TMI, barbecue and other people’s sex lives

TMI, barbecue and other people’s sex lives January 31, 2013

Justin Lee has a nice post up about “TMI” — too much information. He starts by contrasting the difference between a couple telling you about when and where their first child was born versus a couple telling you about when and where their first child was conceived.

The latter tends to make people uncomfortable because over-sharing the details of your sex life tends to be awkward.

Justin writes:

I think that’s one reason that some people want to scream “TMI!” when they learn that someone is gay or see them holding hands with a member of the same sex. Their mind goes right to the sex, like being told where their straight friends conceived, and that’s not an image they want.

But when I tell you that I’m gay, I’m not making a statement about sex. I’m not telling you that I ever have had sex, or that I ever will.

… I want you to know me. I don’t want you to know the details of when or if I choose to have sex. The latter is TMI. The former is love.

Meanwhile, over at John Shore’s place, reader Mike Moore makes the same point.

But Moore doesn’t quite share Justin’s gentle temperament and unfailingly patient spirit. So he made this same point a bit more vividly. And he did so in an Asheville BBQ joint where he spied a prominent Southern Baptist pastor who had been “a driving force behind the anti-same-sex-marriage law passed in North Carolina last year.”

Moore figured this might be a good setting for a dramatic serving of “turn-about is fair play”:

Given the vile things said during the election about gay people and their ability to be good parents, and given the “protect our children” mantra used by such churches, I thought I’d try an experiment.

Without invitation or preamble, I slid into an empty seat at their table.

“Hi Pastor Bruce,” I said. “I was wondering. Do you and your wife honestly consider yourselves capable of being good parents? And how’re things in the bedroom between you two? What do you like to get up to in there?”

I wanted the pastor and his wife to understand, in real time, from a calm voice, and face-to-face, what it feels like when a stranger forces themselves and their values into their life and then judges them, their parenting skills, their bedroom antics, and their morality. I wanted them to know how it feels to have a stranger attack them on personal matters which are none of their business and about which they know nothing.

Things escalated a bit from there, but go read the whole story — it has a happy ending.

Alas, it’s not the sort of happy ending in which Pastor Bruce learns to feel empathy and his heart grew three sizes that day, but the next best thing, in which the pastor leaves and never comes back and everybody enjoys good BBQ without quite so much ambient bigotry spoiling the mood.

* * * * * * * * *

It takes some courage to be a Christian in Malaysia, where Christians make up less than 10 percent of the country.

And it takes some courage being an LGBT Christian in the church, where you’re likely to be condemned as sinful or even subhuman.

And I think it takes exponentially more courage to be a gay Christian in Malaysia.

Tony Jones reports from Good Samaritan in Kuala Lumpur, which he says is probably the only LGBT-friendly Christian church in all of Malaysia.

In Malaysia, a church has to register with the government, and it can only do so if it is a member of a larger body of churches, like a denomination or the national association of evangelical churches. [Pastor Joe Pang] has asked to be part of these groups, but Good Samaritan has been rejected. Therefore, the church exists illegally. They have, however, registered their ministry to HIV/AIDS patients as a non-profit, so that aspect of their existence is legal.

“Joe Pang is a piece of work,” Tony writes. And he means that in the very best way.

And for another voice of courage cubed, from another gay Christian Malaysian, check out “Queer Eye for God’s World,” by Joseph Goh.

The world is large and full of wonderful people.


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  • Lori


    Or is this just a high five circle?  

    No, this is a group of people who:

    A) read for comprehension and therefore know that driving the bigot pastor out of the restaurant was not the goal, it was simply the way the bigot chose to respond to the situation and that the bigot is still in town (and I’m sure still enjoying the welcoming embrace of most of his fellow Christians)

    B) have read the Bible and know that telling people some home truths, even when they don’t like it, is not completely counter to the way Jesus acted, which makes it a little tough to see how it would be “completely counter to the wisdom of the cross”

    C) know a tone argument when we hear one and tend not be all that convinced by them

  • I have learned of necessity to accept “literally” as a general term of emphasis… my favorite being hearing someone described as a “literally flaming queen.”

    Is it strange that I could actually picture that?  Like, someone going out extremely camp, wearing a custom hat with low-temp alcohol-burning flames coming off of it?  

    That person would be literally flamboyant in their accessories.  :D

  • I’m not sure that “drive ’em out of town because they’re mean” is in any way associated with the way of Jesus. The retributive nature of that post is completely counter to the wisdom of the cross. “He did this to us, so I’ll do this back to him, so he knows how it feels.” Anyone else see anything wrong with that? 

    I dunno’, he does encourage people to turn the other cheek, but Jesus was also known to get rough at times.  Going into a temple and kicking over the tables of the exploitative money-changers comes to mind.  Hard to mistake that as anything but at “get out of here, you’re not welcome” message.  

  • EllieMurasaki

    The retributive nature of that post is completely counter to the wisdom of the cross. “He did this to us, so I’ll do this back to him, so he knows how it feels.”

    Yes, because Jesus never required people to put themselves in the place of the people they were hurting. Never, for example, suggested that the only people who could justly do harm to someone who’d done wrong were people who’d never done wrong themselves–and you’ll notice that everybody who’d done wrong themselves dropped their rocks and left, and he didn’t pick any up.

    I haven’t read the link, so I’m not sure if this is ‘requiring people to put themselves’ or ‘forcing people to be’ in the place of the people getting harmed. I wouldn’t approve of the latter, but I suspect it’s the former anyway.

  • Lori

    It’s definitely the former. Moore simply asked the pastor the kinds of (incredibly intrusive) questions about parental fitness and sexual practices that are routine in the way the pastor talks about LGBTQ people. It should be noted that Moore did this in a one on one conversation, not by standing up in the middle of the restaurant and making a public spectacle or something. Obviously Moore was also not using the questions in an attempt to take away the legal right of the pastor and his wife to be married and raise children.

    Things apparently got a little heated, but even at that Moore did far, far less to the pastor than the pastor has done to Moore. The pastor found this offensive and stomped off in a huff. The pastor is not the victim and Moore was not being a terrible person. Which is way the owner and staff of the restaurant supported Moore and not the pastor.

  • Lori

    If that’s what you get for hiring a drunken contractor then I want the drunk guy. I’d love an indoor bbq pit.

  • B


    The moral of the story being that you don’t have to be envision other
    people’s sex lives to respect their orientations/relationships/selves.


    Personally I prefer not to envision the sex lives of ANY of my friends/relatives, regardless of age and orientation.

    I mean, I hope they’re having fun, but I don’t really need the visuals. :-)

  • Cathy W

    I was premature like that, except I would have been the world’s biggest 3-month fetus, with the result that my parents spent 20 years lying to me about when they got married.

  • Lori

     Whoa. I hope that finally getting the real story wasn’t traumatic for you.

  • Sometimes it takes the shoe being on the other foot.

  • ohiolibrarian

    I suspect that some homophobes’ image of gay life is a 1970s gay pride parade. If you remember some of those, they were often intentionally shocking and flamboyant. Partly, I think, to enjoy the headiness of being out and partly because, well, that’s how sex was done in the ’70s. Remember the het guys with chains and open-to-the-belly-button shirts? And Travolta’s ice cream suit? Kind of flamboyant, yes?

  • ako

    I think that’s one reason that some people want to scream “TMI!” when
    they learn that someone is gay or see them holding hands with a member
    of the same sex. Their mind goes right to the sex, like being told where
    their straight friends conceived, and that’s not an image they want.

    It is ridiculous how many times I’ve seen people do this.  The number of people who are all “You don’t have to flaunt it!” or “That’s too explicit for children!” for fairly tame stuff is mind-boggling.  If we applied the same standards to material depicting heterosexuality, we’d have major scandals around The Cat in the Hat because it refers to the two kids having a mother, suggesting a woman who’s had sex (multiple times even), and by the “If a logical conclusion for adults looking at the material is that sex has taken place at some point, that’s exactly the same as explicitly portraying sex” rule, that’s completely inappropriate for children.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But if there was no mention of a mother, then Seuss would be advocating broken families, which is at least as bad.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

     Very Important Question: what’s the seedy stuff in focus on the right of that BBQ picture?

  • I suspect grits.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I had no idea that’s what they looked like.

  • Cathy W

    My thought is coleslaw – grits is usually fairly fine-grained. If you’re familiar with polenta, grits is not all that much different from that. (And millions of Southerners just paused what they’re doing and shook their heads, as though feeling a disturbance in the Force…)

  • Mike Timonin

    re: “seedy stuff” I’m with Cathy W – probably coleslaw. Most of the Southern BBQ places I’ve frequented serve their pulled pork with coleslaw. 

    Grits are like cream of wheat, more or less – a little dryer, and not (to my Northern taste) as pleasant.

  • Lori

    I’m with Cathy & Mike—coleslaw. I not only lived in the South for a while, during college I worked for a couple years at a rather popular bbq restaurant there. I never saw anyone serve grits with bbq and at the restaurant we didn’t make or serve them at all. Coleslaw was standard with everything though. We went through 75+ pounds of cabbage a day. (Along with 50 pounds of onions for onion rings. If you worked opening in the kitchen you spent hours every day prepping that stuff.)

    ETA: I also never developed any fondness for grits. I love polenta. Grits are smoother and IMO don’t have as much flavor, so I find them uninteresting and a waste of calories and stomach space. IME most people seem to like them chiefly for what goes in or on top of them. In that sense the lack of texture and flavor is sort of the point. They’re a delivery mechanism for things like butter and cheese or boiled tomatoes and okra. There are better things to put butter & cheese on and I would have to be really hungry to eat boiled tomatoes or okra* so I never had any use for grits.

    *I have texture issues with food and can not deal with stewed tomatoes and boiled okra is worse.

  • The_L1985

     WHAT?  I’ve seen that episode, and….what?  I can only imagine what he thought of the “End of the Earth,” where it is implied that most of the humanoids (like the Trees) were made from genetic splicing with humans, followed by evolution taking its course.  Was that episode “glorifying plastic surgery,” with its attention to Lady Cassandra?

  • The_L1985

     And an actual premature birth is used in the book Dies the Fire, wherein (rot13 for spoilers) gur “Ornexvyyre” unq frk jvgu Whavcre…orsber snyyvat va ybir jvgu gur jbzna ur yngre zneevrq.  Whavcre’f onol jnf obea n zbagu cerzngher…juvpu nyybjrq Ornexvyyre’f jvsr gb “pbhag onpx gur zbaguf naq qenj n pbapyhfvba fur yvxrq.” 

    The fact that Juniper’s son has the father he has becomes a plot point in later Emberverse books.

  • The_L1985

     I’ve had polenta, and I’ve had grits, and I don’t think that’s a good comparison.  Polenta’s a wee bit more bread-like. :)

  • The_L1985

     We Southerners generally eat them over eggs.  It basically helps to stretch the egg a bit, and the runny yolk of an egg makes the grits palatable.

    That, or put loads of butter and cheese on the grits, and eat them alone.  But it generally depends on your personal tastes whether that’s tasty or not.

  • Jenny Islander

    I think this is part of the mindset that eagerly devours lousy Christian-imprint fiction (like the stuff dissected here every week) and looks around for more.  It boils down to inability to tell the difference between what’s inside your brainpan and what’s out there in the great big tangible world.  If you believe that any book with a fish or a cross on the spine must be good, and nobody ever taught you how to take a step back and examine what you perceive, then you will think you just read a good book.

  • Lori


    It basically helps to stretch the egg a bit, and the runny yolk of an egg makes the grits palatable.  

    I think this gets to the point. Southern food is one of what I think of as the poverty based cuisines*. It makes a virtue of what is, or was in the past, necessity. As such, some things about it aren’t going to seem as appealing to people who didn’t grow up with it and aren’t poor when they first encounter them.

    *That’s not an insult. Some of my favorite food fits under the general heading of “the people who first decided to eat this must have been pretty hard up.”

  • P J Evans

     Heck, polenta is just the Italian version of cornmeal mush. (I’ve had both.)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    It doesn’t look like the coleslaw that I’m familiar with.

  • mattepntr

     Same here. If that’s coleslaw, it’s been put through a blender.

  • P J Evans

     Some places use chopped cabbage, instead of sliced or shredded. This looks like cut in slices (not wedges), and the slices cut crossways.

  • Lori

    I think it’s chopped cabbage and it’s a bad picture. If you look at the other stuff, the color is a bit off. I think if it was more true to color it would be less confusing. I’m about 90% sure that the things in the container behind the plate, to the right of the bottle, are hush puppies* and they aren’t quite that color either.

    *So tasty. I miss them. No one makes hush puppies outside the South. You can get a decent biscuit and pretty good bbq up here, but no hush puppies. 

  • Daughter

     Not only that, but there’s no mention whatsoever of a father in TCitH, not even by the fish, who attempts to  be the story’s moral conscience. So the logical conclusion is that the story describes a woman who not only had sex more than once, but did so out of wedlock.

  • Daughter

     My mother attempted to raise us to be much more open-minded about sex than she had been raised by her very strict religious parents. Imagine our surprise when we read our grandmother’s obituary and discovered that my grandparents’ wedding took place a mere 3 months before my mother’s birth.

  • Or possibly she killed her husband and ate him after the children were born.