Would You Invite a Homophobic Judgmental Christian to Your Same Sex Wedding?

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On the Friday of the Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling, the news hit like a rainbow colored Tsunami. As I woke up that morning, I got a message from my friend Kevin of Stop-Homophobia. As one of my marriage equality heroes, he was the one from whom I would have wanted to hear the news.

“We won.” I could barely breathe.

That day, for me, and many LGBT people I know, was a awash with shock, awe and wonderment. Everything was coming up dancing rainbows.

Waves are only temporary however, and the tide that thrusts them forward, quickly retreats them. That is what happened the next day. Some heads had exploded, and it was not pretty.

I began to realize that many people who had been long silent in this conversation were now engaged. On Friday, it seemed new participants in the debate woke up, the ones who had apparently been in a political issue coma for the past few years. Suddenly the anti-gay discussions were not the same ones we had been arguing about last week. It was like we were starting the conversation all over.

I guess that is to be expected. Patiently, I found myself in the old discussions about polygamy, gay pride parades and “sin”. The feeling of astronomical progress now felt like a reversal into retro thinking. Even if the points were old and worn out, there was something new about the conversations. Rather than exuding homophobia, these seemed to be more from a place of heterosexism. The opponents were not specifically looking to condemn and demean, but only to assert their own “obvious” superiority.

This tone played out in post after post, tweet after tweet, but it really hit home for me when someone sent me an article titled “Would You Attend a Gay Friend’s Wedding?” by Brian Orme. Mr. Orme presented a theory and then invited discussion: “There are two kinds of Christians in the world today—those who would and those who wouldn’t attend a gay friend’s wedding. So who’s right?”

His treatise was basically that, in his experience of Christianity, Christians might choose to love and not focus on judging the sin of the couple, and attend the wedding to which they had been invited. Or they might see their own attendance as an “endorsement of sin” and not attend. So to him, that was the only choice, that, in his words, the Christian guests would either be “humble sinners” or “bold witnesses”.

Nowhere in his discussion does it dawn on him that maybe, just maybe, the invitation to a couple’s wedding, a day they hold incredibly dear, might be… and is, a privilege.

I have officiated for three couples, facilitating their process into deeply felt and precious life commitments. In each case, we told their story of their lives coming together, their commitment, their evolvement into life changing love. In each case they wrote their own vows, showing their mate and all in attendance feelings, thoughts and desires they had revealed to no one before that moment.

These events were life changing, not just for the couples involved, but for the community that surrounded them. I wanted to respond to Mr. Orme’s discussion therefore, with one of my own.

Dear Mr. Orme,

Recently, you wrote a question to your Christian community asking individuals whether or not they would attend a friend’s “gay wedding.” In answering your own question, you state that you would attend. You say “I believe I could attend a gay friend’s wedding without explicitly endorsing the union… It is not to endorse a lifestyle but to love a person in hopes of seeing him or her become a disciple of Jesus. Would this tarnish my reputation? It might, but it’s a decision, I believe, I could make in clear conscience with the Spirit.”

No, Mr. Orme, you would not be tarnished. Upon receiving such an invitation, you should be honored. The couple that invited you did not do so for you to teach anything. They invited you so you could learn about, appreciate and revere the deep and abiding commitment that they feel for each other. They’re inviting you to come experience how they promise to be by each other’s side for life, to help each other grow more deeply than they ever thought possible. They are inviting you to come witness that they would die on the other’s behalf.

With what they are giving to you, if you can only think about yourself, I , if I were in control, would have you just stay home.

You see, the real question that should be asked is: “Should They Invite a Homophobic Judgmental Christian to Their Same Sex Wedding?”

If it were up to me, I would say “no” for all the couples I have married. These couples were stellar, beautiful, vulnerable, strong and inspiring. I would not want your arrogance to blot their light and love in any way.

But. here’s the thing. They, to a couple, would have invited you, even with your superior attitude, and would welcome you with open arms. In their hearts, they would hope that by witnessing their love, your own heart would open up. They would even be willing for that not to happen, just on the off chance that it might.

You see, in that moment of love and joy, they would be better vessels of Christ love than I am.

They are certainly better representatives of love than you are.

One of my fellow gay dads shared this with me. Brian Copeland reported, “I invited a woman who was anti-marriage equality to our 2008 wedding. She came because she loves me. When she returned to her work the following Monday, she told her co-workers about the wedding. She was subjected to the most horrible judgment. They condemned her, and treated her like crap. That completely opened her eyes to how she and others had made me feel throughout the years. From that day she was a changed person, asserting to everyone who would listen ‘You weren’t there to see the love like I was. All I know is that God and love were both in that wedding, and that cannot be wrong.’ She took more away from our wedding than anyone.”

So, if you get that invitation, be grateful that they did not ask MY question, or answer it with MY answer. Most certainly, YOUR question should not even cross your mind. Just check “yes” and notify your “plus one.”

Then go and listen. Go and let the feeling wash over your heart. At some point in that ceremony, God will reach you and have you understand what loving your brother really is all about, that it is not for the couple being married at all. It is for you.

In that moment you will not be humbled or bold.

You will be blessed.

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Posted in Bible, Equality, Family, Gay Christians, Marriage equality, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged | 10 Comments

A Gay Dad Sounds Off on the Terror Threatening to Be Unleashed on California Families

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It is time to take the lunatics seriously.

I envision it will go something like this: I am exiting a restaurant with my two vibrant and happy 12-year old sons in tow. A pleasantly dressed young man stops us. “Would you mind signing my petition to get a proposition on the ballot?” he asks.

I am already apprehensive, as I know what is going on in the state, and dismiss him quickly, “No thanks,” and I try to move us on. My sons give me inquisitive glances. They know I am more accessible than this. They know I am usually willing to give even a stranger a minute to hear them out. Why am I now so obstinate?

He blurts out, “Please sir. It is so we will be able to execute the gays and save California from their evil sexual habits!” I have now gone from irritated to irate.

“Get away from my family immediately,” I snarl as I quickly move us out of his range. I see the horrified look on my sons’ faces. They and kids much younger than they would be able to pick up the direct meaning of what had just happened.

“Dad! What did that mean? They are working to make a law so people can just…kill you? Can they do that? Why do they hate you?” my son Jesse will barrage me with at once. My son Jason is much more introspective. While Jesse’s fears will be aired verbally and answered, Jason’s will lie dormant in his mind until I have the opportunity to try to ease them out of him at a later time.

They will not see that the measure is not likely to succeed. They will only see it as something people are “reasonably” discussing on our streets. They will see people using the legal process to humiliate and violate human dignity. They will see our family as so valueless that we will be the targets of this legitimized hatred. It will send the message that the question on whether to dehumanize gay people is actually debatable.

The suggestion that such a conversation is acceptable will be on every street corner, and on our public airwaves. While the messaging will cause pain to grounded self-assured adults, it will send devastating messages to the more vulnerable— our children, at risk LGBT teens, transgender people and more.

It will be with us because we thought an evil man was also stupid, when the truth is, he was one step ahead of us. We will have learned one of the realities of our modern age: that being evil and being smart are not necessarily mutually exclusive propositions.

Months ago, it was announced that a crackpot lawyer in Southern California had paid a $200 filing fee to propose the California “Sodomite Suppression Act” initiative. This proposition, if codified, would make it legal to massacre gay people. The reaction to the filing was shocked bemusement. The man was seen as evil and an idiot. “This thing doesn’t stand a chance,” cavalierly scoffs the New Republic’s Christian Farias. Even an alternate ballot initiative targeting his insensitivity was filed.

Make no mistake about it. The proponent of the “Sodomite Suppression Act” attorney Matthew McLaughlin is evil, but he is not alone. Unfortunately, the more likely scenario is that someone who is both evil and rich employs him.

Farias gloats that McLaughlin has not “done his research” because many of the things proposed have already been declared un-Constitutional. (Really? What gave you your first clue, the proposed shooting of other citizens in the head?) It is unthinkable that someone who knows the ins and outs of the legal process has not already figured out what the ultimate fate of this law, in a publicly passed form, would be.

I would suggest that passing the initiative is not the goal at all.

It is on this point that I don’t think McLaughlin is THAT stupid. As a gay family who lived through the humiliation of the Proposition 8 campaign, I can tell you that in many ways the bigger effect is not about the destination of an initiative, it is about the very public process and journey to get there—win or lose.

I don’t believe the McLaughlin objective is to ever see his proposal become law. I believe that he and those behind him are using the California initiative and justice system to run a legitimized hate campaign against LGBT people and our families. I don’t think the requirement to try to collect 365,000 signatures by the McLaughlin engine is being seen by them as a hassle, that it is exactly in what they want to participate—a legitimized, protected way to hit the streets of California to peddle hate and intimidate gay people.

McLaughlin has responded to Harris’s attempts to derail the signature gathering process by having the initiative go automatically on the ballot. If that occurred, it would save us street confrontations, but the hate machine would then be able to send homophobic violence incitement speech as a political message across the airwaves, one that media would have trouble suppressing.

It was bad enough during proposition 8 when we could see signature gathers asking people to sign up to disavow our family’s existence. It was painful seeing signs during the campaign that outright claimed we were less of a family. This however, would make that experience seem like a joyful walk in the park.

So is this an over blown fear on my part? Is it unthinkable that behaviors like the Nazis enacted at their very beginning might grow into something worse as they did in early 20th century Europe? Is Matthew McLaughlin a sole entity living out his 15 minutes of fame with depravity and zero chance of success?

Here are the things I would suggest considering as you make your mind up on how serious a threat he poses:

  • He has not sought the limelight as an attention seeker would. In fact, his public anonymity is masterful in its thoroughness. He was last publicly trackable in 2004 around another initiative campaign to put Bibles in schools. After that, he becomes literally invisible and untrackable. This indicates that another far bigger public impact is planned and pending.
  • Journalist friends I have spoken to theorize that he is a paid corporate lawyer since there have been no public legal motions on record from him since the 2004 campaign. This means he is under the employ of a private entity for whom he advises, acts, and has been unseen.
  • If he is merely the representative of something larger, the bankroll represented could be substantial. The anti-gay industry spends billions each year and fund raises through designated hate groups like the “Family Research Council” and others. Their most recent summits have engaged strongly in the rhetoric that LGBT people are Nazis and that Christians are America’s version of the persecuted European Jews. This verbiage has all but called for violent action against LGBT people.
  • Another evil, but legally informed entity, the Westboro Baptist “Church,” has always been more a group of subversive lawyers than it has been a church. They have given lawyers such as McLaughlin a roadmap on how to twist the US judicial system and use it as a shield to deliver hate speech and create terror and humiliation with the blessing of the legal system.
  • Organizing and collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures, even just to be maliciously leveraging the process, requires a plan and a team. Is it a mere coincidence that Scott “Crimes Against Humanity” Lively, the man who worked with Uganda’s Kill-the-Gays intiative, is now moving operations to Riverside California, of all places? To quote Dana Carvey’s Church Lady… “How convenient!” Is it also a coincidence that there he is establishing a “coffee house” series of outposts building a “team of community missionaries to carry on” where he can’t be in California? Can you imagine the collection of kill-the-gays initiative signature gathering happening and Lively NOT being involved if he was here? Nor can I.
  • View the film Jesus Camp and contemplate the militia that has been hiding in the shadows in America for years looking for their call to “valor.”
  • Gun toting radicals like Steven Anderson are a short drive away from California. What effort do you think they would put into signature gathering once that part of the process hit a green light?

Kamala Harris is working with the courts to try to halt the proposed initiative from moving forward. Her justification is unfortunately weak. She states that the proposal would be unconstitutional and would divide the public. This is where McLaughlin’s knowledge of process would be sound — what controversial proposal to change the constitution WOULD not be at the outset “unconstitutional” and “divisive”?

The situation calls into discussion the very heart of terrorism at its worst. The horrors and atrocities are short-term effects. The worst that terrorism does is force us to bastardize our freedoms and liberties in order to fight it. By guarding ourselves from it, we give up part of our own democracy, which arguable is the ultimate goal of the terrorist, for us to do just that.

We have a process in California that is designed to put law making close to the hands of the people. Some evil people are now twisting the system that supports that to be able to unleash a campaign of threats and humiliation against our LGBT population. The effect will be volatile. People will strike back at a calm request to legalize their annihilation. The more volatile that retaliation is, the more martyred the Right will claim to be — attacked while exercising their due process.

I believe that the governor must ask the federal courts, or the justice department to step in to our system. We need protection that an election process cannot itself inflict civil rights violations and harm. It is an unprecedented move, but then, never in the history of the United States has an initiative to willfully murder a portion of the population been the open question.

Large organized religion, even the progressive sects, must be called upon to condemn and vilify all who support this atrocity in any way. Already, the complete silence is deafening.

At the end of this process, should it move forward as it is set, when the initiative ultimately does fail, as it will, what then? Will those who have roamed our streets and rationally discussed shooting us dead just calmly pick up their duds, call it a day, and head out of town? I doubt it.

For even though they will have been twisting and bastardizing our legal process against us, when it no longer serves them, they will remind us that THEY are not beholden to it. We have seen precedent how the leaders of social conservatism operate. They put out the rhetoric as they did with abortion issues, but when those who listen to them kill people in clinic bombings, they disavow any culpability in the actions of those inspired by their directives. After having conditioned themselves for months that their position is “reasonable’” and the kill-the-gays grass root workers get the news that our law system will not set them up to legally slaughter us, they may not take “no” for an answer.

They will remind us, as they aim their pistols, that theirs is a calling from a whole other mandate.

That is the scariest thing of all.

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Posted in Equality, Family, Hatred, Living, Mixing religion and politics, Politics, Prejudice, Religion, US Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Letter to the Australian Couple Who Threatens Divorce if Marriage Equality is Realized

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Something one learns as a parent is that children are often not rational in their behavior. When something happens that is not to their liking, they will strike out in a variety of fashions, many of which do not line up to a logical agenda of self-interest. Part of the challenge of parenting, in such situations, is to show them how by reacting differently they can make the situation better, not just for themselves, but for others.

Conservatives worldwide apparently need such a parental voice at times to help them see the same thing. A year and a half ago a young man in Utah proclaimed he would starve to death if Utah allowed same sex marriages to take place. I wrote a letter to him in an effort to show him that his actions were not heroic, they were immature. Same sex marriage became legal in Utah, and he avoided starvation.

Now a couple in Australia is doing their own version of a kid rant over same sex marriage. Nick and Sarah Jensen have declared that should Australia recognize same sex marriages, they will get a divorce. Nick states they married “as a fundamental order of creation, part of God’s intimate story for human history, man and woman, for the sake of children, faithful and for life. And so, if later on in the year the state does go ahead and changes the definition of marriage and changes the terms of that contract then we can no longer partake in that new definition unfortunately.”

He speaks of a “contract” that they had with the state which would guarantee marriage defined as being only between a man and a woman forever.

Of course, no such contract exists.

As a dad, this scenario is all too familiar. My sons were both adopted through foster care and are only four months apart in age. We call them “almost twins” reflecting that in many ways, they have achieved a bond that I have only seen in biologically born twins.

My son Jesse has always been the one to lead in their game playing. When they were about 6 years old, Jesse would create card games to play. After a while, Jason would become very frustrated and I would have to intercede. It was not difficult to see the cause of their conflict — the cards and rules of the game were literally stacked against Jason. As they were explained to me, I could see that the rules would only lead to the point where Jesse would win.

So I made him change the rules. As soon as that happened, Jesse, who is a bright kid, could see that things were not exclusive to him anymore and he immediately….quit. “I don’t want to play anymore,” he would bellow, and mind-bogglingly declare, “It’s not FAIR.”

The Jensens are having a similar meltdown. They see that the rules which favor only them are changing, and therefore, they want to — quit. I have written them a letter.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jensen,

I was sad to hear of your decision to divorce should same sex marriage become legal in Australia. It is indeed distressing that you would throw something away so cavalierly that others have worked so hard to try to achieve.

I kind of get it. You had something that you felt held you above others, and made you feel special and a bit elite. That really was not the case. Here in the US they allow convicted murderers to marry from prison, even ones who have slaughtered their families like the Menendez brothers. Those who are allowed to marry are not really as holy or special as you seem to regard. In any case, they do seem to be ranked, in your opinion, above the people you don’t want to marry — LGBT people.

In your declaration of your decision to divorce, you make clear that you want control over the “rules” or you won’t play by them anymore. I have had a similar situation with one of my sons who, in his young life, refused to play games that were not set up by rules he made himself. It took a little time, but I finally showed him that the things that are worthwhile are not the things that cause us to “win” no matter what, they are things that exponentially expand joy and love.

Rules are worthless if they are not based on principles. To make things really valuable, these principles should include equality, fairness, inspiration, nurture and positive development.

You are “quitting” not because of anything having to do with your own marriage or family, but because another family might be given the opportunity for security, honor and growth. Your rationale is not sound, it is not compassionate, nor would anyone on any side of it grow better because of it. Your proposed actions are, in a word … childish.

Such actions have no basis in the Bible, which only allows for divorce in the case of adultery. They have no basis in history, since traditional marriage was as polygamously oriented in ways you fear that marriage today might evolve.

Your actions are also inaccurate in terms of the intentions of others to marry. You have declared that it would now make “marriage … detached from children, [that it’s] just about love.” This makes no sense.

LGBT families have, and intend to have, children. Many times these children are rescued from life threatening or other dire situations. The vapid “every child deserves parents of specific biologies” argument falls very flat to kids who would give anything to simply be fed, nurtured and escape either neglect or abuse.

Many, many couples who wed today also do not intend to have children. I officiated for a lovely man and woman couple in their sixties. Both would faint dead-away at your assertion of my union of them was based on the fact they had to child-bear. They showed up “about love” and have been an inspiration in doing so, as the wife today stands firmly by her husband who is vehemently battling lung cancer.

LGBT couples are not coming together in marriage to spite you. They have no intention of affecting your marriage in any way. They have fought hard for this right, because it is something of great value in their own lives.

Last week, I officiated at the wedding of two beautiful men. The marriage’s meaning was clear to all when the first groom emerged from the wings, being walked down the aisle with his mother. His eyes were brimming with tears. It was evident that this moment was a pinnacle in his life, he was transforming into a further definition of himself and his identity as part of a family.

Whether that family is just he and his spouse, or whether kids will be added, I don’t know. It is none of my business.

Nor is it any of yours.

If you choose to divorce because of what this young man has achieved for himself and his life, that is your prerogative. Just as he did not blame you for his marriage, neither should you blame anyone else for your intended divorce.

If you choose to divorce because others might gain what you have valued in your life, you are not making a statement about marriage. You are not making a statement about love. You are not making a statement about family. You are making a statement about your own damaged egos.

And it is time to grow up.

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Posted in Bible, Equality, Family, Hatred, Marriage equality, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 150 Comments

Pray that it’s enough for now.

I haven’t written anything for quite some time, but today I felt an overwhelming need to say, “I think I can understand and appreciate what you’ve gone through”. I needed to say how I am in awe and inspired. How, with all the media coverage of Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn, my heart has felt an undeniable passion. A passion that is bound together through something everyone has experienced at some time in their life….. pain.

Let me explain.

As an adult I have had my fair share of pain, maybe more than my share. My first husband had the disease of drug addiction, was an IV drug user who died of AIDS. As I ( and our young son) watched him decline and suffer. Losing pieces of his mind and almost all knowing of who he or I were, I held tight to the fact that, even in this dementia, he always knew who his son was, his one true joy. When he finally was able to be released of this pain and suffering and passed on into peace, I was left with all the guilt. The guilt that the one day I didn’t go to the hospital to be with him, he passed, he was alone. My very soul was shattered as I thought of him, leaving us, this world, alone. Was he scared, was he in pain, did he need my hand to hold, to comfort him, as he had done for me, for so many years? In saving our son the trauma of seeing his father suffer, did I deny him his good bye? This is my pain, that I carry with me, still.

A short five years later, my father passed away, from another devastating disease, pancreatic cancer. I also watched him decline and struggle with not being able to be the strong, active man, who was always more than capable of achieving great feats of strength. He survived a fall from 25ft., breaking his back, to getting up and on with loving, caring and providing for the family he loved and going back to work as a carpenter, after 3 short months. He was the strongest man I knew, he was my hero. He had an ingrained honor and integrity that no one I’ve known has even come close to, until my son grew into a man, he has that same honor and integrity. So after a six month battle, and dying two times on the table during surgery to remove cancerous fluid from around his heart, and being in a coma like state for a month, he too, finally, was released from his pain and suffering into peace. But, after spending 2 1/2 days by his side in the hospital, I finally decided to go to my sister’s to shower and change. I told Daddy I’d be back in an hour or so ( even though he remained in a coma). As I stepped out of the car upon arriving at my sister’s, I was met by my sister telling me Daddy had passed not long after I left. All the pain and guilt I had felt with my husband came flooding back, only this time with my Dad. He was alone, ( my parents had divorced years prior), his girls, ( my sisters and I) were all he had, and we weren’t there. All the years he had so unselfishly given to us. The hours of lost sleep worrying, working through a double hernia for years because he couldn’t afford to stop to have surgery, the broken back, the endless lessons of honor, truth, integrity….the feeling that he could make everything right, and the one time I could give this back to him, he was alone. The guilt and pain overwhelm me still.

My two sisters, whose own pain and suffering, from abusive relationships and financial problems I can’t do more to alleviate. The guilt that I wasn’t and still aren’t able to protect them. My sister, (from my husband, who I will never call “in law”) who has never stopped being a constant source of love and support, who I feel I will never be able to give adequately, all she has given to me. And her husband, who I now see in the same light as my father, a hero, who can make everything right. The pain and guilt that I am not able to do and give all they have for me.

My children, who have sustained me through their laughter and tears. Have given me the strength and purpose to go on. When I’ve felt defeated and worthless for all I haven’t done, have shown me their love is enough. My son who has overcome the loss of a father, a grandfather, moving away from his friends, school, home…only to have become the most honorable, intelligent, compassionate, driven person I know. My daughter who has the innocence of feeling like she is a big shot while standing and holding onto the poles on her first subway ride. The pain and guilt I feel that I have left them to struggle with life while I nursed my own wounds.

And my husband now. Who has had a childhood that left him feeling less than, insecure and unloved. Who I’ve watched struggle with, not an addiction to any drug or alcohol, ( although those have been part of it), but an addiction to escaping the constant pain of feeling unlovable. Who gets up everyday and goes off to work to provide for his family, smiling and hiding all he truly feels. How he tries to make everything better, our home, our family, our finances. How he has always helped, no matter what I have asked of him, loving and caring for my son, sisters…. my family. How he brushes our daughter’s hair and looks up on You Tube how to do special braids, and then does them. How he picked up the slack when I went back to college. The pain and guilt I feel that I didn’t see the pain he was in. How my love wasn’t enough to erase all the hurt he felt and love he didn’t get from his parents.

So, when I say I understand and appreciate what Bruce Jenner has gone through, I mean the pain and suffering. But it is more than that. The overwhelming sense I have to acknowledge Caitlyn Jenner, but also my sweet loving Traci, my son and his partner, Mark and all those, I not only call friends, but family, (you all know who you are). Who, although I know the strength and courage it took for them to be their authentic selves, whether they are gay, transgender, bi, whatever. My awe, inspiration, love and compassion is for the thing we have shared, the pain we carry with us, the pain that isn’t always known or seen by those around us. The courage it took everyday to get up and carry on when they weren’t able to be their authentic selves. It’s that strength and courage that moves me to tears and breaks my heart, because I know it too.

My joy, for all those who no longer have to carry around the pain, because they now can be who they truly are.  My hope and prayer, that those who still share this pain will find their peace in themselves, who they truly are. The lovable, perfect, strong, awesome people they are meant to and have always been.

Lovers laugh and cross this way

They’re weaving out into the street

It seems we never were so young

Or it was never quite so sweet

But the world is always beautiful

 When it’s seen in full retreat

The worst of life looks beautiful

                    As it slips away in full retreat

                    Well God only knows that we can do

                     No more or less than he’ll allow

                    Well God only knows that we mean well

                     God knows that we just don’t know how

                      But I try to be your light in love

                      And pray that it’s enough for now      ( Joseph Lee Henry)

Posted in Prejudice | 15 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Letter to Michelle Duggar

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By now, unless your name is Rip Van Winkle and you have just awoken, everyone is aware of the Duggar scandal. Josh Duggar, the bright shining star of the anti-gay right, and a focal point of one of America’s premier reality TV families, was found to have (allegedly) indulged in sexual and incestuous molestation. The story implies cover up and manipulation by the Duggars including an intervention by an authority figure who he himself was later convicted on a child pornography charge.

To be honest, as a commentator, I have tried to stay out of the fray. I never watched their show. Since many of the victims are part of the family being scrutinized, I also would not want to stir up conversation that would create even more guilt, harm or shame.

Yet, there was still something missing in all that has been talked about. The Duggars were not just a benign family in which a horrific situation unfolded. They were advocates and proponents, not just of their own “lifestyle”, but in attacking various personas within the LGBT community umbrella, my family being one such target.

There is more to be said to them, and so I have decided to articulate it in this open letter to their matriarch, and one of the most homophobic voices in the family, Michelle Duggar.

Dear Mrs. Duggar,

I truly cannot imagine how you must be feeling right now, and the challenges you have gone through of late. I also realize that I am the last type of person you would welcome hearing from right now. I am member of the community you have made great efforts to reject and malign.

I am a gay dad, who with my male spouse, adopted two baby boys, and have raised them to become the upstanding 12 year olds they are today.

You were eager to defeat a proposed ordinance that would have protected families such as mine from discrimination. Your recording blasted out to thousands misrepresented it as a male predators in female bathrooms issue. You attacked transgender women and implied they were child molesters. You eagerly boarded a bus and traveled seven states to try to prevent families like mine from achieving legal and societal equality and protections. You and your family members have been vocal in declaring my family inadequate and intentionally withholding because we have not provided our kids with parents who are biologically different.

People have been calling you out for “hypocrisy” due to your current family situation, but that is not accurate. Hypocrisy is when you call people out for doing something that you are also doing. That is not what has happened. You have called out people who are innocent and have not done what has been done, and covered up in your family. That’s worse.

Through your current experiences, I am deeply hoping that you are able to have the humility to sit back and re-evaluate your stance, rhetoric and philosophy in terms of the real fabric of family and the unifying love required to keep it healthy.

Truly, you and I have little in common as parents. While you hold me in disdain for being a male who mothers his children, I have to admit, I have similar misgivings about your choices. The fact that you have given birth to nineteen children is heralded as wonderful thing, and something that many would like to see emulated. I don’t relate to that concept at all.

I have little argument against the idea that you have love for all nineteen. I highly doubt however, that you have enough bandwidth for the attention each really needs, and to use your word… deserves. I have only two kids. They are the center of my universe, and even with only two, I cherish all the time we are able to be together, and regret that I cannot increase its volume tenfold. I am eager to delve into who they are, their thoughts , insights, desires and experiences. To do that , I need to be with them, watch them, communicate with them as well as their teachers and helpers. I know that the time and focus I give them would not be possible to multiply out over seventeen additional children, especially if I were in a constant state of pregnancy.

I don’t doubt you have not done super human things, but to do what I am suggesting would require a metaphysical metamorphosis greatly expanding the idea of being in many places at once concept.

This ability to keep closer tabs on my kids makes me feel that should someone do something inappropriate to them, that I would have a greater chance to have a sense of it immediately. I raise my boys with a strong standard of morality, however, I watch to make sure it is not oppressive and stifling. I know that extremes can produce the opposite result to what I intend. I also sense that the shaming of sexual feelings and the suppression of those feelings may inspire the acting out through molestation. I would think there was a connection between what your family has experienced and the Catholic Church scandal over the last decades.

In short, I know as well as you that diving into parenthood in whatever way is a crap shoot. There is no easy path to what is the exact right methodology, because all kids are different and truly need different things. We as parents, develop our ideals and standards and hope to God that we are right about them. The truth is, sometimes we will be and others we won’t.

When we are wrong, we need to admit it. When our kids stumble, it is too easy to just surmise that they developed a flaw from some outside unrelated source. No, chances are, it was us, acting through an ideal we thought necessary but that in fact brought about an unforeseen consequence.

I am sure I will be admitting some of those when my kids become adults. I am equally sure that none of those will be because of my physical features, just as none of your physical attributes led Josh to do what he did.

I think it is time for you to do a similar reassessment now. There is deep healing needed within your family, and that will not be achieved until more accurate aspects of family life are acknowledged and addressed. You have stated that you are “not a perfect family.” None of us are, and that admission is not enough.

Outward attacks on others, my family included, need to be examined and retracted. There are things that we all can learn from others in diverse family situations that differ from our own. I can take notes from you on family schedule structure and organization, and I think there are things you could learn from me as a parent.

When you  campaigned against us, created falsehoods and demonized our genders and our families, you weren’t listening.

If you were able to take this moment to grow deeper insight and take this horror as a time to reflect, I believe it would lead you to say the words that have not been articulated in this discussion. They are the words the people you have held yourself superior to, that you have lectured and that you have tried to oppress, need to hear. The words you need to say are these:

“I’m sorry.”

Rob Watson discusses this article on The Last Word here:

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Posted in Entertainment, Family, Hatred, Marriage equality, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

A Gay Dad Draws Protest from the Penguin Play School and Responds

Penguin school Evol eq

As writers and/or activists enter the public discussions, they tend to adopt a style and way of communicating that works for them. If you are Dan Savage, you devise clever definitions of words based on Known Homophobes, and start amazingly powerful video campaigns. For me, I am a gay dad who writes people letters in a very public way.

I am often asked if I actually send those letters to the people for whom they are intended, and the answer is “yes.” How I get the letters to them varies based on their accessibility but in all cases my intention is to communicate directly as well as through the public sphere.

Recently I wrote to a school and the community it serves regarding the cancellation of a play depicting a penguin family, a family of two males taking parental roles over an adopted egg. I wrote to them about the cancellation of a play about a family like mine. When I published it, I sent a link immediately to the school through its Facebook page messages. I got a response:

“Hi Rob, not ignoring. I will get back to you.”

Five days and four publications later, I did get a response from Jill Harry, “Mom, 7th-8th Grade Long Term Substitute Teacher, PR Manager, Lead Founding Member, former Board Chair, Sierra Foothill Charter School, sierrafoothillcharterschool.org”.

Jill stated, “I read and appreciated a lot of what you wrote in your May 1 blog. Unfortunately, not everything you wrote about SFCS and recent events is accurate… I do not have the time or energy to go line by line through your blog and point out all the places where you are incorrect in what you are reporting. Instead, I’m attaching clarifying statements from our principal and our board chair.”

I have attached those documents below. In the original blog, I also attached the school letter that outlined all the facts I discussed in my commentary. Since all the information I presented was from the school directly or quoting people that their local media had captured on camera, I was very curious as to what “inaccuracies” Ms. Hill perceived. After reading the principal’s letter, the main two concerns seemed to be that when he stated that the play “does cross the line for what parents think is appropriate for school,” that he was speaking only for the majority of parents who were against the play, not the whole population. I don’t think my quote of him indicated that all parents were in agreement, nor do I see that making a difference to the issue at hand.

The school seemed also intent on making clear that the cancellation had more to do with the disruptive controversy — that the play was meant to be “fun,” but was now, not going to be.

My response to Ms. Hill: “Thank you for your response, and especially for the follow up letters. I would happy to look at any clarification of details you would like to make. I find your “time and energy” comment insincere and suspicious since all of the facts I presented were taken from the school’s own letter on its Facebook page, and the quotes were directly from people filmed at the school board meeting.

The additional letters you just sent actually reinforce, rather than refute, the points made in my blog.   The only added piece of information I can see is that the intention of the play was to be merely frivolous fun. When it turned out to have any controversy whatsoever, the fact it was no longer frivolous became the issue.

I am sorry, but that rationalization is not good enough. If the play had not have been about a same sex couple, but a family of another race, and many of your school had reacted in a racist manner about it, I doubt (and dearly hope) that your reaction would not have been “gee we have to cancel because there was unintended controversy. ”

I can appreciate your administration was taken by surprise, and that their original intention was not to provide a learning platform for diversity. Once in that situation how you chose to handle it became the issue however. The school board member who was concerned about the message it sent to LGBT families and to the kids who are gay in your school but are hiding it in secret (And yes, statistically there are as few as five and as many as thirteen in your population.) was exactly right if not understated, that your actions have sent a horrific message.

You did not step up to educate those who were voicing ignorance about the families the play symbolized, but placated to that opinion simply because it was widely held in your parent population. My blog was primarily about one thing– and that is the point that my family, should it be in your community, would not be people, we would be a “controversy” and treated as “opinions” of which others were free to “disagree with”. If my sons attended your school, then a plethora of the other parents would want them silenced as to the nature of who made up our family.

The reading of “what we did over the summer” essays would then be a matter of school board debate. If you are under the misguided opinion that “it would not happen that way”, I will simply point you to the fact that you did not see the TANGO controversy coming either.

Yes, you were the unwitting participants that accidentally stepped into a contentious issue, but once there, attempts to back out of it is not an appropriate option. You found out that there IS hatred and ignorance in your community. Instead of dealing with THAT, you want to go back to your state where you were simply uniformed that it exists. Unfortunately endings like that only exist in fairy tales. In the real world it is the opportunity to do something noble or cowardly, and there is very little gray area in between.”

___

After I sent that note, there was one nagging detail that still bothered me, and had not been answered. There was a board member who eloquently, and accurately stated the message the cancellation decision would send to the LGBT community whether intended or not. Yet, the board vote was UNANIMOUS to cancel the play. I wanted to know why.

A moment later, I heard from that board member, her name is Carolin Frank, She wrote, “I am the board member who was concerned about the message. What ultimately decided my vote was the plea from LGBT families in our school to not go ahead and show the play right now. I know that this factored into at least one other board member’s decision.”

That led to the following exchange:

Me: “Thanks for that clarification Carolin! Can you clarify their plea? I can appreciate the sentiment as for an LGBT family in that environment, the whole discussion had to be humiliating. I felt that way as an LGBT family and I am just a fellow Californian. For LGBT families in the school itself, the public shaming and embarrassment must have been enormous.”

Carolin: “Yes I think they felt very vulnerable, and wished to take baby steps rather than fighting over this play right now. Yes, it has been very stressful.”

Me: “That I can totally appreciate. It is also why I speak up for other LGBT families because I am not vulnerable to the community members who are derogatory — they can’t go after my kids at school or glare at me across a supermarket. I can tell them how my kids came from fostercare and not only am I a good parent, but my kids would literally not be alive without me. Your local families should not have to reveal such intimate details to their neighbors, particularly with ones who will not treat their stories with respect. Thanks for sharing those details with me.”

Carolin: “Thank you for understanding. I completely understand your reaction to all this. It’s been horrible.”

Me: “And I appreciate all you have been trying to do to rectify it. If you wish to give some insight to other board members or community members on what an LGBT family is really like, feel free to share my family’s story with them.   I would be happy to answer any questions. This happened in another central California community where there were similar sentiments, and nothing was done to rectify it. Just some clarification as to why I care.

Carolin: “Thank you. I’m sure they have already seen it. You are doing an amazing job as a father.”

While I hope those at the Sierra Foothill Charter School feel better about clarifying details, there is a bigger picture issue that they are not grasping. They are not alone, the McGuffey High School in Pennsylvania did not understand it either. Thousands of schools across the country do not understand it.

It is in this point. While the Sierra Foothill Charter School and McGuffey High School proclaim with good intention that “bullying will not be tolerated,” and then go on to police specific one-on-one behaviors, they are missing the bigger issue, the oxygen on which the bullying breathes. They are missing the veil of homophobia that is an ever-present specter.

The question is not whether bullying will be tolerated. In my final not to the schools, I would say this,

“We know you will manage what you can see, and what you can document. What remains to be seen it how you manage the intangible which you are now fully aware is present. That intangible hate is not delivered in sword slashes of outlandish behavior. It is death by pin pricks, a million tiny pin pricks of looks, comments and slights delivering damage to their vicitims.

Sierra Foothill, you now know that a majority of your parents loathes a minority in your community. McGuffey High, you now know a percentage of your population has the desire to hate on and ostracize a category of people in your school.

The big question is—what are you, and schools like you, going to do about it?”

Sierra School Letter A3 board chair Sierra Foothill A2 Sierra Foothill A1

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Posted in Civil Rights, Family, Marriage equality, Prejudice | Tagged | 3 Comments

A Gay Dad Sounds Off on the Elementary School Mob That Cancelled a Play About a Gay Penguin Family

We are penguins

There was a significant hearing this week on Tuesday about same sex relationships and whether to ban them. You likely missed this one because you were focused on that OTHER hearing in front of the Supreme Court, the one on whether all states in the union should perform and recognize same sex marriages.

No, this hearing was smaller, with less attention and could have been held in what might be described as a wholly alternative universe.

This hearing was in front of a school board in Catheys Valley, Mariposa County, California. It was held in a place where same sex marriage legally exists without question.

Unlike the Supreme Court, which was surrounded by folks waving banners of equality, tolerance and the love that creates families, this hearing was full of people who wanted none of that and took offense against anyone who did not look and act like them.

The case before the school board was this: the Sierra Charter Foothill School was scheduled to host a performance of the play, And Then Came Tango, based on the true story of two male penguins who hatched and orphaned egg and raised the chick as their own. New York Theater Now describes Tango as: “Emily Freeman’s timely play for young audiences, shares the tale of six chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo — and the people who care for them. More specifically and touchingly, Freeman zeroes in on Roy and Silo, two males who form a penguin bond akin to their male-female-paired peers, engaging in mating rituals and trying to hatch a rock. Even more touchingly, Lily, the young Junior Keeper, convinces Walter, the zookeeper in charge of the exhibit, to let Silo and Roy incubate an orphaned egg – which they do to loving fruition.”

The booking of the play had been in place for a year with the Fresno State Theater Troup. The school regretted having missed out on the previous year’s performance of The Velveteen Rabbit, so put in their reservation early to get on the schedule for Tango.

Once the play’s synopsis was sent to them, the administration wretched over what they perceived as a “gay theme.” They immediately made attendance voluntary and sent out “warnings” to all their parents. This effort was not enough for many in the community who demanded that the ability to opt out was not enough. They insisted that the school needed to cancel the production all together or they would boycott it for the day.

The force of the vitriolic response shocked the administrators who then threw the decision of the play’s fate to the school board. Meanwhile, some of the students who wanted to see the play began passing out rainbow ribbon bracelets to those willing to wear them. This “radical” action was also quickly shut down by the administration. The school leaders took on a “road theater” of their own and went into classes to perform skits. Their theme was about how trying to inspire acceptance of others was actually a divisive act. I am not sure what the reviews of the “Divisive Act” skits were, but in any case, they successfully shut down the distribution of rainbow ribbon bracelets and the “perpetrators” apologized.

At the same time the first and second graders were putting the final touches to their creative writing and a story called “Hannah’s Adventure” which was headed to a writing festival in Meced. Hannah was undoubtedly “safe” because she apparently did not have two moms. So, full steam ahead.

Mariposa County life for And Then Came Tango was not so fortuitous. The school board voted conclusively to end its run long before it got started.

While the first and second graders of Sierra Charter Foothill wrote their piece, I wrote one of my own. Here is my open letter to the school and the community it serves.

Dear Sierra Charter Foothill School Community,

I was horrified to read of your recent actions around the play called And Then Came Tango, which depicted two penguins who loved each other and then saved, hatched and nurtured an orphaned egg. Your principal stated that the play “does cross the line for what parents think is appropriate for school.”

At the school board meeting, parents made comments like “It’s about two men.  They raise a baby and I don’t agree with that.”  Your community members described the family image in Tango as “social engineering” and “promoting” homosexuality. The consensus was “I want to teach my kids what I believe in my home that’s it.”

The family depicted in “And Then Came Tango” is mine.

We are not penguins, and my sons were not hatched, but aside from those set-decorating changes, it is us. My oldest son was born six weeks prematurely to a heroin-addicted mother. My younger son was found abandoned by his drug-addicted mother in a trailer where he had been uncared for two days. My spouse and I had so much love between us that we wanted to extend it further. We adopted these two babies who needed us.

The love I have for my sons is the most profound I have ever known.

That is our story, and it is reflected in the factual story of the penguins in the play. The penguin real life story occurred in 1999 at the Central Park Zoo, and they met with the same intolerant attitude that your community is exhibiting. Homophobic people rose up and demanded that the penguin family be broken apart. They felt what had happened naturally was somehow “sending the wrong message.”

The Tango story is about love. My family’s story is about love. We are people, we are not ideas or theories for you to “agree” or “disagree” with. My sons are not experiments nor are they part of some agenda to “promote” a brand of sexuality. I would never disrespect your children by characterizing them as “talking points of heterosexual sex acts” and I expect the common decency from you to not classify my sons similarly.

Just for the record, my family is not alone. There are thousands like us in the state of California. We are your neighbors. Just like the orphaned egg in the story, there are also thousands of kids who have been abused or neglected in our state. A Cambridge study found that there is only one parental profile family that chooses to create a family using foster care /adoption as its first choice — that profile is a two male led household.

My sons are both wonderful boys — bright, charming, caring — and have both been taught to be good citizens in their school community. Even though it is clear that they would not be welcome, your school would be fortunate to have two such as them within it.

All your kids are going to come to school and share with others about how they came to be in their families, LGBT kids do the same. My sons, like other kids from differing family structures, fully grasp the concept of mutual respect between families. It is the principle where we listen to each other and find common ground, not a focus on our differences.

It is a concept that you have just voted down. It is a lesson you have yet to learn.

As for Tango, theater arts are meant to illustrate, illuminate and shake their audience from pre-conceived notions and feelings. This play was brought to you not so you can judge and censor it, or the families like mine that it represents, but so you can watch and grow from finding out about us. It asks you to consider that a family is driven more from the hearts of its members than it is from their genitals.

Last year, your school was upset that it missed out on the road tour of a production of the classic The Velveteen Rabbit. I wonder if you would have caught the message of that play and how it too affirms the creation of families such as mine. I am sorry you did not see it, as you might have taken a glimpse of what it means to be a “real” family. You would have heard this:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real…It doesn’t happen all at once…You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Tango was not seeking your approval, it was a gift for you so that you could start to see things more broadly and appreciate the diversity in this world. It was ready to show you what is truly real, something like my family.

By your actions, you have shut down a great educational opportunity.

That opportunity was not for your kids, it was for you.

http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/embed/iframe?aspect_ratio=3×2&auto_start=0&pf_id=9201&rel=3&show_title=0&va_id=5740672&volume=8&windows=1

Sierra Foothills school

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Posted in Equality, Family, Hatred, Marriage equality, Prejudice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments