Lee and I attended the Gay Straight Alliance Youth Summit at Georgia State University this past Saturday. I’m not sure we were really supposed to be there, but we were. Our friend Vanessa has two daughters. A friend had invited us whose brave daughter is very active with GSA and has been trying for a year and a half to start a GSA group at her high school. Mother and daughter had gone to the summit last year and told us we must go this year, so we did. We met them all there.
It was amazing. There were at least 150 people, the majority high school and college students and a handful of supportive teachers, counselors and parents. P.F.L.A.G. and Georgia Equality had a notable presence. They began the day by going over terms used to identify and describe us. They also talked about the terms that belittle and shame.
I learned a lot. I’m over 50. I’ve only been a part of this “community” for four years. The first thing I learned was that the most accepted umbrella term now is “queer.” It makes me cringe a bit, I admit. It was a negative shaming term most of my life. Yet, I see so clearly how a term that identifies us all is helpful.
(I struggle to find my place here. I am straight. Yet, I no longer live in the straight world. I am not a part of a straight couple. Oh, I also learned the termed “heterosexual” is out now. I won’t go into that right now though … A reader suggested the other day that I was pansexual. They mentioned that term Saturday. It’s used synonymously with omnisexual. While theoretically that does describe me, it doesn’t really feel authentic. Pansexual means (as I understand it) that the sexual attraction follows a personality or emotional attraction and is not dependent on a certain gender or orientation. Yes, that works for me logistically and I don’t reject it completely. I find that concept beautiful in and of itself, by the way. However, I was attracted to Lee as a man. I relate to him as male. So, that leaves me ‘straight” and without a name. That is, until now. Now, I fit quite well under the inclusive “queer” umbrella, used to describe the other 15% of the population that is strictly “straight.”)
Throughout the day, I heard the young people there relay (when asked) if they experienced bullying, threats and harassment. Almost all said they did. Some told of being threatened daily and of being afraid of being jumped, beaten, or even stabbed. The Summit provided them, at least for a day, a safe place, an accepting place, a home even. I wondered how many of their parents knew they were even there. I wondered how many were afraid to come out to their mothers and fathers. One told of being thrown out of his house when he told his family. How many of them were being themselves for perhaps the first time ever without fear.
There were a few who said they never experienced any sort of bullying. Imagine!
In another life, I worked with teenagers in a spiritual setting. I would accompany them on weekend “rallies” and “retreats.” The first time I went, I was amazed at how the kids behaved and more amazed by how they were treated by the adults there. They were respected and honored. They were the leaders of the events with the adults functioning in a supportive role. This one day felt much the same way. The difference on Saturday was that these kids had found self-respect and honor not necessarily from the adults in their lives, but perhaps in spite of them.
It broke my heart thinking of these beautiful young people leaving that safe place and returning to homes where they hid and schools who hated them and adults who preferred to think they did not exist. Still, I felt lighter by the end of the day. When I was in high school, I’m sure at least 15% were queer. I knew no one who would have dared claim that name then. There was no GSA, much less a summit. There was no discussion or demonstrations. There was no discomfort felt by our presence. There was no Pride or rainbow. There were no brave politicians or even teachers willing to fight for equality for queers. There were no out teachers, either. There was no safe place, for even a second.
Straight kids came too on Saturday. They came to support their friends and start GSA groups at their schools. They stood and sat together as one.
Their generation will not tolerate the insanity and fear of my generation.
While we were both still floating in the experience of the summit, on Monday, we received an email from a woman at Storycorps. Last year, Lee and I had recorded an interview for the non-profit. They had given a presentation at the Phillip Rush Center and asked for members of our community to go and tell their story. Anyone can do it and can talk of anything they like. The stories are all filed at the Library of Congress.
For our story, I interviewed Lee. Our focus was on his being transgender. Our personal love story was woven in the telling. Anyway, we received this email saying that part of our story was going to be aired on WABE, the public radio station in Atlanta. It was at that studio we made our recording through Storycorps. They aired it twice on Tuesday and it’s the featured story on the Storycorps website right now. It’s only 4 minutes of the 45 minutes we talked, but it’s a beautiful little section.
Here is the link
It was a bit scary letting people know it was going to air. For Lee, it is coming out again, and again and again.
It’s crazy that “being lesbian” seems so much easier.
Perhaps it is the assumptions that are easier, to agree with the assumptions that people make.
We struggle ourselves with the pronouns.
We strive to make people comfortable and meet them where they assume we are;
as far as they can go without experiencing any discomfort.
We do ourselves no favor.
What a price when someone’s momentary discomfort is more important than our own authentic self truth and honesty.
No more. I will not tolerate the fear and insanity anymore. It was my own. It is worn as a crown by my generation. It has defined my gender, the conforming and gentle lady who empowers others and not herself.
We are the courageous product of the 60’s. We defied the racist agenda of the generations before, yet walked in deep paved footprints and called them our own, carrying a torch of separation and discrimination.
We even let them highjack Jesus, as my brother in love Eric says, and claim the footprints were made by a vengeful God of hate.
My grandson says, “Don’t be a hater.”
I picked up a bumper sticker Saturday from the ACLU.
Gentle, yes. Loving, yes. Outloud, yes.
One might think I’d fallen off the edge of the blogosphere. Over a month has gone by without a word and not even a mention of the wondrous and last minute repeal of DADT. To say I have not thought of writing would be like saying I had not thought to look in the mirror or smile or breath even. The holidays take me places I wouldn’t ordinarily go and to people I wouldn’t ordinarily see. Some of these encounters bring relief and surprise at how embracing and loving us humans can be. Others remind me that we can pretend and assume our pretense isn’t seen through, but at least for me, the feelings behind the pretense come through loud and clear.
There are clenched teeth and tense jaws. The head cocked slightly to the left while the mouth smiles. There is the nervous ring to the voice as it says sweet words. Thankfully, the hostile feelings are held covertly and discharged carefully, as a stifled sneeze. Like the passing of gas in a crowded room, we might not know for sure from who or whence it came, but the air is suddenly tainted and the hostility palpable.
When horns blow in impatience and Christmas shoppers ignore the bell ringers, instead rudely grab things from shelves and steal parking spots, perhaps I take these felt slights and judgments too harshly. Perhaps I judge too harshly, period. Humanity isn’t the sweet species after all, or maybe it’s that we aren’t that different and it really is survival of the fittest. Call me romantic or even Polly Anna, but I keep hoping for more from us.
I’m thrilled about the repeal of DADT. I’m still floored that so many still voted against it and will no doubt fight it in 2012. In other words, I’m grateful for those who are genuinely kind, fair, loving, just. I’m grateful many who aren’t are at least pretending to be. I’m still a bit afraid of those who aren’t and don’t pretend. We fear what we don’t understand. I guess I just don’t understand.
Merry Christmas Everyone. May the New Year bring more understanding. Dear Santa…
This came today from Georgia Equality,
“Transgender Day of Remembrance
Saturday, November 20th
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
GA State Capitol Courtyard
(Washington St. side)
201 Washington St. SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Let’s stand together as a community for a vigil in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Throughout the world, people gather every year to pay respect to those needlessly killed by hate crimes against the transgender community, and to call attention to the threat of violence faced by gender non-conforming people.
This event is hosted by the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Inc.”
When I think about people actually killing someone because their heart and mind do not match their body, all I can do is shake my head in confusion.
I watched Oprah this afternoon. On it were several people who had gone to see “John of God.” They had each gone for different reasons. Some on the show went to him for healing, some as a journalist and at least one went to prove him a fraud. “John of God” is a spiritual healer in and from Brazil. He performs “spiritual surgery,” or rather, claims that God works through him and sometimes that involves surgery. This surgery is often a scraping of one’s eyeball or inserting this probe up a person’s nose. Most often though, he does nothing that can be seen or even felt. There are thousands of accounts of healing however and the most convincing fact of all may be that he doesn’t charge for his services.
I personally saw this “John of God” myself a few years ago when he came to Atlanta. I was still in ministry then and had been invited to go along with other “clergy.” We were directed to wear all white and were lined up at the front of the huge auditorium and we each introduced ourselves before the healer arrived. We were then ushered into a room and directed to meditate until further notice. At the time, I meditated regularly and sitting still on a hard chair for a couple of hours was relatively easy. We were told not to open our eyes.I had no divine revelation or profound insight.
I’ve always been one to follow directions, a trait that has both served me well and been a curse. I kept my eyes closed and while I had no great insight, I was very aware of when the healer walked through the room we were in. It wasn’t because I heard anything. It felt as if a strange wind had blown through, not a scary wind, but not warm and comforting either. It felt strong. It felt powerful. It felt foreign. After a couple of hours, we were allowed to go before John of God, joining the long line of those hoping for miracles. He simply took our hands and nodded at each of us, as I recall.
I say all that because each of the people on Oprah today, both believers and skeptics say that they were changed by the experience whether healed or not. One man, a doctor in fact, the one who went to prove him fraudulent, said that he now believed we are all so much more than we think. Our lives and living have far more dignity and significance than we think. He said he now feels this life both conceals and reveals our truth (I love that statement, by the way). This doctor went on to say we have no idea who and what we are and how connected we are.
They all spoke of the energy of hope in the room and how they had all been instructed to think loving thoughts. THey all said that combined feeling of hope felt good.
None of what was said on the show today was new to me. I taught it from a pulpit for years. Yet, it struck me as ironic that this aired just a few days before this Day of Remembrance that most won’t even be aware of.
Most are not aware of transgender anything.
Most don’t know a transgender anyone.
Most have no idea people are killed for being trans.
As for the Day of Remembrance, one can’t remember what one doesn’t even know. But, one can remember to be kind, compassionate, fair and even how to love.
It’s like asking what is our default mechanism?
What comes natural to us when faced with something or someone new; someone or something we don’t understand?
Is it kindness or cruelty?
judgment or acceptance?
love or hate?
Since I became a part of the “LGBT community,” my default mechanism isn’t near so trusting as it was before. I hope however, it is still kind.
Kindness really is easy. It does come naturally to us. We started out that way.
Remember to be kind to yourself, too. Let’s all hope. They said it feels good when we all hope together. I guess I need to remember that.
Friday night, Lee and I had the honor, joy and privilege of officiating at the Commitment Ceremony of two beautiful women. We met them for the express purpose of performing their Holy Union, but have become friends.
The ceremony itself was perfect. The location like out of a storybook. That these two are best friends, have a deep and intense respect and love for each other and are both completely committed to the other and to their relationship was obvious and palpable with every action, every word, every touch and every glance.
This in itself is of course, cause for great celebration. I have performed many weddings. Few times have I been as confident the couple were as deeply in love with each other and willing and eager to honor the vows they would make to each other and to themselves as these two women were.
There was though, even further cause for celebration. There were about seventy-five people there, both family, friends and co-workers. There were singles of every gender and color. There were couples of every gender and race. There were straight couples, gay couples and lesbian couples and others like Lee and I where the gender lines were blurred and the bodies did not match the heart that was worn proudly on the sleeve.
We ate, we sang, we toasted and cheered. We danced and laughed and were inspired by the love in the air, in the room and in the hearts of each other. Love seemed to set free by the ceremony itself and some innate human vow to be loving seemed to have been said silently by all, renewed by the example of Donna and Desiree.
Lee and I felt as if we had married each other all over again, proud of the fact that we do still cherish and respect each other each and every day. We were also reminded of how profound the vows of marriage or union or commitment are. A union by any name is just as real. It’s huge and for those vows to be taken seriously and completely is incredibly rare.
The hope I felt then, I feel even now. If seventy-five people can come together in that way, so can seventy-five hundred, seventy-five thousand, seventy-five million, seventy-five billion. Maybe all it takes is a willingness to be inspired by love and renewed by example. I am willing. I am inspired. Are you?
Thank you Donna. Thank you Desiree. May your days be long and joyous upon the earth, indeed and may all you meet be willing to be inspired by the example of love that you are.
Here it is, slide show of Atlanta gay Pride 2010 Parade. This is our first slide show. We hope you like it!