Brace Yourself, Montana!

pride tour FB event cover photo

#prideimpactMT

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.

946145_10206833585051573_2385702998508139697_n

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.

 

Marginalization

Sermon to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bozeman, 1.25.15

Good morning- it’s so great to be back here!

I’d like to continue with Nina’s theme from last week.

Dr King and Bayard Rustin are heroes for standing up for their race- a springboard for civil rights. They were the precursors of Stonewall, the feminist movement, Occupy Wall Street, It Gets Better- and much more.

Marginalization.

It means not being part of the body- on the margins.

Marginalize: “to put or keep (someone) in a powerless or unimportant position within a society or group.”

There are many ways to marginalize and be marginalized.

Socially. Economically. Politically. Physically. Ideologically. Theologically, Spiritually. Religiously. Scientifically. Literarily. Geographically. Hygienically. Racially. By almost any reason human beings can think of.

There’s a psychological principle that’s used to keep people in their place.

It’s very effective- and it’s become so commonplace that most of us don’t realize that it’s happening. And it’s all around us.

It’s called shame. And it’s a killer.

Shame is used by persons or institutions in power to promote powerlessness. It’s often confused with guilt, but it’s very different.

Guilt is a feeling that arises inside from trespassing a value. I feel bad.

Shame comes from the outside and it’s a judgment “You are bad”

We can internalize this shame, believing it ourselves, that because someone or something in power thinks we’re bad, their authority is accepted and we believe it ourselves.

Does this make sense?

Guilt can often be helpful because it helps us define our values- keeps us from doing things against what we believe and hold dear.

I have never found shame to be helpful.

Shame is what often brings young people to hurt or even kill themselves. Shame is disguised as bullying. Shame is disguised as wealth. Shame is disguised as political or religious power. Shame tells us that we aren’t who we “should” be.

I want you to be very clear about the disease of shame in our world. I want you to be able to recognize it so that you can avoid it in your own lives and can counter it when you see it in the world around you.

And I’ll give you the best example I know. Every time you hear a “should” or shouldn’t”, you’re more than likely about to hear a shaming statement or question.

You should know better. You shouldn’t act that way. You shouldn’t complain. You should sit down and be quiet. You shouldn’t ask for what you need. You shouldn’t rock the boat.

Does that make sense?

Which brings us back to marginalization.

What are some of the reasons people are marginalized in our world?

What are some of the ways people are marginalized in our country?

What are particular ways people are marginalized in Bozeman, Montana?

In the US we have a particular social theory called capitalism that was supposed to equalize all people who worked for a living. The theory is that if you work hard, you will be able to thrive.

It is sadly and deeply untrue at this point in our history.

The minimum wage cannot support a family of four unless both parents work over 40 hours a week.

People who have millions- perhaps billions- of dollars in this country have never worked a hard day in their lives. They simply were born into the “right” families. Families of wealth, power and influence. Sounds a lot like Feudal Europe.

I don’t think that this was how it was supposed to work.

We have enshrined wealth in this country, further marginalizing the poor, the disenfranchised, the disadvantaged. Some to the point of despair.

As spiritual people, it is not our job to create despair; it is in fact, the opposite of our job.

There once was a group of people who “were together and had all things in common. They would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.” They cared for the widow and the orphan with great care and “They were of one heart and one mind and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”

Any guesses?

These quotes are from the book of the Acts of the Apostles- they describe the early Christian community.

Sounds a lot like socialism doesn’t it?

Oops- I said the S word.

All spiritual traditions recognize the marginalized as a part of their mission- and all spiritual traditions recognize the importance of restoring humanity to every human being.

In my tradition, we believe God is in love with every human being- not just those with wealth or power or prestige.

Our job is to bring humanity back to the forefront.

Our job is to see those on the margins and bring them in. Our job is to speak for them when they can’t speak for themselves. Our job is to bring the truth of systems of government and society to the surface- if they don’t serve all equally, they don’t serve at all.

And God is here for everybody.

Despite what some of those in power would have us believe.

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Recently, I have been turning toward the Beatitudes. I have looked at them from every direction and wondered why more “Christians” haven’t taken to them as a way of life. The one that really struck me today was Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

All my life, I have been a peacemaker. (Well, okay, there was one period of about 5 years where I tried to stir up as much drama with my family as I could. . .but let’s not dwell on the past) I don’t like it when people fight and I just want to see people get along.

I seem to have been born with a highly developed sense of compassion and empathy. I used to (and still do) befriend what my mom lovingly termed, “The Unlovables.” These were the kids that got picked on in school because they were different. The kids that had no friends. I was constantly asking questions as to why people were being treated so badly and my heart regularly broke for them. I also have to admit (much to my chagrin) that I got a little teary at the end of Dangerous Liaisons when I watched it in high school. My heart broke for Glenn Close’s character. Yes, she brought most of it on herself, but did she really deserve to be treated so harshly by the very society that created her? Where was the compassion? I know, I know. . .it’s silly.

There have been many inspirations for me over the years: Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King, Jr. And more recently, there have been some inspirations from closer to home: Liz Welch of the ACLU Montana, Gregory Smith of the Pride Foundation, Caitlin Copple, Jamie Greer, Edie Windsor just to name a few. These are the “Children of God.”

I have seen some very negative posts lately. I have even created one. And if you saw my last post, you will also know that I have issued an apology in the interest of being a peacemaker. I do not presume to know the mind of God. I would be leery of anyone who says they do. However, I listen to the “Still, small Voice” inside and I know what God says to me. And it may not be the same thing that God says to you. Does it mean you are wrong? No. Does it mean I am wrong? No. Just different.

Christians are not bad people. They are people, just like the rest of us. They make mistakes. They fall from the path. We have to remember to hold ourselves to the very standards that we are comparing them against, like “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” I would also refer to Luke 6:42 “Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou beholdest not the beam in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”

A moment of clarity came to me this morning in a Biblical argument with a misinformed person. The Bible is a tool to show YOU how to live. It is NOT a tool for YOU to show ME how to live. It is for me to use the tool myself. But, I digress.

Psalm 34:14 says, “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” Pursuing peace and negotiating it is a tricky business. But even the ACT of pursing peace is the act of departing from evil and doing good. We need to be mindful of that.

The Old Testament was tribal law, meant to hold the Israelites together during the time when they had no home. The Old Testament is included in the Bible to show Christians where they came from and what their history was. Jesus brought the New Testament to show a better way to live. It is a new covenant, replacing the old. Jesus was/is the Son of God. A child of God. A peacemaker.

I will continue to be a peacemaker. I will continue to support people that are peacemakers. I will continue to fight for people’s rights and to fight injustice where I see it. That is part of what being a peacemaker is.

Perhaps I am not on the forefront, helping to change and write policies and laws, but that doesn’t mean I am ineffective. I am on the sidelines, changing people’s minds and hearts. I write because I can, because it is a talent given to me by God and I have been charged with using that talent. And I will continue to wield it as a peacemaker. I am a child of God.

 

Illinois To Investigate LGBT Group’s Claim That ExxonMobil Discriminates In Hiring

From Buzzfeed:

 

Exxon.SouthCapitol.SE.WDC.21sep05

Exxon.SouthCapitol.SE.WDC.21sep05 (Photo credit: Elvert Barnes)

 

Illinois officials will begin investigating ExxonMobil to determine if the company discriminates against gay job applicants, putting a spotlight on the company’s employment practices as the Senate considers a bill that would make such discrimination illegal across the country.

 

The Illinois Department of Human Rights has accepted Freedom to Work’s complaint of employment discrimination against ExxonMobil, the first known time an LGBT group has used a “tester” case — in which a group submits similar applications from fictitious applicants who only differ in the relevant characteristic being tested — in an organizational lawsuit.

 

“Freedom to Work decided to take a successful strategy from the playbook of African-American civil rights leaders by employing matched-pair employment testing at Exxon and other federal contractors that lack LGBT workplace protections,” Freedom to Work president Tico Almeida told BuzzFeed. “We very quickly found evidence that Exxon has given unfair hiring preference to some lower qualified straight applicants over more qualified LGBT applicants.”

 

Another reason to avoid Exxon gas… Full story here.

 

 

“Where Would I Begin?” Reflections on the Historic filing of the Crawford Case

The historic litigation in the case of M.C. has profound significance for many in the intersex community. Advocates for Informed Choice (AIC) is publishing a series of personal responses to the M.C. litigation. The first in this series is by longtime intersex activist and former AIC staff member Jim Ambrose (formerly Jim Bruce). This piece originally appeared on AIC’s blog, June 5, 2013.

“M.C. will spend the rest of his life paying for his caretakers’ actions.” – Erica K. Landau, Huffington Post

Where would I begin? I asked myself that question every other hour after AIC asked me to submit my reaction to the filing of the Crawford case. Hell, I’m asking it right now. I worked for AIC from 2009 to February, 2013 so I knew this case was coming for a while. That said I had a feeling it wouldn’t get filed, that it’d slip away or rather be taken away. I wasn’t alone in feeling that simply filing the lawsuit, just filing it, would be monumental. Looking back it was kind of like when an 8 year-old thinks Christmas is an oasis (7 months away!), too far off to comprehend day-to-day and so the kid resigns himself to childhood drudgery. Because, come on, nothing exists that far in the future least of all everything you ever wanted.

But, on the morning of May 14, 2013 The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Advocates for Informed Choice issued a press release detailing how a group of professional adults irreparably harmed a child in South Carolina. I gazed at my laptop as a press conference took place right in front of some giant brick courthouse. Attorneys representing a child called M.C. stood in a semi-circle behind a podium, and there was Anne! Anne, who will argue breathlessly that ‘They Might Be Giants’ was the greatest band of the 20thcentury, was right there on the Primetime Live at 5 Eyewitness News! Ever-measured Anne gently explained what she knows she can prove: That what happened to M.C. was unnecessary, arrogant and brutal.

You see, for me, the most difficult aspect of intersex advocacy is making this complex issue understood by any audience. Intersex stuff is nothing but sprawl. It gets everywhere: sex, genitals, going to the bathroom, hormones, clothing, fitting in, not fitting in, showering, sports, inclusion/exclusion, sex again, interpersonal connection, how we all sleep at night, self-determination, the opportunities we give ourselves and take from others and contentment. You know, the basics. These items are hardly approachable because most educated folks often fail to even understand the difference between sex and gender. So tell me how a kid is to know what a numerator is if they struggle to count to 10?

So, then two of the bravest people I may ever know did something most intersex advocates (myself included) thought could never happen. They stood in front of cameras, on record, in their son’s hometown and demanded justice. Pam and Mark Crawford denounced the needless removal of their son’s genitals and reproductive organs as “a careless and reckless action,” and that the State of South Carolina “disfigured (M.C.) because they could not accept him for who he was.” When I glanced down to watch the seconds peel away on the web clip I noticed my hands and knees were trembling. No. I was shaking all over. That’s when I realized Pam bears a passing resemblance to my own mother. My mother has that red hair, those sturdy-yet-stylish eyeglasses, and a voice that tells a careful listener suffering is something you do alone.

The thing is M.C. and I (along with many intersex people) share a similar childhood narrative. We both endured early years of ghastly cosmetic genital surgery, the loss of our reproductive organs and silence. But, M.C. was adopted by the Crawford family. I never saw the inside of an orphanage. M.C. has a sense of self and of his safety. My sense of self was gray, disoriented. I did not feel safe. M.C. has a voice that he uses. I had a voice too, but if I’d shared that voice with my parents I would have told them I was lost. M.C. used his voice to inform his family that he is a boy.

Pam projected her voice. I can hear it as I type: “The adults involved are sending him the message that your body is not acceptable and has to change in order for you to be loved.” I know how true those words are. I, and many intersex advocates, have articulated versions of them to those in power for the past 20 years. But, hey, why should highly-educated clinicians listen to a handful of surgical ingrates? History tells us that appeals for mercy through testimonials of truth and suffering have never been enough to effect institutional change. Those words from a proud and committed mother of an intersex kiddo in front of most of the world are not an appeal for mercy. They are a shot across the bow.

Pam’s unshakeable words found a spot in me I thought I’d grieved out. Out and away. I’d say it was unbearable save for the fact that I knew thousands of other intersex people were witnessing the Crawfords’ demonstration of love and belief in their son. I shared May 14, 2013 with many people, especially the ones no longer with us. And, frankly that experience reminds me how alone I was for so long, how alive I am now and, finally that resilience brings liberation to those residing on the right side of history.

Jim Ambrose is a worker bee at The Interface Project. #justice4mc

Related articles

Pride Foundation Scholar Helps Draft Montana Civil Unions Bill

Beth Burman Frazee, Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) and Paul Vestal, and it is from Ellie’s swearing in ceremony during the 2011 Montana Legislature.

Pride Foundation supporters, Beth Burman Frazee, Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) and scholar Paul Vestal at Hill’s swearing-in ceremony for legislators.

Paul Vestal received a scholarship from Pride Foundation last year to help him pursue a career as an attorney. His passion for civil rights issues made him a standout in the highly competitive process. And Paul is already giving back to the community who supported him by drafting a bill to allow civil unions for same-sex couples in Montana. The bill will be introduced during the upcoming Legislature in Helena.

A third year law student at the University of Montana, Paul enrolled in a legislative drafting class last fall. It was taught by David Aronofsky, former University of Montana legal counsel, Mike Halligan, former legislator turned director of the Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation, and John Bennion, who serves as counsel to the Montana Chamber of Commerce.

“I went in knowing what I wanted to do,” Paul said. “I decided to go the civil unions route due to our constitutional ban on marriage equality for same sex couples. Even though it may die, I feel something like this should be presented every session. If we are silent, nothing will happen.”

Paul’s good friend and Pride Foundation supporter, Representative Ellie Hill (D-Missoula), is co-sponsoring the bill, along with Pride Foundation Leadership Action Team member and first openly gay man to serve in the Legislature, Representative Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula).

“Equal access to civil unions was not pursued last legislative session, and it probably would not have been introduced this upcoming session, if not for the courage and academic fortitude of Pride Foundation scholar and Montana law student, Paul Vestal,” Hill said.

The Montana Legislature hasn’t seen a civil union bill come up since 2009. Paul is hopeful the “conservative angle” he tried to take in crafting the bill will help give this version a longer life than past efforts.

“It’s not to amend the marriage code,” he explained. “My rationale going into this was to create a new chapter rather than even touching marriage. I tried to stay away from associating it with marriage as much as possible. There’s a bigger tent for folks who support the rights associated with marriage but don’t want to change marriage.”

While this tactic may not please all activists in the movement, Paul says it’s not the liberals and the LGBTQ community that need convincing, it’s the conservatives.

“When we go at it as human rights or gay rights, it falls on deaf ears,” he said. “Opponents of equality know all the arguments at this point. I tried to address how the bill will be aligned with some of their own libertarian beliefs, such as keeping government out of people’s lives, the need for equal property rights, that you can transfer your property to your person. Equal protection is still a big part of it.”

Paul said he also hopes that legislators will see that the writing is on the wall in terms of marriage equality. Passing this bill could pre-empt future challenges, especially if the U.S. Supreme Court decides the so-called Defense of Marriage of Act (DOMA) or Proposition 8 court cases in ways that favor equal marriage rights. For example, Paul wonders what will happen when same sex couples in Missoula drive three hours to Spokane, Washington to get a marriage license. What will that mean for jointly owned property and paying taxes in Montana?

“I would ask [opponents], do you want to be like New Jersey and have equality come down from the court, or do you want to draft a Montana solution that would actually strengthen the ban more because it would give equal access without changing marriage.”

Paul will graduate this spring and hopes to stay in Missoula, where he will continue to be involved in nonprofits and politics, regardless of the type of law he decides to practice. He also is considering working as a lobbyist.