Truth In The Face Of Ignorance

peace love joy

peace love joy (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

Back in March, I wrote a piece about the Pope speaking to American bishops about the need for a culture war about marriage equality- and we got one. The Catholic Church was the largest single contributor (through the Bishop’s Conference, the Knights of Columbus and the National Organization For Marriage) against marriage equality initiatives in four states.

They lost.

Kind of makes you wonder what kind of help those millions of dollars would have given the poor if they hadn’t been so horribly directed against love.

Anyway, I ended that essay with with an open letter to LGBTIQ persons who live every day in the face of moral attack, physical violence and angry, ignorant, powerful people. We may have come a long way this year, but we’re not there yet.

So- if I may be so bold- I’d like to reprint the letter as a reminder that we need to find inspiration in ourselves. We need to remember that in the face of ignorance, we must continually speak the quiet, powerful truth of purpose and experience.

And I need to be reminded just as much as anybody else.

To my LGBTIQ family,

Love toward yourself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is important and necessary to insist on respect for your own right to life. I believe you were created to fill a very important place in this world- a place often dramatically misunderstood and opposed by people out of ignorance and fear.

It is crucial that you understand that you are not alone- there are millions of people who want to understand you and accept you and who will love you. You have the right to be understood- and you have the right to love and be loved in the ways you feel are most faithful to your created nature.

You have the right to live free from fear of attack and violence. You have the right to defend yourself against ignorant attacks on your dignity, happiness and self-respect. You have the right to fulfill your potential and to follow your heart and mind and soul and dreams to the best of your ability. Despite ignorance, despite persecution, despite fear and power and hate.

I believe that we are all beloved by the God of our understanding. I believe that we are valuable in being beloved. And that value is not diminished, even in the face of anger, fear and ignorance. Even in the face of religious belief which would deny us that value.

We are a courageous, wonderful people, with visions of love and acceptance and equality and happiness that I believe are deeply important to the future of the world.

I beg you, don’t let go of these visions- no matter how strongly others try to pull them away from you. They are your birthright.

They are the key hope to a world filled with peace.

Amen.

Do Tell

It’s the first anniversary of official integration of openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the military. I can think of no better way to observe it than by the words of Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen as he testified before Congress last year:

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, it comes down to integrity – theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”

What many don’t understand is that lies create shame- and shame creates pain. For many LGBT people, lying on a daily basis is dehumanizing and debilitating over the long term, destroying integrity, creating depression, increasing anxiety and lowering significantly a person’s quality of life.

On the other hand, telling the truth and being accepted can greatly minimize depression, anxiety and shame, increasing quality of life significantly.

I think the military’s embracing of honesty sends an important message to Americans- one that should have been sent from the beginning:  lying is bad. In fact, it’s bad policy.

Obvious, isn’t it?

And here’s to the many members of the military who survived- who “served in silence” before truth was finally policy (including my husband). Thank you for your service.

In fact, maybe today should be Gay Veteran’s Day….

 

Help Inlaws & Outlaws Make It To Public TV!

One of the best (and most elegant) pieces of human understanding and compassion is Drew Emery’s film Inlaws & Outlaws. I’ve written about the Montana screenings we had this past spring and the fantastic impact it had on the audiences that gathered in Helena and Bozeman. It’s an amazing piece of work.

Now, this little gem has a chance for public distribution- and a better tool for compassion and understanding of gay relationships (and all relationships in my opinion) would be hard to find.

If everybody in America saw this film, opposition to marriage equality would melt away like a bad mood in a room full of puppies.

From the True Stories Project:

We’ve got terrific news! The National Education Telecommunications Association (NETA) has offered to distribute a full presentation of Inlaws & Outlaws on public television! That means that, if we act quickly, the film will be made available to virtually all public television stations in the US this Fall – including over 350+ PBS affiliates!

This is huge!

Public TV reaches over 117 million viewers a week. If we slice off even a modest amount of that, we’ll bring Inlaws & Outlaws to a much, much larger audience than it’s ever had. Just as same-sex marriage has finally arrived centerstage with President Obama’s support, we have the opportunity to reach millions of households with true stories we know change hearts & minds.

But to meet our deadline, we need your help — and we need it now.

We need our first $50,000 in underwriting by the end of September. Your support will pay for vital post-production for broadcast, closed captioning, station relations and more. Can you help?

You betcha. I’m in. Anybody else?

Donate here.

Fairness For ALL Families- Full Details!

Details for a counter celebration to counter The Montana Family Foundation’s Chick-fil-A discrimination fundraiser:

When: Saturday September 8 from 1:00pm until 3:00pm
Where: 4342 Montana Sapphire Ln. (Just past Shiloh on King Ave W – across the lot from Manny’s Sports Bar

Fairness for ALL families is important in Montana. If you would like to show your support for equality and fair treatment for ALL Montana families and declare that LOVE is the most traditional family value, please join us in Billings for an Fairness Rally on Saturday, September 8.

Schedule of events:
1:00 pm: Sign making and Photos
1:30 pm: Rally
2:00 pm: Family fun, food and fairness for all! Kite making, face painting, hula hooping, arts and crafts, music and more!

Pita Pit of Billings will be selling “Equality Chicken Pita” – a fresh, healthy alternative to fried chicken provided by a Montana owned business who will donate 75% of the proceeds to LGBT work in the state.

This is a collaborative celebration of ALL families by the ACLU of Montana, Fair is Fair Montana, Montana Human Rights Network, Pride Foundation, and TAP 365. We have generous donations (so far) by Pita Pit of Billings, Signed Sealed and Delivered, and Schenk Construction.

Event organizers encourage Bozeman supporters to carpool to Billings for the rally. You are responsible for organizing your own transportation, but a trip has been set up at www.carpoolworld.com that will leave the Bozeman Library at 10 a.m. In order to find the trip on the site and carpool matches, you’ll need to log in and enter the date, time and location (September 8, 10 a.m., Bozeman Library). Please understand that our organizations cannot be responsible for your transportation costs or safety.

If you cannot join us, please consider donating to the following organizations that work every day to support all families and protect them from discrimination:

You can sign a statement of support with Fair is Fair Montana at: http://www.fairisfairmontana.org/statement-of-support-for-fairness-in-montana
or DONATE to our LGBT work at: https://www.aclu.org/secure/support-aclu-montana

Support TAP 365: https://www.facebook.com/pages/TAP-365/111582937230

You can donate to the Montana Human Rights Network’s Equality Project at: https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=mthrn&id=1

 

You can donate to the Pride Foundation at: https://www.pridefoundation.org/giving/give-online/

You can donate to Not In Our Town Billings at: http://www.niotbillings.org/donatetoniot.htm

 

Agreed


(found on Facebook- if you know the source, leave me a comment)

Gays, Marriage Polls, Jesus and Sally Kern

From the Washington Post:

As New York gears up for its second weekend of same-sex nuptials, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Americans split 50 to 46 percent over whether the state’s law legalizing such unions is a positive or negative outcome. Reactions to the new legislation — like support for legalizing gay marriage in general — range tremendously across generational, political and religious lines.

Americans have grown increasingly accepting of same-sex marriage over the past decade, according to surveys by The Post and ABC,Gallup, the Pew Research Center and others. The public opposed legalizing gay and lesbian unions by a 58 to 36 percent margin in 2006, but the new Post-ABC poll finds a slight majority — 51 percent — saying such marriages should be legal.

New Yorkers- and Americans in general are increasingly favoring marriage equality.  A majority of Montanans now favor domestic partnerships. It’s becoming more clear that there is no threat from the “Gay Menace”. In fact, Virginia, there is no Gay Menace- and no threat.

It is worth noting, however, that the biggest statistical groups who view marriage equality as “Negative” come from “Conservative Republicans” (71%) and “White Evangelical Protestants” (71%).

Most of the weird, anti-gay vitriol comes from “conservatives” (notable exception: Ruben Diaz). The ignorant and hateful things Montana legislators have said on record have been well-documented here and on other sites (not so much in the Montana newspapers) and, you guessed it- they come from elected Republicans.

I have also noticed an element of religious righteousness when the conversation takes place with many “conservatives” whether in person, on tv or the radio. Maybe you’ve noticed it, too. I heard it last night on CNN when some Congressional Representatives had to go “pray about” the debt ceiling vote. Now I’m all for prayer, but they seem to be forgetting Matthew 6.5-6…. The point I’m struggling to make here, is that there is an element here that will not give in- not to science, not to reason, not to compassion, not to anything but radical fundamentalism. For them, that would be abandoning God’s Word- and for a fundamentalist/biblical literalist that means Hell- the ultimate fear meme. It’s that faction that concerns me. And it seems to be safely ensconced in the Republican Party.

A perfect example is Oklahoma Republican legislator Sally Kern, who had this to say about gay persons on July 27th:

To me what is hateful is when those people who say ‘you’re born this way, there’s no hope in change, you’re stuck in this, deal with it,’ that is hate. There’s no hope in that…

We’re losing our freedom of conscience. And if the homosexuals get what they want, and as you said it’s not just homosexuality, its immorality or adultery, all of that, but in my opinion the homosexual movement is the tip of the spear. They’re the ones who right now are beating down the door, have their foot in the door, trying to tear down the moral fiber of America. We have to stand up to that. The reason it’s the tip of the spear- you don’t see ‘Adulterers Victory Fund’ out there trying to promote adultery. God’s people got to stand up to this. (emphasis mine)

Here’s what’s disturbing to me about this: She can say these ignorant, hateful things in public, under the protection of free speech-and feel righteous and supported in doing so. Without serious repercussions from her party or other conservatives. In fact, they’ve been portraying themselves as victims. (seriously, watch this) I would love to hear an elected conservative make an “It Gets Better” video. None have done so. I would love to hear the uproar from thoughtful conservatives against the unreasonable lines of thought and logic. It doesn’t happen. Maybe a few gasping voices- but no uproar. That’s a fact.

I don’t want to bash- it’s not productive, but I do want to ask the question: Where are the reasonable voices for equality in the Republican Party? Why don’t we hear from them as much as Sally Kerns or Ann Coulter?

I have strong feelings about Christian Fundamentalism. I am firmly convinced that the enormous richness of scripture- and the whole Christian Tradition- becomes diluted with simplistic personal interpretations and wanton literalism. The Bible is a complex and varied collection of documents and literature- it is not to be simplistically reduced to quick and glib personal statements. Broad themes can be construed, yes, but not without a great deal of thought and research. And most scripture scholars would agree.

I have spent a great deal of my life studying the words and works of Jesus Christ. I have read the Bible- a lot. I have studied scholarly interpretations of scripture and worked with experts in the field- I have three degrees in theology, in fact- and I have never, not once, found a reason to believe Jesus would ever condone this sort of ignorant, non-loving nonsense. That’s not the Jesus I know and love. That particular Jesus is a creation of very frightened, and perhaps even, unenlightened people.

The real Jesus was interested in showing the love of God. He lived for mercy, justice and peace. He died for compassion and integrity and truth. I believe he’s interested in my truth. Not only interested but invested in it. And my truth is this: I am a man who simply wants to love and be loved according to my created, inborn nature- an inborn nature I spent years questioning, examining and reflecting upon.

That’s all. It’s quite simple really. I’m just asking the world to trust the reality of my experience. Arguably, the people I’m speaking of could say the same thing- but I would argue that they’ve abandoned experience in favor of biblical literalism.

There’s also this difference between us: my worldview doesn’t condemn anyone else to eternal fire and damnation. It doesn’t threaten anyone else at all, really. People like Sally Kern may think they’re being threatened, but I think they’re just scared- too scared to look at the reality of life with open hearts. Their hearts are set in stone- immovable, inflexible, afraid.

That’s not the way I want my heart to be. I want it to be open and accepting and generous and kind. I’m happy to let other people give love and receive love wherever they can. Without limits. Because that’s how I believe it works best.

And the good thing? The American People are starting to think so, too.

When Was The Last Time A Christian’s House Was Burned Down?

I know. Provocative question.

But I can’t help asking it when I see stories of deliberate arson evicting LGBT’s from the safety of their homes. I also ask the question (appropriately modified) when I see ant-queer graffiti, read about harassment and beatings involving people who are too much like me to make me feel beyond it.

This house, owned by a gay couple in Clayton, North Carolina was destroyed early Friday morning. The story is here.

There was a history of anti-gay messages, graffiti, harassment and vandalism before the blaze. The couple is not identified for “fear of their safety”. The neighbor who talked to the reporter also did so only anonymously. We are afraid.

And the Christianists call us a threat- among other nasty things.

So for the purposes of argument I will ask the following questions to those who believe equality only applies to white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, procreating, (&etc) Christians:

  • When was the last time a group of LGBTIQ persons beat up a straight person?
  • When did Graffiti with the word “Breeders” adorn the house of a straight family?
  • When did a gay terrorist group burn down a Christian house just because they were Christian?
  • When did an LGBT Pastor make the news for slandering and approving of violence against straights?
  • Etc, etc.

But the reverse? Happens all the time. And we take it. Mostly, we do.

Fucked, ain’t it?

And I can’t help but feeling if we don’t get our act together and start acting like a community instead of picking little fights all over the place, squabbling over minutiae that, in the final analysis makes little difference (check the comments section of any LGBT blog), it’s going to continue to get worse.

I am not advocating that we become terrorists, or engage in any similar behavior, only that we be radically truthful. Self-defensive, if you will.

I know. Go ahead. That’s what the comments section is for.