Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Race Matters in LGBTQ Issues

From www.parentsociety.com site:

Much of the civil rights movements of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community has been led and funded by out, white, gay men. With the news surrounding the Supreme Court hearing of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Prop 8, there were many out, white, gay men who were front and center on television, radio, in the press, and blogging about it, myself included. When J.C. Penney and Amazon.com sell their clothes and Kindles, they are using more white gay parents and their children or couples as part of their advertisements on mainstream shows. I write out of a white, middle class, same-sex, out-gay, Christian-centered context.
During our LGBTQ Week festivities at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), the historically black college/university (HBCU) where I teach, there were two films that provided me with a chance to consider a context that has been foreign to me in the past, but is quickly becoming more normative the longer I teach there. The first film was a documentary movie, Friends of Essex, by Amir Dixon. The title was an homage to Essex Hemphill, a Chicago-born poet, and Marlon Riggs, a Texas-born poet and educator, both who wrote about the experiences of African-Americans who were out and gay. As part of the narrative thread of his film, Dixon chose several young, gay, black men, who talk about race, identity, masculinity, and sexuality.
The second film was a popular film that had been out in theaters nationwide: Pariah, the story of a high school senior in Brooklyn, NY who comes out to her friends and family. Pariah follows the young woman Alike’s life as she too struggles with her identity shaped by race, the feminine, and sexuality, risking friends, facing heartache, and coming out as a lesbian to her conservative African-American family. Alike’s salvation is found through writing and poetry, which illuminates her pathway out of her troubled life.

Read more here: http://www.parentsociety.com/todays-family/mixed-race-families/race-matters-even-in-lgbtq-families/

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Moving Forward with Marriage Equality in US Senate

From www.parentsociety.com

In Sunday school and youth group gatherings, I delighted many children with the Peter Singer version of the Garden Song: “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow, gonna mulch it deep and low, gonna make it fertile ground.”

There were wonderful hand signs that went with the song, which also engaged the young children’s and adult’s bodies as well as minds and spirits. The entire song is about nurturing Mother Earth with steady, persistent efforts of care, concern, and love; taking out weeds and stones that impeded growth while making rows deep and planting seeds well-embedded into the ground, so that the rain and sun nurture the land. In turn, these seeds will grow into beautiful plants to feed people and bring beauty to the eye of the beholder.

I am reminded of this song as I watch the growing support for marriage equality among the members of the U.S. Senate on both sides of the political aisles.

With the hearing of the Prop 8 and DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) before the Supreme Court of the U.S. in the past few weeks, there was an unexpected show of support from various members of the U.S. Senate. One by one, U.S. Senators started to express their support of marriage equality. About mid-week of the Supreme Court hearing, with the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Biden, there were over fifty Senators who expressed support for same-sex marriage. This initially included Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, and now Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Read more here: http://www.parentsociety.com/todays-family/same-sex-parents/report-a-majority-of-u-s-senators-support-marriage-equality/

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Rally for Marriage Equality in Raleigh: "I Once Was Lost"

From my speech in Raleigh for Marriage Equality on March 26, 2013:

[Ed. Note: The following was delivered at an Equality North Carolina sponsored marriage equality vigil in Raleigh, N.C., on March 26.]
In my time as a Presbyterian pastor, I’ve been to my share of tent revivals and homecoming gatherings. This evening’s rally for marriage equality is the homecoming I hoped to find one day. And at those homecomings, one of the popular hymns we would sing is, “Amazing Grace.” It was the first lines of the first verse that captured parts of my life narrative well: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found…” There it is: “I once was lost.” Raised by my parents to be the best little boy in the world in the American middle-class dream, groomed by evangelical leaders of Young Life, InterVarsity and my local Presbyterian Church to be a minister, I did what was expected of me: I once was a married man, who was fortunate to marry his best friend from high school when we were both in college. Aware that I was gay early on in life, I also learned quickly that being gay was a “sin.” I was soon lost in my carefully constructed gay closet, with rough wooden planks of hate, screws and nails of fear and clothes of self-loathing suffocating me in my shadow life.
Burying myself in the work of academe and ministry, adding on top of it the joys of being a full-time dad, I pushed aside who I really was created to be, not believing that I was created to be a man born to be in a significant relationship with a man. However, because of my devotion to reading the Psalms, there was a verse from Psalm 139 that was like a song worm, burrowing into my consciousness: “I, God, knit you in your mother’s womb…wonderful are my works, wonderfully are you made.” These words broke down the fa├žade of the gay closet as I slowly accepted the man I was created to be. Those words were transformed into a beacon of light that helped lead me on my pilgrimage of coming out of a 21-year marriage and embracing all of who I am.
“But now I’m found.” I found my footing and now am working with others to have the choice to marry, a choice I once had when I was in the closet for 30 years. Today, I want what I had when I was in the closet and claimed to be straight. For 17 years (and counting), I’ve been in a significant partnership with my partner, Dean Blackburn. Like a straight couple, we were drawn to each other emotionally, relationally, intellectually, physically and spiritually. In other words, our attraction to one another is similar to that of straight couples. We’re similar to Ben Affleck at the recent Oscar awards who said to his wife Jennifer Gardner: “I want to thank you for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases. It’s good, it is work, but it’s the best kind of work and there’s no one I’d rather work with.” Like Affleck and Gardner, for 17 Christmases, Dean and I have worked and celebrated our union too. What we’re not able to do is celebrate our union as a marriage in North Carolina. This is where the work comes in: working at an historically black college/university (HBCU) of North Carolina Central University (NCCU), I understand what our forebearers of the Civil Rights movement fought for in terms of the civil right to marry the one we love, regardless of one’s skin color.
In 1967, the Supreme Court of the U.S., in Loving v. Virginia, gave interracial couples the right to marry, regardless of one’s racial or ethnic background. It is now our turn, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning Americans, to also embrace our civil and constitutional right as American citizens, in which these words are true for us as well: All of us are created equal, that we are endowed, by our Creator, with certain unalienable rights…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I was asked today by some of my NCCU students why I stay in the march for freedom? I stay because my African-American forebearers and women who fight for equal rights today, remind me this is a marathon, not a sprint. What pulls me forward is found in the third verse of “Amazing Grace”: “Through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come; ‘Tis Grace that brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home.”
Friends, let us embrace the freedom to create homes of trust, of commitment to one another and, most importantly, for our children and us: homes of love. Thank you and God bless. : :