For those of you that have evolved in your thinking and those of you that accept the LGBTQ community for what it is, without judgement and without prejudice, you may find the actions I witnessed today unbelievable and ignorant.
I believe many of us naively thought once the supreme court of the United States confirmed that people who identify as LGBTQ deserved the same rights as any other American our fight was over. Sure there will always be people that don’t care for us…but they won’t be able to treat us as if we are not equal.
Silly us. Though we have made great strides and though we are now afforded many of the same rights as others, there are still plenty of people in our country that believe who we are and how we live is “sinful” and “wrong.” The same people will continue to fight against any advance we make socially, politically and religiously.
Today I was reminded of this.
I attended a conference for people that work with the senior population. Organized by Tarrant Area Gerontological Society. The majority of the event planners and attendees were social workers. When a group of social workers get together you know most of the conversations will be inclusive, progressive and tilt to the left. Our conferences tend to focus on ways to assure the people we serve are given the tools they need to function in the world.
Rarely do we find ourselves having to confront prejudice during a conference. Today that changed. Our conference was held at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Apparently they took issue with the fact that the Coalition for Aging LGBT paid to have a vender booth and would be presenting one of the educational sessions. The seminary refused to allow the organization to have a booth. They actually went to the board of directors of TAGS and told them the booth must be dismantled. It is my understanding that when the group attempted to challenge the seminary’s decision they were told if they put the booth back up they would not be provided a microphone for the presentation.
This really happened.
I am happy to say the TAGS board members were just as upset as the rest of us. I was told by several of the board members they would never rent this space again for any activity. The Coalition for Aging LGBT did dismantle the booth, but they maintained a presence at the conference throughout the day and other vender booths voluntarily displayed the Coalition’s educational material. The coalition also went through with their presentation with grace, class and dignity.
Today in church, I cried.
Two young ladies (twins – that I do not know) were called up front so we could recognize their high school graduation. Their dad is a choir member at our church. He stood up with them as did their grandma.
I don’t know them…why did I cry?
Because a gay man was able to stand in his predominately “gay church” with his daughters and mom and celebrate their graduation.
It wasn’t that many years ago such a thing would have been unheard of. In the past you would never take your children to a church labeled as “gay” and its highly unlikely you would invite your parents to such a church.
So, why did I cry?
I cried for all of our gay brothers and sisters that didn’t live to see this day.
I cried because we stand on the shoulders of so many people who would not sit and be quiet…we owe them our tears and our laughter.
I cried because we still have to march in the streets to make sure our government knows we haven’t gone away.
I cried because there are days I fear we are slipping backwards.
I cried because there is a generation of young people, following right behind us, that don’t understand what the big deal is…because they haven’t known a time when it wasn’t ok to be gay…I pray they never will.
A father, a grandmother and twin teenage girls…celebrating a high school graduation and I cried.
I’ve given quite a bit of thought to this photo challenge. “A Good Match” I’ve searched my photo library, considered several ideas but finally I settled on what I consider to be the best match…my partnership with Tina.
She is the piece I was missing. She is the joy in my everyday. She is the hope and dreams of my future. And on August 20th 2015 she became my wife.
So for me…the good match, is the greatest match, I could’ve asked for.
Tina and me
The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: A Good Match.
So many news stories and so many theories and so many questions. The hardest question and the one everyone seems to be trying to answer is…why?
I guess my answer is, “Does it matter why a terrible person chose to walk into a bar and take 49 lives…innocent lives?”
Does it matter if he was a terrorist? Does it matter if he was homophobic? No matter the answer, those young men and women are still dead and no matter the answer that reality is not going to change.
Now I do think there is one possible answer to the question (Why?) that would disturb me more than any other. If this disturbed man took the lives of vibrant members of the LGBTQ community because he feared his own feelings of homosexuality. This answer would cause me to be horribly disturbed.
The reality is self loathing homophobia is not unusual. Sadly many children have been raised by well intentioned parents to hate themselves. Parents that believe their hateful words towards the gay community will teach their children to avoid making the “choice” to “join” the LGBTQ community. When in fact what their words do is force their child to internalize hate.
When our preachers, rabbis and imams stand before their congregations and preach hatred toward LGBTQ people what they are teaching the gay boy or lesbian girl, sitting before them, is that God hates them.
Our society, our families and our churches teach young LGBTQ people they are not worthy of love. It wasn’t that long ago that we rallied around the young people in our community and told them not to kill themselves, it will get better. Now I hear news outlets questioning if this young man hated himself enough to kill total strangers.
A few years ago I got into a debate with a woman on Facebook. A woman I did not know. I felt a need to reason with her, explain to her why her homophobic words could be hurtful to her son and daughter. I tried to tell her if by some chance one of her children happened to be gay and all they heard throughout their childhood was hateful words about gays, then their immediate assumption will be that she hates them..even if she gave birth to them.
I do not mean to jump to conclusions about “why” the shooter took the lives of the innocent men and women at the Pulse nightclub. But earlier today, when news outlets started sharing information that indicated he might have visited more than one gay club and he may have used a gay app….it dawned on me how much of our society is truly to blame. If this is true then we not only get to blame the Muslims, we also get to blame the Christians that teach gays to hate themselves. I realize there are good parents that love their children whether they are gay or straight. I also realize there are many Muslims, Jews and Christians that love their LGBTQ neighbors. But those who do preach hatred and those that feel people in the LGBTQ community deserve death must step up and accept their role in this recent tragedy.
There is hope in all things. There is goodness in all things and as a former pastor once told me, there is grace in all things. Although I believe all three of these statements are true, on days like today it is difficult to find hope, goodness and grace. All three seem lost to the anger and hatred that is saturating our world.
For those of you that may not have heard, a lone shooter entered a gay bar in Orlando Florida and killed at least 50 and injured 53. The LGBTQ community has always been aware that danger lurks at every corner. We know that young men, raging with testosterone, will hang outside gay bars just to have an opportunity to show their friends how macho they are by beating up gay men. We know that transgender women are at risk of being murdered simply because they do not fit an expected role in society. We know there are “Christians” in our country that believe death is the only thing people in the LGBTQ community deserve.
This morning, shortly after the shooting, the Lt. Gov. of Texas (Dan Patrick) tweeted the Biblical verse: “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” His office is now claiming the tweet was not in response to this mornings shooting. But the reality is Dan Patrick has fought to deny the LGBTQ community equality. And when people of power publicly dismiss a certain group or actively discourage tolerance of that group they legitimize the hate.
I truly do believe in finding the good in all events. And I know in the days to come we will hear stories of heroism that occurred during this tragic event. I also know some of the victims will become organ donors and maybe survivors will go on to share their story and make a difference in our world. But for now it is painful. It is hurtful to know one person has enough hate in their heart to shoot 100 (plus) total strangers simply because they love differently.
Let us pray for the victims, their families, friends and the rest of the LGBTQ community that realizes it could have been any of us. And as difficult as it is, let us pray for the man that committed this crime and his family. Because the true sign of a Christian (and I believe a good person) is not one that condemns others, but one that forgives others and chooses to love their enemy.
I just spent four days in Provincetown Massachusetts. If you haven’t visited Ptown, let me give you a quick explanation of the area. It is inclusive, nonjudgmental, diverse and so very different from anywhere else I’ve ever been.
I’ve written several times about my struggles as a masculine female being mistaken for a man. I stress when I even think about going to a public bathroom. Because I am regularly questioned, as though I don’t know which bathroom I belong in. I am called sir so often that when I am called m’am I want to hug the person.
I frequently ignore the people that don’t take a minute to recognize my true gender, or the people that insist I have mistakenly entered the wrong bathroom. But there are times it is hurtful. There are times it is embarrassing and there are times I just want to scream.
But the past four days have not been like that. Over the last four days I actually started going to the bathroom by myself. I have not required a friend to run interference in public restrooms. Every person I interacted with in Provincetown seemed to know instinctively that I was a female.
It is true that in Provincetown the number of LGBTQ individuals is much higher in percentage than other places in the country. So people living, working and visiting the area are more apt to avoid stereotypes. But the reality is, no one even looked twice at me. I was not an outcast. People did not look over their shoulders to make sure it wasn’t a guy in line behind them.
Maybe it wasn’t so much that the people living in Provincetown recognized that I was a female…maybe they just had more important things to do than judge other people. Maybe they figured I knew what I was and really didn’t need them to police me or monitor me.
Maybe they aren’t worried about the way the person next to them identifies their gender….maybe they are just busy being themselves!
I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to live like everyone else…even if only for a couple days.
This evening I had the opportunity to hear stories from people that lived through a time of fear, humiliation and discrimination in American history. The people sharing their stories are part of the LGBTQ community and lived during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
These women were professionals that constantly feared for their jobs.
The only place for many gays to socialize during that era were bars. But the bars were not safe. The local newspaper would list license plate numbers of the cars parked near a gay bar. The women tonight also spoke of the raids that would occur at the bars. People could be arrested for dancing if the bar didn’t have a “dancing permit.” If the police walked in and all the people at one table were the same gender they could be arrested. They could also be arrested for vagrancy if they didn’t have cash in their pocket.
The most horrifying story I heard was about a building that housed a Metropolitan Community Church downstairs and a gay bar upstairs. Sunday after church the members gathered upstairs in the bar for a covered-dish luncheon. The building was torched and everyone attending died in the fire.
Many brave men and women have lived through dangerous and frightful times.
Last summer the United States Supreme Court handed down a motion giving individuals in the LGBTQ community the right to marry.
We have come a long way from the era discussed tonight but the dance of two steps forward one step back continues.
Today we are fighting to use public bathrooms in peace, without judgement. Today there are still pastors preaching hatred of gays from the pulpit. Today people are still bullied for being different. But thanks to the drag queens that fought back at Stonewall, the individuals brave enough to walk in the early pride parades and the community that took care of itself during the AIDS crisis when everyone else turned their backs, we are better off.
I am grateful for those that blazed the trail, those that stood up for their friends that shivered in the closet and those that fought back against the hate.