Thursday, May 6, 2010
Tonight I got inducted. There were only a handful of people at MCCQC's chapel. I wouldn't have it any other way anyhow. I am not for big shows you know. There was Moi, Rev CJ, my three beauteous ninangs, the pastor's better half, Ninang Marlon, soon to be Rev. Pastor Venj aka Imee Marcos, and the alluring Macmac aka Jessa Zaragosa. There was 'unofficial' kodaker Miss Chad 'Greta' Richard, MCC Baguio delegate William, Mike Mia, and of course, blogging best buddy sister YJ the Manila Bitch as my very special guest. It was intimate, but it was solemn and meaningful for me, but that's getting ahead of my story. I intend to tell you how wonderful MCCQC is so let me get this right mmmkay?
First of all, yes, I am going to a church, and yes, this is a Christian Church, and again yes, this is an LGBT embracing church. I would not say it is an LGBT church because that would go against the very first tenet of MCC or the Metropolitan Community Churches, which would be inclusiveness... so let me say that it is a church that embraces and has a special ministry for the LGBT's. It all started one fine Tuesday evening while I was on the net. I came across a very thought provoking message to come to a church for LGBT's. Incidentally, they were having a meet the very next night, which happened to be a rest day for me. I have a long-time online friend who once mentioned such a church and I have been wanting to check out what this is all about. So I gave my word to check out what there was.
To be very honest, when the word 'church' presents itself in a conversation, I am nonchalant. I pride myself with being some sort of 'comparativist' when it comes to churches and religion. Though I would say that I am neo-wiccan, catholic, when asked about my religious views I would always say I am spiritual not religious, and I do have a very deep and personal relationship with my God/Goddess, end of conversation. I have been to many a go-see with different religions and I can safely say I am someone with a high regard and respect for all sorts of religious beliefs as holding parts and parcels of truth, seen at varying degrees, interpretations and points of view. For quite some time, I identified myself with the Baha'i faith, exactly because of its major tenet, which is the destruction and elimination of all religious prejudices. It had such an appeal to me, not until I came across a website that lists the major religions and their stand on certain issues. Sadly, the Baha'i faith has a 'reformative' or 'curative' view on homosexuality, of which I do not agree with. Why reform or cure? It is not a disease! Though it looks kindly at 'bisexuality' but to the ends that one has to end up with a woman at least. Well that's still being presumptive, right? And I do not want to believe in a gamble that I would end up with a woman, since I am bisexual, simply because there is an equal chance I'd end up with a guy, too.
And so there I was. At first I was expecting somewhere between a close-knit brotherhood sort of meet up where everyone is in their best behavior, more like a BCBP (Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen of the Philippines), to a highly ceremonial Masonic-like meeting, to a very casual Rotary Club-like fellowship dinner. It turned out to be a worship service. The praise and worship part is nothing new to me. I have attended fundamentalist, pentecostal, baptist, protestant and even charismatic services and this is one feature, where people lift their hands and sway to the worship songs, some ending in speaking in tongues, laughing and crying in the spirit, fainting, and possession by the holy ghost of a church member to speak God's message to the congregation. The most notable difference is that, the pastor was of course speaking in a mixture of English, Tagalog and Baklese to which the congregation of less than ten giggled to. Interesting! The service was mostly catholic and fundamentalist with breaking of the bread, but less the dramatics and ritualism. There was the holy kiss of peace where everyone started making 'beso'... so gay! Lavet! hehehehe Towards the end part, there was a sharing of testimonies or altar call. It sounded more like a status report where members would report where they are at right at this moment, highlighting jobs, family, love life and/or a reaction to the readings earlier read. When I was called to say something I started with the statement that I am not really easily impressed with religious eklavoo, which up to this point is still true, but that, again, is getting ahead of my story.
Now at first, what drew me towards this 'queermunity' is of course the classic 'birds of the same feathers... are the same birds!' Admittedly, I was lonely in Manila, and I did not have a steady supply of friends or activities with them. This is the chance I saw to be with a regular activity, such as the Wednesday Worship and the Sunday Service that I could look forward too. The following weeks, there were 'excursions' to Palawan 1. I saw genuine friendships. I saw caring. I saw responsible stewardship and I saw a 'queermunity' which was in itself marginalized within an already marginalized group. We went to Palawan not just to sing drink and have a good time, but to also spread the word that there is a church here for people like us... grass roots immersion, I should say. I liked the idea!
What finally hooked me in was the church's social action. There were forums on gender equality, linkages with LGBT activism groups and the like... there was even a photographic workshop. These activities appealed a lot to a social responsive me - Human Rights Advocacy, HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, queer-peer counseling, prison visits... I really really liked!
Then there was the lenten retreat. At first it was to be in Baguio. But of course, that's a really really nice sell-out, but that was because MCC happened to have a sister church in Metro Baguio. Eventually, due to the member's pressing financial difficulty, the retreat was held in Cavite instead. Now I saw that this is not just another excuse to vacay. More so during the seminar, I saw what I wanted to see. This church is a thinking church. A socially responsive church - mulat, nagmumulat, may pakialam, nakikialam, nagpapaalam at nangingialam! Even in the retreat, I expected some sort of indoctrination, but there was none. Pastor CJ called it Experiential Learning. More so, I was never questioned about my beliefs - how I was deeply in love with Mary, that is why I remain calling myself catholic, or how I believe in goddess worship alongside the Christian conviction. No one raised an eyebrow. For the very first time, no one questioned. everyone just listened, and we did not even talk about divinity or such. Simply put, we concentrated on what we have in common, rather than highlighting our differences.
This extends not only in matters of faith, but as well as in matters of social and political convictions. No one raises any eyebrow even if there is a difference in political patronage among members. Even the LGBT groups that the church openly endorses and supports are merely 'default' patronage, and not any one of them, despite being openly for LGBT's, are choked down or smothered upon any one church member. In fact, being openly critical about these groups are encouraged as a means of a look outside the box. No one convinces no body. Everyone and everything is up for grabs, and best of all, I had discussions, instead of debates among the very intelligent church members I happen to strike a conversation with.
This even extends to very personal matters such as the choice to be open and social about their homosexuality and sexual orientations, or the choice to shy away from public eye. Some church members who are very active in the activities within the church can readily opt out florez de mayo, or even the upcoming pride march. I like the love, understanding and support that everyone shows to these members who shy away from public view. It does not diminish one's involvement nor are loyalties questioned. Everything is taken in stride.
This also extends to matters of personal relationship, whether one feels it appropriate to be in an open relationship or in an exclusive set-up. The church does not pass judgments. It just provides gentle reminders done out of love and care. Again, it concentrates on what we have in common, rather than what differences we have. In retrospect, and by way of example, I remember one such commonality - during the lenten retreat, I am proud to have a couple of people agree with me and take a vow that, since we have noted that one source of great pain and sorrow is a failed relationship due to infidelity, we have made a pact not to have a third party, and not to agree to become a third party. It is also comforting to know that I have co-believers in respect and acceptance among us LGBT's. You know - the effems hating the pamhins, the contesera's hating the closetera's, the de buena familias hating the hampaslupas ad infinitum. Finally! A bunch of people who feel like I do - that to each his own! Kanya kanyang gimik yan! You don't have to hate one just because you are not one. That is so counterproductive, and in itself, discriminatory.
For the first time ever, I have told an effem that being bisexual like me means that I still get turned on by tits and pussy, without being met with the requisite 'Owws? Chosera ka!' but with very intelligent and accepting follow up questions. For the first time, no one insists calling me 'mare, sister, atcheng or the likes, and if at all I am called as such, never in a demeaning way. Hey, it's the little things that count most, you know!
And so there I was. Tonight I got inducted. I was asked a few questions, to which I was supposed to answer, regarding my willingness, voluntary will and free desire to be a member, to which I replied, in true baklese fashion...'check' and 'double check!' Then my ninangs were asked in turn a few questions, and not to be outdone, they replied in sincere and earnest 'korak!' 'Flangak!' 'Trulaloo' and 'Yiz!" I am now a member in good standing of the MCCQC. Literally, a member in good standing means my member is good to be put in when it is standing... joke! Hehehehehe! MCCQC is a shiny little place under the sun, where rainbow colored people dwell in the pride and acceptance of their own individuality, under the rays of love, true friendship and Godly care and spiritual growth. Such a love exists here that even a 'pamhin' who at first is kinda bothered that his partner would be a sagala in the Florez de Mayo, would nevertheless, with pride, acceptance and love, be supportive enough, braving stereotypes, to later on be his love's knight in shining armor, in full readiness to defend from bullying and harsh criticisms, even if it be in a fistfight, the love of his life, whom, for the night, becomes a dashing may flower belle. Do not take my word for it though... experience it for yourself.
Did I say that MCC is an international church? Well, it is, and guess what, we pray for our members lovelives, and when God answers our prayers, we do unite them too in holy union as husband and husband, or wife and wife... aint that something?
Text me... I can bring you there one of these days.
Or you can add MCCQC Phils on facebook.
Trust me, it's better than the bars and the little nook and crannies in the dark! You are too beautiful to stay hidden in the dark, dear friend! Let your light shine!