Sunday, June 28, 2009

copying Peterson

It is postings like this one that make me love Peterson Toscano. His writing has touched me and changed me, and now I hear the same questions from others who read this blog (mine).

Please read and share with others this wisdom from Peterson:

Recently at Beyond Ex-Gay we received the following e-mail:

Although I have been out for many years and have had a relationship for 13 years, I have always had this inner guilt due to my religious beliefs and what the bible says. All this time I thought I had to leave by faith behind and deny with much anger God - and that hurts just as much too. I know longer want to do that - I guess you could say I am searching for answers. I am glad you have had this information on the Internet because, I have recently renewed my faith and have thoughts about going through one of these “healing” programs to be right with God – although inside I believe I am the way God made me.

I am confused still, and so torn.

Could someone help me find the answers I am looking for so I don’t feel the pain and guilt?

I post my response below:

Reading what you write about the confusion and the pain you have felt reminds me of my own struggle now 10 years ago when I first acknowledged that I was gay and that I could not change that (even though I tried mightily for 17 years). People told me over and over, “You can’t be gay & Christian!” So when I first came out, I assumed I could not be Christian any longer.

For a time I aspired to be atheist. Turns out I was a rubbish atheist, always praying and thinking about God. That led me to have a heart to heart with God. So many toxic thoughts filled my mind, much fear, guilt and dread that I was doing something so horrible in accepting that I was gay. This had nothing to do with sex or a relationship, but simply the act of accepting my orientation.

That fear can so cloud the mind. It was difficult to discern if it was really the Holy Spirit convicting me or if I was getting battered by many years of sermons and teachings pointing me in a particular direction. Then I remembered, “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.” God doesn’t lead by fear. Fear led me astray. Fear led me to go to war with my own body and mind. Fear caused me to go down a path that nearly destroyed my faith as I begged and badgered God to fix me, heal me, change me, contain me. I spent years coveting my straight neighbor’s life.
I didn’t trust lots of people at this time–gay or straight. I figured everyone had their own agendas and I needed to find answers for myself–just me and God. Over the years I did eventually find some books that help–Peter Gomes, The Good Book and Christian de la Huerta’s Coming out Spiritually. More so I benefited from reading history, particularly the history of the Bible and how it was used and misused through the years. I learned about the early church from Elaine Pagels. I also read the poetry of Walt Whitman, a revelation both spiritually and physically.

I also began to meet people, sincere Christians who also happen to be gay or lesbian. I got to know them and see their lives and recognize God in them, the fruit of the Spirit, and have fellowship.

In the end I discovered that I can be a person passionately in love with Jesus, serving God and still have a gay orientation. I can be authentic about myself, even if much of the church seems to disagree. In the process I rediscovered the scriptures for myself, found myself in them and a deeper faith.

It is not easy. Many trials, many doubts and the journey has required a certain fearlessness in the face of LOUD opposition, particularly rattling in my head from years of hearing it in the church. But when I get to the heart, when I get to the Spirit, when I sit still in the presence of God, I have peace and clarity. The ruts in my head that led me to places that continually condemned me and harassed me have leveled out.

My mind grows more and more liberated each day as I practice Romans 12:1,2–No longer conform to the patterns of this world (Patterns that say one must be gender-normative, heterosexual, and if you are not there must be something wrong with you and you will encounter troubles. Patterns that say that masculinity is more valuable than femininity. Patterns that insist that one must bow and scrape to the teachings of men instead of the leadings of God), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you can better understand God’s will for you life.

Steve Biko once say,

The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

A liberated mind brings peace, clarity and action.

I can't say it better.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Questions for a young friend

I wrote this to a young friend today:

Hi there, ________,

You probably only have a vague memory of me, but I'm sure you know who I am. I'm still the same person who taught your brother in Sunday School, and our family was close with your Uncle (but we haven't heard from him since Ray came out).

I read your comments on a fb friend's note. She saw the video, "What was I supposed to be?", on YouTube, and she saw someone's comment: "If the fetus you save grows up to be gay, will you still fight for it's rights?"

You said:
u can defend gays all u want and i dont mean to be a complete douche i am not anti-gay if they want to do that thats their problem but the bible clearly states that homosexuality is a sin and they need to take that up with God .

and then...

i am not judging anybody just reinstating what the bible has already said u want to believe that being a homosexual isnt a sin ur welcome to thats God giving us our free choice in what we want to believe but just saying the bible is complete truth and it says that Being gay is a sin so whatever i am not having this argument its a waste of my time trying to explain my reasoning

I wanted to comment, but don't want to come across as critical of YOU, so I decided to write you a personal letter/message

My friend, I hope you realize that you are hurting people with your assumptions that they are choosing to be gay. Years ago a friend of mine from church revealed that she was lesbian, and everyone I knew talked badly of her and basically discontinued contact with her. No one continued to ask her to participate in fellowship, get-togethers, in graduation celebrations, baby showers, or weddings.

Well, that didn't make sense to me. Even though I didn't understand WHY she would "come out" I knew, somehow, that she had not chosen something that would cut herself off from ALL the people she knew. She would not DECIDE to be the subject of all the gossip at the grocery store, all the hurtful comments mentioned alongside "prayer requests," or all the negative feelings put out by our little Christian church. That just didn't make sense.

So I decided to keep contact with my friend. I always accepted invitations from her, and I made sure that when there was an event at my house, I still sent her an invitation. I wanted her there! I wanted her to know that she was included, that she was important to me. (After all, we started Junior Church together, back when our girls were only 2-years-old!) Almost always we turned up at each other's events. And I wrote her a letter saying, "... although I don't understand, you are my friend, and I will always love you."

Right now, among your friends, it seems that there is a huge debate going on. Lines are being drawn, and people are saying mean things to one another, and many are lining up sides, "according to the Bible." I want to ask some questions, and I hope you will consider the answers in the longer term than just this week or this summer.

Who was Jesus talking to when he said, "by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love toward one another"?

Do you think it is more important to do what Jesus says, or to follow your beliefs, when he prays, "that you may all be one."?

In five or ten years, do you want to be remembered as someone who tried to understand people who are sharing something you don't understand, or someone who says, "I know the answers and you don't."?

Can you imagine what it feels like to be told: "You homosexuals are wrong and sinful, and there is no salvation for who you ARE."?

Do you really think that if someone is gay, that marrying a straight person will solve ANYTHING? Do you think that it is fair for that straight person to enter marriage without realizing that someone's same-sex attractions will NEVER go away? If your brother, or sister, or daughter or son, was preparing to marry someone who had "graduated" from "reparative therapy," would you trust that this person was now completely, genuinely heterosexual?

...and from a personal note...Why do you think that people like me have changed to realize that gays/lesbians are loved and accepted by God, and that they don't need to try to change something inherent in their make-up?

One more thing...I want to share with you a video that is available for rent at most stores. The title is, "For the Bible Tells Me So," and it offers a great place to evaluate what many fundamentalists think, and what is actually true about gay Christians.

You are welcome to write to me, and I'll do the best I can to share with you what I have learned, or you can read some entries on my blog. Maybe you will get a glimpse into real change of heart. I can hope it will make you insightful into why your friend brought up the questions that she did - and that you will see why we think it is so important.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Update from Texas

I'm in New Braunfels, Texas, this week, where there is a heat wave with temperatures in, as they say on the radio, "triple digits." Then they say, "at least there's a breeze." So you take the bad with the good, right? But gosh, it is HOT! This whole town is built on recreation in and around Schlitterbahn Water Park, and the two rivers, the Comal and the Guadalupe, where folks come to cool in the spring-fed water, float along in tubes, and generally escape HEAT.

My dear sister, Donna, lives here, and she's been a great support to me since my husband came out to me. Being over 1000 miles apart, it's great when I get to see her and spend some time, other than to have a wedding to throw, a new baby to take care of, or other busy family event that takes our time. This trip, I've introduced her to several friends from Soulforce, we attended Austin Metropolitan Community Church on Sunday, and made a trip to the Alamo. I also got to spend time with my niece and her family, take a dip in the neighborhood pool, and have lunch today with my nephew in Houston. It's an enjoyable time - even though outside it's terribly uncomfortable outside.

Now to the reason that I am down here in June, in Texas. Just down the road in Austin, is the main office of Soulforce, and I have accepted an appointment to serve on the Board of Directors. We had two days of meetings last weekend as I joined the other members, Jeff Lutes, Chuck Phelan, Bill Carpenter, Mel White, Gary Nixon, Karen Ball, Julie Nemecek, Enzi Tanner, Phil Reitan, and Paul Egertson. I hope I'm up to the task, and that I can offer meaningful support to this organization that I support and believe in so much.

Update: Here's my bio on the Soulforce site!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Proud in an allied way

Since this month is full of Pride events, I'm making it clear for all the record: I'm a proud ally of my gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender friends! It's not that I understand everything, and for sure I don't know what it's like to be discriminated against, but I DO know that God made us all, we are all loved by God, and all of us deserve the same rights!

So I ask myself: How do I make a difference? How do I express the respect and PRIDE I have in these gay friends?

To begin with, I don't hate my ex-husband, who came out about 4 1/2 years ago to me and our immediate family. Later, in Sept., 2008, he revealed this to the greater public through an interview in the Washington Blade.

Next, I make supportive comments on blogs. These are connected to my name, and I'm not anonymous any more. I'm free to support the people and ideas I believe in.

I share stories and blogs of interest on social networking sites like facebook and twitter. This recently led to a "friend" who "unfriended" me. I was kind of surprised since she's a local person from the church I used to attend. Hmmm...why was I surprised?

In conversations I speak up for the rights of gays. I won't tolerate jokes that ridicule what it's like to be gay. This is both easy and it's hard, especially when you have bozos who don't listen to reason or are insensitive. I don't mind a bit to speak up, but I'd like to know the IMMEDIATE comeback in every situation, in order to say what I think and believe.

This is a small thing, but I put a little rainbow-colored whirly-gig in my plants, and I aimed it at the preacher's house across the street. I know, that's a little bit of attitude, but I LIKE IT!

I read and try to keep up with issues that involve equal rights. I post stories on my blog, with comments on how they affect my life. I try to discuss these issues with people who can be swayed in a positive way, and I try not to inflame the rest of the crowd. Sometimes I fail at that, but I've heard it said, "You draw more flies with honey than you do with vinegar," and even though I don't LIKE flies, I think the point is evident.

Of those who become upset with me, I figure that this is a minor thing, and I call them not friends but, "former connections." I also know that I've made friends among people that experience crap from those who aren't listening, and I'm proud of those discriminated-against friends. It isn't hard to stand up with PRIDE for FRIENDS.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

...I guess I will stay with my wife...

Gathering together a recent comment(from this post) and an e-mail that came in today from a different person, I wish people could actually talk to each other, listen and evaluate what they are saying. On the one hand, you have someone inferring "change" can happen if there is, "an in depth process within the person," while on the other is someone revealing how he really feels.

Besides the fact that this anonymous commenter assumes there is only one "lifestyle," among gay people, it appears that they have not lived "change" themselves, and even then recognizes only that "the homosexual impulses diminish." Here is the commenter's quote:

I think some of these comments may be over simplified. I think what "Anonymous" brought up was a true-to-life point about someone who experienced change, and it was dismissed. There are homosexually oriented men who are NOT happy with the gay identity, who fall in love with a woman and want to make a life with her and feel terribly conflicted. I know one personally, who has agonized over feelings for a woman. And no one has the right to tell them they should just embrace a gay lifestyle, that that is the only outcome that is true or possible for them. It is very much a continuum due to likely many causal factors, and no scientist has proven it is innate. And studies on those who SEEK their own change report it is possible, not from an overly religious process but an in depth process within the person. Their heterosexual impulses do come through, and the homosexual impulses diminish. That is their right and no one has the right to say it isn't possible for them.

hmmm...their RIGHT? What is right? Is it right to cover up one's true feelings and marry a woman - just because he thinks he MIGHT be able to let the "homosexual impulses diminish"? Or is it to live the best he can, going through life feeling "terribly conflicted," "agonized," and hoping the "heterosexual impulses ... come through,"?

Give me a break. I'm sorry, but here is the opposite side of the story, from a married man who is tells what is really going on...

...[I'd] Like to be able to say I don\'t understand, but I do. Although I guess I will stay with my wife and love my kids and try to hold back all the other feelings that come over me. ... I\'m 52 been married for awhile have 3 kids, but still deal with the other feelings!!...

Honestly, who would want their spouse to feel this way? "I guess I will stay," just isn't good enough for me, nor is it the way other straight spouses want to be lied to. And if the spouse-in-denial is really good at deception, many spouses DON'T even know. How does THAT feel?

What about, "hold[ing] back all the other feelings that come over me,"? Does this sound like change? Dear Anonymous commenter, please don't continue to deceive yourself or let your friend proceed to have false hope that the answer to unwanted sexual feelings is to marry a straight woman!

And besides all this, what I hope for my gay friends is that they can recognize that there is no shame in the way they are made. There is no shame in feeling attracted to someone of the same gender, wanting to share their lives, and even marry the one they love. My hope is that eventually there will be no more women who get married for all the right reasons (love, family, hope for a future together, and yes, for sex) only to find that someone just "guesses they'll stay."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Brammer Get-together

I'm getting ready for a family reunion! In two days my sister, Donna, will arrive from Texas! Another sister, Betty, lives in Texas and is coming up, and she'll probably be staying with her son who lives in the area. All my siblings will be here, and most of the younger generation. I'm so excited, and there's still a lot to do!

For years, my mom did all the get-togethers. That was back before she had Parkinson's Disease, and there weren't so many of us. I have 5 other siblings, from my parents' two marriages (Dad was married once before he married my mom). All of us have assimilated into family, even though we didn't live together as kids. Even so, Mom always hosted the holiday gatherings, and later, it fell to me to get us all under one roof.

At first, and for a couple of years, even, when Ray came out, I didn't feel like having all the family in. The "news" hadn't been shared with them, and I wasn't up to a big crowd. Then, gradually, as I talked to some (and I'm sure they all discussed "it" with each other) I felt like they all knew how I was receiving it, and they didn't get bent out of shape if I mentioned Ray. My need for family was outweighing the worry about how they were all reacting. Last year I decided that if we all were to get together, I better call for a reunion! After all, Dad is 88, and his legacy is in this group of "rabble-rousers," and I wanted us to get together. So, instead of calling it a reunion, I named it the BRAMMER GET-TOGETHER.

It's an odd thing, family. Some of us feel connected, some don't. Some parts of the family get with each other more than others, and there are still others who will get acquainted this Sunday, hardly knowing each other. There can be hurt feelings, but there are also feelings of being close, related. There are memories that come from Mom, "Grandma" or my nephew, Jeff, who was killed last September in a tragic semi accident. None of us realized that last year's get-together would be our last time with him. I think it is one reason that some are making the extra effort to be here this year.

Basically, the Brammers are a Christian family, and it was quite a different outcome when they learned, a few years ago, that I was separated. Not that there hadn't been divorce in the family, but I was the one with the successful, Christian-singer husband, and we'd been involved in missions, went to church ALL the time, and our kids participated in church youth group with a lot of dedication. I'm sure there are plenty of them who still can't figure out what happened - and most of them haven't chosen to discuss it with me. (I am glad to sit down to talk, or to share resources that helped me).

This year there are spouses, kids, step-kids, grandkids and great-grandbabies, about 57, I think, plus the extras. In describing the "event" on facebook, I invited every Brammer, been-a-Brammer, related-to-a-Brammer, know-a-Brammer, or Brammer-wannabe! I'm sure that some won't be here, but we're sure to have a crowd!

I'm so distant from the hiding that happened when my husband had just come out. I love my family, and whether or not they agree with me, we are family. Nothing changes how I feel for them, and I'm so glad they are coming!