We are bruised, but we are here!

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I was asked to share a reflection at the NAMI Walk here in Athens.  Unfortunately, I was battling a cold and was not able to actually to attend but I was able to share my reflection with the walk organizers and it was read for me at the beginning of the walk.  My thanks to NAMI for the invitation and for all the work they are doing locally and nationally to support all those living with mental illness.


NAMI Athens Walk 10/19/19

Thank you for the invitation to be here. I would like to ask us to take a moment of silence in memory of the 21 trans people murdered this year in the the United States … lives silenced but not forgotten. We remember the dead and recommit to ending the violence.

Again thank you for the opportunity to be here today. Many thanks to Tina and to all who have made today’s walk possible. My name is delfin, I am a board member with the Southeastern Ohio Rainbow Alliance…I am a queer and trans Latinx activist of faith who has come to call Athens my home and I live with clinical depression.

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

 

These words from the song “This is Me” have become my battle cry to living into wholeness. I share a snippet about myself not for people to feel bad for me or to take pity on me. I am not ashamed of my mental illness; for as long as I can remember depression has been a part of my life. Whether it was witnessing the mood swings in my family or becoming aware of my own ups and downs, mostly downs…the mental health rollercoaster has always been a part of my journey, but a part that was to be hidden, never discussed or acknowledged. We were to pray it away, look the other way, and live as if it didn’t exist. I don’t blame my family…like many families experiencing the realties of multiple generations of trauma, we were simply trying to survive and get by.

I share two moments that continue to be sources of pain and transformation:

  • While in grad school, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after many years of struggling with suicide and reaching a point where ideation was close to becoming an attempt.
  • This past year has not been easy for me after being fired from a job I gave my life to and publicly humiliated through lies and misinformation.

Both times I spiraled…I shut myself off and retreated from my beloved, my family, my friends, and ultimately myself. Both times I was reminded that though I had given up, those around me had not given up on me. I received text messages, phone calls, emails, facebook posts … I was flooded with affirmations that were and continue to be overwhelming and wholizing. Initially I felt undeserving of this support and solidarity. However I soon began to realize that all of us deserve to be reminded that we are not alone, that our stories matter, and that hope is very real.

Living with mental illness … being neurodivergent … being messed up … whatever terminology folks want to use is not a weakness. Society says that we are broken, that we can be punchlines, we can be scapegoated for the violence in our country, that we need to be diagnosed to the margins. Research studies claim that if we discuss suicide we risk pushing people into attempting and/or completing suicide. However, I say to all of this “Hell NO!” We need to break, shatter, dismantle the silence and stigma around mental illness. Silence is lethal, silence is deadly. When we cover up we send a message filled with shame and blame that our struggles are meaningless. By breaking the silence and openly discussing mental health realities we create space for those struggling to also keep living…to connect to resources…to come to live into healing by realizing that one is not alone and there is no reason to hide pieces of who we are.

By sharing our stories we are not seeking pity … we are seeking pride and we are seeking solidarity. The simple yet powerful act of breathing here today is an act of courage, resilience, and shatters the silence.

To those of you who like me find facing the world to be a little overwhelming at times … you are not broken … we are not worthless. Our scars, those visible and especially those not seen by the world, are not marks of shame or humiliation, they are reminders that people, situations, perhaps life as a whole tried to break us, but we kept and we keep fighting.

Frozen’s “Let it Go” became an anthem for many of us, a song about breaking free from things that hold us down. In spanish, the lyrics are somewhat different. Rather than let it go, it translates into Spanish and then back into English as “I am free … the cold is also a part of me.” We are often diagnosed and told to feel ashamed for living with mental illness. No…hell no. There is no place for shame or burdening even more those of us who are hurting. The cold, the dark, the pain is a part of us but it does not define us and that is where freedom resides.

I am mindful that asking for help is not easy for many us. I was raised by a very stubborn Cuban mother who taught me to only depend on myself and my own ability to

overcome obstacles. Both my mother and I and many others are realizing that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is not shameful…it is courage, it is badassery, it is thriving. We all deserve to be loved and celebrated and deserve for that love and celebration to be shared with us when we are hurting and when we are not hurting. We are not alone…there are others who are living stories similar to our own and there are others who are willing to be in the trenches with us. Some times its a relative, friend, coworker…some times its a person who we don’t know but whose voice on the other end of the call or text keep us grounded. Resources like NAMI, Hopewell, Integrated Services, Natural Freedom Wellness Center, CPS, the Trevor Project, the Trans Lifeline are all resources we can turn to. They may not be perfect, but they are there and like us are trying.

To our allies and accomplices … thank you for your patience, presence, and persistence. I am mindful that living with a person who interacts with the world differently from you can be challenging and draining. I am thankful to my beloved for sticking with me and being with me at my rawest, most vulnerable, darkest place. I know my ups and downs take a toll on him. You may be the first person we go to when we are hurting, your help can be going with us to an appointment or making a call to a hotline with us. Just like we need to ask for help, you too can ask for help not only when we hurt but also to make sure you are receiving affirmation, love, and solidarity when you hurt. Learn the resources to not only help those close to you when something is beyond your ability to help but also to help yourself when things are getting to be too much. In the words of RuPaul, “if you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else.”

I close with this reflection from To Write Love On Her Arms: “As we challenge stigma and fight for those hurting, there is a good chance it will feel uncomfortable or even oppressive at times. But hope is defiant. Hope refuses to see growth denied, it refuses to be complacent with a sigh or shrug. Hope is confident that tomorrow does indeed exist. It is an evergreen reminder that things can get better if we try, if we fight, if we don’t give up. You have embodied this hope already; just by waking up you have defied all the factors that have sought your story’s premature ending. There is a boldness in your breathing, a spark still within you that threatens the darkness you’ve known. And even on the days you don’t see it, know that we do. And know that we will always hold that hope for you. You matter. Your story is important. You are not alone.”

We may be bruised and scarred, but we are here and we are free! Muchas gracias, si se puede.

Stories of siding with Love through life’s messiness…solidarity from the Pews to the Public and from the public to the pews

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I was asked to share a reflection with the UU Fellowship of Athens and used it as a base for a reflection for the Re/Generation blog with Call To Action.

Who are the folks who inspire you?  Who are your possibility models?  How are you living into being a possibility model for someone else?


“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it…”  -Wilferd Peterson

As Catholics, and for many people of faith, we honor the communion of Saints, our transcestors, our ancestors, nuestra familia…all those who came before us whose legacies we continue to build on and expand on.  With this as a sparking off point, I have been reflecting a lot on who are the individuals who inspire me … inspire you … inspire us?  

Who is in this misfit posse of quirky folks who officially and/or unofficially are saints?  I invite you and myself to reflect on those individuals who are sources that inspire us to love, not the tokenized fluffy hallmark card sentiment, but an embodied and lived action whose ripples can transform society in real and just ways.

President Obama wrote a children’s book dedicated to his daughters titled “Of thee I sing.”  In it he gives tribute to individuals such as Georgia O’Keefe, Cesar Chavez, and Albert Einstein…individuals whose lives helped shape the United States.  In honoring the variety of peoples in our country, the president writes:  “Have I told you that America is made up of people of every kind…People of all races religions and beliefs…people from the coastlines and the mountains…people who have made bright lights shine by sharing their unique gifts and giving us the courage to lift one another up, to keep up the fight, to work and build upon all that is good in our nation.”

Who are our heroes and sheroes and theyroes and insert-gender-inclusive-term-roes? There are the biggies such as Jesus,  Malcolm X, the Buddha, Mary Magdalene, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Dorothy Day, Justice Sonya Sotomayor, Bishop Gene Robinson, Dolores Huerta, Nelson Mandela, Hildegard of Bingen, Alice Walker, Harvey Milk, Pauli Murray, Bishop Oscar Romero, Gloria Anzaldua, and Beyonce.  However who are the people who don’t have streets, buildings, or plazas named after them?  Who are the unsung walking testaments of courageous and just love?

It is people like my mother, who would kill me if I did not mention her… When I came out to her about 18 years ago she disowned me, as my being queer was not compatible with our Cuban heritage and Roman Catholicism. Today, after many, many difficult conversations, arguments, and much patience she has become a proud PFLAG mom who is working to start groups for Hispanic and Latinx families who have LGBT children.  The woman who sent me to reparative therapy and who thought my partner was the devil and evil incarnate, now lifts up signs with “I love my gay son” (and in very fine print, his partner).  My mother has a hard time with my trans identity but I honor her journey of evolving affirmation; also the dynamics of the relationship between mother and son-in-law are for a whole other series of blog posts.  My mother immigrated to this country when she was 20 years old. She placed herself through graduate school twice while working full time and raising 4 kids as a single parent… she is learning to live with depression and the impact of trauma, not just as a survivor but as someone who is thriving by not letting her past define her now. She has experienced confusing liberation after breaking free of the coercive rigidity of fundamentalist Catholic teachings that gave shame instead of wholeness. She is grounding her faith as a Catholic on her terms with inspirations from Buddhism, the practice of Reiki, and now studying the Kabbalah.  Her sarcasm, her accent, her kicks in my butt, her stubborn “I don’t need anyone to help me mentality.” her nagging and new found passion for emojis… all of this and more are sources of revolutionary chutzpah and of sacred sass, to do what we can to help others in whatever ways needed and requested.  

Who are the folks who inspire you to love courageously from the pews to the public and from the public to the pews? Who are the imperfectly holy people who teach us, motivate us, guide us, and help foster the spark to side with love?  

I want to leave you all with two challenges.  

In an interview with Katie Couric, Laverne Cox reflected “I would never be so arrogant to think that someone should model their life after me. But the idea of possibility…the idea that I get to live my dreams out in public, hopefully will show to other folks that it’s possible. So I prefer the term ‘possibility model’ to ‘role model.’”   We each have had many possibility models of folks throughout our lives. My challenge to you to reflect on how you are a possibility for and with others.  What are you inspiring and possibiliti-cating in others? 

Second, reactive love is not enough… reactionary love can be the start of a movement and revolution that creates counter narratives that resist dominant discourses that oppress. But to make our love whole and inclusive, our witness must also be a proactive reverence for life. A wholistic, courageous, and just love seeks to create programs, policies, and practices that keep all children safe in school–not only after the tragedy of suicide. It is adopting practices that care for the earth now such as recycling, reducing our consumption of materials and resources–not only when we run out of livable space. It is creating spaces for conversation around our bodies that engages comprehensive approaches to sexuality, gender, identity, and expression across all ages, creating safer and braver spaces for people to ask questions and to learn to love their bodies as beautiful and sacred–not only when there are reports of scandal or abuse. It is joining the fight to create sanctuaries for displaced communities and individuals fleeing violence in our country as well as acknowledging AND addressing the issues the US has caused (intentionally and unintentionally) in other countries—not just after we see a picture of the bodies of father and daughter in the Rio Grande.   

These are the challenges I give you and that I give myself…a calling to love courageously and justly from the pews to the public and from the public to the pews is one that is both proactive and reactive…an organic, evolving, mindful ethic of welcome and embrace that builds a colorful beloved community.

 

The Hxstory of Accomplicehood that is Pride

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person with body painting

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Hello to all!  Its been a while, a long while, since I posted.  These last few years have been a roller coaster of many different things.  I’ve missed posting and have come to realize that this outlet was a space for self-care amidst many confusions, challenges, and celebrations.

As I discern my next adventure and in the spirit of self-care, I am re-claiming this space.  I have several posts planned and look forward to exploring new queeries moving forward.

To get things restarted, I was invited by the UU Fellowship of Athens to spark off Pride Month with a sermon exploring the hxstory of Pride as well as the calling of accomplicehood.  Here is an excerpt of that sermon that was adapted to a blog post for Re/Generation, a young adult cohort for folks exploring vocation and social justice.

Here is the link: https://ctaregeneration.home.blog/2019/07/02/the-history-of-accomplicehood-that-is-pride-month/. Enjoy!

I look forward to our continued intertwining journeys.

¡La Lucha es mi pulpito y mi pulpito es la lucha!

embracing guadalupen theology

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embracing guadalupen theology

I wrote this a few years ago and wanted to repost in honor of today’s feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   My reflection looks at the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a “still speaking” text of liberation and wholeness.   ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!

Some music in honor of today:  La Guadalupana sung by Miriam Solis; a variation of the same song by Emmanuel and Alexander Hacha.


As I reflect over one of my favorite images of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, I realize the rich complexity and beauty within the apparition of la Morenita del Tepayac.  Just as in Galilee Mary’s yes and life pointed to God; so too in Mexico on a sacred mount Mary again points towards the path to God.   It is an apparition that does not have one meaning but speaks to us today on several levels.   The apparition has social, historic, and theological implications with new discoveries and meanings to consider with each look at the story.  Theologically, Guadalupe demonstrates God’s revelation through the unlikely hero, the need for safe space for divine encounter, and of the “un-boxing” of God’s revelation.

Throughout Biblical and Christian history, there are many examples of the underdog that saves the day.  In Guadalupe we come to see what God can do through the “nobody”, the outcast, and the rejected.  Just as God chose a poor Galilean Jewish girl to come into the world, God chose a poor indigenous man to reveal God’s plan for a new creation.  It is through the marginalized community that God planted seeds to fix the mess created by misguided, well-intentioned European colonizers—a revolu that is still being dealt with today.  Similar to stories in the Hebrew Bible, God demonstrates that God does not abandon God’s people but walks with the people and will provide a messiah. Mary, Joseph, Hagar, David, and Rahab are examples of people who were not hero material on the outside because of their gender, size, class, or fulfillment of cultural expectations but whose lives revolutionized their communities and history; Juan Diego is in this same line of known and unknown individuals that God uses to reveal truth, bring about change, and reflect divine love.  Though indigenous people were looked down upon and their culture seen as threat by Europeans, God sees potential and uses Juan to evangelize the Europeans and ultimately the world.   God holds up the rejected by calling an indigenous farmer to be a prophet, using the language and symbolism of the “conquered” to deconstruct harmful rhetoric, and comes to the people through Mary’s apparition as one of them through one of them to bring wholeness and liberation.

The story of Guadalupe reflects the need for safer spaces to connect with God.  Europeans came and destroyed the lives (on every level) of the Indigenous people of the Americas.  Native communities were flattened through a “salvation” of coercion and  humiliation—all in the name of God and in the name of progress, globalization, and evangelization.  People along with their traditions, beliefs, and way of life were completely eradicated because they were perceived to be less human (difference, like today, was seen as a threat to be silenced and conquered).  European notions of God, customs, dress, and education were forced upon tribes.  The conquest and colonization did not give people the space to desahogarse of their traumatic experience or grieve the loss of their livelihood as a community who became strangers in their own land—land that they had worked, bought with their sweat and blood, built homes on, and was a source of connection to the divine.  They were violated, blamed for being violated, and had no outlet to express these feelings. A dynamic that sadly continues today with other marginalized groups who are re-victimized by being blamed for the dominant group’s harsh treatment of them.

The missionaries’ church was not a place of encounter with God but a place of fear, pain, and terror.  Why would the indigenous people who were being evangelized and forced to convert want to come close to a god or deity who obliterated their sense of self, their land, their families, and their way of life?  Before any relationship with God could be created and fostered, it was necessary to establish spaces where people could heal and find God in travesty and tribulation.  God was not freely found but imposed—that is not healing, forgiving, liberating, or “whole-making” but just deepens the wounds.  As with other forms of violence, people than and now begin to believe the lies told to them by their oppressors.  It is beautiful and amazing how Mary greets Juan Diego; her greeting in his mother tongue begins to restore dignity that was taken from his people. Guadalupe provided a safe space by reclaiming a sacred site as a place of divine encounter, demonstrating that indigenous practices were not evil but good, and planted the seeds for a new beginning for both natives and foreigners.  Though the story of Guadalupe has brought healing and created a safer space, I believe that the Church needs to take a step further to apologize for its actions in the 1500s and not hide behind the image of Our Lady.  The story of Guadalupe shows how God reached out to create a sanctuary where people could encounter the divine on their own terms and through their own unique self and to begin a new creation from the pain of chaos and confusion (a message that has many implications for pastoral work today).

God’s work through the unlikely hero and the creation of safer spaces demonstrates that God’s complex and liberating revelation can be revealed to us through simple means that truly pack a punch.  Through Juan Diego’s testimony, the tilma with Our Lady’s image, and guadalupen roses God continues to speak to us today in a truly remarkable way.  We sometimes get caught up in the grandiose and in the bells-and-whistles; we often forget that God speaks in the “still small voice”.   Guadalupe was a reminder than and now that God can use anything as a microphone to speak God’s message of love and justice for all.  Guadalupe shows how God spoke and continues to speak through the rejected and marginalized to the Church and to society.  God’s message can come through the institution and hierarchy of the Church but it is not confined to it.  God speaks through the whole church choosing prophets from every level of church from bishops to forgotten campesinos.  The message of Guadalupe did not come from a learned philosopher but from a simple man eager to please his dulce Señora­—the message that was given was directed from the pueblo to the higher-ups (not vice versa as is often the case). God used Juan Diego and La Morenita to remind us that God’s revelation is bigger than the neat little box we try to put it in and is not limited to one person or a select few.

The story of Guadalupe has multiple meanings and was an event in history that continues to speak to us today. It’s messages take on new significance with each reading of the events that took place.  Hopefully we continue to learn, listen, and live what Guadalupe said and continues to say to us today as individuals, community, and church.   ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!

 

we are pride!!!

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we are pride!!!

Towards the end of the Spring Semester I was asked to share a reflection at a vigil in celebration of Pride. In honor of Pride Month I wanted to share my ramblings—you, me, us, we are pride!

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We are Pride

A queerfelt muchas gracias to you all for your presence tonight.

Tonight we are pride! Tonight we celebrate all of who we are! Tonight we lift up our queerness, our rainbows, our LGBTQliciousness…we lift up our pride in who we are, who we have been, and who we will become.

I often get asked, is being a LGBT choice? Many have responded to this question with, why would anyone choose this life? Choose the hardship? Choose the discrimination? However, most recently I’ve decided to rant to the world…Why NOT choose being queer? I am not ashamed and there is nothing wrong or less than for being me, or being you, or being us.

We need to take pride in our isness and should not, cannot, will not feel shame or have folks through misguided shade. I honestly don’t think LGBT identities are choices, however, if I could choose I would choose queer everyday.   This is not to undermine the experiences of hardship that we have experienced…discrimination, rejection, isolation, violence, confusion. But I also have done some incredible things like getting arrested for civil disobedience, getting to hang out with folks who teach me everyday about beingness, getting to join my voice to the countless others advocating for all are welcome to truly mean all are welcome at OHIO and beyond its fun being a colorful thorn in the side of some of our student, faculty, staff, and administrative leaders on campus.

I don’t want us to feel bad about ourselves or for others to take pity…hell the fuck no to pity, I want people to be proud of us and for us to pridefully chant…we are here, we are queer, and we aren’t going anywhere!

Tonight, this week, and other moments of Pride are not at the expense of the challenges and tragedies we have endured as a community…

  • The murders of trans women in the United States and around the world
  • The microaggressions that students experience everyday in the classroom and other spaces on our campus and all OHIO campuses
  • The reality that yes we can get married but we can be fired in 30 states and executed in 7 countries.
  • Folks who are being targeted for being LGBT, with little or no recourse from our community
  • The white washing and heterowashing of the radicalness of LGBTQ folks and our contributions
  • The kids who are kicked out of their homes for living and loving beyond the norm
  • The countless and often unknown victims of sexualized violence who identify as trans or gender variant or queer
  • The misrepresentation and otherization of our vibrant and diverse community in the media and other social networks

Claiming and reclaiming that we are pride is a re-energizer to continue to counter violence. We are pride and honor with pride

  • Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P Johnson, and all those who refused to be bullied and silenced at Stone Wall
  • The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 2010 and June 26, 2015 when marriage equality became the law of the land.
  • Though we may have our critiques of her, Caitlyn Jenner has opened the door for conversations around trans identities throughout the United States.
  • Laverne Cox was on the cover of Time Magazine
  • Abby Wambach has a freakin’ Barbie made in her image
  • A Mya Taylor, a trans woman of color, was the center of a campaign for an Oscar Nomination for Tangerine.
  • Nike created a sneaker in honor of Pride Month
  • The Legend of Korra celebrated bisexuality
  • OHIO has and is and will be taking steps to fully live into diversity and inclusion…we have an LGBT Center, Gender Neutral Housing, LGBTQ Studies Certificate, Name and Pronoun Policy, trans healthcare for students, and we are moving forward with a new LGBT Living Experience and Gender Inclusive Restrooms.

We reflect and we remember our heroes and sheroes and “insert-gender-neutral-pronoun-roes”…

  • Gloria Anzaldua
  • Albus Dumbledore
  • Bayard Rustin
  • Ellen Paige
  • Frank Ocean
  • Carmen Carrera
  • Langston Hughes
  • Harvey Milk
  • Alice Walker
  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Zachary Quinto
  • RuPaul
  • Tom Daly
  • Laverne Cox
  • Margaret Cho

Trail blazers past and present, who spark and kindle our commitment to embodying #bobcatrainbowwarriorfierceness. We take pride in our journeys of living and expressing who we are…we honor all of who we are, our bloopers and our triumphs as individuals and as familia…we take pride in our efforts to embody being a rainbow in the clouds of others…we take pride in our goods, our bads, and our freaking awesomeness!

We are pride! All of us without exception IS fabulous, fierce, glitterful, amazing, unicornlicious…

We are pride…we are here…we are queer…we have always been here and we will always be here.

Cheers and queers!  Muchas gracias!

surviving and thriving past suicide

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This past April, a student group on campus organized an evening of reflection and solidarity with individuals impacted by suicide.  I was asked if the LGBT Center would like to collaborate and if I would be willing to speak.  As part of the event, I facilitated an activity as well as sharing the reflection below.  I share my story not for folks to feel bad for my struggle with depression but to raise awareness that this is a real struggle that impacts thousands of people everyday.  I am not alone, you are not alone, we are not alone.   For folks who are hurting, some resources to turn to…

­Trevor Lifeline ~ 866-488-7386

­Trans Lifeline ~ 877-565-8860

­National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ~ 1-800-273-TALK

Saludos a todas y todos…In honor of all those living with mental health issues, a rant by me.

This is the first time I speak out in the open about this…it is a coming out of sorts for me. While I was in graduate school I took a week off, more accurately…I signed myself into a psychiatric unit at our local hospital.  After years of battling and struggling and smiling away suicidal ideations, desires to hurt the body what was not home for me, stubborn pride that I could fix it because “delfin can handle and make anything happen…”;  I realized that I needed to take care of me and that I needed help because the downward spiraling was taking not only dangerous to my own wellbeing but was also impacting those around me.

As a social worker, I knew the signs, I knew what to do—for everyone else, but not for myself.  I was standing on an emotional precipice and made the scariest, bravest, bestest, whatever adjective you want to use-est call to our counseling center and decided that I needed help, even if I my head popped off.

It was a good week…I slept a lot and read a lot and was the break I needed.  Who knew that being in the “looney bin” (problematic I know) would be a transformative retreat. I began to acknowledge the years of discomfort and pain of not having a body that reflects my gender…of not being able to express my gender in ways that is authentic to me…I began to acknowledge the familial trauma that has permeated generations of my family…how past hurts have been passed from parent to child with traumas taking on scariness that shatters wholeness in new ways with each new generation of familia.  I began to acknowledge the problematic dynamics within my relationship with my dearly beloved and how to bring health back to our dynamic duo of awesome.

The week in the hospital did not fix everything or anything for that matter…but it did help me respark the desire to live into me with fierceness, fabulosity, and delfic passion.  As a person who had prided themselves in being able to take on the world with my misguided “I’m a trooper” mentality, I learned that asking for help will not cause me to spontaneously combust…asking for help is like a good pair of walking shoes or tires for your car, they don’t direct your feet or car but they do help when you have to take a long journey.

And so, I share this rant I wrote soon after being discharged…

i am clinically depressed,  society diagnoses me to the margin.
more so than being transgender or a Catholic heretic, the socialized stigma of “defective sicko” has blocked my path.
my depressive episodes and resilient oomphs to re-member by spirit are symptomized as worthless …
why?
because of untempered misunderstandings of depression that blame me, pathologize me, that problematize me, that make me the problem that needs to be fixed.
i am told:
“pull yourself up by the bootstraps of pill-popping” … “just pray” … “turn that frown upside down” … i am treated with well-intentioned yet mocking quips of “you’ll be okay”… or “I am sorry but if you do this this and that…” or “rise and shine, get out of bed”
but I say to all of this hell the f*** NO!!!
my divine chutzpah drives me to love myself  beyond misappropriated categories.
i do not murder the reminders of my suffering … I lean into them.

They are scars that I wear as badges of survival and of thriving.
i am more than a therapist’s DSM classification.
i’m screwed up but damnit, i’m a person.
the words to my now are: undoing, redoing, lucha.
i queerify definitions.

I queerify mental health struggles.  The struggle is real but so too is the resilience.
my life is the evidence seen and unseen…i am good enough, period.  Amen, blessed be!

 

I share this rant in hopes that others will share their rants in ways that are meaningful to them.  Together our rants will reak havoc and spark others to come out…living with a mental health issue is not a stigma or defect, it is my reality, it is the reality of some folks present today, it is the reality of millions of people around the world.  There is no shame or shade in living with mental health issues…we are simply living, perhaps unlike others, but living and embodying badassery by accepting our tears, our toils, our tribulations, our traumas.

Is suicide still a part of my life, yes, not only because of the statistics that show that LGBT are a higher risk of mental health issues that can lead to suicide, but because it is a part of me, my story, my struggle, my resilience.  I’ve come to understand that thrivingness is not about doing cartwheels throughout Baker Center or putting on a veneer of faux happiness (the creepy, I’m fine look…we’ve all done it!).

Thrivingness is living through the real struggle of asking for help…yes I am a trooper but troopers belong to units / barracks and are not alone. And so I embrace my nickname in the center of “capitan” with gusto because I know that my fellow troopers are with me in the struggle bus (a struggle bus in which I am learning I don’t always have to be the driver of).

For a long time, I was convinced that my head would pop off or explode if I showed that I was vulnerable especially if I asked for help.  I am not perfect, this is not about perfection,but a mindfulness that asking for help before a crisis, during a crisis, after a crisis, and/or when there is no crisis is okay…my head is proudly still on my shoulders, balder than I would like, but attached to me it is.

Thrivingness is about the reality that I woke up and got out of bed.  That is feat of triumph that I celebrate.   Thrivingness is going to McDonald’s for a happy meal, well actually a number 9 with no mayo and an order of chicken nuggets large size with a coke (my version of happy meal) and having a picnic under the cherry blossoms all by my fierce loneful self.   Thrivingness is showing up for class and for meetings, even when I am not prepared to teach or facilitate discussion.  Thrivingness is about being here right now.   It doesn’t mean I don’t hurt, it doesn’t mean that everything is honkeydorey, it doesn’t mean that depressive and random shifts in my mood or sporadic episodes of crying in the car listening to WOUB news reports on the hour go completely away…thrivingness is the embodiment of what Celie in Alice Walker’s Color Purple passionately proclaims “I may be old, I may be black, I may even be ugly, but dear G-d I’m here, I’m here…”

And so yes, I am here, you are here, we are here.

Tonight we honor all those who are not here but whose lives and spirits can thrive through us.  Their lives may be physically silent, but we do not forget them…their memories will continue to roar and rant in us and through us to the world and beyond.

Muchas gracias por este espacio. Buenas noches.

la lucha is back! the story of resurrection is a story of transition

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la lucha is back!  the story of resurrection is a story of transition

Reflection also available on Believe Out Loud’s website!  La Lucha, Mi Pulpito is back in action…the journey and the resilience is real!

Easter Sunday. A day of many questions and confusion within a hope-filled community.

We still don’t know exactly what happened that night and moment. We can’t begin to imagination what folks were experiencing and feeling. As we reflected together this year over the snippets shared in the gospels, we immersed ourselves in imagining the fear and excitement of that moment.

Jesus’ followers did not know what was going to happen next or what to do next or what to say next.

After many doubts, they began to celebrate the resurrection not only of the Risen Christ, but the resurrection that erupted within them as individuals and as an emerging tribe what would be known by their love.

Though the future was not clear and would never be clear, they began to understand the transfiguration of the moment and the calling to live into wholeness, adopt and reclaim language, and ultimately to embody the resurrection of their being-ness.

As a trans and queer person of color, as a person of faith and spirit, as a person who struggles with the hallenges of living in a world enmeshed and divided by binaries, the story of resurrection speaks to me on many different levels.

The story of resurrection is a story of transition.

The Resurrection is the beginning of a journey of living into wholeness, a journey of affirming who one always was, and a journey of discovering and/or rediscovering new aspects of who we are—a journey similar to the many ways we transition as trans-identified folks.

Transition is not about medical procedures, changing one’s name, adapting the ways a person dresses, or wrestling with the dynamics of what it means to “pass” or whether one wants to even pass. These are just some of the aspects of transition.

But transition is ultimately about living into you. And that kind of living means different things to different people—it is filled with fear and questions, determination and doubts, hope and wholeness, risks and affirmation.

As people wrestling with different understandings and embodiments of gender, we stare into the tombs of our pasts, we come to recognize that who we were, who we were forced to be, who the world expected us to be is no longer there and perhaps was never there.

Who we are was hidden, and it took the passion of struggle to reveal ourselves to the world.

The bandages that covered wounds of societal and even self-inflicted violence are discarded with humble fierceness to reveal us in our fullness and in our dazzling light.

Resurrection is not about changing who we are. Like transition, it is about affirming who we are, who we have always been, and who we will always be. Just as Jesus revealed (and re-revealed and re-re-revealed) to the emerging Christian tribe, we as trans folk, genderqueer folk, gender creative folk, gender non-conforming folk, agender folk, Two Spirit folk, and the “various-expressions-of-gender-diversity” folk reveal who we are to our tribes, communities, families, and the world.

The Resurrection did not change Jesus into something new but simply affirmed who he always was. Jesus came out of the closet that was the tomb. We as trans people do the same—we affirm who we are, sometimes privately and sometimes publically and sometimes both, coming out of the tombs of closets, binaries, and imposed expectations.

After our journeys of crucifixion, mindful that each journey is different, we emerge as wholeful and resilient selves and souls.

Much like the apostles who ran into an empty tomb, we wrestle with many questions and doubts and disbeliefs imposed on a body they expect to be there, the body they predetermined should be there, but instead encounter a body that is sacred through its scars and a body that is whole despite several attempts by others to break it.

But, also like the apostles, we too have Mary Magdalenes in our lives who advocate with us to share our voices, often not being acknowledged or listened to—trans accomplices who continue to rant with us as we share who we are, both to and with the world in our sacred and sassy mystery of us.

The Resurrection is a transition—a transition that will never end as living into our being-ness is a never-ending transition. One does not complete transition, one does not finish resurrecting—both are ongoing adventures of struggle and resilience, of ups and downs, of tears of pain and tears of celebration.

The Resurrection that is transition is Biblically sparked and continues to spark the emergence and revealing of imperfectly fierce believers who affirm the good news of who they are in their messy wholeness.

Much like the Christian tribe grappling with the possibilities of the future, as trans people of faith and spirit we don’t always know what will come next.

But we are ready to take on the world with our scars as living badges of honor and resilience. 

Emergence, affirmation, creation, resurrection, and transition are journeys of is-ness and not was-ness, journeys of both/and-ness mixed with either/or-ness and also neither-ness. Who we are—not only as trans people, but simply and revolutionarily as people—is dynamic and messy, deconstructive and reconstructive, struggle-filled and celebration-ful, confusing and inspiring.

Amen, blessed be.

featured image from: http://jesusinlove.blogspot.com/2013/07/resurrection-added-to-lgbt-stations-of.html

que siga viviendo la guadalupana

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que siga viviendo la guadalupana

(Title translation:  May la Guadalupana continue to live on)

In honor of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, la morenita del Tepeyac, I wanted to share a reflection I wrote 3 years ago that continues to speak to me today…may it provide new insights as it did for me today.  ¡Que viva la Guadalupana!

As a person with both indigenous and Spanish roots, my encounter with Lupita, this dark haired and brown skinned woman, has been transformative, healing, and wholizing as it was the first time that the divine manifested herself in an image that was and is like me.

Through the story of La Guadalupana, honor and affirmation have been brought to my raices and my lucha. She appears as a marginalized person—she appears as one of the people. For a long time I struggled with the story of Juan Diego and La Virgen de Guadalupe due to the idea that its only importance in history was the conversion of the indigenous people—a belief system brought and imposed by the Spanish and other Europeans. However, as I grappled with the image, the story, its place in history, its place in my faith journey, I came to understand that what happened in Mejico more than 500 years ago was a moment in which the sacred, the mysterious, the divine came near—a moment in which G-d revealed G-dself in a way that Juan Diego and later myself could understand, embrace, and identify with. On that day, my messiness, my identity, who I am as a person who lives a lucha beyond the norm, was also lifted up.

Not only is the tilma on which the image of Mary is preserved and revered an important part of the story, but also the messenger Juan Diego, a simple indigenous farmer on an errand early in the morning, who was chosen to share a prophetic message to the church and to the world: G-d is with us in the struggle. He, like La Guadalupana herself, is a reminder that the call to holiness is not limited to any one group but is an invitation and challenge open to all people, period.

La Virgen is a source of hope and healing in a world that is divided by ethnic, religious, racial, and genderized “us vs them.” She is a reminder that the divine belongs to all people of all colors, sizes, genders, races, belief systems. The story we commemorate today lifts up women and all those on the margin. By remembering Guadalupe, we also re-member the dignity and worth of all people on the fringes of church and society.

Through this story and image, I came to know un DIOS with many names, faces, and bodies—a G-d of and in la lucha … un DIOS who is different and unico…who is spicy, colorful, quirky, and transcends gender norms…who understands Spanglish, who likes black beans and rice with a fried egg and banana, who can dance salsa and cumbia…who founds joy at widening the circle of familia, who enjoys a good rant about social justice issues, who finds time to laugh and be silly…a G-d who inhabits those in-between spaces of identity and expression.

A prayer for today (from Yale Divinity Latin@ Association’s 2009 Chapel Service honoring La Guadalupana and all women):

Santos DIOS,  Bless us as we gather together today to celebrate Mary of Nazareth, the mujer from the barrio. Lift up our hearts today as we remember her manifestation to the indigenous man Juan Diego of Mejico in 1531, and the special relationship she continues to have with the peoples of the Americas.  In honoring her, we honor and lift up all women who are in la lucha In this space, we gather to remember profetizas Latina who like Maria de Nazaret took charge of their lives, lived out a daily yes by embracing the messiness of GOD’s unfolding revolutionary plan with all its joy and frustration.  In our commemorating of La morenita del Tipeyac, we commemorate the dwelling and expression of GOD in all people, black, brown, red, yellow, white … all colors, ethnicities, cultures, nationalities.  United with La Guadalupana and all blessed women in la lucha,  Maternally guide our hearts and prayers to live a prophetic life…to give birth to the Divine in our words, deeds, hearts, thoughts, lives, in our lucha. Amen.

The artwork is not my own but gathered through various internet searches attempting to find  diverse representations of Our Lady of Guadalupe…many come from chicana artists like Alma Lopez and Yolanda Lopez, some are a little scandalous, some redefine tradition, all of them queery.   Each artist infuses into the image a new way of relating to Guadalupe and a new way Guadalupe can relate to us. Enjoy…

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we are the immaculate conception

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somos tod@s la imaculada concepción…we are the immaculate conception

Mary Visits Elizabeth: Luke 1: 39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit  and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

I would like to start off with a short selection from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple …  

CELIE: God forgot about me!

SHUG: God takin’ his time getting around to you, I admit, but look at all he give us. Laughin’, and singin’, and sex. Sky over our heads, birds singin’ to us. I think it piss God off if anybody even walk past the color purple in a field and not notice it. He say,”look what I made for you.”

I use the story to engage this Gospel passage…  The story of Mary …  A woman who transgressed borders.  A woman called to be a mother, prophet, apostle, revolutionary…She has been exulted and divinized, yet her humanity has often been forgotten and ignored …It is her story that we will look at today to wrestle and grapple with the church’s teaching on the immaculate conception.

Llena de gracia…full of grace

Catholics around the world accept the teaching of the Immaculate Conception.  However, what does it actually mean?  In 1854, Pope Pius IX stated:  “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”   What does it mean that Mary was preserved from sin?  It is the belief that because of her unique mission, Mary was conceived immaculately in her mother’s womb so that sin would not pass on to her child, Jesus, who as son of GOD is free of sin.

It was a common belief in Israel that the sins of the parent were passed onto the child.  If Jesus was to be free of sin, his mother would also have to be free from sin.  My queries are…where does the cycle end…if sin is passed from generation to generation, was Mary’s mother, Anne, also free from sin?  How far back does the immaculate lineage have to go?  If Mary was not marked by sin, did she really have a choice … would she come down with sinfulness if she had said no?  By focusing on conception for future conception, have we limited, distorted, and reduced Mary and by extension all women to worth based on biological breeding?

This feast and dogma has wider implications than explaining that Mary was a suitable receptacle for a son–it impacts how the church treats women and their bodies.  It is a source of much division among Christians … with some believing that women should be subservient to their husbands as baby factories (those who cannot are defective machinery) while others affirm the right of women to be ordained and preach.

It is dogmas like the Immaculate Conception that lead to confusion and misunderstanding about Mary and I believe a neglect women, we coerce their womanhood into mindless biological assembly lines.  It is this theological marginalization that we need to address so that we can proclaim all as being llena de gracia, full of grace.

In this place, I invite us to relook at what it means to be la Imaculada Concepción…To be conceived immaculately.

In proclaiming Mary as the Immaculate Conception, we are also proclaiming our own immaculate conception as children of GOD.  The feast is not about Maria as an exception to the rule, but a celebration of who we are and who we will become.  We are all conceived immaculately, each of us is llena de gracia, full of grace

If we look to Genesis, we are told that we are created in GOD’s image and that creation is good.  From the beginning we are holy, we are perfect. Regardless of the goofs up that we may do upon entering the world, regardless of the run ins with the Sarah’s of the world who reject us and castigate us for being different, we are good, we are llena de gracia.

Past all the mistakes and oopses, past all the things we coulda woulda shoulda, we are good, we are llena de gracia.  Many of the women included in biblical texts are due to their calling to be mothers.  What does this calling mean  What about those of us who cannot conceive children?  Are we less filled with grace?  No … regardless of our capacity or ability or willingness to give birth biologically … we are all called to give birth to the divine in our actions, words, and deeds … we are called to give birth through our vocations and callings.  We too have been entrusted with baring GOD to the world.  GOD has consecrated and created us with a mission from the time of our birth.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us that  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  We are all llena de gracia.

As the Psalmist proclaims, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”   Regardless of the defects that society says we have or how denominations may tell us that we are unworthy for being a woman, black, or transgender, or when we are looked down upon for standing in solidarity with the oppressed, may we hold unto, remember, embrace that we are created, conceived and consecrated as good, as holy, as llena de gracia.

No one can take that away… We are Llena de gracia, full of grace.

Like our foremother Mary, we all have a purpose and personal vocation.  It is a calling that we will learn to live out, that we will grow into, that will be revealed to us through out our lives, perhaps with angelic visits in the deserts of life, moments of prayer in chapel, proclamations received through loved ones.

We are not just born and that’s it … No, no, GOD has a special something for all of us to accomplish. Mother Teresa is humorously quoted as having said, “GOD as entrusted me with a specific amount of things to accomplish in this life, I am so far behind in my work, I will never die.”  If we look to all the births that were announced in Scriptures, Isaac, Ishmael, Samuel, John, Jesus… The child born always had special vocation to live out.

This is not limited to Biblical figures, all of us come into this world with a special calling to live out, to be the change, holiness, and love GOD wants in this world.  There is no right or better calling or right or better way to express it…it is expressed through a marian enthusiastic yes and through hagarian righteous anger.  Immaculate conception does not mean we are passive and submissive, but like Mary we embody spiciness and chutzpah to care for those who are sacred to us.

The call to motherhood is not about breeding like rabbits or limited to female bodied individuals, we are called to be fruitful through the evolving multiplication of our abilities to listen, cook, design buildings, theologize, preach, and understand how the physiological makeup of fungus has implications for sexual ethics.   By expanding our understanding of the immaculate conception.  By honoring Mary, we celebrate the prophets and disciples we are all called to be, of who we are now on our journeys of faith and who we will become in the desert.

We are llena de gracia, full of grace, in our callings to be hospital chaplains, professors, parents, immigrant rights activists, reproductive health advocates, parish priests, youth ministers…all of the above, none of the above…in our calling to be human, we are full of grace, llena de gracia.

In the chaotic joy of living into our multiple callings, we must remember, hold onto, internalize, and put on a post it that we are not forgotten by GOD as Celie laments in the color purple, we are not abandoned or sent alone.  We must hold onto Shug’s reminder of how GOD provides through laughter, singing, and sex.   GOD does not forget about us for GOD is with us, just like GOD came to Hagar in the desert, meeting her where she was … just like GOD came to the prophet in the stillness after the thunder and storm … just like GOD came to a poor Jewish girl from the barrio … just like GOD was with Mary at the foot of the cross … just like the names Emmanuel and Ishmael … GOD with us and GOD listens …  GOD is always there and is always here.

We may not feel it or believe it in our moments of grief, confusion, depression, chaos … when anger causes us to flee from the world into deserts of despair.  In our earthquakes and hurricanes and pervasive brokenness… in our desolation for being rejected for fulfilling a task given to us–GOD is there, GOD is here…through a friend, through an email, through a butterfly, through an angel who tells us we will be cared for, despite our belief.

GOD is there and GOD is here…through the fact that we manage to get up and face the desert despite our exhaustion. GOD is there, GOD is here, for we are llena de gracia and full of grace.  In this time of Advent as we prepare to celebrate the Word made flesh, may we remember our own births, how we were divinely knit, how we are lovingly woven together with purpose.

Though this homilitecal engagement is perhaps heretical and not what the good ol’ boys in Rome had in mind, I like Mary will not sit and wait, but will be counter-cultural and provide a counter narrative–we are the immaculate conception. We cannot let the church and society take away that we are immaculately conceived with sacred and sassy chutzpath!

We too are good, we too are consecrated with purpose, we too are llena de gracia, full of grace.

Amen!