Things Not to Say

Conversations over topics where friends disagree can be very awkward at times. I’ve been having good chats with friends of varying emotional investments. We all have our core group of friends, the ones that are more family than our family. After that, there seems to be spheres of relational clout that blend out.

There’s no clear lines in these relationships. It’s difficult to say how to tell a casual friend apart from an acquaintance, but I would be remiss to say there isn’t a difference. My face lights up over some casual friendships (classmates, work friends, people I see regularly on the bus) and other relationships are grace growers in my life. These are people who are friends with people I care about, so I make an effort to get to know them. For a myriad of reasons, I don’t particularly get along well with these folks. Of course, I treat them with respect and dignity as I would anyone made in the image of God (note, this is every human on the planet ever.) However, being kind, interested and invested in these folks takes work because they seem to be the folks that say those things your mother taught you never to say.

I believe it’s a casualty of the #YOLO generation. The “I do what I want” philosophy and “Screw you if you’re offended” trend is creating huge walls and isolation in the young adult community. We say things that are hurtful,  bigoted, mean-spirited and down right cruel with one of two caveats. Either the offender was “only joking” and the onus is on the offended party to “lighten up” and “learn how to take a joke” or it was just their opinion. In this second option, the speaker usually tries to belittle other points of view. They point out how backward those who think that way are, how deceived the opposite side must be, all while stating “it’s my opinion”. This leaves the listener feeling insulted but also that it would be rude to call out said opinion as wrong…after all, people are entitled to their own opinions right?

Being entitled to our own opinions is different that giving air to them in a way that knowingly hurts the person listening. Live and let live is more about letting people live by their philosophies while you do the same–as long as no one is being damaged, than it is about sharing with anyone who has ears how absurd the things we don’t agree with are.

The most difficult thing about these conversations, is I am so busy being polite that I forget to call out the offence until well after it has taken place. It’s almost as though I am so concerned with what not to say that I end up saying nothing at all. It’s not okay to say nothing. It’s not okay to take abuse in the form of homophobic, racial or demeaning comments simply because someone says “I’m just kidding” or “it’s just my opinion”. Opinions can be wrong. Hate speech in Canada is illegal. If you are being hateful, even if it’s by accident, you are breaking a law that has some steep consequences–not only relational but potentially criminal.

I want to take a moment here to apologize to the people who I’ve offended by saying stupid shit. There’s no other words for it. I was behaving like an uncultured hateful bigot and I am deeply and profoundly sorry.

I resolve not to let others saying harmful things in my presence or sphere of influence whether in jest or otherwise. I would appreciate it if you held me to that same standard too. As a follower of Christ, love needs to rule my actions. I hope it will.

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Writer Wednesdays: Your Voice

Think of the stories that you tell your friends and family. What triggers you to share? I can think of three main reasons I share my experiences with others. Moving forward, I would like to formally invite you to consider a moment or some moments in your life that need to be share with others.

These moments could be tragic. These moments could be hopeful. They could bring laughter or they could bring tears. Most importantly, these moments are truthful.

What are the three reasons I share stories from my life?

  • I share stories to give encouragement

There are times in my life that have been straight out of a Law and Order: SVU episode. I grew up in rough circumstances. My choices as a teen were destructive. My young adult life has been plagued by trials, grief, illness and shame.

Yet, God has brought me through. I am an overcomer by nature and my blood type is resilience. If I can share who I once was in light of who I am now–my voice matters–it gives people hope.

  • I share stories to bring abundant laughter.

I’m hilarious. It’s true. Sometimes, I forget how funny I am. People get used to me. Then, I’ll be out at an event or in public and I’ll say or do something that’s classically Cheryl–and people will choke from laughter.

When life tries to suck the joy out of you, when all the news is bad news, when people seem to be negative for no reason–humour aptly placed can bring life. Just think of how much time we spend (waste) laughing at memes or watching Youtube videos. Laughter is the best medicine for many things.

  • I share stories to create understanding.

“What’s the big deal?” & “Lighten up.” are two phrases you wouldn’t expect are spoken to someone as laid back and hilarious as myself. Fact is, I hear them more often than is comfortable. You see, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve had a lot of hurts and I’ve helped a lot of broken people.

We might not know why something is important until someone tells us how it impacted them. Casually mentioned atrocities can cause deeps wounds in those around us and retraumatize them without our knowledge.

This is where you come in. Your voice, your story, your humour, your experiences can make the differences in the lives around you.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “you have no idea”, here’s your chance to give the world an idea–a new perspective. Who knows, you just might change a life.

~Cheryl

Which One is the Girl?

Recently, someone I greatly respect and am good friends with asked me a question the only way they know how. They were trying to understand my point of view through their own experiences. If you’re LGBTQ or non-binary  and in a same gender relationship, you’ve likely heard this question before. “Which one are you? Like are you the girl?”

If a random stranger asked me this, I would likely be offended, but this came from a friend. It highlights a point of mainstream culture for me that LGBTQ advocates are fighting so hard against. The binary heteronormative worldview (Male and Female with traditional roles) erases the possibility that two women CAN be 100% women in a same gender relationship. Outside of LGBTQ issues, it also paints stay at home dads as effeminate and construction working moms as butch. Why? Because we’ve been so indoctrinated on the A+B=Normal that anything else is uncomfortable and weird.

As a queer Christian (I gave up on labels because I hate them), someone who isn’t straight and doesn’t feel the need to fit in a category, I am me. When I am in a relationship with someone, regardless of gender, I am still 100% me. This 100% me enjoys camping, actions movies, flowers, pants, sports, nail polish, BBQ and hanging with the boys. This 100% me has a short pixie cut that is currently flamingo pink and rarely wears make-up. This 100% me is attracted to people based on who they are and not their gender expression.

IMG_1160To ask who takes on the traditional role of a male or female in an LGBTQ relationship is to totally miss the point. The point is, no one does. We are not traditional. We cannot be something we aren’t, so we don’t even try. I will not deny that co-dependecy is a problem in LGBTQ relationships, but I know many straight couples who have the same struggles. We are all human. Next time you want to know who is the woman in a lesbian relationship, maybe try asking what kind of person someone is attracted to? or what makes them fulfilled in a relationship? De-sexualize the question, learn what makes a person tick, listen for understanding and above all, don’t ask a question you wouldn’t ask your straight friends.

First Pride Parade Featuring Justin Trudeau

You read that title right. After weeks of horrid hateful acts against LGBTQ people and people of colour, my faith in humanity was restored. I had no idea what to expect. My only experience of Pride Celebrations came from TV, Movies and bigoted people talking about all the nudity and sex acts that occur at these events.

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First of all, I did not see a single naked person. I saw to bare bums from the back of a costume…but this was in an adult’s only beer garden that was completely fenced off and secluded from minors.

Secondly, I’ve never been in a crowd that large (700,000) people where no fights broke out. Every stereotype I had been taught by conservative religious people was broken for me. I went into the day’s events feeling insecure, like an imposter, and by the time I was heading home, I had danced with strangers covered in glitter like no one was watching.

My excuse for going over to Vancouver on the 6:20 am ferry from Nanaimo was a good one. I had been invited by our local Liberal Party of Canada representatives to march in the Pride Parade with Justin Trudeau. Now, I thought my chances of meeting Canada’s Prime IMG_1134Minister were beyond unlikely. In reality, we exchanged a brief but pleasant conversation and I was able to fulfill one of my friend’s dreams by getting a photo of them with their political hero. Justin came to the park the Liberals were gathering at early so he could meet and greet as many of us as possible before joining his family at the head of the parade.

 

 

As a group, we wandered through the entire parade…all the people lined up before the parade actually started…so he could meet all the marchers from the other groups as well. This is the leader of our country. Generous with his time. No one would have faulted him for getting escorted to the front of the line and leading us from there. But no, he walked through the crowd with his people, showing Canadians that no one is more important than them.IMG_1139

When asked about tolerance he replied, “We are way past tolerance. Today is about celebrating diversity and families and that’s exactly what I’m here to do.” I love him.

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No regrets for waking up at 4:30am and going to bed at 12:30am. I will always remember this day. I will always remember finally feeling free to be myself without worrying who might see, and I will always remember the Prime Minister of Canada looking at me saying thank you and wishing me a happy Pride.
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5 Things I Learned from Discussing Sexuality with a Pastor

Recently, I did something that I was afraid to do. I talked with a local pastor about LGBTQ people and their relationship with the church. I was scared before I went, even though I know this person and knew the content of the conversation, that it was going to be about trying to convince one another of opposing views. Here’s what I learned:

1) Bridging is bumpy.

One of the most helpful things we did for one another at the start of the discussion is define our terms and our lack of exhaustive knowledge on the material we were about to discuss. We laughed a bunch and admitted that it felt weird to talk this openly about being “not straight” (as I put it) and loving Jesus.

2) Something’s got to change.

The reason for today’s conversation was the recognition that when people come out as LGBTQ they feel, for one reason or another, they need to leave the church. LGBTQ Christians feel like they have to choose between fellowship with people who love Jesus and worshipping/serving together and their sexual orientation. We both recognize that conversations need to be had at an open table. This table needs to have listening ears on both sides–not to convince each other about theological ideologies but to listen to one another with empathy and understanding. There will be an “us” and “them” as long as we talk past one another.

3) People are hungry.

Pastors and lay workers within the church (read many churches, not one specific church) are meeting outside of Sunday services with LGBTQ community members to learn how to engage with people and begin ministering out of a place of love. What’s being discovered is the amount of people who were raised in church, attended youth group, and even went to Bible College who identify as other than straight and left the church. They desire greatly to worship alongside other believers without being seen solely for whom they love. They want to be seen as God’s children walking out faith.

4) We don’t agree on every sin.

In the course of our conversation, we discussed whether or not conservative and mainstream Christian churches would be able to understand that LGBTQ Christians do not believe that their orientation is sin. We talked about how wide the spectrum is within the LGBTQ community–where some hold to traditional male/female marriage teachings opting for celibacy as the way to honour God with a same gender orientation and others hold to same-gender long term committed marriage. Similarly, Christians don’t all agree on alcohol consumption, secular movies and entertainment, swearing and modesty.

5) One important question remained.

How can we remove the stigma, isolation and fear for those who come out in faith communities?

There’s a few ways to do this. All of them take a long time.

First, sexuality regardless of straight or LGBTQ needs to be discussed in the context of church teaching. How can we expect a conversation round sexual orientation and inclusion if we can’t even discuss sex in the context of marriage? It is astounding the amount of young adult Christians who didn’t know how their body worked…or why it worked that way when I was at Bible College–because it was dirty and taboo.

Second, we need to create a culture where someone disclosing sexual orientation, sexual confusion or gender related questions is met with compassion and not solutions. Thank them for sharing with you. Admit that it must have been scary and difficult to talk about. Let them know that your love for them has not and will not change. Maybe consider waiting until later to discuss they why and how they know or are questioning. First just hold them and tell them it will be okay.

Third, how can the church make space for LGBTQ people and families to participate in church? We discussed the various reformations in church culture: women in ministry, divorced leaders, children outside of marriage–and how the church has embraced and including those once marginalized groups (some better than others). In light of those revelations of grace, how can the same attitudes be applied to the LGBTQ people in our communities.

What about you? Did you feel at one time or another like you had to choose between living authentically and being accepted? How can we walk with you?