Writer Wednesday: Greg White

This week’s post comes from a man named Greg White. I met Greg on social media. Social media, especially Facebook groups and Google Hangouts, have become a safe haven for marginalized people groups of all walks of life to gain support away from those who would cause injury. Greg’s recent Facebook post resonated with me and many others. It’s a reflection on the events in Orlando after the media has moved on to other things. It’s a reminder of how people are hurting, not helping. Most importantly, it’s an honest account from someone like me. 

It’s been over a week since the events of Orlando, and it seems everyone has had their say. Forgive me if I’m late to the conversation, but I’m still trying to piece together my feelings about it. I find myself utterly heartbroken. While I floated through Sunday in a sense of shock, and even went to a candle light vigil in a strange disconnect, reality set in on Monday night.

I’d come home from work having spent the day in a numb haze, and decided to decompress by making soap. It’s a simple hobby, one that requires little concentration and lets my mind wander through the day’s events and prepare for the stressors to come. As the bars of soap began to congeal in their molds, I began to sob uncontrollably. I cried first for the victims, every precious soul gunned down in the Pulse nightclub. I cried for their families, for their friends.

Suddenly the face of every LGBT person I know flashed through my brain and all I could think was, “It could have been him. It could have been her,” and finally, “It could have been me.”

In the days that followed, I found myself torn by grief while tending wounds that I thought had healed shut. Theological debates about the six “clobber passages” regarding homosexuality came roaring back into focus. My sense of public safety was suddenly shaken. The true face of bald, unbridled homophobia was unleashed in that hail of gunfire, and in its wake, those sympathetic to the gunman’s hatred were emboldened to speak. Fringe public religious figures like Pat Robertson pointed their fingers back at the LGBT community, and some even praised the killings.

But most painful of all, my beloved denomination put out a well-meaning but tepid response. They were sorry and saddened by the events. They were praying for the victims and their families. But where were these words when LGBT kids were killing themselves? Where were those prayers as queer people were denied their rights, kicked out of their homes, suffering depression and religious trauma, bullied, or ostracized?

We have told our stories over and over, and it seems they’ve fallen on deaf ears. Does it really take the worst mass shooting of the century to elicit a response? Decrying the violence, the Church never even condemned the cause. They never said the words “homophobia,” “LGBT,” “gay,” “lesbian,”“bisexual,” “transgender.” And so, the only word that really mattered to me was the word they’ve used to describe homosexuality in the manual; “perversion.”

It simply isn’t enough to stand up against mass murder without condemning the more subtle, institutional forms of bigotry that enforced it. I’m not a pervert, I’m a human being. I’m not an issue, I’m a child of God. I’m not a problem to be solved, a policy to be debated, a statement in a manual or even an out-of-context Bible verse.

How could the denomination that I love so dearly be so tone-deaf? Maybe it’s politics. Maybe it’s blind conviction. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s a love too bewildered by a changing world to know how to express itself. All I know is that it doesn’t seem to be listening.

And yet, in the midst of all this heartbreak, I’m reminded of the text messages and phone calls from my sisters, brother, parents, friends, asking if I was okay. I’m reminded of the extra long hugs I received at church before I even realized I was going to need them for the week ahead. I’m reminded of my church friends marching alongside me in the candle light vigil, crying for justice. I’m reminded of my pastor, who preached repentance from bullying and lamented with me. His precious wife told me that she recognized my hurt, opened her home and let me know I wasn’t alone. Two friends had me over for dinner, let me pour out my anger and frustration, and made me feel understood. During communion, a friend looked me square in the eye, reached out, and clasped my hand in support. Countless conversations, notes of solidarity, and messages of comfort began to put me back together.

Is this what Jesus looks like? Is this what he meant when he said, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”?

I want more than anything for my denomination to understand, to listen, to learn to love more fully. I want them to recognize the depths of pain their policies cause, to recognize that homophobia doesn’t only manifest itself in bullets. Sometimes it looks like smug superiority. Sometimes it looks patronizing. Sometimes it’s disgust disguised as moral righteousness. And sometimes it’s a child learning to hate herself.

But then, I guess policies and manual statements were never really Jesus’ M.O. The Holy Spirit transcends issues of doctrinal and theological debate. And God, it seems, is reluctant to work through imperious power or righteous fiat, but rather through individual acts of love. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and my congregation, family, and friends have been that to me. I only hope the broader Church can one day do the same. I long for the day the Church can be that for each member of the LGBT community, and not only in times of crisis.

You can view the original post here. 

If you would like to be featured on Writer Wednesday, visit the contact link in the main menu.

~Cheryl

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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.

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