Archive for March, 2011

March 30, 2011

I apologized… and I blame Kate Braestrup.

In Kate Braestrup’s book Here if You Need Me she has this fabulous part about being the parent volunteer to teach the “morality” aspect of their sexuality education curriculum.  And somehow she ends up telling them this (very summarized) story:

She was walking into the YMCA to go swimming with her kids.  They all had cards to the Y but they never used them, just waving to the woman behind the desk and heading in.  But one time they showed up to go swimming and the woman behind the desk said that they had to swipe the cards.  Braestrup was annoyed, and had to dig through all of the bags to find the cards, and when she eventually did she was abrupt and curt in swiping them.  But in the changing room she started feeling bad about how she’d acted, and put her street clothes back on to go apologize.

Now, let me tell you about my post-work pre-date day.

I left work at 3 to head to the bank to try to revive my long-dormant account.  My current bank account is with the “First National Bank of Bar Harbor” which, shockingly enough, has a lack of branches around these parts.  I went to the bank, and finally got all of that settled, and rewarded myself with a cup of coffee.  I walked through the square, got a hug from a good friend, and was about to cross the street to head down into the subway when a woman stops me.

“Can I tell you about Jesus?” she asked, eagerly.

“Only if I can tell you about the Prophet Muhammad,” I responded, assuming that would end the conversation.

“Here, take some information about Jesus and his eternal love,” she said, handing me a tract.

“Only if I can give you some information on Unitarian Universalism” I responded, grabbing one of those principles and sources cards out of my wallet (now you all know that deep dark secret about me… I carry those cards around).

She smiled, and it was a mostly-pleasant interraction, all in all.  But I didn’t really want to repeat it.  I wanted to catch a train and bury my nose in a book.  I wanted to get home with enough time to eat dinner and get ready for my date.

But then I crossed the street, turned the corner, and I met her counterpart.  Same church, same tracts, way different personality.

“Have you heard the good news about Jesus?” she asked.

“Oh for chrissakes, no, I don’t want a tract.” I said, rudely walking away from her.

Look, I know that evangelists get blown off a lot.  I know that they are ignored and cursed at and that they are expecting these things when they hit the pavement to save souls.  I know that.  But it doesn’t make it OK for me to be rude.  And as I rode that first escalator down I thought, “wow, that really wasn’t affirming that woman’s worth and dignity.”  and a few seconds later, “I’ve been in a similar position to her, and she really does think she’s doing the right thing,” and finally I thought,

“DAMNIT KATE BRAESTRUP.”

I turned around, got back on the up escalator.

Walked out the doors.

Approached the woman.

“I’m sorry for being rude to you.  That was uncalled for.”

She smiled at me, “It’s ok, honey.” she responded with a smile.

And then I got on the train, buried my nose in a book, walked home, got ready for my date, and had a pretty nice evening.

March 26, 2011

What do you want to read about?

religion?

queer stuff?

my life in Boston?

queer religion stuff in Boston?

Something else entirely?

You tell me!

March 14, 2011

I’m pretty sure my upbringing told me not to be okay with this.

(I’m going to get kinda vulnerable here. For the time being I’m going to leave comments open but if there starts to be any fighting there I’m just going to close them down)

I guess I’ve found a church. I like the services, I like the people, and I like the minister. I really like the minister. Which sounds like a good thing, and it is a good thing, but it’s also challenging for me to admit it.

Because, you see, the minister is a straight, white, cisgender, 50-something man. And for the last ten or so years among my social circles, straight, white, cisgender, 50-something men have been tantamount to evil incarnate. They make the laws we hate, they make decisions about our lives, our futures; they oppress us and often without a thought. They govern. Simply: they are not nice, affirming, relatable people. They are not people who recognize their privilege or who know how to step back and allow those who they obviously feel superior to to voice their opinions. They are unwavering in the assumed truth of their knowledge and unkind in their actions.

They are Other.

And naturally I have trouble entering into an I-Thou relationship with somebody who is so… other. I do not want to be in an I-Thou relationship with Glenn Beck, and I certainly don’t want to be in one with any other form of hegemonic evil incarnate, thankyouverymuch.

Except… well…

I like this guy.

I think he has great stuff to say. I like his sermons, and the couple times I’ve spoken with him, I’ve appreciated what he has said. He seems to respect boundaries (anybody who doesn’t assume I want to hug them gains BIG points in my book). He has mentioned privilege more than once, and I have it on the authority of a friend that he’s cool with privilege being pointed out to him.

But, still, it feels weird.

Because I really have spent almost 12 years of my life being taught all that stuff I talked about above. When I was looking for a church in the area I tried out services where I knew the minister was queer before I decided to give my new church a try.

How have I made it through 23 years without somebody slapping me?!

Seriously. How? Folks, when your friends are displaying this level of asshattery you can slap them–at least verbally.

Before you all start with the lecturing, do me a favor and please read the rest of this post!

In Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s book “Surprised by God” she describes how when she began attending Shul on Friday night she’d wear her clubbing clothes so she could go out right after. As her attendance became a regular weekly event, she started dressing more conservatively, more respectfully. But, she wrote, she doesn’t regret dressing like she did at first, because at that time in her life she needed to know that she would be accepted, just as she was. Once she knew that, then it was okay to fit in, to conform, to be at peace with more traditional things.

When I first said to myself in Maine “alright, dude, you’re going to church. And it’s okay.” I was able to see somebody I related to on more than one level in the pulpit. I knew it was fine to be myself because I saw it was fine for the minister to be herself. I had to grow comfortable with just being at a church, to know that in that context who I was was okay.

I do wonder if I’d have stayed at the church in Maine if the minister had been an older, straight, white guy. Obviously there’s no way for me to know. I like to think that I would have been able to see beyond my own pre-judgment and assumptions and hear the message that was being spoken, but part of me thinks I wouldn’t have. I’m fairly certain I’d never have reached out to the minister as I need to then.

One thing that minister in Maine taught me was about growth, and how it happens. There’s a place where we are comfortable, and a place were we are just uncomfortable enough to grow, and another place where we are so radically uncomfortable that we dig in our heels and refuse to grow. When you are first thrown into new situation that’s so different from who and where you currently are, you are automatically pretty high in the discomfort zone. And so if somebody tries to push you when you are there, you dig in your heels. You can’t grow.

Church was uncomfortable for me at first. I was in the “I can grow” zone, but just barely. Having a queer minister helped me feel comfortable because who she was did not challenge me–what she SAID did, but who she was did not. So, I grew. Now I am at the place where church is comfortable, and I can trust some, I can be pushed more. I can be made to grow again. I’m not being shoved up into the “digging my heels in refusing to grow” place.

One of my friends said that one of her mentors refers to things like this as AGEs – Another Growth Experience. I mentioned it before, months ago, that I never met with my minister in her office. We conversed almost exclusively via Facebook and very occasionally after service. Last week I emailed my new minister and I asked, “How can I get involved at the church?” the response, quite reasonably, was, “why don’t you come in some time next week and we can talk?”

And after a couple minutes hesitation I tapped out, “I’d love to come in and chat sometime.”

And I wasn’t even lying.

March 7, 2011

Whatever happened to genderqueer priests… oh wait.

Yesterday at church the sermon title was, “Whatever Happened to Women Priests?” It was a good sermon, with lots of historical stuff I didn’t know. I liked it, listened attentively, and learned a lot. After the service a friend came up and asked how I had felt about the service (thank you!) and I told her that I genuinely did like it, but she probed a little, asking how I’d felt about it as somebody outside the gender binary. And I’d totally be lying if I said that that didn’t come to mind during the service.

There’s not a history of out trans people going into ministry. This is the first generation where it’s really even been any kind of possible. I can’t open a bible or another holy book and read stories of trans priests or religious leaders of any kind from history, fictional or real. I know some genderqueer clergy now… 3 of them, to be precise. But it’s all new, it’s stuff that congregations and leaders are learning as time goes on, and that learning takes the pace of human growth which is agonizingly slow at times.

I have so much more to say about this but I can’t make the words come out right.

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