Musical Nun Sings: ‘You Are Not Alone’

From New Ways Ministry Blog:

Bare-MusicalArtThe character of a nun, in an off-Broadway musical provocatively entitled Bare, is now singing a song which one writer thinks will become an anthem for LGBT youth facing bullying and harassment.

Despite the title, the show does not focus on nudity, but on the struggles of two gay high school students at a Catholic boarding school

In a Huffington Post piece, Mark Canavera draws attention to a song in the second act, “You’re Not Alone,” sung by the character Sister Joan:

” ‘You’re Not Alone,’ developed by lyricist Jon Hartmere and composer Lynne Shankel for the current off-Broadway revival of the musical Bare, will become a new anthem for LGBT youth. Bare churns in tempo with the lives of a group of sexually awakening teenagers who are struggling within the confines of a Catholic school. ‘You’re Not Alone’ comes late in the second act and represents the show’s emotional pinnacle, piercing through the turmoil. (Although no official recording of the song yet exists, a demo version is available to stream here.) Sister Joan, an empathetic nun, is consoling one of her gay students who is caught in the whirlwinds of the drama. She uses the clearest words imaginable:

“You’re created in His image. / You’re a perfect child of God. / And this part of you / It’s the heart of who you are. / It’s who you are / And you just need to know / You’re not alone.” ‘ “

Canavera describes how the song was developed, and the reason the composer and lyricist put it into the mouth of a teacher:

“That the song is sung by a teacher to her student illuminates the special role that teachers can play in supporting their students while opening new horizons. ‘I think that teachers have such an amazing opportunity-slash-responsibility to their students to open a kid’s eyes to what is possible beyond what they think is possible,’ says Shankel. Hartmere himself was a teacher who spoke frankly to his classrooms about his sexual orientation and the offense he felt at hearing insults tossed around. ‘One day on the yard,’ he describes, ‘I heard a kid call someone else gay, and one of the girls from my class said, “Don’t use that word because my teacher’s gay, and I like him.” ‘ “

Of course, more importantly is the fact that the character is not only a teacher, but a Catholic nun:

“In addition to being a teacher, Sister Joan is obviously a nun. Hartmere, who was raised Catholic and whose great aunt is a nun, believes that this character and her song should help to provide a counter-balance to conceptions of the Catholic Church as a monolithic, doctrinaire haven for sex offenders. ‘There’s another angle here,’ says Hartmere, ‘another way of looking at things. Nuns are an amazing group of people who have an amazing worldview that should be listened to more.’

“I couldn’t agree more. Listening to Sister Joan send her clarion message to the struggling student in a recent performance of Bare transported me directly to 1992, when I was a freshman at a Catholic high school in Charleston, South Carolina. I was coming to terms with my sexual orientation, lonely, lost, confused, and yes, suicidal. My Sister Joan was Sister A.J. — short for Alice Joseph — of the Sisters of Mercy order. Sister A.J. was in her 50s when she taught me and passed away some years ago now; God rest her soul. Much like the teacher whose supportive note to a gay studentrecently went viral, Sister A.J. wrote the following note on one of my essays:

By the way, you were born homosexual, overweight, and with a loving heart. Don’t worry about your homosexuality. One day the pope will understand. PS…I love you.

” ‘You’re Not Alone‘ and such notes are crystal lasers of love, beaming direct and clear from the hearts of nuns to their LGBT students. May such love go viral.”

At New Ways Ministry, we’ve known for over 36 years how much nuns have been supporting LGBT people and ministry because they have been the backbone of our financial and spiritual support.  We are deeply grateful. We are glad that a song such as “You Are Not Alone” is helping to spread the message of nuns’ love–and God’s love–of LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

See The 10 Montana Senators Who Want Gays To Be Criminals

From Cowgirl:

 

On Tuesday, the Montana Senate voted, finally, to erase our “anti-sodomy law” which makes it an imprisonable crime to be gay.  Although invalidated by our state supreme court in 1997, the law has remained on our books because Republicans have always refused to go along with efforts to scrap it.

 

But yesterday, SB 107, a measure to strike the offensive language from our statutes finally passed the senate.  That said, the vote was far from unanimous.  Ten Republicans voted no.

To see them, click here.

MT Schools Anti-Bullying Bill Pulled- But Not For The Reasons You May Think

From Rep. Jean Price:

Good news for supporters of the anti-bullying bill! 

It turns out that at the same time we were working on language for HB 219, the Board of Public Education adopted the same bullying prevention language in their school accreditation standards.  The Board of Public Education has the constitutional authority to adopt new rules for schools.

 The new standards require that schools adopt policies and procedures to address bullying.  You can find the document on the Board of Public Education website under proposed Chapter 55 Accreditation Standards. Here is the direct link:  http://bpe.mt.gov/content/PDF/VariousDocs/Chapter55.

These standards go into effect July 1, 2013. Taking the new rule adoption into consideration, and after discussion with the Office of Public Instruction, I have withdrawn HB 219 from consideration by the House Education Committee on Wednesday, February 6th.

Remember that this is good news!   I encourage you to share the section of the new standards with students, parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, and other community members.

While we won’t have a state law on the books,schools will be required to abide by the new standards.

Thank you so much for your interest in HB 219.  I appreciate your commitment to this very important issue.

Rep. Jean Price

Update: Homophobic Attack In Missoula

The Missoulian, KPAX and Towleroad are all reporting on the Missoula beating of a young gay man on his 22nd birthday.

Wipeout Homophobia’s Facebook page posted photos earlier today- I can’t bear to put them up here- they’re upsetting and I don’t think I need to make the point that there are people out there who think it’s okay to beat up people they see as queer- as ‘fags’, as ‘dykes’ as ‘trannies’, as, well, whatever.

There are people everywhere who think it’s okay to do that- not just in Montana.

After the most successful Pride Celebration in Montana history, when more supporters than ever showed up for equality and to support their LGBTIQ brothers and sisters, it’s very hard to see the reality of hate and ignorance that we all have to face every day in the U.S.

It’s not just Montana. It’s not “just” anywhere. It’s everywhere.

And that’s why we can’t be silent. That’s why we need to keep standing up in the face of bullying and violence. It goes against the values of the Montana I know and love. And sadly, bullying and violence still seems to be promoted as a value in some Montana circles (yeah I’m talking about you, Tim Ravndal).

But I still believe more people have our best interest at heart than don’t. The ignoramuses just have the advantage of jumping out of dark alleys.

So, again- please- be careful out there.

Update: Police are now saying that this investigation has taken a turn- from the Missoulian:

Missoula police are examining a videotape that purports to show a young gay man injuring his face while doing a backflip.

The man reported to police that he’d been beaten up outside the Missoula Club early Sunday morning, allegedly because of his sexual orientation.

But the video shows him doing a backflip off a curb on North Higgins Avenue and smashing his face on the sidewalk as he lands.

“Until we finish the investigation, we won’t know the entire story, but it has certainly been a major development in the case,” said Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir.

I’m making no further comments until we know more.

But what I said above applies nonetheless.

Study: That Queer-bashing Bully Could Be Gay

A fascinating study, discussed in the New York Times this morning, reveals that, at least in a clinical setting, “very straight” persons often struggle with same-sex feelings:

No Homophobia logo

No Homophobia logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One theory is that homosexual urges, when repressed out of shame or fear, can be expressed as homophobia. Freud famously called this process a “reaction formation” — the angry battle against the outward symbol of feelings that are inwardly being stifled. Even Mr. Haggard seemed to endorse this idea when, apologizing after his scandal for his anti-gay rhetoric, he said, “I think I was partially so vehement because of my own war.”

It’s a compelling theory — and now there is scientific reason to believe it. In this month’s issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we and our fellow researchers provide empirical evidence that homophobia can result, at least in part, from the suppression of same-sex desire.

Well, as anybody whose been following Glee knows, the bully can often turn out to be the would-be boyfriend. I remember a few of them from my own life- who were the most vehement haters of the gays- and later turned out to be, as one of them told me later “a relieved homosexual.” The authors conclude:

It’s important to stress the obvious: Not all those who campaign against gay men and lesbians secretly feel same-sex attractions. But at least some who oppose homosexuality are likely to be individuals struggling against parts of themselves, having themselves been victims of oppression and lack of acceptance. The costs are great, not only for the targets of anti-gay efforts but also often for the perpetrators. We would do well to remember that all involved deserve our compassion.

Read the full article here.

A Catholic’s Easter Lament: Dogmatic Tone-deaf (Seattle) Bishops

Joel Connelly, who has written about the official church’s anti-gay craziness before, now addresses the move by Seattle’s Catholic bishops to use churches as places to gather signatures for Referendum 74, which seeks to rollback marriage equality in the state of Washington. Excerpt:

A painful truism of this Holy Week, Christianity’s most important days of the year:  Moral leadership in America’s Catholic Church is starting to flow from lay persons in pews and priests who deal with human problems, not prelates on thrones wearing white, red and purple hats.

Just look around to events from Rome to Berlin, and from Worcester, Mass., to Seattle.

In the Archdiocese of Seattle, our bishops issued a letter saying parishes will become signature-gathering centers for Referendum 74, a ballot measure designed to roll back same-sex marriage.  But the state’s marriage equality law was sponsored by a Catholic state senator and signed into law by a Catholic governor.

Archbishop Sartain and Bishop Elizondo talk about treating all persons with “respect, sensitivity and love,” but then urge support for a campaign put together by the National Organization for Marriage — an outfit that wants to “drive a wedge” between blacks and gays, “sideswipe” President Obama and make opposition to marriage equality “an identity marker” for young Latinos.

Connelly correctly identifies the root of all moral teaching: experience. The authentic experience of human beings who want nothing more than to live authentic lives is the only thing behind marriage equality and relationship recognition. The only thing. Most people care little for the dogma behind the teaching- especially, as in the case of thoughtful Christians, it doesn’t match their experience.

A key lesson:  Moral authority is earned.  It is not  simply acquired when a bishop/cardinal/Pope is installed.   The American (and Irish, and Dutch, and Belgian , etc.) hierarchy has forfeited a lot of that authority through its handling of the priest sex-abuse scandal. The despair is mitigated by the good works and wise words from  those in the pews. As Pope Benedict XVI used a Holy Thursday sermon to tell priests to obey orders, Medina, Wash., lay Catholic Melinda Gates was speaking from conscience about contraception at a conference in Berlin.

Contraceptives are not a code for abortion, she said, nor an invitation to promiscuous sex.  “We are talking about giving women the power to save their own lives and their children’s lives — and to give their families the best possible future,” said Gates, talking of the need for birth control in the developing world. Gates discussed the instruction in faith she received from sisters in a Catholic high school:  “In the tradition of great Catholic scholars, the nuns also taught us to question received teachings.  One of the teachings most of my classmates and I questioned was the one saying birth control was a sin.”

She didn’t question lessons on service, and giving back, and social justice, worthy grounding for the future co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Read it all here, and then forward it to everyone you know.

“Day of Dialogue” From Focus On The Family is Sacred Discrimination

By Kathy Baldock

I have a hair-trigger sensitivity for the protection of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (glbt) youth.  Even if an action is wrapped in heart-themed paper and tied with a Jesus-loves-you ribbon, when there is something rotten inside, I can smell it. There is something very rotten at the core of the Day of Dialogue event sponsored by the conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family.

I raised my family on Biblical principles I learned from Dr. James Dobson at Focus; we rarely missed the radio-drama “Adventures in Oddessy.” I was a regular listener and donor.  And now, I do not trust Focus on the Family.  There, I said it.  I do not trust them. Their Day of Dialogue event is thinly disguised sacred discrimination of gay and transgender youth.

Day of Dialogue, scheduled for April 19, 2012, “encourage(s) student-initiated conversations about the fact that God cares about our lives, our relationships and our sexuality.”  I think it would be more honest to call it the “Seventh Annual Tell the Gay Kids They Need to Change for God to Love Them Day.”

Focus on the Family has a miserable record in successful and productive engagement with the glbt community.  They actively warn against the inclusion of protection for gender identity and sexual orientation for children.  In “Parents Beware” , published in CitizenLink (an affiliate of Focus on the Family), Day of Dialogue coordinator Candace Cushman warns of “red flags to watch for” in schools, such as;

  • School partnerships with outside advocacy groups that have names like “Safe Schools Alliance” or “Welcoming Schools.”
  • “Anti-bullying” polices that list special protections for “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

Currently, under federal law, religion, sex, country of origin, race and disabilities are protected classes; sexual orientation and gender identity are not.  The Safe Schools Information Act, Student Non-Discrimination Act and Elementary and Secondary Education Act renewal, which all include gender identity and sexual orientation designations, are scheduled to be voted on in the next Congress. Focus on the Family advises followers to not support their inclusion in these legislations.

In the “Guiding Principles” for Day of Dialogue, there is an anti-bullying statement, yet Focus  does not recognize the right for the 
protection of children under the classifications of gender identity and sexual orientation. (Be sure to watch “Bully” when it comes to your city and then consider “Why wouldn’t every Christian ministry actively support the federal protection of gay and transgender children?”)

If this program were really focused on the message of God’s care and love for fellow students, why does it directly precede the Day of Silence? (Historically, it has been immediately following Day of Silence.)  Day of Silence, sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), began in 1996 to bring attention to anti-GLBT name calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students and schools are encouraged to share the problem of anti-GLBT behaviors. Focus on the Family views the efforts of GLSEN as “promoting homosexuality to our kids.”  Day of Dialogue is unmistakably a reaction to Day of Silence; to promote it as anything less is to be quite disingenuous.

Read the rest here.

STUDENT NON DISCRIMINATION ACT NEEDED TO PROTECT GLBT YOUTH FROM BULLYING

Kathy Baldock, www.canyonwalkerconnections.com

Casey, sixteen and gay, was being bullied by two students at his high school in Ohio. His youth pastor, a friend of mine, helped to secure a restraining order to protect him, but the principal downgraded the severity with a weaker solution.  He let Cody come to the office five minutes before classes ended and stay until five minutes after they started; Casey would then be safe from bullying in the hall-passing time.  One of Casey’s bullies was still in class with him.  Did this principal create a safe learning environment and protect Casey from abuse?  Why did it even get this far?  Why was there no policy in place to protect this child from bullying due to his sexual orientation or even his perceived sexual orientation?

No gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (glbt) child in public schools in the United States is federally protected from bullying and harassment for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Shocked?  This is true.  No Child Left Behind (2001), soon to be re-authorized after ten years in the updated Elementary and Secondary Education Re-Authorization 2011 (ESEA), made it out of committee in October 2011 without the bipartisan support it needed to include protection for glbt students.   Currently, students are protected from bullying for: race, sex, religion, disabilities and national origin, but not sexual orientation and gender identity.

When the ESEA is brought to the floor of the Senate in either December or January, there is a push to attach the Student Non-Discrimination Act HR 4350 (SNDA) to it. SNDA includes comprehensive federal prohibitions against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  It would forbid schools with public funding to discriminate against glbt students or ignore harassing behaviors.

The bill was re-introduced, having not been added in committee in ESEA, by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). (watch the video, grab a tissue.)  Co-sponsored by 34 senators, it needs the approval of 60 senators to attach it to the ESEA before going to the House for a vote before it becomes law.

“Is it needed?” you may ask.  Only 13 states have laws protecting glbt students from harassment at school; this is not a surprising statistic when you also realize that 15 states do not even include sexual orientation and gender identity on the “hate crimes” list; in 29 states you can still be fired for being gay; and in 34 states you can be fired for being trans.

Come on, it is really necessary to pass another law?  Lots of kids are bullied in school; that is “just the way it is.”  Research shows highly rejected glbt youth were at a very high risk for health and mental problems when they become young adults.  Highly rejected glbt youth were:

  • More than 8 times as likely to attempt suicide
  • Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression
  • More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs and
  • More than 3 times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases *

Knowing that the primary socializing institutions for children and youth are families, schools and faith communities, should we not try to make those places safer for children?  This is not just a “family issue” forglbt youth.  Many of them are not even out in their own families.  As mysterious as that may seem, the biggest loss a child fears is family rejection so many will delay coming out to their own parents.  Churches are wellknown sources of anti-gay rhetoric, leaving many children thinking they have only one protected place: school.

Now is the time to voice to your senators and representative  that it is their duty as public servants to serve the most vulnerable of their constituents: glbt children.  Tell them to get on record now in support of the Senate bill and the version that comes to the House.  Any senator or representative that votes against the protection of vulnerable children should not hold that position of trust.

I am a Mom too, with two straight, adult children.  I am a straight, Evangelical Christian compelled by my faith to stand for justice and against oppression.  The argument of some conservative family groups and lobbies against this bill is the fear that this bill will “victimize people of faith by turning religiously-based, anti-gay comments into ‘thought crimes’ ” (Rep. John Kline R-MN).  This is fear-based rhetoric.  Anti-discrimination laws punish actions, not opinions or beliefs.

Who should care and act on this now:

  • Parents of glbt children.  There are over 350 chapters of Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) with over 200,000 members nationwide.  Be the advocates you already are and tell your families and friends to insist on the addition of the SNDA in the ESEA.
  • Educators who see the crises and have no guidelines under which to operate when they witness bullying of glbt students.  School boards will take seriously the loss of federal funding should they not enforce the law.
  • Members of the glbt community know the damage many of them suffered for being gay or perceived as gay.
  • Christians are to take seriously the mandates of our faith to fight injustice and stand against oppression (oh, and toss in a good dose of helping the poor) Isaiah 58. A Christian who would consider blocking the protection of a child needs to consider deeply the examples of Jesus.
  • Any parent that understands the difficulty of peer bullying in schools.  Consider that the children that may not be yours suffer it more profoundly; look at those stats again for rejection of glbt youth.  Teach your children well.
  • Conservative family groups need to hold to their own missions—protecting families which include glbt youth.  The irony of Family Research Council ignoring family research and producing policies directly impacting the health and mental wellness of glbt youth is glaring.  Focus on the Family really does need to focus on families and help families with glbt youth.  Concerned Women for America should be concerned about the children of women in America.  Excluding glbt children from the mission statements of those organizations shows severe bias which places religious beliefs over a higher calling of caring for the families and children that even the names of their organizations imply.
  • Any person with even a modicum of wisdom that understands that all children desire the comforts of love, acceptance and security. Healthy children grow into healthy adults and build healthy societies.

Bottom line: who should care that the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) be voted into law as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Re-Authorization Act (ESEA)?  All of us. Partisan politics drives me crazy.  When I see a vote that goes right down party lines, I know the public servants are voting to maintain power and money balances and have succumb to party/special interest groups pressure.  Voting for the protection of children is not a partisan issue.  Every public servant in this country should be protecting the least of these.

And what has become of Casey? Along with his youth pastor, PFLAG stepped in to protect this child. The school administration knows they are being watched and are more cautious. This is what ESEA will do for all children and in all schools; it will strengthen the federal law to include the protection glbt students against bullying.  And, after five years of blocking a Gay Student  Alliance (GSA), Casey’s school now has one and he is the president. He is safer.

Apply pressure and make your voice heard now.  There are 90 million children in this country under 18 years of age, including approximately 4.5 million that are glbt.  Speak up for their safety and insist that the non-inclusion of SNDA at the committee level be corrected when ESEA comes to Senate vote in December or January.  Insist and speak up for Casey and other glbt students.

RECAP:

Contact your senators and representatives and tell them that it is essential that the SNDA (HR 4350) become part of ESEA when it comes for vote in the Senate in December or January.  It will expand the protection from bullying based on: religion, sex, national origin and disabilities to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity for glbt students. And stay on them, especially the Republicans who may be resistant to approve it. And big kudos to Al Franken, thank him too. 

 

*Family Acceptance Project, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, “Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children” (2009)

 

Bullied Youth Proposes LGBT Youth Advisor To President Obama

Photo courtesy of Brody Levesque

An inspiring story for going back to school….
You may remember me writing about Caleb Laieski, a 16 year old bullied youth from Arizona. Caleb was revently invited to the White House to share his experience as a bullied teen. Laieski was one of a few youth chosen to meet with President Obama for a photo opportunity. When they met, he proposed to President Obama that the administration appoint an LGBT youth advisor to the President. The advisor would serve as a liaison between the Obama Administration and our nation’s LGBT youth population to specifically address anti-LGBT bullying and other major issues that LGBT youth face and seek appropriate and immediate solutions. 
Laieski refused to accept bullying as a rite of passage for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teens. Raising funds and creating awareness, he took his passion to Washington, DC where he used his personal experience to lobby Washington lawmakers on the Student Non-Discrimination Act. After meeting with almost 200 different legislators and various administrative offices in just 22 days, Laieski worked on Capitol Hill to promote a safe schools bill; The Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 998 – S. 999).
With his personal experience on bullying, he was invited to speak with the Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, to discuss the effect that bullying has on today’s lesbian and gay youth and the dire situation bullying creates for at-risk youth. The story stuck with Secretary Sebelius – a few days later, Laieski was included in the Secretary’s speech at the first-ever Federal LGBT Youth Summit that was held by the Department of Education.

Bullying has taken many at-risk LGBT youth and a recent study shows, that LGBT youth who come from “highly rejecting” families are more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide than LGBT peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. In a tragic event that struck too close to home, Laieski lost a close friend his age to suicide last year. This friend had endured similar bullying- and Caleb has had several other close friends attempt suicide due to the same systematic and sustained harassment in public schools.

Reluctant to create more pain from his experience, Laieski has begun channeling his inner pain in a positive way by becoming a strong personal advocate for bullied LGBT Youth- an inspiring story, especially as students head back to school.

We’ll keep you informed about the LGBT Youth Advisor to The President….

More about Caleb here.