Identity

Updates

InTolerance: Why I’m Writing A New Show About Prejudice, Faith, and Identity

Debuting in Chicago on Thursday, Oct. 23, I'm producing a very-new new show that's open to the public.

InTolerance: Why I’m Writing A New Show About Prejudice, Faith, and Identity

In a few short days, I’ll be debuting a new show. To those¬†who have followed my work, I understand that the topic (faith)¬†and setting (a church) feel like they are¬†coming¬†out of left field. And that feeling couldn’t be more right — that’s why I’m doing this show.

Granted, I’ve written about Christianity¬†a bit, both here and at It’s Pronounced Metrosexual,¬†but it would be accurate to say that Faith is not my usual go-to topic when I hop on stage. In fact, I’ve never talked about faith on stage, and, if I’m being completely honest, I feel palpably¬†uncomfortable in churches. But again, that¬†is, in essence, why I’m doing this show.

Christian/Religious people don’t often engage in dialogue with Atheist people. Straight/Cisgender people don’t often engage in dialogue with Queer people. Don’t get me wrong: there is a lot of talking¬†at¬†these different groups,¬†but that’s not the same.

There are a lot of “national conversations” led by members of all four of these groups, but so few actual conversations. And who’s leading those conversations? Who do we have speaking on behalf of us? Are we comfortable with everything those folks say on our behalf? Do we (whatever We you are) really feel that way about them? (whatever Them they might be).

There is this idea that there is no common ground, that we’re all at extremes, we’re against, at odds, “irreconcilably different,”¬†fundamentally opposed.¬†These are identities that are thought to have clear lines in the sand — party lines, political lines, permanent lines. Us. Them. And a big gap between the two.

But here’s the thing: I don’t buy it. Any of it. I think we’re getting duped, that an extremely vocal minority is misrepresenting the majority, and that we’re more alike than we are different — at least where it counts. From my perspective, it’s becoming more and more clear that’s the case. But I’m aware of how odd my perspective is at times. I’m hoping this show will help build a bigger Us and a smaller Them.

There’s this thing about me — about my identity — that mixes people’s signals

I’m not gay and I’m not Christian, and these are two things that people are surprised to find out (if this is news to you right now — surprise!). So many people¬†assume the opposite that I’ve become accustomed to correcting people, sometimes even before they say anything — an anticipatory strike. And when I do that, I never hear “Oh, I didn’t think you were,” but instead “Really?!” or “How did you know I thought that?” or (the most common) “Are you sure?”

I’m sure.

“But what you’re doing with your life is so Christian.” “But you smell so¬†good.” “But…” “But…” But…” The responses to both my not-gay-ness and not-Christian-ness are many and varied¬†and not worth getting into here (so many for the gay assumption that I wrote an entire show about it).

I’m hoping this show to¬†serve as this middle part of the venn diagram that brings these four distinctly different groups together

I’m an atheist who is¬†often¬†assumed to be a Christian, a straight, cisgender man who is often¬†assumed to be queer. ¬†As a result of that, or at least as a result of me engaging with those confusions, I’ve had a¬†ton¬†of conversations with people who fall somewhere into all four of these groups. And what I’ve found is there really aren’t four groups at all. Instead, there are a ton of individual people who align somewhere on, between, beside, or outside of each of those dimensions.

A lot of good can come from this conversation, if we do it in a healthy, non-threatening, safe way. It’s a conversation that’s already ringing in a lot of folks ears, but by no means the majority. I’m hoping InTolerance¬†will help folks feel more comfortable joining the conversation in their own lives, and nudging that seemingly-silent minority toward a¬†vocal majority.

Hell, or maybe it’ll just be fun to tell stories and laugh for an hour in a church. I know it’ll be a first for me. I hope to see you there.

Updates

I’m Not Going To Teach You Anything New

I'm just going to help you rearrange the knowledge you already have.

I’m Not Going To Teach You Anything New

That’s something one of my professors in grad school would lead off with in the first class of the semester. The class was about the effect of environments on people’s ability to learn, develop, and grow. After sixteen weeks, hours of discussion, papers, and reading an entire textbook, he was right.¬†Years later, it’s funny how much I find myself thinking the same thing as I approach my work.

So much of what I do — and what other folks who do work like mine do — is helping people rearrange the things they’ve already learned about themselves, their gender and sexuality, identity, and society. People have experienced the phenomena, they just don’t have names for them, or understand how they interlock or overlap.

It’s the difference between a personal shopper and a personal organizer. Instead of taking you to fancy stores to buy new fancy things, we spend a couple hours in your closet making sense of what you already have. Maybe you need a new pair of shoes, or a scarf to go with your favorite sweater, and I can help you with that, but for the most part I’m here to help you organize what you already have.

One of the challenges is finding ways to prevent people from recluttering everything as soon as you step away. While we’re chatting, the Platinum Rule might seem like a great idea, and everyone is all “heck yeah Imma do that.” Then two weeks later, they’re in some fight with some person and they think “that would have never pissed me off” and keep hammering away Golden-Rule style, mucking up their closet.

You can lead a fish to water, but you can’t make him eat a horse, ya know?

The other challenge is reassuring people that what they have in their closet is good enough. Gender, sexuality, identity, life — these are complicated ideas, and complicated ideas require complicated explanations utilizing complicated concepts, don’t they? Sometimes. But sometimes they don’t. And when someone already has all the tools to understand an idea but thinks they are missing something, it’s tough to convince them otherwise. And it’s tougher still to help them over the discomfort and fear of realizing how incompletely/incorrectly/disorganizedly they were viewing things their entire life up until that point. Sometimes it’s easier to to just say, “nope, not possible, don’t get it, let’s move on.”

Sometimes you bite off too much of a bitter pill to chew it, ya heard?

But the fun part of unteaching is seeing when it clicks. When a person, or group of people, realize something big, and realize that they’ve kinda known it all along. And knowing that it’s not going away. That part of their life is organized now.