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The movie "I am Michael" - my thoughts.

Discussion in 'Sexual Orientation' started by Patrick7269, Aug 13, 2017.

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I saw the movie and I...

  1. Loved it.

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  3. Meh.

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  4. Actually kind of hated it.

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  1. Patrick7269

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    I watched a fascinating movie on Netflix tonight - I Am Michael. It follows the biography of Michael Glatze, a gay activist who after a mighty struggle with his faith and sexual orientation, became a pastor and married a woman. This movie stirred up so many interesting thoughts I had to write about my experience watching it. I'm curious who else has seen it, and what your experience may have been.

    First, the movie is complex. There's no clear political "side" of the protagonist or the tone, so it very honestly captures the struggle of someone coming to terms with reconciling their sexuality and their emerging understanding of their Christian faith. While not everyone will agree with how the story ends for Michael, I do really like the honesty and candor with which the story is told.

    In particular, the movie hints at the almost universal struggle we face with labels. As a gay man, I've never really thought much about it, but I've heard the term "bi-phobia" a lot. Honestly, at times I didn't understand the crux of bi-phobia, and in the back of my mind it may have seemed overly politically correct. As a white, middle-class, middle-aged gay man (comfortably nestled inside a label) it's also easy for me to "not get" the importance given to more nuanced, modern modifier terms like "pan-" or "demi-". I can't even have a true first-hand appreciation of what being transgendered must be like and the brave journey of identification that must require. With a significant tilt toward his Christian religious identity, Michael struggles with something we are well familiar with - the need to identify through labels. Although on a different path than many of us, Michael struggled with labels in an uncomfortable, messy way some of us know pretty well. He had to identify and "come out" as a Christian as much as he did once as a sexual minority.

    Second, the movie is (I feel) pretty honest. I saw a number of myths that we gay men often assume as universal to being gay, and it struck me that the movie was gently nudging the viewer that our community has its bigotry too. Gay men (like me) who truly want monogamy are sometimes perceived as not embracing sexual liberation of the original gay rights movement. Aside from myths and politics I contend that monogamous *is* who I am; I'm not "stuck in my midwest upbringing", I'm not "un-liberated", and not "unsophisticated". My gay male therapist, of all people, has essentially rubbed my nose in all of these because I repeatedly told him I want to figure out how a monogamous gay relationship works, and I don't want the open relationship he suggests is inevitable. Although I think highly of him personally, he's now my ex-therapist, and I won't have anyone (a religious bigot or gay bigot) shove their mythology or politics down my throat. I'm not a cookie-cutter human being that can (nor should) fit the mold prescribed by someone else.

    If you've struggled (or are struggling) to reconcile your faith with your sexuality, I would say this film is unflinchingly honest. It does not prescribe an "answer" for you, and in my opinion it doesn't try to. I like that it very frankly, and without political correctness, follows Michael through an uncomfortable and really difficult journey to identify his relationship with his faith as much as his sexuality. It's interesting that he left a seminary program for its dogma and resistance to inquiry, and although Michael is very different than me I can identify with this and I admire him for it. If you're working through your faith and your sexuality, this movie will probably have some familiar moments. If you're not, you may recognize that there are no easy answers for anyone, and those who have faith are just as unsure about life as you. In my opinion we are all to remember this, be humble, and keep respect for each other regardless of the specifics of our individual journeys.

    Finally, the movie is timely. I've seen so many movies about gay romance, about gay politics, and queer history. These are all well and good, but it seems the world really is moving on to a point where we can have a more nuanced understanding of who we are as rounded, complete, spiritual and sexual human beings. This means that you can be just as conflicted with your brand of faith as your exact sexuality, and there would be a place for you to be accepted and as much as possible, understood, and embraced.

    We're now able to get married in the United States, amazingly, and yet I don't think everyone even agrees on exactly what that signifies. Will marriage make us just like straight people? Will we redefine (or in some peoples' eyes "destroy") marriage? Or will we discover that the comfortably "married" have struggled with that label just as much as we struggle with all of our labels? I think the movie invites a more nuanced look at these because we're now living in a different time.

    Honestly, I'm challenged by the movie because it really does lay bare the journey of finding ones sexual orientation and an authentic, healthy expression of sexuality congruent with one's faith. Although Michael Glatze took a conservative and fairly traditional view of faith, his struggle and questioning process strongly resemble my own. What he found was that his faith transcends his sexual orientation, and the movie seems to imply that his faith actually changed his sexual orientation. Of course Michael has every right to state his own truth, and be respected. What I find for myself is that my sexuality (gay) is already an expression of that faith - but the journey to realize this was not very different from Michael's.

    I think that in a way the queer rights movement and Michael's experience are not that different - we are all saying that sex is a core, vital component of who we are, and not a superficial "choice". Some may put sexuality in a traditional religious or biblical context, some may approach it more progressively through meditation, and others still may simply seek connection. But to me the message is similar - we seek to express our sexuality and understand ourselves through labels because sex is a core part of ourselves, and it can be scary when the traditional labels and myths aren't a tidy fit. I need to remember this as a relatively mainstream gay man - not everyone in the "queer" umbrella is as represented and visible, and we must always keep a compassionate, open mind.

    So, that's my experience of this movie. I thought it was a candid and almost awkwardly honest look at the fears we may face, the myths we may struggle to understand, and the journey most of us have to identify and simply go on with life appropriately based on that identity. If you're struggling with your sexual orientation I would highly recommend the movie, and if you are also struggling with your faith as well, I would doubly recommend it. You may not agree with everything Michael decides is right for him, but you will be challenged to consider his experience and think openly. Contrary to simple labels he's not gay, he's not straight, or bi, he is Michael.

    Who else saw this? What were your thoughts?

    Thanks,

    Patrick
     
  2. Chip

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    I haven't seen the movie, but I know a bit about the situation. I remember reading stuff that Michael and Benjie back when they were running YGA Magazine, and I have the book they wrote together, as well as the video they made, back when they were both editors at XY magazine (back in their early 20s.) I've also read a lot of articles and think pieces by various people who knew Michael and Benjie (and the rest of the folks around them).

    Some of the stuff he's written over the years is absolutely wacky. He at one point called for gay people to be rounded up and eliminated. He's been connected with (and then dropped by) several different crazy religious right denominations, and I've seen little that would make me think that this is a normal, emotionally healthy, well adjusted person. It's not unlike those folks who go from being devil worshippers to hardcore Christians... they have to have *something* to attach themselves to, and that something can change on a dime.

    I think it's safe to say that Michael is a very, very complex and screwed up person, who came from a problematic childhood, had a lot of drama around him, and it's likely there is or was a diagnosable mental health issue there. As such, I don't think his situation and experience is really applicable to, or can be generalized, to anyone else's experience.
     
    #2 Chip, Aug 13, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
  3. Patrick7269

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    Do you have links to the things he's written? I'm curious. I'd like to learn more about his background. I hesitate to call anyone with different views "sick", but that does sound pretty extreme.

    Actually, coming from a home with a lot of religious abuse, I think it's all too common, unfortunately.

    Patrick
     
  4. Tomás1

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    TY for this intriguing post Patrick!

    I've heard of this movie, but haven't seen it … as the theme & tone cut too closely for me to want to be further involved. I grew up in a Presbyterian family, then was "Born Again", & was going to be a minister. Then in college I lost my faith, when I encountered garden level anger & bigotry in the Christian church … totally contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

    That was the 1st time I saw that religion & spirituality can be a cover or defense of internal conflict. Just pray or meditate (sic)… instead of looking within … unpacking the internal pattern, history & dialog … that is behind the conflict.

    At some place without, spirituality & sexuality come together … both expressions of the spirit within each of us, & our desire to relate.
     
  5. Chip

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    Oy, it was quite a few years ago, but you might search "young gay america" and "michael glatze" and look at the timeframe around 2001 or 2002 (don't remember exactly). Right when he left YGA, he was doing a bunch of pretty unhinged interviews. (Several of those who knew him at the time indicated in interviews that he's always been sort of dramatic and an attention seeker, so this is apparently consistent with his personality.)
     
  6. Angus44

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    I also watched the movie and didn't particularly like it. This might be because I'm not looking closely enough at the complexities of the story, but is more likely due to my relationship with religion. I was brought up secularly but now consider myself an atheist so when, in the movie, Michael began to obsess over the Bible and eventually claimed to have changed his sexual orientation it just made me mad. How could he use Christianity, which seems so rediculous to me, as an excuse to hurt so many people. In addition I felt the ending of the movie was entirely unsatisfying and didn't provide any closure. Anyway, that was my experience of the movie, but I understand how it could be more powerful for someone who struggles with the opposition of faith and sexuality.
    -Gus