Gay Marriage: It Is Personal"this Is What A Lesbian Looks Like":
"The roots of sexism and homophobia are found in the same economic and political institutions that serve as the foundation of racism in this country." -Professor Angela Y. Davis (Women, Culture and Politics) "You don't have to live next to me! Just give me my equality!" -Nina Simone ("Mississippi Goddam") Hi Lt. Governor Carroll, It's been a long week, yes? Wow. Well, I'm sure you've heard by now what's been going on but let me introduce myself. My name is Doria Roberts and I'm the person who started the activist hashtag #ThisIsWhatALesbianLooksLike in response to your comment about what black lesbians don't look like -- namely you. First, I want to say that it was not my intention to shame you and that I want (very badly) to give you the benefit of the doubt. I can't imagine having to defend myself against charges of adultery when I knew myself to be innocent. My wife is my life and anything challenging or questioning my commitment to her or the foundation of our marriage would send me grasping for any and all lifeboats to assure her that I value our union above all. Now, I'm generally a forgiving person and I know I don't have access to my best self every minute of every day, so I can understand how some of the things you said may have been said under duress as opposed to a deep-seated, polarizing and misguided hate for a group of people you don't even know. I mean, Peter denied Jesus three times. And that was Jesus! But as I've said, I could only understand some of the things you said. Please do not confuse my compassion with acceptance. When I heard the quote "Black women who look like me don't usually engage in those type of relationships (meaning lesbian relationships)" attributed to you as a defense, my first and only thought was "No." Really, just that. No. I wasn't going to allow yet another public figure to offer my life up as a whipping post to absorb their public flogging -- especially one who looked like me. Yes, despite what you think, Lt. Gov. Carroll, you do look like me. But more on that later... When the hashtag started to pick up some steam, I reached out to my own fan base to contribute to the dialogue but implored them not to bash you. I asked them to use their activism and channel their outrage as a "teachable" moment for you and others like you who now will (hopefully) think twice before throwing others in the line of fire to advance their political and/or professional agendas. After awhile though, I stopped thinking about you (and others like you) and I began to focus instead on the hundreds of smiling faces I was being introduced to through this entirely serendipitous post. All beautiful, all happy. I started thinking about me and my wife and how, as an interracial lesbian couple living in the southeastern United States, we face the unknowable every day. And, though we are nowhere near the top of the social food chain, we manage to run a successful business together. I'm also musician who travels internationally so there is no option for us to stay inside and hide when things get rough. We do this, as much as we can, with smiles on our faces. Some days those smiles are hard won, sometimes they don't come at all and some days they come as easy as sunrise despite the fact that we live in a world where it is thought to be a risk to be who we are and an act of courage to simply claim it. Okay. That said, let's get to the real talk... First, a little quiz. Of the following four names, which one(s) do you recognize and what is the link between them? Sakia Gunn Shani Baraka Rayshon Holmes Matthew Shepard
Take your time. I'll wait. Alright, that's silly because I can't really know your answer, right? But I'm going to venture a guess and suppose that you are an average person with average access to and consumption of popular media. If I were to guess your answers based on that criteria, I would project that you didn't know the first three names and probably knew the last one. The first three names belong to African-American lesbian and bisexual women who were murdered because of their sexuality, gender and/or non-conformity to binary gender stereotypes. The fourth name belongs to a white, young male who was also a murder victim targeted because of his sexuality. So, if you guessed that they are all members of the LGBT community and all victims of hate crimes you would be correct. The similarities, however, pretty much end there. According to Lexis/Nexis reports, Sakia's murder generated only 21 stories as opposed to the 659 generated by Matthew's. That is a staggering difference of 638 stories or 30 times more...or less. However you want to look at it. The point I'm trying to make is that, statistically speaking, hate crimes against lesbians of color are less likely to be covered by major media outlets even when the crime is murder and is provoked by our sexuality. Put another way: We (i.e. lesbians of color, queer women of color and black lesbians in particular) are already shouldering epically disproportionate concerns about our visibility without folks like you adding to the load. We are living in a society that almost pathologically refuses to acknowledge our existence... that is, until our existence is perceived as a threat. Well, I am here to tell you that we are not a threat. Furthermore, we are not your problem. We are your sisters and your belief that we do not look like you has no bearing on the irrefutable fact that you do indeed look like us, whether that "look" is butch, femme, stud, punk, prep or otherwise. When you say or do things that dehumanize me, you dehumanize yourself. Know that. And, we both know how easily dehumanization leads to invisibility which breeds intolerance which can, in some cases, as evidenced by the headlines pouring out of Colorado this weekend, justify senseless acts of violence. -------- The quote I used to open this letter is a quote by Sister Angela Davis (no introduction necessary here, I hope) and is one I use in a song of mine called "Because." I use the quote to invoke and inspire a call to multi-issue activism because I often see in my divergent communities a lack of "cross-pollination." I want to see more LGBT outlets and organizations reporting on and standing in solidarity with the black community for cases like Trayvon Martin without having to be reminded. Conversely, I want to see black publications giving Sakia, Shani and Rayshon their due. And on and on and on... I've thought a lot about you and me this week and how possibly, at the intersection of our struggles, we could find some common ground. I thought about the paths of Professor Davis and Condoleeza Rice Rice. Did you know that they grew up approximately 15 miles apart in Alabama and both cite the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church as the impetus for their respective activist efforts. (Yeeesss, Condi is an activist too. Don't get it twisted, folks.) While they are on opposite ends of the spectrum, they are still part of the same sorority and that is one that cannot afford to be fractured just so that you can save face. I can only imagine what it would take for a black woman to make it to where you are now, one of the highest ranking officials in Florida. Florida! But, you know, I don't have to imagine it. I'm living it. I know what it's like to tirelessly search for your own voice and, after finding it, having to then find an audience for it. What I've learned is that sometimes you don't look like your audience and they don't look like you. And that's okay. Never take for granted the potential of your reach. While diversity can make this land we live in hard to bear, it's also what makes it... brilliant. What an amazing opportunity and time we have and live in. We should be celebrating that as allies -- not senselessly sparring as adversaries. Ultimately, what I'd like for you to take away from this experience is an understanding of how easily words, both yours and mine (28 total. Yes, I counted. I'm a Virgo. What's your sign?), can change the landscape of visibility for people who are not only surviving but living full lives on the so-called "fringes of society". Remember that only four or so years ago, people would have said that men who look like President Obama (with names like Barack, Barack!) don't become President of the United States. They would have been wrong. Like, really wrong. Remember these names: Sakia, Shani, Rayshon, Matthew and the thousands of names that go unaccounted for. Mourn the loss of their potential, their youth and the loss of their "becoming." Remember the faces of the hundreds (hundreds!) of women who stood up to be counted after you unceremoniously discounted them. Commit them to memory. Remember how small thinking and the perpetuation of negative stereotypes can get in the way of our progress. Dare I say, even perhaps our very evolutionary process? Most importantly, remember that you are, in the end, a public servant and that because you have used my life as a punching bag your legacy is in danger of becoming a punch line. Okay, then. I'm going to go now. We both have work to do. I just wanted to let you know that (as my grandmother would say) "Imma be alright" because the fringes can be fabulous and the water is just fine.... Yours in sisterhood, Doria
the Presbyterians and United Methodists get most of the press around the church and LGBT issues these days, but we Mennonites have similar controversies and conversations. At our recent district conference (Western District), one church brought a resolution calling for the suspension of my ministerial credentials because I officiated a same-sex ceremony.
Ultimately, the delegates voted for me to retain my credentials and to include a note on my profile that states my actions are "at variance" with denominational guidelines.
Through the course of the weekend, I had an opportunity to talk and pray with many individuals from the church that proposed the resolution. These folks were nice to me, even friendly. Many of them assured me that the resolution was "nothing personal."
My name was in the resolution document six times. If their resolution had passed, I would no longer be an ordained pastor in the Mennonite church. But it was nothing personal.
On one hand, I understand what they were saying. They don't hate me. They did not propose the action because they wish me ill. This is a church matter. It is about accountability, about church authority, about a particular way of reading scripture. It is about principles of righteousness and faithfulness and obedience. Nothing personal.
Except it is personal. Of course it is personal. My life would have been deeply affected if the resolution had passed.
In our ongoing discussions about the church and sexual minorities, I think we all need to give up the illusion that any of it is not personal. We need to admit that what we say and the policies we create deeply affect the lives of actual human beings.
If you say, "Homosexual activity is a sin," that is personal. It is personal for every person who chooses to be in an intimate same-sex relationship. It is personal for the parents and siblings and friends of those people as well.
If you say, "It is God's intention that sexual activity should be only between a man and a woman," it means my friend, Randy, is no longer allowed to be a Mennonite pastor. It means my friend, Sarah, could not attend our denominational seminary. It means my friends Sheri and Megan and I face credential reviews for ministering to people in the way we believe God is calling us to minister. It is personal.
If I say, "Homosexuality is not a sin," that is personal too. If you believe the Bible teaches against same sex intimacy, then I'm saying you are wrong. That your reading of the most important text in your life is a flawed reading. That is personal. And if by chance you are queer yourself and have struggled your whole life to be not queer, or if there is someone you love who you have rejected because of their sexuality -- well then, that's really personal.
If I say (or perform an act that indicates) that God calls us to fully include our LGBT brothers and sisters in the church, that's personal too. It means that if your church does not welcome sexual minorities, you are, in my view, outside the will of God. It means I think you should change your minds and change your policy in order to obey God. That's pretty personal.
And it should be.
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
Christians believe that God's fullest revelation to us is in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. God put on skin and started calling us by name. It's personal. Words of anger, words of love. Dinner parties and theological discussions. His body formed in Mary's womb; a woman's hand on his cloak; his spit in a man's eyes; a woman's tears on his feet; his skin mutilated by the pounded nails.
It is deeply personal.
Can you imagine Jesus saying to the rich young man, "It's nothing personal. It's just that it's pretty hard for rich people to get into heaven"? Or to the Pharisees, "Don't take this personally, but you're a bunch of hypocrites who are like whitewashed tombs -- nice on the outside, rotten on the inside"? Or to Peter, "You are Satan and you need to get behind me. Please understand that it's not personal"?
Of course it's personal.
When we follow the God incarnate in Jesus Christ, we give up the luxury of claiming that it's not personal. We accept responsibility for the ways that our words and our actions, our proclamations and our procedures affect other people.
It is our realization of just how personal these conversations are that can keep us on the path of love as we struggle through discussions about sexuality and the church.
If it's not personal, then we aren't following Jesus.
Will this summer be remembered as a tipping point in the struggle for gay rights? In June, polls showed that for the first time a majority of voters in two American states -- Maryland and Washington -- are poised to hand same-sex marriage its first victories by popular referenda. Also this summer, LGBT pride parades in 10 American cities are witnessing the arrival of an unlikely new contingent of gay allies: Mormons.
So, I will put on my Sunday dress, tie on my walking shoes, take my daughters by the hand and head for San Diego's LGBT pride parade, the final event of the summer gay pride schedule. Together, we will walk with other believing Mormons behind a banner that reads "Mormons for Marriage Equality."
Many LGBT people resent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' prominent role in California's 2008 Proposition 8 campaign, which eliminated civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. Given the bitter legacy of Proposition 8, no one imagines that this summer's LDS LGBT Pride parade delegations will create change overnight. It will take hard work and deep searching among Mormons to end suicide among gay LDS youth, and reconcile our faith's unique teachings about the theological importance of heterosexual marriage with the Christian commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
But that work is beginning to happen. On June 3, about 400 members of the LDS Church marched in Salt Lake City's LGBT Pride Parade as "Mormons Building Bridges." Their message was a simple expression of love for LGBT friends, relatives and neighbors. Simple but powerful given the LDS Church's prominent role in national opposition to same-sex marriage, and it has sparked an important conversation about empathy and understanding among Mormons across the country. I hope that conversation will grow.
Throughout the month of June, additional contingents of church-dressed Mormons walked in Pride Parades in Boise, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Washington, D.C, San Francisco and New York City, bearing signs that read "God loves all His children;" "I support marriage equality ... and I'm a Mormon;" "Gay kids grow up Mormon; I'm here to keep them safe."
Skeptics have incorrectly characterized this effort as an election-year gambit to promote presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is Mormon and opposes same-sex marriage. In truth, this has been a grassroots movement led by faithful Mormons concerned about deep wounds over gay issues within LDS communities and the LGBT community at large.
Some gay Mormons have been rejected by their families and many have left the LDS Church, which teaches that homosexual behavior is sinful. Rejection has left a powerful need for reconciliation in our deeply felt faith tradition. In Washington, D.C., where about 75 Mormons marched behind a "Mormons for Marriage Equality" banner, a gay man attending the parade rushed from the sidelines toward the marchers. "Mormons are here?" he cried in astonishment, weeping. "I'm Mormon too!"
There are also feelings of anger. In Minneapolis, where about 35 Mormons marched as "Mormon Allies," an older gay man approached the delegation and explained that he had once been a member of the LDS Church. "I was excommunicated three days after my lover died," he said. "I love you people. But get out."
Mormons who support LGBT civil equality know that even as the rest of the nation begins to accept same-sex marriage our community has a long road ahead. But we take strength in a faith that has not been deterred by hard work or long journeys. Perhaps this summer will be remembered as the moment Mormons showed up, in the words of an LDS pioneer hymn, to put our shoulders to the wheel.
A set of a chick fucking around with a man doing some cock sucking, unprotected sex in the missionary positron and raw doggy-style. Also she makes funny sex face. Enjoy!