a catholic’s witness that it gets better

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a catholic’s witness that it gets better

At a time where the Catholic Church is under much scrutiny due to scandal, abuses of power, and upholding teachings that fracture rather then unite, this short video has rekindled my faith that all will be well within the tradition that I was raised in.

The priest’s message of love and acceptance not only embraces the queer community but also warmly welcomes all those who have been outed of their communities. It also reminds me that no religious institution is perfect for as humans we are all prone to blunders, both intentional and unintentional, especially when it comes to faith. The priest’s testimony reflects that the Spirit is moving in the Catholic Church and the wider religious world with an inspiring message that church is more than an institution’s hierarchy or leadership—church is the people, all of the people, who together form an interconnected web with G-d at the center holding us together.

The loss of the priest’s young friend to suicide is a tragedy that needs to end. Too many lives have been lost due to communal practices of marginalization and dehumanization of those of us who live and love beyond the norm. His death impacts the entire web, though things can be repaired it will not be the same. Together we must honor his life by making sure that all those on the fringes truly know that they are loved and celebrated for who they are. Things are getting better, little by little. Together as a web of people we must do all we can to make it better now!!!

born this way, oh yeah!

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born this way, oh yeah!

In a world where church, society, politics, schools and media try to limit our sense of self by imposing boxes and labels on us, Glee and Lady Gaga are refreshing reminders of the importance of self-expression, together forming a powerful witness and counter-narrative that encourage us to embrace all of who we are and to wear our unique identities with pride and gusto. Though the Glee characters focus in on just one part of their identities in this clip, I challenge us to embrace all parts of ourselves, to integrate our many identities: sexual orientation, gender identity, race/ethnicity, mental health, body type, socio-economic status – everything that makes us us, a human mosaic of goods and bloopers that are beautiful and worthy of being celebrated. May we all embrace with glee our inner gaga so you “don’t hide yourself in regret, just love yourself and you’re set. I’m on the right track baby, I was born this way.”

featured image found at:  http://imagequotes.tumblr.com/page/372

whats this facebook about?

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whats this facebook about?

Facebook has truly been an amazing tool and resource for people to carve out a space for themselves to connect with others: family, friends, relatives twice removed, new people, fellow supporters of a cause, fellow supporters against a cause, etc. With all of the likes, sharing, poking, videos, tags, comments and images, I wonder if all our status updates are truly accomplishing what this Facebook advertisment claims Facebook is meant to do: connect us. I am not against Facebook as I myself am an active member and I recognize its many benefits. But I wonder if it actually strengthens our ability to relate intimately with others. Part of building strong relationships consists of being courageous enough to be extremely vulnerable and show our true selves to one another, not just the image we want to project to the world. It is this practice of revealing our true selves that creates strong connections with others, ourselves, and the divine.  I don’t want to discourage you from using Facebook but rather, to help you see it for what it is, a social networking tool, which cannot replace the real effort and courage required to forge real connections.

all our voices count

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all our voices count

Despite the attempts of churches, communities, and organizations to silence those of us who live and love beyond the norm, we must remember that all of our voices, soft and loud, squeaky and bellowing, count. Throughout history we have seen how even just one voice can transform society, can revolutionize a people, and can widen the circle within churches.

Words can pack a wallop; we must be intentional on how we choose to use them. Just as our voices can hurt, dehumanize, and shatter, they can also heal, make whole, and radically transform—we must be mindful and careful how we choose to share our voices for a church and society that is just, inclusive, and welcoming. Even when we think its pointless and no one is listening, we never know when the seeds we are planting will bear fruit in the lives of others, lives of people we may never meet but who will find inspiration, insight, and incredible oomph in what we shared. Even the smallest, softest, and weakest voices (by society’s misguided standards) can ripple into justice, wholeness, and equality. Our voices matter, our voices count!!!

 

maya angelou, presente

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maya angelou, presente

Dr. Maya Angelou….poet, author, activist, civil rights leader, actress, dancer, survivor, poet, woman, prophet…she was and continues to be an inspiration on my journey.  Her death was a surprise to me but I also know that her spirit will continue to live on in me and so many others transformed by her life and witness.  I prepared this mini-liturgy in her honor for a meeting I went to recently.  ¡Maya Angelou, presente!  

Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud – Maya Angelou (audio clip)

Peace Prayer – Maya Angelou
Father, Mother, God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.
Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
For then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.
And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days,
For then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.

For those who have no voice,
ALL ~ we ask you to speak.


For those who feel unworthy,
ALL ~ we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.


For those who live in pain,
ALL ~ we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.


For those who are lonely,
ALL~ we ask
you to keep them company.


For those who are depressed,
ALL ~ we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.


Dear Creator, You, the borderless
 sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the 
world that which we need most—Peace. Blessed be.

Draw the Circle Wide – Mark Miller (video)
Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.
Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.
No one stands alone, we’ll stand side by side.

Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.
Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still.
Let this be our song, no one stands alone.
Standing side by side,
Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.

honoring and remembering

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honoring and remembering

Though my feelings about the military are conflicted, I would like to honor those who have served our country (for better or worse) as well as honor their families and loved ones. today we remember all who have given their lives for our country especially those who served (and the many who continue to serve) in coerced silence…may the justice and freedom they gave their lives for ripple into the country and military they served that did not always (and continues to not always) recognize the full personhood of ALL. May our mimosas and bbqs and beach parties not overshadow our remembering or the ongoing struggles of lgbtq servicepeople.

http://youtu.be/dwcgu4zcdHc

graduating with pride

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graduating with pride

These are pieces of the ceremony I put together for Ohio University’s Pride Graduation Celebration (I took out the more protocol-ly portions). It was my first Pride Graduation as a person and as a director. Many blessings to all who are graduating in various ways in life…may the journey traveled provide insight and the journey to come much adventure!

Tonight we come together as community and as familia to celebrate the journeys and adventures of our graduates…as well as honor the journeys and adventures to come…with all of the bumps and bloopers, insights and inspirations, trials and triumphs, parties and passions, tears and laughter. We celebrate all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities…those who have found sanctuary in the LGBT Center as well as those who have created sanctuary for themselves and others throughout the university.

Many have come into voice and self while here at OHIO…that living into wholeness will continue as you continue and/or start new chapters of your life’s adventure. Some of you are going to grad school, others to summer jobs and first “real”jobs, others back home to discern what comes next, and others all of the above. My challenge to you graduates and non-graduates, family and friends, allies and advocates, faculty and staff is to embody the words of prophet and poet Dr. Maya Angelou…“be a rainbow in someone else’s could”and my tweaked version “be a rainbow in your own clouds.”What the road ahead will bring we don’t know, but enjoy the confusion, take chances, and get messy…as Dr Angelou say’s “you alone are enough, you have nothing to prove, if you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be”…and I would add, how amazing you already are.

The LGBT Center has gone through many changes this year—my joining the team as head queer and fearless leader…Sarah Tucker Jenkins bringing the sunniness of Florida…an increased visibility on all OHIO campuses, and more programming much to my awesome staff’s delight (and at times horror). We also finalized two new scholarship funds for the center, work that Dr. Susanne Dietzel began last year during her role as interim director. Retiring professor and associate dean of the Honors Tutorial College Jan Hodson and her husband WOUB director Tom Hodson initiated an emergency fund that will carry their name to support LGBT students in emergency and crisis situations. Our thanks to them for their generosity and solidarity.

A heartfelt congratulations to all our graduates…go out there and do it to it with your awesome selves…be rainbows!!!

On behalf of all of here at the center, we offer our glitterful, rainbowfilled, lgbtastic, queerest muchas gracias to all for celebrating with us tonight. Live long and prosper…and make good choices!

featured image taken at Pride Graduation by my dearly beloved Jason Hernandez

ain’t i a person

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ain’t i a person

For a few days now the words of Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a woman”, specifically as proclaimed by Alfre Woodard, have been resonating in my heart and mind (words shared by Truth herself here in my new home of Ohio). Sojourner Truth…radical freedom fighter who fought for both gender and racial equality—she was a voice in the wilderness that demanded that all people be respected, affirmed, and treated as people.

Sojourner Truth…woman, mother, slave, prophet, abolitionist, activist, preacher…a person.

At a time where her humanity was questioned and doubted, her rant is a declaration of the remembering and re-membering of her worth, chutzpah, and personhood…a challenge for all of us to help make the world right side up again—a transformation sparked by solidarity and community. Truth’s spirit is echoed in Alice Walker’s Celie in “The Color Purple”… “I may be poor, I may be black, I may even be ugly…but dear G-d, I’m here.”

In the face of the hurtful and marginalizing messages we get from society of unrealistic and inhuman expectations regarding our bodies and identities….in spite of the dehumanizing messages we give ourselves of not being good enough…may today and always be opportunities to claim and reclaim and re-re-claim Truth’s and Celie’s passion… “ain’t I a woman…ain’t I a person”…I’m here, I’m here, I’M HERE! Amen, que asi sea.

in honor of international day against homophobia and transphobia…until the violence ends

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in honor of international day against homophobia and transphobia…until the violence ends

Beginning in 2004, the  “International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia” has been commemorated on May 17 in an effort to lift up the experiences of LGBT people worldwide, a call to action for people to counter the violence we experience, and to form solidarity across international lines.  IDAHOT, as the day is known for short, is the “Global Day to Celebrate sexual and gender diversities” … a celebration of expression in its many forms to counter, resist, and transform the violence against all who live and love beyond the norm.  Below is a video from Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, the clip reflects V-Day’s efforts to become more inclusive of the experiences of Trans Women.  I wanted to share  in honor of IDAHOT’s theme for 2014 “Freedom of Expressions,”  a day to proclaim our voices, monologues, rants, raves, memes, art, songs, chants, symbols, and actions in support of the free expression of ALL people of ALL genders and orientations worldwide.    “They tried to beat the boy out of my girl, or at least they tried” reflects the power of story telling…a story both of hardship but also the inspirational and transgressive power of the human spirit.

 

A little bit about the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia…

featured image from the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/freedom-of-expressions/)

in honor of mother’s day ~ a non-mom speaks about mother’s day

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in honor of mother’s day ~ a non-mom speaks about mother’s day
My friend Becky Schwantes-An truly captures my sentiments for this Mother’s Day through her Facebook post.   The reflection below is a combination of words from me, Becky, and Amy Young (from her blog the Time Warp Wife).  Happy Mother’s Day to all who mother and challenge and inspire and nurture and pastorally pester and nudge and empower and especially those who take it up a notch by grandmothering…blessings today to all mothers of all genders and identities and biologies and bodies and orientations

From Becky…

Today, I want to honor and acknowledge all of those for whom Mother’s Day is painful or difficult in some way. I know I am privileged to complain about messes and sleeplessness and even to publicly discuss the challenges of infant feeding or birth while I have friends and family who have painfully struggled with infertility, the loss of miscarriages, the deaths of children and mothers, the high financial cost that comes with conceiving or adopting when not in a “traditional” relationship, and even the challenge of watching friends experience dreams they have for their own lives but are unsure of whether or not they will be realized for them. This Mother’s Day, I remember you and keep you in my heart. Many of you help me parent my child even from afar (and you may not even know that you have helped), and you certainly care for and nurture others in loving ways. I hope you know that I celebrate with you this day, and I grieve with you if this is a difficult day for you.

A friend shared this post on the same topic. The following excerpt is also my prayer as I “acknowledge the wide continuum of mothering”.

  • To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
  • To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
  • To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
  • To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
  • To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
  • To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
  • To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
  • To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
  • To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
  • To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
  • To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
  • To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
  • To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
  • To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
  • To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
  • To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart
  • And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.”

Below is the full reflection from Amy Young and a link to her blog:  http://timewarpwife.com/?p=3120

Dear Pastor,

Tone can be tricky in writing. Picture me popping my head in your office door, smiling and asking if we could talk for five minutes. I’m sipping on my diet coke as I sit down.

You know that I’m not one to shy away from speaking my mind, part of the reason you love me (mostly!), so I’m guessing that internally you brace yourself wondering what might be next.

I set my can down and this is what I’d say.

A few years ago I sat across from a woman who told me she doesn’t go to church on Mother’s Day because it is too hurtful.  I’m not a mother, but I had never seen the day as hurtful. She had been married, had numerous miscarriages, divorced and was beyond child bearing years. It was like salt in mostly healed wounds to go to church on that day. This made me sad, but I understood.

Fast forward several years to Mother’s Day.  A pastor asked all mothers to stand. On my immediate right, my mother stood and on my immediate left, a dear friend stood. I, a woman in her late 30s, sat. I don’t know how others saw me, but I felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman. Real women stood, empty shells sat. I do not normally feel this way. I do not like feeling this way. I want no woman to ever feel this way in church again.

Last year a friend from the States happened to visit on Mother’s Day and again the pastor (a different one) asked all mothers to stand. As a mother, she stood and I whispered to her, “I can’t take it, I’m standing.” She knows I’m not a mother yet she understood my standing / lie.

Here’s the thing, I believe we can honor mothers without alienating others. I want women to feel welcome, appreciated, seen, and needed here in our little neck of the body of Christ.

Do away with the standing. You mean well, but it’s just awkward. Does the woman who had a miscarriage stand? Does the mom whose children ran away stand? Does the single woman who is pregnant stand? A.w.k.w.a.r.d.

Acknowledge the wide continuum of mothering…

  • To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
  • To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
  • To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
  • To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
  • To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
  • To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
  • To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
  • To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
  • To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
  • To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
  • To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
  • To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
  • To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
  • To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
  • To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
  • To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart
  • And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Commend mothering for the ways it reflects the Imago Dei (Image of God) by bringing forth new life, nurturing those on her path, and living with the tension of providing both freedom and a safety net.

I know I might be an unusual one to be speaking about Mother’s Day; but maybe that’s why so many talk to me about mothering, I’ve got the parts, just not the goods.  Thanks for listening and for continuing to mother us in a shepherding way. Even though I’m a bit nervous to come on Sunday, I will be here. But if you make us stand, I might just walk out =).

Warmly and in your corner,

Amy

Amy Young is readjusting to messy middle of life in the US after more than twenty years in China and the recent death of her dad. When she first moved to China she knew three Chinese words: hello, thank you and watermelon. Often the only words really needed in life. She is known to jump in without all the facts and blogs regularly at “The Messy Middle” and tweets as @amyinbj and is the most unbeautiful pinner Pinterest has ever seen (but she’s having fun!).

featured image from the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce