A Brief Introduction

Endeavoring to define myself outside of a "job title." I'm a nomad of sorts who fell in love with technology, activism, and helping others. I run a web & media consulting firm, have a blog specifically for activists & non-profits, and travel often. I love talking about theology, politics, and social change. I love doing something about it even more. I also like to be a well-rounded and fully present person. That's why I write here. Connect with me on twitter

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Am Strong

Joan Garry shares with her readers the story of having her family transformed into a comic and muses about whether her orientation is a kryptonite or a superpower.

This deliberation is not something that is uncommon to many gay and transgender individuals. Is being gay a burden to bear? Is being trans a power that propels one forward?

Over at The Point, jason taylor suggests in a comment:

Gays already have all the rights that are necessary to act in their chosen manner and therefore political aggressiveness is just annoying.
Overlooking the fact that gay and trans individuals--and couples, especially--do not have all the same rights, I appreciate part of his point nonetheless. He is correct in later noting that gay groups have a legal right to exist, that gay couples are legally allowed to pair up, and that the government does not prohibit churches from performing purely religious marriages for gay couples (which are completely unrecognized by the state).

Yes, I have a very basic right to exist, tempered as that may be by threat of expulsion from certain schools, firing from any job, removal from my church, ostracization from my family and community... thankfully none of those are problems in my life. I am surrounded by friends who love and support me and who actively seek to lift up my relationships. My co-workers are sensitive to issues of orientation and identity. I go to a church which not only accepts me, but advocates on my behalf. I know that any one of the pastors would be happy to marry me. And I will always have a home with my parents.

And yet I continue to be an advocate.

I remind my co-workers that it is still permissible in New York state to fire someone based soley on his or her gender identity. I tell military recruiters that I considered serving my country in that way but I am not allowed to. I talk about the importance of marriage equality to my straight friends. I explain the intersection of my faith and my identity to my pastor from home.

But do not feel sorry for me that I cannot get married in my home state. Do not pity me that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church which I grew up finds me "incompatible with the confession of Jesus as Lord." For I have studied the Word of God and I have searched my heart and I have prayed ceaselessly with the Holy Spirit. I have found safe spaces in my life and support in my love. And most importantly I see myself as God sees me: as a perfectly loved child who desires to love and serve the Lord.

When I was on Equality Ride I shared the many things I was told along the way. In a conversation with my good friend Meilee recently, she said to me "There are so many reasons why you could have stopped being a Christian... you 'shouldn't' be a Christian, but you are. I imagine that means something." And I imagine it does, too. The deacon who was my mentor during my church membership class told me something I will never forget: "You don't choose God, God chooses you. And when that happens, God never lets go." Ain't that the truth. A Duke editorial questions "gay pride" but Casey rightly notes, "when there are a million reasons to hide in the shadows and deny who we are, it is right to be proud of honesty and integrity, and yes, that God created us differently and beautifully." I am proud of my God and I am proud of the way God made me and I proud of the mission God has choose for me: to speak for those living in silence and for those living in oppression--not under oppression, but by oppressing others. I might not have realized it at first, but I am that guy.

And so, when I meet with my former pastor to explain what it means to be gay and seek his support, when I ask lawmakers to support equality, when I point out the glaring disparities between gay and straight people in this country, I do not do it for myself. I continue to advocate for the acceptance of gay and trans people because I agree with Bram when he says, "Causing or even allowing any of God's children to feel like something less than His perfectly loved child may be the greatest heresy of the Christian faith." I speak out not for myself but for the members of my church in Maryland, for my pastor, for the elected officials in my state, and even for the administrators at anti-gay Christian schools. I speak out because I understand that they are coming from a place of misinformation and misunderstanding, despite the best of their intentions. I speak out that I may call others to be better, stronger, more Christlike.

And if you are straight, I am not asking for your consolation, or your compassion, your understanding, or your support. I am asking for your action. I am asking for you to rise to the tradition of this great country and--for Christians--to the greatness of your faith. I am not asking for full equality so that I might have it, but so that others might not deny me of it.

So when you realize that I am still a second-class citizen in this country and in many churches, do not feel sorry for me--for I am strong. Are you?


Casey said...

Kickass statement, my friend. Consider this an amen - I know where you're coming from, and admire your strength... because I know where, and from Whom, that is coming from, as well. Thanks - you just gave me the kick in the ass I needed to sit down and keep working on this blasted paper - I need to get it out of the way, because I have more important work to do. *grins* Take care.

Drew said...

I find the sentiment that gays *just* have a political agenda and have the opportunity to live *their* lives as it is without the need for such an agenda is the same argument for blacks in the 50's that they had their own bathrooms and businesses and the entire civil rights thing is asking for privileged status and nothing more.

Not even going into the part in the comment about sin and legislating sin (the definition of what is sin and the responsibility of gov't to legislate this or that religious idea notwithstanding) there is a really strange notion of mercy here where outright rejection is better.

I do agree that tolerance is really just another position to advocate rejection in a hypocritical way. And that outright rejection is at least clear. But how that truly coincides with the love of God and practicing the art of that love to all of humanity is something I have been on one side of (rejection is better) to see that only full inclusion makes sense with the same Christ that accepted the outcasts of society and worked with them to see salvation and what it means, and those who thought they were righteous received his greatest condemnation.

So my intellectual issue is that both welcome and not affirm and outright reject are irrational given the overwhelming evidence we have to the contrary in terms of religion. But there the line is a bit blurrier or at least more complicated than in government.

There the position the current and previous officers of the state have had is egregiously irrational. For if they reject full acknowledgement of those who are other than heterosexual in all forms of civil engagement and respect with all of the same rights thereto not on irrational traditional assumptions, on what basis do they make these decisions if not by religious convictions? This is why they need a constitutional amendment - to ratify their religious ideas in terms of a secular limitation. The problem is that the current position is discriminatory and dare I say illegal.

So the problem is justified and approved policies of discrimination and the devaluing of certain members of society who do not conform to an outdated norm. This is both for the religious, and for the authorities of the church. They are not only failing gays, they are failing us all as a result.

So as a straight person I will not feel sorry for you. But I will continue to voice my disapproval and anger at those who exclude others on any basis at all that is rooted in fundamentally irrational principles.

Brian said...

Casey, thanks for the kudos!

Drew, I agree that anything besides full inclusion of gay and transgender individuals in matters of faith and matters of society is absolutely unwarranted! But as I said--and as you acknowledge--I am living, and I have love and support, and I have found it within myself to be proud. And so I, and you, continue to advocate for change because, as Coretta Scott King once told Mel White when he was thinking about stopping, "To give up on your oppressor is an act of violence."

May we be proud together of what we already have, and hopeful for the positive change we will help the oppressors to make.

Drew said...

BTW Brian. My sisters went to Wootton and I went to Magruder. I also went to Nat'l Presby Church until moving to Western PA in 1992!

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