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

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Equality Ride @ Pepperdine

I don't even know where to begin. We had 27 hours of events over the course of two days for our stop at Pepperdine. Jillian and I have been working together since January to plan this stop with Dean of Student Affairs Mark Davis and Associate Dean Tabatha Jones and it was beautiful to finally see it come to fruition.

Over the course of two days I saw Pepperdine students and administrators engaged in active dialogue about their school, their community, and how to respond to LGBT issues. To simply describe the events of the days would not do them justice.

Equality Riders listened to presentations by Pepperdine ministers and professors. Pepperdine students and administrators listened to presentations by Equality Riders. There was dialogue constantly. I was able to visit a religion class to talk about inclusive theology and afterwards spent over an hour wrestling with scripture at a table with two Pepperdine students. I got more hugs than I can remember; "Thank you for coming" "God Bless you for what you are doing" "I will never forget this"

I believe that though each person came to the events from a different place, they all came with the same intention: to learn, to love, and to grow. I know that there are capable students at Pepperdine to continue these conversations as we leave and I trust that the community will still have open hearts and minds to hear them and engage them.

Malibu GLEE will be meeting with administrators to talk about the possibility of becoming officially recognized. I hope this happens. A school cannot say that it values all students and continue to deny some of them a voice. I hope that there will be safe spaces for GLBT students and Christians to go and talk. I hope that pastors and professors will be mindful of their language. I hope that slurs and hate-speech will be meet with loving confrontation.

Pepperdine is a beautiful campus populated with beautiful people with beautiful spirits. It is alive and well and I can see that. What we accomplished at Pepperdine would not be possible if they had not already accomplished so much themselves. I trust that they will continue to grow in God's love and wisdom.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Outreach at BYU

Holy cow. Yesterday seemed like one long, never-ending blur as it was happening. We awoke early to visit UVSC (Utah Valley State College) and give presentations to their GSA. We were there for hours.... After a quick break it was off to the Provo Library (which, coincidentally used to be BYU so I guess in a way, we made it!) for a dinner hosted by LDS Family Fellowship (a Mormon PFLAG-type organization). I have learned that smiling parents really help make this trip bearable and I was excited for our Mormon riders that they had parents and members from other generations within their faith supporting them as well.

There was an hour-long panel presentation that I will be posting clips from later but what I really want to get to is what happened afterwards:

The progressive theology presentation was scheduled to give a shortened version of it "Ashley's Apt". We weren't really given any other information and I can't say that I didn't think it would just be a few friends of our LDS riders. I was SO wrong. I was the first person through the door when we arrived and I literally opened the door, took a step inside, took a step back, closed the door, said "Oh crap" to my groupmates, and then went in (yes, seriously).

The room was about the size of 3 hotel rooms (right now that is my only standard of measure) and it was literally PACKED full of BYU students. I had to wade my way through the crowd, the entire floor was covered, people were standing around the walls, and even opening the door was difficult that's how full it was.

Emily, Aaron, Jonathan, Brandon, and I gave a greatly shortened version of our Progressive Theology presentation but then quickly opened it up for questions as we were meeting with a weekly discussion group (their Wednesday meeting will be all about our visit!). I don't know why I am always so surprised to find that there are students who want to talk about these issues everywhere. Not everyone in attendance was in agreement with us, in fact, I would imagine most were not. But that didn't stop them from having questions, from having opinions, from wanting to learn more.

One student who completely disagrees with us says that he continues to come to these discussions because he believes it is important to "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." That is how we are all trying to participate in these discussions and I hope that it is working.

Unfortunately we didn't bring cameras as I don't think anyone was expecting the experience we had. I couldn't help but think throughout the meeting "I really want my camera right now."

We stayed until 10:30 when we had to return to our hotel, but I gladly would have stayed longer. We our having amazing converstaions with students at every school so far. We haven't even visited the BYU campus area yet and already we are engaging 100s of students in conversation on this issue. AHHHHHHHHH.... This is the stuff of college, this is the stuff of America.

I am so excited to be a part of these important conversations.

Video: Wisconsin Lutheran

The Westbound bus visited Wisconsin Lutheran on March 12-13. Six riders and two community members (one of whom was a local pastor) were arrested for talking with students on campus on the second day. Since then we have stopped in four more states and traveled through many others. We have been very busy in the time since then, but as I made this video and watched it all the way through for the first time, I was still chilled. I don’t think I will ever forget the icey reception we received or the pit in my stomach as I watched my close friends arrested for talking about the Bible with other Christians.

I hope you are equally moved.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Salt Lake City, UT

We're driving through Salt Lake. We keep seeing men in suits taking pictures and video. It is very eery.

Sent from Treo

Saturday, March 17, 2007

MIdAmerica Nazarene: Day Two

Our second day at MidAmerica Nazarene picked up right where the first left off. We were treated to breakfast in the student center with our hosts and a number of other MNU students came in to join us. Afterwards we broke up to deliver presentations to classrooms and stayed in the library to talk with students who didn’t have class. The conversations gradually became more and more serious. I found it to be a terrific mix. Students wanted to get to know us as individuals but at the same time weren’t afraid of asking tough questions. We were able to challenge each other and I think everyone walked away from the experience enriched.

Before my group began our Progressive Theology presentation the professors began by announcing his class had been studying progressive theology through the four foundations of theology: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. That was exactly our approach to the presentation! We were able to finish our presentation before the class period ended and fielded questions and concerns from the students. A few hung back afterwards to continue the discussions. One male student told Aaron that our presentation had totally changed the way he thought about homosexuality, that it forced him to throw out all of his preconceived notions about gay people, and think of the GLBT community in a new way.

As our visit to campus wrapped up, the key administrators met with us for debriefing. We shared our thoughts and experiences and offered suggestions on where to go from here. The common consensus amongst the Equality Riders was that MidAmerica Nazarene had modeled a Christlike response to outsiders. They didn’t have to abandon everything they believe in order to listen a viewpoint different from their own.

The MNU pastor thanked us for coming to campus, for pressing these issues, for making the students and administrators examine and develop their faith. They conceded that they might need to take a look at the wording of their policy to determine its appropriateness. We urged them to continue this conversation on their campus after we leave and to continue this conversation with us. I’m hopeful that they will!

And now… off to Denver

Thursday, March 15, 2007

MidAmerica Nazarene: Refreshed

Today was just the day I needed. It stood in stark contrast to our time in Milwaukee outside the walls of Wisconsin Lutheran. This morning we traveled to nearby Kansas City, Missouri to take part in the "Tulips on Troost" project which aims to redefine the way people think of color on the infamous Troost Avenue which served as a racially segregating line in Kansas City. The contrast in house sizes, landscape grandeur, and upkeep quality is still very stark. We were able to plant a garden next to the project headquarters, cleanup trash on the street, and help out with the fundraising campaign. A local PFLAG chapter provided lunch for us and talking with the mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters of GLBT individuals was truly amazing. I loved hearing the personal journeys that each of them have taken.

This evening we visited MidAmerica Nazarene for the first time. We met the administrators who greeted us with smiles, handshakes, and fruit punch! Afterwards we met our hosts for the time on campus, were seated in tables with other students and administrators and heard a presentation on "A Christian Thing To Do" which outlined healthy and productive responses to GLBT friends and family. Afterwards we were able to talk amongst our tables. The students had many questions for us. They ranged in everything from how we knew we were gay, what it was like to be Christian and queer, what does transsexual mean, what are our families like, how did our parents respond, how do we know it's not sinful, and everything in between. When we finally had to wrap up we hugged, wished each other well for the evening, and got excited about continuing the conversations the next day.

I think each and every student is genuinely interested in hearing more of what we have to say. It was so refreshing! I know that many, if not most, of these students differ with us in their views on homosexuality but we were able to come together in fellowship. They truly modeled a Christlike response. I know that we will have even more productive conversations tomorrow. And I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wisconsin Lutheran: Drained

Yesterday, I was among the seven riders taken to a hotel on the outskirts of town to give a presentation to a gathering of university administrators and hand-picked student leaders. The administration greeted us with cold faces and stern voices. The students were much better. Talking to us, engaging us, listening to us. At the end of our presentation, the head pastor stood up, Bible in hand, and spewed condescension and hate at us for a solid 15 minutes. We rose in witness. I saw students tear up, I saw them turn away, I saw them bow their heads in prayer. They stayed after the administrators left the room and began speaking with us. It is clear these students want to have this discussion. It is unfortunate that they are not allowed to. Students were advised not to speak to us as we stood vigil for 8 hours on the sidewalk outside of their school. It was hard to feel Christ's love as we were passed with silent, unchanging faces.

Today we returned. We walked on to campus and were approached by the head of the security. He asked us to leave. We informed him that we were here to converse with the students who wanted to have this conversation. He told us he was calling the police. We had about 20 minutes to talk with students before the police arrive. A student who attended the presentation yesterday came out to see us and talked with Aaron and me for a bit. "I wish it didn't have to come to this. I wish we could have a conversation about this." Aaron and I agreed. She was later joined by one of her professors. We were able to talk about faith. To go deeper into the Scriptures. To discuss theology. To share our views. We challenged each other. Eventually Alexey informed us that the police had arrived and we had been given an official warning of trespass. The professor shook his head and said, "They shouldn't have done that." We exchanged tear-filled hugs and parted ways.

Six riders and two community members, one of whom is a pastor, stayed behind to continue the dialogue with the students. They got to spend 40 more minutes in the Word, talking about Christ and God and faith with these students who were so eager to hear it. Justin, Emil, and Kourt were eventually interacting with a group of close to 30 students by the time the police had to arrest them. Students cried at the oppressive action their school was taking. We were exchanging in civil Christian discourse with fellow believers. Why is that wrong?

The remaining riders returned to the sidewalk and held vigil on either side of the driveway as the arrests took place. I cried every time a police vehicle filled with my amazing, spirit-filled friends, drove past. Where is Christ in this?

One student joined us in the line, another texted Matt Kulisch "God bless you all."

This is why we go.

Mobile Update: Wisconsin Lutheran

Wisconsin Lutheran is in the process of having six riders arrested for talking to students and professors. The students are continuing the conversations until the riders are forced to leave.

Sent from Treo

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Memorial at Notre Dame

On Thursday March 9, the Equality Riders were allowed on to campus to attend mass and interact with students. They were given no official platform, were instructed not to speak with groups, and were forbidden from passing out any supplementary information. When Riders were seen giving information about the days events to students when requested, they were cited for trespassing and required to leave.

The following day, the Equality Riders returned to lay a memorial wreath at the statue of Notre Dam alum Tom Dooley, a gay military commander. They were led by student Eddie Velasquez. Jonathan will be blogging about the experience later. Here is a video documenting Notre Dame’s response.

Wrapping up in South Bend

Honoring GLBT Catholics silenced by the University and the Church

Six riders were arrested today for bringing three wreaths onto the Notre Dame campus to honor GLBT students and alumni
who have been silenced by the University and the Church. One was to be placed at the statue of Tom Dooley, a gay military commander and ND alum, and two at the prestine Grotto, a place of prayer and reflection. The Equality Riders never reached their destination but student Eddie Valasquez, accompanied by his friend, carried the wreath to Tom Dooley's statue.

This evening, I received an email from a Notre Dame student with whom I had interacted with during our time on and off campus. This is what he wrote:

Dear Brian,

I cannot truly express how thankful I am that the equality ride stopped at Notre Dame. Though a few friend of my friends know I'm gay and have been extremely supportive, I still have to put on a facade of a straight man in my classes, in public areas and around other friends. Having yall here on campus gave me confidence in myself and the person I am. I chose to come to Notre Dame for its strong catholic identity, since i was raised catholic all my life, and because of the Marching Band. I came out here at Notre Dame because 1) I was away from my family, and 2) I wanted to be myself. Unfortunately, the campus is very conservative so the second one is a little tough.

I applaude you and the rest of the riders for the wonderful work you are doing. I wish yall the best for your other experiences at other campuses. Thanks to you I have actually decided to go to mass this sunday, which i have not been to in the past 6 months.

Let the rest of the team know how much grateful I am for meeting yall, and i will pray for yall for a safe travel.

With tons of love for all the riders,

He will be in my thoughts throughout the rest of this ride, reminding me of the importance of this endeavour.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Reflections on Yesterday

At 10:00am we made our way onto Notre Dame campus, escorted by a gay student and trailed by campus police. We interacted with a few students outside the Basilica before going inside for Mass. Jennifer and Landon joined me and it was amazing to worship with them. Looking around at the ornate decorations and observing the millenia old tradition, all of my old qualms with Catholicism swelled up inside of me. But as I observed the late attendees enter and kneel before making their way across the row or worshipers lift their hands in prayer, I realized that there was a deep faith working here too. No religion is perfect--mine an Catholicism both included--but God is. And where his followers come together to celebrate the Divine, there it is too.

Emil and I got lunch with Jennifer and Landon before listening to two Notre Dame students speaking about their experience being gay and lesbian at the school. Kelsey and Deflin shared their own stories about growing up Catholic and the pain of being excluded from the church.

The riders milled about afterwards for awhile. I gave Jennifer and Landon information about the off-campus event we were holding later in the day. I also gave a student the same information. Emil gave his friend some more information. For that act, we were given official notices of trespassing and asked to leave the campus.

As I walked away I felt a little uneasy. Should we have not handed anything out (even when asked) and stayed on campus to stay. I wasn't sure. That evening, the Notre Dame student came to our function at the Zion United Church of Christ. Any doubt I had earlier was immediately vanquished. He also met up with us at the local cafe for lunch. And brought a friend to the film screening this afternoon.

It was worth it.

Mobile Update

Notre Dame arrested 6 riders and threatened a student with immediate suspension for bringing wreaths in memorial of silenced GLBT NDers

Sent from Treo

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Tresspass Notice

You are hereby notified that you are on private property owned by the Universirt of Notre Dame. As a private property holder, the University has the right to tell you that you are not wanted on university property.

By copy of this notice, the university official named below is providing you with written warning that you must leave, and not return to, any property owned by the university. If you should be found on university property in the future, you will be arrested for criminal trespass. A copy of this notice will be retained by the university for that purpose.

After mass and lunch today I gave my friends Jennifer and Landon a map to the local church where we will be having a function later tonight. Shortly after I spoke with a gay student who expressed his excitement that we had come to his campus. He's allowed to be out he says, but it is uncomfortable everywhere. He told me that he feels uncomfortable speaking in classes. For the first time, I understood that being silenced for being gay was real. A university official informed me that I was not allowed to pass out information to students and since I had done that, I would be officially warned for trespassing.

Rider Justin Hager gave a student a pin when, upon seeing her friend wearing one, she asked him for one. He was asked to leave.

Rider Emil Pohlig gave a gay student more information about our events tonight. He was asked to leave.

Two Notre Dame students who spoke to a group of other students in the Student Center had their information taken down for possible disciplinary action.

The First Morning

As I sit in my hotel room, waiting for my other roommates to finish getting ready so that we can go down to breakfast together, I'm not sure if the reality of the Equality Ride has set in yet. Yes I went to Austin, TX and Minneapolis, MN for two weeks of training. Yes I drove on a bus for 12 hours, through 4 states to arrive at my destination. Yes I have already talked to my Notre Dame friends who I will get to see in only a short time. But somehow, it still doesn't feel real yet.

I think that is a blessing. I have never known overt homophobia. I have never been scared at my school. At all times, even if I ran into a bump or two along the way, I was surrounded with support systems. I do not have any experiences that might help fully understand the spiritual void that I am about to step into.

I do however know that this must be done. I remember experiencing the change that Rebecca's friend experienced when he came to Los Angeles with her for the Notre Dame football game. He shouldn't have to travel across the country to feel good in his own skin. He shouldn't have to leave his school and his faith community.

If we can start making other students think about this, maybe change is possible. If we can visualize a world in which all of God's children all loved and accepted, exactly as the Creator made them, we can create it.

I pray that students would be open to us. I don't pray that they would be "converted" to our message. Rather I pray that their hearts would be open to our hearts. That we can listen to each other's stories. That we can learn from each other. That we can connect on a basic human level. And when that happens, I'm confident that everyone will agree that oppression of any of God's children is an unacceptable travesty.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

Monday, March 05, 2007

And so it begins

After a much delayed start due to a oh-so-beautiful Minneapolis snow storm, Equality Ride training is up and running full steam ahead. We've been training for two days and I don't even know where to begin. We are accomplishing so much so quickly that it all seems like one big blur. I wonder what it will all look like in a few months when I look back with perspective.

Today was eye-opening in a lot of ways. Peterson Toscano spoke about his 17-years in the ex-gay movement. It was moving to have a personal story to hear in contrast to the personal stories of the ex-gay leaders. He challenged us/they to find one person who has been out of the movement for over five years who isn't a leader, staff, or volunteer. He's never met one.

The latter half of the day was spent with non-violence training. Rev Phil Lawson spoke to us about his experiences as a leader during the civil rights movement and biblical basis for non-violent ministry and social justice action. Having an outsider, a heterosexual, an adult, a civil rights leader, a minister speak to me about the Equality Ride and of its importance will be reassuring to remember when we are being attacked on campuses and told that we aren't "real" Christians.

We also spent substantial time dealing about the realities of confrontation that we will face on these campuses. While we come to engage in dialogue, there is always a possibility that we will be met with violence; be it physical or verbal. We had to simulate verbal attacks on our fellow riders (and be the recipients of it as well). Growing up in Washington, DC and going to school in Los Angeles I have been sheltered from any sort of real personal attacks so it was especially unnerving to hear such awful things being said to and about people I already care so much about. What is worse is that there are people in this world who hear those things all of the time.

Emotions were running as people struggled to hear themselves being the perpatrators of such verbal violence but at the same time, I think we now have a more human perspective of our "adversaries" and can understand what they must be going through a little better.

There's so much to absorb and digest and out of respect for all of the riders, I think I'm going to have to make that a personal process. Our task is weighty, but so important.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Despite assurances from the agents in LA to the contrary, my connecting flight from Phoenix to Minneapolis was cancelled. I have a "flight" "booked" for tomorrow afernoon. Here's to hoping that doesn't get cancelled as well.

A 2006 Equality Rider should be able to put me up tonight. But for now, I'm making myself comfortable on the floor.

Sent from Treo


"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

I remember the very first time my mother taught me that verse. It was at YoungLife's Windy Gap camp in North Carolina. It made an indelible impression on me and I often go back to that verse in Issiah for strength.

As it turns out, that verse is also Meilee's favorite verse. And today, as my mom did so many years ago, she told it to me to give me courage. I carry them both (and the countless other friends who continue to support me) with me as I board my plane and venture into the great unknown.

Lord, give me strength. And here I go!

Sent from Treo

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