Category Archives: GLBT rights

Transgender Day of Remembrance: Queries for Quakers

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. How does your Quaker Meeting treat its trans members? How does your Meeting behave in ways that contribute to transphobia? Is your Meeting a place where trans people would feel safe?

Does your Meeting have gendered bathrooms? Does your Meeting respect pronouns? 

What are you doing as an individual to alleviate the suffering of transgender people? Or do you behave in ways that contribute to transphobia?

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Filed under GLBT rights, lgbt issues, quakerism, speak and listen with love

I’m Not Okay.

I’ve been trying to stay silent about what’s been happening in Missouri.

Because I wasn’t there. Because I don’t know the facts. Because there seem to be no unbiased, perfect perspectives. Because the 18 year old who was shot and killed by police may have had a gun. May not have been totally innocent. 

But you know what? I’m not okay with this. I’m not okay with the idea that a black person has to be totally innocent for people to care they died. I’m not okay with police occupying a neighborhood. I’m not okay with a tank going down an American street.

I’m not okay with crime. I’m not okay with neighborhoods all but abandoned economically, educationally. 

I’m not okay with black people being killed by police who, more often than not, face little to no judicial or employment consequences for the death of a person. I’m not okay with cops fearing for their lives, and I’m not okay with the crimes that makes their jobs necessary. 

I’m not okay with poverty used as a means of controlling groups of people. I’m not okay with redlining, with segregated neighborhoods and schools, with communities who close schools and then open more prisons.

I’m not okay with for-profit prisons. 

I’m not okay with transgender people being murdered and the defense that “they tricked me” is still considered a legal excuse. I’m not okay with trans and LGBQ kids being kicked out of their homes, told they’re going to hell and will be damned, forced into conversion therapy, and rejected by the people whose love matters the most to them–their parents.

I’m not okay with any of this. 

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Filed under compassion, equality, GLBT rights, leadings, lgbt issues, ministry, oppression, racism

“I Can’t Go Back”

(Trigger warning: trans- and homophobia.)

Since that first Sunday after the Charleston Emanuel AME attack, I have attended my local AME church three times. (You can read about my leading to attend here.) My second visit was even more powerful than my first; I visited alone and felt more free to participate in worship. I loved the overwhelming sense of God I felt there and the consistent message from the pulpit to love yourself, but be and do better.

I, quite frankly, began to love that church. I loved the worship. I loved the music. I loved the freedom to give yourself up to God without fear or embarrassment. I loved that there was dancing–in church! I loved the fellowship I felt with people who are quite literally my neighbors. I loved that the services inspired me to rekindle my relationship with Jesus and reminded me of what I found appealing in him in the first place. I loved the energy and the sense of constant praise and wonder at God. I found myself looking forward to the next time I could attend church.

Yesterday was my third time visiting. I felt comfortable with the service now. I could sing along with most of the call-and-response songs. I stood up and swayed to the music. I waved my hands. I was there, and God was there, too. It was a divine celebration of all life had to offer and all we had to be grateful for. When the time came for visitors to stand and introduce themselves, I stood for a second time. The Sister who oversees services saw me standing and said, “Hey, you a regular now.” I felt honored to be so welcomed. But I introduced myself anyway and said, “I know, this is my third time, but I was so nervous the first time I attended I forgot to say my name. It’s [name] and I live over on [street a mile away]. I’m a Quaker, but my Meeting is in Easton, and you all know how beach traffic can be on a Sunday…” Everyone laughed. “So, my hope is to be here when I can’t be there, because I love being here with you all.” Everyone smiled at me, and I felt welcomed. I felt open. I felt safe.

Later in the service, a guest preacher rose to give the sermon. She–and I was so happy to see a female Reverend!–was the sister-in-law of the reverend. The theme of the service so far had been transformation–the title of this post is from one of the songs we sung, “I Can’t Go Back”; and during that song, I was thinking about how I can’t go back to closing my eyes about the truth of racial inequality. I thought about writing a blog post about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, and replacing their names with Jesus’s. I thought about how happy I was to be Woke and how much joy it has brought me (pain as well, but the joy had been a surprise, and a lot of that joy came from my attending this church).

And then the guest preacher said (obviously this is not verbatim, as I am relying on my memory here), “God made you who you are, and you have to accept that.”

I nodded, but began to feel on edge. Where was she going with this?

“God made you who you are, and there’s no changing that.”

I felt myself tense.

“Do I need to spell it out for ya? God made man and he made woman, and what he made you, there’s no changing that. You can’t lie with another man as you would a woman. You can’t lie with another woman as you would a man. Accept who you are.”

And I felt my soul turn cold. I felt like God had left the building. I was shocked. I looked around me, hoping to see other parishioners with the same shocked expression on their face. But everyone was applauding or voicing their approval of her words.

I wanted to flee. I wanted out of there. But there was a woman sitting next to me, and I couldn’t leave without causing a scene.

I tried to let go of the painful words and focus on the rest of her sermon. She spoke about “dropping your baggage”. She spoke about “loving who you are, accepting who you are” and “not judging other people because you don’t like the way they dress or look”. She spoke about how we can all be ministers, that there’s nothing special about her that makes her more able to be a minister than the rest of us. She spoke about how none of us is perfect and we all make mistakes. She spoke about the danger of gossip. But most of her sermon was about loving and accepting who God made you to be.

The thing is, God made me bisexual. God made me agender. And neither of those is an affliction I need to be saved from. They are part of who I am. They are part of who God has made and called me to be.


I was trapped in that church for an hour more before I could sneak out and leave. I tried to find the joy I had felt just moments ago, but it was not there. God wasn’t there anymore for me. When the parishioners were called to the altar to proclaim their faith, I stayed in my pew and began to cry.

The truth is, I loved this church. I loved worshiping with them so much. But now I know that I can’t go back.

On the short ride home, my husband immediately noticed something was wrong. Normally, I am exuberant after these church services; I’m excited to tell him how it affected me. This time, I was silent for a few moments; and when I began to speak, I started to sob.

I wouldn’t stop sobbing for more than an hour. I could not–and still cannot–understand how someone can preach a message of loving and accepting who you are and at the same time, tell me that part of who I am is an affliction that needs to be healed by God.

“Hate the sin, love the sinner” makes no sense when you become aware that being LGBTQ isn’t an activity one participates in, but a part of who a person IS. A person isn’t gay only when they’re in a same-sex relationship; they are gay if they’re attracted to members of the same sex (and not attracted to members of the opposite sex). And attraction is not a choice. (When did you choose to be straight? is a question no one can honestly answer.)

What people who are LGBTQ hear when you say “hate the sin, love the sinner” is that your love and acceptance of them is conditional and depends on them denying an essential part of who they are… Which isn’t love at all.

And so, as much as I loved worshiping with this church community, as much as I want to go back, I know that “I won’t go back, can’t go back, to the way it used to be”.

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Filed under belief, christianity, christians, different faiths, discernment, faith, GLBT rights, leadings, lgbt issues, oppression, racism, worship

Until ALL Love Wins

I spent most of yesterday morning and early afternoon celebrating the SCOTUS decision… And then sat down to watch the Reverend Pinckney’s funeral. I still have an hour and a half left to watch, which I hope to finish today. 

And this morning in Charleston, a brave black woman removed the Confederate flag from its place of “honor”. And was promptly arrested. And the flag was raised again for the 11am white supremacist rally.

And last time I checked, 4 black churches had burned since the Charleston terrorist attack. 

So until LGBTQIAA POC can fully celebrate yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling, my joy at that ruling is bittersweet. Until black lives matter no longer needs to be said, until phrases that end in “while black” (walking while black… sleeping while black…) are a distant remnant of the past, I will stay woke and dream of the day when ALL love wins.

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Filed under equality, GLBT rights, human rights, lgbt issues, pride, racism

The Importance of Friends

A couple of months ago, my husband and I traveled to Lewes, Delaware, to visit two f/Friends of mine who live in a Quaker retirement-to-nursing home community there (let’s call them A and J). We’ve visited them during our anniversary vacations for the last couple of years, and every year I think the same thoughts before going: What will we talk about? What do we really have in common? This year, in fact, I was considering not visiting them as usual, but my husband, who is often good about not letting me slack off spiritually, insisted that we should.

When I first began attending Third Haven Friends Meeting, I felt both at home and out of place. Mostly, I felt at home, but I also felt out of place because I was unable to drive myself to and from and knew that my husband would not often be willing to drive me, as he found Meeting for Worship “boring”. So, while I felt I’d finally found my spiritual home, I also worried that the distance would be an impediment to my actually becoming involved with the community. Then, after attending my second Meeting for Worship, I was introduced to two Friends who lived nearby. A & J were a good 60 years older than me, had never met me before, but immediately offered to drive me to and from Meeting whenever I wanted.

I was, frankly, completely shocked at their willingness. It took me months to get up the courage to call them and ask for a ride.

But once I did, they faithfully drove me to and from Meeting for Worship for over a year. During that year, we became quite close. When they decided to move to Lewes, Delaware, to their final home, I knew that I would not only miss the rides, but their friendship.

Since they’ve left, my husband has taken up the responsibility of driving me to and from Meeting for Worship, but there are often weekends I don’t make it because he is too tired and needs the extra sleep.

Anyways, what is particularly interesting about A & J is that their marriage is similar to my own in one important way.

Without going into too much detail, there was a conflict at Third Haven many years ago over same-sex marriage. Most members wanted the Meeting to perform same-sex marriages, but a few did not. A lot of feelings were hurt, people felt they weren’t listened to, and the conflict ended in a compromise that many members could not feel settled with. This conflict happened a few years before I joined Third Haven.

Shortly after I joined, I felt a Disquiet about what had happened and felt led to encourage the Meeting to begin talking about same-sex marriage again. As many of you can imagine, this leading was not always welcomed by all members of my Meeting. In any event, the seeds I planted eventually blossomed, and a committee to discuss Same-Sex Marriage was developed last June (see this entry ).

In December, Third Haven finally found unity to perform Same-Sex Spiritual Union Ceremonies, but the word “marriage” was not used in the approved minute. I, and several others, were led to stand aside.

The similarity between A & J’s marriage and my own is a religious one. A was in favor of same-sex marriage when it was first discussed at Third Haven while J was not. In my own marriage, I am strongly in favor of same-sex marriage (at Third Haven and anywhere else!) while my husband is not. A and I are very open to the idea of Quakers having multiple faiths (she is supportive of my Buddhist faith and understands how it can complement my Quaker faith) while J is a bit more Christocentric. My husband is also a Christian.

Over our last meal before my husband and I left A & J’s home, we discussed what had happened at Third Haven over the last year. I mentioned how I’d sometimes felt like my ministry was not listened to as much as Friends who are older, even if we were saying the same thing. In particular, I was slightly hurt that it took an older Friend speaking in Meeting for Worship to get the Meeting to start discussing Same-Sex Marriage when I’d often offered similar ministry many times before. I do enjoy that Third Haven is a very well-grounded Meeting with older Friends very grounded in Spirit, but I do sometimes feel that the voices of younger Friends who may also be grounded in Spirit sometimes go unheeded.

It came to my mind that a Meeting functions best when there’s a strong segment of older Friends and a strong segment of younger Friends as well. Meetings are like a body of water: we need the depth of older Friends to keep us grounded in Spirit and the current of younger Friends to prevent stagnancy.

In spite of the complaint I voiced above, I do feel lucky to have Third Haven as my Monthly Meeting. We have a wide variety of beliefs, from conservative Christians to Buddhists to agnostics to Universalists. We have a wide variety of ages, too; I’ve noticed an influx of people in their mid20s to mid30s in recent years. Most of all, though, I love how gathered our Meetings for Worship are. I love our old Meetinghouse, even when it’s hot and I yearn for the convenience of air conditioning (built in the 1600s, it has no electricity). I love our “new” Meetinghouse, built in the 1800s, with its tall white walls and large windows. I love the grounds, the trees, the squirrels and birds that serenade us during Meeting for Worship. Most of all, though, I love the Spirit that flows through us as we sit in Meeting for Worship.

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Filed under friends, gay love, GLBT rights, lgbt issues, meeting for worship, quakerism, third haven

A Gathered Popcorn Meeting

Shortly after I became a regular attender at my Monthly Meeting, I heard infamous tales about Popcorn Meetings for Worship. I remember in particular hearing about a terrible Meeting for Worship my Friends had attended once in D.C., where an older person stood up and ranted about how disrespectful young people were, and then he was immediately followed by a young person who ranted about old people. They went back and forth through the whole Meeting.

Popcorn Meetings I’ve always heard spoken of with disdain. They’re Meetings for Worship where people pop up, one after another, leaving next to no time for real worship, i.e., of the silent variety. I’ve experienced a couple of them myself and thought their infamy was well-deserved.

So I was pretty disappointed last Sunday when it became clear that Meeting for Worship was definitely becoming a Popcorn Meeting. It all started with the monthly reading of a Query:

How does our Meeting help to create and maintain a society whose institutions recognize and do away with the inequities rooted in patterns of prejudice and economic convenience?

Is our Meeting open to all regardless of race, ability, sexual orientation, or class?

What steps are we taking as a Meeting to assure that our Meeting and the committees and institutions under our care reflect our respect for all and are free from practices rooted in prejudice?

Do I examine myself for aspects of prejudice that may be buried, including beliefs that seem to justify biases based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, class, and feelings of inferiority or superiority?

What am I doing to help overcome the contemporary effects of past and present oppression?

Am I teaching my children, and do I show through my way of living, that love of God includes affirming the equality of people, treating others with dignity and respect, and seeking to recognize and address that of God within every person?

This is a hard query for my Monthly Meeting, as conflict about same-sex marriages left many hurt several years ago. As a result, this query tends to generate somewhat predictable messages in Meeting for Worship. This time was no exception.

I strove to find God in the brief moments of silence as person after person stood to give a message. As I try to write down the crux of the messages after Meeting, I desperately attempted to quickly memorize crux after crux. In the end, 11 people rose to speak in a 60 minute meeting. And somewhere in the middle of Meeting, I found myself wondering if attempting to worship for the rest of the Meeting was even worth it. “How can I possibly worship when someone is standing to speak every 5 minutes?”

I felt annoyed. “Another Popcorn Meeting,” I thought dismissively. In doing so, I also dismissed the quality of the messages.

Luckily, God ignored my dismissal. The messages were, whatever I thought of them at the time, Spirit-led. Friend after Friend rose to speak truth to power about the Meeting’s avoidance of discussing same-sex marriage. Friend after Friend rose to speak about the need to love those who disagree. Friend after Friend rose to remind us that disagreement is another form of diversity. Friend after Friend rose to say that acceptance doesn’t necessitate tolerance of opinions that harm others.

Friend after Friend rose to honor their Light within.

Meeting for Worship with attention to Business followed shortly after Meeting for Worship. More people rose to voice their discomfort with our Meeting’s lack of action regarding same-sex marriage. And at the end of Meeting for Business, in the slot for “future concerns”, the recording clerk rose to say that her sense was that it was time for us to act. She suggested a called Meeting for Business about same-sex marriage, to be held in September. After more discussion, a Friend rose to suggest a committee be formed to prepare for the called Meeting for Business.

Friends were in unity. And after years of inaction–or, to be accurate, indirect action–my Monthly Meeting is, finally, acting, directly and openly. And this fruit of action was sown by seeds planted in a Popcorn Meeting, a Meeting I dismissed as not counting as “real” worship.

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Filed under discernment, GLBT rights, leadings, lgbt issues, meeting for business, meeting for worship, ministry, quakerism, speak and listen with love, third haven, worship

Clean vs. Profane: A Slogan Post

What God has made clean, do not you make profane.

(Richmond Lattimore’s translation of the New Testament, from Acts, pg. 278)

The context for this quote is one of the apostles–Paul, I think–has been asked to have supper with a family who is not Jewish and doesn’t follow kosher dietary laws. An angel speaks to the apostle and basically frees him from the Jewish kosher laws, which are found in Leviticus.

The abused quote “Homosexuality is an abomination unto the Lord” is also found in Leviticus. This New Testament quote is one of the reasons I don’t think the Bible is as anti-homosexuality as it’s been made out to be. I know some of you are going to disagree with me about this, and that’s okay. But from my reading of the Bible, and especially the New Testament, the sin seems to be overwhelming lust: when Paul talks about men having sex with men or women having sex with women (women same-sex sex only appears once, that I can recall, in the NT), it seems to be about lust–that these men and women were so overwhelmed with lust that members of the opposite sex could no longer satisfy their hunger. This seems very different from loving, committed same-sex relationships. I can imagine Paul raging against our society’s love of meaningless sex in TV shows and movies, Paul scolding us for our endless desire to become more attractive, Paul being horrified at the abundance of relationships based solely on sex.

I think he would be less bothered by same-sex couples trying to get married than he would be by the ridiculous amount of sex in movies or TV shows. I think he’d be more worried about sex without love than sex without anatomically-correct parts.

But all this is about Paul anyways. Jesus himself is silent about same-sex relationships.

This is what today’s slogan brings up in my mind. But I’m left with a question: how do I act on today’s slogan? And I think this slogan has two meanings: first, that one shouldn’t say something is profane when God has made it clean; second, that one should not sully what God has created clean. There are so many practical applications of the second meaning: that one shouldn’t desecrate nature, that one shouldn’t deny another person his or her humanity… And a corrollary: what you have made profane, restore it to its original state.

And yet, I can’t help but feel that I’m somehow missing the point here.

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Filed under daily life, gay love, GLBT rights, Jesus, quakerism, slogans, the bible

Quaker Burn-out?

I have mixed feelings about posting about this on here, as I like to present myself to you all as firm and happy in my Quaker faith. But the truth is that I’ve been feeling a bit burnt out for the last few months. Part of it is real life: I have surgery coming up in 10 days, lost my cat 2 months ago, my health issues are acting up in a really bad way… Life hasn’t been leaving me much energy recently.

But I used to not think of attending Meeting for Worship as requiring energy. Yes, it involved getting up two hours earlier than normal, but the fatigue was always worth it. Now I’ve only been to Meeting for Worship something like three times in the last two months, and, honestly, I haven’t been missing it much.

It’s not because I don’t still believe that Quakerism is my religious home. It’s not because I think another kind of worship other than silent, expectant waiting would be better for me. It’s because, quite simply, I am tired of being put on the defensive at my Meeting.

I am tired of the assumptions being made that when I speak about our “same gender issue” problem, I’m doing it to “stir up trouble” and not because I’m following a leading. I’m tired of the assumption being made that because I wasn’t born a Quaker, or raised a Quaker, or haven’t been a Quaker for 40+ years, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m tired of having to prove that I’m actually following a leading and not just allowing my ego to “stir up trouble”. I am tired of offering myself to my Meeting, and being told, “Gee, thanks, but we don’t see the problem”, which implies that, once again, I’m just trying to “stir up trouble”.

I’m just tired, ultimately. And, sure, my current health issues (such as neck and jaw inflammation) would make attending Meeting for Worship very painful… but in the past, it would have been worth it. Now? I’m not so sure.

The fact is that my Monthly Meeting has become, overall, a source of stress in my life. I’m still being nurtured most of the time by my committee work, which gives me hope. But it wasn’t committee work that drew me to Third Haven, but the worship. And my experiences in Meeting for Worship recently have been less and less spiritually nourishing, because they’ve been tainted with the “stir up trouble” claim.

I am considering taking some time off from my Meeting, maybe even the whole summer. I am concerned I’m not in the right state of mind to be helpful to my Meeting, that I am too angry, hurt, and frustrated. But I am also concerned that taking time off is a cop-out because I just don’t want to deal with my Meeting anymore. (And it’s so sad to me that I can even talk about my Meeting as something to “deal with”.)

A F/friend from Meeting, who no longer regularly attends, suggested I try another Meeting. This isn’t really an option until the fall, but I am considering it.

I’m just feeling very distanced from my Meeting right now; unfortunately, this has the effect of making me feel distanced from Quakerism, because most of my experience with Quakerism has happened through my Meeting. I am still hoping to come back to this blog and start writing again more regularly after I recover from my surgery, but I’m not sure about where I fit within Quakerism anymore. I feel like I’ve been labeled a troublemaker and this has me worry that maybe I am one.

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Filed under discernment, GLBT rights, grief, leadings, lgbt issues, meeting for worship, pain, quakerism, struggling with faith, third haven

Clearness

One of the reasons I haven’t posted much in the last month is that I requested a Clearness Committee partially about the purpose of this blog. The meeting was yesterday. I still don’t have clearness about whether this blog should be used for ministry only or as a means of spiritual journaling, where I vent my questions and share my thoughts.

But the heart of this Clearness Committee was about my concern about the state of the Meeting with regards to gay marriage. This concern has two parts: first, I am concerned that where the Meeting is makes us not as welcoming as we should be to GLBTQ people; second, I am concerned about the damage done to the Meeting during the stage of conflict that led up to our current position and that time alone won’t adequately heal these wounds. (For the record, our position is that a gay couple can have a commitment ceremony with individual members taking that commitment under their care.)

Without going into too much detail about the inner workings of my Monthly Meeting, I discovered during the Clearness Committee meeting yesterday that even just defining what the letters GLBTQ stand for can be seen as stirring up controversy. This discovery occurred after the statement was made that I would have been treated exactly the same by the Meeting if my life partner had been a woman instead of a man; and that the Meeting has no problem welcoming GLBTQ people specifically. I asked: “How can our Meeting be truly welcoming to people when we can’t even discuss what their letter stands for?”

If we are so uncomfortable discussing sexuality that even the most general information can be seen as controversial, how can this not affect how we treat people who challenge our perceptions of “normal” sexuality and gender?

This saddens me greatly, because I had hoped that my Meeting was past this. And it saddens me to know that there must be people who don’t or won’t feel as welcome as everyone else in my Meeting community.

I went into the Clearness Committee meeting with one question first in my mind: what am I being called to do? It had become clear that my concern was not something I should lay down: because I’ve tried that in the past and it just keeps coming back. By the end of the meeting, I didn’t feel I had the clearness I’d been seeking. But it came to me last night, as I was trying to process what happened during the Clearness Committee meeting, that I do know what I’m being called to do and to say that I don’t know is just an excuse to give me the option to choose not to do it.

I am, quite simply, being called to speak. I am being called to break the silence that smothers my Meeting with regards to non-heterosexual people, loves, sexuality, and even faith. I am being called to stand up and challenge heterosexism whenever and wherever I see it.

I am being called to honor silence when used in worship, but to reject silence when it is oppressive. I am called to respect the comfort levels of other people, but only when they do not deny a part of my being.

I would prefer to keep silent. Anyone who knows my history well knows that I would rather be the one solving a conflict than stirring one up. By speaking up about an issue that will make others uncomfortable, I risk being called or thought of as an attention seeker, a troublemaker, or a drama queen. I am none of those things.

I’ve been struggling with the testimony of Integrity for a while. The only way I can truly live my life with Integrity is by speaking up when being silent would be denying part of who I am. I have to admit, though, that I am terrified.

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Filed under discernment, gay love, GLBT rights, integrity, leadings, lgbt issues, oppression, resolutions, silence, third haven

FLGBTQC, or Why Is This Acronym So Long?

I’ve posted a rough draft for an article I’m writing for my Monthly Meeting’s Newsletter over on Quaker Queeries here. I would really appreciate feedback, so please pop on over there and let me know what you think…

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Filed under GLBT rights, leadings, quakerism