Bathroom Problems

27 Apr

300px-Urinal_mouth

All this talk about the “bathroom law” in North Carolina got me thinking. You’ve been sharing public bathrooms with Transgender people for years, much like you were around Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals for years before they came out to you. How shocking to find out about Cousin Larry? Your daughter’s fifth grade math teacher? Your dentist? Your best friend? The EMT that saved your Mom? Yes, those are Transgender people also.

Transgender people didn’t just start falling from the sky, although it may feel this way to you. Many are getting braver, buoyed by allies who have finally awakened to the fact that the Trans community is under daily attack. Literally. Trans people are being murdered daily. Much like African Americans being stopped by some police, Transgender people are being murdered simply for being. For walking. For talking. For being. Coming out as Trans is not just dangerous, it is heroic.

People fear what they do know, but there is a difference between being in danger and being uncomfortable. The thought of Transgender people may make you uncomfortable but I can assure you that you have nothing to fear. Transgender people have more to fear from non-Transgender people than the other way around. This is evidenced by people such as Liberty Counsel’s Anita Staver, who shall protect herself with her Glock from unwarranted, well, the joke makes itself.

I used to be somewhat Transphobic. Like with most phobias, it was born of ignorance. Back when I was coming out but still unsure of myself, I got this bright idea that the only way I would know for sure whether I was gay was to sleep with a woman. So, I marched myself off to the town’s only Lesbian bar to find myself a willing subject. (This already sounds like it is not going to end well, does it not?)

After drinking away my nervousness, I struck up a conversation with an older (read, hopefully experienced) friendly face and went back to her place. She happened to be Transgender and she happened to have had top surgery but not bottom surgery. Let’s just say it was an uncomfortable experience that we parlayed into a friendship that lasted until I left that town a few years later. We were able to laugh about it, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t freak me out at the time.

People who claim to be worried about children are misguided. First, I’m shocked anyone would let their child out of their sight in this day and age. Second, the person who is going to molest your child most likely lives in your house or already has regular contact with your child. Last, when I’ve got business to take care of, I want to get it done and get out of there.

The best thing I can recommend is to educate yourself. Please don’t run out and try to find a Transgender friend. No one wants to be your token [fill in minority here] friend. Babies don’t ask to be born Transgender. They are real people. I have Transgender friends. That doesn’t make me an expert. There’s probably stuff in this article I wrote wrong. I’m still learning.

We are all made in the image of the Holy. All means All. Amen.

Revolutionary Love on the Streets of NYC

18 Apr

NYC

Last Friday through Sunday I attended Revolutionary Love: Tools, Tactics, and Truth-telling to Dismantle Racism. The conference was held at the Middle Collegiate Church on the Lower East Side in New York City. With session titles such as “The Art of Sacred Confrontations,” “The Moral Crisis of Whiteness,” and “Dismantling Unconscious Racial Bias,” it was an intense two and half days.

By Sunday morning, my introverted self was feeling more than a bit drained. While there was a nice balance of breakout sessions and “all hands” sessions to provide small group opportunities, the noise and pulse of the city had plain worn me out. Although I live half way between Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD, my little neighborhood features deer, owls, foxes, squirrels, and a great variety of birds. My head longed for a piece of that quiet.

I decided to lounge in a bit Sunday – sleeping in would be a misnomer with the whirl of traffic and the slamming of the balls on the nearby blacktop –then head for a nearby bakery to get some goodies to take home. On my way into the shop I noticed a man sitting on the ground outside and on the way out I decided to stop and say hello.

I put a few dollars in his cup, for which he thanked me, and I asked him what his story was. “It’s this,” he said, pulling down his shirt from the collar to reveal a nasty heart surgery scar. He went on to explain his defibrillator, which he said the doctors hadn’t even explained to him – he thought he only got a pacemaker.

The man appeared to be in his mid to late 60s, but he soon told me he was all of 53. I call him Fred to protect his identity. Fred said he lives on the streets because the shelters are too dangerous. “They are full of gangs,” he explained. “You can get shot, stabbed. I’d rather take my chances out here.” Fred said he has a mother and a sister but “My mother is too set in her ways to take me in and my sister won’t talk to me because of my homosexuality. She’s a Baptist. So here I am.”

Fred asked me if I wanted a bagel. He said people coming out of the bakery give him items, but he can’t eat many of them either because he can’t chew them (he doesn’t have many teeth) or because of his diabetes. He is able to trade them with other homeless people for things he can eat.

As I went to sit next to Fred, he told me not to do that and get dirty. “I don’t care,” I said. I felt more peace and calm with Fred than I felt in many other places of the hectic city. Fred told me he often thinks about walking into the street in front of a car. I told him about my recent hospitalization for suicidal ideations. I didn’t have any food with me he could eat (almonds? nope. granola bar? nope) or any water. I did have a cooling camping towel, though, so I gave him that and explained how it worked.

I told Fred I was at the conference across the street. Fred said he liked that church and it was trying to find him housing. “I don’t have AIDS or HIV and I don’t drink. That’s pretty amazing for an old Black gay like me,” he said. I asked Fred if he wanted to come to church with me. “Oh, honey. I haven’t had a shower in so long. That’s the one thing. I can get some food. There’s a place around the corner that lets me go to the bathroom. But there’s no place to get a good shower.”

“Well, Fred, I’m going to be on my way,” I said. “Thanks for stopping,” he replied. “Not many people stop. I get kicked. My cup gets kicked over. I get spit on. I get young, white men is suits calling me nigger. ‘Nigger, get a job. Nigger, get up from there.’ Not many people stop though.”

“Next time you’re in the city, if I’m still alive, I hope you’ll come see me.” He got up and we embraced.

“I will Fred, I promise.”

Revolutionary Love. Talk to a stranger.

Have a Good One!

29 Dec

one

A good what? A good day? A good night? A good meal? A good beer? A good year?

All are certainly possibilities.

A good whatever you choose to make of it.

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. They put too much pressure on one to achieve the impossible. If I haven’t already achieved whatever it is that I’m telling myself I’m now going to suddenly achieve just because the calendar has passed some artificial mark, what makes me think I’m now going to achieve it? I’m just not. So yet again, I’ve set myself up for failure.

Instead of resolutions, I believe in staying resolute in the things that are important to me.

To stay resolute means to stay determined, purposeful, and bold. It means I will not be indecisive, timid, or uncertain.

This does not mean I won’t have moments of discomfort, weakness, or stubbornness.

It does mean I will keep the things that are important to me foremost in mind. My faith, family, friends, health, ability to earn a living and pay my debts. Laughter. My puppies. Social justice. More laughter.

It’s easy to get caught up in the “everything else” that life throws at us.

What are the things we can control? What are the things we are making ourselves sick over because we cannot control them? Who are the people who can help us make changes in the aspects of our lives we don’t like? Who do we know who can help us connect with those people? Who are the helpers?

What are your priorities? What is the Holy calling you to do? What is stopping you from doing it?

What are you resolute about?

Have a good one!

 

 

 

 

Dear Jerry Jones – It’s Not You, It’s Me

9 Nov

An Open Letter to Jerry Jones

Dear Mr. Jones,

I’m not here to bash you. I understand the free enterprise system and your right to do with your business as you please. You must also understand my right to do with my fanship as I please.

I cannot support the Dallas Cowboys as long as Greg Hardy remains a member of the team.

I stayed a fan while players with other transgressions remained on the team.

I stayed through the losing seasons.

I stayed through questionable managerial decisions.

Domestic violence is different.

Domestic violence with absolutely no expression of remorse is extremely different.

I know you don’t care about the pittance in revenue you receive from my annual merchandise purchases.

I know you don’t care that I’ve been a fan since I was 12 and I’m 57 now.

I care about domestic violence, however.

Bye-bye.

Duck, Duck, Wild Goose!

16 Jul

goose-clip-art-k7559769

The Wild Goose Festival, held each summer in the mountains of Hot Springs, NC, uses the tagline Spirit. Justice. Music. Arts., but four words can hardly describe the delight that is the Goose. It really is one of those magical events one has to live to understand.

I had no plans to attend this year; first of all, I am not much of a camper, and deciding to go at the last minute would mean “inside” type lodging would not be an option. I then read that “Glamping” was available, so I decided to give that a try. (Once and done on that front.) I have to learn to listen to the voice of the Call, however, so off I went.

The beauty of the Goose is that it is the only space I’ve ever encountered where people of every faith tradition (and none) and spiritual practice (and none), gender expression, family composition, musical taste, age, body shape, physical presentation, eating preference, spirituality, country of origin identity, and other ways we typically use to divide one another, come together and break bread together. When I say bread, I mean bread in every sense.

Whether it was the sounds of impromptu jam sessions singing praise for the day’s blessings, the sights of young people freely expressing their joy with dance, the pop of the embers exploding into the night air as we journeyed into a Celtic ancestor meditation, or inhaling the sweet exuberance of a burgeoning relationship of a dear friend, each moment was manna for the soul.

Let me be clear; there were hard moments as well. Listening to far too many stories of the walking wounded who have been kicked out of our churches for transgressions such as being whom the holy intended. Hugging those who have been arrested in our cities and towns for feeding those with no homes to call their own. Trying to understand why anyone would think it is acceptable to ask another “What are you?” or touch another’s hair or skin or clothing. Trying to unpack ways in which my own privilege of many types hurts others and ways in which I can help others with privilege unpack their own.

Moments of joy far outweigh those of distress. There is always more work to do. There are willing and able workers. To see friends I usually only see on Facebook. To hug those I’ve never touched before. To make new friends. To ask, “What is your story?” To ask, “What can I do to help?”

HONK.

Pizza Christians

7 Apr

By now, everyone must be nauseatingly familiar with the story of the small Indiana pizza shop that was ambushed by a local reporter with a hypothetical question, “Would you cater a gay wedding,” as if any self-respecting gay couple would ever serve pizza at such an event. When the pizza place said no, an African-American conservative talk show host opened a persecution complex defense fund that collected some half-million clams (isn’t eating shellfish Biblically forbidden?) before being mercifully closed. Virtually all of the donors were some church lady name Annie Nonamus; she must be loaded, no doubt a recipient of the prosperity version of the Holy Book.

Meanwhile, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Rodney Todd, a divorced father with custody of his seven children, tried to support his family on a kitchen worker’s salary. When the local power company discovered an illegal connection to their home on March 25, it was disconnected. Mr. Todd installed a gas powered generator in his kitchen to keep his two sons and five daughters warm.

The particulars after that are too sad to repeat. Briefly, family members were last seen March 28 and the entire family was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning on April 6. You do the math.

I am not going to question whether Mr. Todd had reached out to any private or public resources that may have been able to help him. In a world where so many fathers are criticized for walking away from their children, here we have a man who did all he could to keep his family together and cared for.

I am not going to criticize Mr. Todd for having the heater inside. This is no time to blame the victim.

What I am going to question until my last breath, however, is how one faction of society thinks nothing of running to their checkbook to fund a pizza shop in a town of under 2000 residents that was under no real distress, while simultaneously claiming that social programs that are designed to assist people like Mr. Todd are “handouts,” “wasting my tax money,” “for people too lazy to work,” etc.

Where are all these pizza Christians when people like Mr. Todd need help?

Standing on and shouting from their sanctimonious, hypocritical soapboxes, that’s where.

Jesus wept, indeed.

Outcast

2 Apr

 OU†CAST CROP

Four years ago on this day, Holy Thursday, I was informed by the lead pastor of my ministerial internship that I should not attend Easter Sunday at the congregation where I had been an intern for two years. Instead, I should go worship at my home church, the very home church where said pastor would not let me go worship for those two years, not one Sunday a month, not one Sunday every other month, not at all.

Being told to stay away from the people I had worshipped with, prayed with, sung with, learned from, cried with, laughed with, fought for affordable housing with, on the most holy day of the year, was just a bit hurtful.

I forwarded the email to my seminary; this was just the culmination of a pattern of abuse, which included threats that he would prevent me from graduating. After a night to think about it, or perhaps after the senior pastor learned of it, I was told, again via email, why of course I could attend on Easter.  I did attend, and the week after for “intern appreciation day.” Since that time, four years ago, not only have I not fulfilled the remainder of the prerequisites for consideration for ordination, I have only attended church a handful of times, primarily for ordinations, weddings, and funerals.

***************************************************************

It had been a long road back to church for me. Brought up Roman Catholic, I left immediately after my confirmation, disliking the sin and hell focus, along with what I perceived as the subservient role of women. While in college in California, I often attended services at Robert Schuller’s church (both pre- and post-Crystal Cathedral). There may be a myriad of issues associated with him and his theology, but it helped me at the time. What did not help me with any type of religion was the growing realization that I was gay.

As a young adult with a domestic partner and a preteen son, I became comfortable with the seven principles and six sources of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). It was while attending services of this denomination that I received a surprising call to ministry, at a time in my life where I would have described myself as “spiritual, but not religious” and definitely not Christian. I was very much in tune with the sense of a Higher Power and a Holy Spirit, but the whole Jesus thing really escaped me.

I also was led to believe that in order to “be” a Christian, one had to sign on to a long list of beliefs, including, in no particular order, original sin, virgin birth, bodily resurrection, and hell. Since my views then (and now) are pretty much no, no, no, and no, I certainly did not qualify for any Christian membership card I knew of.

It took me over 7 years to complete the requirements for receiving my seminary degree. Few people and relationships don’t change over the course of 7 years of day-to-day living; add the regular challenge to one’s preconceived notion of one’s belief system, and, without a doubt, the person who graduated in May 2011 was not the same person who took her first class in August 2003.

During an extraordinary meeting with my covenant discipleship group at seminary, the “Jesus part” hit me like the proverbial thunderbolt. I found the UUA no longer fit, and the United Church of Christ was a better option for a Christian lesbian minister to-be.

***************************************************************

When I received the call to ministry during that UU service in December 2002, the sermon was on using your gifts. It became clear during this sermon that all my gifts had done to that point was enable others to buy bigger boats. I had worked for several companies that had gone public and for several people that had gone on to positions such as CIO of a Fortune 500 company. I wanted to use my gifts such as speaking, writing, and empathy to a greater good.

Over the last four years, it has sometimes been difficult to explain to people that I do use these gifts in ministry while I am not an ordained UCC (or any other type) of minister. It has sometimes been hard to not feel like a failure myself. I miss congregational life. I miss preaching. I just didn’t fit into the box. I always felt church was a verb, not a noun.

Outside the politics, the walls, the box, much of my ministry is conducted online. Recently a woman posted a photo of her daughter whom had just passed away. She asked if anyone had any feedback. As soon as I saw the photo, I felt the daughter was helping children ages 6-8 cross over to heaven. (I get these sort of vibes all the time.) After I posted this, the woman shared her daughter left behind two children, ages 6 and 8.

Jeremiah 30:17 – “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,” declares the Lord, “because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.”

Praise heavens for the outcasts.

Not Enough Tears – Eleanor Marie Willett Mannion, 11/17/32-10/19/14

17 Nov

clown

words

no thoughts from head to voice to air,

lyrics spout from heart throat out everywhere.

there are not enough tears, enough songs,

to remember, everything, every way,

you nourished me, encouraged me.

you completed my rhymes,

sing along with Mitch Miller time.

 

gone

it will be so, it must be, it shall be,

as it was in the beginning, it ends.

first question why, last question why,

unthinkable, unimaginable time.

always with me now, always with me always,

always me, always you, always us,

it’s always been you and me against the world.

 

travel

across the street, across the country,

your belly, trains, Fords, hydrofoil, planes.

hot cocoa in SUI, a lamp trip to VT,

no sodas in Boston, alarms in ALB.

sing a song with me, Mom.

ring a bell for me, Mom.

pray each night for me til we meet again.

No Labor for Me, Day

1 Sep

Warning: Miscarriage, infertility, infant death triggers

Ecstatic is the closest word to describe it. Finally past the first trimester, I told my parents, I told my boss; I told everybody. I was going to have a baby! I was due on Labor Day, which I found hilarious. After two previous miscarriages fewer weeks along, now that I was past the first trimester, I felt safe letting everyone know the happy news.

I was wrong.

Oh sure, there had been no baby shower yet, I wasn’t showing, I had no clue if it was a boy or a girl, but still….

I was very wrong.

Yet again, there was no happy news.

There would never be any happy news springing forth from my womb.

The worst part was, unlike the previous miscarriages, now that I was into the second trimester and “the fetus was no longer viable,” I needed to have “a procedure.”

This is when my previous hard and fast, black and white, views on when life begins, when is it a fetus versus when is it a baby, forever changed, in ways that are still very much evolutionary, not revolutionary. For, to some, it may have been a 15-week fetus or blob of tissue, but to me and my doctor,  it was definitely my child.

My child. My child was dead. Dead before arrival.

Dead before I could ever hold him or her. Dead before I could ever name him or her. Dead before I could sing, “Jesus loves you” like my Mom sang to me. Dead before every little thing.

Dead but still in me. How cruel. Now I had to have “a procedure” to get him/her out.

I would go to sleep and when I’d wake up, I’d no longer be a bio Mom. Bye-bye, hopes and dreams.

***********************************************************

It’s been 22 years. I know I would not have the life I have now if I had a 22-year old; that’s not the point.

I believe in restoration. I believe there will be a new heaven for all creation. I believe one day I will see my child, hold him/her, and we’ll sing, “Jesus loves you.”

Dear Holy One,

How often we struggle with unrealized dreams. How often we torture ourselves with imagined punishments from unloving beings. Help us remember you are love. Let us feel the peace around us. Wipe the tears we cry. Mend the breaks in our tender hearts. These things we pray. 

Amen.

A Bunny, a Fawn, and Some Geese Walk into a Bar….

19 Aug

rabbit

A big bunny.

A fawn and a doe.

A flock of Canada geese.

Add, “Walk into a bar,” and you might have the start of a good joke.

For about a month, up until about a week ago, nothing in life was funny. Not my usual television guilty pleasures. Not the antics of my niece and nephew. Not the daily ironies of life I typically relish. The entire world’s sorrows, all of life’s tragedies, all of my personal failings – my bucket runneth over with the double whammy of the murder of Michael Brown in MO and Robin Williams’ suicide. I had no more room. Cannot process. It does not compute. No more tears can fall. Cannot feel any more. Full. Danger, Will Robinson.

I have frequently shared on this page my journeys with addictions of various sorts and my battles with the black monster of depression. I occasionally have to slay the dragon known as recurrent major depressive disorder. The good news is, thanks to among many other things, a proper diagnosis, insurance, a wonderful therapist, an awesome spouse, and tremendous self-awareness, the occasions are few and far between. Ninety-nine percent of my life is spectacular. But, oh, that one percent. Scary.

When in the clutches of this monster, it is easy to feel you will never feel free. I tried my usual go-to ideas. Reengage the therapist. See the doctor and increase the meds temporarily. Talk to those close to me about how I’m feeling. Get outside more. Get off all media for a while, including Facebook, television, radio – when I say all, I mean all. Phone a friend. Meditate. Color. Eat ice cream. Read the Psalms.

Nothing. Was. Working.

Last Thursday, I opened the gate to the driveway, and there staring at me was big bunny. Big bunny is what my wife and I call the silly rabbit that shares his home between our yard and our neighbors’. He didn’t move, and I didn’t either. We just looked at each other for about 10 seconds as if we were saying, “Good morning.” He turned and slowly hopped away, and off to work I went.

Last Friday, I left work at my usual time of 6:30 p.m., which meant the last person had probably walked the path to the parking lot about 90 minutes prior. As my eyes looked up from the pavement, I looked right into the eyes of a fawn. I stopped and we looked at each other for a few seconds. I heard some rattling in the woods and I saw the mama. The three of us just stood there looking at each other. I slowly backed up and walked sideways down the pavement because I didn’t want to scare them.

I got into my car and as I pulled up to the first light on my way home, I noticed a huge flock of Canada geese gathered on the sidewalk pooping all over. I burst out laughing for the first time in a month.

How much harder could the Holy have tried to show me that I am not just connected to tragedy but to beauty?

*************************************************************************************************

The theme for our August synchroblog was a one word prompt and the word was: “Connection”

Here is the list of contributors this month. Go read them all and leave a comment!

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Sara Quezada – Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer – Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Wesley Rostoll – Finding Jesus In Different Places
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy

The Sweet Bi and Bi

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