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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Playlist for 2009

What songs are bringing me into the new year? I've compiled 15 songs; some new, most old, that are jamming in my music player as I wrap-up 2008 and get energized for 2009. You can get a partial playlist on iTunes here.

"Power to to the People" by Black Eyed Peas
From the Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur album, this new take on a John Lennon classic is perfect as I continue to understand the interconnection of justice struggles. "Power to the People" moves.

"Talkin' Bout A Revolution" by Tracy Chapman
As I read Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution, I remembered how groovy the sounds of Tracy Chapman are. In much the same way that "Turn Me Around" talks about building a brand new world, "Talkin' Bout A Revolution" imagines that world and reminds us that the first step might sound like a whisper, but it's the start of a revolution.

"Give Me Your Eyes" by Brandon Heath

"All those people going somehow, why have I never cared?

"Give me your eyes for just one second. Give your eyes so I can see, everything that I've been missing. Give me your love humanity. Give me your arms for the broken-hearted, the ones that have fallen beyond my reach. Give me your heart for the ones forgotten. Give me your eyes so I can see."
A prophetic reminder of the Good News and an equally necessary reminder that I can't do on my own.

"This Is Love" by Jason & deMarco
Sometimes, it's not all about work. "This Is Love" reminds me what it's already about. Sometimes, justice means being able to listen to sappy love songs.

"Kenji" by Fort Minor
My good friend Meilee first introduced me to this song about the internment camps during World War II. I can't, and frankly don't want to be, an advocate for a partial justice. While Japanese Americans were being interred in the States, homosexuals were being interred and executed in Nazi-controlled Europe. Interconnection--I'm feelin' it these days.

"I Have Forgiven Jesus" by Morissey
I first heard this song on the 2007 Equality Ride when a professor played it at George Fox University for his class before our presentation. It's raw and reminds me that not all wounds heal nicely.

"Awake O'Sleeper" by Nicholas Kirk
A blogsophere discovery, this song and music video came to me by way of Hacking Christianity. The video is so beautiful, you're getting an embed:

Awake O'Sleeper from Brandon McCormick on Vimeo.

"Meant to Live" by The String Quartet
Can I call the Switchfoot original a classic? If so, then this instrumental take on a classic is relaxing and energizing. I can play it while falling to sleep or while working on a campaign.

"Stand by Me" from the Playing for Change soundtrack
What happens when filmmakers capture street performers around the world singing one song? Something soul moving. Don't we all need someone to stand by us? As 2009 rolls into motion, I'm surrounded by a family, a community, and a world who could stand by me.

"Travelin' Through" by Dolly Parton
I never quite understood the "breakthrough" of having a female actor play a female character, but TransAmerica was the first look at trans folk that many Americans took, so that says something. Dolly Parton is classic Americana and her song, about love, loss, family, and finding our way, is equally American. As natural as, say, being trans. Upbeat and a little quirky, this song reminds me that life is a journey.

"I Celebrate the Day" by Relient K
My housemate Matt introduced this song to me a week before Christmas and though it is technically a holiday song, I'll be listening to it year round. I actually can't decide on my favorite line.
The first time that you opened your eyes, did you realize that you would be my savior?
And the first breath, that left your lips, did you know that it would change this world forever?
A refugee baby born in a dirty, stinky shed ushered in God incarnate and the world forever.

"The Long Way Around" by Dixie Chicks
I've been listening to this album since it hit the shelves. Sometimes I'll go months at a time without tuning into the Chicks, but this album, and this song, will always have a place in my music collection. Unlike other justice struggles, queer folks must often navigate hostility in places which should be safe--their homes, neighborhoods, friend circles, and faith communities. "The Long Way Around" feels real, yet hopeful, to me.

"Poverty" by Jason Upton
"There's a power in poverty that breaks principalities and brings the authorities down to their knees. [...] And who will praise when we've praised all our lives men who build kingdoms and men who build fame? [...]"
The instrumentation is simple, the lyrics are haunting. I appreciate that the songwriter doesn't offer us guidelines or suggestions to follow, but rather asks us questions, punctuating each line with a pause as the question hangs in the air. What will we do? What will we do?

"Climb On (A Back That's Strong)" by Reverse Osmosis
My good friend Katherine Good is a beautiful singer and her a capella group from USC, Reverse Osmosis, is a staple in my music collection. "Climb On" picks me up when I'm down and, to be honest, is fun to sing along with.

"Love Today" by Mika
I'll be honest, I avoided Mika for over a year. He gave a cocky-sounding interview in which he claimed he didn't understand why he wasn't more of a superstar in the "gay community" simply because his sexuality is ambiguous and his songs are peppy. Then I heard "Love Today" and I caved. I mean, the beat is REALLY FUN and so it's the bookend to this playlist.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Lines In The Sand

With the selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation at the Obama inauguration and the ensuing brouhaha stirring among some advocates of gay rights/equality, I've been stewing on my own position. Here's where I'm at:

Gay people, and gay relationships, are absolutely and unequivocally on equal footing as their straight counterparts. There are many issues that invite healthy and productive debate, this is not one of them. There are not multiple valid perspectives. To denigrate queer identities and relationships is to place oneself opposite of truth, justice, God, and ultimately history. We certainly don't say that there is room for healthy debate around interracial marriage, or the rights of Christians to exist without persecution. As Mel White once said, the *issue* is not up for debate.

But I want the *people* who find themselves on the other side of recognizing my complete humanity as close to me as possible. I want to eat with them, work with them, pray with them.

When the Equality Ride was at Wisconsin Lutheran University, the chaplain (or dean or someone) refused to pray with us. I don't remember his title, but I remember the hurt we all felt. We were ready and willing to pray with them, it wasn't a charade or a stunt. And so I'm ready to eat, to speak, to work, and to pray with Rick Warren. I'm equally ready to call upon Obama to live up to his campaign promises and lead us toward justice for gay and transgender people. I'm ready to show Rick Warren and others who believe similarly how wrong they are by my actions. I'm ready to create a new kind of Christianity--one that takes the words of Jesus seriously and offers real solutions, not mere platitudes about love and service. I'm committed to deep, transformative change; not superficial tokenism. This is a start, it is absolutely not enough.

I've got to believe that Rick Warren can become a fierce ally for LGBT people, his invocation can be the first step. That's change I can believe in.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Support the Shiministim

Israeli teenagers are boldly standing up to their government and refusing required military service on the grounds of conscientious objection, mostly due to the occupation of Palestine. These young people, many seniors in high school, defy pressure of family, friends, and the state--many who would see them as traitors--to hold fast to their convictions.

You can support these courageous young people--the Shministim--by signing a letter to the Israeli Minister of Defense at December18th.org. Jewish-Israeli peace activists will be hand-delivering these letters so add your voice today!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reflections by Matt

My friend and housemate Matt Beams wrote a touching reflection on the brand new SFNYC blog, blog:justice.

Check it out.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Spread Holiday Cheer (and Economic Justice)

It's winter, and with the winter comes Christmas and general holiday cheer. Looking for an exciting alternative to the same drug-store cards you send out ever year? Check out Cards From Africa! You can find local retailers or order online. The cards come as individuals or in discounted multi-packs. Not only are they an artful alternative, they are created by orphaned young people who now the support the household. All of the cardmakers are 18+, their salaries are above market wage (approximately 5 times), they help the employees save, create a model of business so that cardmakers can become business owners, and the cards are made from recovered materials that would have been discarded. Living wage, Fair Trade, sustainable.

And beautiful.

This holiday, give cards with character.

Friday, December 05, 2008

To Be Or Not To Be

A key component of Soulforce is studying the life and works of Gandhi, King Jr., and other non-violent thinkers and actors. Gandhi famously advised his followers—and the world—to be the change that we wish to see. My friend Shane Claiborne writes that often the saints and world-changers end up relegated to stained glass windows and coffee table books (after they're executed or assassinated, of course). That we want to venerate them safely from a distance. "Be the change" has a nice ring to it, feels good, and makes for a catchy movie tagline. But what does it mean? Do I really want to be the change? The answer changes everything. If I don't, that's fine. I can live a life of detached isolation both from my own problems and the problems around me. There is something to be said for creating a comfortable life and enjoying it with loved ones. I won't fault anyone for deciding against being the change. I ask myself almost daily, is this the life that I want?

But if I decide to be the change I wish to see in the world—if I truly mean it—then everything must change. Being the change is more than believing in myself, or even surrounding myself with like-minded friends. "To be" is both a state of existence and also a verb and "being change" requires making a deliberate effort to do differently than I've done thus far. What does being the change look like?

For Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. there was an inextricable element of sacrifice. "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable," he said, rather "every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." When I say "be the change you wish to see in the world," is this what I mean? Am I prepared to struggle and sacrifice for the cause of justice? Is this the choice that I want to make? How will I make those choices today?

In some ways, the answer seems clear to me. Gandhi reminds me that, "The sacrifice which causes sorrow to the doer of the sacrifice is no sacrifice. Real sacrifice lightens the mind of the doer and gives him a sense of peace and joy. The Buddha gave up the pleasures of life because they had become painful to him." My cable television, my iPod, my luxury studio apartment have all fallen away as they have become burdens too heavy to bear. I still make daily decisions: what to eat, whether to take the subway, when to upgrade my cellphone, what presents to give my friends and family. I even indulge in luxury—spending on trips, clothes, gifts to myself, upgrades to business class as I travel. I am by no means an ascetic (or even a full-time vegetarian), that would be too easy. Rather, I try, at the very least, to be conscious of the decisions that I make. May I never pontificate about being the change while remaining comfortably complacent. When I need to be comfortably complacent, I should own and in live in that space. I'm going to allow myself that choice, otherwise the choice to "be the change" is not really a choice.

There was a time when I made a choice to sacrifice two months of my life to participate in the Equality Ride. Or even to sacrifice two minutes of my life to send an email to a senator. These are choices for change. Being the change begins in simple decisions. Let me make no illusions, I'm writing this from the business class of an Acela Express train. It was a long weekend, holiday traffic would be rough if I were to take a bus, I have a full week of work ahead of me. I'm choosing to take the train—and a nice one at that. I'm returning to a house in New Jersey where I live with three friends (and pay only $400 each for rent)--I'm choosing to live in community. I commit some hours every week to work with Soulforce NYC, The Simple Way, and Marble Church. In some ways sacrifice, in others, the only way I want it to be--I'm choosing to work for justice. Being the change comes through choices.

As I continue to mull "what comes next" for advocacy around queer issues, I keep coming back to "be the change." I want to "fix" New York State, the Christian church, and the United States of America. Then I want to fix Iran, Africa, and the rest of the world. And I want to tackle poverty and all forms of oppression simultaneously. I want to scheme, to be the mastermind, and to get paid handsomely along the way! But that is not the advice I've been given. I've been asked by Gandhi to simply be the change. Similarly, Dr. Norris in his sermon on 1 John this past Sunday at Fourth Presbyterian Church advised us to hate the sins that we commit, and in doing so, actively repent of them. Be the change, in other words. I commit many sins and in my personal life, I'm going to take explicit stock of them and meditate on ways that I can turn around and change. I'm doing the same in my life as an activist.

  • Who have I taken for granted?
  • Who have I had too little faith in?
  • What assumptions do I continue to carry?
  • In my quest for equality, am I stepping on or silencing anyone (including those that I perceive as the opposition)?
  • What perspectives am I writing off? Is there anything to learn from them?
  • What voices am I not exposed to or am I ignoring?
  • How am I insulating or isolating myself from others?
  • How am I ostracizing others from myself?
At our meeting last week, Soulforce NYC asked ourselves many of these same questions and committed to chart a new path in our personal lives and in the life of the organization. I invite you to join us next week on Tuesday December 9 at 6:30 PM in Room 401 of the LGBT Center as we continue to bring our commitments to life and embody the vision of justice and equality for all.

May we never quote Gandhi, King, Jesus, or any other saint without choosing to follow their lead.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Humanity Detached From Sanity

An 11-point list of what to do in a terrorist attack,
which starts with "rescue is a myth" and ends with
"kill without hesitation."

Masters programs in Homeland Security
But did the department make us secure?

It is the myth of redemptive violence.

Shopping sprees turned into
Shopping stampedes turned into
Death by shopping

It is our consumer culture intensified, as sunlight through a microscope
It is the abuse in our products, laid out for us to see

Prayers to God for blessings and protection on our soldiers
As they kill, maim, and torture
Where are the prayers for their transformation and healing?
When will pray for and support those who want out?
Who will listen to their stories when they return?
How noble of us to "Support the troops" with our slogans and flags,
While we send them to die and to kill
And institutionalize them when they fail to just,
return to normal

Let us beat swords into plowshares and study war no more!

With wars across the world
With an economy in peril
Why are we not stopping to ask, "Why?"
Why is it done this way?

Why do we insist that the way which isn't working
Is the only way?

This is humanity detached from sanity

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nonviolence Begins Within

My friend and Soulforce Q director Haven Herrin included this message in the most recent Soulforce update. As always, her way with words does justice to her insight.

Last week, Soulforce offered a call to action. Now is the time to take it to the streets, we said, and people are indeed peacefully rising up across the country in response to the passing of Proposition 8. Never has the need been greater to reach out to hearts and minds, as we are seeing in Arkansas, Arizona, California and Florida the legislative effects of hearts that have not heard us.

And with that challenge to action, I would like to add the equally important call to be nonviolent within the LGBT community. Blaming any one "demographic" of citizens for the passing of Proposition 8 does not stand up to the scrutiny of statistics, and it drives a wedge into our community. Process matters, and in honoring that dictum, morality and decency ask that we work even harder to make the LGBT community a safe space for all, regardless of ethnicity, faith, ability, or class. It is important to support our fellow activists in our layered, diverse identities. A beautiful aspect of the LGBT community is that we are everywhere; none of us is one-dimensional in our identities, and all of us are part of a web of social justice issues, including but not limited to LGBT equality, that must progress.

I hope that we may all be diverse in our allied communities and in our work. Nonviolence is not just for reaching out to our adversaries. It is also for building relationships that comprise a safe, strong network that supports all activists in coming out, sharing stories, and changing the hearts of our friends, family, co-workers, faith leaders, and neighbors.

Soulforce is working toward embodying all that nonviolence requires of us. Please visit the Soulforce website to learn about our work at the intersections of identity during the American Family Outing this past spring, or engage with our current work in the same vein in the Equality Ride.

Haven Herrin
Director of Soulforce Q

Read the original call to action by Executive Director Jeff Lutes at www.365gay.com/opinion/soulforce-time-to-take-it-to-the-streets

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What will it take?

There is a dynamism between movement inward and movement outward; perhaps an energy and a potential is release in the friction between the two.

Videos, such as this one (hat tip to Brian McLaren), are a reminder. As we learn, how can we not act?

The state of world affairs can be overwhelming. At a small group discussion around The Irresistible Revolution at my church recently, a friend shared that Shane's litany caused him to shut down (he also wondered aloud if it was selective). I'm itching to find small, simple, concrete steps I can take toward justice; and to be honest, a bit scared of what that means for life as I know it.

Here's what I've done recently:
* Invested in three Kiva entrepreneurs
* Talked to friends and co-workers about transgender awareness and bias-based crimes
* Offered support to a new friend who doesn't have a stable housing situation or job
* Donated a small amount to Soulforce Q's international outreach
* Blogged about poverty
* Attended an Ecclesia worship service

Here's what I'd like to do:
* Do a better job of understanding issues facing my friends (around race, homelessness, gender, etc) so that I can be a part of the solution and part of the problem.
* Trace my food and clothing back to its source and make sure I support individuals all along the way
* Call my sister at least once a week just to talk
* Open up my futon to a person in need of a place to sleep at night
* Find a way for our church to open up the building to those sleeping on their steps

Here are some questions I have:
* Is there something inherently condescending/paternalistic about being intentional about "developing relationships with people different than me?" What does different even mean?
* What issues in my own life have I failed to even notice?
* In what ways can I ask and receive help and support from others?
* What are my friends doing that I can join in on?
* What is the motivation behind all of this?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Get non-violence training before Saturday's rally!

Join The Impact NYC Rally
Join The  Impact gathering
As you may have heard, a grassroots movement called Join The Impact has sprung up in the days since the election to organize rallies in every state in the union on Saturday November 15 for the cause of LGBT equality. A gathering in New York City is scheduled for 1:30 PM at City Hall. While this is not a SFNYC organized event, I will be there and I hope to see you there as well! We recognize that marriage is not a city issue, however city halls are traditional gathering places for communities, and it is fitting for us to gather there as others across the country do the same. We are not protesting the city but rather standing up and being counted--that we are passionate about the cause of justice for LGBTQ people, that discrimination in all forms is unbefitting of our society, that gay relationships should be supported equally with straight ones, and also to remind ourselves that the journey for LGBT equality does not begin nor end with marriage.
Non-Violence Training at 11:30Non-Violence at Patrick Henry College
In preparation for the rally, Micah and I will be leading a non-violence training for Soulforce NYC. This will cover non-violence of the heart, communication messaging, and courageous responses to violent action. Marble Collegiate Church, located at 29th St & 5th Ave, has graciously opened their building to us for this occasion. We will meet from 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM before traveling to City Hall together to arrive by 1:30 PM.
We hope that if you are planning on attending the rally, that you will join us for this training so that we can be prepared to boldly confront this important issue.

Feel free to invite your friends.

See you this Saturday!
Facebook event information here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Finding The Next Step

One of my best friends Micah writes today,

i don't want to protest the mormon church.

i don't want to protest city hall (i'll be there on saturday because i think it's important to stand in solidarity and be counted, i just think there are better messaging strategies).

i want to be intentional. i want my actions to make sense. i want to identify and address the source rather than the effects of oppression.

i want connection, narrative, humanity.

vulnerability, integrity, conviction.

i want to do something radical: i want to live my beliefs.
I know that we are both racking our hearts, minds, and souls to find our next steps. There is a part of me that is reacting to a great hurt caused by Proposition 8; but equally there is a recognition that this longing and these next steps are larger than any piece of legislation. My pastor Rev. Lewicki reflected on the movement between inward- and outward-focused energy in the life of faith. It feels as if I'm standing on the edge between inward-focused study, reflection, meditation, and preparation and outward-focused faith in action.

Where are you in life today? Inward-focused or outward-focused? And what do you want? What steps are do you feel called to that are perhaps not the steps you're used to?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Marriage Rally in NYC

A demonstration in response to California's Proposition 8 will occur this Wednesday at 6:30 PM in front of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Temple in Manhattan. While over five million Californians voted in favor of Proposition 8, the LDS temple has been selected because the church officially urged members to donate time and money to the cause, estimates place donations from LDS members at 40-80% of total donations. As you may have heard, rallies have taken place across California, including one at the LA LDS temple; recently a protest was staged at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, UT. We feel it is important for you to know of this gathering in New York City, especially since religious rhetoric directly fueled support for Proposition 8.

I want to make it clear that Mormons are not our enemy. Many of my Mormon friends publicly opposed Proposition 8, giving their time, talent, and money for LGBT equality. In the aftermath of Proposition 8, a straight Mormon friend of mine held a sign reading "Churches can repent too," outside of his temple. Seeking Forgiveness is a blog featuring letters of apology from Mormons across the country, repenting on behalf of their church. You can read an open apology to the gay community here.

We understand that misinformation and misunderstanding--not individuals--are the sources of injustice against LGBT people. These rallies and protests can be a necessary and productive way for us to express our hurt, anger, and disappointment; they also serve to bring us together as a community. It is my hope that as you participate in the rally at the LDS temple, that you will bring with you a spirit of reconciliation. Use this rally as a place to express your deep and sincere hurt. The pain is real, let us grieve. And as we grieve, let us open up doors to justice; enrolling all people: gay and straight, Christian and atheist, Mormon or not, in the pursuit of of LGBT equality.

We invite you to use this rally as a conversation starter for friends and co-workers, to let it be your first step in activism, to use it as a catalyst for your friend's first steps into activism, as a place to grieve, as a place to be inspired. I invite you read and consider the journey into soulforce and the pledge to non-violence as you prepare for the rally this Wednesday.

Prop 8 Protest in New York City

Peaceful demonstration Wednesday night, November 12, 6:30 pm, New York Manhattan Mormon Temple, 125 Columbus Ave at 65th Street, New York, NY:

" Tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters are in the streets in California and Salt Lake City and around the country protesting the votes banning same-sex marriage in California. Join them! Make your voices heard right here in New York City. We will tell the Mormon Church how we feel about its relentless campaign to condemn and control our lives. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was, by far, the biggest financer of California's heinous and hateful Proposition 8. The Mormon Church begged their members to donate money to Prop 8, pouring 20 million dollars into the campaign. And their attacks on us didn't start there and aren't about to end. They're plotting right now to bring their money and influence to bear against the LGBT community everywhere in this country, including trying to prevent marriage equality in New York. "

Facebook event: http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php#/event.php?eid=57450719688

This rally is not the only way to be active in the pursuit of justice for LGBT people. As the reality of Proposition 8 sets in, many of us are looking for new ways to become involved. Please email me at brian@sfnyc.org to find ways to engage the issues, change hearts and minds, and create equality!

A Hurt That Cries Out For Justice

As the pain of Proposition 8 continues to settle in, a few more voices come to mind. First and foremast is that of anonymous Gordon College student (from If I Told You) who says,

God knows that I am just looking for the same thing everyone else is: a little love in a cold world.

I won’t find that love in my family, my friends, my school, my church, or some random guy.

That love comes from God and is the only thing I have left to hold on to. Don’t try to take it away from me. You can take away my self-esteem and my dignity; you can kick me out of church and deny me rights; you can physically beat me or call me names; you can laugh at me and you can pity me; but you can never, never take away my God.

Or I will no longer be human.
Proposition 8 did something that no other anti-gay ballot initiative has done, it took away our rights. Unlike in Arizona or Florida, where the measures were redundant, the CA amendment changed the Constitution to remove protections and privileges for some citizens.

And yet, we are still here. LGBT people and their friends have taken to the streets. Proposition 8 may have erased from the law, but it will not--cannot--erase us completely. The protests and the gatherings may not change policy, they may not even change hearts and minds, but they are a collective cry that "we are still human, we are still human."

I also here Maya Angelou's famous words "Still I Rise"

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

And lastly, I remember the words of Audre Lorde, from The Black Unicorn


For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive

We speak in the notes of condolences, we speak in conversations making sense of our lives and our future, we speak as we organize, we speak with signs, we speak with our bodies, we speak in protest, we speak over dinner.

We speak, we love, we live. We are here. Proposition 8 is a source of great pain for many, may that pain turn into cries for justice that move a nation. Find your voice, perhaps it starts with a Facebook note, but never let it end. Foster it, nurture it, spread it. It starts out as a thought, "I am as I should be," which turns into a word, which then grows into conversations and discussions, rallies, and movements.

Speak, for that is all you need to do.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Despite the hurt, ain't gonna let nobody

Two days after the stinging passage of Proposition 8 in California, a deep ache pierces my stoic exterior. As I resolve to not wallow in anger or vent aimlessly and I begin to take action, I feel my soul moving and a movement stirring as news comes in from Los Angeles:

It is time.

"Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" has been a constant refrain in the literal march for justice. It was sung during the quest for racial integration "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around, gonna keep on walkin', keep on talkin', marchin' up to Freedom Land." "Ain't gonna let no Jim Crow turn me around," "Ain't gonna let no fire hose turn me around."

On the Equality Ride, leaders who sang those songs passed them along to us adding "Ain't gonna let homophobia, turn me around," "Ain't gonna let administrators turn me around," "Ain't gonna let no handcuffs turn me around, gonna keep on walkin', keep on talkin', gonna build a brand new world."

Today let us add another verse "Ain't gonna let me no proposition turn me around." To walking, and talking, in the streets, in churches, synagogues, and mosques, in our living rooms, and our classrooms, in city halls, in public parks, from the margins to the center of power ... to building our brand new world!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

An Open Letter to California Queers

We didn't think it could really happen. The court handed down a compelling decision, the weddings had begun, photos were spreading, presents were streaming in, joy was contagious. This is California, we are safe. A few Facebook notes and status updates, along with perhaps a donation or two, would suffice in maintaining our civil rights. Nevermind only our like-minded friends read our Facebook and our blogs. Nevermind the polls. Nevermind the Mormon Church. There were rallies in West Hollywood and San Fransisco. Gavin Newsom gave a speech. “It's here whether you like it or not,” we were promised. We could observe from a distance, from the comfort of our living rooms, safely removed by a computer monitor.

But it did happen, didn't it? Five million one hundred sixty three thousand nine hundred eight people voted in favor of Proposition 8. Five million! Can you even wrap your mind around that number? I cannot. And here's the rub: those five million people aren't bad people, some of them even have gay friends. Five million Californians decided that it was good conscience and a good use of government to remove my constitutional equality and deny me marriage. Many (most?) of them may have felt this position is in line with the way the world is or should be—heterosexual relationships only.

And so today I'm not angry—I'm not going to yell about the bigots—I am challenged. There are five million people in the state of California that I have not reached. They do not know me and know what I bring to our community. Worse, they felt compelled to vote against fundamental rights for other humans. That is an awful place to be.

As I begin to wrap my mind around what Proposition 8 means for myself, my future relationships, my friends, and my country, I pause. Facebook status updates and blog posts were not enough to stave off Proposition 8, I cannot allow myself to believe that they will undo it. If history has anything to teach us, it is that great change does not come without great sacrifice--time, comfort, money, energy. Reaching out to Latino Catholics, Republicans in Central CA, Mormon neighbors, anti-gay co-workers, our sweet but uninformed grandparents, our cousins, even our vaguely supportive friends, and on and on; not with posters, stickers, signs or chants but with relationships and over shared meals and experiences. Deep connections, real enrollment. This is my plea to queer folks and our friends: do not update your Facebook status anymore about Prop 8, do not write another blog post about how insulted, offended, hurt, betrayed or disappointed you are. Take those feelings and that time and channel them toward the five million Californians who failed to connect with your humanity.

This is what I am going to do:

  • Write a card to all of my queer married friends in California, expressing my love and support
  • Host a small group at my church to unpack the decision, convey its effects, and further the movement toward acceptance and advocacy within our denomination.
  • Visit my elected officials to enroll their support for marriage equality in my state and return to visit as often.
From here out, I will only update my status or write blog posts to speak about my actions. I realized today that five million Californians didn't fail me, I failed five million Californians, and I— we—can change that.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day Reflections: Prop 8

I have an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and it's not from the street food I just ate. This is not the first time anti-gay measures and amendments have been on the ballot, it may not even be the last. This time it hits closer to home. I've lived in California, in many ways I still have a life in California. But I think, even more than that, it feels like this current bliss may have been nothing more than a cruel joke.

I can't help but think of my friends Diana and Robin, as each "Yes" or "No" ballot drops in piles next to their altar, millions crashing their wedding reception to offer unwanted toasts or jests.

As the residents of California are being asked to vote on every relationship I've had and every one I might form, I have to ask myself "Am I on trial?" It's like being on Survivor or Big Brother or something ... will we be voted off the island? Of course, I don't weigh in my parent's marriage, or my cousin's, or John McCain's, or even Bradgelina's lack thereof. But today strangers thousands of miles away are weighing in on mine. They're telling me whether I will be safe and secure should I return, they're telling me how many of my close friends will be treated. It's weird.

My married friends will continue to be married in their hearts, families, and communities regardless of what happens today. How awful is that--that I need to remind myself that stripping rights from millions of citizens won't completely destroy them? Thousands of couples currently married in California may have that whisked away from them. Friends, my friends, my married friends making a life together, finally recognized and supported by the state may have the rug pulled out from under them. ... But they will be strong and persevere. We will support them anyway, I will support them.

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to act. Confident that Prop 8 will be defeated? Defiant that a law can't undo my humanity? Embarrassed that our country in general and my former state in particular are even considering this measure? Scared that it might pass? Anxious that my relationship is on the line?

Perhaps in this moment I am supposed to find strength and faith. Strength to make sure this doesn't happen in other states. Strength to support my friends regardless of outcome. Strength to trust myself and my relationships. Strength to have tough conversations. And faith to know that whatever the outcome, I am good.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Update: SFNYC, Giving, and Bible discussions at CMU

First off, Soulforce NYC is in gearing up in many new and exciting ways like never before. We're collaborating with Vassar College's Act Out for an event in a few weeks, moving forward with a spring campaign, and finally finally bringing in new voices and ideas. It feels soooo good and I've been waiting close to a year for the wheels to finally start spinning.

As the economic uncertainty continues, I recently read an article forecasting that Americans would simply find new and cheaper ways to indulge, rather than question the consumerist me-at-the-cost-of-others centered attitude. While I've given money recently to the Equality Ride and to No On 8 in California, it's been awhile since I've invested in small businesses worldwide through Kiva. Aziza Khamis and her friend Mtumuwa own small business making and selling "chipsi" (french fries) in Zanzibar. Through her business, Aziza is able to bring in $240 in profits each month. The loan, which I'm a part of, will help her buy ingredients to expand sales! My other Kiva loans are in the process of being repaid so I only had to contribute an additional $8.25 ... easy!

Micah and I returned from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA last night and I have many reactions to share. As I process them myself, I'll put them up here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than with a music video?

Hacking Christianity posted this video and wondered if the ending didn't completely undermine the message. I can't decide if the ending is purposefully vague--leaving us with the reality that we are free to to decide how to react to Jesus's sacrificial death--or if the filmmakers buy into (the myth of) redemptive violence. In either case, the cinematography is beautiful.

Awake O'Sleeper from Brandon McCormick on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Meet A Rider: Alex Lundy

I think the Equality Ride is distinct in that it acknowledges the connection between religion and heterosexism. It does not discount it from the discussion or demand that folks "get their Bible out of school policies." Instead, it boldly meets people where they are. It affirms my unwavering personal stance that all people have the right to be freed from prejudice, no matter what their sexual orientation, faith, or personal beliefs may be. Every person has the right to feel empowered by truth and knowledge, and not become a victim of misinformation. Everyone is entitled to experience love, to love themselves and to love others. All people have to right to feel safe in their schools, churches, communities, and homes. And all students have the right to participate in higher education.

I am a living embodiment of change.

Support the Equality Ride by sponsoring Alex.

Meet the other riders.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When it comes to power, under is never equal

It's a busy day and I do not have time for my own writing today. Hectic work schedule followed by phone banking at the Task Force tonight. However, a post by Mimi Haddad came across my reader that I had to pass along.

Here is a fierce excerpt:

Gender is not the basis upon which authority in marriage or the church is determined. Remember, Paul tells all Christians to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). Wives have authority over their husbands’ bodies, just as husbands have authority over their wives’ bodies (1 Corinthians 7:4). Paul celebrates the spiritual authority of female apostles (Romans 16:1); prophets (1 Corinthians 11:3-5, 1 Corinthians 14:31, Acts 2:17; 21:9); house church leaders (Romans 16:13-15, 40, 1 Corinthians 1:11, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Philemon 1:2, and 2 John 1:1); deacons (Romans 16:1); teachers of the gospel (Acts 18:26); evangelists (Philemon 4:3, Romans 16:3); and those who do the very heaviest of gospel-labor (Romans 16:12). Paul calls others to submit to Stephanas’ entire household (1 Corinthians 16:15-16), including slaves as well as women who were part of this household ministry. Slaves, free, Greeks, Jews, men, women, the educated, and the illiterate shared spiritual authority — as they shared in the risen life of Christ (Galatians 3:27-29). And, this oneness in Christ would one day overturn slavery and the subjugation of women.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What have we become?

I was asked to join the 2008 Equality Riders in Baltimore before they hit the road for some video training, song singing with Micah, and general passing of the torch. They shared much with me. As I follow some of them through blogs and Facebook, removed from the immediacy by a computer screen, observing from a safe distance; my heart aches.

This is Lauren Parke.

She was attempting to enter chapel with students who invited her, to worship with them, and to continue in conversation. When did the Christian faith become mediated by handcuffs instead of prayer, when did the fence replace the communion table?

When did Christians arresting each other become acceptable? And how much longer will it last? It is more heart-breaking every time.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Meet A Rider: Taueret Manu

I first met Taueret here in New York City through friends from the Equality Ride. I immediately knew that she would be on the next bus. Don't forget to meet the other riders.

"Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours." It's time to speak for those whose voices are methodically silenced and inspire them with the tools to find their own justice and empowerment. I will challenge myself to overcome my own prejudice against those who would see my soul silenced and my rights taken away, and find the beauty and grace in every individual whom I encounter on this fierce adventure.

Support the Equality Ride by sponsoring Taueret.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day Poverty -- Do Something!

Now that we're thinking and talking about poverty, it's time to do something. I sometimes find myself trapped in a cycle of researching and discussing, unable or unwilling to break out of my comfort zone and take action. Since returning from the Equality Ride, I have been intentional about finding ways to take action--and then following through. Here are some ways that you can help address poverty in our world.

In order to be an effective advocate and ally, I need to understand what I'm dealing with. I need faces, names, and experiences to ground what might otherwise become abstractions. While "poverty" is a macro-concern, there are families and children, parents and neighbors, who have stories. This is more than an issue to manage, it is lives to support. World Vision Australia put together an excellent resource, appropriately titled Learn About Poverty. In addition to information about poverty, there's also concrete ways that you can get involved:

It is easy for me to think of people living in poverty as victims who need to be rescued. When I understand them as potential partners, everything changes. I don't come alongside people living in poverty out of guilt, shame, or even pride; but rather to learn and grow. As you know, I've started investing in small-business owners by micro-lending through Kiva. That's one way!

You can also sponsor a child through World Vision. This program puts a name, a face, and an experience on global poverty and--I think--enriches the sponsor just as much as the sponsored.

My friend Dave O'Brien (director of Equality U) works for an organization called Causecast which is a place to explore issues while connecting with others who want to make a difference. Surf their site to find life-changing causes which you can support, network with like-minded others, and sound off about what you care about. Charity:Water works to bring life-saving water wells to communities in developing nations.

Tell us what you care about and how you're making a difference. No seriously, leave a comment. Knowing that others are out there makes it easier for me to get motivated. Communication is crucial.

Blog Action Day is about bringing together a chorus of voices together in unison. Together, we are taking poverty awareness to a new level. But what about tomorrow? What will rush in to fill the void? I propose, action. Tomorrow is World Food Day, visit World Vision's World Food Day section to find out how you can get involved. From prayer, to one-time donations, and to child sponsorship, you can take what you've learned during Blog Action Day and put it into action on World Food Day. Come back tomorrow and share what you've done!

"You can do no great things, only small things with great love." What am I leaving out? What will we do today--and tomorrow, and the next day!--to address poverty in our communities and in our world. How will we interrupt cycles which create and sustain poverty? How will we support those working to climb out of poverty? How will we learn from and collaborate with people in poverty? How will we bring the reality of poverty to the public consciousness? Let's start dreaming and see what takes shape!

Blog Action Day: What Is Poverty?

A week or so ago, I stumbled upon a video while surfing the web. It asks, "What is poverty?" Today is Blog Action Day, a day when bloggers around the world come together to raise their collective voices in unison. This year, we're talking about poverty. As I've been thinking about what it means to make a living wage, what community looks like, and what I live for, I have also been asking, what is poverty? Why is there homelessness? How am I part of the problem? And what am I missing out on? This video has given me much to think about. I'll have more posts coming, but first, share your reactions! Have you ever lived in or near poverty? Have you ever been friends with people in poverty? If not, what are some of your assumptions about poverty, people living in poverty, the causes and effects of poverty? Share share!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Non-Violence is a kitchen a sink

In our house, we have a situation of sorts.

Rick really wants the common space to be clean and he keeps telling Ben that it's disrespectful to not clean his dishes right away and to just leave them in the sink.
But Ben keeps leaving them in the sink and when Rick asks him to clean them he says
"I will, I want to eat first, I just put them in there, I will get to them soon."
Often they get left for over a day.
And Rick gets really frustrated
Because he keeps telling Ben that Ben should care about the others, and that Ben should do them right away
And that's just "what is right"
Yet there are still almost always dishes in the sink

And Rick can tell Ben that he "should" do this or that he "needs" to think that or such and such is 'just the way things are"

But that's not going to clean the dishes.

Ben doesn't clean the dishes because Ben isn't invested in having a clean sink
And Rick simply telling Ben that he should clean the dishes isn't going to enroll Ben in having a clean sink, is it?

Our experiment in truth is still in progress.

Monday, October 13, 2008

There Is A Cost

"Why do you want to get arrested?"

We do not want to get arrested, we want to talk and share our experiences and our humanity. We want to find commonality and strive toward reconciliation. Fifteen minutes ago there was silence, now there are dozens of conversations lining the sidewalk in front of your campus. Ten arrests is a small price to pay.

That was my experience outside of Bethany Lutheran University in Mankato, Minnesota on the 2007 Equality Ride. As you know from my blog, the Equality Ride is in full swing again this year and the cost cannot be underestimated.

It is a core tenet of Soulforce to always hold out the possibility for dialogue and reconciliation even under the gravest circumstances. This is not a pre-arrest peptalk that we pay lip service to, but a lived and experienced truth of non-violence. Early on the 2008 Ride, administrators at Liberty University told organizers that no riders would be allowed on campus, when the bus arrived in Lynchburg, five young adults made it on to campus, donated books to the library and spoke with students. When you put your body on the line, mountains (sometimes disguised as police tape) can move.

Neither is willingness to submit to arrest an inspiring selling point, it is sacrifice. Today at Palm Beach University, six young adults put their body on the line in hopes of dialogue. The night prior, their bus door was smashed in, yet they continued undeterred. They refused to give up on the administrators and offered them a chance to respond with love to the end. Not only were they arrested; Danni, Enzi, Nicholas, Zak, and Lauren will spend tonight in a West Palm Beach jail. Think of them.

More photos and the full press release available.

Meet A Rider: Abigail Reikow

Each one the 2008 Soulforce Q Equality Riders brings a power and a presence that enriches the group and all those who will meet them along the way. I hope to personally support each one of them and as I do so, I invite you to learn more about them and to support them yourself. Here we go.

It has been over a year since the 2007 Equality Ride ended, and I am still discovering ways in which it has changed me. I now approach conflict with compassion rather than a sense of competition, and I try to find productive methods of resolution between myself and others, others and the world. I see the value in a simple conversation and understand the ways in which our words can punctuate a path towards social progress. Though I am a straight ally, I have even begun to conceptualize my own sexuality and gender identity in new ways. I now understand that much like the LGBTQ community, my freedom to express either is policed by a society that continuously places my body in a box. As my own transformations illustrate the many possibilities of human experience, I have joined this journey again in order to extend such liberty to everyone, to cultivate in the world the awareness that is growing within me.

Support the Equality Ride by sponsoring Abby.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I Don't Want To Know

I don't want to know that child and slave labor is the source of chocolate that I eat--that the Ivory Coast alone has more than 12,000 child slaves. # # # #
I don't want to know that tomato farmers for Chipotle are only paid $50/day for back-breaking labor and a day that stretches from before sunrise to after sunset. #
I don't want to know that 1.5 million people in New York City live in poverty, and that of those in poverty, 1 million have relied on emergency food at some point during the year. #
I don't want to know that over 100,000 people in New York City experience homelessness. #

But I know, so what now?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Everywhere, USA

I drove all night long through middle-of-nowhere Montana in a bus with twenty-four people I'd known for less than two months. Only twenty-four hours prior I stood in the freezing rain with winds up to 30 miles-per-hour for hours on end. We were on our way to North Dakota and in twenty-fours, I would be standing with these people in the middle of a small-town war zone: police cars and vans, wire fencing, concrete barriers, mobile command units, an ambulance, evacuation teams on stand-by and two streets closed down. Ellendale, North Dakota has a population of 3,000; this was big.

What could twenty-five young adults do to provoke responses of such intensity? Proclaim an affirming message to queer young people: "God loves and affirms you just as you are!"

This is the Equality Ride.

It's a two month long, cross-country, take it to the streets, non-violent direct action campaign which seeks reconciliation between faith and identity and today the bus sets out for the first school of the third ride. Modeled after the work of Gandhi, King, Jr., and others, the Soulforce Q Equality Ride recognizes misunderstanding and misinformation—not individuals—as the source of homophobia and transphobia. We confront the hurtful teachings which fuel spiritual violence . Liberation comes not only for the gay and transgender people who are finally able to accept and love themselves, often returning to and reclaiming their faith, but also for the former oppressors who are now able to understand their faith more fully.

Some organizations branded us radical gay activists, but I'm not sure if I deserve that title. You see, I'm really rather ordinary. As I was searching for something to do after graduation, I found the opportunity to share my story with America and ask America to learn from me. I had never participated in an advocacy campaign, nor studied queer theology, nor received any training in public speaking, event planning, community organizing, or any of the numerous other fields I would need to master. But that didn't matter. I was enough.

I have an abiding faith that God of this Universe created me with intentionality. And when God created me, God called the creation good. I have not always known what my purpose was, I still don't. I have struggled to make sense of how sexual orientation and gender identity fit into God's creative plan for humanity. I loved the Equality Ride because I was able to move from theory to reality. Anti-gay rhetoric is devastating. It isolates people from their faith, their family and their communities; it destroys integrity when it forces an individual into the closet; it fosters shame and turns people inward; it inhibits the growth of healthy relationships; and it, unfortunately, often manifests itself through violence, against self and inflicted by others onto queer people. As truth creates justice, lives are released. Gay and straight alike are set free to experience faith, love, and healing in powerful ways. The good fruits of affirming theology are evident: reconciliation with family, friends, and community; return to faith; healthy relationships; holistic understanding of self; outward-focused productivity; and the list goes on. The beauty is that these fruits are not for queer people to feast on in isolation, but to share with heterosexuals. When I ask my straight friends to love me, I don't need them to stand up for me; I want them to grow with me.

The Equality Ride showed me that anyone can be an advocate. I did it, you can do it. My journey was across the country but perhaps your journey is down the hall to a co-worker's office, across town to your church, or back home to your parent's house. Or perhaps your journey is getting on the bus. All around the world, people are waiting to be asked to love their gay and transgender friends and family. Let's tell them it's time.

To see this year's riders, visit: www.soulforce.org/2008riders

Thursday, September 25, 2008

iTunes Debut

As part of the Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights kick-off, I was invited to speak at Jay Bakker's church, Revolution NYC, which meets in Pete's Candy Store, a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The sermon, also featuring Rev. Vince Anderson, and Jay, is available as part of Revolution's free iTunes podcast.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Discovering Faith

I mentioned earlier that this year's Equality Ride was perilously close to being canceled. I'm happy to report that it survived the day but it's not out of woods yet. Tens of thousands of dollars were raised in a single day, a emphatic statement that "Yes, we believe in this." I was at Soulforce NYC's monthly meeting tonight and was excited to have Taueret Manu, who will be on this year's ride, join us. She shared that it has been a stressful 24 hours and that she spent a solid portion of today crying. But as a person who does not subscribe to an organized religion, she admitted, "Today, I had a spiritual experience." I felt it too.

As word of the Equality Ride losing a major grant spread, former riders responding swiftly with impassioned Facebook status updates and notes, forwarded email requests, and blog postings.

To even imagine the Equality Ride is absurdity. Take a group of young adults and put them on a bus and send them to the most virulently anti-queer places in the USA and expect change to occur. In 2006 33 young LGBT and allied people decided to imagine justice where it had never been imagined before, and then they watched it materialize. And it happened again--twice--in 2007. All you need to do is show up.

Some of my friends (all Republicans, actually) responded to my email to let me know they'd donated. At our meeting tonight, everyone chipped in--some long time SFers, others for the first time.

Truth, justice, and morality are on the side of liberating the oppressed. In the middle of an economic crisis, Americans are coming together to put young people on a bus and send them to the Deep South to talk about faith, identity, orientation, and race in bold, powerful, and positive ways.

There is a spirit moving, it's exciting to be a part of it. Will you join?

Equality Ride At A Crossroads

I need your help. As you know, in 2007 I was a part of the 2007 Soulforce Q Equality Ride. It was transformative for the communities and schools we visited and the students that we met. Since the first Equality Ride, nearly twenty schools have organized Gay-Straight Alliances or "safe zones". One school changed their policy to treat gay relationships the same as straight relationships. I continue to get emails from students I interacted with, and even ones that I didn't. They are empowered.

It also changed my life in deep and profound ways. I am excited to watch a new crop of riders step up to the challenge. But the Equality Ride is in serious danger of being postponed as major sources of funding close up. And so even though I continue to give my time and energy to this organization, I'm going to give financial support to this ride as well.

Will you invest in these 18 riders with me. I'm not calling it a donation because I feel as if it's an investment in our future, my future, our country's future, our world's future.

The Equality Ride needs $30,000 today to keep going and I'm going to give back to the ride that has given me so much. That is a daunting amount but I know there are countless people out there who believe in equality. If we all contribute what we can, we can change the world in a big way. If you can, please spread the word so that more people can support this worthy cause.

In addition to what I'm already pledging to donate to the ride, I will match any donations that my friends make. Let me know how much you're giving and I'll match it. That's pretty crazy but I believe in them that much. I hope you will too. In addition to financial contributions, follow the website and send them messages of support. Trust me, we need it on the road.

Thank you for supporting me last year--financially, emotionally, spiritually--it truly made a difference. I hope you've got more support to spare!

Meet the riders http://soulforce.org/2008riders
And donate online at www.equalityride.com/donate

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Just One Issue, or No Rights for Faggots Pt. 2

Brandy recently expressed her frustration that acceptance of gay and transgender people as full members of faith and society can be "just one issue" among many that can be intellectually weighed in an assessment of a politician or theologian. "Richard Hays is a brilliant scholar, he's just wrong on this one issue." Barack Obama is an inclusive leader, he's just wrong on this one portion, of this one issue. My pastor from Maryland, Dave, is a great guy, he's just wrong on this one issue.

And we, gay and transgender people, are supposed to give these otherwise nice, smart, insightful, or charismatic individuals a pass. After all, it's just one issue. Theories of economics and governance are debatable. Political and even theological priorities are debatable. The effectiveness of various types of education are debatable. When to repave the local road or how many books to order for the library each year are debatable. My humanity is not up for debate. If we believe that being gay or transgender is not a sin, then to say otherwise is to take what God has made good and to call it sinful. It is to put oneself squarely opposite of God.

I understand there is process involved in understanding sexual orientation and gender identity. It was a long process for me. Some gay people I know are still on that journey. Many straight people are just now being asked to begin the process. I respect that.

But when assessing the spiritual insight of men like Richard Hays, we must firmly and decisively say: His insight to God is fundamentally lacking. When judging Senator Obama's leadership: His insight into the fabric of America and family is fundamentally lacking. When assessing Dave's performance: His ability to pastor is fundamentally lacking. This one issue affects countless number of people in real and immediate ways. For straight people, it is mental assent; for gay people, it is sanity, stability, safety, and often even shelter. It is not just one issue.

In recent days, I've had to deal with the emotional trauma of "this one issue." I found out that one of my best friends' boyfriend is on the wrong side of "this one issue." I was shocked because this friend really gets it. "I don't need to hear it from you, this is hard for me too," was her reply to my dropped jaw. But "hard" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what this is for me. For her, this is internal dissonance. The values she holds dear in conflict with one she loves. For me this is my ability to marry, to participate in church, to be protected under the law, to exist in society.

She stood with me and heard the man shout "No rights for faggots" and was offended. She told her boyfriend about it and I'm sure he was offended too. How noble of him. But at the end of the day, that's what he believes: No rights for faggots. The man in the van just said it more clearly than this boyfriend, or Richard Hays, or Barack Obama, or Dave has ever expressed.

When you say I love you but refuse to marry me. When you say I love you but you refuse to learn from me. When you say I love you but refuse to protect me. When you say you love me but refuse to stand with me, you're letting the man in the van speak for you, and he's saying "No rights for faggots!"

Friday, September 19, 2008

Messages from Seven Straight Nights: Yet here you are

So many times the fight for freedom is a lonely one. The need to fight at all is a constant reminder of what almost every LGBT person would rather forget: that we are different, often hated, never able to just live our lives like everybody else. Maybe that's why there are so few LGBT activists - when the nature of your minority status is one that can allow you to pass, it is even more difficult to stand up for yourself... what sane person would ever step into a fire of misunderstanding and hatred when they could choose not to?

And yet, here you are - a straight person, surrounded by other straight people, joining that lonely fight. You don't have to. It would be so easy to walk away, to focus on any of the dozens of other issues and challenges that demand your attention, to stay safely on the sidelines of what many will say is not your fight. Yet, again, here you are. There is a divine madness in that. Thank you for walking this road with me, for standing in the fire for the sake of my right to love... for taking up this cross in a way that I can't, speaking to audiences who simply don't have the ears to hear a lesbian, or a gay man, or a transgender person.

Speak strongly. Love those who persecute us. Know that whatever happens, just by standing with us, you've made a difference. Thank you.

Messages from Seven Straight Nights: I Am

I am a teacher, I am a friend, I am the partner of a trans-man, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am queer
Thank you for supporting me and all of my identities
Thank you for knowing how necessary that support is.

Messages from Seven Straight Nights: Waves of Change

As part of the Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights campaign LGBT folks submitted short messages for the participants to reflect on while they literally took a stand for equality. Below is one of many messages (and some pictures from the event).

I remember the moment when the Massachusetts Supreme Court handed down marriage equality. I was still in high school, living at home. I was sitting at my computer in the basement reading Yahoo News and there it was. I read the article three times. It was over 400 miles away and yet it made a profound impact on my life.

There is a young kid, questioning his or her orientation or gender identity, who feels all alone. Tomorrow that kid will read of this on the internet--these straight people who care enough about people like him that they gathered together to stand for equality--and it will change that kid's life. In your small step, only 12 inches off the ground, you are making waves of change.

No Rights for Faggots

For the last event of Seven Straight Nights in New York City, we gathered at McCarren Park for a rally organized by Jay Bakker and the folks at Revolution NYC. As I walked to the park with my straight friends who were going to participate, a van drove passed and a man yelled out "No rights for faggots!"

Anti-gay epithets have been hurled at me more in New York City than the rest of my life combined. This is why we do what we do.

The man, or men, in the van circled McCarren Park yelling that same phrase over and over again. Oppression disturbs not only the oppressed but the oppressors as well. They are victims of misinformation and we are all trapped in systems and cycles of oppression. This man took out over an hour of his day, time he could have spent being productive, spent with his family, spent enjoying himself, and he drove his van around, yelling at straight and gay people who love themselves and each other.

During training for the Equality Ride, we practiced non-violence by role playing verbally and emotionally violent scenarios with a two-fold goal: to practice hearing awful things said about us, but also to understand the awful places a person must go to in order to degrade another person's humanity. And so as this man I don't know yelled at us, viewing us as nothing more than a group of faggots, I felt sorry for him, not for myself. In New York, my gay friends cannot have their marriages legally recognized but they marry anyway. In some places, their love is not recognized but they love anyway. I know people who have been kicked out of family, but they find family. I was surronded by love and compassion in McCarren Park. When that man yelled "No rights for faggots," he wasn't taking anything away from me, he was robbing himself.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It came without lawers, no papers to sort! It came without licenses, came without courts!

In a recent thread that touched upon marriage equality in California regardless of gender, FriarThom offered this Dr. Suess adaption:

How the Grinch Stole Marriage
–by Mary Ann Horton, Lisa and Bill Koontz
(with apologies to Dr. Suess.)

Every Gay down in Gayville liked Gay Marriage a lot……
But the Grinch, who lived just east of Gayville, did NOT!!

The Grinch hated happy Gays! The whole Marriage season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, his Florsheims were too tight.
But I think the most likely reason of all was
His heart and brain were two sizes too small.

“And they’re buying their tuxes!” he snarled with a sneer,
“Tomorrow’s the first Gay Wedding! It’s practically here!”
Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop Gay Marriage from coming!”

For, tomorrow, he knew… All the Gay girls and boys
would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their vows!
And then! Oh, the Joys! Oh, the Joys!

And THEN they’d do something he liked least of all!
Every Gay down in Gayville the tall and the small,
would stand close together, all happy and blissing.
They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Gays would start kissing!

“I MUST stop Gay Marriage from coming! …But HOW?”

Then he got an idea! An awful idea!

“I know what to do!” The Grinch laughed in his throat.
And he went to his closet, grabbed his sheet and his hood.
And he chuckled, and clucked, with a great Grinchy word!
“With this beard and this cross, I look just like our Lord!”

“All I need is a Scripture…” The Grinch looked around.
But, true Scripture is scarce, there was none to be found.
Did that stop the old Grinch…? No! The Grinch simply said,
“With no Scripture on Marriage, I’ll fake one instead!”
“It’s one man and one woman,” the Grinch falsely said.

Then he broke in the courthouse. A rather tight pinch.
But, if Georgie could do it, then so could the Grinch.
The little Gay benefits hung in a row.
“These bennies,” he grinned, “are the first things to go!”

Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most uncanny,
around the whole room, and he took every benny!
Health care for partners! Doctors for kiddies!
Tax rights! Adoptions! Pensions and Wills!
And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, with a chill,
Stuffed all the bags, one by one, in his bill.

Then he slunk to the kitchen, and stole Wedding Cake.
He cleaned out that icebox and made it look straight.
He took the Gay-bar keys! He took the Gay Flag.
Why, that Grinch even took their last Gay birdseed bag!

“And NOW!” grinned the Grinch, “I will pocket their Rings.”
And the Grinch grabbed the Rings, and he started to shove
when he heard a small sound like the coo of a dove.
He turned around fast, and off flew his hood.
Little Lisa-Bi Gay behind him sadly stood.
The Grinch had been caught by small Lisa-Bi.
She stared at the Grinch and said, “My, oh, my, why?”
“Why are you taking our Wedding Rings? WHY?”

But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Shepherd sneered,
“The judges are evil, the other states weird.”
“I’ll fix the rings there and I’ll bring them back here.”

It was quarter past dawn… All the Gays, still a-bed,
all the Gays still a-snooze when he packed up and fled.
“Pooh-Pooh to the Gays!” he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
“They’re finding out now no Gay Marriage is coming!”
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
then the Gays down in Gayville will all cry Boo-Hoo!”

He stared down at Gayville! The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Gay down in Gayville, the tall and the small,
was kissing! Without any bennies at all!
He HADN’T stopped Marriage from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came without lawyers, no papers to sort!”
“It came without licenses, came without courts!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

“Maybe Marriage,” he thought, “doesn’t come from the court.
Maybe Marriage…perhaps… comes right from the heart.
Maybe Marriage comes from all the words the Gays say.
Words like Husband, like Wedding, and Spouse who is Gay.”
And what happened then…? Well…in Gayville they say
that the Grinch’s small brain grew three sizes that day!

And the Gays had their Weddings. They promised for life.
They swore to be faithful, to Wife and her Wife.
The Husbands were happy, to each other they vowed
To be Out and be Honest, be Gay and be Proud.
They told all their neighbors and friends of their Spouse,
They told of their Marriage and sharing their house.
They said “We got Married.” They shouted it loud.
Their marital status was “Married and Proud.”

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light.
And he brought back the rings, cake and Gay birdseed bags!
And he… …HE HIMSELF… hung the Gay Rainbow Flag!

The Lord looked down, at the proud and the tall,
and said “These are my children, and I love them all.”

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