Father knows best

February 4, 2009

My dad and I finally had a chance to discuss Ted Haggard today. The conversation went something like this:

Dad: I just wish he would come out and admit that he is gay.
Me: He seems to be having a difficult time reconciling himself with his religion, his family, and his sexuality.
Dad: I hope he gets there eventually.
Me: Yes, because he’s not helping the conversation by failing to live authentically.
Dad: You’re exactly right. And you know how long it took me to embrace who I am? It took years.
Me: Yes, I know dad. I know.

The project

January 17, 2009

I started this blog several weeks ago, and several things have kept me from writing, and I won’t go into them here. However, I am back; I think.

In the ideal world I would have a perfect website up and running to promote my work, but the rollout of the new site won’t come for several months. Meanwhile, I will use this space to talk about my work, and invite people to collaborate with me on this project.

I’m a therapist, educator, mediator, and sometimes advocate. My initial post was a rant about the stalled movement toward GLBT equality. Over the past few months, I’ve been talking with my straight and GLBT friends, and anyone who would listen, about my sense for the work that needs to be done to put a human face on the theological, political, social, and familial statements about the experiences of GLBT in these systems.  I have known for a long time this is the work the universe has sent me to do, and recently I’ve begun to follow my intuition and dive into the task at hand.

The project I’m embarking on is twofold: first, listen to the stories of GLBT who were raised in systems that discriminated against them because of their sexual preference. Second, spend time in faith communities that are engaging this conversation. The end result will be a book that features theses stories and offers a roadmap for communities/systems to follow to become more open and affirming. I have started learning co-ops where GLBTs gather and share their experiences with me. The response so far has been amazing and affirming. It is my hope that we will add heterosexuals to these groups in the near future. So far, I am in conversation with Baptist, Lutheran, Evangelical, Episcopal, Methodist, and Christian communities around the country who are having this conversation within their communities.

I believe telling stories helps us heal. I believe not enough people really listen to each other; therefore, we have fragmented systems of people who don’t know the experiences of other people, who become the “other than” among us. I’m interested in the consequences of our system requirements for conformity to prescribed roles and rules at the expense of the emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical well-being of those who find themselves in the “other than” group.

The “other than” group I’m interested in is the GLBT community. I’m not interested in their sexual preferences. I’m interested in their stories because I believe they deserve to be heard to bring healing, reconciliation, and progress. I want our systems to change, and I want to provide an example for how to change these systems. I also want to hear the stories of people who grew up in systems that were affirming of their sexual preference.

I’m a therapist. It’s how my mind works. It’s time to creatively engage the conversation, mediate, reconcile, and empower individuals and communities to live fully integrated lives. I believe we do this by telling stories.

I hope by giving GLBT brothers and sisters, who have never been asked about their experiences, a voice we can begin to cross the bridge and work together in the Kingdom of God (instead of talking about being GLBT and Christian).

I would love it if this conversation was unnecessary, and in some churches it’s not an issue. The truth is, even in communities/systems that are affirming there are many individuals who have come to those systems from systems that were discriminatory. This project is about bringing everyone to the table, back to the table, and asking them to listen to stories that will rock their world.

This is a project about our universal human experiences, and if we connect over these stories we can leave the universe a better place than the way we found it. 

Building Bridges

December 22, 2008

Over a decade ago on a crisp fall South Carolina day I knew the news I’d just received about my father’s sexuality and departure from our family would change my life, and influence the work that I do. My hesitation to begin this work is rooted in my Norwegian, Baptist heritage where emotions and new ways of being are discouraged at every turn. However, thanks to my German ancestors, I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings. No doubt my passion for this topic is both personal and professional. My experience informs my practice and my practice is influenced by experience, which is why I think it’s time to hijack the same sex conversation.

I’ve seen Milk twice in the last 10 days not because it was such a powerful movie (which it is), but because I wanted to be close to his story. The heart of the matter in this ginormous, complicated conversation about individuals who identify as attracted to the same sex is expressed in a monologue at the end of the movie. It’s about the “us’s.”

I’ve grown tired of the theological conversation about same sex attraction. I am even more tired of social, family, and religious heteronormativity. However, I support and understand the philosophy behind the ongoing debate about same sex relationships. It is needed, but what is needed even more is action. The debate over equal treatment of the LGBTQ community in all walks of life is not a conversation about sexuality as much as it is a conversation about the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical processes that keep individuals on the outside of in. It is about freedom. And there is no better way to reconcile the story than to sit with people and listen to their story.

Here’s my issue: Ann Curry can ask the questions and Rick Warren can give his deliberate unaffirming answer and other individuals can debate and offer theological, historical, and social context, but this is not enough. It is time to stop quoting, reflecting, answering, and defining our reaction to same sex relationships through the lens of our religious, social, familial, and historical frameworks, and begin to listen to the stories of our friends, relatives, and community members who have something to tell us about how our constructs have affected their lives. Our systems have put them on the outside for far to long while at the same time requiring much of them. This has stretched our systems to the point of collapse, and we continue to do a great disservice to the LGBTQ community by not putting our affirming beliefs on the table.

I do not care about what people believe about same sex attraction because none of it matters to people who have been emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually abused by our interpretations of the Bible and expectations for human behavior.

My intuition and passion has gotten me into trouble only a few times, but this is one of those times when I hope it gets me into a lot of trouble for the greater good. I no longer have time for the debate. It’s time to 1). listen to the “us’s”  and 2). take action by building bridges through relationship. The issue has been engaged; it’s time for mediation, reconciliation and empowerment to guide our tonality.

Let’s just do life together in all its messiness and uncertainty. If I have to have a party for the masses in my 600 square foot apartment to start facilitating relationships, which is the next phase of where we go from here, I will.