wizdUUm Blogs on Social Justice

My Coming Out Story (2012)

I am coming out to love again. As most of us in the LGBTQ community know, coming out is a continual process. I first came out at the end of a short marriage to a man. I could no longer live the straight life. I was almost thirty and was deep in the abyss of depression.

The minister of the UU church and the gay and lesbian group at church were enormously supportive. With the church group I worked on the No on 22 campaign. Unfortunately, California voted to pass proposition 22, to define marriage between a man and a woman.

After a couple of years I met my beloved. We were classmates then friends and our relationship evolved into an abiding love. We entered into a domestic partnership and had a commitment ceremony in 2002. Her mother and sister attended. Mine did not, not wanting to condone my lifestyle. At the time, I was not out to my father.

In 2007, I decided to heed the call to ministry. While waiting for the following fall semester, marriage equality resurfaced. Prop 22 was struck down, allowing a window of time to legally marry. My beloved and I worked for marriage equality, I with the faith community and she with the Asian and Pacific Islander community.

The week marriage became legal, my beloved and I were in line the first day licenses were available. We were mentioned in UU World, pictured on the front page of the local paper, interviewed for another paper, and filmed for a documentary show in the Philippines. We joyously married that Saturday with our UU congregation in attendance. My mother and sister, once again, did not attend. My father, however, was happily in attendance.

The passage of proposition 8 did not nullify our marriage. The significance of that became real when my beloved had an aneurism in January of 2010. The weeks of surgery, coma, recriminations, familial homophobia, friends’ internalized homophobia, and need for blame landed squarely on me, especially when I made the impossibly difficult decision to take her off life support after hesitating in fear of her family. Three major strokes after an aneurism had to be enough. The loss was devastating.

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This past month I have started a ministry for LGBTQ folks in Los Angeles, starting small with a twitter feed and a meet-up, to honor her, and the relationship we had. There needs to be a safe place for people to go when something so devastating happens and other LGBTQ people will understand as the regular church may not be able to. Conversely, the LGBTQ community can come together with the regular church community in celebration.

So I am coming out to love again. I have begun to trust that love is possible with a wonderful woman I began dating this summer. I am honoring my beloved with a ministry to bring together the LGBTQ folks in LA to get to know one another, and build community.

The Wisconsin Tragedy

My first meeting with a Sikh profoundly changed my life for the better. I was new to the city, and he was the first person that I had met wearing a turban and an elaborate curved dagger. We were both volunteering at an event for the homeless and struck up a conversation.

I admired his knife, or kirpan, but also thought it strange that he could carry a sheathed dagger on his person, in full view. I had moved from Arizona, where guns were the norm, but knives were unseen. He then told me of its significance. 

He told me that he would fight to the death for my religious freedom. Mine. He would fight for the religious freedom of every person at that carwash. I learned later that a person carrying that dagger will fight to the death on behalf of any oppressed person. The caveat caught me up short. The dagger is used only after every peaceful means has been exhausted. The pacifist in me was honored to have met him. 

I left that carwash with the determination that I, too, would fight for freedom of religious expression, if only through peaceful means. It was not until reading Frantz Fanon more than a decade later, in seminary no less, that I could understand that sometimes, in some cases, violence is justified. 

I mourned in the days following 9/11 for the Sikh man, Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was shot to death in Arizona because the turban he wore. There is no doubt in my mind that it was a hate crime. The European American male killer mistook him for a Muslim. 

I mourn, too, for the members of the Wisconsin temple who were shot, and their friends and loved ones. Again, a dominant culture, European American, male has used an indiscriminate high-powered weapon manufactured for maximum lethality against fellow human beings. 

A kirpan is no match for an automatic weapon. Would it have made a difference if the killer knew that Sikhs value religious freedom as much, if not more, than other human beings living here in these United States? I think not. Intolerance has become more blatant, and normalized, as evidenced by the incendiary voices given airtime in the mainstream media. A culture of intolerance that has been allowed to flourish makes the deaths in Wisconsin all the more tragic.

Feeling Battered

battered heart

Tweets of the day by @TPEquality (Think Progress)

MT @thinkprogress: BREAKING: Following Obama's lead, Sen. Reed announces his support for same-sex marriage http://t.co/7D87eBqk 

RT @NancyPelosi: A great day in our fight for civil rights-President Obama adds his support for marriage #equality. #BeautifulDay

@LogCabinGOP: Obama Announcing Support For Marriage Equality Is 'Offensive And Callous' - http://t.co/pnTb4lc8

OBAMA: "I think same sex couples should be able to get married" http://t.co/K5zVupEL

I feel battered. I do not say this lightly, having been in a marriage with domestic violence, a straight marriage. I should be grateful that Obama has finally come around to support marriage equality. Yet, I understand where the Log Cabin Republicans come from. Marriage equality continues to be a wedge issue in electoral politics. The collective holding of breaths in anticipation of Obama's announcement came from the straight mainstream media and straight folk who have nothing to lose in this fight.

The congratulations, and requests that we thank Obama for "evolving" on this "issue" do not feel right on a day after 61% of North Carolina voters enshrined bigotry in their constitution for the second time. There will be no legally recognized same-sex relationships. The congratulations and requests do not feel right in a calendar week when Methodists voted to uphold same-sex relationships as incompatible with their dogma. Nor do they feel right in a week where Colorado Republicans filibustered so as not to address same-sex marriage in their legislature.

I think that I am supposed to be happy that democrats will start coming out in favor of marriage equality. Well, pardon me if it feels like too little, too late. The GLBT folks in North Carolina will not see marriage equality unless there is a drastic turn of events.I met a wonderful couple there. The female half of the couple is in a ecclesiastical limbo, having been a Methodist clergy person who supported marriage equality.

Yesterday a video went viral about a young gay man who was devastated by the death of his partner and the homophobia of the partner's family. It hit a bit too close too home having lived that just two years ago. Fortunately, I was legally married because it could have been a whole lot worse, hard as it is to imagine. Just months after my beloved and I were married, California voters were able to vote on marriage equality. We continued to be married, but I was devastated for those who had that chance snatched away. I feel sad for LGBT folks, especially UU's, for whom the democratic process was not used for right of conscience, or liberty and justice for all; for whom justice, equity and compassion are mere words; for whom wedding cake is used to celebrate taking away the inherent worth, dignity, and humanity of a single group of people. Our UU principles and hearts have been battered.

Having no need to be politically savvy in this moment, I will acknowledge the hurt, and the broken hearts. I wish I could wrap each and every one of you in the softest cotton batting with rainbows and sparkle, and lift you up to the universe and declare that you are loved beyond measure. I may not be able to wrap and lift you up, but I do declare, you are loved beyond measure.  We'll move forward, and our battered hearts will heal again.

What is a Hymn to Vatos?

Tweet of the Day: @Urrealism: Hey! RT @Aunt_Feather: "Hymn to Vatos Who Will Never Be in a Poem" by @Urrealism for #PoetryMonth http://t.co/wnuhjm3c via @Latinopia

This YouTube video, retweeted by the author of the poem, Luis Urrea is particularly relevant because Arizona is attempting to erase the history of Mexicans and the indigenous, by banning a Mexican American studies program in Tucson. "Hymn to Vatos Who Will Never Be in a Poem" is one of the "texts" that have been banned, and the video shows the poem being read to students last month. This is not "new" news, but this past week has been especially inane in Arizona. I have been living in California for a good number of years, yet I am still capable of being shocked by the irrationality and hysteria of the power brokers in the state. I am refraining from using the words insane or insanity in deference to real mental illness, rather the current political climate is simply a continuation of a inextricable history of racism from before the beginning of the state.

Last week, the teacher who is the director of the Mexican American studies program in Tucson was fired by the school district. Next, the republican instigator is planning to go after college level education. One of the most memorable aspects of my 4th-7th grades in Tucson was learning the history of the different native American tribes in Arizona. Having started school, Head Start and first grade, with children from the White Mountain Apache reservation, I was interested in the whitewashed, Arizona dry histories. I did learn something, if not just respect for the people who originally settled in the state. The Mexican American studies program had yet to be designed.

I chose to learn much more in adulthood. One would think that banning books would be a bad idea, looking at the history of banning books. When I learned that not only books by Latino authors banned, but Native American books, as well, I was alarmed. Shortly thereafter, my mom called me concerned that her Dad came here illegally. "Mom, he came here before Arizona was even a state." My grandmother was also born before Arizona became a state. The fear fostered by the political climate had come home.

In the 19th and early 20th century, the mineral riches in the territory were exploited, and the political process was used to define who was in the in group and the out group, whether Chinese, Mexican or Native American. Those with brown skin have been in the out group since the beginning. An early example is the a group of Irish American "white" orphans adopted to Mexican American families by the Catholic Church, which resulted in an orchestrated kidnapping by vigilantes on Morenci and Clifton, Arizona.  My grandmother was born in Morenci just seven years later.

 

 

I'm concerned about the consequences of cutting off links to Mexican and Native American  history in Arizona. Only since the 1970s has the program to send Native American children off to boarding schools to "kill the Indian and save the man" discontinued. Many of those affected are are still living. I hope that the youth of today are not doomed to repeat history on the ordinary brown skinned men, the Vatos, as well as the women and children of the state who deserve respect because of their inherent worth.

Note: The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly will be held in Phoenix in June. While I agree with the spirit in which it will be held, I have a great deal of ambivalence in anticipation of attending in my home state.

How Will Social Media Impact LGBTQI Muslims?

I found the article, "How Will Facebook and Twitter Impact Islam?" of interest because it was highly critical of social media in the Muslim context. Dr. Guessom referenced an article, "Twenty five reasons why Twitter is Spiritual," that was a list of spiritual practices from different faith traditions. As a Unitarian Universalist(UU), I appreciated the breadth, and what amounted to a vision of twitter's potential. Guessom dismissed the list entirely. I will acknowledge that the list does not fit within the aims of Islam. 

Still, just in the past several days I have been witness to, and peripherally involved in one such transformative experience that the author Frederic A. Brussat wrote of in the "Twenty Five Reasons..." article. The conversations, facilitated by Twitter and a blog were poignant and beautiful.

A young Muslim is opening dialogue about different aspects of Islam on her blog. She posted interviews with a number of  LGBT Muslims. The comments section includes the usual comparisons of LGBT people with pedophiles, practicers of bestiality, rapists and serial killers. These arguments were not original by any stretch. What I did find original was an interview with a UU that I've met on Twitter. He wants to convert to Islam. 

After at least a year of reading his tweets, I have observed that he truly loves Allah. He loves Arabic music. He loves to  give thanks and praise. It's genuine, not forced or fake. I remember when he was utterly heartbroken several months ago, after he was rejected by yet another imam for being gay.

There was such an outpouring of love from the blogger and numerous other Muslims who signed on to the love letter she wrote. A
n imam in his area would like to meet with him. My Twitter acquaintance was brought to tears. In a side conversation, the blogger told the imam she wished she were local to study under him, and the imam responded that they teach each other. I watched this unfold over the past couple of days with awe. A gay man finally found an online community, and has a real possibility of finding an embodied community with which he can worship in the way he desires. A brave young woman was affirmed for her own contributions to her religion.

The Internet has been revolutionary for LGBTQI folks since the advent of the World Wide Web in  the 1990's, because people who were isolated and alone have been able to find others like themselves. Whereas moving to a city had been the main strategy in the past, LGBTQI folks could find one another and become a part of online communities. The explosion of the social media onto the scene should enable more folks to find their voices and find each other. 

I suspect that there are individuals who have been isolated and by social pressure forced to work within the dominant culture of Islam. LGBTQI Muslims may be just such a group. Social media may prove to be a Godsend to LGBTQI Muslims.

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Acknowledgments

wizdUUm.net is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative