More Than Chocolate: On Easter, Agape, coming out and the joys of renewal

more than chocolate

more than chocolate

At every moment you choose yourself.But do you choose your self? Body and soul contain a thousand possibilities out  of which you can build many I’s. But in only one of them is there a congruence of the elector and elected.Only one – which you will never find until you have excluded all those superficial and fleeting possibilities of being and doing with which you toy, out of curiousity or wonder or greed, and which hinder you from casting anchor in the experience of the mystery of life, and the consciousness of the talent entrusted to you which is your I.

– Dag Hammarskjold

Easter always feels very special to me. Partly because it changes every year – a movable feast. Partly because of the Spiritual meaning and mysteries drilled into a young Catholic boy. And partly because it’s the anniversary of my Coming Out.

As it happens, I’m Coming Out was the song chosen to represent the Opening Of The Tomb and Resurrection of Jesus in a rather dubious rendering of the gospel to the music of Diana Ross, performed under the title Agape at my school by a renegade ‘brother’ who turned out to (allegedly) be on the run from tax authorities in another country, and who had forged himself a reference in order to seek refuge in a Boys’ Catholic Boarding School (ahem). His version of the gospel even included the Crucifixion performed to Upside Down. Even when ‘Luis’ cast himself as Jesus, and performed in nothing more than a gold lame  ‘g’ string, the audience and school didn’t seem to twig that there might be something amiss about this peculiar  ‘re-interpretation’ of the gospels and its author. It was the 80’s and everything was a little ‘glam’. I was offered the part of the Roman Soldier Longinus who pierced Christ’s flesh with the Spear Of Destiny. I turned it down – not on aesthetic or religious grounds, I’m afraid. I thought the part was too small.

Eventually, it all Came Out, and Luis was escorted to an airport where he was given a one way ticket out of the country. Brushed under the carpet and Someone Else’s problem.

I celebrate my own Coming Out at Easter every year because … well, I first ‘came out’ at Easter. If there was indeed any ‘coming out’ to do. I was never butch, and didn’t particularly hide crushes on classmates, teachers, Captain Kirk, The Six Million Dollar Man, even the cartoon Spiderman, particularly well. The New Romantics kept my sexuality camouflaged in gender bending fashion, and a theatrical ben offered me many opportunities to be a little luvvie.

And I developed my first serious crush at Uni. Falling for an American exchange student – well, as it turns out, at least my gaydar was in good working order. And I invited him to stay with my family one Easter. At some point, I blurted out that I was like one of the characters in Caryl Churchill’s dramatic exploration of sexual politics, Cloud 9, which had just been produced at our university. It was a way in. He kindly recognised my inadequate stumblings, and calmly accepted what had been said. All of a sudden, it was ‘Out There’. I’d come out of a dark tomb and entered a bright, scary new world.

Probably, the only person I’d come out to was myself. I said the same things several times to different people, in slightly different ways, and it always seemed like there was no surprise, just a witnessing to my own re-creation each time. Even my parents, in a tear filled and awkward last minute family meeting I called.

So I like the spiritual mystery of Easter, and the childlike magic of bunnies and Easter hunts, because the theme of personal and spiritual renewal is a universal and important one. Even if it takes place whilst wearing  a gold lame ‘g’ string, and to the soundtrack of Diana Ross.

So, dear lover, through this world of mine that I weave for you here, methinks sometimes I see you moving.

And I wait of you that in time you also spread worlds equally beautiful, more beautiful, for me.

[Not in written words only, but in spoken words, or the mere sound of the voice or look of the face, and in beauties of body and limb and brain and heart, and in beauty of deed and action, and in a thousand ways.]

– Edward Carpenter ‘Lo! what a world I create’


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An Easter View From A Fridge – hot buns, loincloths, charlatans and coming out

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I’ve made buns. Hot and cross for Easter. Today I received a card from an uncle, a chaplain, encouraging me that this year I might ‘consider resurrection’. I was terribly flattered, but think that might be beyond my powers.

But Easter is a celebration for me, a resurrection of sorts. It’s the anniversary of my own coming out, many years ago when I was a student. I celebrate it still – coming out is a life changing event without formal celebrations to acknowledge it. Lots of people now take it for granted, and in many ways now we’re encouraged to think we don’t need to come out, that it wasn’t or isn’t important anymore. A social move towards ‘uncoming out’, invisibility, assimilation, the backlash against equality and getting the message tom just shut up with the gay thing and not ram it down throats anymore. Be grateful, you’re nothing special or different.

It felt felt very different as a Catholic teenager with a crush on a best friend at University. There had been clumsy attempts at coming out before – a furtive purchase of Gay Times, an embarrassed confession to a priest who explained, as a former Rugby player, that all young men went through such a phase. And there was the punk girl who chatted me up on the top deck of the no 2 bus from town, who concluded I must be gay because I didn’t want to get off at the next stop  have sex with her. ‘The house is empty’, she told me with glee.

But one Easter I blurted out to a guy from Kansas who was on overseas internship that I thought I wasn’t 100% straight. I don’t know how I got round to it, and didn’t mention I had  crush on him til months later. But I got a hug, and all of a sudden I felt acceptance for something I hadn’t been able to accept for myself for so long. And that was it. Easter. Renewal. Rebirth. The rock had been rolled away from my tomb.

I’m reminded of a another coming out at easter. It involved an alleged tax avoider from the continent, who pretended to be a member of clergy at school. There were no CRB checks back then, and even if you were clergy you got away with all sorts. He was terribly camp, terribly outrageous, got away with calling us all ‘fuckin sheeeetheads’ in his unlikely foreign accent when teaching foreign languages, and decided it would be simply marvellous to produce a musical based on the gospels – but, naturally,  to the songs of Diana Ross. So the Crucifixion had Our Lord tied upside down on a crucifix as they played Diana’s best selling ‘Upside Down’. And in a self effacing act of humility, he cast himself as Jesus Christ. In nothing but a very short, skimpy and rather sparkley loincloth. As Jesus would wear.
The highlight, of course, was the Resurrection. At which point out charlatan friend appeared  rolling back the stone from his tomb, to the tune of Miss Ross’s ‘I’m Coming Out’. Which nearly happened with the loincloth, it was so skimpy. He was eventually spirited away to the continent on a one way ticket in the dark of the night. Faithful reader, I’m never sure how much of this true story could ever be true. But it happened.

So, whatever Easter might mean for you, I wish you the surprising, the unlikely, the unbelievable, and your own experience of renewal and rebirth. And some hot, sweet, sticky buns.