This is big news for the Bitterroot- and I’m proud to be part of it. Click for larger version
By Caitlin Copple
Being trans can be a challenge anywhere, but it’s especially tough in Montana, as there are no statewide nondiscrimination protections for gender identity, including at Montana State University. A coalition of student organizations is working to change this, including TransMSU (TMSU) a support group for transgender MSU students.
Founded by graduate student Cassidy Medicine Horse, the group came into being after Medicine Horse was invited to talk about barriers to the community to the MSU student senate.
Despite Bozeman’s reputation for being a fairly liberal college town, Cassidy explains that prejudices exist when it comes to bathrooms, showers, dorms, and health care providers. Even though the school is receptive to hormone therapy coverage, it’s common for insurance carriers to exclude it from their prescription formulary. Cassidy adds that, to her knowledge, there are only three therapists and as many doctors in the Bozeman area who treat trans individuals.
Navigating these barriers while also going through a major life and identity transition was extremely difficult for Medicine Horse, and she started TransMSU to ensure other transitioning would have a built-in support network.
“Transitioning can be, at the very least, a lonely time,” she says. “Sometimes it can be filled with self-recrimination, self-loathing, anger, and great loss of family and friends.”
Beyond support, Medicine Horse hopes the group will provide a place for trans advocacy and increased visibility of the community, as they have with the efforts to add gender identity and expression to the Montana University System bylaws.
“What I am truly hoping for is that trans as a paradigm of the ‘other’ will cease to exist,” she says. “Sometimes I joke, half-heartedly, that I don’t want people just to come out of the closet. I want them to burn the closet down. The fact that a person is transgendered or transsexual should be about as interesting as whether you had mustard on your last sandwich. To be transgendered is not about sex. It is not about being homosexual or straight. It is about identity.”
Until then, she and TransMSU are partnering with the Montana Human Rights Network, a longtime Pride Foundation grantee, to work for equal protections for all Bozeman residents.
“Cassidy’s work to establish TMSU is essential to helping fill a gap as LGBTQ policy work moves forward in Bozeman,” said Jamee Greer, LGBT organizer for the Montana Human Rights Network. “It shows trans Bozemanites that they belong here, and also helps educate cisgender* folks around why trans inclusion matters.”
“Bozeman is a great little town with great folks,” adds Medicine Horse. “It’s time that we stand next to Missoula and Helena and give an additional voice to the concept of equality.”
When asked how people can be better allies to trans people, she shared:
- Learn the correct use of pronouns. If you don’t know, ask respectfully about pronoun preference.
- Don’t out us, and don’t use “bio” or “real” when referring to trans folks. If you need to designate, use “cis” or, better yet, how about referring to us just as a “person.”
- Do not ask me what my “real” name is or whether I have had had the surgery. It is, frankly, no one else’s business.
- Don’t automatically identify trans people as homosexual. Again, it’s not your concern and has nothing to do with being transgendered. Recognize that not all people fit into a nice little binary world of gender identification.
- Speak out when you hear pejorative remarks about trans people.
Currently, TMSU has 23 members, and the group welcomes trans, MtF, FtM, intersex, questioning, students, faculty, local residents, spouses, and supporters. The group meets weekly on Monday nights on the MSU campus from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
*A cisgender person is someone who identifies as the gender/sex they were assigned at birth. The colloquial use of cisgender suggests that it is the opposite of transgender.
Caitlin Copple is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Montana.
- Top 50 Myths About Being Transgender (kchapmangibbons.wordpress.com)
- Twenty-One questions on trans issues answered (cnlester.wordpress.com)
- Queer vocabulary (thehindu.com)
- Chile Transgender Man Becomes Nation’s First To Give Birth: Report (huffingtonpost.com)
- Join Pride Foundation Scholars At Special Reception (dgsmith.org)
- You’re Invited (dgsmith.org)
“Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle, or like, premarital sex between heterosexuals … it says that that’s a sin … I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” he said on the show. “So, I would not characterize that person as a Christian, because I don’t think the Bible would characterize that person as a Christian.”
~ Chris Broussard, ESPN Commentator.
I do so wish to avoid judging those who judge others. Thus, I have tried to avoid comment upon the religious right rhetoric about LGBT people. Yet, it is becoming increasingly clear that statements like the above quote stray from even the most basic of Christian tenets, Jesus’s command that we “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34-35. Moreover, for a biblical literalist, the above scriptural interpretation (Not cited, but denominated as biblical by the phrase, “it says.” ) is simply inaccurate. Finally, one of the most basic rules of journalism is that the media represent all sides of an issue. And, there is another side to this story.
So, what is gained by my silence? Some great Christian leaders have posited that to be silent in the face of oppression is to join the oppressor. (E.g., Dr. King, and more recently, Bishop Gene Robinson). Thus, I gladly risk the criticism that I am being judgmental in favor of speaking out on behalf of the oppressed. I speak my truth to power.
Now, about Gay Christians. The term is neither an oxymoron nor disingenuous. I personally identify as LGBT and Christian. I believe that Jesus is Lord! According to scripture, I cannot make such a statement lightly, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3). Moreover, if I say it and believe it than scripture guarantees my salvation. (Romans 10:9). Hence, the scriptural formulaic equation for salvation is not exclusive. I can be Gay and Christian. And I am not alone in this belief.
There are a whole host or Christian organizations, many of which we see on Face Book every day, dedicated to the same proposition. We are in the minority now, but I believe that as we continue to change the world that all of Christendom will likewise evolve. One such group is called Fortunate Families, a national organization of Catholic parents with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender children, with a passion for social justice advocacy and a focus on the Catholic Church and LGBT issues. In my present church affiliation, Methodist, we have the Reconciling Ministries Network whose purpose is to mobilize United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love. The Episcopal church has an organization called Integrity, whose mission it is to inspire and equip the Episcopal Church, its dioceses, congregations, and members to proclaim and embody God’s all-inclusive love for LGBTQ persons and those who love them. Perhaps you know of others.
When it comes to scripture, I am merely a “jack-theologian,” so-to-speak. While I have a minor in religious studies, I certainly do not have any sort of divinity degree. However, I have at least read the passages to which I refer. I understand that they have been through multiple translations over the millennia, and were written in a vastly different culture with a vastly inferior world view, knowledge and technology, and that they were gathered into what we now know as the Bible by church fathers in the Third Century. (Even a cursory search reveals that the origins of the Bible is a complicated story rife with dissension and debate). Scripture did not even have line and verse until the 16th century. (The Bible was divided into chapters in the 13th century by Stephen Langton and into verses in the 16th century by French printer Robert Estienne). People believed over the entire 4,000 or so years that the various books of the Bible were written that the world was flat and the heavens (and God) resided a few hundred feet above them. Science now informs our world view to cast aside such notions, as well as the notion that the Biblical genealogy found in Genesis denotes the age of the world.
Against that backdrop, we have the self-righteous and inflammatory conclusions above. They can be summarized as follows: The bible says that homosexuality is a sin in open rebellion to God and Jesus. In claiming to be LGBT and Christian I must, as Gene Robinson says, “unabashedly” assert that this statement is false! None of the Gospels attribute to Jesus as ever uttering a single word about homosexuality, much less the word itself, or that he would accord it to himself as “open rebellion.” No such word existed in Hebrew or Greek, the two main languages in which the books of the bible were written. The word “homosexual” is not in the Bible, except in oblique translations of the six or so references to men “lying” with men in the Hebrew text and Paul’s letters, the most notorious of which is found in Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” (Evidently, the only reason one lies with a female is to have sex. But is it okay if I lie with a woman until I need glasses? Sorry, I digress (impishly laughing to self with tongue firmly in cheek)).
The Hebrew term, shiqquwts is translated as “abomination” by almost all translations of the Bible. The similar words, sheqets, and shâqats, are almost exclusively used for dietary violations. Toeba, is also translated as abomination in some texts. Many modern versions of the Bible translate it as “detestable”or “loathsome.” I hear one Rabbi refer to it as “yicky.” Biblical literalists interpret this to mean that same-sex sexual activity is an abomination and therefore inherently sinful. (Note, however, that it is not one of the Ten Commandments).
However,please consider that a word or phrase which has been translated through multiple languages over centuries and the subject of great debate and disagreement among the worlds great scholars and theologians, inherently, cannot credibly be taken as a modern-day literal truth. Moreover, this supposed proscription was part of what is called the ancient Hebrew Holiness Code which highly regulated the everyday lives of ancient Hebrew men, from what they were to wear to what they were to eat. Violations of these rules were also called abominations. The code referred to how they were to treat one another too. Later prophets make this clear. In a little referred to scripture, Ezekiel says at 16:49-50: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.” Clearly, Sodom’s lack of hospitality is the abomination.
Yet, there is no mention of the word, “homosexual,” again defying the literalists. They cannot rely on the literal words of scripture to reach the result they want, but must interpret the meaning of the words used through their various translations over time in spite of later clarification within the Bible’s own pages. Now I wonder how to characterize the above quotation from the ESPN announcer. Is it hospitable, or detestable and loathsome? Is it an abomination? What would Ezekiel say?
- At INTERCHANGE: “Scripture and Science and Sex, OH MY!” (dgsmith.org)
- Proud Christian, Proud Supporter of Marriage Equality by Elizabeth Carwyn (sexatbaylor.wordpress.com)
- What Does God Think About Tattoos? (multiplyministries.wordpress.com)
This past weekend was important to me for a number of reasons.
But I also got to meet and spend some quality time with dedicated Montana people who care about equality in our state. Some became even more strongly convinced after watching “Diversity Day” and “Love Free Or Die” presented in local churches.
Even I- a committed partner of the ACLU and the Fair Is Fair Campaign- became inspired after hearing Bishop Robinson speak about the need for Christian compassion and understanding in the face of fear and unintentional ignorance about LGBTIQ persons.
“Our job is to make this an issue of compassion and justice, not theology”, Bishop Robinson said. “We have to make the issue of fairness one that brings a face to mind whenever we talk about equality. This is about people.”
But being inspired is only as good as the actions it produces.
I want to encourage you to bolster the ACLU’s Fair Is Fair campaign by taking your inspiration and desire for justice and take action- by becoming a member.
My family belongs because we believe in the work of the ACLU. We believe it is important to support a coalition of organizations to bring full equality to all Montanans- but that only works if we all come together. The Montana ACLU is helping to make that happen, and I’m proud to be a supporting member.
I hope you’ll join us.
- You Don’t Want To Miss This: Big Gay Weekend In Billings (dgsmith.org)
- Win A Copy Of Love Free Or Die From ShockYa’s Twitter Giveaway (shockya.com)
- First gay Anglican bishop, Gene Robinson, reflects on tenure in New Hampshire (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Bishop Gene Robinson Predicts 6-3 Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down DOMA (ontopmag.com)
- ‘Love Free or Die,’ Film on Bishop Gene Robinson, Comes to DVD (advocate.com)
- Former Felons Celebration Thursday (dgsmith.org)
Evangelical Christian and LGBTIQ ally, Kathy Baldock, is confirmed for INTERCHANGE on Saturday June 29th at the Bozeman Public Library.
You may remember Kathy from last year’s Montana Pride Celebration- she was the one leading the contingent of people wearing T-shirts that said “Hurt by Church? Get a Str8 Apology Here.”
She also led the counter protest against the “Christian” on the ladder during the parade.
When I asked Kathy what she hoped to give us at this workshop, she said, “I want people to realize that the limits of scripture and science and human knowledge have to always be tempered by human experience. In the six years of engaging in dialogue with the straight Evangelical and Protestant communities, I have learned what works to bring understanding on the issue of homosexuality and the Bible. I want to help you find the way to productive conversations through Scripture, science, reasoning and discussion techniques.”
Kathy Baldock, of Canyonwalker Connections, represents the journey many Evangelical Christians are considering as they try to reconcile what the have been told about the LGBTQ community and what they are experiencing in relationship with gay and transgender friends. The tension of “How do I understand what the Bible says?” with “How do I accurately represent Jesus?” is creating conflict in the conservative church. From her own life, Kathy will share how she has been able to guide people with their personal questioning in a new way to a fuller understand of the message of God’s inclusion of His LGBT children.
This presentation is sponsored by Gallatin Valley PFLAG.
Supporters of marriage equality will gather outside the Supreme Court on the first day of hearings: March 26 at 8:30 a.m. in Washington, D.C. Together we will show the nation that we believe all Americans deserve to be treated fairly and equally under the law — no matter who they love.
Wear red, share this graphic as your facebook profile pic:
- Support marriage equality! (thevaleriechang.wordpress.com)
- U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Same-Sex Marriage Debate Today (whnt.com)
- Same-sex marriage: A potential Supreme Court blockbuster (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- SCOTUS to Hear Prop 8 Challenge Today (radio.foxnews.com)
I came out approximately 5 years ago.
At the time, I was terrified. I assumed that I would never speak to my family again, lose my friends, move far away and start a new life.
Now, that just seems silly. I told one of my sisters first, and word got around either by me or through the grapevine. The majority of my friends stayed true to me. Those that did not, quietly removed themselves from my life. Although, to be fair, I didn’t exactly give some people the chance to tell me what they really felt, and for that I feel regret. I should have given them the chance to give me a chance.
I was selfish, scared, immature and irresponsible to a degree. I didn’t know what to do with myself once I had finally conquered my biggest fear. Life became beautiful, wonderful and… chaotic at best. Eventually, I straightened it out, grew up and moved on. I have amazing family, awesome friends, and great jobs. Something struck me today at a new job I recently took.
I was talking to a coworker I hardly know. I just met her, we are both new, and I have no idea what her beliefs or political standings are. I related my relationship to hers, talked with other LGBT employees about the drag shows, etc. I openly mentioned my partner in my interview, and as the last few weeks of training have progressed there has been no hesitation in relating my life and experiences to others. And I wasn’t even thinking twice about it. Even when I taked to a sweet little lady about the election of a new Pope, I never assumed she was anti-LGBT inclusion. I just saw that she was sweet, polite and happy about the selection that had been made. It made me smile.
There used to be such fear and discomfort. Always worried about how someone might react to my orientation, my life, my partner… But now, I just don’t even think about it.
And no one reacts innapropriately. THAT, my friends, is so beautiful. And I owe it to all of you that have supported me, given me opportunities and chances, friendship and love. I hope and pray that every young person, regardless of what struggle they have, will find those people in life so that they may reach full potential.
I smile so much these days. I laugh, dance, sing, and love. Not like before, when it was gaurded, insecure and sometimes forced. Now it is genuine, bright and glowing like a Montana summer day.
We all make a difference in the lives around us. Let’s make sure it’s a positive difference.
Getting through adolescence is hard enough.
There’s the agony of puberty, the mood swings and the withering self-consciousness. Then comes the clumsiness of emerging sexuality.
It can be overwhelming.
For some young people, the passage can be even more daunting. For a few Montana kids coming to terms with their attraction to the same gender — in a religious and rural culture that doesn’t always know what to make of them — the challenge can be deadly.
A 2009 survey of more than 7,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender middle and high school students aged 13 to 21 found that in the past year, at least eight of 10 students had been verbally harassed at school; four of 10 had been physically harassed; six of 10 felt unsafe at school; and one of five had been the victim of a physical assault, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
LGBT youth also are at far greater risk for suicide. A national study of adolescents in grades seven to 12 found that LGBT youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers.
There is little specific research in Montana concerning how much of a role sexual orientation plays in youth suicides, said Karl Rosston, Montana’s suicide prevention coordinator. However, national studies have shown about 15 percent of youth who reported suicide attempts also reported same-sex attraction or relationships.
In Montana between 1999 and 2009, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24, behind unintentional injuries like auto and farm accidents.
In the two years between 2010 and 2011, at least 57 youth ages 15 to 24 killed themselves in Montana.
It’s difficult to figure the current number of gays and lesbians in Montana. However, according to a report from the Williams Institute, a national think tank at UCLA researching sexual orientation issues, there were 1,600 same-sex couples in Montana as of 2005, up from 1,200 in 2000. This number is almost certainly higher, especially since the study didn’t include youth. The number of male couples and female couples were nearly evenly split, with 806 men and 853 women.
About 2.6 percent of Montana’s population — around 26,000 people — is gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to the report.
Teen suicide is a microcosm of what’s happening throughout the state, which has had one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation for more than 30 years. Consider that during 2010, at least 227 Montanans took their own lives. Another 225 people committed suicide in 2011.
D Gregory Smith, a Bozeman-based licensed mental health counselor and executive director of AIDS Outreach, counsels LGBT high school and college students, gay men and a handful of heterosexual men and women. He also counsels parents wondering if their child’s sexual preference can be changed, although he doesn’t believe that’s possible. He counsels parents on how they can better understand their child’s sexuality.
Most of his youth and young adult clients have contemplated suicide.
“Their biggest fear is believing they cannot have a good life,” said Smith, a former Catholic priest who is gay and HIV-positive. “They believe they cannot stay in Montana, be who they are and be happy.”
There’s so much more here: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/lgbt-youth-at-increased-risk-for-suicide/article_d7e8360a-f437-5ba6-8d03-8aeb2d67d701.html#ixzz2MVkAw1EE
- LGBT youth at increased risk for suicide (billingsgazette.com)
- Former Priest: “I got the cue he’s falling in love with me” (Billingsgazette.com
- Musical Nun Sings: ‘You Are Not Alone’ (dgsmith.org)
As a disenfranchised Catholic, I cannot help but be intrigued and even a little hopeful about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. I do not like Benedict even though I love the church. I grew up Catholic, was both an altar and choir boy, and even considered becoming a priest. I can’t imagine how that would have turned out.
Nonetheless, the American/Roman Catholic culture became my culture. My friends were Catholic. We attended the Catholic grade school and church at the corner of my street. I later went to a Catholic high school and college (University of Dayton). I especially loved the new music in the church, and played and sang those songs in a church music group for years. I even came to appreciate the deep meaning and spiritual significance of the Mass and other Catholic traditions.
I miss those parts of being Catholic because they are so much a part of who I am. However, like so many others, I can no longer tolerate both the fact of clergy child sexual abuse, and the church hierarchy’s cover up of the same. Neither can I abide the church’s homophobic positions, philosophy, and teaching. Did you ever notice when Benedict has discussed these, he does not refer to scripture, nor even mention Jesus, let alone his teachings about love and lack of judgment. Perhaps this is because the gospels, ostensibly, have also sanctioned the power of the Vicar of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter (“I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it,” Matthew 16:18, New American Standard Bible (©1995), emphasis added), as well as his minions, to assess judgment upon sinners.
Purportedly, this power, conferred by Jesus himself in John 20:23, New American Standard Bible (©1995) (“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained”) takes precedent in the minds of the Church over Jesus’ direct order: “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you” John 15:12, New American Standard Bible (©1995). And, what about this rather direct admonishment? ”Do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. . . .” Luke 6:37, New American Standard Bible (©1995).
I have never heard an explanation for this elevation of one of Jesus’ principles over that of others, and would love to read the apologetics which justifies this doctrine promulgated by the self perpetuating (and protecting) hierarchical system known as the church. But, that is perhaps another matter.
Be that as it may, apparently not all church members agree with these judgmental policies. “Equally Blessed, an LGBT-inclusive Catholic group, issued a statement upon Benedict’s announcement and said members were ‘grateful that Pope Benedict XVI had the foresight and humility to resign his office for the sake of the church to which he has given his life.’
The organization added that the Roman Catholic Church now has the opportunity to change the church and overturn oppressive, homophobic policies.
‘We pray for a pope who is willing to listen to and learn from all of God’s people. We pray for a pope who will realize that in promoting discrimination against LGBT people, the church inflicts pain on marginalized people, alienates the faithful and lends moral credibility to reactionary political movements across the globe. We pray for a pope who will lead the church in looking the sexual abuse scandal squarely in the eye and make a full report on the complicity of the hierarchy in the sexual trauma inflicted on children around the world. We pray for a pope who is willing to make himself vulnerable on behalf of the voiceless, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.’” http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2013/02/11/pope-benedict-xvi-announces-resignation.
I wish I could be as genial and hopeful, but, sadly, I must acknowledge as have others that many of the Cardinals who will select Benedict’s successor (and from whose ranks he will be chosen) were handpicked by Benedict himself. Thus, it is very likely that they share his views and support his policies.
I pray from the depths of my soul for a pope who will truly believe these words from a popular Catholic hymn*:
I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart
*Written by Daniel Schutte and recorded by Daniel O’Donnell in 1981 after Vatican Council II. Its words are based on Isaiah 6:8 and 1 Samuel 3. The song was then published by North American Liturgy Resources which later was purchased by New Dawn Music, a subsidiary of Oregon Catholic Press. It’s been used at many Papal Masses. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Citations omitted).
- COMMENTARY: Pope Benedict XVI’s missing mea culpa (religionnews.com)
- Ten reasons for Catholics to give thanks for Pope Benedict (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- Cardinal Roger Mahony heads to Rome as Pope Benedict XVI resigns (swrnn.com)