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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. 

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Writer Wednesday: Matthew S.

Every week, I’ll be publishing work from those in the writing community who wish so share their voice here. Matthew emailed me his article in reaction to the Orlando mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub this past weekend in Florida. I’ve opted to publish a portion here. If you would like to read more, the link is at the bottom of the article. Please not that the “I” in the article is Matthew’s voice.

Yet another tragedy at the hands of a deranged gunman has struck the country. This time, the violence broke out at a gay club in Orlando, FL, USA. Like previous shootings this year, an American citizen armed with an assault rifle opened fire on unsuspecting victims for the sole purpose of heartless slaughter, which is why he chose an assault weapon—designed for that exact purpose.

I firmly believe regardless of reasons a person commits such a crime in part, is that their death grants a narcissistic wish–they want to become famous. They want their name to become a house hold name, that everyone says as they talk about the tragedy rained down on the lives of innocent people. As such, I refuse to use the name or picture of the person that has committed this heinous act of violence.

Not only is it a heinous act of violence in its own right, it is also an act of Terrorism (as he pledged his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call right before carrying out the attack, and ISIS has also claimed responsibility for the act). It is a hate crime as it was targeted at the LGBT community in a gay club during LGBT pride month. The shooter gunned down 50 innocent club goers and wounded another 53, and took about 30 more as hostages until the police finally took him down and freed them. Making this the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

Of course, the president once again after a massacre went on national television to give his most heart-felt sympathies to the families of the victims and the community as a whole. He expressed the sympathies of the entire country and to assure them that the full force of the US government would be used to figure out why this senseless act happened. He went on and to mandate whatever it is that those effected need in the after math of such a tragedy. He once again called for the nation to come together and take action to end the gun violence. Violence that has brought this tragedy and so many others like it.

Obama wants to make it harder for tragedies like this and the ones that came before from happening again, he made it clear that inaction is a choice to. Inaction is a choice to say that it is ok for children, and teachers to be mowed down in their school classrooms, college students, and professors to be mowed down on our campuses, for movie goers to be mowed down at the cinema, and for club goers to be mowed down enjoying a night out on the town.

It seems though that all that have died in this ever-increasing wave of gun violence have died in vain, and those that have died in this onslaught are going to as well. As it seems we as a country have given up on trying to make things better that we have found it acceptable for these sorts of things to happen. After Sandy Hook, where elementary school children and their teachers where mowed down in the class room, not a single new law, regulation anything came out of that tragedy.

You can find the rest of Matthew’s piece here at www.anothwestview.blogspot.com 

If you would like to be featured on Writer Wednesdays, you can reach me through the Contact button found in the menu on the main page. 



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.