Monday, August 17, 2009

Ally and Advocate for Gay rights: Changing the World

I want to address exactly why I am involved with gay rights, and specifically with Soulforce. I've been questioned directly through e-mails, criticized in some blogs, and even wondered at by my brother-in-law. He just doesn't understand how I can be supportive of gay rights, when "they" have such "sinful ways," as well as the hurt I have been through. Why wouldn't I be against gay rights? I want to give some answers.

First of all, I do NOT hold to the idea that being gay is a sin. It is a sexual orientation, a preference for emotional and physical intimacy. Being gay is not a choice, and like everyone, we should all be thankful for our gifts and God-given origins.

There is so much discrimination against GLBTQs, and most of it is based on religion. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus showed us how to love others as we love ourselves, and I think that should include loving those who have been rejected by our churches. He said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one toward another." I believe in practicing that, and I DO have to practice over and over, because I sometimes (often) fail. Still it is my goal to show and live in the spirit of love.

Since I believe in loving others, it is only natural that I stand up with those who are also standing, and some might not even be able to stand. I'm standing for them until they can stand up too.

And then there is the very personal side...Having been married for over 30 years to Ray, I had a very loving and happy life. Some have even called it a "fairy tale," but it surely was a rags-to-riches story of Horatio Alger proportions. Ray wrote songs that were loved by others, yet the listeners never knew the heart of the writer. I loved that man, and he loved me as well as a gay man could. Ray was a good father, and he loved his kids. I never felt un-loved and I never was disrespected.

When Ray came out, it wasn't with a plan. He had not lived a double life, and the depression he was experiencing was nearly suicidal. As we talked in the days, weeks, and months following, the path did not show itself easily. I prayed for answers, but I knew Ray had prayed his entire life for a solution. It had not come, and as much as I prayed for "just THIS one" to be supernaturally changed from gay to straight, I realized that there was no good solution to the problem: Ray is gay, and I'm not. This I also knew: We had had a good life, and we loved each other.

Questions that I asked of God were rampant in those early times. Prayers were continual. Nightmares were awful. Often my thoughts swirled through my head wondering the purpose of it all - How could God, who knew Ray through and through, and knew ME through and through, have put us together for this to be the way we ended?

Finally, by connecting with blogs, books, and internet sites, I started to reach out to others who understood. I found Peterson, Christine Bakke, and I also found Soulforce. I read the "Letters to Dr. Dobson," and the story told by Mary Lou Wallner. I began to understand that gay folk are just the same as straights, and that the cause of gay rights was active and getting louder. My new friends were supportive, loving and a help to me! I wanted to get involved so that my voice could be heard, and my body would stand on the front lines for Equality for all!

In addition to realizing that there were untruths that had been told me in the church about gay people, I saw the exclusion and rejection that was prevalent in every church I'd ever gone to. I understood what it had been like for someone like Ray to be told they were un-saveable, unacceptable to God, and doomed for life as well as in death. What hope could they have? I changed, and I wanted to make changes. I wanted to be a voice to correct the lies that are told every day in fundamentalist churches.

These days, it is not for my rights that I participate with Soulforce. It is for the RIGHT thing to do! There are so many people, and I hear from them, who are in jobs that they could loose because it's still legal (in many states) to fire people who are openly gay/lesbian. Equal Rights don't exist for GLBTQs for marriage, adoption, or to protect them from hate crimes. There are mixed-orientation marriages taking place, where heartache is either evident or looming in the future. There are gay people who are in Christian churches (and other religious groups) being told that they can pray the gay away if they marry a good spouse. Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Trans/Queer and Questioning people are feeling self-hate and church rejection because of the untruths that are spread by way of the churches that they love. Suicides are happening because GLBTQs feel that they have no hope!

To END ALL THESE THINGS, I am an ally for change! To END ALL THESE THINGS, I am standing for the truth!

I've been questioned this way: Aren't you too defensive of Ray? If it hadn't been for Ray, would you have been standing up on behalf of gay rights? My answer is, "No. If it hadn't happened to someone I love, I would never have understood." (read here, where I address that question more thoroughly.)

So it is with a LOT of personal reasons I put myself in the middle of Equality Rights. I entered this without a plan myself, but I found myself having to grow and learn. These days I have one. I'm doing all I can to support those affected by the issues of GLBTQs as well as the families connected to them. I hope to be a voice of reason as well as a voice of love. I know I've had to change, and I hope I can change the world.


calugg said...

Thank you for your darn fine essay. Well done!

deb said...

What I see as the greatest difficulty with fundamentalist religions vs glbtq is that many of the people on both sides of the issue are actually very good and very nice people. Yet, people on both sides have a tendency to see each other as the enemy, or the bad people, because the life experiences and world views tend to be so different.

The problem with the anti-gay religious beliefs, as I see it, is that anti-gay religious teachings promote ignorance about what it means to be anything 'other than'. Many people tend to believe what they are told, as long as the person speaking presents himself as an authority figure. (I say himself, because these churches do not allow women to be church leaders.)

I guess that's where you come in. :) You really are an excellent spokesperson.

Why are you an excellent spokesperson? Here are a few reasons that come to mind:

*You're well-known in the fundamentalist and evangelical circles. People have known you and Ray for decades.
*You're straight. That should give you some credibility with people who believe the only godly way to be is heterosexual.
*You know from experience that sexual orientation isn't something someone chooses. People don't choose to have one sexual orientation or the other, and they can't change from one to the other.(As you said in another set of comments, those who are bisexual are not people who have had a fundamental change of orientation from gay to straight.)

I guess that's all for now. ;)

Thanks for your post. I hope many of the people who believe you are wrong for supporting GLBTQ folks will think again after they read your post, and look inside and examine their own hearts and unexamined beliefs.

Liz said...

You are amazing (as I was sure you would be). My prayer is that more acceptance comes VERY quickly. Smiles ! ! !

Queers United said...

Thank you for standing with us. The Bible speaks of love and non-judgment. The passages about so called homosexuality are about rape, and idol worship and nothing to do with committed same-sex couples. Jesus even talks about gays who are "born eunuchs" who will attain the Kingdom of Heaven.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Hi, Carol! I just wanted you to be aware that I have given you a shout-out at The Friends of Jake blog.

FoJ is a group blog that focuses on faith and social issues, including GLBT issues. We are mostly progressive Episcopalians, though you will find some Catholics, agnostics, and an atheist or two who takes an interest in the Episcopal Church.

Your story resonates with me because I, too, was married to a gay man. Like you and Ray, my ex and I crafted a solid friendship and I became an ardent activist for GLBT equality under law and inclusion in the church. When my ex came out (1990), I didn't have anywhere to turn for support or information. I'm so glad you are here for those who have known the pain--and the joy--of loving someone who is GLBT.


Carol said...

Thanks, Doxy,

You probably know how much I appreciate your support. And what you said about "...the joy of loving someone who is GLBT" is so true.


Anonymous said...

You so eloquently express how the personal leads to the political. I especially like the personal web through blogs, conferences, etc leading to a stronger community, leading to community action.

The Muser (aka Beautiful Mama) said...

I love your blog, this story, and our advocacy! Thank you for our witness and your work.

Existential Punk said...

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH, Carol, for your honesty and support!


Judy said...

Carol,I like the way you express this!

"First of all, I do NOT hold to the idea that being gay is a sin. It is a sexual orientation, a preference for emotional and physical intimacy. Being gay is not a choice, and like everyone, we should all be thankful for our gifts and God-given origins."

If you don't mind, I would like to save this and refer to it(quoting you) when I find myself in dialogue with non-affirming folks!

You're the BEST!

Chapel Hill, NC

Carol said...

Judy - if it helps, go right ahead and use it! Thanks for the kind words :)

Anonymous said...

love you, bless you for putting yourself out there for others.

I am a transwoman, forty years old, and I accepted Jesus into my life when I was five, and my whole life has been focused on growing close to God and higher truth.

I am still legally married, with three children. My wife and I struggled through seventeen years together, and I was faithful to her throughout that time, just struggling for years and years with suicidal depression that almost destroyed me. (She was aware of it, but she had no answers and wanted badly for it to go away.)

No matter how much I loved God and loved my family, no matter how many ways I found to 'fix' me, nothing worked and I was lost and useless both to myself and to others.

I wish there was a roadmap. When I started transition, I just knew something had to change or my kids and spouse would lose me forever. Transition took me two years, and both my wife and I took a lot of grief from family and church over my decision and her refusal to distance herself from me. She and I are so different in how we approach God, but we never abandoned each other. It is ironic that I never became the spouse she wanted (in terms of my ability to openly express and show love) until I transitioned.

At this point, we still have to figure out what a relationship looks like between two straight females, coparents, who still love each other deeply but perhaps cannot be married anymore. We have something better and more real than before, but we are still grieving the loss of what we wished we could have had but just couldn't work as things were.

It heartens me to see you out there being honest about your experiences with Ray. That is the level of honesty that will drag these issues into the light and reveal how current evangelical theology and practice on these issues is not only insufficient but needlessly destructive and hurtful to other members of the Body of Christ. Ironically, the largest wounds in my life I must heal from involve rejection/abandonment from friends and family due to the power of religious influence. The Church has not been effectively challenged until the last decade or two in this area, but as more and more stories come to light and more understanding (scientific and otherwise) of the issues, more and more I am hoping and sensing that things will change.

Blessings on you,

Carol said...

Thanks, Jennifer! Your input is so important, and I send out lots of love to you and your wife. You have hit the nail on the head when you say, "I wish there was a road map." Although it's somewhat different, there just aren't easy answers when couples love each other, but are different than the expectations that each one had. I don't know how better to say it.

It's so loving of you to share your story, and to try to work through how to maintain a relationship despite the lack of understanding from others. I'm so thankful that you felt comfortable sharing with me and with other readers. It helps.

bless you and your family,