Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Continued Ripples of Conversation

I once had a dream that involved some of the older staunch conservatives in the Florida legislature. I was in a log cabin with them and we were listening to "All Things Considered" from National Public Radio. ATC was relating a story about a tragedy that had happened to someone, and in the course of listening to this story, I learned that one of the Republican Senators, Ginny Brown-Waite, had suffered a tragedy of some kind with her mother. As the Senator walked past me, I reached out my arm and stopped her.

"Senator," I said, with tears welling up in my eyes, "I don't normally do this, but I think it's appropriate in this instance" and I wrapped her in my arms in a hug. Another one of the older Republicans came up behind me as a witness to this scene.

"You know it's sincere when there are tears in the eyes of a child," he said.

That's when I woke up from the dream.  That was on March 23, 1996, when I was still a public radio reporter.  

I think tears in the eyes ARE a sign of sincerity, not just for children, but for adults as well.  And I've been seeing a lot of near-tears this past week as people talk to me and ask me more questions about LGBT people and the whole issue of marriage.  I know for some of you reading this it might seem a bit strange that we, here in Florida, continue to have so much apparent angst around this issue.  I guess that's what happens when your civic and religious leaders try to squash any hopes of equality.  It leads to frustration, anger, fear, and confusion.  

There certainly were tears in the eyes of people who spoke to me after the forum.  It seems for many of the straight people, they have never had a face-to-face encounter with someone who is both gay and grounded in God.  Probably most of their experiences with the LGBT community have either been celluloid projections of who we are in TV and movies, or perhaps they've met the gay person who is breathing threats against the church and that makes them uncomfortable. There was so much misinformation spread in Tallahassee back in 2003 about retired bishop Gene Robinson, and who he was.  If only they'd have met the real man and not the straw man.  

Instead, they met me.  And, more importantly, I met them in Love.  

The discussions people are having with me now are more real, more honest. Things like they're probing of my opinion (what is it that "gays" want from marriage? The civil rights or the sacrament?)  The answer to that question is, to a certain degree, both.
For me, personally, and I would venture a guess that for most of the LGBT community, the real desire is to gain the civil rights that come with marriage because those are the guarantees that we can have our families protected.  As one who is in an interfaith relationship, we've already decided that we will forego any kind of religious ceremony should we get married.  There are those who really want to make their commitment in a sanctuary with their friends and family and a priest.  So, just like straight America, we gay folks want to have options.  To my mind, the best thing that could happen is for the religious community to agree that it will no longer sign marriage licenses for ANY couple.  Let the state do the state's business, and then the couple can ask to have a blessing of their relationship in the church.   I think this would serve to give all couples the civil rights of marriage, while allowing the ones who want an official blessing to get that arranged.  

For some straight people, this seems like a logical step.  For others, there is confusion.  Am I against church weddings?  No, I am not.  I am against religious authorities (priests, rabbis, imams) signing the marriage licenses.  

I've also had the question come up: if the church has been so cruel to the LGBT community, why in the heck am I still a Christian?

That's actually an easy one.  I am a Christian because I believe in Christ as the greatest emancipator of the oppressed, including the LGBT community.  His life, in which he preached love and insisted on people acting more out of love than fear, is symbolic of the gay experience in which we, each of us, has found new life in realizing that we are same-sex loving people. Christ's death and resurrection are my hope that no matter how bad things get, or how many ways those with power try to kill us, our love and our lives will not be defeated. Christ has walked my walk and knows the pain of being rejected. But ultimately, he ends up on top. That's a great role model for anyone who has felt denied in their lives. Why did I go back to the church that had a reputation for preaching homophobia from the pulpit? Honestly, that is a God thing. I felt summoned (really, it was not so much a call, but a command) to go back to "that church." And as I look at it now, my presence in "that church" has helped to soften their hearts. My presence and candor on the panel last Friday is taking some a little deeper into exploring their previously held beliefs about the gay community and comprehending, perhaps for the first time, the injustice and the anti-Christ nature of laws, both in the state and the church, as they apply to the LGBT faithful.

These are the ripples I'm seeing. Who knows what's been happening in those places unseen.

And it's all good.    


Grandmère Mimi said...

SCG, I'm glad to hear that good things are still happening as a result of your courageous decision to participate in the forum.

I'm with you 100% in wanting to see religious organizations out of the marriage business. Marriage is a civil and legal matter and should be in the hands of the civil authorities. Besides, if clergy stopped doing weddings, there would be one less issue to cause division. I know and know of clergy who refuse to do weddings.

SCG said...

Thanks, Mimi!
I really think that the issue of marriage has become greatly confused by people thinking that "r-i-t-e-s" is the same thing as "r-i-g-h-t-s". And I sometimes wonder how many religious leaders have become so enamored with the wedding ceremony that they, too, don't understand the difference between those English homophones.