To those of you who know me, You know that I am generally always laughing. I typically sit back and watch things happen, watch people and giggle at how we tend to view and handle things. After all, the things that are usually going on in our lives are tiny in comparison to the big picture and the world view of broken countries and humanity as a whole. I’m learning as I watch Americans, that justice is most of what we rely on to keep our sanity…to keep our society running. When things start breaking down, it seems that it’s because someone somewhere feels threatened and hasn’t been taken care of “justly”. For the LGBT community, for Christians, for Muslims, for African Americans, for Veterans, for the poor, the rich, the educated, the uneducated, the sick, the well, the list goes on and on…when we feel threatened or treated without fairness, integrity, and impartiality, we enter a survival mode and instantly try to reclaim what every human being craves and deserves. Impartial Justice. The sad part is we expect it but we are not always willing to give it.
I was recently taken out for my birthday to see a movie. I really enjoy the horror genre and I really enjoy history so it was a no brainer for me to choose to see Abraham Lincoln the Vampire Hunter. Of course the idea of the movie and even the title of the movie makes me giggle but I went to see it anyway and was quite surprised at the “mark” it left on me. I thoroughly loved the spin they did to the Civil War. Strangely though…I couldn’t shake what it did to me.
Thanks to Facebook, I have had the opportunity to see all of the rants and raves from friends and family on both sides of the current civil issue of Gay Marriage and it’s ugly. I live in a red state. A very conservative state. When I walk outside, whether alone or with my family, I walk with eyes wide open and short breaths ready to defend myself and my family from what may be lurking near me. WHY? Why do I do that? Because I’m not safe. Certainly those on FB who vehemently oppose my point of view are capable of doing harm…their posts alone can be terrifying. I can’t imagine what would happen if we met on the street.
We are breaking down. We are failing to be Americans.
I’ve been struggling a lot lately about the Civil unrest that is splitting our country. I have a tendency to research the heck out of something that I’m trying to understand….after all “knowing is half the battle”, right? I went back to America’s Civil War. Studying it all over again made me ask so many questions. I wondered at what point in time was Lincoln told he was on the “wrong side of history” when he pursued the idea of emancipation for slaves. I wondered at what point in time were families torn apart for their personal stances on what they believed to be right, wrong, or biblical. I wondered how many of my own family died because of this war…I wondered about which side they died for…
I started thinking about one of the next great Civil movements and was flooded with memories as I revisited a trip I took while I was in college to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. I can still recall standing there with so many generations of different colors of people learning about their struggles and seeing the very site where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. I couldn’t take my eyes off of that balcony. I remember tears welling up in my eyes…I remember turning and looking across the way to where the shooter allegedly took his shot through a bathroom window. My stomach was sick.
I feel that I must say that I have never experienced tragedy or discrimination as a person of color…well…because I’m not a person of color. I have no personal frame of reference to compare what it’s like to live in that world. What I do have is the life I’ve lived as a gay woman.
I found it incredibly interesting that a part of the exhibit at the National Civil Rights Museum shares this:
Protest (1940-1955): The aftermath of the 1954 murder of 14 year- old Emmett Till and numerous lynchings sparked protests. African-Americans began economic boycotts, sought legal redress against segregated educational facilities, planned a demonstration march on the nation’s capitol, organized voter registration drives and sit-ins, attended grassroots organizing workshops and sought an end to military discrimination.
Is any of this starting to sound familiar?
Freedom Rides (1961)
Freedom Rides (1961): Segregated interstate bus and train travel was illegal by 1961, as well as segregating travelers in bus and railway station terminals. The Freedom Rides were planned to expose the continued practice of discrimination despite federal laws. <<<<< Did you catch that last part?? Even now I hear the echoes of history in the voices of our state leaders.
When you get a chance, watch the documentary…it’s so incredibly moving. The picture below shows the aftermath of how the mob forced the crippled bus to stop several miles outside of town and then firebombed it. As the bus burned, the mob held the doors shut, intending to burn the riders to death. I watched with tears covering my face. I just don’t understand.
SO…thanks to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I started thinking about a new Civil War. People are vicious and the violence is turning towards the new civil issue.
When I came out of the closet at 17 years old, I was forced into a gay to straight program. Not physically forced but when you grow up in middle America and you want to be a missionary for the rest of your life, being gay is a death sentence. Not only did I have to attend and flourish in this program in order to be a missionary with my church, I was also fighting to stay out of hell.
When I went away to Missionary School and Bible College, I was outed by church leaders and was “forced” to attend another gay to straight program or would be kicked out of the organization. I did attend and worked my ass off so I could stay, only the leaders were so mystified as to what to do with me, they kicked me out anyway. And it wasn’t just a “sweep it under the rug” scenario either. I had to stand before the staff and entire student body and confess to being gay and confess to misleading everyone I knew there at the school. I was humiliated. It was the point in my life that I realized that I was about to lose everything that I had worked for…since I was 14 years old…I worked as a missionary and planned on doing that for the rest of my life.
This is when I broke. Not because I was gay…but because the church considered me useless and broken. I was sent home.
Upon my arrival, I was told that if I ever wanted to work in the ministry again or be a missionary again, I had to complete yet another gay to straight program. I had one more chance but I was near exhaustion and this one was vowed to be more intense (3 programs rolled into one long journey with curriculum from Exodus International, Purity with a Purpose, and Restoration Outreach) and completely stripping me of all ability to think on my own. I was removed from my parent’s home and placed with a church family who, while they loved me very much, had no real idea of what I was going through. I was completely alone. I was spiritually, socially and mentally beaten to nothing. Nothing. Do you understand what I am saying? I had no ability to make decisions on my own. I couldn’t think past my next breath. I did nothing but live eat and drink this program. I poured every part of my being into the only stable thing I had…and that was my God. And even so…I was dying.
Not only did I attend these programs, I did so well, that I became a spokesperson for them. I spoke on many panels to many universities about what life is like as an “ex-gay”…all the while still being gay. So…let’s talk about the here and now. Why THIS post?
How do all of these things add up and what do they have to do with me now? I watch all of the strife and conflict happening to my community and my brothers and sisters, Christians and Gays and once again, my stomach is sick. It’s caused me to think about what would happen if we had another Civil War. The country would split North and South. My family would also split…some fighting for Gay Rights and others fighting against. My little family and I would have to pack up and leave Oklahoma…we might even have to escape. Another “underground railroad” of sorts. We would lose everything. What a sad thing to think about.
Here’s what it’s like to be gay for me:
The tragedy, discrimination, and fear that I’ve lived with for 20 years…
According to church and my most of my friends and family from there, I am going to hell. I am broken. I will never be a whole and healthy person because of this “choice” I’ve made. I will never be allowed to be a missionary or minister again with the organizations I grew up with. They choose to look away and not acknowledge that after all that I went through throughout these programs, after having nothing but God, I did not choose this. I am this.
I was reading a friends FB page and she said some things that I will incorporate here. I will be married someday BUT for now, I worry about what a nightmare health insurance coverage is for my family…has anyone who’s not gay read what we have to go through just to get coverage? And that’s just if your particular state feels like offering it to you…which in my case, does not. I worry about if we should bring our advanced medical directives and the guardianship papers for our daughter everywhere we go “just in case something happens.” I want to not have to carry outrageous sums of life insurance so that my partner or I would have enough money to pay estate taxes on the house we own, and pay for together. I want to be able to file taxes as one family unit. I don’t want to be told by our attorney that if a family member contests either of our wills in court after our passing, that “due to the political climate” that my partner or I would lose and must be prepared to potentially face that issue. I would like to be honest about my marital status on forms I fill out, because I haven’t been single in 6 years. Most of all, I want, my partner to be able to adopt, without me dying, our daughter that we have raised together. I want to be able to walk beside my partner while out in public without the fear of being yelled at or physically attacked. I want to never be afraid of losing my job just because I’m gay…or be denied service at a restaurant or spit at while I’m walking through a hospital. I will not sit quietly and act like I have never been treated grotesquely for being gay.
I worry about RIGHTS a lot.
For those who don’t recall, Civil rights include the ensuring of peoples’ physical and mental integrity, life and safety; protection from discrimination on grounds such as physical or mental disability, gender, religion, race, national origin, age, status as a member of the uniformed services, sexual orientation, or gender identity; and individual rights such as privacy, the freedoms of thought and conscience, speech and expression, religion, the press, and movement.
You know…I’ve only had 2 church friends ask me about my life…what I went through and what struggles I’ve had after coming out. One is someone I met while working in the Philippines. She just recently contacted me on FB and was the most gentle and kind person I have come in contact with in a long time. And the other is from the missionary school I attended and She has always been by my side. Sadly, most of the rest have just said, “well, you know how I feel about your lifestyle…”. Well, you know how I feel when you say that? You don’t? That’s right…because you’ve never asked me. A straight friend of mine who is trying to wrap her mind around all of it said this, “Would you feel loved by somebody if they included rules, context, and/or explanations about your lifestyle every time they spoke about how much they don’t hate you? Only when talking about gay people do Christians feel the need to preface their “love” or “non-hate” with some variation of “I don’t agree with your lifestyle, but…” Christians don’t talk about any other group of people like that–only gay people.
So, I want to believe Christians when they say “I don’t hate gay people.” But sometimes proof of that is necessary.”
For those of my friends who are so frustrated with me using my recently found voice to stand up to what I’ve suffered, I have earned my place. I have more than just scars…they are my stripes. It was unintentional but I have become a voice. By all means, it was determined to be squashed out of me but I am still alive. I will speak and I will speak loudly.