Category Archives: GLBTQ/Ally issues

Ruminations on Parenting

So, the other day, Bean and I decided to take advantage of the first really nice day since October to go for a walk.  She was on her way to a three-day field trip the next morning and needed some supplies to contribute to the community meals, so we grabbed the backpack and headed for the grocery store.

On our way there, we talked about a lot of things.  We talked about school (natch; hers and mine), we talked about how excited she was to take this trip (which, I’m thrilled to say, was just about everything she hoped it would be), and we talked about some of her concerns about the privacy she feels she needs but doesn’t get on account of the open-door policy at Chez Chili and the fact that she shares a room with her often overbearing sister.

That was all on the way to the store.

After our shopping was done, we made back for home.  Before we even got out of the parking lot, Bean told me that she thought I was a great mom, and that she had no idea what she would do without the relationship that we share.

Allow me to pause for a moment to say that the was, for all intents and purposes, out of the blue.  We weren’t being particularly mushy or sentimental; nothing had happened on the way to or in the store that would have prompted that from my younger child.

Once I caught my breath again, I thanked her for the reassurance.  Bean knows that I come from a very broken family and that being a good mom and making sure that none of the hell that has plagued my family for generations is passed through me into the future is my primary focus in life.  Truly; there is literally nothing more important to me than doing this mommy thing right.  Curious, though, I asked her what prompted that spontaneous bit of love, and she replied that, of all of her friends, she is only one of two or three girls who have strong, stable, and healthy relationships with their moms, “and even they don’t have a relationship like ours,” she said.

I told you that story to tell you this one.  My younger daughter is queer.  This is not a thing in our family; she is what she is and we love her just the same.  That sort of matter-of-fact acceptance (not ‘tolerance,’ mind you, but total and unquestioning acceptance) is something that her friends apparently do not enjoy.

One of her friends in particular is having a hard time with her parents.  This friend is questioning her gender identity, and her parents aren’t engaging with her process at all.  Bean has told me that this friend has said her parents have insisted that she abandon this “nonsense” immediately, that there is no such thing as “questioning” one’s gender, and has forbidden all talk on the subject in any context, both within and without their hearing.  Bean had put me on notice last summer that this girl may need to seek safe haven now and again in our home, and she mentioned on our walk the other day that we may need to up our proverbial alert level to orange.

I struggle mightily with the idea that a parent can deny their own child the support that they need for something that is so primary to that child’s very identity.  I mean, I get that gender and sexuality issues are often difficult for people to comprehend, but is it not the loving and right thing to do to figure out how to work through your own issues as a parent so that you can be there to give your child the foundation and support they need as they figure out who they really are?  I mean, isn’t that your job as a parent?

I fear that this kid is going to end up completely rejected by her family of origin – I’ve met and had exchanges with her parents, and I wouldn’t put that kind of behavior past either one of them –  and while I can – and will – provide a safe and welcoming place for her to land when and if that happens, I know that, no matter how much love and acceptance I can layer over her, I can never undo the damage that her parents’ rejection of her very personhood will cause.

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We Create Reality with Our Words *Edited*

There is a saying attributed to the Buddha that says, “what you think, you become.”  The adage, as I understand it, is an effort to get people to realize that their attitudes, words, and behaviors actually create the environment we inhabit.

This is the idea that I’ve been circling around ever since this Duck Dynasty nonsense.  Leaving aside the nonsense part of it (and that part of it is impressive, to be sure), I am not willing, as some have suggested, to leave the entire thing be.  There is something ugly and pernicious at work here, and I think it’s something that bears further investigation.

Right off the bat, let’s settle that Phil Robertson is certainly entitled to his hateful opinions.  He is also entitled, thanks to the Constitution, to speak and write them, so let’s just dismiss those who are screaming that his First Amendment rights are being violated.  They’re not; if they were, he’d be in jail or facing some sort of legal prosecution, or his opinions would have been censored before they even hit the airwaves, the pages of GQ, or the internets.

No, the objection that I have to Phil Robertson’s comments is that, like so many others like him, he’s using his religion and his religious beliefs as an excuse to speak hateful things about others.  He, like so many others like him, present as gospel (no pun intended; that’s what I really mean) the idea that there are people who are “less than.”

So many people – a startling number of them, in fact – have come rushing to his defense, claiming that he “grew up in another era” or that his religious beliefs somehow justify the stances he takes.  “He’s just speaking his beliefs; he has the right to do that.”

Yes, he does, and the rest of us have the right to call bullshit on his matter-of-fact, this-is-just-how-I-see-it, it’s-in-the-Bible bigotry.

Let’s be clear; neither your religious beliefs nor your age excuse your hatred and small-mindedness.  Allowing this sort of “boys will be boys” mentality to serve as a pass for despicable behavior is a surefire way to ensure that the despicable behavior continues.  If it continues, it will escalate; there are any number of people who are perfectly willing to take this “homosexuals are sinners” trope to the final, horrifying conclusion.

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History – even recent history – is rife with examples of a belief taken as a justification for discrimination, torment, and murder.  I can post any number of images from all over the world that will demonstrate, in living color, the atrocities that are visited on real people by those who believe, with all their hearts, that they persecute those others in the name of some holy edict.

THIS is why I’m not willing to dismiss this.  When we say “it’s okay” for people to spout this kind of stuff, we say it’s okay for people to put those attitudes into practice.

I’m no longer wading into the Duck Dynasty melee.  It’s too close to Christmas for me to get worked up over that much stupid and ugly; I have much more important and joyful things to do with my energy.  I couldn’t let this pass, though, without reminding some folks that all our great human suffering begins with words that “other” people.  Jews, American blacks, Hutus and Tutsis, Native Americans, Roma, Armenians, gays; every people which has ever been targeted began their nightmare as the subject of a systematic program of othering by a majority party.  The only way we can destroy another person is if we first succeed in convincing ourselves that they’re not really a person at all.  Comments, particularly off-the-cuff, “I’m just speaking about my religious belief” comments, help create an environment that enables that dehumanization.

There are a number of great quotes about refusing to stand quietly by while this sort of thing happens, but I think my favorite was penned by Elie Wiesel, a man who survived a concentration camp and who exhorts us to never forget how awful we can be to one another:

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.  We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

*Edited to include this, which was posted on a facebook wall:

1474538_642872225777335_1744684980_nThe things people say DO matter.

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Thought for Thursday

So, this afternoon, I discovered – and facebook posted – Dan Savage’s latest outreach effort.  He’s joined up with a number of progressive (or, at the very least, not batshit crazy moderate) Christians who are trying to speak up and not allow the batshit crazy among them to highjack the conversation about what Christians do and do not believe.

One of my former students re-posted the link from my page and posited a question to his friends (most of whom are, I’m assuming, like him; fundamentalist, evangelical Christians).  Understand that this kid is someone for whom I have a healthy dose of respect; we disagree about nearly everything, but he’s a thinker, and he’s curious about the world and willing, I think, to modify his beliefs to accommodate new information.

Clearly, though, his friends are not.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Exhibit A:

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A couple of observations here:

First, wow.  It doesn’t MATTER what we think?  Uh… okay.  I could stop right there.  I mean, really; here’s a perfect, real life,  from-the-horse’s-mouth example of people trading their intellect (and, not for nothing, the difficulty that comes from having to wrestle with the nuance that hard questions ask us to appreciate) for religion.  “NOPE!  I get to hate gay people and never question the rightness of it again.  Says so right here!”  Alrighty, then.

Second, WOW.  What kind of hubris is required for someone to say that they KNOW what God thinks?!  So much for being humble before the Lord, huh?

Finally, this whole exchange (which was “liked” several times after I took the screen shot) prompted me to private message my student to ask if I could jump into the conversation (see above, re; respecting him and his way of thinking).  He asked me not to; he wanted to keep the conversation to his Christian friends, and I had to admit that I, too, was curious to see what they’d say without the big, bad atheist stirring up their pot.  We ended up having a lengthy private conversation about the nature of the Bible and how people do or do not interpret its various edicts.  As a consequence of that, I’ve come to understand that I still disagree with him on just about everything, but he’s reinforcing that my respect for how he comports himself with those who disagree with him is well founded.

*this will likely be edited to continue the conversation as more of my student’s friends chime in.  Watch this space.

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Six Word Saturday

DOMA needs to go away now.

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Ten Things Tuesday

I am 44 today.  I’m not a suspicious person by nature; I don’t believe in astrology or numerology or anything like that, but I am gearing up some hopeful anticipation that this year is going to be a good one (Lord knows I deserve it; ’11 and ’12 were much harder than I ever expected).

Here, then, are 10 things that I am looking forward to in my 44th year.

1.  I make no secret about the fact that my marriage is the most important part of my life.  I’m very much looking forward to another happy year with Mr. Chili.

2.  Being the mother of two (three, if you count Sweet Pea, and I do) teenage girls can be a challenge sometimes, but that doesn’t keep me from loving them to the center of my being.  I’m looking forward to my girls and our continually evolving relationships.

3.  I’m really hoping to nail the perfect job.  I don’t want to settle for whatever I can get, and I don’t want to find a position where I have to bend and twist my ethics or my enthusiasm to accommodate others’ fear or laziness.  I know that job’s out there, I just have to find it.

4.  I’m really digging having Bowyer back in our lives, and I’m looking forward to more family time with him and the boys.

5.  I’m also really loving having Sweet Pea’s family as part of our tribe, and I’m eager for another year of our easy, funny, harmonious companionship.

6.  I’m hoping to go places this year, though I’m not sure what our travel schedule will look like (given my current unemployment and the girls’ hectic schedules).  Punk’s going to England with the school band and Bean’s eighth grade class is going to DC in the spring; I’m hoping that, along with our annual haj to the lake, we can squeeze in a family trip to either DC or Florida sometime this coming year.

7.  I’ve been doing well with my increased focus on my yoga practice, and I’ve managed to get some other kinds of exercise in during these last few weeks, as well.  I’m going to keep at it so that my 44th year will be marked both by easier movement (I’m still battling the constant drag of arthritis) and my presenting slightly less force on the Earth.

8.  I’ve also been doing pretty well keeping in touch with people I love.  I get to see O’Mama fairly regularly, I reconnected with Ellen (formerly known as the Goddess of the Front Desk), and have managed to keep up with farther-away friends a little better, too.  I’m going to keep that up; I’m happier when I get to spend time with people I love.

9.  I’m loving being a student again, and am sucking up all the opportunities I can find to take classes, attend lectures, and participate in workshops.  I fully expect to complete my CAGS by the summer, and I’m going to have all of my professional development hours in the bag, as well.

10.  I fully intend to continue being actively engaged in politics and social issues.  Despite the fact that I get “all worked up” (as so many of my friends like to point out), I love the energy and purpose that I feel when I’m thinking, working, and educating.  These things matter, and I plan to stay in for as long as I can stand it.  If I can make even a little difference that makes the world better, it will be worth it.

Here’s to another trip around the sun!

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Quick Hit: This is Happening

This makes me unutterably happy.  It’s inspiring, it’s gentle, and it’s insistent.  What we’re seeing here is the beginning of the end of discrimination against LGBTQ people in the South.  We may not see it soon – maybe not even in my lifetime – but it’s coming, and there’s nothing that can stop it.

I am so proud to be an ally.

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Maine Marriage

Steven Bridges and Michael Snell were the first couple to be married under Maine’s new marriage equality law this morning!

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There is nothing about this that threatens anyone.  I mean, really; look at how happy they are!  If anything, I think that  equality strengthens marriage; the more people who are taking care of each other – and the more people who are afforded dignity and respect as a matter of course – the better off we all are.

I offer my deepest and most heartfelt congratulations to all the newlyweds to the north.  May your marriage be as happy, fulfilling, and sustaining as ours has been.

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