The Body Barrier Chronicles: How T-shirts Can Change Your Sexuality

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If you’re a friend or even decent acquaintance of mine, you would know that the above t-shirt is actually my favorite article of clothing in the entire world. My brother and I helped come up with the slogan when I was planning an activist event in 2010, and since then I’ve worn this baby a couple hundred times. I’ve even asked the organization I was working for to make more, just so I can buy another one.

And because I sometimes have violent bouts of either activism of douchebaggery, I sometimes where it in social situations where it is unusual, ironic, or just plain controversial. I’ve gone to churches with it. I’ve deliberately worn it to hang out with homophobes. I’ve taught classes at a faith-based secondary school with it on.

I’ve even gone to rehearsals for a Christian play with it on.

Now, you’re probably thinking, ‘That doesn’t mean sh*t. After all, it’s your play! You did the writing, you’re doing some of the directing…you’re acting in it for Christ’s sake!’ (Yes, the pun was intended) And all that would be true…if I was producing it as well. Alas, I am not.

Yesterday marked the third time I’ve worn my favorite t-shirt at my favorite play rehearsal.  Clearly, the third time’s not the charm in this case. I sit down behind her, completely unaware of the fact that the t-shirt I was wearing would mean something to her. After all, I wore it before. When she turns around to tell me something, she stops pre-sentence and looks at my shirt quizzically. I just look at her and laugh, thinking it finally registered what it read. After a couple scenes, a prayer and a long break, the producer approaches me and says,

“You can’t keep wearing shirts like that, or else you will turn into a homosexual…”

“Um…turn into a homosexual?” I ask, with possibly my most insincere laugh ever.

“Yes, the spirit of homosexuality will come over you, and you’ll start behaving that way. It’s like you’re inviting that spirit to you…”

“Um…the spirit of homo-” I cut myself off to ask a question – “So you think that it’s a spirit that attaches itself to people?”

“Yes. Especially if you frequently spend time with those kinds of people.”

“Oh, then I think you needn’t worry. I’ve been ‘spending time with those kinds of people’ for the past three years, maybe more. I’ve worked with ‘those kinds of people’. And I’m still completely straight, for whatever it’s worth…”

“Okay then…why do you wear that t-shirt then, if you’re not gay? What encourages you to wear it?”

“Because, miss, I designed it.

At that point, I genuinely started to wonder if this is the still, small voice that these folks hear…

For the next two hours, she makes ill-placed jokes about my opinion on things, and calls me ‘Mr. Homosexual Agenda’. Not that I mind the latter part – I think, to some degree, I am ‘Mr. Homosexual Agenda’. Not only do I buy Crix and work for equality (not sure about spending time with my family), but I have been very much involved in the ‘agenda’ to have people recognized as people regardless of their sexual orientation or any other status. That work is even evident in my decision to write and direct a Christian play even though I don’t identify as Christian.

It’s not the label that bothers me. It’s not the novelty that it engenders in Christians or heteronormative thinkers. It’s not the surprise that a straight man would be an LGBT ally that boils my blood. It’s the ignorant, bigoted response that it compelled from this devout Christian woman – if you wear a t-shirt, you’ll turn into a homosexual. Like if you wear a dog collar, you’ll start barking and peeing on furniture. She went a step further and openly questioned my sexuality when I said I liked a girl’s necklace and wanted to wear it. It’s a necklace. It looks nice. I like things that I think are nice. After all, that’s partially what it means when I say it’s nice. Drink a cup of tea. Calm down…

There should be a sign like this up in every church.

Fun fact: it was suggested that one of the characters in our play be homosexual, and include that in the conflict for the Christian family of characters. I, the co-playwright and LGBT rights activist, decided against it. Not because I didn’t think it would be a powerful story that needs to be told. But because anything that I said for the benefit of a mostly Christian audience would not actually be the truth. They want to hear that it’s a taste that people have in the same way that some people have a craving for pineapples and soy sauce. They want to hear that it’s deliberate vice that people engage in when they want to screw with the system. They want to hear that it’s a demon riding the backs of men that can be exorcised or prayed away. When it’s not. And I’m not going to tell them that, for the sake of the son or daughter that one of them has that might just be gay or lesbian, and has to live in a house where their parents try to violently separate them from a very real aspect of themselves. Nobody deserves to have someone tell them that their Love is as a result of a demon tormenting them. After all, it’s Love that they feel. God is Love, remember?

These kinds of religious perspectives, with no real understanding or true Compassion, is what irks me about some faiths. It is unfortunate that it happens with Christianity in particular. If we were speaking about anything else, like turning into a car if I sat in a garage long enough, we would know off the bat it was crazy. But because we’re talking about homosexuality and clothing, it makes complete sense…right?

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