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.
A Brief Introduction
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
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?
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/
And donate online at www.equalityride.com/donate
Saturday, September 20, 2008
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
THE GRINCH GOT A WONDERFUL, 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.”
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Today marked the first day of Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights, a week where straight people across the country will stand up and speak out in support of their gay and transgender friends. As Mayra has been planning the events in New York over the past months, I have told her that things will fall in line, that we see justice in our minds and that we will call people into that reality. Today, I saw justice.
Jay Bakker spoke to the young adults group at Marble Church with a conviction, clarity, and passion that I have never seen. I could feel the energy in the room and the reactions I heard from others assured me that I was not the only one.
Soulforcers and GLSEN volunteers collected hundreds of postcards in support of comprehensive anti-bullying legislation; raising awareness and creating the necessary social pressure to enact political change.
Revolution NYC is completely committed to this campaign, enrolling volunteers to create materials needed for their event on Thursday and I saw every attendee listening intently as Jay, Vince, and I shared stories from our lives about the need for straight to stand up and stand with LGBT people.
Grasslands Gallery graciously hosted a screening of Equality U and New Yorkers of all stripes got to see what non-violent reconciliation looks like in action and be called to action themselves. During the Q&A that followed, I could perceive through the questions that wheels were turning and minds were engaging.
Today was a primer for events on Wednesday and Thursday, when straight folks will be able to take their affirmation public. The Equality Ride changed me and I have no doubt that Seven Straight Nights will change countless lives. I'm thrilled to watch it happen to get swept up in the aftermath.
Visit www.sfnyc.org/7SN or email to 7SN@sfnyc.org for more information and to sign-up for events in New York City. Visit www.sevenstraightnights.org for more information on the national campaign.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
This year, September 11th felt normal. Last year, my first year in New York, my building hosted all day concerts in our lobby. I remember co-workers sharing stories of where they were on September 11 and we streamed the reading of names on our computers. Perhaps this was because it was our first September 11 together. I suppose in America that can be a bonding ritual of sorts. This year was business as usual.
I walked out of my apartment this evening and saw the memorial lights blaring from the southern tip of Manhattan and I remembered. Seven years ago today was an awful day. Thousands of lives were lost in senseless violence and destruction. My co-worker's husband was with the NYPD in 2001 and the memories still haunt him. He spent the day on his motorcycle riding down to Philly for cheese steaks, clearing his mind as the nation remembers the day our world fell apart. For too many families, today marks the 7th year anniversary of the last time they saw their loved ones. My heart goes out to those families.
As I remember the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, I am moved by the lost American lives to pursue reconciliation. Many of the families of those lost in those attacks came together to form Peaceful Tomorrows, crying out "Our grief is not a warcry." Today they issued this statement,
I can't help but extend my heart to the families of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis that are similarly missing loved ones. I remember sitting in the lunch room on September 11, 2001 and upon learning that the towers had collapsed, one of my friends said, "Someone is going to get bombed." Violence begets violence.
In Iraq last week, we attended a meeting of an Iraqi organization called LaOnf, which in Arabic translates to "no violence." It is an organization started four years ago that is devoted to the teachings of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, "absolute nonviolence no matter what." They have pledged themselves to this concept and are willing to risk their lives to spread a culture of nonviolence in every province of Iraq. While we experienced one day of terror, for them, every day is 9/11. We will stand in solidarity with LaOnf on this anniversary and spread the word across this land - that non violence and the recognition of our common humanity are the only way forward to the survival of this earth. This year, let us remember them, too.
In 2001-2002, an estimated 3,600 civilians were killed in Afghanistan. We made up for September 11th. Over 1,000 civilians are killed in that country by Coalition forces every year. Violence begets violence. As we read the names of American, September 11th victims, will we read the names of the Afghan victims?
My former Marine neighbor tells me that the military's Iraqi civilian death count was at 38,000 when he left a year ago. The actual was probably higher. Today he guesses the 'official count' is somewhere close to 60,000. iCausalities puts causalities at over 43,000 since April 28, 2005. Iraq Body Count estimates as high as 95,000. Violence begets unspeakable violence.
Our earth is groaning, God is weeping. I want to beat some swords into plowshares.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
"Not ready to lead" is a refrain I hear often leveled against Senator Obama. "He lacks experience," a common complaint from Republicans. What is meant, I think, is "he doesn't have the type of leadership I value." The Republican campaign dismissed and mocked his experience as a community organizer. Senator Obama has experience, just not the "right" type of experience.
John McCain on the other hand, he has the experience "America needs." He served in the military and was captured during the Vietnam War. He was tortured. Torture was gruesome when it happened to McCain, even a mark on his belt to show how greatly he loves this country; but for him, it's an acceptable procedure when the USA wants to torture others.
Community organizers work in church basements, public parks, community centers, and street corners. They organize soup kitchens, homeless shelters and rehabilitate abandoned buildings. We were right to be reminded at the RNC that the government which gives you everything is able to take it all away. I appreciate the desire for small government. In many ways, community organizers perform the functions governments can't, don't, or shouldn't perform. How then can community organizers be mocked from the RNC's stage? If we believe in the Republican ideals of small government, we NEED community organizers. Obama understands that.
John McCain served in the armed forces. Let's not mince words: Soldiers kill people. That's why they were in Vietnam, that's why they went to Afghanistan, that's why they are in Iraq. My neighbor, a Marine returned from Iraq, explained it like this:
"We can talk about peacekeeping, education, infra-structure building, and the like all we want. That's not what we did. We went there to shoot the s*** out of people."
John McCain has experience killing, warmongering ("Bomb, bomb, bomb. Bomb, bomb Iran!"?), and supporting an administration that has ballooned our debt, expanded our government, eroded our Constitution, and drastically expanded the powers and influence of the executive branch. Is that the experience America needs?
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
In the past few days my Facebook news feed has been swarming with status updates regarding McCain's pick of Palin for his VP. Most of Democratic friends seem to think he's made a giant blunder, dooming any chance McCain had for election and all but sealing Obama as the next president.
I don't have any idea what they're talking about.
There's a lot of talk about hypocrisy but I don't see any.
Pro-life? Palin did not abort her child affected by Down's Syndrome.
Family values? The Palins are standing by and supporting their pregnant teenage daughter.
The only real concern that I can see as these family matters are turned into national news is the efficacy of abstinence-only education as played out in the life of her daughter, but seriously, how much sway will the Vice President have in outlining the health education of schools?
I may be in the minority, but I think politically speaking, Palin is a good decision for McCain