#stopHB609

Because this issue is not going away, I thought I’d put my testimony against HB609 on the internet so that people could see it, read it and think about it:

March 23, 2017
HB609

 

My name is Greg Smith. I am a fourth generation Montanan, born in Butte and raised in the Ruby Valley. I am a licensed Mental Health counselor specializing in LGBTQ issues, and I’ve been a priest for almost 26 years.

I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences as a pastor and as a psychologist.

I’m one of those Christians that believe causing pain and suffering to anyone is sinful. Jesus was very clear on the matter “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke10.27) Some of my clergy colleagues may disagree, but I think that this bill is not about loving others as ourselves, but about creating barriers of shame, fear and isolation. I know that this bill would create a great deal of pain and suffering for transgender individuals and their families in the State of Montana. Not only that, I believe It defies science, it defies experience, and it defies reality.

The reality is that transgender people exist. In fact, they live here in Montana. I need to say this out loud: they are not going away. Just because some of us don’t like this reality-or don’t understand it- doesn’t make it any less real. In fact, I believe the definition of mental health involves seeing and acknowledging reality. To deny reality is to live in mental illness- and transgender persons are real. To deny the reality of transgender persons is to live in mental illness. It is a fundamental denial of reality.

I am proud to work with and for transgender persons- these children of God are not being intransigent- they are expressing their truth. I believe you have the power to help make people’s lives better- and passing this bill will not make anyone’s life better. There have been no reported assaults in locker rooms or restrooms by transgender persons. In fact, the hypersexualizing of this issue causes a lot of misunderstanding and needless fear.

Please see this not as a safety issue- because it isn’t, but as a civil rights issue- which it is. This is not about “choosing” gender- we are born knowing our gender, it’s in our heads, not necessarily in our bodies. I have worked with hundreds of transgender persons in my career and I would like to help you understand that this is not about “switching” genders. It’s about being faithful to the person your brain tells you that you are. And many do so with a great deal of physical pain and discomfort- and with a great deal of emotional pain and social stigma.

This bill seems to be nothing more than an attempt to harm transgender persons as well as their families and friends- I can’t find anything in here about loving our neighbor- it’s all about fearing your neighbor. As a Christian minister, I cannot support it.

Thank you for your kind attention, I am happily available to answer any questions you may have.

Rev D Gregory Smith, STL, MA, LCPC, LMHC

GiGi’s Message Problem

…is wonderfully summarized by Don Pogreba over at Intelligent Discontent:

In stops in Butte and Ekalaka, Gianforte repeated his refusal to offer a substantive comment on Right to Work, no doubt because he simply doesn’t want to tell the truth: that he will certainly sign any Right to Work legislation authored by a Republican Legislature. The audio from Butte is incredibly dishonest. Asked repeatedly if he would sign Right to Work legislation, Mr. Gianforte kept retreating into a political non-answer about “not making it a priority” before wandering off to a talking point about his high school football days. Seriously.

Read the rest here.

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He’s hoping no one will notice how extreme he is, but I don’t think Montanans are that intolerant or stupid.

And if you want an excellent overview of this “scientist”‘s definitely un-science-y views on biology, sexuality and psychology, go here.

Or here.

Or here.

This man would be a disaster for Montana.

 

Tiny Westboro Baptist Church Protest Fails Hilariously In Montana, Sparks Huge Pro-LGBT Rally

From the Huffington Post:

In what has become something of a regular occurrence, a small protest attempt by anti-gay extremists of the Westboro Baptist Church on Monday succeeded only in giving rise to a much larger counter-demonstration based on tolerance, LGBT rights and ice cream.

About five members of the Kansas-based congregation showed up in Bozeman, Mont.to picket Montana State University and a local high school over their commitment to teaching students that it is okay to be gay. While the tiny group could have gone unnoticed on its own, their presence brought a much larger spectacle — hundreds of people unified against the Westboro Baptist Church’s message of hate.

Proud of my town- I was unable to be there, but I can’t say enough about the love and support that was shown. I believe that every challenge deserves a thoughtful response- and we had one.

READ IT ALL HERE

 

Westboro Baptist Church in Bozeman- Counter Actions

WBC Poster

Click pic to go to Facebook event page….

 

WELCOMING ME HOME

It was my pleasure to sit behind retired Methodist Pastor, Lyle Hamilton in the basement of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Helena, Montana for an All Church Conference to discuss a proposed Reconciling Congregation statement.  The Conference Superintendent led the meeting and asked the fifty or so assembled to speak what was on their heart.  And a few did.

UMC Logo

UMC Logo (Photo credit: RoyJr)

The meeting, however, was anti-climatic.  Their was a strong sense that the statement of inclusion and affirmation of groups of people who have formerly felt shunned and excluded was merely a reflection of the already imbedded character of St. Paul’s anyway.  In fact, a few people described how they had heard comments over the previous year of meetings, discussion and classes leading up to this moment to the effect of “duh-uh!  Don’t we have that already?”

Yet, there was also a sense of importance, of critical mass, of mission, purpose and rightness of call.  My friends, John and Vicky Wieda, had painstakingly spearheaded the effort in that vain with deliberateness.  So yes, when it came time to reach consensus as a congregation there was little to detract from an outcome which seemed certain.  St. Paul’s would become a Reconciling Congregation.

So, why do it?  I mean, why all the fuss if St Paul’s, with its open minds, hearts and doors, has already established inclusiveness as part of its character?  Isn’t it really much ado about nothing?

Pastor Lyle gives a clue about the answer in this post on his Facebook page:

Late yesterday afternoon, at an all church conference, St. Paul’s UMC in Helena officially became a Reconciling Ministries Congregation by a consensus vote. We have now publically declared ourselves to, in fact, be what the community of Helena and most of our congregation has long felt is both our calling and our reality: “All truly means all,” and everyone has a place in this community of faith.

Our incarnated statement, that is imbedded in our soul, is as follows: “St. Paul’s United Methodist Church welcomes all people of any age, gender, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic status, or disability into the full life and membership of this congregation.”

May God bless us, every one . . . as we move forward with grace and compassion toward all!

The oft repeated statement over the months of examining this issue that “All truly means all,”which, as Lyle says, is “imbedded in our soul,” is not just a statement.  It is in many ways transcendent, like a lighthouse beacon shining through the storms and rough seas of understanding and reconciliation between who we are and what we believe, between what we believe and the world around us, between the world around us and the one within where Jesus calls with open arms and his profound and unconditional offer of love.

To proclaim that “All are welcome here,” and mean it,  is to shine the light of Jesus’s love through all the violence and hateful rhetoric in the world around us for those, like me, who else would have no place to go for the communal understanding, practice and experience of that love.  I would have no congregation, no church.  For some, perhaps, it is possible to live as a Christian without church.  For me, from the day I walked into St. Paul’s almost seven years ago in my first week of gender transition on “Welcome Home Sunday” to this moment,  it is not.

Christianity is a communal practice.  God speaks to me in many ways, some far, far away from books and buildings.  But God also speaks to me through other people – through you.  And I can find few better places to hear God speak and feel God’s presence than in the company of other Christian believers – through congregation and communal worship.  Thus, as a Christian transwoman, it is vital for me to have a Christian community to call home.

Last night I was reminded, as I spoke what was on my heart, of the day I became a member of St. Paul’s.  It was my birthday and the whole congregation sang Happy Birthday.  I stood there, dumbfounded, with a tear in my eye and my flesh all goosey.  I knew then, as publicly affirmed by this Reconciling Statement that I have my congregation and my church.  Thank you St. Paul’s for welcoming me home.

Imagine There’s No (Literal) Bible

When John Lennon sang, “Imagine there’s no heaven . . . And no religion too,” I did not like it, having just been born again.  I had found God, and the English translation, New International Bible was my ticket to keep what I had found.  I loved the Bible, and read each page with fervor.  They told me every single word was literally true, and I believed it.

KJV Bible

KJV Bible (Photo credit: knowhimonline)

Never mind that many of those words were written by ancient Hebrew men for Hebrew men, and other of those words by citizens of ancient Rome; that they were written in equally archaic and foreign languages including Hebrew and Aramaic, and then translated into Greek and Latin; and, that they were written in the context of limited understanding and ancient customs for an audience of people with equally limited understanding and ancient customs; and, that they were later edited by the Catholic Church  during many great councils into what we know today; I believed that those words were actually God speaking to me in 1976, and many times since.  (Yes, I am that old).

I wanted to know who and what God is, and believed those words were the path of discovery.  As intellectual as I can be, I chased that knowledge for many years.  Yet for all that I prayed and read and asked for God’s will in all things, the spiritual life that had once begun so earnestly lay in ruin like a dry rotted old Montana homestead cabin.  Only the vestiges of livelihood remained.  At the end of the day, I was still drunk and demoralized.  I was spiritually dead, and cursed God for all the inherent contradictions in “God’s Word.”  How could I, a God-fearing, born-again, right-wing, Republican Christian be what I was beginning to realize was my true self – a transsexual? That was against the Bible.

But, what if the Bible was not a literal document?  What if it is a compendium of inspired writings about the nature of God, and God’s interaction with humanity and our world?  What if my experience of God was eqaully valied and important, as John Wesley suggested?    What if the bible is not a religious, quasi-legal code book securing the salvation of my soul, as much as it is inspiration feeding the life of my soul right here and right now? When I turned to God with these questions in the pit of my soul, God answered.  God said, “Bobbie, you are a beautiful daughter of God.”

When I was scared and confused about the truths I came to know about myself and who I am, God asked me dance, and smiled.  God reminded me of a simple, yet fundamental truth about God.  God is.  That is all.  It does not matter whether I know or understand who or what God is – just that I know that God is.  Once I cast all else aside, and became open to that single, vital truth I was free to experience God – I mean right here, right now.  God continued to dance with me and smile through every step of my gender transition.

It does not matter that others would say it ain’t so –that I have misinterpreted the will of God.  God speaks to me in my soul, not theirs.  Because I have experienced God there, I know that God is, and that God loves me for all that I am, and exactly  what I am.  Now, that is redemption!  Maybe that Lennon guy was on to something after all.

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.