How a Sheltered Housewife Transformed Into the Foremost In-Your-Face Challenger of Homophobia in Christian Churches Today

joan of arc

My first interaction with Kathy Baldock, the founder and director of Canyon Walker Connections, was in 2012.  She had shared information on line about the newly formed Restored Hope Network and its new leader, Robert Gagnon. I had just completed some advocacy for California’s new law protecting minors from “reparative therapy” and was writing about this new and threatening group. I fought them from behind my keyboard. Kathy, on the other hand was arguing with them live in the same room with them.

We both, it appeared to me, to be seasoned advocates doing our part in the battle for equality. It was not until I picked up Kathy’s new bookWalking the Bridgeless Canyon, that I realized we had come to our current missions from very different places.

By 1988, I had lost over forty friends to AIDS. I had spoken at a dozen memorials of very close friends. I was only thirty one years old.  In Bridgeless Canyon,  Kathy shares where she was at that time: “My husband and I were walking into our home as the phone rang…I understood that one of his friends in New York City had died of the ‘gay cancer.’ My reaction was dispassionate… I distinctly recall formulating judgments: People who died from AIDS got it by having gay sex… the death was foreseeable and could and should have been avoided by not following lust-filled desires. I am not proud of my behavior.”

Kathy describes that her own life also did not fit her matter-of-fact conservative world view.  Beyond her expectations, she was soon facing unexpected betrayals and divorce. She told me, “My faith did not change, but life as it was supposed to be as a result of that faith, sure did.” Kathy started to walk, both physically and spiritually as a result of this personal upheaval. It was on one of these walks that a life-altering relationship happened.

Kathy regularly passed a woman who walked in the opposite direction on the canyon trail. She was a woman who reflected a whole different life experience than the one Kathy knew. Kathy sensed the woman was a lesbian. One day, Kathy heard herself call out to the other woman, “Can I turn around and walk with you?”

As they walked, Kathy was no longer in a place where she felt she needed to “save a soul,” she was in a place where she was willing to just be.  The walk ended, but it became a regular ritual with the two women.  Through her new friend Netto, Kathy met more LGBT community members, allowing her to see the human faces over her dogmatic beliefs. It wasn’t until she heard a Netto’s heartfelt admission that Kathy’s previous misconceptions hit a crisis point from which they would never recover. Netto admitted that she could not feel safe in the places where Kathy frequented, and with the people Kathy knew. “Look Kathy, you don’t understand. In this society, I’m the lowest of the low. I am a Native American. I am a woman of color. I have a Hispanic last name. I am lesbian. Not even God loves me.”

The words “not even God loves me” shot through Kathy like a lightening bolt. “My heart ached; I stopped on the trail stupefied, and cried.”  She had broken through the powerful truth that happens when regressive Christian dogma meets an actual living breathing LGBT person — the dogma falls apart.

bridgeless canyon book imageIn Bridgeless Canyon, Kathy shares many more stories of other Christians who were led to challenge prejudices after they got to know LGBT individuals in their lives. The purpose of the book, which took over a decade to write, was to compile the ultimate text book for such people from the history and culture of the LGBT movement, the religious/political evolutions, the scientific facts of homosexuality, and what the Bible really says about homosexuality, which, in reality, is virtually nothing at all.

The final portion of the book dives deep into the relationship of LGBT Christians and their allies. One of Kathy’s key objectives is to fling open the closed gates of Christianity and make it accessible to LGBT people who want it, and make it friendly to those who have endured its horrific abuses. She lays out key issues for Christians to be aware of in respecting their LGBT neighbors which include not recognizing that the person already HAS a “journey with Jesus”, not needing encouragement to get one, and the person needs their own testimony to be respected and heard, where today it is dismissed out of hand (“You couldn’t have been ‘born gay’— I don’t believe that…”).

“This is the book I wish had been available to me a decade ago,” she states.

Most Christians who are anti-gay will not likely change through biblical study alone, she admits. “I think I have only met one individual who has done that by simply reading the Bible without knowing a gay person or hearing real life testimony,” Kathy told me.

As a modern day pro-LGBT Joan of Arc, a majority of Kathy Baldock’s advocacy is not from behind a computer screen. It is in face to face meetings, and confrontations, with the most rabid anti-gay ministers in the American evangelical movement.  She has personally interacted with vehement anti-gays including Michael Brown, Robert Gagnon, Anne Paulk, and Scott Lively. She has sat with street preachers and shared with them her version of “the message.” She has attended “ex-gay” recruitment sessions. She has been stalked online and then gone to the church where her stalker worked in order to confront him.

Most recently, she smuggled a gay man into the church of the notorious Steven  “execute the gays” Anderson who weeks before declared that there would NEVER be a gay person in his church. Courtesy of Ms. Baldock, that resolve has been violated.  Posing as a couple, Kathy and her gay male friend attended a recent service.

Of her visit, she reports an anti-education, woman- suppressing environment. Most disturbing is her account of the church’s violent undertones. She states, “I’ve been to many, many churches, yet, before attending Faithful Word, I’ve never visited a church with such a high visibility of guns on hips. Anderson transformed a sermon on Psalm 23 into a call to husbands to keep their families secure with a gun, a shotgun, or, at minimum, a metal bat and good fighting skills until the man of the home could afford a good gun. Before Sunday, I had never been met at a church door by a greeter packing a gun or witnessed the pastor proudly flashing his gun underneath his suit jacket. It is an unsettling feeling to experience in a church, a place I equate with sanctuary.”

Kathy’s prognosis regarding the hold pastors like Anderson have on American Christianity is not a good one.  “Unfortunately the list of Christians with literal, fear-inspired theology seems endless. Aside from the ugly street screamers, I’ve personally experienced interaction/meeting many who, in their zeal, are convinced they are flawless in their biblical interpretations and speak for God while doing significant damage to the emotional, physical and spiritual well-being of the LGBT community.”

This makes her book all the more important. This year, it should be a gift under the tree of thinking Christians everywhere. Where there is misinformation, the book brings knowledge and where LGBT people are invisible, it creates faces.

We cannot sit by and be complacent in this society, particularly one that is armed to the teeth. We cannot afford to be comfortable in our own sides of the canyon oblivious to all others. Kathy is courageous and right to walk it and create communication that inspires understanding, acceptance and common ground.

Kathy Baldock 1She is wrong about one thing, however.  The canyon is no longer bridgeless.

The bridge is her.

 

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Autographed copies of the book Walking the Bridgeless Canyon can be found here.    Kindle and hard copy on Amazon.com.

 

Posted in Bible, Civil Rights, Clobber Passages, Gay Christians, Hatred, Mixing religion and politics, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How Harvey Milk’s Death, and the World AIDS Losses Brought Us Marriage and Family Equality

Harvey and W AIDS DAY

Harvey Milk was shot and killed on November 27, 1978. Almost a decade later, on December 1, 1988 the first World AIDS Day was enacted. The first was a dramatic local tragedy around several local politicians and the second was a health awareness initiative designed to promote education around a growing worldwide pandemic.

Now, in retrospect, both symbolize something so much more. They represent the enormous loss of human life loss sacrifices in the war for equality. They each represent profound deaths which lit a community’s fire of outrage, visibility and call for justice, that ultimately produced a phoenix of equality to rise and take hold of a society — at an acceleration unseen by any other civil rights movement.

The city councilman of a single city became an icon, and as hundreds of thousands of gay men died, they were inadvertently outed, ripping them from families and acquaintances who were forced to re-examine their preconceived notions on what it meant to be gay.

I heard the news about Harvey Milk the Monday after Thanksgiving in 1978. I was a junior at UCLA returning from a long weekend at my parents. The tragedy of the story hit me but I was completely oblivious to the political back story behind it.

Before he died, I, as a closeted gay man, had never heard of Harvey Milk.

I was unaware of the segregated battle in San Francisco from an emerging gay community and a conservative anti-gay faction, represented by Dan White, the assassin. It was only after Harvey Milk was killed that I heard his timeless quote that would frame the directive to bring the LGBT movement its ultimate successes:

“Gay brothers and sisters, you must come out. Come out to your parents. I know that it is hard and will hurt them, but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives. Come out to your friends, if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors, to your fellow workers, to the people who work where you eat and shop. Come out only to the people you know, and who know you, not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths. Destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake.”

Over the next year after Harvey’s death, I started my own internal coming out process. As this political stranger left the planet, he loosened the lock on my own seal of denial within myself. I finally had to come out, to me.

Dustin Lance Black observed that “Harvey Milk was not myopic when it came to his equality. If he had been, he never would have been elected. Harvey was a pure populist. He worked hard for all people who have been made to feel “less than,” and all minorities whom the system wasn’t working for.” This truth sets up a strange paradox around his death. If Harvey had lived, and had become known as a populist politician, it is uncertain that he would have gotten the attention he did as our tragic fallen hero. He was like Marilyn Monroe, who if she had lived certainly would have aged into a solid serious “Lee Strasberg” actress, and likely diminishing a previous image of a potentially sex symbol icon. She died as a sexy image, and forever she will be one. Harvey Milk died as an LGBT pioneer and forever shall he be one.

Author Lincoln Mitchell observed several years ago, “While the forces of hate are still out there, and still winning some battles … because of the work of Harvey Milk and millions of other lesser known heroes, those same forces of hate will lose their war. Harvey Milk’s America will defeat Dan White’s America.” Our recent gains have indicated that Mitchell’s words are appearing to be true. Within each gain there seems to be either a key “coming out,” whether it is Ellen Degeneres in the television industry, Jason Collins and Michael Sams in sports or Tim Cook in high tech business or a sub-community, Harvey Milk’s inspiration seems to be evident in each one.

The LGBT grass roots movement knows this more than anyone. The Facebook and Twitter mega-page STOP-Homophobia.com cites him as a motivator behind their efforts, “Harvey taught us that hope will never be silent, and we all know that together out voices are louder.” Blogger Ken Jansen, and administrator for the mega-pages Equality Mantra and The Pink Panthers Movement agrees, “Harvey Milk stated that rights are won only by those who make their voices heard. To me, this is an activist’s mantra. It should be our first thought when we see injustice, hatred, intolerance. Nothing will change if we don’t raise our voices.”

If Harvey Milk’s mandate of coming out, broadcasted un-ignorably by his death, patterned our movement’s trajectory, then no other single factor could have made it more a reality that the horrific strickening of hundreds of thousands of gay men by AIDS. The publication SFGate observes, “When AIDS began devastating San Francisco’s gay community, it silenced what had been a giddy, almost boundless celebration of sexual freedom … the news that a strange disease was killing gay men threatened to erase gay political progress symbolized by the 1977 election of Harvey Milk.”

It did not erase that progress, however. It enhanced it. It magnified it for the reasons that Harvey Milk told us it would— it forced the process of coming out. PBS/KQED states in their report, “The tragic impact of AIDS had an unexpected positive impact … Even though AIDS and HIV encouraged a negative view of gay sex, the educational efforts to combat the disease, inadequate as they were, helped to demystify same-sex unions. As a result, public awareness of homosexuality is much greater now than it was before AIDS was first identified in 1981. One of the most dramatic consequences of AIDS is that a large number of men were catapulted out of the closet when their illness became obvious. Gay men “in the closet,” who were more likely to seek anonymous sexual contact, were at greater risk than those who were open about their sexual orientation. The tragic opening of many closet doors forced heterosexuals to become aware of homosexuality in a new way. The AIDS crisis mobilized the gay and lesbian community by concentrating its focus on a single threat, and by involving many people who had not been politically active before. Because of the general public’s indifference to this crisis, the greatest response came from the gay community itself. Community-based groups started support services such as ACT UP, Shanti, Project Open Hand and the Coming Home Hospice. AIDS, which had the potential to destroy the gay liberation movement, in fact brought the neighborhood closer than ever before. Another unexpected development was the new spirit of cooperation and solidarity between lesbians and gay men. AIDS also brought many new supporters to the gay cause: parents whose sons had died of the disease; heterosexuals in the medical profession; and people who were beginning to understand the problems and discrimination encountered by gay people.”

Cleve Jones helped integrate the outing due to AIDS, and the vision of Harvey Milk through the AIDS Memorial Quilt project.

When the very first World AIDS Day was celebrated in 1988, I was hardly aware of it. I was living in the world of AIDS on a daily basis. I had already buried five of my dearest friends, and I was highly active in AIDS care as well as the political activity around it. I saw countless families who were unaware that their children were gay mourn their loss, and express immediate unconditional acceptance of who their sons were. I was constantly regretful that my friends could not have seen how validated they would have been had they lived.

At the same time, I moved around in a Reagan-inspired heterosexual war. My family and work associates were completely oblivious to my activism, my mourning, my loss. I felt like a soldier in a war that only I could see while part of the world I lived in moved on in their day-to-day trivialities.

I was right, we had been at war. We had been fighting the war that earned us the right to dignity. As DADT fell, as DOMA fell as each gain for marriage equality is made, we come closer to accomplishment in winning that war.

Today, I am the very out, very vocal gay dad of two sons. My sons are being raised in a world where LGBT equality is a given. My sons hear about the incredible friends their dad had, and are inspired by the lives that ended too soon. My sons are touched by the principles of Harvey Milk by being given the freedom to be who they are so they will never have to “come out” about anything.

We are not done, however. LGBT people are demonized within religious strongholds around the world. Transgender people are under attack socially, legally and medically. We have limited employment and housing rights.

World AIDS Day, for me, is now a reminder of all the loving souls we have lost as the price for what we have gained. The assassination of Harvey Milk reminds me that there are those who would willingly shoot the concept of an LGBT safe America dead. The sacrifices in both cases must never be taken for granted.

We must insure that the spirit they inspired live on eternally. If we never forget, we will never go backward and there is too much paying forward yet to be done.

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Why I Want Pope Francis to Write the Requiem for Gabriel Fernandez, the Boy Slaughtered by His Parents for Appearing Gay

Requiem for Gabriel evol

There is a story that I have felt compelled to write for three months. I have not written it because I have found it difficult to find the words. I have the words. I have the exact words. I have written them before.

The story that has nagged at me is the mourning of Gabriel Fernandez, and the requiem of his death. He was eight years old. I know the words to say to Gabriel, because I wrote them in April to a little boy named Zachary.

Both Zachary and Gabriel were tortured and killed because their mothers, and their mothers’ boyfriends perceived them to be gay. Both sets of parents had other children in the house who received less than stellar treatment, but the real horrific, unspeakable treatment was for the child who was effeminate and brought homophobic shame to the family.

While Zachary’s case stayed somewhat off radar for professionals, Gabriel’s was glaringly apparent. His first grade teacher literally had child protective services on “speed dial.” While firings have taken place within the system of those who should have come to his rescue, discussion has been light on the homophobia in society that created not only Gabriel’s situation, but Zachary’s and other children who are out there this very minute being tortured and killed because of it, away from the public eye.

That isn’t to say that families, and the “ideal” home environment is not under an enormous public discussion by those claiming that it is of paramount importance – it is. A few weeks ago, significant conservative Christian commentators converged in Houston Texas for “I Stand Sunday” to declare their militant stance for what they see as required within the family structure. Some of these same participants are guests this week at the “Humanum”: The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium, at the Vatican with Pope Francis . These events represent the worst of the worst in the intellectual rationalization of homophobia. The supporting inspirational videos at Humanum are by discredited anti-gay “researcher” Mark Regnerus. The opinions expressed from the podium at the colloquium include nonsensical speculations that:

  • Hints same sex marriages are a trend that will go away
  • Teens lose sight of their gender as they become aware of their sexual orientation
  • The universe was created through a heterosexual act
  • The earth is a heterosexual creation- the ocean is female and the land is male
  • There is a “counter” sexual revolution that is about to happen
  • That same sex marriages will somehow impede “human flourishing”

When I wrote a requiem for little Zachary, I promised, “With you in our hearts, little man, I promise you, we will do so much better.  We will shut this intolerance, this indecency down even harder.  We can’t give you back your life, but through your memory, we can take back our own lives and this world.

We have the power to make this world one of love, fairness and peace.  You have reminded us why we need to do that for all the future little boys and little girls just like you. We owe it to them.  We owed it to you.  We will not fail again.”

Apparently we already had. When I wrote that, Gabriel was already dead. This time the requiem, the promise to end violent parental homophobia needs to not come from me or any other LGBT parent, it needs to come from those who are lay down the requirements of what parents should be. It needs to come from Pope Francis himself.

Your Holiness,

Another child has died. He did not die of natural causes, he died of the highest of unnatural causes—he died at the hands of the parents who were supposed to love him. The world has seen the faces of these parents saturated in the media, it has been disgusted in their crime.

The dead boy’s name is Gabriel and he is as angelic as he sounds. He was killed because his mother and the father figure in his life were repulsed by the femininity that he projected. They feared he might be gay.

This fear of gay people was thematic in Humanum: The Complementarity of Man and Woman, An International Colloquium that you sponsored. The murderous couple fully met the criteria of the ideal that you praised at the colloquium. They were a couple that the colloquium said would “attest to the power and vitality of the complementary union of man and woman”. They would have found inspiration as speaker after speaker depicted gay people as threats against humanity. They, not loving same sex couples that would do anything to protect and nurture their children, are the ones you want to inspire to marry.

Gabriel died at the hand of your model. In the report by the Antelope Valley Press, Paramedic James Cermak was quoted, “It was like sensory overload. There was burn marks, there was BB holes, bruises in various stages of healing, [it] looked like his ankles were broken. It was like every inch of this boy had been abused. We noticed that he had bruising all over his body, he had strangulation marks around his neck, and looked like his teeth had been knocked out.”  Cermak asked Pearl Fernandez about the situation and “she became very defensive,” he said, and she called her dying son “a dirty boy.”  His sin was playing with dolls and liking girlish things.

I mourned with Zachary, another little boy who died for the same reasons as Gabriel, over the “ beauty, magnificence, talent and life” that he represented that is now gone.  I told him I would miss “the adult you were to become: the father, the artist, or the hero. “ I mourned the children he did not get to raise and the better world he did not get to help build.

You need to explain to the world about the life that Gabriel did not live.

Did you intend for this to happen? No, I hope not. Your intellectual theories developed from the homophobic philosophers your gathered created the perfect storm that killed these boys however. You have inspired hatred and rejection of gay people integrated into a fantasy image of an ideal woman and man, who in fact do not exist. Parents of all types are only human, and the ability to physically procreate is completely unrelated to the ability to parent. None of your speakers, not a single one, acknowledged that basic fact.

A beautiful boy has died. Please say goodbye to him and express your regrets for all that he could have been. Please tell him how your model failed him, and that he deserved so much better. Look into his beautiful brown eyes and tell him what you are going to do to make sure no other soft, sweet loving boys will meet a similar fate from those conditioned to hate, and that no other evil parents will feel justified by your church for their homophobic impulses.

Gabriel will forgive you. He loved his parents even while they systematically tortured him. Children love their parents, even when they are horrible. They come ready to love. The important principle is not that children have a right to a physical “mom and a dad,” it is that they have the right to be loved back in some way to the level of the love they are so willing to give themselves. This is the information your Humanum speakers failed to grasp.

You figuratively looked into the eyes of Tony Perkins, the officers of NOM, and the discredited Mark Regnerus and welcomed them. Now please look into the eyes of Gabriel. Please explain to him how these failed theories are supposed to work.

If you can’t figure it out, there are plenty in the world who can. There are gay parents like myself who do not worry about how we do or do not symbolize the creation of the universe, but who love our kids above all else. That love is what nurtures and saves our children, not a two gender household with some antiquated role model structure.

You can also ask parents who love their gay children and look at their value in the world – parents like Sarah, who shared on the blog www.johnpalovic.com , ““I know my son was born gay, I watched him grow up. He showed signs at the tender age of 3. God did not make a mistake when he made him. I pray that God will take away all the shame (from parents and children) who are gay, I pray that one day this will not be such a polarizing topic in churches.”

The shame she speaks of is gone from little Gabriel Fernadez. He is now at peace from the torture of which he was subjected.

The only shame is on the heads of those who killed him. It is on the shoulders of those who demonize families who love over those who match a specific physical picture. It hangs in the voices of those supporting a homophobic agenda, those who nodded in compliance at Humanum, and drank up all the lies. It is on your doorstep, it is in your house.

It is yours.

I wrote a requiem for a boy named Zachary because I wanted the world to remember his face, not the faces of the parents who killed him. I wanted the world to look into his eyes and appreciate the loss that homophobia delivered. I wrote it for Zachary.

I want you to write one for Gabriel this time. I want you to remember his face and not the theoretical faces of those that you think are designed to make perfect parents. I want you to appreciate that love is more important than all of that, and your Humanum project did not produce love, it produced homophobia. Homophobia killed Gabriel.

This time, I want you to write the requiem about Gabriel, but I do not want you to write it for him.

I want you to write it for you.

 

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Posted in Civil Rights, Equality, Hatred, Living, Mixing religion and politics, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

A Transgender Man’s Personal Day of Remembrance and Vision for the Path Ahead

TDoR evol equals Lex piece

Guest blog by Lex Beatty

It’s 2am. I’m leaning against a parking meter on a grungy, half lit street outside of a night club in San Francisco. The air around me is electric. I open one bleary eye to see the concerned and horrified faces of my friends.

Something is wrong.

I put my hands up to my face and I can almost feel the thick purple sludge of the bruises under my fingers, somewhere people are still yelling and all of the pain jumps to life under my skin. I’m alive, that much is painfully obvious.

It is January 6, 2008. I’ve just been hit over the head with a Patron Tequila bottle. As my bones gave way under the relentless force of that blow, some deeply held belief, some dark fear took root: I don’t deserve to be safe.

We don’t often celebrate survival. We enjoy the story of the character that overcomes, they who rise above or move beyond some tragic set of circumstances to experience a more palatable version of success – but not just surviving. Before the conditions can be met to thrive, one has to be assured of their ability to survive.

For thousands of transgender people around the world, survival is success. My story is not remarkable. For many of us, violence is inevitable. It is an unavoidable consequence of our choice to be true to ourselves. It’s not just the reaction that’s violent, it’s the process.

It’s a startling realization at a young age that something isn’t quite right. It’s the silent tears streaming down the face of the adolescent child looking back at you through the mirror at a body you can’t make peace with. It’s the ball of knots in the pit of your stomach when you wake at 4 am and realize you’re going to have to face tomorrow with that same face you have today. It’s the first time your shoved walking down the hall and suddenly you know that whatever it is you can see, so can they.

It’s the first time you ask yourself what’s wrong with you. It’s the last time you ask it thinking it might not be true and finally accept that you are what’s wrong.

It’s the insidious, thick web of thoughts that infest your mind and you find yourself consumed with self-doubt, hate, shame and fear. You have to survive. The idea is that it gets better, but really you get better. Somewhere along the way you either become strong enough to be true to yourself at all costs, or you don’t. You either face the pain and choose to live free, or you don’t. You either make a choice to follow that unique soul song inside of you against all odds and all notions about what you should or shouldn’t be – or you don’t.

And when you’ve finally wrestled with the internal aggression then you’ve got to face the world. The violence that transgender people face doesn’t stop at our skin, in either direction. There is an internal battle that rages alongside the external war for dignity and respect. It is an epidemic of fear and misunderstanding that costs so many transgender people their quality of life, if not their physical essence.

Even at a time of more mobility, more visibility and more possibility than any other generation of transgender lives, very few come through this journey unscathed.

And so we remember. Any culture that seeks to thrive must know and celebrate its history, so we choose to remember. Today, as we pause for Transgender Day of Rememberance, we honor the lives lost, more often than not, to brutal and degrading violence. For every name we read, we know there are hundreds we’ll never know. Thousands of names that have passed without recognition, without celebration, but with no less dignity. To those we’ve lost, by any means, we honor you today. To our brilliant advocates and activists who have stood on the front lines and shouldered the blows, we celebrate you. Thank you for your courage, your bravery, and your vision.

Until now, Transgender Day of Remembrance has been a solemn and sobering day of acknowledgement. Until now, we’ve had to endure stories of pain, heartache, loss and shame. Until now, until this generation, we’ve been a people who’ve struggled to survive amidst a vitriolic storm of misinformation and fear. Until now, when our social media feeds are flooded with stories of young children who claim themselves as whole at a young age and whose parents provide them with support. Until now, when we enter a grocery store and see Laverne Cox on the cover of TIME Magazine. Until now, when anyone, anywhere can open YoutTube and watch the journeys of hundreds of people making their transitions publicly, ask any question imaginable and find people just like them a few keystrokes away.

The narrative of our bodies has begun to evolve to include our humanity and provide us with dignity in a way that has not been possible at other times in history. The names, which are often read aloud at remembrance vigils, are often the only time these deaths will be acknowledged and the list is overwhelmingly populated by transgender women of color. Among transgender people, violence is an almost certain condition. Until now.

Our bodies are beautiful. They are complicated and unique. Our stories are powerful and profound. They deserve to be heard, to be seen and to be celebrated.

Today, we remember those we’ve lost and I’d like to challenge us to celebrate those we have. Transgender bodies can offer us a window in to what is possible when we dare to break free from limited beliefs about biology and cultural constructs. They teach us about the strength of the human spirit when it refuses to be bound by what has been and has the courage to embody what can be. Our experiences may be unique, but our lessons are universal: Every body deserves to live Free. Until now, we’ve had to fight to survive.

Today, we remember to Thrive.

 

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Posted in Civil Rights, Equality, Hatred, Living, Prejudice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Open Letter to Rose McGowan on Lessons Learned

Rose mcG

Rose McGowan’s opinions have been all over social media the past few weeks. She started in an interview with a now infamous diss that gay men are “more misogynistic than hetero men”.

She then “apologized”. In the Huffington Post, she writes, “Where does it say that because of a man’s sexual preference, I don’t get to point out character defects? When equal pay for women was voted down by every male Republican there was no LGBT outcry.”

From my perspective with grass roots advocates, I submit that if she truly believes there have not been huge outcries over women’s concerns, of which equal pay is just one, then she simply has not been listening.

She requests: “What I want is for gay rights activists to help other disenfranchised groups. These activists are experts while so many other groups flounder. It’s time to share the wealth and knowledge. “

Rather than debating her opinion based on her acquaintances with a few gay men who were apparently derogatory, I would prefer to honor her bigger request.

So here you go:

Dear Ms. McGowan,

I am sorry that you have not felt that the cry against misogyny from gay men has been strong enough. From your comments about speedos and Molly, I can only assume that your comments are in part due to seeing the “gay community” as the young, buff, young men on the party circuit. I can’t really speak for them, or their activism. Many of us are more PTA these days than paaaar-taaaay, and speedo-ing is what I do when I am late picking up my kids.

I am a gay dad raising two sons, both adopted as infants. I know thousands of gay men and there are none that I would not characterize as feminists. I am raising my sons as feminists and all the gay dads with daughters especially seem to be empowering their children thoroughly and completely. That is not the purpose of this note. It is to share the LGBT success experience with you.

The major success factor has been this: coming out. If you want to trace the single greatest secret behind LGBT traction in equal rights, it is that. The vast majority of people who have changed their minds about gay rights have done so after a person close to them comes out. They then have to juxtapose values and the real life person, and they have found their misconceptions usually fall apart.

How does this work with a group, who may be disenfranchised, but is not really a minority as are LGBT people? Women are, in fact, the majority. In the past elections, even with LGBT people in both political parties, we have been fairly uniform in our voting and advocacy — obviously there are exceptions, but they are pretty fringe. If the “Women Community” were to do that even one time, the impact would be immediate and have a historic effect never seen before in modern times. If all women voted as a block and in their own self interest, not a single Republican would be elected to office, and specific women equality standards would be enshrined in such a way that they could never be displaced.

That did not happen. Why not? The answer is pretty clear. The worst enemy, the most misogynistic, and unempowering for women can be — other women. Yes, we have some experience with internalized self-sabotage in the LGBT community as well. I can’t tell you how many articles I have read where a gay man sounds off on “the gay community.” If you read between the lines, his concept of “the community” is really the last five guys he’s dated.

For women, an example is mom blogger Tara Kennedy-Kline who recently wrote a piece called “I’m A Mother Of 2 Boys, And I Don’t (And Won’t) Support Feminism”. Where I am raising my boys to be polite and courteous to all, she is “kind of psyched to be raising my boys as gentlemen… to treat the women in their lives like princesses.” Kennedy-Kline equates a girl’s beauty with her “prettiness,” I am teaching my sons a more holistic approach to beauty within all people regardless of gender.

Kennedy-Kline implies that the wrong dress on a girl makes her “easy” and to be avoided by her sons. She also protests a culture that expects boys to act responsibly and respectfully under all circumstances. She protests the “flipping the shame of ‘sluttiness’ from the girls who expose their breasts (and bellies and butt cheeks) to the boys who look at them.”

3229414952_eae62527dd_zI can only guess that she would seek to shame you for your own choices in public attire.

She claims to want empowerment for women and gender fairness, but qualifies it by stating, “I do not believe that opposite sexes can ever be completely equal, as there are very specific limitations for each gender. I also believe that there is nothing wrong with many of the gender roles that have been honored throughout history.” Within these roles, she calls on girls to be “maternal, ladylike, demure, and feminine.”

I am not willing to have people like Kennedy-Kline determine the limitations of me, of my sons or of women in general. I am the maternal nurturer in my family. My sons are not lacking of that parental influence in their lives. They, in turn, are not being programmed to only fit into one specific gender role themselves. Likewise, I want for women to be able to choose roles from homemakers to board room members. CEOs are not demure. Maternal and feminine are not qualities listed within the job descriptions of professional game changers. People need to be able to be who they know themselves to be, not actors fulfilling certain roles others have determined for them.

Kennedy-Kline states, “There will never be a time when I will tell my boys not to treasure, protect and admire the women in their lives because ‘Women don’t need a man to feel valued.’ “ She leaves the impression that in fact, women DO need such validation to be truly valued. I do not believe that in any way, and would be loathe to teach any woman to believe that.

This therefore, is not an issue of OUTcry. There is a bigger issue, and that is an issue of IN-cry, of what is being said in our homes. In LGBT homes, our children are being raised to see people as individuals. Femininity and masculinity are embraced and celebrated but are not assumed to be owned by only one gender or the other. We are celebrating the strength in our daughters and helping them envision achievements beyond traditional roles. We are teaching our boys to respect themselves and others equally and that the rape culture is not acceptable — they own their own impulses and cannot blame some mode of dress as “asking for it”.

Misogyny and homophobia are innately united. They are manifestations of the same bias and societal disease. They kill and ruin lives. They must be removed together. If one exists, it will create the other, neither exists in a vacuum.

I have to be a feminist because I am a dad. I am responsible for two lives that I want to thrive in this society over the next few decades. I am a feminist because I want them to live in a fair and just world. I want them to nurture and be maternal if that is who they are, or be masculine and aggressive if that is their calling.

Ultimately it may not be the voices of LGBT people who stand on the frontline and win the battles for the feminist movement, it will be our children, and those raised similarly, who were instilled with equality values. Sadly, there won’t be much of a difference in the world if our children still represent a minority. The majority could still come from homes in the “Women Community” like that of Kennedy-Kline, homes where condescending oppression and subtle misogyny is mistaken for honored tradition.

How do we apply lessons from the LGBT movement to the feminist movement? Unify. Pull together your diverse population, and then come out to your allies. It is no small task but voices like Ms. Kennedy-Kline indicate that you are not there yet. The Republican wave into office in the last election says you are not there yet.

Rather than trying to find the right generalizations to use to describe gay men, you might be better served by using your considerable Charms with those closer to home — try to reach the women of the lost sisterhood.

 

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Posted in Civil Rights, Family, News, Prejudice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

My Open Letter to the Two Gay Dads, Parents to One of the Most Special Boys in the World

Recovered File 1

It all started with a haircut. Chad, a 22 year old young man, not out about his sexuality, got into Wayne’s chair at a salon. After discovering a sincere enjoyment of each other, they went on a date a week later. Over the course of a year, they realized their slow moving relationship had built into something very solid between them. At the time, they had no idea how solid it was going to have to be.

Others noticed their mutual devotion. In 1999, Wayne’s grandmother was the one who popped the question. “When are you two getting married?” she asked them. They politely explained that same sex marriage was not legal and Grandma gave them a look they will never forget. “She looked at us like we were a dumb as a sack of potatoes,” says Chad, “She asked us if we loved each other, and we said yes, so she asked again ‘So then when are you getting married?’” It was a wake up call for the couple. They had as they call it, their “aha” moment. It was not what was legal that was important in building a family. It was the love. A few years later, they would take this lesson further by demonstrating that family is not doing only what was required, but doing what is mandated by their hearts.

Wayne and Chad married three years before it was recognized in Canada. Wayne had always wanted to be a father as well, and one Christmas, he made a proposal to Chad. “We have a great life now, but it is time to grow. Do we want to be doing just the same thing in ten years? I want to share new challenges and adventures in life with you.” The proposition resonated with Chad.

Many would deny gay men the opportunity to be parents because they cannot biologically create children on their own. For Wayne and Chad, the ability to inadvertently procreate was not a negative. They found themselves enthused where others had a sense of resignation and defeat. “As a gay couple, adoption was our version of pregnancy from an excitement point of view.  For the straight couples we met, it was the final step in a difficult journey of infertility.  When we took our adoption classes (in Canada you have to take mandatory classes in order to qualify for adoption) we were on cloud 9 which was a noticeably different head space than most the other couples in the classes.”

Their happiness seemed to be fulfilled when a beautiful baby boy was born, and they named him Grayson. There were problems right away and they were informed that Grayson would require open-heart surgery, on which they signed off immediately. Four hours after the surgery, the men were informed of another issue. It had become apparent to the medical professionals that Grayson suffered from a potentially lethal disease called Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD). MSUD patients are missing an enzyme to safely breakdown leucine (an amino acid in protein).  Without that breakdown, and by taking in too much protein on any given day, they suffer immediate and irreversible brain damage. When they were informed of Grayson’s condition, Wayne and Chad did not know whether or not Grayson’s brain had already been damaged. Wayne states, “It was for me perhaps one of the worst moments of my life. That moment was numbing, paralyzing.” They were told that they could back out of the adoption if they wanted to, and no one would judge them.

But, all they could think was, “If not us, then who?” They loved Grayson, and cared about him for four days. They had signed off and worried through life saving surgery. If they were intimidated away, certainly no one else was going to step in. Still they found resolve in the fact that they undertook their future life with a conscious decision. Chad states, “We actively chose our path. Birth parents in our situation do not get to choose.”

While taking ownership over their choice, it is readily apparent that the love within them was a compelling driver to what they had to do. They have received many well-intentioned sentiments, but due to the constant and intense challenges, some comments were inaccurately hollow. “We had a lot of people tell us Hallmark-like things like ‘Life only gives you want you can handle’.  I’m sure these types of statements make that person feel good, but it made us feel like crap as it seemed like this was way more that could handle at the time,” shares Chad.

“If not us, then who?” has also been their theme as they stood up to advocate against the disease, create awareness, and fight for kids with a variety of special needs diseases. “If not us, then who?”

The couple has made it a mission to reach out about MSUD and fight the disease. They have contacted celebrities, groups, and magazines — anyone who could help. One group has stepped forward more than any other. Wayne states, “It has been the gay community that has consistently reached back to help us move forward. That’s not to say we haven’t had the support of many, many others, but it is “our” community that seems to be the most willing to speak up and use their voice to help us and our son.” If not us, then who?

Grayson will never be “out of the woods”, but his dads, on a daily basis, keep him safe.  “We have a new heightened level of stress that we live in, all day, every day.  However, as Grayson’s blood is analyzed every week, they know down to the molecule if he has enough hydration, sodium, amino acids etc. Those results are then sent to his dietician and doctor who recalculate his meal plan.  The end result is that Grayson is almost bionic as he has the perfect intake a child his height/weight/activity level should have.  So we seem him as healthy, which he is.  It’s just his risks when he is unhealthy are extreme so we walk a fine line of health,” they report.

Their life goes on.  “Grayson has taught us to be present, to enjoy what we have today as it’s too stressful to think about the future. He has actively participated as the featured story/child in numerous fundraising campaigns, telethons and charity events.  We hope that a side benefit of this involvement is that it will help empower him, as he will see himself as a key player in helping the hospital, instead of just being an ongoing patient there.”

Grayson is growing to be the son of his dads. Grayson has made them laugh harder and smile longer. He is exceptionally brave and kind hearted.  He is social, funny and intuitive. Dad Wayne taught him to say greetings with a British accent which enhance his already insurmountable charm. Recently Grayson did a photo shoot with the mascot for a local Children’s hospital. He has loved the mascot for a while and was thrilled over the idea of being able to hang out with him.  Much to his dads’ surprise, instead of wanting to go off and play with the mascot alone, Grayson instead took the mascot’s hand and asked if they could go visit the other kids in the hospital.  He needed to take entertainment to the kids who needed it. If not Grayson, then who? That’s the kind of kid Grayson is growing up to be.

Here is my letter to Grayson’s dads:

Dear Dads,

I don’t think that in the history of parenting that there has been a group so disparaged as much as gay dads. It used to be that the concept was so foreign and so vilified that all the religious right had to do in order to drive homophobic fear into the hears of their constituents was to show them a picture of two men pushing a baby carriage.

Yet, in spite of such vilification men like you, and me, persevered. We had a love within that persisted and we knew there would be a child, or children, who deserved it. Over the time of knowing that was who I am, and fighting ignorance, I have met many incredible LGBT parents. The two of you are among the finest of them, and of any straight parents I have ever encountered either, for that matter.

I am proud to identify with you. Even though I cannot pretend to understand all you have been through, I am proud to be a gay man as you are, a father, and one who is ready to advocate and fight on behalf of a child, my child. There are children in need in this world, and many LGBT parents who are ready and willing to be there for them. A recent study speculated in fact that if all the LGBT couples who wanted to foster/adopt kids were allowed to, we would deplete the US system of kids in need. What a nice shortage for a society to have.

I defined this article by calling Grayson one of the most special boys in the world. Many parents will likely give me flack for that, myself included, as we all see our own kids as the most special. I am sticking by this label for Grayson however, and not because he has a disease that we must find a cure for, and not because he is beautiful, charming and wonderful.

He is of the most special boys in the world because he has you, the most special of parents. He has dads who are two ordinary men who have stepped up to do an extraordinary thing. Two men who discovered, as was said to you, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” Because of you, Grayson is more than a boy with a disease, he is blessed.

He is not alone. We are all blessed for knowing you and seeing of what a family is capable. You live one day at a time, and it has got to be draining. You have shown us a better vision of what it means to be dads and parents. You have made the world a better place.

If not you, then who? It needs to be all of us.

 

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A Survival Guide for Christians Who Have Been Fighting Against Marriage Equality

survival guide evol

Many of us have been in the Marriage Equality war for a long, long time.

I remember a drag queen host taking the microphone at San Jose Pride about a dozen years ago. She saw a group with “Freedom to Marry” t-shirts, and with a twinge of sadness remarked, “Oh honeys, they are NEVER going to let us get married, ever. You may as well give that one up right now.” She was wrong.

As in all wars, there is a foe. In the United States the foes tend to call themselves “Christians” and root their obsessive opposition in their particular interpretation of the Bible.

While these folks have had a series of wake up calls from the landmark 2012 elections where marriage equality won on the ballots in four states, to the earth shattering Supreme Court ruling on DOMA and California’s Proposition 8, the big anvil dropped in many of their states in these last few weeks. The threat of same sex marriage was no longer looming as possible where they lived, it was now here, and here to stay.

Many have started to react. After a story about LGBT couples marrying, Idaho reporter Dani Hawkins bizarrely states that there are “two sides to this story” as if an anti-gay couple who has a Bible on their coffee table is personally affected by the weddings of others they don’t even know. Hawkins presents Justin and Melanie Sease. Their “side” is to paint anti-gay statements on their car and to drive it around town in an attempt to humiliate gay people. Justin explains that his worry has a biblical origin. “The Bible says that when homosexuality is publicly accepted, basically it spreads like a cancer.” In actuality, the Bible does not say anything about the public accepting homosexuality, nor does it say anything about a homosexuality spread, and it never mentions cancer.

This is typical of the public conversations coming from the vocal “Christians”. Misinformation, falsehoods and demonization have moved front and center displacing anything that even remotely resembles logic or reasonable discussion. It has reached such a fevered pitch that it led The Pink Panthers Movement blogger Ken Jansen to plead with Christians at large, “Take a stand.  Raise your voice, shout out to the world that not all people of faith are like the hate mongers that we keep hearing from.  Prove to me that you believe in a religion of love.  Give me at least a bit of hope that there is some love left in the world.”

Christian pastor and writer John Pavlovitz speaks about LGBT people he has heard from after he declared that should his children turn out to be gay, that he would unconditionally support them. “What I was not prepared for in any way, were the literally hundreds and hundreds of people who have reached out to me personally, to thank me for bringing some healing and hope to their families. Parents, children, siblings, and adults have confided in me (some for the first time anywhere), telling of the pain, and bullying, and shunning they’re received from churches, pastors, and church members; from professed followers of Jesus.

Scores of people from all over the world have shared with me their devastating stories of exclusion and isolation, of unanswered prayers to change, of destructive conversion therapies, of repeated suicide attempts, and of being actively and passively driven from faith, by people of faith.”

I therefore submit the following six point guide for those people who have woken up in the past few weeks to find out that marriage equality has moved into the neighborhood.

Dear “Traditional Marriage” Proponent:

It is painful for me to witness the distress you seem to be experiencing over marriage equality coming to your state. I realize that you have fought against it and feared it. I know you think it will somehow damage your world.

Through it all, you have professed a faith in God. Rather than lash out with bad behavior against your fellow citizens, it might be more effective to rely on that faith now.

As a fellow Christian, I wanted to give you a suggested guide on how you may want to cope with what has taken place, and ways to accept it on your own biblically based terms:

  1. Do What Would Jesus Would Do: Jesus believed in the separation of church and state. “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” Jesus did not call for a rejection of same sex marriage; He merely described the terms of the current opposite sex marriages of the time. He did not hurl insults at people who society disparaged, He befriended them. He healed the lover of a Roman Centurion and praised the Roman’s level of faith. He gave us the golden rule, the good Samaritan and instructed us to “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” Emulate Christ.
  2. Meet Our Families and Understand Who We Are: There is a ridiculous amount of focus given to what our families aren’t. We aren’t couples who accidently got pregnant and needed marriage to encourage us to take care of the children we inadvertently created. That is true. We aren’t that. Almost without exception, we are families where a couple has planned how and when to have children. Many of our families are formed by adopting children who would live desperate lives without us, if they survived at all. My oldest son was born 6 weeks prematurely to a heroin addict, my youngest was found abandoned in a trailer at 10 months. Our kids are growing up to be safe, loved, well adjusted members of society. Jesus tells you to love the children of the world and the Ten Commandments tells you to support the honoring of parents. Please follow these Bible directives when looking at who we are.
  3. Focus on the Goodness in Marriage: Same sex marriage honors all the principles you hold dear in marriage itself. It is still about responsibility, the importance of family, love and commitment. The more same sex marriages there are, the more of those qualities there are in the world.
  4. Stop Valuing Discrimination and Seeking the Right to Do It: Discrimination is an evil. It is acting on an ignorance about others who you don’t know but pretend you do. It is bad enough to fall into a human tendency towards it, but even worse to actively fight for the right to behave that way. You pay the price for it. Discrimination comes at a huge personal cost. As you allow yourself that mindset, you concurrently develop the fear of being discriminated against yourself. We observe exactly this in all the paranoia being expressed by vitriolic anti-gay pundits sounding off today. Break free. “Thou shalt discriminate” is not biblical.
  5. Get Real With Your Relationship With the Bible: I have never met a non-lobster eating, pro-slavery, Sabbath-worker killing, woman silencing, flat-earther, poverty seeking Christian in my life. I am not saying that there isn’t one, just that I have not had the displeasure of meeting such and individual. I therefore, have never met someone who TRULY and literally believes in what every word of the translated Bible actually says. Every single Christian on the planet picks and chooses passages they find relevant. Believing that same sex marriage is wrong due to passages with potential interpretations depicting the rape of angels, and orgies in Roman temples is passé and completely irrelevant to committed relationships by two informed consenting adults. It is time to get real about with which principles you scan the Bible. Many have found that the Bible is not a literal rule book, but a profound book that traces the evolvement of spirituality and knowledge of higher consciousness. It is time to join them.
  6. Love: John, the right hand disciple of Jesus, defined God in direct terms in the Bible. He stated simply, “God is Love.” One’s relationship to the principle of Love is probably the most universally unifying and highly spiritual states achievable. Love cannot be proven, seen or even described, yet we all seem to have some sense of what it is, and hold it in esteem. It can be the common ground for the atheist, the religious and everyone in between. It is the single most gratifying aspect of both being human, and seeing oneself as a child of God. It is time to live it. It is time to give it generously, and experience the miracle that the more you give it away, the more you have, defying all other laws of limitation and depletion.

The Bible starts with a story about the tree of life, and Jesus concludes it with a directive on how to know who is truly representing cosmic truth. His litmus test is “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

I know “the fruits” of my life, and who I am every night at 8:30 PM. That is the time that I hold two young boys in my arms, and kiss them good night, and let them know how very much I love them. As I turn out the light, I breathe in my purpose and my path. It is time to look at what fruit your anti-gay behavior is producing. If it is shame and hurt, something is rotting badly.

My path with my family and our journey is not something that should cause you harm. My hope is that you stop fearing that it will, that you lay down your stones and pitch forks, and join us for a stroll. We would welcome you.

 

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Posted in Bible, Family, Gay Christians, Marriage equality, News, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments