Archive for the ‘LGBT’ Tag

Scenes from Stalled Marriages: Free Writing Workshop Justice Event   Leave a comment

 

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WHEN:  Sunday, April 6 at 12:30pm (pizza will be provided)

WHERE:  Fountain Street Church (Chapel)

Are you an LGBT couple affected by the marriage ban? Are you an ally who knows friends who have been affected by the marriage ban?

Join us in this Equality/Justice event. A letter writing campaign with a twist.

We’ll be meeting together to write scenes from “stalled” marriages.  Help show them how the marriage ban is affecting you, your families, and your friends right now.  We believe your scenes will show lawmakers, justices, lawyers and everyone how a ban on marriage hurts a relationship, a family, friendships. These are your stories. We hope that you tell them to make them known, and to make a difference.

We intend to get as many people together as we can on SUNDAY, APRIL 6th, 12:30-2:30pm to craft small written scenes. Pizza will be provided. You don’t have to have a writing background at all. Just a willingness to tell a story, your story.

Author, and Lambda Literary Fellow (2013), Dr. Jerome Stueart, will be facilitating a writing workshop focused on writing scenes from your family, if you are an LGBT person/couple affected by the marriage ban, or, if you are an ally, from the family of someone you know.

Why scenes? Scenes are a powerful writing tool in creating change. We know the best tools, and those that have gone viral, have been “stories” –real stories of LGBT families and individuals who desire marriage.  We want to use those same powerful tools to talk about this period of stalling, the reinstated ban on LGBT marriage.  Show HOW the actions of lawmakers and the Court of Appeals are affecting your family today by showing them actual scenes, like small memoirs, of your family.

At this guided writing workshop, you will write down scenes from these stalled marriages–of yours or your friends. We’ll be using some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as a guide, as well as other writings.  Our hope is to send those scenes to those who can make a difference, but also, maybe, a broader audience. At this time, we have no idea what that would be—but we’re open to suggestions. Getting the word out, getting your scenes out, will move people and show them how waiting and stalling marriages are harming families.

If you’re an ally, or one of the 300 couples married before the ban took effect again, or if you were planning on being married, come join us for a couple of hours, write some scenes with us, help us send your stories to those who can end this ban, and to the world.

Everything is FREE. Lend us some time, and send your “scenes from stalled marriages” to those who are making decisions about your marriages.

FOUNTAIN STREET CHURCH, 24 Fountain Street GRAND RAPIDS MI
SUNDAY, APRIL 6th 12:30-2:30pm Food provided. Paper, pens provided. Facilitation and workshopping provided.

 

 

Writing the LGBT Spiritual Journey, Saturday April 5, Fountain Street Church, Grand Rapids MI   Leave a comment

WritingLGBTthe_StueartUnfortunately, this class did not gather any students.  But I wanted to teach a workshop anyway, and the Michigan LGBT community is facing a huge battle right now. So we’ve designed a FREE class instead, on April 6 Scenes from Stalled Marriages.  Please join us to write about YOUR family under the marriage ban, or your FRIENDS’ families or individuals.  We’ll see you APRIL 6 at Fountain Street Church.

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Please join us in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the weekend before the Festival of Faith and Writing (at Calvin College), for Writing the LGBT Spiritual Journey Workshop, APRIL 5, SATURDAY, 9am–5pm.

For the LGBT person of faith, the journey has not been easy.  Many of us are refugees from mainline denominations that offer faith but only to some, or only with clauses attached.  Some of us have escaped into better, more accepting faiths or denominations–but that journey may not have been easy.  Charting our spiritual journey, though, can help bring focus and fulfillment to our lives as part of the LGBT community.  Writing our spiritual journeys also completes the missing parts of society’s spiritual journey.  In this Workshop we will read LGBT writers of faith, as well as writers of faith in general, to pick up tips and techniques that will help you write about your journey.  If you like discussing spirituality in the context of the LGBT community, with others like yourself, and exploring through writing what your journey has discovered, come join us.  Using writing exercises, games, techniques of professional writers, and your own lives, you will create writing that struggles, overcomes, even heals, as it maps the spiritual journey of your life.  All faiths are welcome.  All struggles are welcome.  Even if your spirituality doesn’t fall neatly in a box, join us.  Boxes aren’t the best places for spirituality anyway.

This class needs a minimum of five people to run.  Some reading will be sent to you via email before the workshop begins. Cost is $80 per person.  Sign up early so we can be sure that the workshop runs, and that you receive readings for the workshop.  Bring a journal, a pen, and the heart of an explorer.

To sign up, follow this link.  For more information,  please contact Fountain Street Church.

Saturday, April 5, 9am-5pm
Fountain Street Church
(616) 459-8386

Christian Parents Who Tried to Love Their Gay Son the way the Church Taught them to   2 comments

2013-06-21-ryanprofile1.jpgOver on Huffington Post, Gay Voices, is a tragic story of Christian parents who tried very hard to love their gay son.  They prayed, though, that they would not have a gay son….and that prayer came true, in the worst possible way.

I’ve reprinted here only the beginning of this piece—but it is powerful–and the link will take you over to Huff Post for the full column.

For me, this is the tragedy of good Christian parents who aren’t ready to allow their kids to make up their minds about their sexuality. They learn that accepting your sexuality is accepting yourself–and when you aren’t allowed to accept your sexuality, you aren’t allowed to accept who you are—and that can have awful ramifications.  They do understand though—but too late to help their own son.

Read one family’s story:

FOR THE WHOLE ESSAY, Just Because He Breathes, CLICK HERE.

From Linda Robertson:

On the night of Nov. 20, 2001, a conversation held over Instant Messenger changed our lives forever. Our 12-year-old son messaged me in my office from the computer in his bedroom.

Ryan says: can i tell u something

Mom says: Yes I am listening

Ryan says: well i don’t know how to say this really but, well……, i can’t keep lying to you about myself. I have been hiding this for too long and i sorta have to tell u now. By now u probably have an idea of what i am about to say.
Ryan says: I am gay
Ryan says: i can’t believe i just told you

Mom says: Are you joking?

Ryan says: no
Ryan says: i thought you would understand because of uncle don

Mom says: of course I would
Mom says: but what makes you think you are?

Ryan says: i know i am
Ryan says: i don’t like hannah
Ryan says: it’s just a cover-up

Mom says: but that doesn’t make you gay…

Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: but u don’t understand
Ryan says: i am gay

Mom says: tell me more

Ryan says: it’s just the way i am and it’s something i know
Ryan says: u r not a lesbian and u know that. it is the same thing

Mom says: what do you mean?

Ryan says: i am just gay
Ryan says: i am that

Mom says: I love you no matter what

Ryan says: i am white not black
Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: i am a boy not a girl
Ryan says: i am attracted to boys not girls
Ryan says: u know that about yourself and i know this

Mom says: what about what God thinks about acting on these desires?

Ryan says: i know

Mom says: thank you for telling me

Ryan says: and i am very confused about that right now

Mom says: I love you more for being honest

Ryan says: i know
Ryan says: thanx

We were completely shocked. Not that we didn’t know and love gay people; my only brother had come out to us several years before, and we adored him. But Ryan? He was unafraid of anything, tough as nails and all boy. We had not seen this coming, and the emotion that overwhelmed us, kept us awake at night and, sadly, influenced all our reactions over the next six years was fear.

We said all the things that we thought loving Christian parents who believed the Bible, the Word of God, should say:

We love you. We will always love you. And this is hard. Really hard. But we know what God says about this, so you are going to have to make some really difficult choices.

We love you. We couldn’t love you more. But there are other men who have faced this same struggle, and God has worked in them to change their desires. We’ll get you their books; you can listen to their testimonies. And we will trust God with this.

We love you. We are so glad you are our son. But you are young, and your sexual orientation is still developing. The feelings you’ve had for other guys don’t make you gay. So please don’t tell anyone that you are gay. You don’t know who you are yet. Your identity is not that you are gay; it is that you are a child of God.

We love you. Nothing will change that. But if you are going to follow Jesus, holiness is your only option. You are going to have to choose to follow Jesus, no matter what. And since you know what the Bible says, and since you want to follow God, embracing your sexuality is not an option.

We thought we understood the magnitude of the sacrifice that we — and God — were asking for. And this sacrifice, we knew, would lead to an abundant life, perfect peace and eternal rewards. Ryan had always felt intensely drawn to spiritual things; He desired to please God above all else. So, for the first six years, he tried to choose Jesus. Like so many others before him, he pleaded with God to help him be attracted to girls. He memorized Scripture, met with his youth pastor weekly, enthusiastically participated in all the church youth group events and Bible Studies and got baptized. He read all the books that claimed to know where his gay feelings came from, dove into counseling to further discover the whys of his unwanted attraction to other guys, worked through painful conflict resolution with my husband and me and built strong friendships with other guys — straight guys — just like the reparative therapy experts advised. He even came out to his entire youth group, giving his testimony of how God had rescued him from the traps of the enemy, and sharing, by memory, verse after verse that God had used to draw Ryan to Him.

For the rest of the essay, please follow this link.

Sunday in the Court of Religion: After the death of DOMA and Prop 8   1 comment

4f1dc0ac2c986.preview-620The Supreme Court of the United States issued two huge rulings on gay rights Wednesday morning, June 26.  They overturned a key component of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), Section #3 which tried to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. This spells the end of DOMA; which will probably be repealed quickly since it’s been declared, in essence, unconstitutional, as it stands now.  Also, in a separate case, Hollingsworth vs. Perry, the fight over Proposition 8, the law passed in California banning gay marriage (which Judge Walker of the Ninth Circuit Court declared unconstitutional, but which Prop 8 proponents brought to the Supreme Court on appeal), those wishing to appeal Walker’s decision did not have standing.  So Walker’s decision stands and marriages can happen again in California.  Yay!  All seems right in the world.

And then Sunday comes.

Sunday, the Court of Religion meets.  And those Judges (for they aren’t Justices) have the power to perpetuate the source of hate and discrimination against the LGBT community–or they have the power to cut off that source of hate and discrimination.  It’s a make or break Sunday.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides, the public has to enact those changes.  The Court cannot legislate morality—and in some cases, those who are opposed to gay rights have found new fervor to rail against gay people.  Now we can marry!  In 13 states.  Now the Court said that gay couples can receive benefits! On our tax forms.  But if we’ve made some progress through the Supreme Court–a hard fought case–we could regress in the Court of Religion—a court that has more power over Americans than any Judicial body created by the Constitution.

Without question, most congregants will listen to their pastors.  Without question they will believe what those pastors tell them. If those pastors tell them that America is sliding downhill into the Apocalypse because loving gay couples can marry–then they will believe that.  And they will go out and hate gay people for moving them one step closer to oblivion.  (Actually, they should be thrilled–one step closer to the Apocalypse is one step closer to Heaven for them! I know my Revelation!)  Still, this Sunday has the potential to stir the hearts of good Christians even deeper against the LGBT community–or stir them deeper to love LGBT people.

Christians do not realize how potent a sermon can be—but Pastors do.  One sermon can re-enforce ages of bad dogma–or change it; it can change a weak mind, for or against; it can reassure a doubting congregant.  If you don’t know what you think about the Supreme Court helping to end discrimination against gay people (we’re a long ways from that end), you might by the end of Sunday’s sermon.

Churches have a moment to RETHINK

Imagine if Pastors took this moment to re-enforce the humanity of LGBT people, their interest in pairing up in Marriage, their love for each other–and to see the movement across the US to help LGBT people find equality under the law, and in churches everywhere.  That sermon could propel folks to think about Jesus’ work with the oppressed—and that they too, as Christians, can help the oppressed.  It could do more to help the healing: THIS Sunday.

THIS Sunday, Churches have a chance to do the most good for their congregations.  Because inside every congregation are a few gay people trying to hide, fearful of coming out.  Inside every congregation is a parent of a gay son or lesbian daughter or folks whose lives are touched by LGBT people every day.  They are not isolated from gay people.  And promoting healing through the news that LGBT people deserve better treatment under the law might promote the same kind of healing in the church between members who have been hurt.  Certainly it will make things more welcoming to those people who have LGBT family members, or friends.  Our churches must be welcoming above everything.  This is the second commandment–to love your neighbor as yourself.  And if churches aren’t welcoming–people won’t stay and hear the Good News.

Read Jim Wallis from the Huffington Post on how churches can help find “Equal Justice Under the Law

This Sunday more healing, or more damage, can be made in Churches across North America.

It is not the Justices who change the Churches, but the Churches who can change the Justice. 

CBC’s DNTO to air my story on Coming Out to My Church for “Lost Causes,” Nov 3   Leave a comment

Definitely Not the Opera, (DNTO) a CBC Radio One program devoted to the art of storytelling in Canada, asked me to tell my story of coming out to my church for their Nov 3 show “Lost Causes”.

I had pitched the idea to them last year for a different show called “Making Enemies” but withdrew the pitch because a) I don’t think I meant to make enemies, nor do I think I have made enemies; and 2) because I didn’t want to restir a pot that has finally calmed down.

But they remembered my pitch.  And they sought me out.  Which is humbling, and cool.  We recorded on Friday morning and they are editing my lengthy story to 3-4 minutes.  I appreciate Andrew Friesen’s belief that my story was important and needed to be told.  I feel like the story is more appropriate under “Lost Causes” because trying to reason with people who don’t want to listen to you, or discuss with you–and believing that you alone have to spark change–well, it can feel like a “Lost Cause”.  But in the end–and the end hasn’t come yet–who knows if the cause is lost?  I think every person who says the church must look at the evidence, must consider the Christian testimonies of LGBT folks in the discussion, is a step towards change.  We need more people who realize how many people have fallen away from the faith, have decided against Christ, have been repelled from the church, and who, sometimes when there is no hope left, taken their own lives, all because the Church has historically refused to consider the scriptures in an accepting light–and this causes their members to refuse to accept their children in an accepting light.  This splits familes.  My God and my Christ are not what I encounter when I come into a Baptist Church anymore.  I daresay they wouldn’t recognize it.  Churches are not all one defined Mass though–as many churches are beginning to change their minds about LGBT people.  Episcopals, Lutherans, Presbyterians, United Church of Canada–all have begun seeing that this is just the next issue the church has to rethink.  As it did slavery, race, and its treatment of Women.  And divorce.  Change comes when people inside churches decide they can’t hold false doctrine anymore.  Christianity and Faith are not the problem.  Interpretation is.

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Gay at Calvin College   9 comments

I’m here at Calvin College attending the Festival of Faith and Writing, one of the most amazing, one of the best, writing conferences out there.  The quality of the speakers—Gary Schmidt, Jonathan Safran Foer, Marilynne Robinson–not to mention the different seminars I’ve already taken–gives depth and urgency to writers who hope to change the world.  I have never felt such deep emotional responses to these calls and challenges to be good writers and write good stories.  Calvin College does a great thing for writers of faith.

And yet…. I find myself, as I knew I would, disturbed by Calvin College’s policy towards GLBT students.  It’s an ethical dilemma.

Calvin’s stance on GLBT issues

To their credit, Calvin is far more liberal than most Christian colleges.  They do not run them off campus, as they did in my day.  So by that measure, I should be pleased.  I have read their FAQs on their policy towards homosexuality and GLBT students, and you can read it here:  Calvin’s FAQs about homosexuality.

You’ll notice that it’s very kind and generous.  It acknowledges that gays and lesbians are attracted to same sex people.

“While the orientation seems usually to lie outside the scope of an individual’s will, by God’s power and grace, behavior lies within it.

Calvin College is also concerned that homosexual members of our community are treated with respect, justice, grace and understanding in the Spirit of Christ. We recognize the complexity of current issues around homosexuality and desire to engage this conversation with courage, humility, prayerfulness and convicted civility.”  (I use the quotation marks here because my pic makes it difficult to know where the quote starts and ends.)

It’s that sexual behavior that seems so SEPARATE to Calvin; it’s almost ridiculous.  However, they want to frame a “conversation” in respectful terms.  Conversation, of course, means that both sides are listening.  But I appreciate their dedication to civility, a civility that they have the authority to enforce.

In the classroom, Calvin College notes that multiple perspectives may be explored by students:

In exploring the full range of human experience, faculty will certainly acquaint students with many perspectives that are inconsistent with the confessions, but will do so from a perspective of adherence to the confessions.

That policy– the adherence to confessions–can be found in the the newest document on academic freedom for professors and students.   Mentioned in these FAQs, it addresses how faculty should approach difficult topics.  The underlying conclusion, as you read here, is that the administration is not wrong, and that they are not the ones listening, but the ones correcting:

We have learned that the best outcomes for such conversations are those in which an inquirer later reports “I’m glad I asked. I really do see this now from another, more biblical, point of view,” or where the faculty or staff member reports “I’m glad you raised this. I hadn’t been aware of all the ramifications of my view, and I’ve now refined it to take other concerns into account,” or where both later say “we disagree, but we remain open to learning from each other” or “I realize that I need to learn more and think further about any position I advance.” Not every inquiry will end in this way. But we have learned to give such questions every chance to end with a positive outcome.

I like to point out that their “positive outcome” is one where there is learning on the inquirer’s side only.  However, Calvin’s new policies on homosexuality do protect gays and lesbians from negative slurs, prejudice, etc.— however, they don’t realize the institutionalized creation of prejudice they engender by their different treatment of gays and lesbians.  Watch the FAQs carefully:

[SAGA–Sexuality Awareness, Gender Acceptance] is not a ‘student organization,’ but a group of students with a counselor mentor from the Broene Counseling Center, who seek to educate others at Calvin about the challenges faced by homosexual students.

Gays are given groups within the auspices of counseling.  “These are not student organizations” the policy says emphatically, thereby denying them student rights.  They are, instead, places of refuge for gays and lesbians and places where they can, apparently, come to terms with the fact that God wants them to remain celibate–and teach others how to treat them better because of their “challenges”.  *note the student response below for a great insight into SAGA and Calvin College that I didn’t know, and am very pleased to hear.  While policy may be against gays at Calvin, the people there aren’t.

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The Great Men and Women of History who were gay

“Within the typical secondary school curriculum,  homosexuals  do not exist.   They are ‘nonpersons’ in the finest Stalinist sense. They have fought no battles, held no offices, explored nowhere, written no literature, built nothing, invented nothing and solved no equations.  The lesson to the heterosexual student is abundantly clear: homosexuals do nothing of consequence. To the homosexual student, the message has even greater power: no one who has ever felt as you do has done anything worth mentioning.” -Gerald Unks, editor, The Gay Teen, p. 5. From Famous Gay People.

It’s difficult for gay Christians to come out because they don’t see a place for themselves in the world–because frankly, all the past gay people have been erased from history, or had their gayness washed away.  What could you accomplish, really, as a gay or lesbian in this world?

Famous People who were gay

There are some hugely famous people who were gay.  In fact, as an English Teacher I could design a syllabus of American Literature solely with GLBT authors and you’d think it looked like every other American Literature survey in colleges:  Willa Cather, Tennessee Williams, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman (of course), James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, Henry David Thoreau, Countee Cullen, Adrienne Rich, just to name a few.  These are hardly the marginalized authors of American literature–these are The Canon.  You can’t do a survey course without Whitman, Melville, Williams, Dickinson, Hughes, Emerson and Thoreau…you can’t.  Our culture has been interpreted and refined through their pens and their lens.

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