excuses, I more often than not get the side eye. You know the one; like something is inherently wrong with me.

Don’t get me wrong; I love kids. Other people’s kids. Kids adore me. And I am pretty great with them. Many of my girlfriends are DYING to have babies. And I am dying for them to have them. I am just not dying for them myself.

For me, that isn’t a problem. I have made my peace with it. Just as I have made my peace with the fact that if, in the future, I decide to have children, I can do that as well. The people in my inner circle (mostly) leave me alone about the hereto unknown occupants of my uterine apartment. But I catch the subtle digs. The reflexive side eyes. The assumptions that I am barren/was abused/a lesbian (btw lesbians are generally some of the most baby crazy women you will ever meet so I recommend you dispense with this stereotype). I see the knowing glances when I comment on a baby being cute, because somehow being able to see that a child is adorable means I want one. I am well aware of the subtle ways people imply that somehow meeting the fabled One will magically change my mind, because, you know, finding a man is what makes all the pieces of your life fall together, Tyler Perry style.

It’s rude and insulting in ways you can’t imagine. I won’t even start with the pathology that assumes that as a woman I am a ticking time bomb of conception desire, and that, and if I am not or don’t have a child, that I must be a wasted woman. I won’t even discuss the ways that pontificating on how I MUST be bitter about a parent/boyfriend/familial issue MUST be the reason I don’t desire children is insulting not only to me and my intelligence, but the many mental health professionals I have sought over the years. I don’t hate children (unless they are screaming in restaurants). I intend to be front and center for every baby shower, birth and birthday that all my friends are blessed to have. I just fully expect that they appreciate that my house in Morningside Heights is the only quiet, non chocolate pudding stained one they can come to when they need a break from being great moms.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pearl Harbor

I have the most comfortable bed on earth. It is like lying on clouds lined with organic cotton wrapped in the sighs of baby cherubs. If love and kindness was made by Serta, this is what it would feel like.

I say all of that not to offer free advertising, but rather to explain just how hard I sleep in said bed. Hard. Like, comatose. Like sleeping myself under the pillow. Like utter and total confusion when I stumble into consciousness.

So there I was, sleeping soundly like the hibernating bear cub I am, only to be kicked into consciousness by what sounds to me, in my Nyquil stupor, like someone at my door. Just that quickly I am sweating, my breath coming out in uneven huffs. My eyes are open wide, the dull ache of them trying to adjust to the darkness becoming a sharp pain in my panic. I fling the covers off, wanting to be unfettered if I have to fight my way out of this room that is the polar opposite of the front door, my escape. The dog, being the worthless bitch she is, is still asleep.

I listen to the adrenaline in my ears; to the silence crackling around me, save for the distinct noises of animals and insects in the dense thicket of trees far too close to my building. I am trying to hold myself still as I possibly can, hoping like hell that what I thought I may have definitely heard is nothing but the many strange, unidentifiable insect war calls that seem to be par for the course at this damn place next to the damn woods that I just had to live in.

I hear no bugs.

I am waiting now, straining to hear the door open or a shift of weight on the carpet on the other side of the bedroom door. I am considering my options. The only weapons in the house are in the kitchen, though I am not above doing some serious damage with my chef’s knife. But I would have to get there. And the kitchen is by the front door. Which would bring me face to face with whoever is standing in my living room waiting to beat me, rob me, and cut off my hair, or whatever. I could try to creep in the darkness to the hallway door, lock it, and effectively barricade myself in the back half of the apartment. But hell, that door is as flimsy as a hooker’s dress. Surely it can be easily kicked down. I grab my Black.berry off the nightstand, my finger hovering over the key to press for an emergency call. I listen.

And hear what sounds like feet on the other side of my door.


I see myself then, trembling, drunk on adrenaline, trying to see into the silence like I’m a fucking sensei or something. And suddenly, I am incensed. This is MY APARTMENT. I LOVE this apartment. I have wanted this FOR A LONG TIME. I WILL NOT be scared shitless in my own apartment. I have a DOG and she is PART GERMAN SHEPHERD. I look at her, peering at me in the darkness all half-sleep looking.

Riding that wave of crazy, I tiptoe into my kitchen, lighter than I have moved since the many moons I used to spend at a ballet barre. I don’t turn on the lights. I know the lay out, all the nooks and crannies of my place. I have home court advantage over whoever is about to break in. I even fool myself into thinking that adrenaline serves as a sort of superhuman night vision. I am a fucking bat, y’all.

I slide a knife out of the drawer, settling it in my grip as I slide down to crouch behind the wall that separates the kitchen and living room. Punk ass dog that she is, Honey is right next to me, burrowing her little fox face into my side.

In the silence, I wait.

After what feels like forever, I hear more shuffled footsteps outside the door. Honey lets out a low growl.

Well, bitch, it’s about time.

Nothing is happening, so I decide to creep to the door and look out of the peephole to determine if I can fight off whoever is about to attack me or if I need to blockade myself in the bedroom and call the police. I should mention though, that this is a bit of a struggle as my peephole is *almost* too tall for me to see out of comfortably.

Balancing in my most precarious relevé, I don’t see anyone. A million different scenarios run through my head; What if they are hiding to either side of the door because they heard me moving on this side? What if I have scared them off with the sheer force of my super secret spy vibrations? I have a CHEF’S KNIFE, BITCH. I am DANGEROUS.

At this point, with silence wrapping around both sides of my front door, I carefully weigh my choices. I know I will never be able to go back to sleep so I have two options; I can open this door and confront whatever might be on the other side of it, or I go watch Real Housewives of DC onDemand.

After a bit of debate, I decide to test my newly-acquired-through-fear-and-osmosis ninja knife skills with whatever might be waiting for me on the other side of my door. In a grand flourish I open my front door, barely even jumping at the sharp slap the heavy door makes when it bangs against the wall, ‘cause I am so gangster right now. I swing my gaze quickly, left to right, my spidey senses tingling.

No one is there

Except an unnaturally large opossum, staring at me with big red eyes the size of brake lights.

I scream, a sharp, piercing scream, louder than I have ever screamed in life. Before my mind can even tell my body to, I'm running backwards, trying to get back inside, but trying to keep an eye on this toddler damn near the size of my torso disguised as a opossum, tripping over the poor dog who is getting trampled underfoot, still screaming, and somehow slamming my own foot in the door in the process. It’s a wonder I don’t stab myself. I get the door closed and securely locked though I am 98% certain I felt the opossum trying to push his way in.

I am breathing hard, sweat dripping off my limbs, my heart tribal dancing in my chest, trembling like I am in my panties in the Arctic. A quick glance over at the clock on my microwave tells me that only 10 minutes have passed between when I was awoken by the terrorist opossum and now.

You have GOT to be kidding me. I have been in fight or flight ninja mode for AT LEAST 5 hours. This is some bullshit. Seriously, the Unidentifiable Flying Insects were one thing, but this? What in the fuck is up with all this NATURE?! What the fuck kinda opossum just strolls up to somebody’s door? And what the fuck chemical wasteland Indian burial ground is this damn complex built on that this woodland ass creature got to be so fucking big?!

I can’t.

This was how the war began.