I came out as gay to my family and the world (well, the readership of the Chatham Daily News) in 1978. Although I’ve always reserved the right to decide whether or not to tell people I come in contact with, not saying anything has been rare. My paternal grandmother was never told, to honour a request from my family as recounted in My Coming Out Story.
Over the years I’ve learned that it wouldn’t take much effort to pass as a ‘straight’ (i.e. heterosexual) man. Just editing stories and being careful of what I say. Of course it would’ve cost me my Soul so it was never really an option. My parents gave us kids many blessings; self-awareness being one.
Likewise, I know that with but a few tweaks I could pass as “nearly straight” – generally a middle-class, white gay male with a spouse, kids, pets, mortgage and other hetero-normative accoutrement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If you want to ‘live the Murican dream’ go for it. Heck, I’ll even marry you (once SCOTUS brings full marriage equality to Ohio). But that is not my dream. Never was; probably never will be. All I want, need, demand, is to be accepted as I am. And so I now self-identify as queer – indeed I have for many years.
During the early ’80s I, along with my partner at the time, discovered our interest in the leather/fetish world. My conversations and connections to much of that world are conducted with a ‘handle’ or ‘nick’ (nickname or screen-name). This is not to shield the world-at-large from knowing that aspect of me, so much as to protect me and my household from specific less well-balanced members of society. Despite the growth in acceptance of people ‘playing’ in the leather/fetish space, (think ’50 Neutered Shades of Gray’) actually living it still seems to shock and offend some people. Far too many tv shows (dramatic or comedic), improv and stand-up artists consider it an easy and shallow plot device. You know, something to pull out when ‘cross-dressing’ has been over-used. As much as I try to live an open and authentic life and tend to give ‘TMI’ answers to questions, that aspect of my life will not be discussed in any detail here. Period.
Many queer folk reject any organi- er institutional religious tradition. Between the far-too-common rejection (if not outright hatred) queer folk experience in such places, and a sense that no gawd worthy of worship would permit such atrocities to stand, why should we even try to participate in such groups?
I was baptized in the United Church of Canada as an infant and again in The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto as a young adult. The first is a mainstream Canadian denomination that has a strong track record of acceptance. MCC was founded in 1968 “to provide a Christian sanctuary for LGBT people” and is now “an international denomination committed to radical inclusivity in all areas.” They are both great places for LGBT Christians to congregate. However I’ve studied a wide variety of spiritual traditions; nature-based ‘pagan’ as well as ‘major world religions’. I now identify as a nontheistic spiritual humanist.
The final revelation for today is one that, upon reflection, lumps me with various people of fame (and plenty of us ‘civilians’) who don’t actively and widely ‘come out’ while not exactly hiding their full identity. To the point that anyone who is connected to me at The Book of Face (as my Friend, or the Friend of a Friend) already knows.
Another aspect of the complex, complete individual that I am was also brought out in the early 80s in Toronto. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was founded in San Francisco in 1979. As their website notes: “Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.”
The Order arrived in Toronto in 1981 and in 1983 I was accepted into the Order as Sister Flagellation of Forbidden Fruit to recognize the leather/fetish counterpoint to my Sisterly vocation. In 2014 I engaged in a time-honoured OPI tradition of adopting a new Sisterly name. I am now Sister Flirtatious Romanovsky of Middlesex. This name honours two pioneering gay musical groups that long have influenced my life and continue to bring joy:
# The Flirtations; an a cappella group active (with various members) from 1988 to 1997;
# Romanovsky & Phillips; gay folk duo active from 1982 to 1999.
Well, I think that is it for today.