Why I Wrote Parallel Lines

Written by Mark McElroy

I know the power of falling in love with reality.

I wrote Parallel Lines to remind myself that deep happiness springs from being fully present in the present moment. When we shift attention away from distractions like fantasies, virtual relationships, or daydreams about the “roads not taken,” we can start being honest about who we are.

For me, traveling this path means falling in love with reality, embracing my queer identity, and acknowledging the role Spirit plays in my life. I’ve not always been successful or consistent in these pursuits. But when I am, my life is richer, and my happiness is deeper.

Falling in Love with Reality

When I was in college, I had a co-dependent obsession with another young man. For eight years, I heaped support and affection on him. He enjoyed the benefits of my attention, but he was never going to feel for me the attraction I felt for him.

My closest friends could see the reality of the situation, but I rejected every effort they made to open my eyes. Why? Because sticking with that unhealthy but familiar situation was easier than admitting I was gay and putting myself out there to meet potential partners. In other words: maintaining a fantasy relationship with an unavailable guy was a lot less scary than embracing reality.

Eventually, I met another young man with whom I became close friends. In retrospect, I know that each of us had a kind of crush on the other. But rather than be honest about my feelings, I hid them. Worse, when the topic of those feelings came up, I denied them. For a long time afterward, my lack of honesty in that moment haunted me … and daydreaming about roads not taken blunted my ability to appreciate the road I was traveling.

Today, our loneliness can be blunted by apps that let us “swipe right” on willing strangers, and the internet can serve up an infinite amount of porn with a single click. I feel blessed that, before these apps and sites became ubiquitous, I was happily anchored in a real and loving relationship.

All of this to say: finding other people attractive is a normal and wonderful part of life. It’s natural to spend a little time wondering about romantic roads not taken. It’s perhaps even true that hook-up apps and porn sites have their place in the world.

But when we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by distractions like these, we lose touch with reality. By definition, that means we’ve gone a little insane.

In my own experience, my personal satisfaction with life hinges on my ability to reject obsessions with fantasies, ghosts, and distractions. Happiness required me to seek out something real … to move beyond lost opportunities … to fall in love with reality.

Embracing My Queer Identity

The first time I heard the word queer, I was a second-grader.

Having skipped a grade, I was younger and smaller than my classmates. At recess, I was too uncoordinated to catch any ball, unskilled with a bat, and clueless when others playing football would point at me and holler, “Off sides!”

On the other hand, at six years old, I was reading at an eighth-grade level, writing (bad) short stories, peppering my speech with what grandma would have called “hundred dollar words.”

My classmates assessed my lack of athletic skill, my bookishness, and my vocabulary, and they reduced their insights into a single word: queer.

I didn’t know what this meant, exactly, but I knew that being queer had repercussions. Queers were to be avoided … feared … ridiculed … or even beaten up. Fortunately, in addition to all the qualities that rendered me queer in the minds of my classmates, I also had a quick wit. I learned early that if you kept people laughing, even hatred could, over time, be transmuted into reluctant affection.

A few years would pass before another dimension of my queerness would arise: hiding the truth about who I loved.

When other guys in class began openly pursuing girls, I kept quiet about my crush on a red-haired, fair-skinned, athletic kid in our class. When those guys began dating girls, I did, too … but I really wanted to be dating my best friend.

Having grown up in a fundamentalist Christian household where the t.v. was switched off the instant an off-color comment was made, I actually had no idea that other people like me existed. For many years, I assumed I was irreparably broken and uniquely flawed.

One day, when pretending to read Reader’s Digest (but secretly staring at a full-page photo of baseball player Jim Palmer modeling a pair of white bikini briefs), I came across an unknown word: homosexual. I retrieved the thick, brown Merriam-Webster dictionary we used to referee Scrabble games and looked the word up. This reliable authority told me a homosexual was “a person who is sexually or romantically attracted to people of the same sex.”

You cannot imagine the degree of relief that washed over me. As clinical as it sounded, there was a dictionary word for what I was! And that meant II was not alone.

Today, we live in a culture where a small but noisy minority of White Christian Nationalists (racists, bigots, and fascists, all of them) are eager to make their animosity toward queer people into the law of the land. They press school boards to eliminate books with queer characters. They clamor for control over a parent’s right to support a transsexual child. They position any mention of queer people’s lives or loves as “an agenda” and any honest representation of our relationships as “grooming.” (And they usually are doing these things while secretly beating their wives, committing adultery, or raping children, but that is a tale for another time.)

Queer people — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, questioning and curious, asexual, polyamorous, genderqueers, drag queens and kings — exist. We always have.

We have a right to be seen, to be celebrated, to be written about, to find our way into literature, television, streaming services, and cinema. It’s good and right for our experiences to be commemorated in songs and choreography, paintings and sculptures. It’s important that our unique and peculiar experience of the world be captured and preserved and passed along.

So there’s another reason I wrote Parallel Lines: in hopes some other queer people will see my queer characters, enjoy their adventures, benefit from their insights … and know that they are not alone.

Acknowledging the Role of Spirit

Very few groups of people suffer the degree of spite, hatefulness, and persecution that fundamentalist Christians inflict upon the queer community.

We have been tortured in sham programs claiming to change our sexual preferences. We have been cast out of youth groups, choirs, pulpits, and congregations. We have been turned away from communion, denied marriage, and then commanded to be celibate. The same church leaders that ignore Bible passages literally condemning divorce or forbidding women from preaching insist on literal readings of Scriptures that seem to address queer people.

Multiply this ugliness across all faiths, and the scope of the spiritual violence becomes all the more heartbreaking. Is it any wonder so many queer people want nothing to do with anything spiritual?

Even so: some of us are hardwired to seek out the Spirit. We find our way to a church, even if that means, even when that means making a secret of who we are or whom we love. We feel the call to fill pulpits, to offer communion, to teach Sunday school, to be instruments for God’s will. If banned from one tradition, we will seek out or create our own. We understand that nothing — nothing — can “come between us and the love of God.”

As I wrote Parallel Lines, I was surprised at the deep wellspring of spirituality that bubbled up in its pages. This dimension of Thomas’s tale was entirely unplanned and unforeseen, despite my best effort to anticipate all the twists and turns of the story. And yet — there it is.

Thomas begins as a “card-carrying atheist,” someone who hears no answer when he hits bottom and calls out to God. But when Davina later proclaims, “There is no God,” it’s Thomas who says, “I disagree” — because he has been immersed in Ed’s unconditional love, partnered with Miguel (who is guided by Spirit), and given a glimpse of the Architect whose design is at work in all worlds.

Some, particularly victims of spiritual abuse, may balk at the inclusion of anything spiritual in this story. Others, particularly spiritual abusers, may be offended by the very idea that queer characters might have spiritual insights to share.

At first, even I resisted this. But as the theme popped up again and again, I came to understand there was a message here I needed … and that I needed to share, just in case anyone out there needed to hear it.

My hope is that someone — someone who needs a connection to the Divine, someone who needs some sign that God loves them, or someone hardwired to pursue Spirit despite all the obstacles fundamentalists can put in our way — will be given hope and comfort by the spiritual themes in Parallel Lines.

Why I Wrote Parallel Lines

I know first-hand the power of falling in love with reality. I know my life is happier when I set distraction aside and focus on the wonderful gifts at work in my life right here, right now. (I also fell in love with the reality that, at almost 60 years old, saying, “I’ll write that book someday” is pretty silly, given that my somedays are an increasingly limited commodity.)

In a world where a vicious minority wants LGBTQ+ people to disappear, I felt it was important to embrace my queer identity and write the books that only I can write. Gay stories need telling; all kinds of queer people need to see themselves in art and media. By fully embracing my own identity, I can help others define and celebrate theirs.

And in a time when people are starved for an authentic connection with the Divine, I can acknowledge the role spirit plays in my own life. The idea that Spirit might speak through queer voices may surprise — or even anger others. That’s all the more reason to bring those themes into my work.

I wrote Parallel Lines to capture the things I’ve learned about happiness, queerness, and Spirit, and to share them with you in a way that I hope will build a connection between us. If you read the book and want to talk about it, I hope you’ll contact me.

About the author

Mark McElroy

I'm a writer and professional facilitator. I'm the author of a dozen or so non-fiction books and hundreds of corporate video scripts. As a professional facilitator, I coach individuals, committees, and teams to change how they meet, make decisions, and plan, so they can get out of their own way and do work that really matters. I use this site to write about writing, adaptive strategy, travel, and spirituality ... and to "learn out loud" by sharing works (and what doesn't).