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Connections

Today, my daughter and I had lunch with the niece of an ex-husband. We had lost touch and hadn’t seen each other in around seventeen years. When she was a teenager, I knew her as a nephew. How ironic is that? Kelly now lives as female and has for many years. I was struck by how respectfully she referred to Lee. While I and even Lee, refer to him often as “her,” and he still goes by his female name in most settings, Kelly consistently referred to him as “he” and “Lee.” I suppose it will take Lee himself staking that claim and requesting that others respect  his wishes.

It’s also ironic that we just returned from a visit to Lee’s hometown. While respectful of our relationship, his parents still refer to him and think of him as their daughter. We ran into an old church youth pastor who called my husband “Princess.” Now, that was weird. I suspect though, that were Lee to make that request of his family, at least his parents would comply. Maybe I am assuming too much, but they love their child.

While there, we also had dinner with several other family members including Lee’s cousin who is a Lesbian. She has been in a committed relationship with her partner for over a dozen years. They own a house and business together. During the dinner conversation, she began to tell a story of a recent event. In the telling , she referred to her partner as her “friend.” Lee said on the way home, “It’s no wonder we have come no farther when we devalue ourselves and those we love to that extreme so that someone else will not feel uncomfortable.”

As another note for the day, one might wonder what is in the water where Lee is from. Remember, his brother is gay. So is this cousin. There are seven cousins on that side of the family, three of which are LGBT. That’s almost half of that generation of that family. Yet, if truly 15% of the population is  and always has been, then three out of every twenty people are gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans-gender. Three out of every extended family. Three out of every school classroom. I would hope the children in those classrooms are kinder. I hope their parents are less fearful. I hope their families are more loving.

I saw at my long-lost niece’s house, the “Milk” DVD sitting on top of the television. Kelly, Lee, his brother and his cousin are all no less hero’s than Harvey Milk. They have paved the way for the next generation, who paves the way for the generation that follows behind them.

As a final note, the highlight of our trip was meeting Lee’s new nephew. He is eleven weeks old and so incredibly adorable. The family ooh’s and ahh’s over him and clearly, the world of many now revolve around this beautiful baby. He has so many people who love him already. I hope those people continue to love him, no matter what. Should he be apart of that 15%, I know his road will be at least a little easier. If he is part of the 85%, his path will surely be a little kinder.

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September 29, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deliver Us All from Bigotry

“Bishop Eddie Long case: Will it alter black church’s view of gays?

Bishop Eddie Long, one of the most powerful men in the black megachurch movement, faces allegations of taking sexual advantage of two teenage boys. In 2004, Long created a ministry to ‘deliver’ men from homosexuality.”

“In this Jan. 18, 2007 file photo, Bishop Eddie Long, of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, in Lithonia, Ga. gestures during an interview. This week, Mr. Long faces civil charges, which he has denied, that he took sexual advantage of two teenage boys from his congregation.”

Gene Blythe/AP/File

…says The Christian Science Monitor. Now another young man has also filed a lawsuit against Long. Could it be that they who condemn loudest of all, are all attacking themselves? They are calling this “sexual misconduct,” as if he had an affair with someone. This is something entirely different. If the allegations are true, this is abuse. It is also another tragic tale of the effects of religious condemnation and hate disguised as righteousness.

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/0922/Bishop-Eddie-Long-case-Will-it-alter-black-church-s-view-of-gays

September 22, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Awareness and a Call to Action

This just arrived in my inbox from GeorgiaEquality.org,

Dear Allison,

After the disappointing vote on the defense spending bill – what we hoped could be the beginning of the process to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” an alarming message was posted on a local blog.  The website www.joemygod.blogspot.com posted a message informing readers of the DADT Cloture Vote results.  Following the blog post, a reader responded with the comment “All Faggots Must Die.”  The offensive comment appears to have come from a computer located in the office of either Sen. Johnny Isakson or Sen. Saxby Chambliss.  The Atlanta-Journal Constitution has contacted both offices looking for comment on the issue.  Georgia Equality asks that you call the office of both Sen. Johnny Isakson and Sen. Saxby Chambliss and express your concern surrounding this issue and the need for accountability and resolve.   A sample talking point, contact information for both offices, and a link to the story on AJC and The GAVoice website can be found below.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss – (770)763-9090 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (770)763-9090      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Sen. Johnny Isakson – (770)661-0999 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (770)661-0999      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

“Hello, my name is ______ and I am calling to express my deep concern over the offensive and dangerous comment ‘All Faggot’s Must Die’ that was made in response to an online blog post. Claims have been made that the comment came from a computer in your office.  I ask you to please look into this issue and take the appropriate steps to identify the person responsible for posting this disturbing comment.  Thank you”

Follow the story online on AJC –
http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/did-saxby-chambliss-aide-618588.html

Follow the story online on The GA Voice –
http://www.thegavoice.com/index.php/blog/politics-menu/1159-sen-saxby-chambliss-investigating-all-faggots-must-die-blog-comment

September 22, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LGBT Headline News, A Banner Day

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

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Several months ago, I started keeping a scrapbook of LGBT news. It wasn’t one of those pretty scrapbooks and I didn’t include stickers and little foam clip art. It was a spiral notebook and I simply cut out articles from the local paper and attached them to the pages with a glue stick. Some days, there was no news, not one article. Other days, there might be two or even three pieces.  Today is a four piece day.

Headline #1

There is, of course, the Republican blocking of the Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the Senate. While I voted for Obama and have sung his praises and been oh so patient, to have that repeal buried in a military spending Bill baffles me. I’m beginning to feel bamboozled. I wanted to believe his support of same sex civil unions was just a politically more acceptable way to verbalize his real support of same sex marriage but fear it was a case of my own head buried firmly in the shifting sand once again. It is what it is. He doesn’t support same sex marriage. He said so. I heard what I wanted to hear. This, on the other hand, is looking more and more like a bold faced lie. I hope I am wrong.

Headline #2

Bishop Eddie Long is a famous name in Atlanta. He’s the top pastoral dog of a Mega Christian church. Two young men have claimed that the good Reverend traded them trips and gifts for sex many times over the past few years. They are now 20 and 21 and all this began when they were 17 and 18. If this is true, it another case of a Christian man pretending to be heterosexual. It’s also a case of abuse of power, betrayal and the list goes on. One of these boys was also arrested for burglarizing the church awhile back. It could be false accusations. The boys are suing the church as well as Bishop Long. We shall see. You can read more at http://www.wsbtv.com/news/25115246/detail.html

Headline #3

There is the possibility that a staffer at the office of US Senator Saxby Chambliss posted “derogatory gay slurs” as a comment on a LGBT issues blog. Bloggers evidently traced the post by “Jimmy” to Chambliss’ office. I dug a little further and found that the post was on Joe.My.God blog and said, “All faggots must die.” I wouldn’t consider that a derogatory comment. Perhaps terroristic threat might be a better description. This Joe.My.God blog was a 2008 Weblog Awards Finalist and the 2007 weblog Awards LGBT Blog Winner. On that blog, I also found Headline #4.

Headline #4

“Florida’s Third Court of Appeals today upheld a lower court’s 2008 decision that a ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional.” This was over a gay couple’s attempt to adopt two little boys they have been the foster parents of since 2004.

Score 3-4

Somehow even though today’s articles are 3 out of 4 news of continued discrimination and bigotry, it still feels good to me. The days when nothing is in the news, when no mention is made and discussion taking place, those are the days when I feel the least hopeful. It feels like when you shine a flashlight in a dark room and the roaches start running everywhere. At least when there is news, there is dialogue. The awareness is raised.

September 22, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spong, Oprah and Jesus

Bishop John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Diocese of...

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I have an old and dear friend who is a devout Christian. We talked on the phone today and had a very long and passionate discussion. She had watched that same episode of Oprah about Mike Sisco and said that for the first time ever, she’d thought of writing Oprah and thanking her. The part of the show that had impacted her so was when Oprah asked  those townspeople of Williamson, West Virginia “where was their compassion?” Oprah told them she saw hatred, intolerance, cruelty, but no compassion at all. They claimed to be Christian, living in a Christian community, yet had essentially crucified this young man. My friend said she cried through the entire show.

Former Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong is in town this weekend. Lee and I heard him speak over an extended period of time at a retreat a couple of years ago. Spong is the author of such books as Jesus for the Non-Religious, and Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism and has been a fierce advocate for the LGBT community within the Christian church. He was asked at the retreat why he remained in the church when he disagreed with so many of their beliefs and actions. He said he dearly loved the Episcopal Church and believed he could affect far more change from within.

My friend and I also talked of how we had both gone through extreme changes in our lives and have had to leave much of our previous lives behind. We’d both had to leave both things and people behind, including some people we loved and cared for deeply. It occurred to me that while we try so hard to not throw out the baby with the bath water, sometimes we have to. I had to. I am grateful for those, like Spong, who have had the strength to work in hostile environments against great odds and resistance. I am grateful my friend can continue to embrace her Christian beliefs and even work within a Christian school while her own beliefs expand and embrace other ideas and people. Mike Sisco’s sisters say he was glad he went on Oprah that day in 1987.

Personally, I threw out the baby and the bath water. It was the only way I could get fresh water.

September 18, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Excuses

Oprah Winfrey Show title card

Image via Wikipedia

Did you see the Oprah show yesterday? if you didn’t, you can read about it here,

http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Oprah-Returns-to-Williamson-West-Virginia

I remember 1987. It’s the year I moved back to Atlanta after six years in north Georgia. I was still a nurse then. Even in the medical community, the horror of AIDS and HIV was as a mysterious nightmare and it seemed veiled in far more questions than answers. We had finally started to wear gloves when drawing blood because of AIDS. It was much easier to do without them, easier to feel the vein it seemed. I remember the hesitation before giving mouth to mouth when someone stopped breathing and their heart stopped beating. It was just for a second, but it was still a hesitation. A moment of wondering, “What if I could catch it by this?”

I remember in 1983, we still stuck the needle on a used syringe into a little red box called a needle cutter at the small rural hospital where I worked. The boxes were frequently overfilled before replaced with a new one. When too full, the needle would occasionally bounce out after it was cut. I unknowingly carried one of these cut off, bounced out needles home on the bottom of my shoe. I then stepped on it when barefoot. The needle went completely into my foot, no longer visible except as a slight bulge beneath the skin. At first the doctor thought it would work its way out. After a few days, I’d developed cellulitis  and had to have it surgically removed. That happened right before the scare began. That needle haunted me for years.

I get so frustrated with the bigotry that still runs rampant. I feel equally embarrassed by my own past ignorance. I think I knew one gay man back then. Looking back, he was incredibly brave to be out at that time,  in that small town. He was young, kind, very good-looking and quiet. He would sometimes hang out with the girls, other nurses after work. I think most wished he wasn’t gay and were a little jealous of the men he talked of dating. Most of the men in that area spent their free time hunting. He was like a breath of fresh air.

Watching Oprah helped me remember that though slow, great progress has been made. Maybe humanity will always need someone to persecute, to hate, to bully. Maybe that is the nature  of the human beast. Maybe though, someday it simply won’t be tolerated anywhere, by anyone. One of the men on Oprah’s show yesterday, one of the men who had treated young Michael Sisco so badly twenty-three years ago, admitted being caught up in the mob mentality. It was a good explanation but a lame excuse. Ignorance is not an excuse. Neither is the the mob, the group or the majority.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do Ask. Do Tell.

A Federal judge has ruled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” unconstitutional. How anyone would have ever thought this tactic was healthy or functional or productive to anything boggles my mind. Yet, this theory that if we don’t “really” know  or don’t “really” tell anything makes it less real is rampant everywhere, even in my own mind.

My older daughter just turned thirty. She wrote a long letter to many family members and friends. In her letter, she spoke of her thoughts, beliefs, reflections at this milestone anniversary of her birth. She expressed her gratitude for the love in her life and the manner in which each of us had played a part.  She began speaking of that very typical feeling that little has been accomplished after thirty long years. She moved quickly on however, not dwelling on regret, but rather speaking of wisdom gained and blessings received. One statement she made in particular greatly effected Lee and I.

She said, ” So even though I sometimes wonder what the hell were you thinking, I know that at that given moment it was exactly what I wanted. So why regret something that once made you smile. Don’t! I have learned that, not to ever regret something that at one point was exactly what you wanted.”

What does that have to do with “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell?” As we reflected on our daughter’s words, we both became aware of how we give events and choices entirely different meanings when thinking back on them, choosing to see them as mistakes or nightmares and ourselves as fools or victims rather than to claim the past as a valid reflection of exactly who and what we were at the time.

Again, what does this have to do with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” We do this all the time. We all do this. We don’t ask ourselves and we don’t tell anyone the truth, especially ourselves. My daughter’s letter led Lee and I into a deep discussion of something we both pretend was other than it was. We pretend because we were afraid to know the truth. The truth was just a thought away. Our discussion freed the thought. The thought, the one we had been afraid to ask and even more afraid to tell, the one we had feared was horrible, was nothing more than a glimpse at our selves. It wasn’t ugly as we’d feared. It wasn’t shameful or guilty. It was okay. It deserved our love. In fact, it was a good.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hides a boogie man of the mind. It hides the monster that isn’t really under the bed. It hides something beautiful  that fear made like itself, something to be feared. Hooray for that Federal Judge for shining that light under the bed.

September 14, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

9/11- Happy Anniversary to Us

Today is our Anniversary.

Our marriage is of the heart and mind and soul. It is not legal.

It occurred to me today though, that there will come a day when we can legally marry, right here in Georgia.

While it is so unbelievable that we can’t, that such a basic right would be denied, I feel very peaceful about it today.

The end of the lunacy is near. I can feel it.

Happy Anniversary Lee, my love. You are my every dream come true.

I love you more each day. Thank you for loving me.

Al

September 11, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Out at Starbucks

My daughter Holly, Lee and I sat at Starbucks yesterday, the first time in a long time. The weather was perfect for sitting outside, still warm but that smell of fall and the aroma of my pumpkin latte told the seasonal truth. We’d spent many hours at this very store, in these very chairs, in the early days of mine and Lee’s relationship when Holly was one of the few we dared tell we were in love. The term “coming out” can have so many meanings and layers.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I contacted a long lost cousin I saw on Facebook. After the initial pleasantries, I dove right in and told him of my “lifestyle.” I was half afraid that would end our reconnect. Our family is full of Baptists, deep rooted Southern Baptists, Southern Baptists from the deep south. Instead, he didn’t seem bat a cyber eye, even sharing that his own “lifestyle” of living with his girlfriend instead of marrying her was frowned upon by some of his family. See? from the south, dyed in the cotton Southern Baptists. This “coming out” does get easier each time, but the process seems unending.

Anyway, about Starbuck’s, at the table next to us, sat a young E.M.T. I know that’s what he was because of the badge he wore. He sat there reading almost the whole time we were there. I was sitting so I that had a straight  and unblocked view of him. He was like Lee. There was no facial hair or Adam’s apple. His hands, though unmanicured and fairly large, were feminine. Though his build was somewhat stocky, his shoulders were narrow and hips slightly wide. His hair was that of any young man’s and his posture clearly male. He moved and sat as a man. He and Lee seem to not notice each other. None of us mentioned him.

I had so many questions I wanted to ask him. When had he known? How had his parents responded to their little girl in boy’s clothing, wanting only boyish things? Was he going to physically transition, legally? Did others see him as trans or lesbian? Did he date or marry a lesbian or a heterosexual woman, like me? How did her family and friends respond? No one cared about his gender identity while he was saving their life, did they?

The question I didn’t need to ask was whether he wanted to answer those questions. I knew what he wanted most was to be accepted as male, female body or not. That, and for no one to notice he was different.

The young E.M.T. seemed at ease, comfortable. Lee did as well. Two of the minority of the LGBT minority together, side by side at Starbucks and no one seemed to notice except me. I didn’t notice he was different. I noticed he was the same.

September 10, 2010 Posted by | The Gay Me | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Not Just About Bullying

“Nationwide, gay youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual classmates, in large part because of toxic environments where anti-gay bullying can thrive. Nearly 90% of gay students have experienced harassment in school, and almost two-thirds say they feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

That was from http://www.Change.Org today in response to the third student suicide this year in Minnesota’s Anoka-Herrepin school district.

The powers that be there, have further turned down a district wide Anti-Bullying Program because of pressure from the Parents Action League, a hate group whose stance is that homosexuality can be cured.

I remember my high school years as torturous. Painfully shy, short with kinky curly hair, I found daily life at high school overwhelming. I was there only two years, running away from home at fifteen and pregnant.

Kids are brutal anyway. Hateful energy feeds off of itself. Insecurity will take whatever is available to feed off of. Take a school full of insecure teenagers and add a dose of hate, mix it with the ever-ruling need to fit in and be apart of the group, whatever group, and it’s a sure fire recipe for profound cruelty.

This is not just your average case of kids behaving badly. That hate group, the Parents action League, I wonder how many of them have children in that school district. How many other children in that district go to churches that teach the same hatred. How many of those children live in homes where racial and sexual slurs are commonly used with hate intended behind their closed doors. How many of those teachers and employees of those schools harbor those same thoughts. No, it’s not just about the children and their bullying.

Lee and I experienced bullying at a New Thought church, where Oneness, Love, Kindness is not only taught but is the very foundation of of all the teaching. It wasn’t just grown-ups behaving badly.  Hateful energy feeds off of itself. Insecurity will take whatever is available to feed off of. Take a church full of insecure adults and add a dose of hate, mix it with the ever-ruling need to fit in and be apart of the group, whatever group, and it’s a sure fire recipe for profound cruelty.

How many of the people that were in that church lived in homes where racial and sexual slurs are commonly used with hate intended behind their closed doors. How many of those choir members and Ushers and Board members and Sunday School Teachers harbored those same thoughts. No, it’s not just about the grown-ups and their bullying.

It’s the same energy that causes a pack of dogs to attack  and kill a toddler,  a mob to turn into a riot and a child of fifteen who plays the cello in the school orchestra to take his own life.

September 8, 2010 Posted by | The Straight Me | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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