I’m sorry to say I didn’t know this video from May existed until today, but in this amazing piece, First Portland’s music director, DeReau Farrar offers powerful testimony about what it means to sing spirituals in white spaces.

There is no embed code, so please click on this link to watch this video.

We have so many of these songs in our hymnals, and I think this should be required viewing before choosing any of them. In fact, I might link to the video on each post for these songs, just in case you forget.

Because this matters. As uncomfortable as his words may make us, this matters.

 

 

Unitarian Universalists are called to draw the circle of welcome ever wider, knowing (as UUA president Susan Frederick-Gray has said) “No one is outside the circle of love.” But how welcoming is our worship to people of color, LGBTQ folk, those with disabilities? Together, we will examine the presumptions of sameness our very Protestant worship makes and begin the work of expansiveness and inclusiveness in the precious hour we spend together each week.

Great for congregations who want to be more expansive and welcoming

Keynote or workshop

Online or in person

UUA/UUMA standard fees apply

Contact me for more information:

It’s easy to get stuck doing the same things when it comes to our social justice work. Give your public witness a jump start by thinking creatively about art-full events and services. This two-hour workshop will get the creative juices flowing.

Great for congregations and social justice teams who want to be more creative

2-hour workshop

Online or in person

Standard UUA/UUMA fees apply

Contact me for more information:

If you read yesterday’s blog post, you might think I am too much of a pessimist, that I can’t celebrate victories without bringing everyone down.  I guess that is what I did; I have been long cognizant of the “middle class white” nature of the marriage equality fight, and I let the bigger picture take over.

Thankfully, I am friends with Rev. Jude Geiger, who said this on Facebook today (photo because I can’t copy text from FB on my phone, where I am writing this):

  
What I realized is this:

1. We need to and CAN celebrate – without guilt. This was a major victory, with elegant words from Justice Kennedy to prove it. 

2. These victories – yesterday’s ruling, the strike down of DOMA, the strike down of anti-sodomy laws – these victories make each successive one EASIER. Justice Kennedy’s words will be quoted over and over again in legal cases because they make the case and pave the way for more justice. 

Yeah – as I said yesterday, and as Jude said on facebook, there’s still a lot to do. But let me be clear: 

This was a VICTORY for love, justice, and the inherent worth and dignity of every person. 
Love wins. 

Four years ago, when the New York State Legislature voted for marriage equality, I received the news with a mix of joy and sadness, relief and regret. I was so excited that justice, equality, and love won that day – but I missed my partner Tricia terribly; when she died in 1998, marriage was a pipe dream.

And now, it’s here. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that marriage equality is the law of the land. As Kevin Russell at SCOTUSblog writes,

The majority bases its conclusion that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right on “four principles and traditions”: (1) right to person choice in marriage is “inherent in the concept of individual autonomy”; (2) “two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals”; (3) marriage safeguards children and families; (4) marriage is a keystone to our social order.

It is a relief – more so now than in 2011 – less tears of sadness, more tears of relief. I am so thrilled that the hard work of so many people has paid off, that we have swayed not just hearts and minds but the law, and that we ALL can move from state to state and have the same legal rights, statewide and federally.

But this isn’t the end of the road for LGBTQ equality.

Just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was just one important step toward equality, the Obergefell decision is just one important step toward equality. There’s still so much to do; for example:

  • fair housing for LGBTQ people – because some people can be kicked out of their homes.
  • anti-discrimination laws in the workplace – because people can still be fired for being gay, even if they are legally married
  • acceptance and legal recognition of trans and non-binary gendered people – because the T isn’t there for its good looks
  • the court of public opinion – perhaps the hardest battle of all, especially when you consider that not only was the decision 5-4, but that each of the dissenters wrote their own dissenting opinion. There’s a lot of anger and distress here, and that’s just the court.

We know that significant laws and court cases have not stopped racism from thriving. We know that a landmark decision has not stopped the war against women and reproductive rights. So we must brace ourselves for continued homophobia and transphobia – along with the continued racism, bigotry, and misogyny we already work to fight. We must remember the stirring words of Joyce Poley’s song*:

One more step, we will take one more step,
‘til there is peace for us and everyone, we’ll take one more step.

One more word, we will say one more word,
‘til every word is heard by everyone, we’ll say one more word.

One more prayer, we will say one more prayer,
‘til every prayer is shared by everyone, we’ll say one more prayer.

One more song, we will sing one more song,
‘til every song is sung by everyone, we’ll sing one more song.

Let’s take those steps together. In faith, in love, in our call for justice, equality, and the inherent worth and dignity of EVERY SINGLE PERSON.

 

 

*Hymn 168 in Singing the Living Tradition

A colleague of mine – a strong, brilliant, creative woman – recently took to Facebook to note the amazing experience of putting good energy out to get good energy back. In her post, she warned those inclined to mansplain the experience not to try to convince her she was wrong, because she believed in this energetic relationship to the universe.

mansplainingAlmost instantly, a man attempted to explain what was really going on, that it was just coincidence, and oh by the way, here’s a book to explain it in case my authority as a male-presenting, male-identified human wasn’t authority enough. My colleague called him out, noting that his response felt, to her, like mansplaining, and that over time these kinds of comments from men resemble micro-aggressions.

I noted a comment or two later that this reminded me of when an ex-boyfriend tried to mansplain “mansplaining” to me on a Facebook thread, which completely ended any connection we had.

I also went to private messages to tell my colleague that I was proud of her being willing to call out the behavior in a firm but gentle way, which often helps people see their places of privilege. She thanked me, and told me that a number of women had said the same thing to her privately, but I was the only one who spoke out about it in public as well.

I returned to the thread, to discover that another woman passive-aggressively called out…my colleague. I sure hope no one ever singles me out unfairly, she wrote to my colleague.

SIGH.

Women are supposed to defer. And if they’re not, they are still supposed to let men explain things to them. And when they react to that mansplaining, they are encouraged to be quiet and not do anything about it. And women are not supposed to pile on, but rather provide quiet, behind the scenes support.

At least that’s what we’re taught.

But how can we change the behavior if we don’t name the behavior? Neither the person who mansplained nor the person who subtly told my colleague to be quiet are inherently bad or unaware people. They are justice-seeking, open-minded folks who stand on the side of love. Yet in a matter of hours, both displayed behavior that is meant (even unconsciously) to silence, scold, or shame.

As Unitarian Universalists, we regularly put our faith into action – preaching, writing letters, marching, protesting, confronting, and sometimes committing acts of civil disobedience.

Outside our walls.

But time and time again, we let injustice remain inside our walls, for the good of covenant, to keep peace in our beloved community.

So when female-bodied ministers are judged by their clothes and not their message… when LGB but not T is welcome… when words from people of color are regularly omitted or misappropriated or silenced … when those who call out our own class inequality and fair pay issues are told they don’t understand the system… when a colleague is mansplained to and then shamed into silence… we are failing our community, our covenant, and our faith.

affirm light of truthI am proud of my colleague. Her words surprised the man, who – to his credit – not only realized what he had done but apologized. And they are still friends. His being called out on this expression of male privilege helped him see that privilege, and I suspect he won’t do it again; or if he does, he might realize what he’s typed and hit Delete instead of Send.

We need to do more of this. We are bound by covenant to speak truth to each other, to seek justice amongst each other. None of us is perfect, and none of us is guiltless. But if we are willing to be prophetic witnesses to each other, we will be better prophetic witnesses to our communities and our world.

Ever since the shootings in Santa Barbara, California that sparked the powerful hashtag #YesAllWomen, I’ve been paying more attention to the so-called men’s rights movement; men who follow this perspective believe we are actually in a matriarchal society, that women have significant control over men, and that women should abdicate authority – particularly when it comes to who they date. We have seen this movement become violent, not only in Santa Barbara, but in the threats some female game designers, critics, and players have experienced in #Gamergate.

Others have written eloquently about the foundational ideas behind this movement, the personalities who are stirring up the movement, and the day-to-day anger and violence against women that this movement seems to encourage. With every article and news report, I get angrier and more frustrated. I have shaken my head in disgust so much I have a permanent crick in my neck. I have dropped my jaw in shock so much I have TMJ.

But one day, after reading profiles of Warren Farrell and Paul Elam, I began to feel something like pity and compassion. I began to wonder how we have failed these men. What did we miss in our care for them that they turned to petulant anger? What messages have we mistakenly sent to suggest that they are victims? Is it because we haven’t sufficiently addressed the issues Susan Faludi wrote about in Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Male – the standards by which we measure men? How did we blow it? Were we not supportive enough in our classrooms and churches and extracurricular activities and home life? How did we fail them?

I have no answers; I watch what were decent, everyday men get sucked into a spiraling frustration that is fed by others. Their reasoning is circular, their reactions to women are baffling, their compulsion toward violence even more so. I know there’s some sense of a loss of privilege – but I can’t help but wonder if somewhere in our work toward equality, inclusion, and justice, we forgot to teach those with privilege how to both recognize and use their privilege to help everyone up.

In a perfect world, everyone sees the fullness of their identities, and recognizes that others’ identities do not threaten but rather enrich their own. But we’re not there. I pray every day that one more man who’s sucked into this destructive movement gets what he needs to see his own inherent worth – and everyone else’s. And I pray we are there to help them, not give them reasons to stay in a cycle of anger.

I have never been comfortable with the word “bisexual.” As a young queer woman in Durham, North Carolina, in the 80s and 90s, our community was very clear that we would use the acronym LGBT, but we would struggle with the T (a subject for another day), and we would not believe the B. I grew to understood the B as meaning “not really gay” or “can’t make up their minds” or “horndog.” So in fact, “bisexual” was a wishy-washy term, attractive to couples looking for threesomes, useful as a category to put questioning folks in.

After my partner Tricia died in 1998, I found comfort not from my gay and lesbian friends, but from my straight male friends. They seemed to hear the pain in my heart – especially one friend, Mark. Mark’s comfort was inviting, and my relationship with him did turn romantic for a while. And that was fine. My mistake was telling my lesbian friends, who branded me a traitor to the sisterhood, who called me a “hasbian,” and then proceeded to ostracize me from the community I had loved and served in for years.

Over the next 15 years, I stopped dating women altogether and focused on men. I decided that my “lesbian days were over” but I didn’t quite step into the term “straight” (despite two boyfriends’ attempts). I also didn’t see myself as bisexual, because at that point, I was not sexually attracted to women, and I knew all the problems the B word brought with it.

That was fine for me personally – I didn’t really need labels. However, I knew that many would not understand my personal history, and I worried that they would think my years as an out, proud, activist lesbian were “just a phase” or that I was embarrassed by those relationships and activities – something that couldn’t be further from the truth. But I also carried the old, tired definitions of bisexual with me – and I honestly did not feel attracted to women at that point. How could I be bisexual if I don’t feel attracted to more than one gender? I wasn’t trying to play the field. I knew the truths of my romantic history and sexual orientations. But I couldn’t explain it well. Throughout seminary, I used the word “queer” and said simply “I exist in the queer cloud” as a way to show my general solidarity but not identify as anything I didn’t think I was.

So fast forward to this week.

Bisexual Visibility Week.

I started reading articles, blog posts, and Facebook statuses from and about bisexuals. Someone shared the video of actress Anna Paquin trying to explain to Larry King that her sexual orientation is not defined by the person she is in a relationship with. Someone else talked about the misconceptions about being confused and still sorting their identity out. And then I read this quote from Robin Ochs in an article called Bisexuality 101:

“Bisexuals are people who acknowledge in themselves the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

Not necessarily at the same time.

Oh.

Oh!

Oh. I AM bisexual… and it is my definitions that are too narrow.

As open and knowledgeable as I am about gender identity and sexual orientation, I was remarkably closed-minded about bisexuality. Mine, particularly. While I was open and affirming about others’ bisexuality, I used the old, outdated, incredibly short-sighted definitions for myself, thus cutting me off from embracing the fullness of who I am.

And I was doing a serious disservice to the people I want to minister to. A recent study shows that bisexual youth face particularly specific challenges. Others may not know what to do or say to be a good bisexual ally, whether they themselves are gay or straight. And others may just need to see the richer, more colorful texture of sexual orientation, even as we speak more fully about the richer, more colorful texture of gender identity. I need to be out, not just as queer, but out as who I am, in order to best serve others.

So…big breath…. here goes:

bisexuality-flag-heartI am bisexual.

I wish to be visible… to my friends, to my congregation, to my community, to my denomination…. and most of all, to my self.

I am bisexual.

I am a sexually healthy, emotionally healthy, spiritually healthy human being that has loved and been attracted to people across the gender spectrum, to different degrees, at different times, in different ways.

I am bisexual.

I am called to ministry, to be everything I am and want to be, including who and how I choose to love.

I am bisexual.

 

Some people start their ministerial internships writing learning agreements, figuring out the copier and the coffee maker, and meeting absolutely everyone.

Others start their ministerial internships writing generic wedding ceremonies in case the courts allow same-sex couples to marry and speaking to the press at a rally on the courthouse steps.

marriage equality rally 7-22That mine began with an act of social witness seems appropriate. I mean, I know much of my ministry is about the power of art to heal and inspire. Yet I also know that my ministry demands I respond to my neighbor’s needs, to stand on the side of love, to speak as a person of faith for what is right and true. And so today, I got to do that. I got to speak to the media, I got to be present as a minister and show support for people who simply want to be treated with dignity. If all had gone well, there would have been marriage licenses issued by the Monroe County clerk and I might have been able to conduct weddings. But there is a stay pending an appeal, so all we could do was call on the Attorney General to drop the appeal and show our support. The long moral arc of the universe DOES bend toward justice; it just takes longer sometimes than we want. But it is bending here in Florida… and I am glad the congregation let me begin my internship a few weeks early so I could be present.

I can’t think of a better way to start my ministry in Key West.

 

Update: Click here for the story from CBS-Miami.

I don’t understand it.

I am an extrovert and love to process ideas, emotions, and experiences with people. I hold strong opinions about equality, justice, compassion, and ethics. I am willing to be in a crowd of people rallying for causes, to sign a petition, to write letters, to even blog a bit about things I believe.

But I am scared to death of stepping out on my own.

I want more than anything to be brave, to have the courage of my convictions, to not worry about what others think of me, to go boldly in the direction of my dreams and vision. I want to be an example. I want to be Me with a capital M. I want to affect change. I want to take risks and make a difference.

Instead, I worry about what others will think. I step out gingerly. I couch my comments in wiggle words. I make excuses to stay among the crowd, not stand out. I dress conservatively.

Some of my caution comes from knowing there are others who have to approve of me in order to reach my goals – including ordination. I surely don’t want to freak out the Ministerial Fellowship Committee any more than I have already freaked out the Regional Subcommittee on Candidacy (who thought I was too theatrical and garrulous). And I will always need the approval of someone who will hire me to be their minister/consultant/artist/director.

Some of my caution comes from living in a family with beloved members who are on the opposite side of the political spectrum, who are older and have the power to put me on the defensive with just a look, whose questions hit like accusations.

But most of my caution comes from being a middle aged woman in America.

I’ve been called pushy, overwhelming, aggressive, too much. I’ve been told I “scare the boys in engineering.” I’ve been told to not go too far, do too much. Even in my years as an LGBT activist in the 1990s, I experienced urges for temperance and caution.

I’ve been taught to not do too much, not to color outside the lines, not to breathe into the fullness of who I am.

Who I am, of course, is a beautiful, loving, passionate, creative, compassionate, brilliant, sexy, queer, full-figured femme woman with a deep and unshakeable call to ministry. I am a powerhouse who wants more than anything to unleash my femministry on the world. I am a guide and a muse who wants more than anything to help others unleash their awesomeness on the world. I am a missional mother who wants more than anything to love the hell out of this world.

It is a fact that I am surrounded by bold, creative, beautiful, brilliant people who are much less fearful – who step out, who make waves, who are not afraid to be who they are. One of them even got honored on this impressive list of incredibly bold femmes.

Now my experience, qualities, and desires are particular to me, but the truth is, most of us are scared of something. Something holds us back from living into our fullness. Something keeps us ineffective, uncreative, and fearful. It could be money, or family, or a job, or – and this is more likely – messages from someone who told us we should scale down our dreams and desires, to be realistic, to be responsible rather than radical.

So how do we stop the cycle? How do we stop letting others’ expectations keep us from our fullness? How do we  – how do I – stop being afraid?

dragshow2014Over this past year, I’ve been observing my Year of Jubilee – it is my 50th on earth, and I have been consciously noting life lessons, the thoughts and habits I want to discard, and those I want to express. I’ve been unearthing my true self. It’s been incredible – I’ve made frequent posts on Facebook, run a Tumblr of ideas, slogans, and images that speak to my true self, and have done a fair bit of private journaling. I know that by the time I complete this year-long spiritual practice, I will be stronger, freer, more creative, bolder. I am daily rejecting messages that keep me cowed and timid.

But it’s a process.

And maybe that’s my real message today. If you’ve spent a lifetime being timid, boldness can’t necessarily come rushing in all at once.

But I am ready for more boldness. I’ve been preparing for it, and when I look back, I can see many places where I am much bolder than I have been as recently as last fall.

I am still scared. I am still hesitant. And I don’t want to be.

But step by step, I’m making progress.

And that’s something.