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 , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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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

When a Homophobic Cousin Attacked a Woman’s Marriage, He Helped Her Understand What True “Family” Means

100614 Robby Rikard

Once upon a time there were two cousins, Jessica and Robby. They grew up together in the warm and wet Mississippi back lands. They swam, they fished and Jessica loved and respected her cousin. He gave her the sense of understanding family and loyalty.

That sense of family and loyalty was upended completely recently when Robby recently ran to the American Family Association, an entity defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate” organization, to get their help in humiliating and attacking Jessica’s marriage. Robby has never met Jessica’s husband.

Jessica and her husband, Nick, are legally married. Nick is a transgender male. A mutual friend introduced them a few years ago. Jessica states, “Nick has been my best friend since day one. We can always count on the other one during the hardest times in life. While he was in paramedic school, Nick felt my full encouragement through the whole way and I never gave up on his dream with him.  We stand by each other through every thing just as a husband and wife should. I know at the end of the day I can count on him and that’s what real romance looks like. Our love is the kind some people only dream about and I’m very lucky to be able to say I found that in this life with him.”

On the afternoon of September 23rd, Jessica got a private message from her cousin Robby out of the blue. It said “Jessica, I want you to know that I love you both as a person and as my family. You hand I practically grew up together, and I don’t want you to think that I am angry with you. But I have to tell you that what you and Nick are doing is wrong, and I am going to be doing all that I can to challenge it. I realize this might upset you, but I have to do what is right as difficult as it is going to be.” Jessica had no idea what he meant about “challenging it”, but she was soon to find out.

That evening, Robby posted this to his Facebook wall: “Last week I learned of a same sex marriage that took place right here in the state of Mississippi. Two females, one of which is a family member of mine, applied for and was granted an official marriage license in Desoto county. One of the partners poses as a man and managed to obtain a driver’s license that legally identified her as a male. I would like to urge all Mississippians who are outraged to join me. This is a battle that has come to us and we cannot afford to lose traditional marriage”. Then he then gave the phone numbers of the attorney general, lieutenant governor and the governor.

Around midnight, Jessica received another private message from a woman she had never met. “You need to see this video,” the message said. The video was her cousin Robby on a show with the AFA’s Bryan Fisher. Bryan Fisher is infamous for homophobic statements that include the encouragement of the kidnapping of children from LGBT families. They were making public Jessica and Nick’s names, implying that they were criminals, that their marriage was a fraud scheme and stating out and out lies as fact. The video is here .

“The video makes it seem like we did all of this to pull one over on the state of Mississippi, and that’s nowhere close to the truth.” Jessica told me. “Mine is not an illegal marriage in any state, because it is not a same sex union at all. That is not legal in this state, and there is no “loop hole” for that to be possible. Nick actually transitioned from female to male, and had his name and gender legally changed complete with birth certificate, social security card, drivers license, and all medical licenses. After all of that was completed we were able to apply for our marriage license and got married, the same as any other opposite gender couple.” Bryan Fisher characterizes Jessica and Nick as two lesbians, one of which had a hormone shot, and then fraudulently had records changed.

Nick’s process to his correct gender started before 2010. He had undergone full psychiatric exams in preparation. In 2010 he started a permanent hormone therapy program and had physiological operations in support of his transition.

Nick works as a paramedic saving lives and he has been seen as a true hero in his community. The AFA’s intrusion into his private life, and their dishonest portrayal has now caused him issues at work. Jessica reports, “While he is out saving strangers lives, we have to worry about the safety of our family and his career. It takes teamwork from his fellow co-workers and since the videos and articles have come out, he has been treated like an outcast.” Many that Nick worked with had only known of him as male, his actual gender. Now feel they have license to judge.

Jessica reached out to the popular Twitter site Stop-Homophobia. “Help us,” she asked, attaching a link to the AFA video. She began hearing from many people who have showered love and support. Those messages helped her deal with her feelings of betrayal and crisis over what family was supposed to be about. “For me when I saw the video I felt it was one of the worst betrayals ever, to find out that someone made us out so horribly, and on top of it for it to come from a family member. The feelings we felt over this outrage, words can’t describe. We are being vilified for the same loving and commitment other married Mississippi couples share with each other. Our right to commit to each other for the rest of time is being portrayed as everything it’s not. The video want to portray us as deceivers who did all of this to pull one over on the state of Mississippi, and that’s nowhere close to the truth. The truth is our marriage is built out of the love we have for each other.”

“We are very grateful for the support and love that we have come across through this attempt to humiliate us,” Jessica states. “So much of our family have stepped up and let us know they are open minded and accepting and loving. The members of Nick’s family are powerful defenders of him as a man and a hero. Especially his dad, who has always been his biggest supporter. My family accepts Nick as the person for who he really is, especially my sister and most of them right here in Mississippi.”

This has given Jessica and Nick a new definition to, not the word “marriage”, but the word “family”. Blood cousin Robby is not family. The “American Family Association” is not an association of families; it is an association of those who want to attack families that do not look exactly like a set of limited parameters. Those who see his life saving work but who cannot see Nick as he is, are not family. It is the people who love, support and celebrate him who are the true family, and Jessica and Nick are blessed to have many who have such qualifications in their lives.

“Nick taught me what marriage is,” Jessica commented. “Now someone I grew up with has caused me to re-look at what I thought being family meant. It does not mean blood and telling falsehoods to meet an agenda. It means love and honesty. I stand corrected, and we are now a stronger family as a result.”

Sharing DNA is no big deal. A person’s ability to look deep, push past their own pre-conceived notions to better understand a family member they love, and then stand up for them, that ability brings the greatest value in life. Some will learn they have that ability within themselves and stand proud. Others will make videos.

 

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Posted in Civil Rights, Equality, Family, Living, Marriage equality, Mixing religion and politics, Politics, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

A Gay Dad’s Open Letter to a “Christian” Mother Caught on Tape Wishing Death on Her Disabled Lesbian Daughter

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Video has again captured a “Christian” parent behaving badly. This week, the Facebook and Twitter mega-page Stop-Homophobia broadcast out a post depicting the plight of a lady named Kelly.

Public disapproval over who could marry whom was an issue for Kelly’s family early on. Her father is black, and her mother is white. Kelly and her brother were bullied frequently in the small town of Guntersville Alabama. They were the only mixed race kids in town. Kelly was quiet and shy and kept to herself.

When she was 16, Kelly found a name for the identity that had been growing within her: lesbian. Her feelings had been developing for a while, but it came to fruition when she started a relationship with a girl in her class. Kelly was confident that the hardships her parents had gone through would make them accepting of who she was growing up to be. She was wrong. “At the time I thought that being gay that my parents being a bi-racial couple that they would be more accepting. My father had nothing to say. Til this day he hasn’t spoken about me being a lesbian. My mother freaked out. She put me in counseling to try to make me straight.” The counseling did not change Kelly, as her mother had hoped but in fact, made her more confident in who she is.

Kelly’s mother kicked her out of the house. While her father did not intervene, he divorced her mother shortly thereafter, and Kelly suspects that her mother’s behavior might have been a contributing factor. Kelly found refuge with her aunt in Huntsville, Alabama.

Kelly passed her GED, and did not see or hear from her mother for over a year. After a period, Kelly’s mother made contact again. She said she had reconsidered, and wanted to re-establish contact. Kelly was reluctant but over time, resumed sporadic communications.

Eight years ago, Kelly had moved to Florida and met a woman named Leslie. Leslie fell in love with Kelly immediately, and had to work hard to get through the protective emotional walls that Kelly had built up. Kelly over time was able to trust this wonderful woman in her life and to trust that the love they shared was real. As they quickly became soul mates, and were working towards a happy ever after in their life journeys, tragedy struck.

“I started breaking out all over my body and everything hurt. You couldn’t touch me without me screaming,“ Kelly states. What was first diagnosed as shingles, finally was determined to be Lupus, which was running out of control through Kelly’s body. She also was found to be suffering from both Fibromyalgia and Lumbar Disc Disease.

Conditions with the fibroid tumors led to a full hysterectomy. Kelly understands that at this point, her mother may have started doing fund raising in her local church. The funds presumably raised allowed for Kelly’s mother to come down for the operation. If other funds were raised to help Kelly, Kelly never received them.

Kelly’s heart has been damaged by Lupus. She was finally declared Disabled, and is on constant risk for heart attacks. Financially she was devastated and relies on Leslie for survival. Half of her disability income goes to pay past medical debt.

Kelly’s aunt was under the impression that money was coming into Kelly from Kelly’s mother and the church. Kelly decided to have a casual conversation with her mother by phone, tape it, and get confirmation for her aunt that no money was coming Kelly’s way.

The conversation (you can hear it below) did not go as Kelly had planned and instead of an admission that funds had been diverted, Kelly’s mother outlined the plan should Kelly pass away. Her exact words were, “You know Kelly, I tell you what. If you die before me…you know what, when you get dead, we’re going to go through your house and we are going to strip it, and that girl won’t have a pot to piss in…you little heifer, you have put my life through hell. Gay sh*t. I hate gay sh*t. I am not going to live my life telling you that I believe in two women being married. It is not in the Bible, it is a damned SIN!   And I am ashamed you live with a damn woman… You go straight to Hell! Go to Hell, Bitch!” Where other videos speak to the horror of coming out to homophobic parents, this one speaks to the vital need for marriage protection for couples like Kelly and Leslie.

Kelly has not communicated with her mother since.

But I will:

An open message to Kelly’s mother:

I am the dad to two boys, 12 and 11 years old. When I got them as babies, I somehow knew that as a parent, I was being given a special charge. I was to throw all that I could muster to their well being, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I admit, that spiritual well-being takes an open hand since none of us has all the cosmic answers. I can only nurture them so they grow into good men and develop a consciousness of their own discovery within their soul to something greater. I do that through my own spiritual path and inspiration through Christ.

Emotionally, I strive to believe in them. I am learning who they are, and what they can accomplish. It is not mine to define them, but to witness them. It is mine to love them, cherish them and celebrate them and as an influencer of their sensitive self-worth, to do my best to make them as emotionally confident and grounded as possible.

Their physical well being is the most obvious and tactical. I care for that part of their well being every day. I make sure they are nourished, protected and healthy. In times when they have been sick, I have been amazed that an almost parental super power kicks in. I have been soaked in vomit, diarrhea and wiped snot. For some reason, from my sons, those things have not fazed me.

They are my charges, my charges from God.   Kelly is your charge from God. In my opinion, there is no greater accomplishment that you could achieve that to be with her at the end of her life, and have her feel “Thank God for my mom,” and for you to know at the end of your life that you did all in your power to protect her.

Obviously, you are not there now. Your behavior is dark and evil and belongs more in the plot of a horror movie than in a mother/daughter relationship. That is your current legacy to bear and to rectify.

For your daughter, and for whom I do not presume to speak, I believe a change in you would bring forgiveness, as exemplary, on her part, as that sounds. One of her first comments to me was how she holds the recording of you to remind herself to stay away. She said, “ I will delete it when I find myself not missing her. As much as … she hurt me she is the only mother I had.”

It is time for you to find that higher calling as a mother. Step up. Your family needs you. Your family is plagued with a woman suffering from a terrible disease. The disease is ugly, painful, debilitating and it ruins the heart. That woman is not Kelly, it is you. The disease is not the horrible one of Lupus which Kelly has, it is the disease of Homphobia that you have. Kelly’s disease takes a lot to manage it and she needs a good deal of love and help around her. Your disease can be cured by a change of heart.

In the scheme of things, you have the option to institute a healing where Kelly cannot. You have the option of change. Kelly may not be able to find relief from the physical hell she has been through, but you can revolutionize her world anyway.

She needs a miraculous physical cure, but even more than that, she needs a mom who loves her. She deserves both.

 

(Note: A friend of Kelly’s set up a gofundme account after seeing the video, it is here: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/tjt5/disabled-woman-need-help )

Photo: Flickr/Vicki&Chuck Rogers

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A Gay Dad’s Open Letter to the Christian Grandmother Proposing Homophobic Themed Books for Teens

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Laurie Higgins is a Christian grandmother with a limited professional background (according to her bio). She has worked as “cultural analyst” for The Illinois “Family” Institute for six years, and before that was employed in the “writing center” for a high school. I am not exactly sure what the job qualifications are to be a “cultural analyst” but whatever they are, they have not won Ms. Higgins many friends. The Illinois “Family” Institute is one of twenty three hate groups in Illinois tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Consider Ms. Higgins dubious honors: She is listed at # 764 in the Encyclopedia of American Loons. There, she is described as “an unrepentant, hatefilled bigot”. Q Salt Lake anointed her as “Creep of the Week” for the week of December 4th, 2013. The website Reasonable Conversation nominates her for “Human Excommunication”. The blogsite Skepacabra defined her in a three-part article as a “Crazy Bitch.” (Skepacabra was referring mostly to Laurie Higgins alleged stalker-like attempts to get atheist Herman Mehta, known throughout the blogging community as the Friendly Atheist, fired from his teaching job for expressing his opinions.)

Her reputation is earned through her own actions and statements, in 2010, for example, she stated that McDonalds is “hell bent on using its resources to promote subversive moral, social, and political views about homosexuality to our children.” It “hoists high the rainbow colors of the homosexual movement that points to the substitution of the worship of man for the worship of God and leads to depravity and destruction.” McDonalds had run an ad in France depicting a young gay man.

This week she publicly explored a new potential avocation—that of theoretical teen book author. JK Rowlings has nothing to worry about. Ms. Higgins listed out a series of plotlines she proposes Illinois librarians consider having on their book shelves to enhance public intellectual discourse, and because, in her opinion, it will quench some deep unmet thirst within kids in LGBT families like mine.

I googled the plotlines to see if any of these books, or something close to them, actually exist for discussion. It appears that they are only in the frantic mind of Ms. Higgins. Based on the reactions of all I’ve asked, the general hope is that they stay there.

Here is Ms. Higgins proposal, in her exact words: “If librarians really cared about the full and free exchange of ideas and if they really believed that “book-banning” is dangerous to society, they would direct their rage and ridicule at the powerful publishing companies, professionally-recognized review journals, and their own profession, all of which do far more book-banning than does a handful of powerless parents seeking to have a picture book moved… Next year, will the Schaumburg librarians display photos of empty shelves where books that challenge Leftist assumptions about the nature and morality of homosexuality should be (you know, pro-heterosexuality/pro-heteronormativity books)?

  • Will they ask for young adult (YA) novels about teens who feel sadness and resentment about being intentionally deprived of a mother or father and who seek to find their missing biological parents?
  • Will they ask for dark, angsty novels about teens who are damaged by the promiscuity of their “gay” “fathers” who hold sexual monogamy in disdain?
  • Will they ask for novels about young adults who are consumed by a sense of loss and bitterness that their politically correct and foolish parents allowed them during the entirety of their childhood to cross-dress, change their names, and take medication to prevent puberty, thus deforming their bodies?
  • Will they ask for novels about teens who suffer because of the harrowing fights and serial “marriages” of their lesbian mothers?
  • Will they ask for picture books that show the joy a little birdie experiences when after the West Nile virus deaths of her two daddies, she’s finally adopted by a daddy and mommy?

Surely, there are some teens and children who will identify with such stories.”

As a gay dad, and a parent at the helm of one of the families Ms. Higgins targets, I feel compelled to respond.

Dear Ms. Higgins,

Thank you for concern over the possible reading material available for the kids in families like mine. Reading is an absolutely vital part of a child’s education. Getting my sons to do it, and finding the books in which they have interest, can be a challenge.

I would say “thank you” for trying to help, but your intent was not to help. It was to apply your very warped and misguided perception of what LGBT families must be like, but universally, in reality, are not. Instead of that thank you note, I thought I would give you some Insight into our actual lives and show you where you have severely missed the mark.

The plots you outlined only exist in your mind of fanciful perversion. You speculate that your plot ideas might have a market since “surely some teens and children will identify with such stories.”

I am please to tell you that, no, in fact, none of the hundred-some kids I know from LGBT families would relate. I specifically tested them on my own sons (in terms they could understand.) My eleven year old commented, “those sound like the dumbest books ever,” while my twelve year old looked me in the eye and just said simply, “what is wrong with her?”

I asked them to develop a few ideas for the books that they would like to read about families like ours, and these are what they came up with:

  • A dad and a papa and their two sons find a trunk with some wizard robes, and when they put them on they are transported to a land where they fight a dragon and find a lost treasure.
  • A girl and her mom are trapped at the bottom of the ocean to deal with enormous sea creatures, while the girl’s other mother is the head scientist in the ship above trying to help them.
  • Two brothers are stolen by pirates and hit the seven seas while their fathers search after them with the old pirate map that is left behind in their bedroom.

I believe my sons have a better sense of “good books” than you do. Theirs sound like a lot more fun.

More importantly, they reflect the real dynamics of LGBT families where parents and kids are focused on the happenings in our current lives, not focused on the procreation process that brought the kids into being. I suspect heterosexual families are essentially the same. Their dinner discussions do not start with dad sharing, yet again, how he impregnated mom. Even when we do discuss that aspect of our lives, we are not ashamed of having adopted our kids. They are not ashamed or regretful for being adopted. You need to stop attempting to shame families like mine for the beautiful bonds we have created from situations that were otherwise dire.

The book plots my sons imagined recognize that each person is uniquely individual, and no two personalities exactly alike. Your point of view boils each person down to being solely identified by genitalia. Your mono-vision conflict against your boogey man “The Left”, and its underling “Homosexual Activists” blinds you. I have to note that of all the characteristics you list in your plots from promiscuous gay dads, serial marrying lesbian moms and dying parents, none are accurate descriptions of the real parents I know in LGBT families. The same sex parents I know have stepped up in some of the most super-human situations imaginable, and have accomplished heroic things on behalf of their children. Our families are beautiful, and if you can’t respect that fact, the least you can do is not to spread ignorance about us.

Your plots and point of view imply a foundation assumption that simply does not exist. You hypothesize that for kids in LGBT families, there exists a mother/father family alternative in the wings that have either been robbed of these kids, or are sitting available should they be called upon. Again, in 100% of the families I know, this is not the case. A possible exception could be perceived in cases where the children’s lives were saved by being taken from an existing mother and father who were incapable of keeping them safe. I would not consider such parents as being “robbed” or “sitting available,” however.

That is the case with each of my sons. Both were born to drug addict parents and were exposed to drugs in the womb. All the parents were given the opportunity to show they could responsibly care for my sons, but each failed. At least one of the birth parents was life-threateningly violent. The two birth fathers each spent significant time in prison. All four of the parents have multiple children with multiple partners—in total my sons have twelve birth siblings in the world – none of which are in the custody of their biological parents.

If you think I somehow beat out an eligible mom/dad combo for the adoption of each of my sons, that did not happen either. There are plenty of children in my sons’ situation to go around. The fact is, most heterosexual couples find other ways to start a family, and see our way as an act of desperation were they to do it. I remember when I was talking to a family friend when I first got my oldest son. Born 6 weeks early, my son was 4 lbs and slept on my chest in a sling. She had just finished declaring how adorable he was and then segued into a story about how her sister had “almost” adopted recently. “Really?” I asked. “What happened?”

“It wasn’t right,” she explained. “It turns out the child was ethnic and had drug exposure. You know…” her voice trailed off as she looked at my son whom she had just been fawning over — my son, the beautiful Mexican heroin-exposed infant asleep on my chest. “Oh my God…” she said quietly as the realization hit her. My beautiful baby was just like the one who “would not work out” in her own family.

If you do not believe me about the reality of these fantasy parents of whom you think kids of LGBT families have been deprived, you only have to look as far as the case of the two incredible Iowa moms who lost their baby boy back to the birth mother when she changed her mind. The baby ended up dying a month later at the hands of the teen birth father.

The imaginary land of removed moms and dads is as far fetched as your plot concoctions. Also far fetched is your evil implication that my sons would be somehow relieved to be assigned to a mom/dad family after the death of my partner and me. Should my death occur, my children would be devastated and would not feel solace from being assigned to any new parents same sex, or opposite sex. Your suggestion otherwise is sociopathic.

The meanness and vitriol with which you attack gay families may have an additional unintended consequence that you may want to also consider.

You are a grandmother with a number of grand children, and I assume the number of that clan will grow exponentially over time. The odds of at least one of those kids being gay are high.   That may lead to a plot line, more likely to be true to life than any you have suggested, that goes something like this:

  • The grandson of a highly visible homophobic “cultural analyst” discovers he is gay. He tries desperately to hide his sexuality from his angry grandmother, which leads him to a crisis of faith, depression, drug experimentation and suicidal thoughts. Finally, he can hide it no more and has to tell her….

How that storyline will end will be up to you. Will you hold to your irrational hatred and dogmatic theories? Will you look to see that your beloved grandson is the same as he has always been, and continues to be worthy of your love? Will you reject him or celebrate him?

In your story, you will get to pick the part you ultimately play. You will be the one who decides if you are the prodigal hero, or the unrepentant villain. Choose wisely, a villain’s life rarely ends well.  For LGBT families, you are currently playing the proverbial bad guy, minion of the Dark Force, maniacal Devil’s henchman. Like in any good story, though, you can change.

Nothing concludes a tale better than an affirming resolution with a former evil-doer’s redemption. Do it. Re-write the book. Give us a happy ending.

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