Tie Party

On Friday, Daniel and I attended our first ever Naked Tie Party, hosted by my friend Scott McGlothlen at his house in Denver. You read that correctly: naked tie party.

It was my first ever nudist event and I knew going into it that it would push my boundaries in all good ways. Since last November I’ve become more comfortable with how I look and decided this was something I wanted to try. I’d been meaning to get back to Denver to visit friends and this seemed like a great opportunity.

Here’s how it worked: you show up to a well-warmed house and are directed to a guest room where you strip down to your birthday suit, put on a tie of your choice (I wore a narrow black tie, Daniel wore a black bowtie), stash all of your belongings including your phone into a bag, and socialize in your altogether. Note that your phone is also stashed with your clothes. This doubles to ensure that the party is photo-free and that people talk to each other rather than retreat into their phones.

The invite was explicit that this was not a sex party and that naked was a goal, not a requirement. Being a voyeur was not allowed but if you weren’t comfortable being completely naked you were welcome to wear underwear.

The party attendees were all men, presumably gay, and ran the gamut of body types. Some were experienced nudists and others were newbies like myself. I don’t know how many people were there in total, but I would guess 70 to 80 over the course of the night. I only knew 4 of them going into it.

The entire experience was liberating and after the first minute or so I stopped even thinking about being naked. Instead it was a chance to meet and socialize with new people. Without phones people were fully-engaged in the conversation which was probably the best part of the entire event. I loved how body-positive and non-shaming the experience was. Oddly my biggest fear going into it was what to do with my hands without pockets to stick them in (apparently you hold a drink like in any club).

I would do this again in a heart-beat and have considered hosting one here in Seattle.

Allergic to religion

I grew up in a small Texas town where there were more churches – 23 to be exact – than banks and restaurants combined. We attended church as a family every Sunday morning for Sunday school and service, not to mention youth choir, youth group, Wednesday night service and more. There I learned sex before marriage was wrong, good girls dressed demurely, wives were subservient to their husbands, hate the sin & love the sinner, and that all gays were going to hell.

The last bit was more than a little inconvenient when I figured out that I was gay around the age of 12. I then spent the next 9 years praying to god to take away my feelings and make me straight. Eternal damnation can be a pretty strong motivator. I had almost a decade of self-loathing, self-hating, and depression before deciding that literally the only way I was going to survive was believing that god made me gay. I was fortunate that I was able to turn that corner. Many LGBT youth do not.

When I was 22 during my first job after college I struggled to reconcile being gay and Christian. I approached the youth minister at the Baptist church I was attending for help. He counseled me that being celibate in both mind and body was the only way to be gay and also live in god’s grace. We formed a friendship and played racquetball at the local Y after work. At least until this Baptist youth minister with a wife and kids hit on me in the locker room after a match. I guess celibacy only applies to non-closeted homos.

I found another church in Austin that appeared to accept me. “Come as you are” was their slogan. Early on I met with the teaching pastor at a coffee shop and we discussed my apprehension about attending the church given my prior experiences. He assured me that I was welcome – and I was for a while. I was an ASL interpreter almost every Sunday for 4 years until they decided that no one who was gay could be a “spiritual leader” in the church. They then proceeded to debate if interpreting the sermon counted as being a spiritual leader. If so, I would be asked to step down. I was just a few months away from moving to Denver so I bypassed the charades altogether and stopped attending the church.

Despite that betrayal I sought out and attended a church regularly after moving to Denver. Like a domestic violence survivor, I kept going back.

Then came California’s Prop-8. Nothing brings good Christians together like hate.

Catholics, Mormons, Evangelicals, and other religious groups all banded together to force their belief of “traditional marriage” on others using lies and deception. All to revoke the rights of loving couples to obtain a civil marriage — a purely civil and non-religious contract that provides many important legal rights that cannot be obtained by other means. The final day of the Prop-8 trial was the day I decided that I wanted nothing to do with religion of any kind. God and his followers could go screw themselves. I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. To quote my blog entry at the time: forget the bathwater, the baby’s dead.

Since that day I have a very strong allergic reaction to religion of any kind. I get defensive. I get sad. I get angry. I lash out. I do whatever is necessary to protect myself from the feeling of deep betrayal and memories of self-loathing and self-hatred. Religious-themed Christmas music triggers it. Attending a function in a religious building triggers it. Knowing how many pious Evangelicals voted for Trump despite his bigotry, misogyny, and racism continues to set me off daily.

The damage to me is done and I want no part of it. I have been abused by religion enough and I am fortunate to have escaped with my life. The day I turned my back on religion was a turning point in my life. Since then I have become a healthier, happier, more caring, more compassionate, more empathetic, and more loving person.