Archive for April, 2011

April 29, 2011

“Still?”

I had custody of my little sister for awhile. She’s now independent. That was not the goal, and it happened more quickly than we planned but, well, there it is. We don’t talk much.

We didnt’ talk much when she lived with me, either. It was weird, trying to be her guardian when really we are just siblings. Siblings who are pretty close in age. I’m six and a half years older. That’s not a ton of life experience, really. It’s some, but not a ton.

But it wasn’t all a bad experience. I mean, we both lived. There was even some laughter. And it was nice to catch up with her after living apart and, indeed, not talking for so long. Nice to be around somebody from my family, who knew my past and who I had hundreds of inside jokes with. Somebody I didn’t have to explain my aversion to mayonaise to. Somebody who I used to pass sign-language notes with across the table. Somebody who will still burst into laughter when I say the line “stick out your tongue.” We did, after all, grow up together.

At one point I took her over to one of those movie rental kiosk things to get a couple of movies (Los Angeles to rural-ish Maine was a shift for her… not much in the way of entertainment). When you slide your card it asks for your zip code. Without really thinking I tapped “90-” first… and then hit back, and hit “04609.” My sister looked at me and laughingly said, “Still?” I had been about to type the zip code from back home. More than 5 years after I left, with 4 zip codes learned since then, I still defaulted to “90260” when I wasn’t thinking about it. And she recognized what I did, and smiled.

Yesterday my dad called. Our conversationgs are remarkably easy if only because we both have a mental script. “How’s work?” “how’s stepmom/grandmother/brother/stepsisters?” “well, nice talking to you” “give stepmom a hug for me” “bye.” He diverted from the script for a minute to say that he was helping grandma fix up her bathroom. I laughed and said, “oh, finishing Grandpa’s renovation, eh?”

Grandpa started that renovation when I was 4. He passed away two years ago, at which point finally somebody else was allowed to step in and help finish it up.

And my mind was immediately swimming with all of the memories of my grandfather. How any day’s work was shot if it didn’t start by 9:30am. How, “damnit, Charlotte! I’m thinking!” was basically his constant refrain. How his “thinking” involved sitting in his old brown arm chair, watching football on mute while he listened to his slightly out of tune radio talk politics at him.

All of that unvoiced but present in our conversation.

“Yep. Still.”

April 13, 2011

I AM trans. I just don’t try very hard.

Added: 4/15/2011

Yikes!  With the amount of publicity that this is getting I feel bad not saying what sparked it.  This entire analogy came from a conversation with my former minister, Rev. Leela Sinha.  She is truly inspirational and amazing.  You can find out more about her current work at her website!

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At 5’2″ and 130 lbs it’s hard for me to look masculine.  And some days it’s not worth it.  Some days getting up and flattening and tucking and layering and angsting over what clothes will best hide my hips and chest loses out to getting up and putting on whatever is most comfortable, or frankly what looks best.  Some days it’s a lot easier to get up, throw something on, accept that that outfit means I’ll be read more often as female, and just walk out the door.

A few months ago I made the decision to stop getting upset or annoyed when I was misgendered in public by, say, somebody at a store or in a restaurant.  A couple months after that I stopped being annoyed with friends who “messed up” my pronouns.  I get it, honestly.  I really have stopped trying as hard as I had been for a couple of years.  Sure I’d like a deeper voice, but I’m not as anxious for it as I had been.  Sure I’d like a body that fits how I feel a little more, but I have more important, fun and exciting things to save my money for.

So yes, I am trans.  But I don’t try very hard.

And yes, I am trans.  But I don’t care that much.

Because I live in the middle ground of gender.  While most of the world functions either on side A or Side B (that is to say in a binary system – male or female) I am that mysterious other.  And I’m no longer telling myself that I am just passing through this middle ground on the way from one side to the other.  My camp is no longer temporary.  It’s no longer a camp.  I’m building a house here on this middle ground, and I get that that confuses people.

Side A and Side B make sense to people.  You are male.  You are female.  You live on Side A which means you do these things, you like these things, and you want to be these things.  Some people live in the big cities, some live in the suburbs, and some even come and camp in the middle ground at times, either to later return to their own side, or to cross over to the other side.  But most folks don’t live on the middle ground.  Some live here intentionally, like me, and others live here because Side A threw them out but Side B won’t take them.

It’s kind of like living on a fault line where things are shifting and shaking and sometimes our house foundations crack because the building codes that work in Side A and Side B don’t really apply to The Middleground.  But instead of helping us to develop better housing structures most of the people who live on Side A and Side B either pretend we aren’t here or they tell us that nobody is SUPPOSED to live in The Middleground so we deserve what we are getting anyway.

We have allies on both sides too, of course.  Folks who come in with reinforcements to help us shore up our houses and build new ones.  And more and more people are coming in to help us out every day, folks who have visited The Middleground and folks who haven’t.

Why on earth would we want to live here, then?  It doesn’t sound like much fun.  But for those of us who choose to live here it’s about authenticity, and realness, and loving and living who we are as fully as we can.  It’s embracing what this great, big, glorious Universe has given us not as a burden or something to be dealt with but as just another part of life to dance around the stars with.  And that dance can happen anywhere; side A, side B, the Middleground, or anywhere else you find yourself.  Whether you’re visiting, renting, buying, or peeking in from afar, welcome to my life.

April 12, 2011

Are we willing to be changed by what we’ve started? – Minns Lectures – Post 1 of ???

As was mentioned time and again this weekend, Unitarian Universalism, as a denomination, is turning fifty this year. Anybody who was active in the denomination when the merger happened is now, at least, approaching retirement age. Our membership, which had been slightly but steadily growing has begun to decline.

This weekend was focused on three questions. “Where are we now? What’s possible? What’s next?” We had a pretty easy time with “where are we now” because, let’s face it, criticism is easy. We can see what has to be changed. We had a lot to say about where are we now. Harder, though no less important, was naming the strengths of where we are now. We have set lofty goals for who we are as a denomination and now we get to deal with that. We have passed some crucial markers, recognized and dealt with a lot of flaws, and now it’s time to work past that surface layer of what being a religious denomination means and really dig in.

Reverend Rob Hardies, the minister of All Souls in DC had us stand up and sing the first and fifth verses of “Bring Many Names.” The fifth verse starts“Young, growing God, eager still to learn, willing to be changed by what you’ve started.”

We have started something big and amazing and powerful and transformative and now we have to live with that. We are unique in many ways, but we are far from the only liberal religion, far from perfect, and far from meeting the needs of everyone who we could be providing a religious and spiritual home for.

Get out of our own way today
see where we are needed
know where we are planted
and go there
and go there and go there
deep into the heart of the bramble and thicket
into the unknown and uncharted
may our passions take us where no one has gone before
because somebody has to
-Rev L. Sinha

Are we willing to be changed by what we have started? Are we willing to get out of our own way, and go there, for any number of definitions of “there”? Are we willing to look at what we have built, recognize it for all that it is AND all that it isn’t, and take the steps to change what has to be changed so that we really CAN be the face of liberal religion for a new generation?

Our voices are needed by so many, and could be relevant to so many, and there are ways to spread our message. A lot of wonderful ideas were shared this weekend about what various churches are doing and we had an amazing opportunity to sit down with one another at tables and chat about what we want to see happen, what we had heard, and what we were hoping to hear more of.

My big question right now, though, is “are we willing?” Above anything else that’s what is important.

Over the next week or so I’ll be blogging more about stuff that came out of the Minns Lectures. If there’s anything You’d like to hear about let me know!

April 11, 2011

Ecumenical =/= Interfaith

I have about 200,001 observations to post about the Minns Lectures I attended this weekend. I’ll start posting those soon. Really. But right now I want to post just a quick hit on the second of the conferences I attended this weekend; the Boston New Sanctuary Movement conference.

I considered writing up a summary of the Sanctuary Movement from the 80s, but why think when I can have Wikipedia think for me?

The Sanctuary Movement was a religious and political campaign that began in the early 1980s to provide safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. It responded to restrictive federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult for Central Americans. At its peak, Sanctuary involved over 500 congregations across the country that, by declaring themselves official “sanctuaries,” committed to providing shelter, material goods and often legal advice to Central American refugees. Various denominations were involved, including the Lutherans, United Church of Christ, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Jews, Unitarian Universalists, Quakers, and Mennonites. Movement members acted in open defiance of federal law, and many prominent Sanctuary figures were arrested and put on trial in the mid and late 1980s.

So there’s that.

The New Sanctuary Movement, at least here in Boston, focuses on education and advocacy work. It’s an interfaith organization that seeks to educate and activate people of faith around the immigrant rights movement.

Anyway, I went to the conference today. I thought that there was some awesome stuff to be said and I thought that it was a great introduction to some of the work of the New Sanctuary Movement.

But none of that is really what this post is about. I mean, not really.

This post is about the word ecumenical, and what it does not mean. And about the word faith, and what it does not mean. And this post is about learning that sometimes people listen to me.

We opened with some basic conference jazz about what nifty and amazing things you could find in your conference folder, directions to the bathroom, and and explanation of where the workshops would be held. While sitting there as a big group we were told to raise our hands according to faith tradition. I happened to be sitting next to one of two Catholic people n the room when UUism was called out (actually he said “Unitarians,” but I’ll fight that battle another time) and around half the room raised their hands. “I guess we’re under representing” said the woman next to me, with a laugh.

And then the BSN was introduced and the word ecumenical was used.

Ecumenical, you know? According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, “late 16c., ‘representing the entire (Christian) world,’”.

Right, THAT ecumenical.

I sent a kind of fake-annoyed Tweet/Facebook post out about it, and mostly forgot about it until I got to my first workshop. The first workshop I chose to attend was one about Faith and US Immigration History. I really thought I was signing up for a discussion of how faith traditions of played a role in immigration to the US throughout history. The workshop opened with a discussion of what our faiths had to say on immigration… except we only talked about the Bible. What Bible verses could we name that dealt with immigration? What bible stories could we think of? And that was the entirety of the faith piece. We moved on to a timeline of when various immigrant groups came to the US, and then thought for a second on the question, “Who is an American?” and it was just about time to end.

Between the first question and the last I had been doing some thinking.

Some scribbling.

Some quick mental math.

“Do you mind if I say something quickly?” I asked.

“Go ahead,” said the lovely woman leading the workshop.

I didn’t want to miss anything. Or offend anybody.

So I read from the paper I’d written on.

“The Boston New Sanctuary movement is an interfaith movement, not solely an Ecumenical movement. 21% of the people in this workshop, and 26% of the members and partners of the Boston New Sanctuary movement are Unitarian Universalist or Unitarian Universalist Affiliated, which is the perspective I speak from. As a non-creedal and non-doctrinal faith tradition we do not get our drive for immigrant justice from the Bible but rather from our principals that call us to promote respect for the inherent worth and dignity of all people and justice, equity and compassion in human relationships. By restricting the “faith” part of this discussion to Biblical stories and verses it really negates a lot of the non-christian faith-based actions regarding immigration reform.”

Yes. I said that.

Ok, ok, settle down, stop laughing.

I have never, ever claimed to not be a dork.

Ever.

Look, I just didn’t want to forget anything, ok?

And I like numbers!

I’m never going to live that down.

But it did work. After that workshop, which ended a minute or two later, the woman who had led the “faith” portion of the workshop came up to me and asked if I had suggestions to make it more open. I explained a little about the principles and sources we had.

And, yes, I pulled out one of the UU palm cards.

So we talked for a few minutes, and she later told me that during the second workshop she led that she included UUism in the discussion. I’m not sure if she included anything about the Jewish or Muslim organizations that are also part of the BSN. I should have said something about that. I didn’t. I’m kind of bummed.

But I did say something. I spoke up and I was taken seriously and something was changed because of that, albeit something small.

I felt bad about it afterward. I know how hard leading workshops can be sometimes and I know that I hate being criticized after workshops. Workshops become like your child. You are fiercely protective over them. But it needed to be said.

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