Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gathering wisdom from Dad.

My parents, Mildred and Joe Brammer

I saw this quote about wisdom on a billboard.

"Wisdom comes from a lifetime of listening."

Thinking of my folks, my dad is now 88. Dad spends his winters in South Texas where it's warm. Today he called me on his cell phone, where he was waiting in the parking lot of his church, waiting for the right time to go inside. He did a lot of the talking, and I did the listening.

I love it when Dad and I really talk. He tells me stories about when he and his best friend, Don, had parts in the school play, but they were kicked out because they were caught playing hooky! He's shared with me how he got hired as a city fireman by going to the home of a local politician to ask for the job - a job he gets a good retirement pension from these days. And we've talked about depression, and finances, and politics (we differ a little bit!).

And we've talked about what it means for someone to be gay. Dad's come a long way since I told him about my husband being gay. After several conversations, he came to this conclusion: "I think it must be something you're born with." I know he didn't believe that before I told him about Ray, but I think that he put some things together - and he drew the right conclusions. He didn't stick to his ideas from the Navy (circa WW II). He didn't continue to think like his Sunday School class. He saw how our life had been lived, how Ray had lived, and Dad knew that there had to be more to this than a "choice."

And there's Mom, who passed away in 2001 at the age of 81, and she had lived what's considered a long time. After she died, there were so many things I wanted to ask her about, but for some reason I hadn't. Often I just wanted to talk to her again - and I wish I hadn't been in a hurry with life. It didn't matter if it was a recipe for pecan pie or the lyrics to a song she used to sing to wake us up, or to how she got through storms of her 55-year marriage, I just wanted to talk to her again. I wish I could talk to her now.

When I saw that quote from a local billboard, it reminded me that we need to listen more. I need to listen more, and I need to take time with people, and I need to remember to NOT do all the talking.

Last week I talked to a friend about my daughter who is about to give birth to a second baby. She's 33. When I was 33, I thought I was very knowledgeable, that I knew some things. By that age, I was not even intimidated if I had to say, "Oh, I'm wrong about that." I was beginning to learn real "stuff." Or so I thought.

My friend had this to add, "Carol, if we are seeing that there is so much to learn NOW, since it's been a while since we were 33, think how much MORE we'll learn by the time we're 80." I'm reflecting on that - I keep asking myself, "Am I learning more?"

Here's an old entry about my mom that I wrote in May 2007. If you were here, Mom, I'd love to ask you some questions, listen to your answers, and know that wisdom shows up in the years and years you were with us.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

what it means to be Gay(e)

I'm not sure how it works, but when we need to look at situations through another's eyes, inevitably there can be a spark of compassion. We call it being human. We can choose to look or we can choose to see.

In traveling more than once to India, I've had the opportunity to meet a few people, and had a glimpse of life there. I can never again see a photo and not imagine how life is different for a person there as compared to where I live in the West. I have to consider what it's like to be a woman who might have no means of independent support. What's it like to have an arranged marriage? Could I have been denied education because of being a woman? Is it possible my parents would have beaten me if I tried to have a boyfriend? Then again, I might have had wonderful extended family, living with me as I grew up. I could have been doted upon by an indulgent father, protected by surly brothers who made sure my honor was never infringed upon. And I'd have had some pretty wonderful Indian food every time there was a family event - all perfected by aunties and sisters.

All those things cross my mind when I think about how it is from someone else's perspective.

In a different way, yesterday I got an e-mail from a mom of a gay son. Here is part of what she shared:

It is interesting because I have always had friends that are gay. I have defended them to my family and anyone else that questioned my heart for them. Also bisexual and intrasexual that are created male/female. God has been preparing me all along with a love for a group of people that didn't fit into the God Box that the church in America created. I feel blessed and chosen. It was as if God had said, can I trust you to love this community for me. They need to feel loved and respected. "Can you do this?"
And then my son Trent came out after he went away to college. I will never forget the call. It was the bravest thing I have ever seen in my life. My first concern was his heart. I didn't want people to be mean or judgmental. He was given by God to me to love and guide and protect. The part that broke my heart was that he knew this since he was 10 and that he had to carry it alone.
I am so proud he is living honest and that he has the peace that comes from knowing who he is and that God loves him.

This is obviously someone who looked through different eyes than those around her. She knew that as a mother, [her son] "was given by God to me to love and guide and protect." And part of how she knew that others would judge him was because they had judged her, simply because of her name, Gaye. Earlier she had shared this introduction:
My name is Gaye. I am a christian and have been teased and been made fun of by people inside the church because of my name. When my son came out and told me he was gay I realized why God had given me the name. My parents went back and forth between Gaye and Grace. They settled on Gaye. I am so thankful that God had been preparing me all these years. I understood how unchristian the church had been to be because of my name. I hope and pray that my son will not loose faith in God because of how ungodly the church can be. My son is the most amazing artist and the best human. He has always been my hero. He has always loved whoever God placed in his way.

I think that "Grace" fits Gaye, too. I wish every mom of a gay or lesbian child would get a glimpse of life for their son or daughter, and protect them like this mom has! Besides seeing the persecution of GLBTs because of her name, she's also realized that faith can be lost by those unloving people inside church. There is a whole boatload of insight that this woman has had during her life, simply based on what it means to be Gay(e).

update: Here are some good articles written by Justin Lee, founder of He talks about what it really means to be gay, and has written about being gay and Christian. I hope anyone searching "gay and christian," or "what it means to be gay," will find the articles helpful.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Answers that work

Writing this blog and hearing from readers gives me support that I need. However it is difficult in knowing how to share my life, my work, and who I am today. So many old phrases no longer apply to how I view the world and my faith, but I still need to relate to others who are where I was - and I keep working on how to do that.

For example, I get the e-mails. These are comments that some folks presume are unread by real humans. The writers either think that they aren't really going to be read, or they are very obnoxious and rude, saying vulgar things about gay people. It's a lot easier to type an e-mail than to say these things in person. In about one of a thousand I DO respond, not harshly, but in a way I think is assertive - as a woman, as someone trying to re-frame how to live my faith in Christ.

I get a lot of questions, even now, several months after the big hoo-hah of Ray's article being published, asking me, "Is it true that R.B. is gay?" I'm actually a little surprised that there are still those who are just finding out. Occasionally I reply and send them the original article, because that way they can read the truest report, rather than the re-hash of all the bloggers, editors, etc. (note: the other truest report is this blog!)

Today I returned a call to Angela, who called looking for a CD. She cautiously and hesitantly, asked the big question: "Is it true...?" And I honestly told her the answer, "Yes." She was "sad" like so many others have expressed. I wanted to explain more, but I just said, "I had to learn a lot myself. And I found out that there is not just one lifestyle, like we've been told in church. There are lots of gay people who live just like you and me, with lives of integrity."

Angela still didn't know what to say. Here is how she responded:

"...but that's not based on the Word, it's based on human rationality."

I knew what she meant. She does what I used to do. Angela assumes that a few verses in the Bible speak to human sexuality. But more than that, it's a view of our world that makes God into our own likeness. It's how I imagined God to be supernaturally tending my flower gardens, rather than creating the powers that do the growing. It's how I imagined God to be co-piloting my car, rather than allowing me to use the physical laws that kept it on the road. It's even how I imagined that I was using God's blueprint for raising my children, when actually I was probably more affected by MY parents' methods, and thinking that I was following the Bible.

What I'm trying to express here is that we think we know the answers when they are OUR answers. As we look at things from another point of view than our own, we do a lot of self-adjusting. And when we get answers that work for us, we (I) abandon the answers that don't work. When I thought my life was micromanaged by God, it was a superstitious thought pattern, and yes, now I use some human rationality. NOW I don't think that is wrong or skewed in any way. I think we are supposed to use our brains to figure out our lives. And I don't know how to share that with Angela or others like her.

What I can do is try to let her know that I see things differently. Different in my entire world view.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Today is hard for me, and I'm going to share it.

On March 22, 1975, when I was 22, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. It was the happiest day of my life because I was marrying the man of my dreams. And for years and years I knew this was true. When we had no money, and I mean, NO money, I had Ray. As years passed, and all that happens with a married couple, I was happy, and a big part of it was because of him.

We both went back to college and finished, finally it seemed, in 1978. By then we had two kids! We lived in rented apartments and houses, until in 1982 we bought our first home: a hundred-year-old farmhouse with cold rooms and sloping floors. We used an antique cook-stove fueled by wood to supplement the extremely expensive electric heaters. I had gardens and canned a lot of green beans, tomatoes, and corn. I scrimped at the grocery and bought clothes (when we had cash) at rummage sales. By 1986 we had FOUR kids (ALL TREASURES) - and even though we never had any extra money, I was happy.

Besides working full-time, Ray was always asked to sing. This was added income, and Ray never complained about working, although there were some times he wanted to "call in tired." I would work temporarily as a substitute teacher, but having little ones at home always kept me busy. As Ray wrote each new song on our battered, upright piano, he shared what he finished with me. So many times it would make me cry because they were so beautiful.

There was no change in Ray over the years as he became successful - we just got to eat out more, and that meant I had to cook LESS! I got pretty spoiled, but those were good years. Little did I know that all that would change. And I miss that life every day. I miss Ray every day.

Is this too personal? Probably. Is it real? yeah. It's honest and real. I'm leaving out so much, but I think you will get the idea.

So today is my anniversary of that day - and I'm sad. No question about it. I can't write it nicely. I can't say it well. I can only grieve that he is gay and no amount of hoping or praying or waiting will change that. I'm here alone - with kids grown and a big, empty house, lots of memories, and I can't stop wiping the tears from my face.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bare to the Bone

Lately I haven't had much to say, so I'll put up a song.

This blog can get tedious if I try to write when I don't have something to say, and I don't want it to rule me, like the tail wagging the dog.

Thoughts go through my head, but some thoughts are too revealing, personally. Other thoughts seem to be someone else's story, and I don't want to share those. When I complain too much, it doesn't make a good entry. So I'll share this little clip from Carrie Newcomer. She's an Indiana artist with a smooth, low voice, and lyrics that knock me out. I thank God for beautiful music, wonderful artists, and I always love singer-songwriters.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Adele Sakler, gay activist/Christian, interviewed by Kevin Davis, fundamentalist Christian

Since starting this blog, I've come to be acqainted with some very good writers and bloggers, and I'm privileged to share an interview of one of these people, Adele Sakler. Adele's regular entries can be read here, at Existential Punk, and here, at Queermergent. I admit that I don't hold my own in debate settings, and so I look to others who do. Adele very clearly shares her search for God and her search to reconcile her sexual orientation in an interview with Mr. Kevin Davis, over at the third place

Kevin asks questions of Adele Sakler about being gay and Christian. His questions from fundamentalist Christianity are what many want to ask, but rarely are they as civil as Kevin, where he also is allowing and monitoring the comments. Kevin has the very "right" person to interview, and Adele's answers are open and honest. I want to say a "well done," to both Kevin and Adele. It's communication like this that, I hope, will help to bring more understanding between fundamentalist and more liberal Christians who accept that being gay is compatible with following Jesus.

Friday, March 6, 2009

(I've always had) Crushes on boys (and I'm not ashamed)

As a little girl, I can remember my first "boyfriend," Mark. Mark was in my kindergarten class, and he told me one day at nap-time that he had a new girlfriend, Chris Dueker. Bless her heart, she was a nice little girl, daughter of the Methodist preacher. Mark and Chris lived across the street from one another, and now THEY were bf/gf, and I was left out. I punched Mark in the stomach - and he was on crutches from a broken leg. I guess now Chris would get to help him with his crutches instead of me. Oops.

In 1st grade I had a crush on Jeff, Steve, and maybe Jeff again.

2nd grade - this year it was Bill (Arment) and boy was he cute. As I remember it from the last high school class reunion that I crashed, he still looked pretty good!

3rd grade - Lester Lash tossed a plastic ring in my desk before recess. I think that made something official.

4th grade - back to Jeff. I liked going in cycles, because in 5th grade I liked Bill again.

5th grade - Tony. Oh, he had a cute, very blond flat-top, and blue, blue eyes.

6th grade - I think I had a crush on Donnie, who went on to be a juvenile deliquent. No kidding, he was sent away for stealing a car or something.

By junior high I was really crazy about boys, and I can still remember most of their names! These were the kind of crushes where your heart races when you see that ONE boy between passing periods, or if you got to sit at the same lunch table. There were dances, and I went. Even so my best friend, Joyce, watched me and said, "Carol, you really can't dance, can you?" By 9th grade I got to kiss one of those boys, and that was a memory that thrilled me for days. High school crushes continued, but I never had a steady boyfriend after I changed schools. I wasn't very popular, and even though I had guy friends, and there was one boy I REALLY liked, I never went "steady."

Thinking back to ALL the guys I can remember, I never once "liked" a girl. I can tell anyone, if I choose, every one of the important boys in my "romantic" history. For gay people, this is not the same. They've hidden their crushes, have been ashamed of those simple attractions, and have squelched sharing these hidden feelings for those of their same sex. I can share these things without shame - it's acceptable to have had feelings for other kids, and I don't hide in any way that I liked BOYS!

Why is it, then, that people (as in judgmental Christians) assume that gay folks suddenly "fall" into homosexuality? How come they think that someone who is gay DECIDED or CHOSE to become attracted to their same sex, when for example, they had been married to a straight spouse? And how is it possible that they refuse to realize that attraction goes way, way back?

In the same way that I'm straight, and in the same way that I had crushes as a kid, gay people also have feelings and crushes from early ages.

If there are judging Christians who are reading this, please take a look at your own "love history." It's not just a lustful thought that suddenly "takes over," but it is what one is attracted to that makes one straight or gay.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Nathaniel Marshall - American Idol Chatter (USA Today blog)

When I watched American Idol last night, I was excited to hear Nathaniel Marshall. Even though the judges spent quite a long time evaluating him and giving feedback, they weren't very positive about either his song or his delivery. The talk centered around it being "karaoke-like", and they likened him to Boy George, Olivia Newton-John, and he was singing a song by Meatloaf. According to Simon, only a minority would like Nathaniel's performance, so I guess I'm in the minority. I loved it! I voted for him, and if he gets to continue he can make an impact on the show - a good one!

Brian Mansfield of "Idol Chatter," (blog on USA TODAY) picked up on the dichotomy of Nathaniels' first acapella performance of, "The Anchor Holds," and he has written about it. Mansfield draws attention to the fact that Nathaniel might very well be saying to the AI world, "I'm gay and I'm a Christian,"...

Nathaniel first grabbed my attention during Hollywood week when he sang his a cappella version of a song called The Anchor Holds by Ray Boltz.

You don’t go an American Idol and choose a 15-year-old song by a relatively little-known Christian singer song by default. You make a conscious decision to go off-list and get special clearance so you can perform a song that very few people will know. But those who do know it likely will interpret it as a very strong statement.

For those who don’t know, Boltz is a Christian singer most popular during the '80s and '90s. He retired from performing several years ago, around the time he told his family about his homosexuality. He came out publicly last September in an interview with The Washington Blade and currently performs in Metropolitan Community Churches.

So if you go on national television and announce that you’re singing a Ray Boltz song, you’re sending a clear message.

It’s a risky move to introduce yourself to a national, mainstream, television-watching audience by saying, ‘I’m a Christian’ and then hope for their acceptance. It’s similarly risky for the first thing you say to that audience to be, ‘I’m gay’ (which according to some of the personal profiles that existed before Idol, Nathaniel is). But it’s a matter of an exponentially different magnitude to combine those two things and say, ‘I’m gay, and I’m a Christian,’ even obliquely. That takes some guts.

What a great kid! One who will put his voice and his persona front and center to the public. Knowing that people will judge not only his voice and what he chooses to wear, but every nuance of what they see of his character. I think this young man is wonderful! I'd be proud of him if he was part of my family - and I congratulate him for all that he's already done on American Idol.

Today the reviews are showing up and they don't look like Nathaniel is faring well. He is going against the flow for most of the AI audience, but I definitely loved his performance. His voice is great to listen to, I LIKE the young man, and he was entertaining. I hope he can continue to entertain us in the weeks to come on American Idol.

update...In case you missed the last nights' performance, here's the link to it:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jesus said: Love God, love others

This morning I got a message from an old friend, Terri. She and I were connected 20+ years ago by church, and our kids were about the same ages. I looked at some old photos from back then, and I read some posts from a facebook group that we have both joined, and then I checked out a blog entry from Jim Johnson, a gay-affirming blogger who posted worship songs. Altogether, plus other things I've been feeling, make it all so clear that I miss church.

What I don't miss is the "fairy-tale versions" of how life is supposed to turn out right if you trust God and "make the right choices." I don't miss hearing about how other people have problems because they didn't have faith, or enough faith. I don't miss the echoes of how bad the "gay activists" are polluting our country, because I have heard that exact reference. And I don't miss the ones who say, "the Lord led me..." or "God told me..." way more often than Moses ever heard from the Almighty.

But I miss being part of the group of people who are seeking to be part of a goodness bigger than themselves. Ones who are volunteering at the food bank, or collecting blankets for new unplanned and unexpected babies. I miss being the volunteer who opens my home to the youth group, so that the junior high kids can hang out and eat cookies here. I miss singing with all my heart to God, and expecting God to help me in my loneliness. (oh, wait, I still do that!) I miss having coffee and donuts in the basement of my old church, right before sending the kids to Sunday School to act all "hyper" because I gave them so much sugar (oh, wait, there is no proof that sugar actually does that!) I better get back to my point...

I really loved being part of a church where I fit in, and now I don't. It's hard for me to open up. I don't trust that God is real, at least not in the way I thought in the past. I'm still trying to sort what I was taught from what I have learned. What I was taught is that the Bible is ABSOLUTELY literal, and now I hold a different view. Even though I still believe that that Bible is to be trusted for guidance, and that God is its source, I think there are many cultural influences that have changed in the thousands of years since it was written, to now, for us, in the 21st Century.

It isn't just that I am now supporting and affirming of people who are gay/bi/trans. Once I realized that the "clobber passages" had different interpretations, I began to see that there is a lot that must be interpreted differently. I now see that Jesus might have come to really show us how to live in this world full of sinners, and that is to show love to ALL people. That isn't easy - it's hard, and I have to depend on God more than ever in order to do what Jesus asked of us: "Love God. Love others as you love yourself." It's not church in the old way, but something better.

I find it somewhat unhealthy to put myself through the gauntlet of walking with my head held high, trying to be part of a place that doesn't "fit" for me any more. At the same time, there are glimmers of hope that things are changing. I'm finding a few people who are gay-affirming. As we become more visible as straight allies, I KNOW more will come alongside me and all the ones who have been hurt by the church. If I can change to become gay-affirming, and reach out to even the ones who have yet to become so, perhaps we can make church BETTER. I think Jesus wants this, and God knows I sure need to be part of church.

Today is Sunday, and I want to go to church.