Truth Telling: Canadian Edition

I never really thought about how much my Canadian culture effects what I do in uncomfortable situations. This past Saturday, our local PRIDE Association hosted a vigil to IMG_1018show solidarity and pay respects to those lost and effected by the mass shooting in Orlando at The Pulse nightclub.

Standing in the circle, listening to each of the speakers share from the heart, I felt uncomfortable. I wasn’t uncomfortable because of the loss, I wasn’t uncomfortable because of the pain of losing people who are just like me, I wasn’t even uncomfortable that this was the first time I attended something as a fully out person–I was uncomfortable because I spent 29 years of my life contributing to this type of hateIMG_1026.

 

 

In Canadian culture, it’s abhorrent to be rude intentionally to someone else. To contradict them or correct them publicly is a kin to assault. People are encouraged to “mind their own business” and gossip about it in hushed whispers to their neighbours or friends sitting beside them. We whisper and point, roll our eyes in disgust or move to another spot on the bus. Very rarely does one hear someone publicly call out another for inappropriate behaviour–because that would go against Canada’s Tolerance. When does being polite pour gasoline on a silent and raging fire?

Every single time I allow someone to cause others pain, I am fueling the type of hate and homophobia that led to this and many other violent tragedies. One of the speakers’ words echoes in my heart: “now is the time to refuse to let our friends and families say something is so gay. Now is the time to audibly say ‘no, that is not acceptable’ when we see anyone being bullied or put down. Now is the time to fight harder than ever for equal rights. Above all, now is the time to stop making those same mistakes with other minorities.”

Together is the only way forward. Prejudice, homophobia and blind hatred is going to tear this world apart unless people who are remaining silent start to speak. The next time one of your friends tells a racist joke, tell them that’s not acceptable. When they tell you to lighten up, remind them how many people died because of that attitude.

The next time you hear a stranger say something cruel in the mall, don’t just ignore it. Call them out or comfort the person being targeted. Kindness is another weapon against hatred. If you’re afraid of speaking out, imagine how afraid that person being verbally and emotionally assaulted is every time they need to go to the mall for new clothes.

Stand up for the humane treatment of all people. Every single person deserves to live their life with dignity. We are all created in the image of God. There are no caveats in scripture for what constitutes a human, so there’s no need for it in culture.

Advertisements

I am Orlando: Catherine Rice

This was posted in a private Facebook group for LGBTQ Christians and has been used by permission. Catherine’s words echoed my own feelings on many levels and I wanted to make sure her voice is heard by as many as possible. If you are interested in contributing to this theme, visit the Contact page in the Menu. 

WARNING: Coarse Language

“I want to brush back the hair from their faces and kiss their foreheads. I want to dress them in the clothes they would want to be buried in. I want to call them by their true names.

I worry about them. I worry about families that won’t accept the broken, queer body of their child. I worry about what will become of them. I worry about the boyfriends and girl friends and husbands and wives left behind.

It all makes me feel so helpless.

News reports have begun to roll in and they say that the shooter may, himself, have been gay or bisexual. His father calls him a good boy. He says his son was angered by two men kissing in Miami. He says God will punish my community, but it will not be at the hands of Muslims.

I want to hold Omar Mateen’s face in my hands and I want to ask why. I want to reach into his mind and cut away the decaying knots of hatred and confusion and fear. I want to turn back time and remind him who he is, find some magical words that will protect my community from this violence.

I write, and write, and write, searching for the words that will make the situation somehow ok, and sometimes I guess it comes out eloquently but mostly I feel like a dog chasing my tail. I write in circles. I write, not for the first time about fear.

When I was afraid to come out, I found nightclubs. The gay clubs welcomed me. I didn’t have to be anything. I could dance, sing, drink, be who I was. I kissed a girl for the first time in a club and I thought, “oh god, this is why people kiss each other, isn’t it?” Every night they opened their doors, a sanctuary from the problems in my life.

I started going to gay clubs when I was afraid to come out, and now that I am out, I am afraid to go to gay clubs. My sanctuaries have become places of violence and fear.

I am so, so tired of being afraid. I am tired of being an issue, I am tired of being used by Islamaphobes, and I am tired of listening to gun owners remind me that it isn’t the gun’s fault. I know that, asshat.

I am tired of listening to the same people who whined about trans women in their bathroom, talk about lighting candles for our lost sisters and brothers. They ignored us when their theology killed gay children and tore families apart, but now they feel bad. Now they want to help. I don’t want their help. Fuck forgiveness. Stop saying you are sorry and fix the goddamned system already. Stop talking and do something.

I am tired of being told this could happen to anyone. It didn’t happen to anyone. It happened to my people. My community. The people who loved me when no one else did.

I should say something about love conquering hate. About the young Muslim man who shared his story of pain and discrimination. (“Yeah, they shit on you. And it sucks. They shit on us too.”) I should say something about how this is winnable…but…I can’t. I am tired.

I am so goddamned tired.

I don’t want to fight anymore. I don’t want to try to make a difference anymore. I just want to cry.”

If you’re needing someone to talk to right now, reach out. You are not alone. Your voice matters. We can hear you. We love you. 

What to Say to Your LGBT Friend

IMG_0993You’re a conservative Christian, or at the very least, you’re old school. Maybe you don’t have a particular religion that you ascribe to. Regardless of affiliations, you hold to traditional beliefs about marriage and family.

You want to reach out to your LGBT friends and co-workers, but you don’t know how. Maybe you’re afraid that somehow you would compromise your own convictions. Perhaps you believe that sitting silently is better than accidentally offending someone.

You’re wrong.

Silence only adds to the trauma. In the past two days, I can count the number of people outside of the LGBT community that have reached out to me on one hand. No one knows what to say or do, so they say nothing.

If you love someone whom you know is likely shaken by Orlando’s tragic shooting–tell them. Call, email, text, Tweet, Facebook, SnapChat, whatever….take 25 seconds to tell them that you love them. Let them know that you care, that you’re thinking of them and that you too are horrified by what has happened.

Right now, what we need as a community is to be reminded of all those who love us. We don’t need sermons, admonishing, or silence. We need love, listening and camaraderie.

I was reading on BBC of a young man who walked out of an interview when the reporters tried to minimize the importance of LGBT people as a target. He said something that I’ll paraphrase : “If this had happened to Jews, it would be deemed an anti-semetic hate crime”, he has a point. People everywhere are trying to make it about gun control, they’re trying to make it about “all humanity”, they’re trying to focus on the ISIS side of things (fueling an already pandemic amount of Islamaphobia) and are failing to call it for what it is. A hate crime.

This wasn’t just the largest mass shooting in the USA. It was the largest hate crime involving a shooting in the USA. I’ve seen editorials of people being upset that there wasn’t the same level of outrage for the attacks in Paris. There was, heavens there was. It took less than 24 hours for #Orlando to cease being a trending topic on Twitter. It was replaced by the usual celebrity gossip. Paris was trending much longer.

The reason the outpouring seems louder is because voices that have long been silenced will no longer be silenced. We’ve been afraid to be controversial. We’ve been afraid to speak out against what’s considered politically correct. We’ve had our fears labeled “the gay agenda” and now, we’ve lost incredible and valuable members of our community. We feel it deeply. It cannot continue.

I believe that this event has triggered a change in the way advocates will engage. It starts with you. If you haven’t yet spoken your heart. Do it now. We don’t know how much time we have.

~Cheryl

Orlando: Love Wins Vol. 1

This is the first post in a series of people from the LGBT community reacting to the tragedy in Orlando. In the wake of 50 live lost and countless traumatized survivors and loved ones, now more than ever it is important to band together. We need to use the voices we have to spread a message of love, a message of compassion and a message that we will not stand for this or horrors like it. The following is a post sent to me by Catherine Rice via Facebook Messenger.

Today my heart is broken. Last night, while I joked with new and old friends over Ramen in downtown Charleston an evil man walked into a gay bar in Orlando. He murdered fifty people in cold blood with an AR-15. The last things these queer people knew was pain and fear in a place that was supposed to be safe. Since the events of Stonewall our bars have been pretty well respected. LGBT people weren’t welcome in straight bars so we made our own. We filled them with color and music and laughter. We filled them with love and respect for each other. We filled them with vibrant community- real community.

Last night that was shattered. My community- a community that loved and helped me, and who I loved and helped in return- is left devastated by this shattering violation. Today investigators entered the night club over the sound of ringing phones of dead LGBT men and women as their love ones desperately tried to reach them. The bodies of these dead LGBT individuals will be returned to families that may or may not accept them, that may or may not bury them according to their chosen names and identities, that may or may not respect the partners they have left behind to mourn them.

When the supreme court gave all couples the right to marry we did not win the war for human rights. There is still suffering, there is still inequality, there is still danger in coming out. So, in this atmosphere, in this circumstance what is the way forward?

First, we must mourn. Tomorrow I will gather with the community I love and we will mourn what we have lost. The loss of these individuals can not be overstated. The loss to our feeling of safety when we walk into the bars and clubs of our communities can not be regained. Never again will I walk into a gay club and feel, however naively, safe. I’ll always be looking over my shoulder, watching who comes in. Wondering if this is the person, who in their anger and fear at anything different, will be the next to shatter my community. We must give our grief and horror an outlet.

Second, we must move forward in unity. We must ignore the words of religious people who seek to use this for their own agenda. We are not broken. We are not wrong. God does not hate us. Where there is injustice, we must sow justice. In our pain, and grief, and anger we must fight against prejudice. For every ounce of grace that might be expected of another community we must come together and show a hundred times that. We must not let fear compromise who we are. We are strong. We are proud, and we have always been a community that comes together against opposition. We have a unique ability to fight evil without compromising our identity.

As for our straight allies, I can’t say enough to explain how much we need you now. We need you to offer us your spaces as we hold vigils. We need you to let us weep on your shoulders. We need you to listen to us and our stories however different someone may look, or seem. We are all human. We all have blood pumping underneath our skin and hearts that feel pain.

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person elected to a major public office, said that the true perversion was the slaughter of people in the name of religion. He believed that coming out was the first step in the fight for equality. We must tell people we exist and we must not be silent. We must break down the closet doors and let love, and strength, and honesty shine in.

If you would like to post something in response to this tragedy, visit the contact page in the main menu.

~Cheryl

Just Try a Little Harder

One of the pinnacles of a life changed by grace is just that–grace. Yet, when someone struggles deeply with anxiety or depression grace can seem very far away indeed.

I know who I am in Christ. I know that I am a beloved Child of the King, that I am declared righteous and holy. I know that I have been bought with a price and that nothing I do or don’t do can take away from my value as a person or earn my acceptance from God. I am already accepted.

I know that the Holy Spirit lives and works in me. I know that He strengthens, heals, comforts, encourages, empowers and sanctifies. I walk with my Lord in the power of the Spirit and have great victories.

I also have great struggles. I have had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Severe Generalized Anxiety my whole life. When I became a disciple of Christ, He began to free me from the bondage of fear–and I am still free from that. Yet, biologically, I am prone to the illness still. I want to talk about this because I think it’s important to be in conversation about something that so many people today struggle with. Those same people are told that if they pray and trust in the Lord then they will experience freedom from those illnesses. I think we experience victory, but not always freedom.

If I had any other kind of mental/intellectual disability Autism, Down-syndrome, Dyslexia, Cognitive Delay– I would have less of a time trying to get support from fellow believers. The methods of treatment are not chemical, and therefore are ‘okay’. Now, as a person with a family history of Mental Illness, I have radically changed my approach to healing. Medically speaking, I have a chemical imbalance in an under developed brain. I was born premature and the problem solving centres of my brain are over active. This leads to over thinking and an over production of anxiety inducing chemicals. To prevent those chemicals from creating a flight or fight response over seemingly inconsequential events I have been prescribed medication that allows for the positive naturally produced relaxing chemicals to “hang out” a little longer and do their job.

Yet, I feel guilty. I feel like somehow taking medication is not trusting God to be my strength to get me through it all. I feel like I am giving up and giving into a lie –even though I would not feel this way if I had cancer and needed chemotherapy, had diabetes and needed insulin or had heart disease and needed blood pressure medication. Somehow, as a person with a radiant relationship with Christ, I have sometimes debilitating anxiety. I obsess over how I must be a disappointment to God for struggling with it as I do, then pray repentance for believing that lie, then feel guilty….rinse repeat.

I am wondering if victory in these situations is freedom. Learning that I have a broken body that is of no fault of my own, I was born with a brain that doesn’t do what it is supposed to–is a victory. Truth IS freedom. The truth is who I am. The truth is, where the Spirit of the Lord is , there is freedom–freedom from shame. I am a Child of the King, redeemed, broken but made whole. The truth is , the Holy Spirit is my comforter and that sometimes our bodies need medicine to make them work right. Sometimes it’s antibiotics, sometimes it’s insulin, and sometimes it’s neurological. The truth is, there is nothing spiritually superior about just getting by. I am tired of just getting by, just trying harder to be well, just making it to the end of each day, just pretending I am not carrying a huge load of useless fear.
My brain needs medicine, I am going to take it, God can heal my brain if He wants to. So far He hasn’t, and I wonder if it’s not specifically for the reason of reaching people just like me who think they are too broken to bother coming to the cross.

I have joy. I have peace. I have security. It’s like being at war within myself. Sometimes the battle is too much for me, those days I lean on Him more than ever and remind myself from the beginning what is true.

~Cheryl

**Reposted from the archives.