What used to be one of my biggest fears is the discovery that I’m organically not what I hope I am. When I’d think of myself, I’d wonder if who I think I am is really antithetical to who I was created to be; that there’s a possibility I’m spending all my energy doing the wrong things. One day it came to me that my fear was actually rooted in what I thought people thought of me. What would my family and friends think if I ever expressed what I was really felt or was thinking? What would happen to my support system if I was ever authentically “Tuan?” In fact, what did being authentic mean for me at any point in time?
Being worried about the thoughts and opinions of others was the root of my spiritual paralysis. To break the stagnation, I had to do some hard work. I had to find what relationships, food, sex and alcohol couldn’t give me… knowledge of me. I needed to confront the pain relationships, food, sex and alcohol pacified. I had to start thinking about myself. I had to challenge and explore what I thought of me. After thirteen years in ministry, I had to break open my spirit and calculate what I had, who I was, where I was going, and what all that meant. It all started with my thoughts of me.
“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he,” opened my eyes to a great deal of things. It taught me that it really doesn’t matter what other people think of me. The important thing is what I think of myself. And whatever I thought of myself, IS who I am. So when I thought of myself as unloveable, unattractive or not good enough, I wasn’t. That thought pattern lead to me being depressed and self-destructive. Not only was I self-destructive, I was subconsciously destroying everything and everyone around me. I couldn’t see good in me, so I couldn’t see it in others. I was hypercritical, judgmental, catty and downright mean.
Eventually I had to ask myself, “Tuan, what are you thinking?” The only thing I thought was good about me was based on the opinions and thoughts of others, so in reality I wasn’t thinking.
To get a good view of who I am, I had to break down every wall that I thought was protecting me. I had to become open. I had to crack open all the things I had bottled up and look at them; deal with each and every issue, positive or negative. Only when I became open was I able to see my own potential. While I had a closed mind and spirit, I wasn’t able to get a true calculation of all the things that make me who I am; my talents, my insights, my background, my dreams, and so much more. I couldn’t even see the infinite possibilities. Confronting all my crazy helped me see not just what I have, but helped me realize what I want. I now understand what I want isn’t impossible. What I want for my life is what I deserve.
So, what are you thinking? What are WE thinking? Are we really seeing the big picture about who we are individually and collectively? Are we passionate enough, courageous enough to brea open that which keeps us isolated, take inventory and open ourselves up to what is possible? At this very moment, you are… we are the precise expression of what we think.
Tuan N’Gai is an activist and co-founder of Operation: REBIRTH. He is the author and publisher of “Will I Go To Heaven? The Black Gay Spiritual Dilemma” and “Little Brown Boy’s Blues.” He is also a contributor to the New York Times Best Seller “It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living.” Tuan currently lives in Chicago, Illinois
Did he ever come out as gay or bisexual? Did he ever say anything more than, “I was in love with a man”? Is his courageous transparency about his personal life his way of reaching out to young people who are dealing with issues surrounding their sexuality? Is he a trailblazer who is changing the rabidly homophobic landscape of hip hop and R&B music? Is he being forced to be a “gay role model”? Was he simply just creatively telling his story, or is all of the hubbub over this cd a clever marketing plan called “Say you’re bi, and queers will buy”?
Personally, I appreciate Frank’s artistry, his creativity and his courage. I applaud his lyricism. I celebrate his being open and honest about such a personal experience. It takes a level of intestinal fortitude most black men don’t have. In a social climate where hyper-masculinity abounds, and outright hatred and disrespect for anything feminine outside of meeting the sexual needs of irrationally afraid little boys in men’s clothes, Frank Ocean made a move that for many would ruin their careers.
But for me, it’s hard to tell if Mr. Ocean is truly an artist who has a message. I suppose I will just have to wait and see what happens after all the fairy dust settles. I’d like to think this talented young man lives his life with boldness and integrity. It would be refreshing to find out that there are prominent people in the hip hop and R&B music scenes, who when around their fellow artists, will stand up and check them on their ignorant homophobia. He could actually be knocking down the walls that have kept people like Mz. Fontaine. Katastrophe, DaLyrical, Tori Fixx, Deep Dickollective, Deadlee and countless others from experiencing main stream acceptance for being brilliant artists.
Me being me, I have to question if Frank Ocean’s “I was in love with a man” revelation him just being authentically Frank, or if he is being used by a clever marketing machine to pimp the LGBTQ community for their dollars.
It’s been argued that the first time homosexuals, or homosexual acts are addressed in the New Testament is in Romans the 1st chapter (mainly verses 26 and 27). That is if you disregard the two occasions that eunuchs are mentioned (sorry, that’s another Bible Study). And like other scriptures, this one has been misinterpreted, taught in error, and caused much spiritual and emotional harm to same gender loving people.
The thing most people who erroneously teach this scripture seem to forget is, when interpreting scripture, you cannot just take one or two verses of a chapter, build a sermon, teach it as “God’s Word” and live it as a doctrine. You have to carefully see what the scripture (and all others relating to it) is saying. It’s been advised that we read the chapter before, and after the chapter we are studying so that we can get some type of contextual view of what the author was talking about. In this case, we are dealing with Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome. In fact, the text in verse 7 says it…”my dear friends in Rome” (New Living Translation). Since that’s who he was addressing, we have to infer that he was dealing with their situation. Am I saying that he couldn’t have any relevant truth for 21st Century America? Not at all. I AM saying that if we are going to correctly interpret what is being said, we need to understand that first and foremost, who Paul was addressing was 1st Century Rome. Let’s take a closer look and find out what that truth is.
The first thing we need to address is the cultural climate of biblical Rome. It was a societal norm for people to be bisexual. And with that being the “normal” sexuality that society ascribed to, it was expected for everyone to be that way. Since now we know that all people aren’t bisexual (in fact most are heterosexual), we can understand how pressured a heterosexual or homosexual person would be to engage in acts that weren’t “natural” for him or her. The definition of the word “natural” in this text comes from the Greek word “phusikos”, meaning instinctive or native disposition. If a person is a native to some place, they were born there. So, a native disposition would be how a person is born. The word “nature” in this text likewise comes from the Greek word “phusis”, which means production or lined descent; growth by germination, or native disposition. Just keep “instinctive/native disposition” in mind.
When Paul talks about the “natural use” of the woman, he is coming from several different places. First from a place of male dominance that thought that the only use a woman has is having babies to continue the man’s lineage. That’s all. A woman was a man’s property (paid for with a dowry)…his “baby maker” per se. So any sexual deviation that would produce offspring was not looked upon favorably. In fact, not until this century did some in the church start teaching that sex had more that just a procreative purpose.
Secondly, Paul was coming from a sexual orientation angle. He was not making a blanket statement of what is and isn’t “natural”. He couldn’t have been. Science has proven that in all species of animals, homosexuality is present (ref. “Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity” by Bruce Bagemihl). So, since homosexuality occurs in nature, it cannot be considered unnatural. And since most people are instinctively heterosexual and that is their native disposition, it IS highly unnatural for one to do otherwise. In this scripture, Paul is telling the Romans that it is unnatural for a person to go against their “native disposition” or what is “instinct” for them and do something else with their bodies to fit in. Now, we can jump on the ex-gay and DL thing right here, but we don’t have the space or time. But do you get the point? If your nature is heterosexual, be that. If you are born homosexual, be that. If you indeed are bisexual, then that’s you. Don’t try to change who you are to fit societal norms. It’s like telling God that He made you the wrong way.
Next, Paul was dealing with some religious issues as well. Paul in fact is saying homosexual activity is not a sin, but a punishment for idol worship and faithlessness. It is a result of heterosexuals not worshipping God but His creation. Turning the truth into a lie. Denying God. His argument is, if a man (being straight) is SO confused and faithless that he cannot discern who God is when creation even tells of His existence, then it’s not so far fetched that that same man (being straight) would be confused sexually and do what is unnatural for him to do. These verses couldn’t be an blanket indictment against homosexuality in that most of the most highly anointed, profound, gifted, talented, and FAITHFUL Christians are homosexual people.
Finally, Paul was dealing with what was going on in Rome from the standpoint of a Jew. There were just some things that were not customary or “natural” for a good Jew to do. Not to say that there are no homosexual Jews, there are. But one must remember that Paul was a very well educated and respected man in his time. He was a good Jew who knew and tried his best to live by “the law” according to the Torah. So to be in another land (not native to Israelites) and submerged into another culture (Rome) trying to live according to how Jews “customarily” or “normally” lived, it must have been hard to do since the society was so different.
So, is Romans 1.26-27 a blanket indictment against homosexuals? With the information we have, we can say no. Paul was more than likely addressing cultural, religious, and orientation issues in this scripture. Contrary to popular opinion, the theme of this text isn’t homosexuality. In fact it isn’t about sexuality at all. It’s about people keeping in mind who God is. It’s about understanding that humanity is without excuse when it comes to reverencing God in that creation itself tells of His glory. It’s about understanding the truth and the fact that it comes from God. And lastly, it’s about not being judgmental or hypocritical. Remember when we said that one should study the chapter before and after the text being focused upon? Well, Romans Chapter 2.1-7 Paul gets on people who are pointing at those who have forgotten God and saying how wicked they are, yet are doing the same things. Bottom line, God judges sin. It doesn’t matter who you are. Make sure you are right with God for yourself. Let God handle the rest in His own way.
Southern Missionary Baptist Church
Attn: Pastor X. Thompson
4678 WestAdams Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90016
I am writing you and the entire Southern Missionary Baptist Church family to express my concern about the misinformation that is being spread about California’s SB 48, the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. This act is important to everyone as it gives our children the opportunity to learn that every community has contributed to the greatness of our society in diverse ways. Without this piece of legislation, we are all subject to our future being misinformed about the beauty of diversity.
When I look back over my own life and remember how in the public school system, I was taught that slavery “wasn’t all that bad” and being made to feel the contributions my ancestors made to our society weren’t really great, it makes me sad to think that there are African-American people like you and those you lead who would support the repeal of a law that makes that travesty the norm for our kids. It’s reprehensible that African-American people would support this immoral and racist agenda under the guise of standing up for morality.
As for “sexualizing history”… sir, nobody has said anything about sex but you and those who support your crusade. This law is CLEARLY about diversity in education. It’s important that our children know that our African-American ancestors who were slaves were NOT savages who were saved by the good Christian white people. They should know that the very Christianity you
preach and teach was forced upon our people after they were stripped their identity, language, culture, and religion so they could be controlled and enslaved mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It’s important that our children know that their Blackness, their Latin heritage, their Asian culture, and any other culture they may represent is not something that should divide us, but it’s what makes us beautiful and it should be celebrated. NOWHERE in this law is sexual behavior mentioned.
Contrary to your statements about homophobia, your stance on this issue IS homophobic. Homophobia is an irrational fear of homosexual people and the things related to theirlives. It is also a fear that one may indeed be homosexual. What’s so wrong
about our kids knowing that the organizer of the Civil Rights March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, was not just black but a same gender loving man? What’s wrong with our children knowing that people who are different from them can also be good people who do great things that change the world? Fearing that reality IS INDEED homophobic. Not only is that, to think and perpetuate the notion that all there is to same gender loving people is what they do in their bedrooms ridiculous. How dare we reduce an entire community to sex! It’s like saying all black people do is play sports, eat fried chicken and watermelon, have children out of wedlock and drain the economy of its resources with their laziness. Please remember that during the Reconstruction Era, black men were considered to be the greatest threat to white women, and black women were categorized as highly sexual. Black people as a whole were once reduced to sexual stereotypes.
Your act of asking those who support SB 48 to leave your church meeting was not only bigoted, and irrationally fearful, but
anti-Christian. When did Jesus (the one you are supposed to follow and imitate) EVER send anyone away from being close
to Him? I can’t find that in any Bible that I read. When did Jesus ever treat people that way?
My prayer for you is that GOD would open your heart and mind to see that what you are doing will have horrible consequences. Without SB 48, what’s to stop the government from mandating that ALL education relating to anything other than “American”
(or white) people is inappropriate and should never be taught in the classroom? What will that do to Native American History, Black History, Latin History, Asian History, being taught in the classroom? Whether or not we believe it, or accept it there are gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersexed and same gender loving people within ALL those
cultures. We all contribute greatness and beauty to our society. Who are we to rob our children of knowledge of that reality?
As co-founder of the OpREBIRTH movement (www.operationrebirth.com), I would like to invite you to further discuss this issue. We at OpREBIRTH are more than happy to have this conversation (not debate) with you in an effort to bring peace, heal this
divide, and to let the community know that we are more alike than we are different. At the end of the day, we all want the same things… to be loved, to be respected, and to be treated with fairness and equity. The only way we are going to grow as a people is if we stop being afraid of people who are not like us in every way. Now is the time that we stop being manipulated into letting our differences be used to divide us. We must stand together on the things that make us the same. It would be foolish for an entire generation to perish due to lack of knowledge, as a result of the fears and prejudice of people who should be teaching them how to love.
I used to get offended when people referred to me as “BIG MAN.” I used to hide and get depressed or intimidated when someone I thought I could possibly be interested in had issues with my size, my being a minister, with my being an openly same gender loving man. I used to downplay my personality, act like a caricature in public, and secretly nurse a wounded spirit with low self-esteem. For years, I suffered from outward rejection and eventually turned that rejection on myself. Saw myself as not good enough. Not fit for anyone or anything. Then I thought…what the hell? DAMMIT, I REFUSE to suffer at the hands of rejection any longer. In fact, I’m thankful that man’s rejection is God’s protection!
How can I say all this? Well, I’ve seen my share of rejection in my day. I let it almost kill me. See, I’m a big boy, and there are those who are intimidated by my size. I’m a black man. There are those who hate me just because of that. When you throw in my uniqueness, my style, talent, intellect, anointing AND sexuality…people just can’t handle all that makes me as BIG as I am. So most of the time, they stop at my color and size. All they see is a big black man.
I had to learn that when someone rejected me, that thing ain’t about me….it’s about them. I’ve learned that man’s rejecting me is God’s way of protecting me from the issues that the person doing the rejecting is dealing with. He’s trying to keep me from going through unnecessary drama. I finally had to understand that I AM A BLESSING. Sent to this earth by God to enhance creation. I have the power to change time. To make history. I am well able to accomplish everything my heart, mind, and spirit dreams about. God has given me all I need to live up to my fullest potential.
I’ve learned not to let ANYONE make me feel like I am less than the blessing that I am. I don’t beat myself up because someone is too blind, shallow and/or self centered to reject me. It’s THEIR loss, not mine. I’ve decided to continue to be who God made me to be. Besides, nobody but God knows what issues that person is dealing with. They could be six kinds of crazy. They could be dealing with mess that and drama that I don’t need in my life! When people reject me, I now see their rejection is God doing me a HUGE favor.
Well, FINALLY I thank God I’ve learned to inhale peace and exhale joy…and know the beauty of loving God and myself; in spite of what people accept or deny. I’ve redefined freedom for myself.