Category Archives: faith and life

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

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embracing pinkitude…solidarity with those living with breast cancer

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embracing pinkitude…solidarity with those living with breast cancer

Saludos to all!  First off, I would like to apologize that I have not posted to the blog in a long time.  Life became very hectic with personal and professional life, causing a neglect in my writing.  However, I am learning to balance and learning to find time for my writing, ranting, and sermonizing.   And so la lucha will continue and venture into new areas of luchaness.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to share this homily I wrote in memory of Marie Hernandez and Maria Lemes da Silva, two brave women who coped and thrived despite being diagnosed with breast cancer.  The sermon is based on the three Gospel stories of the woman who was hemorrhaging that touched Jesus’ garment (Matt 9:20; Mark 5:25; Luke 8:43).  Her story is one of not allowing a disease define who she was and of taking a leap of faith that is rooted in radical boldness.  May “think pink” be more than a catchy gimmick this month but an ongoing testament to our solidarity with all those impacted by breast cancer—a commitment to coping, surviving, and thriving.  Towards the end there is space for people to name all those women and men who have bravely fought this disease, who are beginning the fight, and who are in remission—honoring also their loved ones who are also coping, surviving, and thriving.

Fore more information about breast cancer and ways to get involved, please visit The National Breast Cancer Foundation (http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org).

Coping     Surviving     Thriving

I will be honest, preparing this sermon was a challenge. It was and still is daunting and anxiety provoking, inducing of many brain-busts.  What can I say about breast cancer? What do I know?  I asked myself repeatedly, how will G-d get me through this one?  Why me?  But than I asked, why not me?   Someone has to break the silence. I may not know much but…I do know that…

  • Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among American women, accounting for one in three cancer diagnoses in women.
  • One in eight women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in their lifetime
  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women aged forty to fifty-nine
  • There are over two million breast cancer survivors in the United States
  • A survey of twelve years of reports in two major psychiatric journals showed that spirituality – defined as participation in religious ceremony, social support, prayer, and belief in a higher being – yielded positive mental health benefits in 92% of the cases

I know Maria Lemes da Silva, I know Marie Walker Hernandez, two brave women who fought breast cancer, two women who are presente and here with us.  I know that despite the intensity and magnitude of this disease, the pulpit has remained silent.   I may not know much about the embodied impact of breast cancer, but I do know about coping, surviving, and thriving.  I may not know the struggle of radical mastectomies, the pain of chemotherapy, or the anxiety caused by finding the right wig, but I do know about the warrior spirit of the luchadoras who are in the struggle…la lucha, to not merely cope or survive with breast cancer but to thrive.  Luchadoras who are not letting cancer define who they are, but who are finding ways to live life without fear, despite the pain that breast cancer may be inflicting on the body, they are not letting it take over their spirits.

Coping     Surviving     Thriving

When it came to finding a scripture passage to reflect on sermonically, I was at a loss and I struggled with the bible, realizing that many of the passages on healing in the New Testament intersected with sin and I did not want to equate cancer with sin … I also realized that many of these same stories are sources of hope for many who are living with cancer.   What to do?  After hours of reflecting, praying, reading,  re-reflecting, re-reading, and praying again,  G-d sent me 4 radically spiritual women, Sadie, Rebecca, Stephanie, and Rachel.   At a point where I was going to lose hope in scripture and in Christianity, these 4 women shared insights and thoughts and questions that helped me see passages in a different light.

With their help, I came across the story of a woman whom I am naming Florence.   Her story is captured in 3 of the gospels as the woman who was hemorrhaging that touched the hem or fringes of Jesus’ cloak/robe.  Her story is one inspiration, of boundary breaking, of the warrior spirit that was embraced by Marie, Maria, and the countless women and men diagnosed with and affected by breast cancer. She is un-named in the gospel accounts, but the fact that she is included in 3 gospels reflects the importance of her story of fighting with a chutzpah-based faith.  

Florence was afflicted with a disease, a disease that made her unpure and marginalized her from society – not unlike the treatment many women received when they were first diagnosed, marginalized by silence by many who were unable to pronounce the “c-word.”  Florence was a luchadora, she was not going to let disease stop her from living.  She went to doctors, she prayed, she offered sacrifices.  But despite all her efforts, 12 years worth, she did not get the results she hoped and yearned for.  However she did not let that stop her, she endured the chemos and homeopathic remedies of her day with their body ravaging side affects and side effects to the side effects, she could not be healed, she could not be made whole – but her chispa, her undominable audacity to hope would keep her in la lucha, in the struggle.

Despite social norms on purity and the place of women in society, Florence acted boldly, aggressively … she did not let the cancer within her define her or let society dictate her identity.  Florence decided she would fight and do what was needed.  She embodied the Deuteronomist’s encouragement…“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; G-d will not fail you or forsake you.”   She trusted G-d and G-d trusted her.  Guided by her faith and determination, she did something radical … she touched Jesus.

Despite the crowds, despite the claustrophobia of crawling through a forest of legs, despite the heat, despite the pain within her body, despite the stigma that marked her and that she risked marking on others, she took a leap of faith and was healed … Jesus tells her that it is her faith that healed her.  It was her boldness, her determination, her lucha that brought her healing and made her whole.  Her lucha of coping surviving and thriving

What can we learn from Florence?  What can we learn from her faith that flowed her into voice and wholeness?  She lived and embodied what the Psalmist says in Psalm 31 … she was strong and let her heart take courage.  She took a risk, she took a chance, she got messy. Knowing at the core of her being, in the depths of her soul, G-d was with her … she coped, she survived, she thrived.

Florence’s story is not a story of giving people false hope, or instill an expectation of healing.  Florence’s testimony in the Gospels  is about not letting disease or society’s view of disease define how one lives life, however, long or short it will be. We need to remind all those living with breast cancer that they cannot and will not be diagnosed to the margin.  They are not alone, for G-d is with them.  It is not about fuzzy quips and fluffy colloquialisms, but radically embracing life like Florence, Marie, and Maria … Of fighting with every breath and ounce of chutzpah one can muster.  Of transforming limitations into differently abledness.  

Maria is my best friend and sister in life’s mother.  Marie is my beloved husband’s mother.  These two moms, wives, workers, women of faith realized that though they might not be able to climb mountains anymore, they would boldly proclaim…
I will go to church, I will raise my children,
I will lead a household, I will be there for others,
I will participate in treatment,
I will work as long as I can to take care of my loved ones,
I will cry, I will be angry,
I will laugh, I will go to the doctor,
I will live.
Will it be easy, no.
Will we get mad, yes.  
Is that okay … it sure is.
It is okay to complain and be angry and ask G-d why.  Like Job and Job’s unnamed wife, we can authentically and angrily ask G-d why … knowing that G-d can take it.  Maria and Marie, like so many others, coped and thrived.  They could not answer many questions about their health or what would happen, but assured everyone through their conviction and faith to live as long as they were able to live, believing and reminding others to believe that G-d’s love was present and filled with anger-enduring care.  

As the Psalmist proclaims … G-d is my shelter, covering me in the refuge of G-d’s feather… in G-d is my strength … though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil … with G-D, what shall I fear.

As Isaiah proclaims … “do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your G-d;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
   I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

Coping     Surviving     Thriving

In this place, may we be reminded that though the world may be falling apart, our bodies are ravished with scars, chemo has caused our hair to fall out, nausea is our constant companion, getting out of bed is an insurmountable quest, fear of the cancer spreading, G-d is suffering with us.  G-d is carrying the cross with us and sometimes for us through a nurse, doctor, friend, loved one. G-d is holding us.

“And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings, Bare you up on breath of dawn.  Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of G-d’s hand, And hold you in the palm of G-d’s hand.”  (Hymn On Eagle’s Wings by Rev. Michael Joncas)

To be held is an act of trust and vulnerability, to allow oneself to be gently cradled in the hands of another, to truly believe our partners who still behold us as beautiful, to allow others to help you because walking to the kitchen for a cup of water is exhausting … to share with a stranger that the scars on our bodies are medals of honor and badges of courage… to be held by G-d through the pain and the joy.  To be held into coping, surviving, and thriving.

In this space, let us remember Florence, Marie, and Maria.  Let us make presente all the women living with breast cancer … For Hispanics and Latinos, those who have died are still with us, presente in our lucha, as companions in our struggles and in our celebrations.  Their stories are reminders that we are to focus on today so we can get to tomorrow, their presencia reminds us that we are not alone.  

(interactive)
In this space, you are invited to share the names of all those who have been impacted by breast cancer.  You are also invited to light a candle…

Let us lift up the names of our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, wives, cousins, and grandmothers, friends, brothers, co-workers, husbands, and pastors…

May we lift up the names of those who have died, those have been recently diagnosed, those in remission, those going through treatment, and those who are getting tested…

(back to sermon)
Where 2 or 3 are gathered, there I am … This is our calling as people of faith … To be in la lucha with and sometimes for others, to break the silence, to allow G-d to flow through us … starting groups of support, taking people to the doctor, cooking meals, going the extra mile at the cancer walk, not letting pink be just a gimmick but a true sign of our solidarity…sharing the Kleenex when the time to say “ta ta for now” comes…Talking about breast cancer to ensure that women can go from lump to laughter, love, and life.

Though one may be overpowered by the vomiting, scarring, headaches, body aches, puss, hairloss, confusions about treatments, worries about finances, uncertainties … one is not alone, one is in community, en conjunto, we face this disease … we are in this together.  

As it is written in Ecclesiastes, “And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  Our experiences here are interconnected, the experiences of Marie and Maria and all women before us are interconnected with us.  Marie and Maria died of cancer, but did not lose the battle to cancer.  They are still fighting…their memory, their children, their spirits, their Florence-like chutzpah, their presence lives, loves, and fights on … With them presente in our lucha, we cope, we survive, and we thrive.
Amen.

#tbt a reflection from me from high school

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#tbt a reflection from me from high school

To celebrate Throw Back Thursday, I found this reflection I wrote while I was in high school.   I’ve been on an interesting journey, going from Catholic Fundamentalist to Queer Heretic with sacred sass.  I often wonder what happened to the religious zealot that was delfin in high school and first two years of undergrad.  Perhaps they are still here wandering inside my head, finding new ways to channel the fundamentalism and zealotness.  Enjoy my first #tbt post :-)

We are the World, We are the Children

“If there is right in the soul, there will be beauty in the person; If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the home; If there is harmony in the home, there will be peace in the world.”

Humans come in every shape, color, size, and form. To be global citizens, we have to accept that diversity and to see everyone as human despite our differences. Our differences make us individuals, which make us unique and special. We have to respect that, for we all live on the same earth. Until we can live on other planets, we are going to have to live on this earth together, might as well make the most of it. We should make our stay here as good and with as little problems as possible; so basically we should all get along and be friends.

Global means to be of the earth as a whole. This means we have to look at the whole world, we have to look at the big picture—think BIG. We have to understand and get it though our thick heads that the whole world isn’t from one corner of the block to the next. We have to open our eyes and come out of our little holes and meet people of different cultures and backgrounds.   We have to learn all that we can from each other, for a global person is not one who travels the whole world over, but one who sees the person next door. We have to look past the exterior and see the interior—we have to see the person. We can not just talk to be people of the same culture and seclude ourselves, for if we do we are going to miss out on a lot. We cannot be islands and live isolated lives—that would be wrong.   We have to share our experiences from we can learn from each other and find we are much more alike than different.

A global citizen is one who breaks through the barriers of racism and prejudice. They do their best to see people on the inside and not to judge a whole people by one person. No one is superior or inferior to anyone else, we are all equals. We may all have a different color and have different backgrounds, but we all have the same race: we all belong to the human race. We have to look at each other as beings that will cry, laugh, bleed, burp, use the bathroom, eat, grow just like we will. We have to learn not to hate, we have to learn love and be loved. I have always believed that we are all different colors and that we make up a rainbow, a beautiful rainbow with every color imaginable. If we leave out or push away some one because they are not like us, the rainbow is going to lose a color, and even though it has a whole bunch of other colors, and what is one color compared to the whole world?   Let me tell you that that one color is just as significant and important; it is so precious, that with out it the rainbow is not complete and it loses its beauty.

A global citizen is one who is able to standup and speaks out for what they believe in and at the same time respects other opinions and beliefs. They understand that not everyone believes the same thing and that’s okay with them. We should all have an open mind and respect each other’s beliefs. We have to understand that we are all entitled to have our own beliefs as long as we don’t out down somebody else’s.

A global citizen is one who tries to make peace in this world. Instead of making a fist they give a hug. They understand that to make peace we have to learn to accept each other for who we are. It is hard sometimes to do that for society trains us well in looking down at others, but it is not impossible—it can be done. We are trained to look down at poor people, to see them as the scum of the earth, so we deprive them of human dignity and compassion.         A global citizen is not one who does this; he or she reaches out to the poor and helps them get back on their feet. We should reach out to these people and show them they care. We should lend a helping hand to whoever needs it regardless of class, age, sex, or race. We all deserve friendship; we all deserve to know that we are matter and are special. We have to peacefully live with each other—for divided we fall, united we stand. We can get things done on our own, but we can get a whole lot more accomplished if we work together.   We can solve the problems of this world if we put our heads together.

A global citizen is one who instead of just talking and talking and talking, DOES. They go out in the world and live by what they say. They try to leave their mark anywhere they go. They can talk the talk but can also walk the walk. We have to comprehend that actions speak louder than words. It’s all hunckydory and wonderful that you say you respect and love everyone, but can you actually show it? People will hear you say it, but will believe if you do it.

We live on the same earth, breathe the same air, drink the same water, feel the same sun, see the same moon, feel the same breeze, and see the same stars at night. Instead of making weapons of massive destruction, we should make lasting friendships. Instead of holding back, we should reach out and give a hug, for a hug is love in any language.   “We can make a difference, we can make a change, we can make the sun shine through the rain, we can make this world a better place.”

featured image from: http://www.unartforpeace.org/e/546

fix society, please

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fix society, please

Earlier this semester we organized a Rally for Trans and Queer Justice in response to the violence that many in the trans and queer communities are experiencing.  It was inspired by rallies calling for justice following the aftermath of ongoing events at Ferguson and the tragic death of Eric Gardner.   As I read articles about the rallies and participated in some of the rallies here in Athens, I became aware that the lives of trans and queer people were not receiving attention despite the many alarming (but overlooked) reports involving trans women of color being murdered in the United States.  I do not want to undermine the #blacklivesmatter movement or the conversations connected to how the black community is treated and mistreated by systems of oppression that permeate all levels of society; however, I do not want these conversations to overshadow the lives lost due to violence in all its forms targeted towards trans and queer communities.  In our chanting and call for justice we must also include #translivesmatter … it is not about replacing or undermining or getting caught up in who is more oppressed, but coming together to ensure that #ALLourlivesmatter in our rallying and ranting and writing.

Below is the reflection I shared at the rally.

Saludos a todas y todos…My name is delfin and I am trans and queer person of color.  On behalf of the center and all involved in making today happen, thank your for your presence!

Today, we rally, rant, rave, and chant NOT ONE MORE!  Today, we rally, rant, rave, and chant to break the silence.

As trans people our lives, voices, bodies, and experiences have been forgotten, neglected, and silenced. Today we roar…NOT ONE MORE!

Queer and Trans people are victims and survivors of all forms of violence. We have experienced and we are surviving…

  • Violence such as living in Ohio, one of 29 states where we can be fired for being and/or being perceived as LGBT
  • Violence such as having to navigate a campus segregated by gender, where our pronouns and names are misused and abused … a campus and community where finding a safe restroom to use is an everyday challenge
  • Violence such as suicide…40-50% of suicides are attempted and/or completed by LGB youth with rates being higher for trans youth
  • The violence of conversion therapy and reparative therapy
  • The violence that erases the lives and experiences of Asexuals due to misunderstandings of romantic and emotional attraction
  • Violence reflected in that trans women are at higher risk of sexual assault than cisgender women…the rates being much higher for trans women of color
  • The violence of having to be diagnosed with a disorder in order to live into and be who we are
  • The violence of our lives, bodies, experiences, and voices being silenced, erased, and pushed to the side

In December, 17 year old Leelah Alcorn completed suicide.  In her note she challenged us to fix society…It is in her honor and in the honor of many many many more that we gather today to fix society and to fix society now!

Just this month, 3 black trans women were murdered:  Ms Edwards, Lamia Beard, and Ty Underwood.  In Colorado a queer identified youth, Jessie, was the victim of homicide perpetrated by the police force.  In our own state of Ohio, 4 trans women of color have been murdered…these are story the stories that we’ve heard through the media…there are many more that go unreported and untold.

Research shows that 67% of victims of anti-LGBT violence are trans women of color…research shows that 30 to possible 70% of homeless youth identify as LGBT.  Many of the names read at Trans Day of Remembrance last November were of Latina women.

Where is our national outcry?  Where are the occupies and the national organizing?  Where are the programs ensuring that those silenced are not forgotten?  We here today, we are breaking this silence…We roar NOT ONE MORE!

Yes we want equality, yes we want legal protections, yes we want healthcare…more importantly, we want the simple yet radical act of being recognized and affirmed as people.  We want to know at our core that our lives, bodies, voices, and experiences are affirmed…we want to know that we matter.

Today, people will share their stories of struggle and resilience.  We have folks who have volunteered to share and we also welcome for folks gathered here to share.

Today, tomorrow, and every day, we will break the silence…we will rally, rant, rave, and chant until the violence stops!

Not one more murder…Not one more suicide…Not one more silencing…Not one more, period!

¡Muchas gracias!  ¡Viva la revolucion!

Some chants shared at the rally shared here for your use at other rallies…

The People United Will Never Be Defeated

Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Transphobia’s Got To Go

This is What Democracy looks Like

Trans lives taken – shut it down!  Not one more life – shut it down!  The whole damn system – shut it down!

We’re here, we’re trans, we’re fabulous, don’t fuck with us

When trans people are under attack, what do we do, stand up, fight back

Whose streets? Our streets! Trans rights now

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the struggle is real

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the struggle is real

In reflecting over my ongoing sojourn with faith and sexuality, I realize that who I am and the area I seek to evolve is one that both disturbs and is disturbed, changes and is changed. As I look back at my life in an effort to re-remember my re-membering as I wrestle with church teaching, CCD classes, retreats, a home that reinforced what the church expounded, my continuous coming out, and personal beliefs about faith, I am mindful that 12 years ago if I knew what I knew today I would have condemned myself. In searching the hogar within, I realize that growing up I knew that there was something different about me. I had a feeling that I did not feel right in my own body and I was not like other boys or girls. I was confused for a long time and decided not to deal with it. Rather than reconcile my faith and my sexuality, I repressed many feelings that did not fit into the black and white paradigm of gender/sexuality that stemmed from growing up Cuban, conservative, and Catholic. Twelve years ago, this reflection that critiques the Church’s teaching would not have been written, much less having attended Yale Divinity School, being the director of a LGBT Center, and much, much, much less showing my hairy legs and painted toe nails in a skirt I bought I Lane Bryant. In order to survive I unwillingly conformed to the standards imposed on me because I was scared of the ramifications if I did not—I hid behind the smile of the good Catholic boy who was going to be a priest. Being Hispanic, Catholic, and queer did not mesh well. I feared burning in hell, being beat up, and most tragically being a disgrace to my family and their memory. The world was to be black and white with no room for color or even variations of gray, period, no questions asked.

As I began to venture into the world of sexuality and gender, questions, doubts, and issues with gender binaries and expectations began to rise. I began to query my history, cultural worlds, family story, church teaching, and society’s dominant narrative. When I came out in my early twenties, I said I was gay because it was all I knew at the time and it seemed to fit; it was also slightly safer.   I was an oddity in a world of dominating and hierarchical notions of sacred whiteness and holy maleness. I did not fit the stereotype of gay maleness perpetuated by society and the media due to something more that was evolving, growing, and desiring to be birthed in me and in the world. As I learned about the T of LGBTQ, I had a second coming out to myself and to GOD. I was birthed, came into voice, and claimed that I am both/and—I am not an antagonistic dualism. AHHHHHHHH!!!!!! OHHHHHHHH S***!!!!!!!!!

As a Catholic, I feel that I am constantly having to prove myself and my Catholicity. It is a constant struggle of becoming, yet a becoming that is never affirmed, accepted, or celebrated as good enough. Becoming and existing as a person who is both/and is especially hard in the Catholic world that is still figuring out what to do with G and L, much less attempting to engage BTPPQQ and everything else. It is a place where many are quick to silently judge, label, and dismiss my personhood causing this little freak in a skirt to go back into the closet out of fear and survival. My experience thus in life have helped me realize that the grappling of living into and out of one’s faith and sexuality is an on-going one. I realize that I am not alone, there are those who have paved the way before me through their brave questioning of church teaching such as Margaret Farley, Hildegard of Bingen, Gloria Anzaldua, and Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz; and there are those who are paving the way with me like my mother, my beloved, and all I meet along the way of this quirky journey of life.   My lucha is to bare witness to the Catholic Church and take on her teachings; finding ways to be catholic. Coming into my own publicly through the birthing of this delphic delfín will be a labor of revolutionary resilience where GOD is my midwife birthing and re-birthing truth-telling in me and through me.   Amen.

 I have been witness to marvels that affect the nature of the mystical body, for we too, gay men that we are, are also members of that same body…and mind by mind, soul by soul, heart by heart, we are building a consensus fidelium that one day will set us free…for such is the promise of our common baptism and the rights we derive from that sacrament. –E. Stoltz

 In all those times of wrestling with tough issues, with Church leaders, with each other, with disease, I have been pinned down and squeezed, touched, massaged, embraced, cuddled, and, yes, pleasured by a challenging and ever-loving GOD. I have been transformed and reconciled. No longer frightened or ashamed, I am learning to confide in GOD’s love and the love of my fellow wrestlers. After the match is over, I look forward to walking humbly with my GOD, even if it is with a limp. – K. J. Calegari

 

what is the church so scared about?

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what is the church so scared about?

Growing up Catholic, I was raised with the notion that the Roman Church was the holder of ultimate truth and that there was a certain infallible nature to the Church. All other traditions were wrong, confused, or flawed in some way. Perhaps it was a grave misunderstanding of Church teaching and doctrine, but I believed that the only to way to obtain truth was through the Church.   Ecumenism and religious pluralism threatens this idea of the Church holding the truth. To think that truth can be held by other traditions (even a piece of it) is unfathomable to many conservative Catholics. This mentality can lead to a superiority complex among Catholics who feel that the Church is better than other traditions.

Catholic teaching is very black and white—what you see is what you get for the most part. Regardless of where one falls on the spectrum of obedience and agreement to Church doctrine, there is a clear set of teachings to grapple with. Teachings on sexuality and responsibility may seem outdated but at least one knows the official stance to support or rebel against. Religious pluralism threatens the control that the Church has over her members. By acknowledging pluralism, one acknowledges that there are truths and alternative means to obtain them outside of the Church. There is no control over how people think, what they do, or how they express themselves. It goes from being black and white to colorful which poses a threat to accountability to a set doctrine. I do not mean to describe the Church to be a power-hungry, tyrannical dictatorship needing to control every nanosecond of every life; however, obedience and loyalty to teaching is often emphasized and lack of conformity shunned upon. Individuals who seek to broaden their experience of the Divine by adopting practices from other traditions (even Christian ones) are often criticized by fellow Catholics who feel that if one sits when one is supposed to kneel or uses a mantra or acknowledges that Jesus was Jewish or discerns the possibility of entering another tradition because the Church is no longer home—one is deviant, ostracized, and shunned.

The Church needs to learn how to balance Catholic and catholic. There is a balance between being a universal church that is located in various parts of the world with being open to widening the circle of acceptance of individuals and beliefs that can broaden our understanding of God. Through the black and white (which brings order) God has been placed within the limitations of a box. I believe this unjustly binds the Almighty Creator of the Universe who is so much more than our imperfect minds can grasp. I find it problematic when people define God as this and not that or develop rubrics for what constitutes authentic religious expression—whatever does not conform to our labels/categories is some how less than and questioned.

The church is struggling to become comfortable with learning from other traditions.   The Church is recognizing where she needs growth (at times admitting and owning errors and mistakes) and how religious pluralism can enrich liturgy, theology, and doctrine. It is a journey of discovering how to be catholic Catholics—why is that so scary?

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!!!

 

survivors en la lucha

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survivors en la lucha

Last week, one of our campus groups Empowered Women of Ohio organized a week long series of events focused on sparking our ability to empower ourselves and empower others to confront systems of oppression (within the university, within our communities, and even within ourselves).  The week ended with a walk, Support Our Survivors, to honor all who identify as a survivor in whatever way that means for them.  The walk was to honor and celebrate survivors of sexual violence but also eating disorders, physical illness, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, hate crimes, racism, and all forms of violence and dehumanization.  It was a time to gather to honor those individuals (present and not present) as well as celebrate their lives, stories, and experiences of resilience.  I was asked to share a reflection before our march…below is the reflection I shared.

Many thanks to all for your presence today as we honor and celebrate survivors and all who are living through hardship into wholeness.

I am here today to honor the women in my family who are survivors of relational violence. But I am also here for myself, as I too am a survivor… I have survived bigotry, tokenization, and other attacks of dehumanization.

Today we honor those who have survived sexualized and relational violence …  AND we also embody our solidarity to all who have suffered attacks on their personhood due to homophobia, transphobia, abelism, ageism, racism, economic injustice, stigmas of mental illness, and other acts of violent misunderstanding.

For many of us Latinas and Latinos, our response to “how are you” is often “en la lucha” … in the struggle.  For us, the struggle reflects that we are alive…that we are facing hardships with spicy sacred sass…that we are taking risks and embracing life in its fullness.  “La lucha,” the struggle, demonstrates that our lives are worth-filled and that we are living life on our own terms, not on the terms of those who oppress and marginalize.

Today as community, we are embodying our solidarity for survivors en “la lucha”…we are here for ourselves, for those close to us, and for those we do not know…we are here for ALL who are surviving everyday, because surviving is not a one time thing but an ongoing and evolving journey of wholeness-making.

We are here for individuals who are harassed with homophobic, transphobic, biphobic, and human-phonic slurs but who refuse to be closeted.

We are here for all those overcoming an eating disorder and disordered attacks on their bodies.

We are here for all who are impacted by suicide.

We are here for those who see the scars of battling breast cancer not as body humiliation but as badges of courage and strength.

We are here for ALL children who are abused physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually

We are here for folks like me who see the act of getting out of bed everyday as a triumphant act of resistance in the face of depression and other mental health challenges.

We are in “la lucha” and we are “la lucha”…our struggle is not one of shame but of resilience…it is struggle filled with rants for change, of prophetic silences,  of honoring all those who have struggled to live, laugh, and love before us.

“Vivir es luchar, luchar es vivir.” To live is to struggle, to struggle is to live.  Our lucha as survivors and in solidarity with survivors  is not defeatist but is a hope-filled raving proclamation that we are surviving and more importantly that we are thriving!

To close, I share these “delfin tweaked” words from Chicana and lesbian poet, activist, and prophetess Gloria Anzaldua…

“Why am I compelled to [survive]?… Because the world I create [through struggling] compensates for what the real world does not give me. By [surviving] I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I [survive] because life does not appease my appetites and anger… [To struggle is to] become more intimate with myself and you.  To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispell the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit… Finally I [survive] because I’m scared of [struggling], but I’m more scared of not [struggling].”

Muchas gracias…together en la lucha siempre!

featured image from:  http://www.christiansurvivors.com/

i am good enough, mental health quirks and all

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i am good enough, mental health quirks and all

In honor of all those living with mental health issues, a poem by me…

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.
i am told:
“pull yourself up by the bootstraps of pill-popping”
“just pray”
i am treated with well-intentioned yet mocking quips of “you’ll be okay”.
but 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.
i am more than a WASPy 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.
my life is the evidence seen and unseen…
i am good enough, period.  Amen, blessed be!

featured image from:  http://www.namifoxvalley.org/blog/2013/04/24/111/