Saturday, March 27, 2010

On the Hope Inherent in Opening One’s Mouth

I was in the Dollar Store a few days ago, browsing through their movies, looking for something that the kids might enjoy watching. Mostly the Dollar Store has things of interest to teenagers… horror movies, action/suspense, Kung Fu, tasteless comedy… but it also has some decent children’s things occasionally… It’s a Big Big World, Dragontales, movies with cute animals… so I check out the rack once a month or so. There, between the cute animals and the grimacing people firing guns, was a lone copy of Milk. For $6. So naturally I bought it.

Milk, starring Sean Penn, is about Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay man in the U.S. to be elected to major political office, in 1977. (The first openly gay person to be elected to public office in the U.S. was Kathy Kozachenko, who was elected to city council in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1974. And Elaine Noble was elected to Massachusetts state legislature in 1975.)

I laughed, I cried, I got indignant, I rolled my eyes like a ten-year-old at the romantic/sex scenes…. It was a great movie. (It definitely earned its “R” rating. The kids haven’t been interested in watching it yet, but we might conveniently skip a few scenes when they do.)

Harvey considered it a political act for people to come out openly as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). He firmly believed that if people knew that they knew someone who was LGBT, then it would be easier for people to accept them as deserving of the same civil rights and basic human respect as everyone else. I think he was right.

I have come to the conclusion that it is also a political act to come out openly as a supporter of people who are LGBT. As I have begun talking to folks in my own meeting and beyond about my concern that LGBT folks need to be accepted as co-equals, the vast majority of folks have nodded, and explained that they had already quietly come to that conclusion themselves. On the one hand, this has been very reassuring. On the other hand, it has been a little troubling.

Right now, today, there are people in the United States who will tell you with a straight face that homosexuals merit the death penalty, because God has said so (see Leviticus). I’ve met them. One of them explained that he didn’t think he could ever carry out such a death sentence himself, but he would not work against any legislation prescribing the death penalty for homosexual behavior, if anyone ever proposed such a law. Now, here is the thing that is both horrific and hopeful about the people I know who have said this: They are really nice folks. Given the opportunity to think about what they believe, I think that most of them would willingly and gladly find a way in their hearts to move, literally, to a Live and Let Live position. (Sooner or later, I hope… although I haven’t convinced anyone yet.)

This is what is so troubling about all those quietly accepting folks that I have met. They may never personally do anything to cause hurt to LGBT folks, but they will never give a nudge to the folks who are overtly hostile to LGBT folks either. Harvey Milk was right; when folks come out, it gives other people the opportunity to think about their own assumptions regarding gays. When non-gay folks come out as supporting the equal dignity and worth of LGBT folks, it gives other people the opportunity to think about their own assumptions regarding what is an appropriate “straight” attitude. (For this reason, I am also openly against abortion… I hope that when I say I support the equal dignity and worth of unborn babies, that it can help people think too… )

Being an open supporter of LGBT folks is as important as it was in 1978. Some things have gotten significantly better. Some things haven’t changed much: “They go to the bars because churches are hostile” (Harvey Milk). As a Christian, that was just about the saddest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say. God sent Christ for everyone. We are all the beloved children of God. So we live in hope… we have faith in things not seen… we dream that if we speak the Truth in love, the Truth will pour down like waters on the whole wide wonderful world, and every tear will be wiped away. Speak the Truth in love. We are all the beloved children of God.

Oh yeah. If you haven’t seen Milk yet, I recommend it.

21 comments:

Robin M. said...

What was shocking for me when Chris and I saw Milk was how recent it all was. The heavy lifting of the Civil Rights Movement was over by the time I was born. But the police raids on Castro Street were still happening. (I know that violence against African Americans and LGBT people is still happening, but not on the same scale or with the same impunity it once was.)

I think you're right that it is important for church folks to be openly supportive. Last year, one of the things we had at our Meeting's booth at the gay pride parade was a list of open and affirming congregations in a whole bunch of denominations. It was a joy to share that information.

Heather said...

Shawna, you hit the nail right on the head again. When I came out, I was amazed by the number of people who shrugged and said, 'Oh, OK..' They'd never expressed any pro or anti comments to me, but clearly weren't horrified by the idea at all.

Sadly, I was also told to my face by other members of my (Pentecostal) congregation that I would be going to Hell.

Thank God for Quakers.

John Michael Keba said...

Regarding your Live and Let live position, Shawna, where does this man fit in, a well educated, thoughtful gay Catholic who accepts his church's teachings?

http://johnheard.blogspot.com/

Or me, for that matter, a bi Quaker who regards sodomy, with a man or a woman, a selfish, violent act and a sin, and oral-anal sex self-destructive? Or the ex-gays who recently won recogntion of their status as actual real people, and not fakes and liars, in Federal court? We have all known LBGT people, lots of them, all our lives; and have left that lifestyle behind as self-destructive.

Do we need to be silenced? Re-educated? Cured of our own apparent self-loathing and "homophobia"? Where do we, as Children of God, fit into your new political activism, Shawna? Is there room for us?

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

John, what is it about supporting the rights of glbtq people that seems to you to threaten the rights of ex-gays or those who choose celibacy?

We've known since Kinsey that there is variation in sexual identity, and that "gayness" and "straightness" exists on a continuum; all gay individuals are not the same, any more than are all straights. I see no need to assail anyone for their understanding of their own sexuality, whether straight, bi, gay, or ex-gay.

But I do insist on the rights of all my friends, of whatever orientation, to be treated with dignity and respect.

I'm not sure what it is that causes you to label an entire category of sexual practices as inherently violent or selfish; they may not be my cup of tea, but they do seem to appeal to others, and provided we're talking about consenting adults in non-abusive, non-coercive relationships, I really, really don't want to tell anyone how to be in their body as they are sexual with their partner. I think we get to make that call for ourselves, but I'm not sure I can see an opening for imposing my sexual preferences and aesthetics on others. I'm just not getting you, there.

I would hope that there is room for everyone in any Quaker vision of the world, though obviously I can't speak for Shawna.

Affirming the right of gay people to be sexual and to form loving and committed relationships... I must be slow, because I never can see how that damages in any way the ability of folks like me, whose sexuality is fashioned differently, to do the same, or harms my marriage in any way. I just don't get it.

John Michael Keba said...

I am sorry, Cat, but the National Educators Association was and continues to discriminate against ex-gays, and the latter had to take the NEA to court because of it. So, the rights of ex-gays have already been and are still being trampled upon. So, to use your terminology, the support of LGBT rights currently is assailing the rights of others.

Will this change? I hope so. You seem to confuse protecting someone from violence against their person, and forcing others to accept that that persons lifestyle be recognized as a "good." My concern is that this nation is moving from the former to the latter.

As for the violence of sodomy, we are not designed for it anatomically. Any decent health site - for women or men - will make clear the dangers involved in its practice. These dangers have nothing to do whatsoever with one's sexual "preference" - they are a simple result of human anatomy. One can minimize the risks involved, but never get rid of them. Maybe I am slow, but putting another at risk for harm, even grave, life-threatening harm as in the case of MRSA, for one's mere sexual gratification is selfish, not loving.

Speaking more broadly, both the CDC and the WHO have affirmed that over 50% of all new HIV infections are from male-male sex; that is, less than 10% of the population is providing 50% of the cases keeping the pandemic alive. Drug-resistance problems aside, this is a drain on healthcare, stemming from a purely voluntary act. Moreover, the CDC released last year that any current AIDS patient is 50 times more likely to have engaged in male-male sex than not. I hope you are against anti-smoking laws, for otherwise your position here is contradictory.

There is heart-tugging entry in Britain Yearly Meeting's "Faith and Practice" in which a gay Friend recounts the death of his partner to AIDS. It is very moving. It is sad. It also makes no mention of the fact that HIV is contracted by voluntary sexual acts and that man's partner either was unfaithful, or the man writing was, or both were. Such is the nature of many, if not most, gay male "partnerships." This finally making it out into the open, too; so, if OYM is going to affirm gay male marriages, then it had better also minute that Jesus was wrong about adultery.

Answer me this, Cat, if I had a son and, based upon my life's experiences and upon the epidemiological data current now, I taught him that while all people must be treated with respect, male-male sex was inherently dangerous and not a natural and benign expression of love, would your insistence on dignity and respect suddenly evaporate in order that my son be taught the "correct" views on gay male sex, over and against my wishes? Or, more to the point, should my devout Catholic niece be prohibited from raising her son according to the Catechism of the Church, with regards to sexual activity. Does your regard and insistance on dignity and respect extend to Catholics, or just to LGBTs, and then only to the politically correct ones?

I would give my life, I hope, to save the life of a Harvey Milk, but I would be sorely tempted to toss him out the door if he tried to tell a child in my care that gay-bi male sex was "safe." And the sad fact is that liberal "tolerance" just does not "get" that thoughtful, reasonable people can have this attitude.

Anonymous said...

John, You talk "gay male sex" actually lets get something straight(sorry) I'm gay and your use of "lifestyle" is offensive and in correct. Me being gay is not all about sex it is about love.I want you to explain "lifestyle" I was married to a woman for many years. That was a choice.G-d told me it was wrong. I just happened to be gay and in a straight relationship that I felt, back then, I had no choice. In fact I was told that if I kept pretending emotionally and sexually with my wife I would change. Do you get that? I was involed in ex-gay thought and counciled in ex-gay activities. I almost lost my mind and was told all kind of hateful things.A lobotomy was suggested. I know some who had electrodes attached to their sexual organs and were told to look at pornography. Your comments sound like they come straight from these type of organizations that do more harm than good.You know darn well that if one is gay emotionally and sexually they cannot change. There will always be a void. When women approach me attempting to go beyond friendship I feel uncomfortable. I feel that through my whole marriage I violated my loving kind wife. All because I was told by folks like Exodus that I could and would change. That I was a sinner for being gay. To be in a loving relationship if gay is an abomination.They really didnt know what to do with me becuase I did not fit their stereotype. I am masculine, love sports, do not follow their red herring stereotypes. There are masculine gay men there are feminine straight men. We must stop this. Next you will be warning us of the "gay gospel" Plus you throw out red herrings left and right. You seem to blame gay men folk for the spread of HIV. Most gay men are very responsible when it comes to sex and I will tell you this. My straight football throwin buddies are not. I know that for a fact and just because they can go to the clinic and get treated does not excuse them as they cannot get counted. Has it come to this? I have done volunteer work at the National Aids Memorial Grove in SF for well over 13 years. I have never in my life worked with a community that is so responsible, kind, thoughtful and spiritual. Shame on you!
Throwing out nonsense about who is responsable and pointing fingers in the process for spreading a certain type of physical or some say social disease. Is that not what Hitlar did? It is!
Your comments actually sound like those of Dobson, exodus and others.

Unfortunatly I in most places as a gay many in a committed relationship cannot express myself. You know as well as I do that your post here has notihing to do with you getting rights taken away. You talk about anal sex and who to blame for HIV. I have heard this over and over and over again. Your right to have equal rights has nothing to do with the hateful misleading message of your post. I have fought for years in my faith based community to get the truth out there so not one more, yes one more Christian child will chose to blow their brains out on church property or anywhere. That one more family is not ripped apart by nonsense like this. It is talk like this that has fueled the atrocities that are happening in Africa by so called Christians. Helped along by some American Christians.
By the way I blew my nose on public transportation the other day. Oh my gosh another gay man spreading H1n1.

Shawna and others I am so sorry that I have to respond to this but please forgive me as I must. I cannot stand the fact after what I have seen and experienced in my life that one gay and yes John gay youth would read those comments and G-d forbid continue to hate themselves for who G-d made them to be and even worse chose to end their life. I have seen it and I must speak out.

Thank you Shawna for your post. As a Gay man who was told I had to be straight and then to face my wonderful wife when I had to tell her the truth. The tears cannot fill the room any of you are sitting in at the moment. Again forgive me.

Friend Larry

John Michael Keba said...

Dear Shawna,

You can see in Larry's reply what the fate of people like me will be if the current goals of LGBT activism succeed.

You can verify for yourself the WHO and CDC information on HIV incidence in the gay-bi male community.

You can verify for yourself the increasing incidence of syphilis, the new MRSA infection ravaging that community, and all the other diseases peculiar to that lifestyle.

You can verify for yourself the promiscuity remains a hallmark of the gay-bi male community. Just a few months ago, in England, a prominant gay organization filed a suit against the UK laws against public sex. Mind you, the law applies to all, regardless of "orientation." The gay organization has charged it discriminates against gay males because it is part of their "nature" to engage in frequent encounters of this nature. They are not lying; they a one of the few groups telling the truth about this matter. Again, you can verify this, too, for yourself.

And it is a lifestyle. There is no credible, repeatable evidence of the immutability of SSA. I have no knowledge of Dobson or Exodus, I do know that one of the very APA psychologists responsible for removing homosexuality from the DSM back in 1973 has, since then, treated those who wished to "re-orient"; I cannot imagine he used torture in his therapy. You can verify this, also, for yourself. SSA is not immutable; ex-gays do indeed exist, and much as Larry may hate it, this fact is recognized now in Federal law.

You need to read John Heard. You need to do some serious research. You then need to ask yourself two questions: "Would I want my son to enter into an active gay life (not would you support him and love him if he did, but would you want him to engage in male-male sex)?"; "Even if I see no reason personally why he should not engage in male-male sex, is the nature of the evidence so overwhelmingly in favor of the safety of it that those who still object to it should be silenced by any means?"

Obama just snuck Chai Feldblum into the EEOC through the back door, and she has publicly stated in interviews and in her writings that religious liberty takes a back seat to sexual freedom. This issue is very much, despite Larry's denials, about religious rights and personal liberties.

The first Friends went to prison in their thousands and died in their humdreds to establish religious liberty and the rights of conscience. It will be both ironic and tragic if 21st century Friends play a part in destroying religious liberty in the name of sex.

I am done here. Hopefully, you will look past emotional films and PC rhetoric and establish for yourself that reasonable people have good reasons for opposing this ongoing push in this nation to move beyond protecting the LGBT community from violence, to forcing people to accept "the life" is harmless. Again, what will you condone be done to those of us whose life experiences lead us to reject this way of life?

Be an activist, Shawna, but you'd better know that when the dust settles, and you have what you want, decent people will be going to prison so you can feel good about yourself.

Nate said...

This is an issue that clearly engenders emotional responses. We need to do the slow count quite often to keep from reactive responses rather than proactive responses. Some of the points made are quite well worth considering on both sides, but cant be seen if all we see is red. John, you make some good points, but your logic does not always follow; for instance in your comment about allowing gay relationships to be recognized as of value in a church setting, you say that we might as well say that Jesus was wrong about adultry because a substantial percentage of gay relationships are "cheated" on, and yet the same logic does not seem to apply to the substantial percentage of straight relationships that involve cheating. Do you see how that does not follow? and yet it is a very emotional position for you.

Anonymous said...

"There is heart-tugging entry in Britain Yearly Meeting's "Faith and Practice" in which a gay Friend recounts the death of his partner to AIDS. It is very moving. It is sad. It also makes no mention of the fact that HIV is contracted by voluntary sexual acts and that man's partner either was unfaithful, or the man writing was, or both were. Such is the nature of many, if not most, gay male "partnerships." This finally making it out into the open, too; so"

Not that it makes a difference as to how this brother contracted HIV, but it could have been through a blood transfusion, it could have been from sexual contact. Oh my gosh my Friend are you serious?This is what you got out of this Friends words? His pain? His story? That is telling in itself. And then to say that most gay male partnerships are promiscuous. This is what is dangerous this Hate speech masked with finger pointing, fear and ingnorance.
I can not change my sexuality brother but I will tell you this you can control what comes out of your mouth and what you write. And Heaven help us if some gay youth is reading this, on the edge with a gun in one hand and a bottle of pills in the other.You did not come here to request equal rights you came here to spew your agenda.


"After 5 Years of Legal Gay Marriage, Massachusetts still has the lowest state divorce rate and Western Civilization is intact"

Friend Larry

Beans said...

@John
If God leads someone (Gay or not) to worship and join in fellowship, who are you to refuse?

Anonymous said...

Friend Nate,
I understand what your point is and I have apologized in that, I Must respond. My post is not reactive it is pro-active.Good points on both sides? I think not and this is not about sides this is about saving lives.This is about agenda, lies and fear. I have seen it, lived it. Over the last 15 years I have commitied to myself that if I could save one life I would. If I could get some youth that was on the brink of ending his/her life to stop for a moment and think, I would do that. Maybe in the Quaker tradition youth have not blown their brains out but in my old faith tradition they have.Over statements just like this! To say nothing is to support this. Are there good points on both sides when we talk about genocide? Debating being selective to who Quakers might allow in their meeting is one things. This is another. Friend Shawna has posted a beautiful blog/statement. This is not the place for someone to hi-jack it and post such hate that could harm another human being. I will not post again here as to not create responses that would carry this. At least I will know that I spoke out and my comments might help a child or one that has been taught by folks like this to hate themselves in the name of Jesus
I cannot get my goggle account to work so anon is all I can select but I have signed my name

Friend Larry

Anonymous said...

By John Michael Keba's logic, heterosexual activity would be something to condemn. The most dangerous, illicit, casual, exploitative and immoral liaisons would be the heterosexual partnering that occurs across our fair nation every Friday and Saturday night in millions of bars and honky tonks. Those folks are really driven to getting a lot of action and spreading whatever physical and moral degeneration they possess. As I follow this logic further, it is sex itself that is filthy, vile and nasty, with it's common usage of several orifices and god- knows-what those pleasure seekers are doing during their one night stands. Maybe the sex act could be rendered OK in some kind of sterile, holy test tube, to be done by folks only as self righteous as John Micheal Keba.

Thank you Shawna. I came out years ago in support of my LGBT brethren. The Ohio Yearly Meeting, Conservative has not been helpful on this issue to any of us. Thanks be to the enlightened Quakers of Iowa who are light years ahead.
Friend Walter

Anonymous said...

By John Michael Keba's logic, heterosexual activity would be something to condemn. The most dangerous, illicit, casual, exploitative and immoral liaisons would be the heterosexual partnering that occurs across our fair nation every Friday and Saturday night in millions of bars and honky tonks. Those folks are really driven to getting a lot of action and spreading whatever physical and moral degeneration they possess. As I follow this logic further, it is sex itself that is filthy, vile and nasty, with it's common usage of several orifices and god- knows-what those pleasure seekers are doing during their one night stands. Maybe the sex act could be rendered OK in some kind of sterile, holy test tube, to be done by folks only as self righteous as John Micheal Keba.

Thank you Shawna. I came out years ago in support of my LGBT brethren. The Ohio Yearly Meeting, Conservative has not been helpful on this issue to any of us. Thanks be to the enlightened Quakers of Iowa who are light years ahead.

Shawna said...

I just finished writing a beautiful eloquent reply, and it was lost in hyperspace. So, now I need to try again, more humbly.

If there is one thing I have learned in my 46 years, it is that people are nuts. All of them. Gay, straight, or bi... we are all flippin' insane. If we want to find dysfunction, or something to criticize, we surely will be able to find it, no matter who we are looking at.

But besides being nuts, we are also all worthy of respect, and we are all capable of love. And we can all listen to and follow God.

There are people who have discerned that God's will for them does not include being gay. There are people who have discerned that being straight is not appropriate for them. Where we can see signs of spiritual growth and of the fruits of the Spirit, we can have faith that that person has chosen a path that God can work with.

It's hard to hang on to the faith that someone is listening to God when they have chosen a path different from our own... We just have to keep telling ourselves: "I'm a nutcase, and God can work with me. I'll bet he can work with that other nutcase, too."

Peace and love...

Hystery said...

Shawna,

Thank you, Shawna. I am standing with you and I am holding you in the Light as you continue to faithfully answer this call. Much love to you.

Karen said...

Sex and the need for intimacy are primal and powerful forces. No wonder they arouse such intense emotion.

My understanding is that just about any sexual act can be destructive or empowering, depending on the context. Arguments over what is and is not "natural" become very dangerous very fast, being generally dependent on where you are in time and culture.

So far as I can tell, people of all orientations and gender identities can have healthy or unhealthy attitudes towards love and sex. Yes, we're all nutters - or veering very close - at least some of the time in different areas of our lives.

Thank you, Shawna, for your Love.

Anonymous said...

John

Firend John, after reading much of what you have posted I think -- and I mean this in the kindest possible way -- that you may want to take a moment of pause. You suggest that all of us as being "manipulated" by the media -- (on a side note many of us do not even own a televisions), that all of us (including the author) want to exclude those who view themselves as "ex" homosexual and/or may have different views on the subject after the author made it clear that ALL should be welcome to Gods love, you post remarks about your niece and how fellow Friends like Cat want to "prohibit her" from pracicing her Catechism, you suggest a senerio in which Harvey Milk would want to talk your child about sex without your consent and finally, you suggest that the author will be responsible for good people going to prison because of Vanity (?)(?)

Friend John, I am not attacking you, nor am I casting stones but, I’m not sure how anyone can possibly respond to any of these types of statements :-( :-( PLEASE don't think me rude but, you are obviously filled with a lot of anger, fear and doubt. I think it may help to talk to some members in your Meeting (or church if you are not Quaker) about what is really bothering you and pray on it as well.

Anonymous said...

Forgive the spelling in the above post. I didn't bother to spell-check -- appologies

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Here's what I know:

I know that I have to stop and think for a few minutes before I can remember which of our many couple-friends are straight, and which are gay. The love and faithfulness our friends show one another is independent of their sexual orientation, and it takes concentration to tell the same-gender couples from the heterosexual relationships.

I know that my own faith is underpinned, among other things, by the daily miracle of the marriage my husband and I share. How can I disbelieve in justice, mercy, or a love unbounded by mortal life, when I have a blessing this large in my own life?

I know that, watching two friends become widows, the anguish each felt at the death of her partner was no different in the case of the heterosexual and the lesbian marriage.

I know that I am ashamed that my country denies my lesbian widow friend the common dignity of recognizing her widowhood at all.

And I know that I am a Quaker; that George Fox famously said, "We marry none"--that the Holy Spirit performs that ceremony, and we merely witness it.

As a human being, I know that I am not fitted to pass judgment on blessings bestowed by God's grace. And I have seen, again and again in the eyes of same-sex couples, every sign of that grace I know how to recognize.

It is simply wrong, and I know this in my soul and I know it in my bones, for human institutions to reject the love God is kind enough to bless human couples with because the package we find it in doesn't suit our preconceptions.

John Keba, you say you are an ex-gay man. Well, you should know. I'll go to the mat to acknowledge your write to live your life in the fashion your heart and God's guidance take you.

But when you say that your happiness depends upon the right to refuse that basic recognition to others... I am sorry, friend. I cannot pretend that there is love in that; I cannot pretend there is joy in that. I do not sense mercy or love in it, either.

We could chop logic with one another over the mechanics of health or sex, I suppose, but at the end of the day, it comes down to this: I have seen every evidence of God's love in the eyes of my gay and lesbian friends and their partners. I have seen it in the joy with which they look into one another's eyes.

Where is the joy in your message, John Keba? Where is the sense of the joyful bursting forth of a living Spirit?

I don't deny--would never deny--that you have such within you. But I do not hear it or feel it in your words, friend. I'm sorry. I just don't.

Shawna said...

Hi John Michael... I have done some research as you suggested, and I have found some information that, after reflection, I have decided should be included here for folks to see.

Unfortunately, it ended up too long for a comment, and so I have posted it as a blog post. Thank you for being willing to discuss the issue here, and thank you for asking me to look into things myself. I appreciate that.

Shawna said...

Here's the link to that looooong comment. sorry to ramble on....

http://mysticspoetsandfools.blogspot.com/2010/04/long-comment-that-ought-to-appear-under.html