Archive for September, 2011

September 26, 2011

Rainbow Flag Hatred

Our rainbow flag that hung outside our church was stolen.  Twice, actually.  Once it happened during a storm, so it’s possible (unlikely, but possible) that it fell.  The second time it had been hung higher, way out of reach.  There was no storm.  It was removed by force.

Our minister sent out a really nice email about it, assuring us that we’d rehang and rededicate the flag.  He mentioned talking to the police about it, which I was less than thrilled about, but all in all I think it was handled well.

The missing flag didn’t really bother me THAT much.  It didn’t really have an impact on my life.  I get harassed and discriminated and simply misunderstood all the time.  I can’t go into a public bathroom without funny looks, and when customers at the coffee shop feel like insulting me “fag” is usually the term that pops up first.  I know I automatically won’t get a decent number of jobs simply because I’m trans and I got asked to leave a men’s dressing room the other day and told that I had to walk across the store to the women’s side if I wanted to try on clothes.

Clearly I’d prefer that our flag NOT get stolen but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal in my mind.  Until the Boston Globe article came out about it.

I idly clicked on it from our Church’s Facebook page, and then I made a mistake and I read the comments.

The comments fell into three categories.

  1. We deserved it and/or that it didn’t matter
  2. It was taken as a prank
  3. A queer person took it because they wanted a flag

Let’s debunk that third statement first.  Queer folks know the meaning of the Rainbow flag.  We know the importance of places of worship hanging the rainbow flag prominently.  And, by and large, we know where to buy a freaking rainbow flag.  To me this reasoning is purely demonizing and mocking the queer community.  This comment has been “recommended” sixteen times,

“I’m thinking that it is a gay, lesbian or transgender that stole the flag for themselves, just like a Red Sox, Celtics Bruins or Patriots might take take a pennant, if someone were out there flying it so proudly. GEEEEZ..the homosexual community is so paranoid!”

And

This is a city of students. Somewhere there are 2 GLBT students with a big-a$s souvenir flag hanging on the wall of their dorm room. (recommended 7 times)

As to taking it as a prank?  Well, it’s certainly possible.  But even if taken as a prank it’s still a prank that either targets the queer community or targets a church that visibly and vocally supports the queer community.  One comment to this effect reads,

“Why are so many jumping to conclusions? We don’t know the reason it was stolen. Punk kids stealing for the fun of stealing not caring what it stands for? (A colorful flag attracts more attention.) Someone stealing it because they liked the way it looks?”

That comment has been “recommended” 5 times.  Somehow I just don’t buy that our flag was stolen because it’s rainbow and shiny things attract thieves.  And the idea that it was pretty so it was taken, without having any knowledge or conception of what it stands for?  Really, you live in Boston and you don’t know that the rainblow flag symbolizes LGBTQ people?

It’s the idea that we deserved it, though, that hurts me the most; that our flag should have been stolen because we’re SO different, SO evil, SO deserving of this hatred that we don’t matter.  Look at some of those comments.

If an “undocumented welfare recipient” steals a car, a local cop drives home a state senator when he is drunk,or a NAMBLA member is working at a day care center no big deal, but if a rainbow flag is stolen, it is time to put out video cameras, and take DNA samples.  Welcome to moonbat central. (recommended 30 times, the most of any comment)

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The UU church advocates for illegal immigrants, and some congregations are illegally harboring them. If they’re going to break the law and encourage others to do so, how can they complain about other people breaking the law. (recommended 7 times)

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Oh no someone stole the rainbow flag. Professor Gates must be in a tizzy. is he searching the neighborhood on his adult tricycle? (recommended 24 times)

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(“It’s unfortunate that we have to respond to the spiteful acts of one or perhaps a handful of people who are themselves caught in the grip of fear and ignorance,” said Senior Minister Fred Small.)

That’s a broad brush reverend. Why wait for a suspect? Why be like Al Sharpton?

There are ample rainbow stickers, pink triangles, other rainbow flags all around to be defaced or stolen. Show me a pattern but otherwise keep your suspicions and accusations to yourself without better evidence, thanks.(recommended 8 times)

I don’t feel like I live that outside the norm of society.  Not really.  I eat at the same restaurants and shop as the same stores and walk the same streets and ride the same public transportation as the folks writing these comments.  But it’s not simply that I don’t believe the things that people write, not that my opinion simply differs.  These things legitimately have never crossed my mind.  How did it get switched around to being about immigration?  Why the racist comments?  Why the insistence that it must have been a queer person that did it, or a goofy but well intentioned prankster, or anybody but who it (likely) was?

I know I’m queer and I know I’m more politically active than your average 20-something and I know I’ve probably read a few more books on social movements than is healthy.  I know I do purposely seclude myself from some aspects of society by not doing things like watching violent movies, listening to music that doesn’t support my values, and not attending stuff that I might otherwise like to do because I’m supporting a boycott or simply trying not to give certain institutions more money.  But doesn’t everyone do that to an extent?  People don’t go see things that they don’t like.  They don’t listen to things that don’t make them happy.  They don’t go places or do things if those places have hurt them or people they care about.

I know that they are just comments on a news site online and therefore I should treat them as more meaningless than scribbles in the margins of a library book.  But these comments are said by real people in my real community where I have to live every day.  For real.  And it both hurts and scares me to think that people feel these things about my faith community and, by proxy, about me.

Being visibly present is really a huge and necessary step.  Flying our rainbow flag for the community to see is a really simple way to say, “We love you, we value you, we support you.  Come as you are.  Welcome.”

I’m thrilled that we’ll be hanging a new flag, higher up, and rededicating it as a congregation next Sunday.  I am once again reminded that we aren’t done fighting for queer rights.  I should know that; I live that fact every day.  Sometimes I don’t want to fight for my right to live as who I am, but then this gives me that jolt that wakes me up and reminds me of my LGBTQ ancestors.

They fought for me so I can start at point H rather than point A.  And I have to continue to fight and to live as who I am so that the next generation can start at an even further point on this timeline of acceptance.

“We meet you in joy and love.  We see your inherent worth and dignity.  Welcome to First Parish.”

September 25, 2011

Circle-ness and Clarity of Call

I like circles.  I’ve been in a lot of circles in my life.  Prayer circles and introduction circles and meeting circles and massage circles and classroom circles and once in a circle of kayaks in Frenchman Bay.

We sat in a lot of circles at General Assembly.  And stood.  And sang and discussed and prayed and… pretty much anything you can do in a circle we did.  Circles of a couple hundred people, excited and engaged and inspired, and circles of just two, hands held in prayer or silence or just space.

For the opening young adult worship we did a spiral dance into the space, holding hands and circling in tighter and tighter and then spiraling back out before sitting, the whole time singing.

Spiraling into the center
The center of our soul
Spiraling into the center
The center of our soul
We are the weavers, we are the woven ones
We are the dreamers, we are the dream
We are the weavers, we are the woven ones
We are the dreamers, we are the dream

At the closing youth and young adult worship at General Assembly we sat in a circle; in a lot of concentric circles, actually, some folks on chairs, most on the floor.  The mood was less excited and expectant, at least for me, and more somber with the realization it was already almost over.  I was sad to be leaving, I knew reentry would suck, and I knew that fact would be hard to explain to friends.  As part of worship we were supposed to take one of these poorly-quartered pieces of paper from the floor and write down what we were going to bring back from General Assembly.  I actually thought it was kind of dumb when it was announced.  It seemed to break the spirit of worship but, figuring it was meaningful for some, I went ahead and jotted something down.  I didn’t put a huge amount of thought into it, though it was not without intention or meaning.  I put the paper in the middle of the room with the rest.

At the end of the service we were to pick up one of the papers in the middle and bring that home with us.  I grabbed one, started making evening plans, and then opened it as I walked out of the room.  Scrawled in messy all caps were seven statements.

Vision. 

Clarity of Call.

More Compassion. 

Sense of Place. 

Grief Shared. 

Grief Held.

Understanding.

 

In that whole “interdependent web” sense we recognize that every actions has an effect on every other action which has an effect on every other action and so-on to infinity.  But there’s the idea of knowing that in theory, or in past practice, and then there’s what happens when it walks up and slaps you in the face with how oblivious you are.

Vision.  My ability to see and interpret and acknowledge and express.

Clarity of Call.  I will go into ministry.  The form that will take remains unknown, but I will.

More compassion.  For people and their spiritual journeys and for  what I cannot comprehend.

Sense of place.  I belong here.

Grief shared.  Though prayer and song and meetings and worship and that love of community.

Grief held.  The pain of others taken on that I may lessen and help or simply be with another.

Understanding.  Just a bit more comprehension than I used to have, and the understanding that there’s always so much more out there to learn, see, do, change, love, worship, hold, be.

Thank you to whoever wrote those words.  On the off chance that you happened to read this post AND you want to reveal yourself, I’d love to know who it was.  But know I appreciate you, and your ability to articulate my mind better than I was, and your willingness to open yourself to a small piece of paper, and for the simplistic beauty of your words.

September 21, 2011

Comprehending the Death Penalty

Do you remember the day you were able to really comprehend what the death penalty meant?  Not heard of it for the first time but the day that you realized that we, as a country, kill people and that there are people who think it’s a good idea?

It was May 31st 1996 and I was a couple weeks shy of turning nine years old.  My mother was in one of her rare good moods and we were listening to the news when there was some brief story about three men being executed in California that night.  And we still had the news on a couple hours later when it was announced that they’d been executed.

That was the minute I became firmly against the death penalty.  Those three men had been alive minutes before and now they were dead because somebody had killed them.  My eight year old mind blissfully did not enter into the realm of how they were killed; that knowledge would come later.  Instead my eight year old mind, still in that black and white world of thinking, good and evil, right and wrong.

It’s like when I learned that there were people against abortion rights, that some people who didn’t believe that everyone should be able to freely practice their own religion or that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to be married.  It’s the injustice that you don’t question the injustice of because your  4 or 7 or 10 or 24 year old mind can’t see the other side.

Tonight Troy Davis was killed.  After all the rallying and support and stays of execution and finally getting SCOTUS involved still an innocent man was killed because we live in a country where that’s something that can happen.  I don’t know why of all the unjust executions that happen in this country we chose to rally around this one.  The obvious innocence was obviously a big factor, but Davis was hardly the first to have that be the case.  Somehow, though, Davis’ case became a rallying point for those who have always been against the death penalty and those who are just now comprehending what it means that we have the death penalty to speak out against it.

Death is final in the sense that Troy Davis, as a person, will not come back to us as he was.  That life is gone.  What happens next is of little consequence as it relates to the future of the death penalty in our country.  Will the momentum from Davis’ case carry on though he is gone?  Will we keep fighting until the state sponsored murder of all people, innocent or not, stops?

These are the questions we will ponder as the grief settles and turns into drive and want for change.  Where are we going?  How will we get there?  Who will be with us?  Why has it taken so long?

September 18, 2011

This is not the exhaustion of love

For me, for anybody I assume, if you are doing something you just love beyond comprehension then exhaustion doesn’t catch up to you.  I can run a political campaign sixteen hours a day for weeks on end and fall in to bed at night exhausted but HAPPY to be exhausted.  I can take both kids on the train to breakfast and then church on Sundays and then drop them back home and then turn right around and head to hang out with my fabulous queers and talk politics and religion and everything in the world and hop on my bike to go help run some volunteer project and then maybe get a late night coffee with a friend before heading home, 14 hours after I left that morning.  That’s the exhaustion of love.  The exhaustion that you are thrilled to have because the stuff that caused it is beautiful and affirming and you WANT it.  All of it.

This is not that exhaustion.  This is the exhaustion of never being home, never having a minute to rest, and still not really accomplishing anything.  It is the exhaustion where I get to the train that morning and don’t quite remember actually waking up or getting ready.  This is the exhaustion of monotony and of not moving forward in life.  The exhaustion of spending most of my time not doing anything to make the world better.  This is just plain old exhaustion.

I don’t like my job.  I work at a coffee shop, and I’m not particularly friends with most of the folks there.  A few I actively do not like; they are rude to me, make fun of me, etc.  It’s not something I look forward to showing up for on a daily basis.  It is very much a “filler” job – something to do until I have something better to do.  This is what runs through my head every time I show up for work and every time I leave work and most of the time during work.

And then?  Then comes the guilt.

I should be happy to have a job when so many don’t.  I should be happy that I will have somewhere warm and safe to call home this winter because last year I didn’t.  I should be happy about so many things and I’m not.  I complain.

I haven’t been anywhere not accessible by Boston public transportation since I went to General Assembly in June and prior to June it was a day trip in April.  And I know that millions of Americans never go on vacation and I’ve read the same stories you have about kids in Los Angeles who live within miles of the beach and have never seen it.

I know I shouldn’t complain.  I should be out there, being the change I wish to see in my own life.  I’m trying but the exhaustion catches up with me.  The exhaustion of everything I am doing and everything I am not doing and everything I wish I was doing but can’t find time for.

This is not simply exhaustion that sleep can repair.  My mental self is tired.  My mental self craves change and engagement and excitement and movement.  I’m getting none of that right now and I need to make that not the case.

Next question is, “how?”

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