When Homophobia hits Home

I’m usually a very emotionally stable person. But days like today have challenged me in ways I’ve never experienced before.

For a little background, I grew up in the fairly liberal 'Green Acres (Hutterite) Colony in Manitoba. I really loved almost everything about the culture but it didn’t work for me to stay there. I am gay, have always been and always will be.  And that is completely at odds with the Christianity that is practiced as a religion at home, or is it?

When I left the colony everyone was taken aback. But when I came out of the closet all hell broke loose on me. The intensity of hate and disgust that was aimed my way by everyone Hutterites everywhere, claiming to be Christian, was utterly inhumane.You can get a good taste of it in these three posts:

I got random phone calls; my inbox was littered with close to a hundred letters of hate, with some support sprinkled in. My Facebook wall was defaced with bible-thumpers and all manner of people out there to make my life a living hell. The term “god made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” it makes me want to projectile vomit.

 At the heart of the issue is the belief held by so many, that I choose to be Gay. I choose to alienate 99% of the people I know, leave the place I grew up in, burn all the bridges, not be able to see family and have my dignity robbed, just so I could be my true self.If it were a choice, I sure as hell wouldn’t have chosen this path. It’s a characteristic I was born with, just like many people are born straight, I was born Gay. Leaving was something I did to make life easier. So I wouldn’t have to feel the hate around me every day, and save myself from depression and/or suicide

Two nights ago and again this morning I called home to ask for permission to visit home for a few days.

 I didn’t get a yes, far from that. But instead I was at the receiving end of a barrage of homophobia like I’ve never experienced. And I have stayed quiet for too long! When the leader of the community I was raised in can’t see beyond his own hate for ‘gays’ in denying me my rights to see family, relatives and friends, the it becomes really personal, really fast. And I’m not staying quiet any longer.

I was told not to come home when my grandpas funeral when he passed away, and now again. This is not right! I have done nothing wrong!

Asking for permission is something all Hutterites have to do when going for visits and I was no exception. But I didn’t even get past saying my name when the homophobia started. And if I’m expected to keep my mouth shut, and not defend myself in the face of it, then one’s expectations were seriously misaligned.

I am a human just like you, I am someone’s son, someone’s grandson, I am the nephew, cousin, and friend of people around you. I have plenty of interests, hobbies, a job, and quirks that make me who I am. My defining feature is NOT my being gay, that is merely another facet that makes me who I am.

 And of course all you imagine when you hear that I’m gay, is sex. SEX, SEX, SEX. Not being able to see past your own stereotypes and preconceived notions is a fault of your ignorance in this field and sheer deafness when someone tries educating you. And believe me, I tried to reason with you, you chalked it down to having a big mouth. I have same right to fall in love as you do. To feel comfortable in a relationship as you do. To feel loved, and to love. Have you ever heard me saying that your love is abnormal, no. And I expect the same.

You claim to speak on behalf of all people at home on the colony, do you really? 
The only grounds you hold on to, to support your homophobia is some hand-selected quotes from the Old Testament. And in that there are so many holes in your argument that make it all but opinion. I am not a master of Bible interpretations, but this guy is: Read this essay!

I choose to leave the colony because I realize that it’s easier to pluck myself out of a culture, than to make a whole culture change for me and other people like me. Is that not enough?? Must I be tormented by your homophobia all the time?

I was told outright that I couldn’t come home until I change myself, which is to say; I am never allowed to visit home again until I’m not gay anymore.   

There are plenty of gay Hutterites. I know a large number of them, as they have trusted me with their secret. Many still live on the colony, in constant fear of being found out and ostracized. Must every one of them go through what I’ve gone through, being one of the first ones to come out publicly. Will you really torment everyone to the point of loosing the will to live?

You don’t have to allow gay marriage, or even full-fledged relationships in the Hutterite colonies. But for everyone’s sake, please love thy neighbour as yourself. Treat us like humans, keep your homophobia inside. Stop sending people that have been found to be gay out of the colonies. It is not morally right to deem your love superior to my love or any other LGBT love. 

Do it. Create.

You probably all know I left the colony a half a year ago.There are several reasons, one is because my definition of love is not accepted yet in society, and because I wanted the freedom to create without always being afraid of the consequences. But being out here for a few months has taught me a lot. It has taught me that I had an irrational fear for consequences.The hutterite culture is too great, too precious to not talk about, too precious to try and morph into what we call the outside world. Here in Calgary I really am able to create what I want, love whoever I want to love, but what one cannot find here in Calgary is the close knit community of people that don't come together just because they have the same interests, but because they want to talk about their normal day to day experiences. It's often hard to get used to the way people segregate segments of population based purely on shared interests.

A ELA teacher of mine recently posted on Facebook, commenting how Hutterites should take initiative and write more about being hutterite. I feel Hutterites should create more pieces of art, be it photos, paintings, poems, books, essays or songs that express how it feels to be hutterite, Being out here, now removed from the culture at home, the few pieces of art that make its way through various channels are so so valuable. I love the hutterite culture, the little connection I get through the art I see is incredibly powerful. I just wish there were more. One of the girls from at home recently posted a photo that her mom took. It's not a spectacular photo, it's a personal photo. It's an incredibly powerful photo even though it's a simple photo of her reading a book to a child in the sewing room. But the environment in which the photo was shot it's so quintessentially hutterite that it struck me how such a simple photo could have such an effect on me. When I first started taking photos and sharing them online I would often get into trouble with my parents or the colony leaders.Eventually I just ignored both and kept on publishing photos. Not because I wanted to be a rebel but because the feedback I got from sharing our culture made me realized that Hutterites had an unquenchable craving to see photos of their culture shared.They could relate to them and that made the photos I posted incredibly powerful. Now imagine how it would be if all hutterites started creating pieces of art and sharing them with other hutterites.It would transform the culture into such a tight knit community that it would astound you. When art is used as a medium for difficult messages, they humanize them. There are so many issues that should be written about in a public manner, topics that have to be discussed. Maybe art can be used to convey the power of education to the colonies that do not fully offer it. Just imagine, the majority of colonies don't offer high school education yet.That is absolutely prosperous. Way back in the day used to be at the forefront of education and artistic expression, what in this world happened to all of that. Where has the pride of our people gone? There is no excuse, absolutely none, to not write about topics like that, if they upset  you. People will get upset but that is exactly what needs to happen for minds to be changed. If everyone is living a comfortable life with their ideas never challenged, they will never change. It's your duty, as a hutterite to embrace art and make our culture one and you are utterly proud to be a part of, not something you try and make as indistinguishable from the world out here as possible. Coming from someone that left their culture you might be thinking I'm being ironic. But I'll let you know that I didn't leave the culture for reasons of being held back, I left because the idea of what love is too narrowly defined and removed from what love truly resembles. Maybe one day the acceptable definition of love will have changed, but I'm not seeing that happening soon. So here I am, totally in love with a culture that for the most part is disgusted by people like me. It's very easy to sit back and wait for other people to step up to the plate and take initiative in creating art about our culture, but make it your job. You will be rewarded by creating a connection with other people so strong that it'll change your life forever. I know it’s hard, but challenge yourself to create something that you would be afraid of showing others, for it is either too truthful, too revealing or because it makes you vulnerable. If you want to say something, say it. If you want to make something, make it. If you want to be someone, be that person. If you want to change something, change it. If you want to do something, do it. If you don't know how to do it, learn. Don't be another person living life like one reads an instruction book from ikea to assemble furniture.

I am writing this because I believe that hutterites can be so much more than they are right now. Nobody gave me permission to write this, I just felt like doing it because I want hutterites to be the greatest culture I know.

And Facebook users, if you quote someone, try and at least to some extent, live up to that quote. Anyone can mindlessly quote quotes. LIVE THEM!

With my Friends at the old country church

I was at Oakbluff colony the past weekend, visiting my aunt for the first time since she married last summer. I had the greatest of times. Ok I admit that I'm a geek and fit in real well. I also got to exercise my photographic tendencies. My friends took me to a Catholic church a short distance from the colony and we had a little photowalk. It wasn't one of those large, overly ornate churches by the catholic standards, but more of a subdued Prarie church. They showed me all of the nooks and crannies in it while a friend and I were shooting photos. IMG_8389.jpg IMG_8399.jpg IMG_8413.jpg IMG_8432.jpg IMG_8488.jpg IMG_8521.jpg IMG_8563.jpg IMG_8593.jpg IMG_8624.jpg IMG_8642.jpg IMG_8655.jpg IMG_8647.jpg After we had seen all there was to see at this church we took off back to the colony where we circled their large underwater gravel pit. It was late so the sun was casting beautiful reflections on the lake. I enjoyed having a really wide angle lens, a sigma 12-24mm that I had borrowed for the day. It gave the landscape a whole new look in the photos. That dramatic look. IMG_8738.jpg IMG_8746.jpg IMG_8762.jpg IMG_8781.jpg We were having a rather tender piece of meat when we were asked if we wanted a plane ride. Having never had one before, there was nothing that would make me say no to that offer. So I accepted and shortly thereafter I was sky high. Shooting photos out the window while being administered heart stopping zero gravity drops by the Pilot. I quite liked them especially after I realized that I didn't need to be afraid. I want more! These are some of the photos I shot during the ride. IMG_9026.jpg IMG_8815.jpg IMG_8847.jpg IMG_8834.jpg IMG_8840.jpg IMG_8864.jpg IMG_8901.jpg IMG_8867.jpg IMG_8917.jpg IMG_9037.jpgIMG_9007.jpg IMG_9066.jpg