Thanks for the Gay, OCA (Part II)

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The Lady Chronicles by Daniel BorgenBy Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
2004: Springtime, precisely ten years ago—I’m freshly unemployed, living at home with my parents in hopes of getting my bearings. I’m detached from any notion of queer community; I’m political, certainly, and I definitely participate in the gay scene (long nights on Stark or at Embers, which really used to be a great place to find beautiful suitors), but I’m nearly anti-activist. I don’t see the value in all the do-gooding. I’m still dealing with remnants of shame—shame about who I am, who I sleep with, where I came from. A United Pentecostal Church. 2014: I’ve spent more years out of that cultish quagmire than I ever spent in it—but it’s always here, whispering in my ear, tapping my shoulder, cropping up in the unlikeliest of places. I do not just abide it, I listen to it. The whispers remind me how far I’ve come. Like your crazy aunt who rails against the “climate change hoax†during Thanksgiving dinner, or the one who wants to set you up on a “nice date with her lady friend,†that part of my past serves as self-congratulatory fodder. Look at how far you’ve come. Be proud of yourself. Progress. 1994: I’m in the death throes of high school, still beholden to my church family. United Pentecostals do lots of things that sort of stick with you forever. My church’s parishioners were big advocates of Measure 9 and the OCA, and the “homosexual agenda†is still talked about often. At the height of the Measure 9 campaign, a small group of us drove down to Salem in a big blue Buick to meet Lon Mabon and to procure “anti-gay agenda†materials. One by one, we shook his hand and thanked him for his godly crusade. We got videos outlining the “vile gay agenda,†videos that showed Pride parades and gay men nancing about on city streets. These videos would become masturbatory material for months to come, playing a vital role in my sexual awakening. 2004: If you’re not careful, with unemployment comes lethargy and weight gain. I’m more depressed about leaving my job than I ever thought I’d be, and I medicate myself with greasy foodstuffs, beer, and liquor. I go to Starbucks four times a day, delighted the state doesn’t ask for itemized receipts before cutting my next unemployment check. It’s early March, and my friend Kristen calls me to tell me Multnomah County started issuing marriage licenses to homos, and something stirs my soul. Gay people getting married? I can’t fathom it, nothing so tangible has ever been on my radar. I dash over to my friend’s house as fast as my now-portly body can move, and we quickly fashion homemade signs and posters. A pro-marriage protest. 2014: Due to some insurance-related issues, I switch primary care physicians. I’m in an exam room with my new doctor, and we spend an hour talking about my life and medical history; she’s furiously typing notes. I talk about how the anti-depressant probably saved my life last summer, and she grills me about my upbringing. Peoples’ eyes always widen and I feel like I’m Lindsay Lohan on Oprah when I talk about my church. They did what? You did what? They spoke in what? Tongues. You can have all the sedatives you need, dear. 1994: I like to joke about how Lon Mabon made me gay, but I know he didn’t really do it. I understand my queerness transcends such a little, despicable man (maybe give Scott Lively some credit, too). All that talk in and around my church about homosexuals, all those videos I watch, all the campaign material I read—they absolutely awaken something in me. It’s around this time I discover the City Nightclub, Just Out, Peacock in the Park, Balloons on Broadway—all manner of gay Portland. 2014: I can’t help but wonder when I would have met my sexuality head on without all those influences. Would I have followed through and become the missionary my pastor wanted me to be? Would I have married the girl my church told me I was “destined to� Once, during an altar call (where you’re down front and everyone’s laying hands on you), I was told I would become a wildly successful spiritual leader and I would bring “thousands to the Lord.†I disappointed many people when I abandoned my faith. Sometimes I still feel their disappointment. This also marks the first time in my life I’ve ever referred to it as “my faith.†2004: There are news cameras, protestors, gays wrapped around city blocks. My friends and I are standing face-to-face with angry Christians; we’re holding our “God Hates Shrimp†signs which quote Leviticus. It’s days of this—I’m unemployed, with all the time in the world. The marrying has emboldened me; I’m using years of indoctrination and Biblical smarts to outwit the idiots who object. One after another, I’m in faces, hollering about hate and context and bemoaning their lack of comprehension. I’m face-to-face with my upbringing, purging it. The protestors are stand-ins for my pastors, relatives, the OCA. And I am letting them have it. 2014: I don’t know if it was the crazy pills I took; I’m not sure if peace and wisdom simply come with age and time; but I’m a fairly well-adjusted gay man, one who’s spent his fair share of time working for the cause, building community. I still enjoy an adult beverage and our wondrously diverse nightlife. This is the year marriage will probably become a reality in Oregon, and I have to pinch myself. How many people get to see so much change in their lifetime? Not many. We’re lucky. Daniel@PQMonthly.com