Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Parting Thoughts for Pride Month

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.
--2 Samuel: 26

If this utterance had come from the mouth of a woman, I would have thought nothing of it. But these were the words of King David, upon hearing that Jonathan, son of Saul, was dead. In some parts of the Episcopal Church, these were the words heard in houses of worship... on the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riot. And while I have had more theologically-trained minds than mine inform me that there is NO certainty that there was a romance between David and Jonathan... I just can't escape that phrase, "your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women". And, if you had read about their 'friendship' in the preceding book (1 Samuel 2o), you'd see why David ain't lyin' about his feelings here. So, even if they were NOT lovers... because such a suggestion would make these two heroes seem less--what?--hero-like... frankly, my dears, I don't care! For queer people, this sounds suspiciously familiar to our lives. And as Integrity founder Louie Crew notes... it is no more pernicious for a gay person to see themselves in this story than for black families to hang pictures in their home portraying Jesus as a dark-skinned African.

Is there really something wrong with gay people wanting to be included?

I'm just struck by how the Church continues to behave so strangely when it comes to us. Today, for example, I had to read from the book of Genesis Chapter 19... where Lot is told, "Get outta Sodom cuz it's going down and take your family with you!" Lot, character that he is, bargains his way into relocating to a different city... Sodom goes up in flames... Lot's wife does the one thing she wasn't supposed to do and looks back at the city and becomes a pillar of salt. Abraham and Lot are spared... and go on.

The day before... the reading assigned at noon day was from Genesis 18. Now, this is the chapter that has the supposedly "damning" verses that explain to us gay people why God hates our kind. Sadly, though, the Church lectionary fairies opted to stop the reading BEFORE that passage; hence nobody gets to hear the context with the damning verses.

The Episcopal Church does a similar thing with Romans 1. We never read Romans 1: 26-27... because those verses probably make people uncomfortable and afraid that us mean uppity queers are going to squeal "Foul!" For the record, I won't. And I kindly request that everyone stop trying to protect me from what's in Scripture. Because... just like the story of David and Jonathan... I do not read it the same way a straight person might read it.

When Paul decries women exchanging "natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another," I see many things in what the saint is saying. He's writing at a time of temple prostitution and pagan belief in fertility rites that would cause a bountiful harvest. And let's never forget that Paul is always in a struggle about fixing your sights on things "earth-bound" as opposed to becoming passionate about God; thus, don't be consumed by the idols and idol worship. So, I don't read the oft-ignored verses of Romans 1:26-27 as nearly as "damning" of me as some would like to say. I don't see Paul as the homophobe that the liars and thieves of Christianity have tried to portray him as all these years. I see him for what he was: a zealot, an absolute crazy-for-God-through-Christ zealot. And the originator of the run-on sentence!

I still believe that I am part of God's plan, and that I have been invited to the party of eternal life. I still believe that the Holy Trinity is keeping watch over everyone and continues to extend the shepherd's crook to nudge us one way or another, but never to beat us over our heads. And I do believe that if there is a Pride parade in heaven, I will see David reunited with Jonathan, and I will hear Jonathan make "David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life." (1 Sam. 20:17).

This Little Light of Ours...

What a way to end the month-long "Queer As Faust2 Festival"! About 50 people with candles, walking in quiet conversation or in silent meditation from Tallahassee's City Hall to the State Capitol building, to commemorate the event that started the modern day LGBT civil rights movement. Ours was a stark contrast to the fire ignited in New York City that hot night in June, 1969, when the NYC police were met with resistance and retaliation for their brutality. One of the patrons of the Stonewall Inn bar, the place where the rebellion was born, described the scene this way:

"Queers started being filed out, being put into police cars, and the loose change started flying-- you know, everybody started throwing it as payoff to the cops. And then the words, the cursing: 'Hey, fuck you pigs. We're not moving. We're tired of this bullshit.' You know, all this was happening, and I guess you could taste a bit of freedom before it even happened. Because I know I was feeling good, just for the change being thrown at the cops, for gay brothers and sisters and drag queens and street kids and hustlers, just throwing
this money at these people like, 'You've been treating us like shit all these
years? Uh-uh. Now it's our turn!... It was one of the greatest moments in my
--Sylvia (Ray) Rivera, co-founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) from the companion book to the series, "The Question of Equality".

Forty years later, in the Deep Southern capital city of Tallahassee, we lit our candles as we re-membered ourselves with those whose anger at their conditions of constantly enduring raids and harassment in mafia-owned bars finally said, "No!"

We were much more polite.
Our ceremony showed the direction that out movement has gone over the course of time: appealling to those in power with the demonstration of who we are at our core: loving human beings who simply want to love and live with the people whom we love. A reporter was asking me questions before the ceremony about the difference between then and now. And really, I see it as a matter of assimilation. More and more gay people are coming out. More and more gay celebrities are on TV and in the movies. Queers of all colors and creeds are taking a stand in the name of love. And we look 'normal'. We aren't ONLY women dressing in men's suits, or men slipping on skirts. And because of that, the majority is feeling more comfortable with us. And we, the queer community, have become more comfortable living among the straights.

But this comfort is coming at a price. It is leading to complacency. It is resulting in us seeming so 'normal' to the 'normal' people that they don't understand that we ARE still second-class citizens. And we are becoming our own worst enemies. We like our comfortable life. We like our status as part of the "mainstream". And we, I think, are forgetting that our foremothers and fathers of this movement were anything but that.

And so with the assimilation, there is also a schizophrenia. We are accepted... but only if we don't ask for "too much". We are included... but only if we agree to wait "for a season" while the straight community adjusts to the temperature change. We can participate... but only in the assigned roles as determined by the majority. Is it time for another riot?

No. Not like the nature of Stonewall. Different time. Different circumstances.

But re-membering ourselves with those rebellious outcasts of 1969 is important. Those candlelights flickering in Florida, a state known across the nation as one of the worst in its treatment of the LGBT community, must be the spark to action, and a beacon toward real change. Let it shine... let it shine... let it shine.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Celebrate" Not "Study"

Stonewall and Stories of Old

Let's hear it for the drag queens!! Give it up for the bulldykes!! Can I get an "Amen!" for all those queers who, on a hot night in 1969 in New York City's Greenwich Village at the Stonewall Inn, took a stand and did their own stonewalling against police brutality and harassment!

Forty years ago, brave and bothered souls lit the wick on the candle of our crusade for civil rights. And we, today, remember that action as we commit to live into the legacy of demanding that we are treated equally under the law. In some states, the LGBT community enjoys protection of our relationships through marriage, and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal. But those freedoms don't exist everywhere. Certainly not in Florida. And so, we fight on.

Interestingly, as I reflect on the gospel story read in church Sunday... I got a sense of where our LGBT community, at least in Florida, is at today. There was the story from the Gospel of Mark where the UNnamed woman who has been hemorrhaging pushes her hand through the crowd to touch the cloak of Jesus. Jesus notices that somebody in specific has touched him and seeks out who it was. His disciples, being their usual pedestrian selves, look at Jesus like he's a nut job (Hello, teacher?!?!? Haven't you noticed the crowd and you ask, 'Who touched me?'). But, of course, he's not a nut job; this woman is the demonstration of what it is to reach out to God as the last ditch stand to stop the pain, stop the bleeding. Not only does her action cure her, Jesus stops to find out who that was, so he can praise her for her faith in him (which is faith in God).

I believe this is very much like what the LGBT community in this state is seeking... especially post-Stonewall, post-Anita Bryant, post-Amendment Two. We keep wanting to reach out and touch the cloak of a Savior to stop the pain and the hurt and the trampling on of our self and relationships. We want the magic. But when we put our faith in earthbound leaders, there isn't the same magic. And when we put our faith in God and we don't think God answers because we didn't get the answers we want, we fall prey to the belief that God doesn't give a crap about gay people... a lie that some of the thieves of Christianity have been more than happy to feed and spread.

What I believe is true is that perhaps what we're asking of God is for God to do the one thing God won't do: choose sides in a fight. It's not that God chooses sides: God hears the cry of the authentic heart that seeks help. In the case of the UNnamed woman, what's in her heart as she reached out was: "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." There was an "If". Not a "When". She didn't really know if this latest attempt to cure herself of the bleeding was going to work. But she reached out any way, and thus the magic occurred because it was an act of faith that made her do it. And when Jesus felt that contact, he knew it was different than just the crowd pressing against him.

Perhaps, rather than reaching out to God in a way of seeking "my will be done", perhaps we would be best serve to seek out God with the knowledge that God's will is done... both on earth as it is in heaven. And can we trust that the will of God does include us?

Believe me, I don't think the rioters at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, were contemplating theology in the moment of their brave stand. And yet, I believe, their stand was a moment where the desperation of being brutalized finally led them to take a bold stand, a life-affirming stand, rather than retreat into the darkness of discrimination.

Here's to courage! Give it up for gumption! And can I hear an "Amen!" for a God who continues to be in the world nudging us along toward acceptance, and understanding.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Prophetic Cries

As the General Convention of the Episcopal Church fast approaches, I turn my eyes, ears and thoughts to the Scripture assigned in the Daily Office.

We're making our way through the Book of Acts. And we have hit the beginning of the end for St. Stephen, a reportedly angelic-faced, grace-filled man who's charisma and character posed a threat to some of the establishment. They lay false charges against him, claiming that his message in support of Christ was designed to denegrate and undermine the law of Moses. (This isn't entirely true, but why let the facts get in the way of good persecution, right?). Today's assigned reading only takes us through the first part of Stephen's self-defense. He is laying out the history of the Hebrew people, methodically taking everyone through the timeline of Abraham to Isaac to Jacob and Joseph to Moses. We don't reach the dramatic conclusion of his passionate plea until next week. But, needless to say, there's a reason that St. Stephen is a "saint".

Yesterday was the day set aside to remember St. John the Baptist, another man who lost his life by taking a stand and telling the ruling authority, "You ain't right!"

Taken together, and remembering what happened to Jesus for his rebellious nature, one might decide that when the authorities say, "Sit down and shut up!" the best and safest course of action would be to obey.

But is that the right thing?

Fast forward to the General Convention. There are those who would prefer if the Episcopal Church continue to hold the 'status quo', and not address the growing need for clarity about the role of queer people in the church, or what the Church can do to minister and be relevant to its queer members. At some level, I wonder if the problem is that there are those who would prefer to believe that there are no queers in the pews or the pulpits. Or, at the very least, no queers in THEIR diocese. Maybe they want to believe that all of us "others" are still standing on the other side of the church doors. Afterall, if they haven't actively opened them to the "others"... then the only people inside are the ones they've let in, right?

But then that would mean that they're God. And since they are not God, and God is on a mission to bring as many into the party as will accept the invite... well, I guess that means the Church is gonna have to accomodate the "others". The status quo just doesn't cut it any more.

And so, what will be the response of those who believe keeping things just as they are was what Jesus meant by 'the way' to be with us "others"?

This week, we've seen that some who have been increasingly angry about women and gays and inclusiveness have started their own province within North America. And it will be an all-boys club without any of us "others" to bother them. I say, "Buh-bye!" But for those who have chosen to stay, what will they do in Anaheim? How will they respond when the new prophets preaching inclusivety stand up for the LGBT members of the Church? Will they be told to sit down and shut up repeatedly because the presence of our bodies as part of Christ's body makes some uncomfortable? Will they grind their teeth? Maybe not hurl stones, but invectives?

And if they do, how am I to respond? Will I know to turn my eyes to God and ask for forgiveness?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Most Amazing Vision

There is a line in the Book of Common Prayer that has been catching my attention for weeks now. It comes at the end of the Venite:

For he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand
Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice.

I have been wondering, "What is that voice?" And as I thought about it this morning, I had the most amazing vision. I saw a pillar, like a Greco-Roman style pillar, of bright white light with blue, pink, red, yellow, and orange moving around it. It was rotating quickly like a tornado... only it wasn't a funnel, it was really a pillar. And it stretched from the earth to the sky... and beyond. And I wondered, "Is this the Holy Spirit? Or the Trinity? Or is this just Is?" The more I watched this rotating pillar the more I became aware of the earth as a "footstool" I wasn't afraid of this vision, but I definitely felt spellbound as I stayed with it until I felt moved to go on and continue with the rest of the readings.

Today, we had the story of the apostles, rabble-rousing ragtag bunch that they were, getting spirited (literally) out of jail and going back to the Temple to continue talking about Jesus as the Messiah. This is NOT going over well with the authorities. But a man named Gamaliel steps up and warns the Temple crowd to leave them alone... and let them keep talking and teaching about Jesus. As he points out, there had been others who preached... but their movements died off with them. And he suggests the same could happen with the apostles. And if it doesn't, then the apostles really are 'of God' and woe onto anyone who tries to stop them from doing God's will on earth as it is in heaven.

What does this have to do with my pillar vision? I had wondered about the voice: how will I recognize it? The answer I felt I was getting from both the vision and then later with this lesson in Acts is that the voice will make itself known to me, and when it does, I will see it. What is really required of me is trust that God will reveal God's voice and, going back to Isaiah, when I turn to the right and when I turn to the left I will hear a word behind me saying, 'This is the way. Walk in it'. I must trust that God knows my questions, knows my doubts, has heard what I have asked for, and will light the way to my understanding. I know to a rational mind this sounds a little whacky, but there it is... my theology as of June 23, 2009.

Listen. Listen. Listen.

Shared Things

I have some interesting and fascinating things to share. But I will save those for another entry.
Instead, I bring you "things" shared... both coming to me by way of Alabama!

An old radio colleague from my Florida Public Radio days, Tanya Ott, is the news director at WBHM in Birmingham. As we approach the 40th anniversry of Stonewall, WBHM has decided to dedicate a whole week to highlighting the LGBT community in Alabama. Today's installment seemed fitting to share here on this blog since it's about gays and the church. You can listen to it here.

The other offering I have is this hilarious video sent via email by my mentor, Mtr. Lee Shafer. I laughed out loud!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Open Wide Your Hearts

Today was an unusual day capping off a most stressful week. I volunteered to serve at the altar as a Eucharistic Minister for a second week in a row. I love doing it. Just as when I was a kid and liked being the server who worked along side the priest to prepare the table, I like actively participating in the service.

Today, though, was a little different. Today was a little more of a struggle. Today required me to keep remembering the "why" behind this service: because it is the way I can express my thanks to God for the understanding of how deep God's love is for me and all creation. And it is my way of giving back to my community of believers, the Church, that is the congregation of St. John's.

As I put on my vestments, I was aware of the baggage that was with me. I was to lead the the Prayers of the People which includes prayers for the upper echelon of the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church... as well as for our President and our Governor. And honestly, as a gay person, I have felt increasingly betrayed by these human leaders. They simply don't "get" me and the other "others". And, in fact, I have felt more and more that they wish I would just be one of those sheep wandering off into the wilderness where the wolves lie in wait to pounce and rip me to shreds.

But before I could become absorbed in my self-pity, and thus not paying attention to God, I was hit with another task: I was asked to read the Second Lesson for the day, a passage from the 2nd Letter of Paul to Corinthians. The Daily Office has been chock full of this book this past week, and I've found myself again marveling at all that Paul endured in his ministry. I'm reminded that I used to really despise Paul, until I started doing the office and looking more closely not only at his own journey, but how he expresses himself in these letters as he tries to bring others along with him on the path toward eternal life. Because this assignment got sprung on me, I only had a few minutes in which to read through the material. So, I went to the lectern before the service, and sped read. Or at least tried to speed read.
I intellectually understood that this was Paul of the First Century in a struggle with the Corinthians who were being influenced in their beliefs by his opponents, and in this letter, Paul is basically on the defensive throughout, trying to persuade the Corinthians to not see him in a false light. But his words felt so real to me, and how I've been feeling as I attempt to remain in step with God as I experience my country and my Church trying to put me in a box and close the lid on me.

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see--we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return--I speak as to children--open wide your hearts also. --2 Corinthians 6: 8b-13

These words felt like they could have come from my own mouth in response to all those who are trying to box me in... or out as the case may be... from full participation as a citizen and as a child of God baptized into the faith. These words, filtered through my gay experience, make me understand the plea that St. Paul is placing before the Corinthians as a minister of Christ. If you were to read the "we" as the LGBT community... and the "Corinthians" as "Political leaders of the USA" or "hierarchy of the Episcopal Church"... you might understand what I'm saying. Certainly, returning to Paul's situation after running it through my own body, I again found myself in empathy for his passionate plea to "open wide your hearts also." How bold and faith-filled he had to have been to put that out there!!

And so, let me borrow those words as I send out my plea:

Open wide your hearts also, you bishops, you Congress, you President. I am not an impostor; I am one of your number as a citizen and a child of God. We, all of us "others", are still alive, as punished, but not killed. See us as your fellow citizens and members of your faith communities. Open your hearts.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Jury Duty

It's hot. And I'm bothered.

I should be getting to bed, but I'm not sleepy. I have been summoned for jury duty on my mother's birthday, and the opening of our "Queer As Faust 2" cabaret. And it irks me that I am expected to go do my 'civic duty'. Normally, I'd be OK with serving on a jury. But these past couple of weeks have made me more convinced that I am living in a country that really TISN'T free... at least if your part of the LGBT community.

Wednesday, after mounting pressure from the gay community denouncing the horribly homophobic legal brief Obama's administration filed to protect DOMA, our President said he was going to drop a few crumbs on the floor for us by giving some FEDERAL employees access to some benefits normally reserved for our straight married counterparts. Not healthcare or retirement... but things such as bereavement leave. When I heard of this move, I had a visualization of the scene in Mark with Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. Jesus tries to dismiss her as a "dog", which was a pretty low blow in those ancient times. And the woman shot back with "Even the dogs eat the crumbs under Israel's table."

Now us dogs are thrown a few table scraps from the plate of change to try to appease us. And if we express disappointment, outrage, or bitterness about the fact that the scraps really are just scraps... then the ones sitting at the table kick at us to keep quiet or push on our rears to make us sit down. "He's only been in office five months--give him a break!" "Oh, yeah, I remember how much better it was under Bush." Sorry, I don't want excuses for what I believe is not good policy judgment. Just because he's better than the alternative doesn't cut it with me any more. I'm hot. I'm bothered. And I'm tired of being a second-class citizen.

Morning has arrived. I am leaving for jury duty with my pride necklace. I'm hoping that by providing an outward and visible sign of my inward and spiritual self, the court will release me from what I view as a burden. Once upon a time, I would have been happy to serve on a jury. But now... not so much.

If I can't get married;
If I can't adopt children;
If I can't serve in the military;
Why am I being asked to be on a jury?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Buy This Book!

Summer came to Tallahassee a couple weeks ago, and has certainly settled in with temperatures climbing into the upper 90s... almost 100 degrees. And with the mercury rapidly rising, it's often best to find yourself a good book or two and get comfortable in the AC at home or your favorite hang-out and just chill.

So, if you haven't made your list of summer reading yet, here's a title that should be at the top of your stack of "good reads".

"Mean Little deaf Queer-A Memoir" is an amazing story by my neighbor, friend, and kindred spirit, Terry Galloway. Terry's deafness came as a result of medical fate in a military hospital in Germany: a drug given, to her mother during pregnancy, passed through to Terry in utero. But Terry is the little "d" deaf in that she was mainstreamed in school and learned to read lips. Her signing abilities are not so great.
Terry has a way with words that is engaging and evocative. She describes the girl she loved at summer camp as having "the thick-lashed gaze of a gazelle". She discloses family history with a love and a longing and a laugh (storytelling is a true art form in the Galloway houshold!). She chronicles the pain of being an "other" (in this case, both disabled and queer) with those who looked down their noses at her abilities because, nonetheless, what they saw was the DISability. But, like many of us in the "other" category, she finds her way to those places, the subterrain, the seedy and makeshift stages, where she can be whoever and whatever "other" she wants to be.

"Mean Little deaf Queer" is sexy, serious, and superb. And I have to say, I am quite proud to count Terry as a friend. To hear a sample of the book (gee, wonder how she got this done?) click here. And once you've heard Terry read, grab your keys and get over to your local bookstore and buy this book!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Our Voices, Our Group

Many thanks to Natalya Baldyga for this photograph taken at the end of our performance. It was a fantastic group of people who turned out the most amazing pieces in just five days. And then to have it all come together in a seamless performance was incredible. With any luck, and with a little dough, we hope that Tim (who is the shirtless one standing next to me on the back row) will be back to play with us some more in Tallahassee.

Why this Struggle?

I am reflective.
I am sad.
I am wondering,

"Why, God? Why this struggle?"

My thoughts come from both my own life and reading about the lives of other "others" in their blogs. Those of us who fall into that "other" category must always answer questions about our "otherness". It's like we're the witnesses on the stand who never get to step down because there is always another attorney, ready to step in and start a new line of questioning.

Having spent the past two weeks working with LA-based performance artist Tim Miller, I find myself gifted with some ways to do what comes naturally to anyone in massage therapy: work through the body. My body... our bodies... contain stories that once put into motion can unleash powerful and creative energy. For me, it was the beginnings of finding a voice for expressing my experience of God in a very real way in my life at a moment when I needed help. My dad, sick and in pain, was trying to tell me something, but his illness and stroke made it impossible for me to understand him. I cried out, literally tears welling up in my eyes, for God to please help me.

And that's when I realized that I needed my dad to breathe out his words, into my ear.

"I. Want. Outta. Here." It was clearest statement he'd made in weeks.

"Outta here as in this place? Or outta here as in the whole shebang?" I asked. He breathed again, and I listened.

"Whole. She-BANG!"

This statement made possible by the Holy Spirit. I am convinced of that. God heard my cry, and God did what God does so well: answered it.

And there was no questioning of me. No testing of me. No looking askance at me and wondering where this crew cut "unchurched" dyke gets off calling on the Almighty for assistance. This is how I know, in a real and present sense, that I am part of the kingdom of God.

But back here, in the world, there are those who call that inclusion into question. That's what I get from all of the nonsense about Theological Commission's and their secret panels, and Justice Departments and their homophobic legal briefs, and anonymous cowardly queer-bashing commentary on the newspaper's internet site. My life is always, as Miller notes, on trial, on the ballot, and on the menu.

Within the church, I wonder what it would be like to take people through an exercise of performance art in which they examine what it means to be part of a body: the Body of Christ. Go inside their own bodies, examine what's there... the good and the bad (which are labels we put on those things in ourselves)... and then let go of the notion of good and bad, and simply visualize the heart, the liver, the feet, the head. And connect those places and see how they support each other. And then take this map of our own body and realize that this IS a body of Christ. Give it some breath, and visualize the even bigger spaces beyond our own bodies... and understand that when we are connected through Christ, we make up the Church with Jesus Christ as its foundation... its feet, and God as its head. And all the "others" who are there in this body occupy any number of spaces. We are NOT simply the appendix that needs removing!

I wonder.
I contemplate.
I open my heart.

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.--Psalm 80

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Simmering Discontent

You may recall that in January I was hopeful and heartened that our new President, within hours of taking the oath of office, had the White House website's Civil Rights page reflect a commitment to ending discrimination and persecution of the LGBT community. He would work on Hate Crimes legislation; he was going to end the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in the military. And DOMA would become a thing of the past.

Well, that weird marking of the first 100 days has passed... and we're getting closer to the first 180 days in office. We've had action on the Matthew Shepherd Act on hate crimes. And Obama has declared June LGBT Pride Month.

But Lt. Dan Choi, a top graduate of West Point and an Arabic translator, is one of the many still being shown the Army's door... just because he is gay. And while six states now have advanced rights for same-sex couples to get married... the Obama administration has been quiet.

Until late last week, when the Obama Justice Department issued its response to a lawsuit filed in California challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. Reading AMERICABLOG's dissection of this document is quite troubling.

Now, a lot of Obama supporters are going to tell me that it takes time, give it time, we have to wait for the right time. But honestly, those excuses are sounding as tired as being told by a church that I must wait "for a season" to be treated as a full-fledged member of our human community!

I was not an Obama fan during the primary. I leaned more toward Hilary because I liked her practical wonkiness, and I thought he was the same kind of empty suit I'd seen before with lots of people tailoring that suit to fit what they believed in, and insisting he believed in the same things. I never heard him speak much about the gay community, and really what finally sold me was the more I listened to Sarah Palin, the more I cringed. And the more I heard the rhetoric of John McCain, the more I thought, "Well, Obama at least seems like he wants something different!"

I thought that difference would include me. But the rhetoric coming out of his Justice Department on DOMA is so nasty that I am once again sending out the cry of "How long?".

There is no time like the present to do the right thing, Mr. President. Our community backed you in great numbers during the election. And I can always go to the polls, and refuse to cast a vote in the presidential race.

The suit is disappearing and I am seeing that the emperor has no clothes, and his back is turned to me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Our Voices/Ourselves" and Our World

Electric. Provocative. Sexy. Soulful. Struggle. Connected. Caring.

Those are just some of the words that pop into my head as I reflect on the work that is going up on stage tonight at the Mickee Faust Clubhouse in the "Our Voices/Ourselves" show.

Last night, I came home jazzed and excited having watched my friends explore new places in themselves, and share it with an audience. I felt loved and supported in my own performance which is yet another careful step in my walk toward more joy. After such an evening, I probably should have gone straight to bed. But I took wind down time on the computer... and that's when I saw this message from one of the P-FLAG chapters:

"KRXQ Hosts Rob Williams and Arnie States apologize for dehumanizing and defamatory comments advocating child abuse of transgender children. On their May 28th broadcast, they made defamatory and dehumanizing comments about transgender people, including advocating child abuse of transgender children."

The show's hosts, heard in Sacramento, CA and Reno, NV, went on to issue their apology with the obligatory "Sorry" and "Didn't know my words would be interpreted this way."

And my light heart went limp for a moment as I reflected on yet-another-instance of morons with microphones and the damage they cause.

I was a radio journalist. I know what it means to choose your words carefully to communicate a point. And I know the power of words. If you are person with access to the public airwaves, you have a responsibility for the words you choose to use. Your words are not yours only when you put them out over a broadcast signal. They become community words, part of a dialogue and conversation that you are having with a listening public. It may feel like it's one-way, but it truly is not. There are people responding to what you are saying. And if you play upon someone's pre-disposition toward abusive behavior of those they consider to be "weak", you are aiding and abetting violence. That is not responsible; that is reprehensible.

I contrast this with the performances that are hitting the stage and exploding tonight in Railroad Square. What a different conversation we're having! One in which there's so much hope, grit, and genuine seeking of something good in this messy world we live in. "Our Voices" should be the voices heard. Come listen tonight at 8pm at the Mickee Faust Clubhouse in Railroad Square.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Picture Says It All

Meet the clergy! I got this image off of Rev. Susan Russell's site. The Intergity banner at the front, I think says it all: The Episcopal Church Welcomes You. All of you. And you can see the smiling, welcoming, inviting faces behind that banner to let you know the invitation is real. Amen!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hear What the Spirit is Saying to the Queer

Today, I got what I guess you could call a double-shot of God. I'd finished doing the Daily Office Readings, when an email showed up from another eucharistic minister asking me if I could fill-in for him at the noon service in a couple of hours. Lucky for him, I was available and said I'd do it. And that meant I'd get the noon eucharistic readings as well... which today were the beatitudes from Matthew's gospel. And, as it happens to me on many occasions, I got pinged:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

What words to have echo in my ears! Especially upon reading the news that the U.S. Supreme Court, at the request of the Obama administration, will NOT hear a challenge to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" anti-gay military policy. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are those who serve their country only to be dismissed for a being who God created them to be. To hear the beatitudes in a space and time where I was allowed a moment of reflection was the reminder that those of us who are seeking justice for our brothers and sisters will be fulfilled... even if we must butt up against injustice "for a season".

The Morning Prayer gospel reading (Luke 18: 31-43) was also compelling:

Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.

Once again, there's a juxtaposition of the disciples who are known by name and still don't understand what Jesus is saying vs. a blind beggar who is among the nameless many. The beggar knows enough to call out to Jesus as "Son of David". Everybody wants the beggar to shut up, but he cries out all the louder. So Jesus stops and asks this beggar, "What do you want from me?" and he asks to see again. And--presto--he is given his sight, the beggar rejoices and thanks God, and people are all atwitter having witnessed this event. (And if there was Twitter... they probably would have twittered...). I sat quietly with this reading, and then it hit me: this story can be read not only as granting sight to a "literally" blind person, but the "figuratively" blind person.

Who are the blind people? All of us. Many of us, anyway, who struggle to see God passed the bright, shiny objects of distraction.

Because I am seeing this gospel through my eyes... the crying out is coming from a blind queer person to the Son of David.
"Son of David, magnificent man of miracles, and lover of all, have mercy upon me!" Naturally, I see the crowd that attempts to silence that cry to be a cross-section of your usual suspects, and some who should know better.
"Quit making a fuss! Wait for a season until WE are ready for you to see God!"
Yet the cry of the queer reaches Jesus' (God's) ears. And in the characteristic reaching out for the outcast, Jesus steps off the path to discover who is it that is calling to me? And, upon finding the queer who begs to see, Jesus grants the request without first submitting to the queer that he or she must wait until he's done a survey, a study, examined the fabric of the communion for any rips or tears, before acknowledging the sheer effort of faith that it took for that queer to cry out past the clammor of the crowd to be heard in the first place!

The fact is that the queer person who persists in calling out to the Son of David, that cry will be heard, will be acknowledged, and God will become visible to the eyes of the queer person's heart.

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Queer... and to the Church!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"For a Season"

I'm confused.

We're in the "green" season for after Pentecost. Advent is typically purple or a type of blue. Christmas to Ephinany is white. So what color do we use for the season where we continuously study and question the lives LGBT people of faith? Yellow, perhaps?

There are minds far more savvy and knowledgeable than mine in Episcopolitics who have commented on the House of Bishop's Theology Committee, and its chairman's decision to organize a super-secret subcommittee that will examine theology and the same-sex relationship with a report due AFTER the General Convention this July. You can imagine this idea of a subcommittee of UNnamed participants examining the lives of us "others" has generated some criticism. You can read the response to the critics from chairman Bishop Henry Parsley,Jr. of Alabama here.

Rev. Susan Russell, Fr. Mark Harris, and many other bloggers have already jumped on this here and here and here. And there is even a running gag on the Episcopal Cafe speculating on the secret subcommittee membership. I have to say, I sure hope Katie Perry is NOT +Parsley's idea of a representative of the lesbian population in the church!

Jokes aside, I am deeply-troubled by the existence of this subcommittee, and the reasons for keeping the names of the membership secret. This group is functioning as part of the House of Bishops which exists within the structure of the General Convention... the governing body of the Episcopal Church USA. As a person in an Episcopal pew, who also happens to be a lesbian and a lay Eucharistic minister and a participant in Education for Ministry, I do not think it is unreasonable for me to have an interest in what is happening within the church and at General Convention this summer, especially as it relates to LGBT issues. So a committee in the closet, as this subcommittee apparently is, makes me more than a little concerned. Especially when their work is to result in something to be released in 2011... two years AFTER this General Convention when there are several resolutions pending THIS year to move the church forward on same-sex marriage issues and other matters affecting the LGBT population of the church.

What really catches my attention is the phrase "for a season". It seems this is the favored euphemism in the Episcopal Church for "we need more time to study this up, down, backward, forward, sideways, so we can avoid actually DOING anything."

Currently, we are in the season of Pentecost in the Church. The Holy Spirit has blown into the room and lit the fire in the souls of all those who are listening and paying attention and now is acting as the bellows to keep that fire going, so that the light that shines forth from each of us is that of the Christ that dwells within our hearts. Such a fire should melt away fear, and should fuel us to live out the commandment to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. To me, this is the only season the Church and its officers should be thinking about theologically. Why then this call "for a season" to further study those things that have already been studied to death? Why do I get the feeling that this season never changes? We've had to live in the winter of our discontent because of rules adopted at the last General Convention... another "season" of "gracious restraint" and just say no to "out" gay bishops and same-sex blessings. I am very tired of this winter, and I want to look forward to a glorious summer courtesy of real action in Anaheim.
And for that season, I am waiting. And I believe that is a white season... a time when we can celebrate the church's move toward realizing God's love for all of God's people.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lay of the Land A Must-See

When I read through Tim Miller's script of his new show, "Lay of the Land", I felt a carthartic "Ahhh" of "Finally, somebody is articulating all these feelings I have inside me!" Tim's show captures with humor and strength of conviction what lots of queer citizens are feeling in this country today. That sense that we are always under the microscope, always being examined and tested, and voted on and put on trial in ways that just doesn't happen to straight people. And we are tired of it!
I don't hate my country. I don't even wish ill upon my country. I would like to think that having me as a taxpaying citizen, a healer, a church member, a volunteer, a writer, and a consumer of goods and services is something that my country would value. But, for some reason, it's always open season on me and my fellow queers. Whenever it's time to scare the public, it's always us who get trotted out to make people frightened into taking away those rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." We used to do this to African-Americans, and that was wrong, and has been recognized in the law as "wrong". Haven't we learned anything by now?
And even as I am hurt by the continued discrimination in Florida that is thrown in sharp relief by the march forward for equality in my home state of New Hampshire, I am reminded that if New Hampshire... crotchety and stubborn as it can be... can embrace the concept of allowing LGBT couples to be married, then there is hope. All is not lost.
Tim's show plays tonight and tomorrow at the Mickee Faust Clubhouse in Railroad Square at 8pm. Tickets are available through the website: http://www.mickeefaust.com/.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Hampshire Now Allowing Free Living!

Hooray! My native home has become the SIXTH state in the nation to approve a same-sex marriage bill. Governor John Lynch signed the newly-passed, much-amended, much-debated, marriage legislation at 5:20 this afternoon. This leaves the very Roman Catholic Rhode Island as the only New England state that does not offer lesbian and gay couples the opportunity to get married. But even that will likely change over time.

Opponents of gay marriage are already promising to target the lawmakers who supported the legislation. This means vigilance by those who want to continue a policy of equality to get behind the Governor and others who have made marriage for the LGBT community possible. The anti-gay forces CAN be defeated because NH voters are independent, and they aren't as likely to march lock-step with the neo-cons, especially if gay people and their allies make the simple point that "It's over! Move on!"

I think I'll put on my NH/American lapel pin. Or maybe I'll start growing lilacs and planting white birch in the front yard. I'm rejoicing! I'm pleased! And I am a New Hampshirite, a lesbian, and I'm proud! Yay, New Hampshire! You're wicked awesome!!!

Can They Do It This Time???

The same-sex marriage bill is up for a vote AGAIN in the New Hampshire, and just like those moments in Bullwinkle cartoons when Rocky the Squirrel says, "But that trick never works!"... you got believe the moose when he says, "This time, fer sure!"

Here's the Boston Herald's breakdown of the history of this legislation:

For three months, the gay marriage story in New Hampshire has been one of near death followed quickly by revival. In its first test in March, the gay marriage bill failed by one vote in the House but was revived and sent to the Senate where it wasn’t expected to pass.
But at the last minute, Senate Democrats rallied around an amended bill, passing it by one vote. Last month, the House approved the changes along with a second bill fixing technical problems with the main bill.
Together the two bills would establish civil and religious marriage licenses. They also would allow each party to the marriage to be identified as bride, groom or spouse. Same-sex couples united by civil unions in the past year would automatically be assumed to have a "civil marriage."
They would allow churches to decide whether to conduct religious marriages for same-sex couples. Civil marriages would be available to both heterosexual and same-sex couples.
Opponents counted on Democratic Gov. John Lynch to veto the bills, but Lynch — who opposes gay marriage — surprised them by announcing he would sign the legislation if lawmakers passed expanded protections for churches, their employees and religious groups. Lynch’s language, modeled after Connecticut’s law, had to be put into a third bill because it was too late to amend the two bills that had passed.
Lynch also said he would veto gay marriage if the law didn’t clearly spell out that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or to provide services, facilities and goods of any kind to participants.
Two weeks ago, Democrats pushed Lynch’s language in the third bill through the Senate, but it failed by two votes in the House. The House refused to let the issue die and instead asked the Senate to negotiate a compromise.
Last Friday, House and Senate negotiators agreed to add a sentence specifying that all religious organizations, associations or societies have exclusive control over their religious doctrines, policies, teachings and beliefs on marriage. It also clarifies that church-related organizations that serve charitable or educational purposes are exempt from having to provide insurance and other benefits to same sex spouses of employees. The earlier version said "charitable and educational" instead of "charitable or educational."
The changes amount to slightly stronger language than what Lynch proposed, and the governor approves of the revisions.

COMMENT: OK, if this doesn't make everybody happy, I don't know what else they can do! I am amazed that there needs to be this whole exception made for religious institutions, which are already very well-protected. Groups that oppose the LGBT community have spread fear about churches that have faced lawsuits when they don't treat LGBT people equally. The truth behind those lawsuits is that the church, which receives tax exemptions, has made some portion of its property open to the public... unless you happen to be "that" public (this is the 2006 case involving the Methodist Church and its boardwalk in New Jersey). There is the case of Catholic Charities in Boston that stopped doing adoptions because the Commonwealth of Massachusetts said they couldn't place children exclusively with heterosexual parents. And no, if you are placing kids in the STATE foster care system, and the STATE doesn't discriminate, neither can you.

Regardless, this is the comfort language necessary to make everybody happy. I hope that at the end of today, I will have yet another reason to smile about my native state.

PRELUDIUM: The House of Bishops Theology Committee

PRELUDIUM: The House of Bishops Theology Committee


There’s a common question that seems to boomerang around in the head of many blogger: Why am I doing this and does what I am doing in blogging matter to anybody else? Many of us have a site meter that we either make public or private, which allows us to track how many visitors have come to our site on any given day, what entries are getting the most "hits", and we can even get a not-always-accurate read on the location of the people visiting our site. It’s interesting, and surprising sometimes, to find that somebody halfway around the world has touched down for a short spell here. All I hope is that who ever you are, and wherever you are, you are getting something good from your visit to take with you as you go on into your day or night.
The purpose of this blog, as I’ve said before, is to share my journey with others… the many others out there… who may be in search of God, or at least trying to discover if there is something beyond themselves that isn’t a punishing force out to trip them up and smash their heads into the curb. I don’t profess to know God’s mind; there’s just no way to get a handle on something quite so vast. But what I’ve found is that once you start on a path to seek out God, God is going to reveal God’s self… and wisdom… in pieces large enough for the moment, but never too big to handle. A great example, I think, of this kind of process can be seen in the Daily Office reading from 2 Corinthians. Starting in on the Office, I was thinking about the struggles LGBT Episcopalians still face within the church. And then, there was this reading:

We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also. –2 Corinthians 6: 3-13

From what I understand of this particular book (and "understand" should be taken loosely), Paul is encountering trouble in Corinth and is up against a group of Jewish-Christians who are opposing him and his colleague, Timothy. This passage, therefore is likely to be addressing the charges being leveled against him by his opponents in Corinth back in the First Century.
However for me, in 21st Century USA, I read "We" as the LGBT people of our church. We have come so far, in many ways, and yet we remain in a kind of holding pattern which is euphemistically referred to as a period of "gracious restraint". We’ve been accused of being selfish, and putting our interests ahead of the good of the Anglican Communion. In all of the back-and-forth, I often wonder if anyone is still paying attention to God, since that’s why we have a church or an Anglican Communion in the first place!
Practically speaking, I’m not facing job discrimination because I am not a priest… let alone somebody eligible for the episcopate. My state now discriminates against the LGBT community in marriage in our constitution, so the fact that the Diocese of Florida won’t allow the blessing of same-sex marriages is not all that surprising.
But even though I’m not somebody directly in the line of fire, the continued insistence on the moratoria on blessings and bishops DOES hurt me. Because it is symbolic of my exclusion in "the world", and a reminder that I am an "other". People like me are not trying to put up obstacles in anyone’s way. On the contrary, we want to be participants to help clear obstacles so that MORE people will come to know God. And yet, we are treated as impostors, and unknowns, and as spreaders of a culture of death, when I can’t think of anything more liberating, joyful, and fulfilling than for a person to discover that they can tap into eternal life right now.
And that brings me back to where I began with the contemplative thinking on why I blog. If I can share my joy in discovering this ever-unfolding amazing love that is God, I believe I am aiding in removing obstacles from paths for other people. Possibly you, dear reader, whoever and wherever you are. Recognize that I’m a lesbian, but don’t let that be all that you see of what I’m saying. My sexual orientation does color my worldview, but it hasn’t blinded me. My heart is open, and I’m willing to share my journey with you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

With God's Help

This video from Integrity USA, I think, pretty clearly explains one of the issues that will be debated at this year's General Convention: the full inclusion of all people within the church in all of the sacraments. Currently, there is a rule in place (B033) that prevents the blessing of same-sex marriages, and it prevents the consecration of any more "gay bishops". And while this rule was put in place to show "gracious restraint" in not wanting to offend the less gay-friendly parts of the Anglican Communion with our "western" standards... it hasn't done anything to stop the attacks on the Episcopal Church by those who oppose it inside and outside the USA. And it has had the very real effect of making many LGBT people feel like the "others" of our church community. Just the other day, I was glancing at the story in the Episcopal Church's national newspaper about the tongue-wagging in Jamaica over the Anglican Covenant. It mentioned the continued support for B033, and my response was immediate. Tears gathered in my eyes. I had just been through a service of baptism at Pentecost in which I had renewed my commitment to God, and my fellow humans and believers... only to see the exclusion in black and white. Now is the time to recognize what St. Paul said in Galatians... that there is neither Jew or Greek, free or slave, male or female in Christ Jesus. The body of Christ is one. So, please, let's move in that direction!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Kansas Shooting

I've been so disturbed by the initial reports of the shooting of yet another abortion provider that I stayed away from reading anything about it.

Until this morning.

And I don't have a whole lot to say, except to comment on some of the facts and details that are now being reported.

Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who would perform abortions in the later stages of pregnancy, was at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, as an usher. And Scott P. Roeder, an anti-government, anti-abortion protestor, shot and killed him... and then drove away in his 1993 Ford Taurus. According to the report in the Kansas City Star, Roeder's car sports a Red Rose sticker (common to the anti-abortion movement) and a christian fish symbol with the word "Jesus".

Somehow, I don't think shooting Tiller in a place of worship is quite in keeping with what Jesus would do!

Comments I've read on some articles indicate that those who are in the extemeist camp on the anti-abortion side are pleased as punch to see this story in the news. And they are invoking God's name in praise. And another round of noise from the liars and thieves of God's message of inclusive love goes out over the airwaves, and the internet, and puts forth a face of christianity that many of us Christians don't recognize... and many others see as 'evidence' that 'all christians are crazy, gun-toting, mad dog killers!'

Is it any wonder that every time the Virgin Mary has appeared to some young girl in a far away village, the Virgin is crying?!

Roeder's actions are Cain-like, not Christ-like. And he must be punished for placing himself above the God he claims to love. I can only hope that he will actually get to know that love for real... and realize what he's done.

And prayers ascending for Dr. Tiller's family, friends, colleagues and Lutheran church members. The fire of the Holy Spirit should never be associated with a hail of bullets!