I am still reeling from the fact that there are so-called Christians here in my new homeland who are preaching the false gospel that if you are Christian, you cannot be gay and if you are gay, you are not a Christian.
“It all started with the woman’s self-determination, he says. The revolution goes through the acceptance of homosexuality and transgender people, into a world where masculinity and femininity are denied as such.”
Oh, but wait, there’s more, so much more…I’ll hold your hair while you puke.
“Nunn prefers to call homosexuality broken than sin. And you should not link that brokenness to your ‘core identity’, says Nunn. It lies in what God says about you in the Bible. He compares homosexual Christians with Christians who have a heart defect or suffer from dementia. ‘Does that make you a demented Christian? No, you are a beloved child of God struggling with the brokenness of dementia.”
I mean, I am used to hearing this from the power hunger, fear peddling theocrats of American evangelicalism, but have been utterly astonished by my own ignorance in believing it did not exist here.
I honestly thought I had landed on the golden shores of progressive reason and quiet faith. But seeing the pervasiveness of conservative theology, it is no wonder that so many people here have rejected religion all together.
What is even more surprising to me recently is the flickering of a little pride in my own theological heritage where the existence of diverse theological frameworks give us space to explore the many ways God is still speaking, even though the diversity is often painfully divisive.
Yes, millions of Americans believe that “protection of religious freedom” gives them the right to discriminate against LGBT citizens based on one interpretation of one subset of one religion’s understanding of a few words of scripture. Some folks actually believe deep in their hearts that God will punish them if they do anything at all that cold appear to approve of what they sincerely believe is punishable by an eternity of hell-fire suffering.
I feel really sad for all these people because they are genuinely afraid of God and that is contrary to everything I understand the Gospel of Jesus be about.
Jesus resoundly confronted the religious authorities of his day, shutting down any religious law that separated people from God’s love.
And the good news today is, there are millions of Christians who fully affirm the beautifully diverse lives and loves of queer folks like me.
Also, real and true is the fact that there are queer folks like me who ARE madly in love with Jesus, and even though the label is loaded, call ourselves Christian.
Yesterday, today and tomorrow, we work and pray for the light of God to illuminate a path forward in faith where we claim the truth that nothing, nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:31-39)
Side note: please remember that the media often wants to keep citizens misinformed and stridently afraid of one another. They do so by spotlighting the negative actions of a handful of people and ignoring the loving, affirming faith of many more Christians. Whether in America or The Netherlands, the media profits off of people by writing about people who hide their ignorance behind scripture. It is not nearly as profitable to write headlines like “Check out these Christians who love everyone, just like Jesus.”
What I want you to know and trust is that there are good people, loving people, cultural Christians or out-right Jesus freaks like me, who are living examples of God’s radical hospitality.
We come from neighbourhoods, towns, cities and regions all over The Netherlands and yes, even the deeply fractured America. In fact, it is the vociferously fractured religious landscape of America that may it a fertile land for flourishing faith that welcomes all.
We come in all shapes and sizes – individuals, prayer partners, Sunday School classes, campus ministries, congregations and whole denominations that affirm that each individual is a child of God, recognizing “that we are called to be like one body with many members, seeking with others of every race, ethnicity, creed, class, age, gender, marital status, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to journey together toward the promised realm of God.” – (from the Open and Affirming statement of Old South Church, United Church of Christ, Boston, MA)
What I invite you to do is to look around for Christians in your life (or be the Christian in someone else’s life), who lift up voices of faithful affirmation of our LGBT sisters and brothers. Let US ALL be the hands and feet of Christ in a world weary under the weight of fear and loathing. Let US be the people’s microphone and magnify the Love of God that might not sell advertising, but just might save a life.
I also want to share a treasure trove of Christian resources that fully affirm, and work for the full inclusion of, LGBT people. Everyone is welcome to share your own LGBT affirming faith resources in the comments below.
Here are a few resources to get us started. Everyone is welcome to share your own LGBT affirming faith resources in the comments below.
Wijdekerk.nl“Wijdekerk Foundation is an initiative of a group of Christians, themselves LGBT + people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) or closely involved with LGBT + people. We believe that everyone should be able to be themselves in his or her church. We have combined our experiences and strengths and share them on this site.
We want to do this from the love of Jesus Christ. Together are Wijdekerk.”
Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists “Members of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists (AWAB) are churches, organizations, and individuals who are willing to go on record as welcoming and affirming all persons without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity, and who have joined together to advocate for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons within Baptist communities of faith.”
Believe Out Loud – is about helping churches live out this Christian principle by becoming fully inclusive of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Episcopalian – Integrity USA “Since 1974, Integrity has been a faithful witness of God’s inclusive love to the Episcopal Church and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. We are working for the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments.” Lutherans Concerned/North America “works for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Lutherans in all aspects of the life of their Church and congregations. They provide a place of comfort and safety. They reach out and teach that Christ’s message, the Gospel, is for everyone equally. They call for the blessing of committed and covenanted same-gender relationships, and for the ordination of those called to minister.”
PC(USA) More Light Presbyterians – is a network of people seeking the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
United Church of Christ Open & Affirming (ONA) Program– ONA is “shorthand” for Open and Affirming, the designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the United Church of Christ which make public statements of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
That All May Freely Serve advocates for an inclusive church for all who are disenfranchised: A church that honors diversity and welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons as full members. Full membership includes eligibility for ordination to the offices of elder, deacon, and Minister of Word and Sacrament.
The Institute for Welcoming Resources at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is a networking hub for movement leaders and a source of downloadable toolkits and curriculum for your church.
[featured image by ActiveSteve – Creative Commons license. Use does not indicate artist endorsement]
My mama, who could fry some of the best damn chicken you ever put in your mouth, never taught me to cook. She taught me a lot of things, but she just couldn’t tolerate a constantly questioning kiddo scrambling around her kitchen as she tended to her cast iron skillets and perfectly sweetened pitchers of iced tea.
She did teach me how to assemble pretty outfits, carefully mixing and matching shirts and skirts so that no one would know I was wearing the same things over and over again. She taught me how to apply makeup, with lashes long and dark so that my eyes didn’t look naked and my lips were lined and colored beyond their nearly invisible pink. She taught me how to curl my hair, choosing just the right strands to pull straight away and then slowly wind the curling iron as close to my scalp as I could stand. She tried her best to teach me “the right way” to be a girl, a woman. When I went to University she wanted me to only study secretarial work. When I chose world religions as my academic path, she said college ruined me. And later, way later, when I came out as a lesbian, all of her own self-rejection and fear based faith attempted to persuade me that I was unworthy of God’s love – an abomination better dead that gay.
This morning, standing in my Dutch bathroom, my eyes brimmed as I watched my hands carefully choose just the right strands of hair and gently line my lips with the perfect blend of rose, the old wounds and longing for my mother in ways that she would never love me, came flooding back.
As a queer Christian who happily left the U.S. with her wife for reasons such as the politically motivated anti-LGBT religious landscape (among other reasons), it is with a wounded but encouraged heart that I am watching as a handful of Dutch protestant clergy regurgitate the toxic language of the Nashville Statement here in Holland.
In a nutshell, the Statement, both here and in the States is a theologically negligent and dangerous statement ushered by a handful of religious leaders. The statement makes erroneous claims that reject the sacred worth and civil rights of LGBT children of God. I honestly, in my honeymoon phase with Holland, had thought we’d left behind this ignorance and hatefulness for good.
This flare up of homophobia masquerading as Christianity in this largely secular nation has been deeply disappointing. But the good news is how much more encouraging it is to see municipalities across the country, businesses in every town and individuals near and far call out the statement for what it is – backwards bigotry plain and simple. I am particularly and deeply grateful for language such as “radicalized” being applied to “Christian” groups. It is rarely if ever applied to Christianity in the States and is typically reserved for fear mongering against our Muslim brothers and sisters.
I love my life in Leiden and since moving here have felt more at home than I ever did in my nearly 50 years in America. Here I have felt consistently happier, safer and more secure than the false promises of the American Dream. So too have my wife and I been radically freer to be fully and openly ourselves, without fear or apology. We have made a true and lasting home here.
As it turns out, I have the honor of pastoring a small, English-speaking congregation that is diverse and beautiful and growing in our understanding of who we are as a community. Sojourners’ Fellowship is a small community of people from many spiritual paths who come together to pause and explore life’s great questions through diverse contemplative practices and thoughtful dialogue.
1. Believe in the Sacred Oneness and Unity of all life;
2. Affirm that the teachings of many religious and secular traditions, including but not limited to the teachings of Jesus, provide ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;
3. Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:
Believers, agnostic and questioning skeptics,
Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
Those of all races, nationalities and religious backgrounds,
Those of all classes and abilities;
4. Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;
5. Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;
6. Hope for peace and justice among all people;
7. Hope to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;
8. Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.
ALL who come in peace are welcome, including but not limited to: believers, agnostics and questioning skeptics; those of all sexual orientations and gender identities; those of all races, nationalities, classes and abilities.
In this light, and inspired by the Denver Statement by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, I’ve crafted my own article-by-article response to the Nashville Statement to share with my Dutch neighbors. If you have the time and inclination, read on and please, please, please share your thoughts in the comments below after you’ve had time to ruminate a bit.
It’s not a short read, so maybe go make yourself a glass of sweet tea, grab a buttery biscuit and settling in for the long haul.
A Sojourners’ Statement
Jesus-loving people, Christians and people from many of the worlds traditions who are inspired by the words and actions of Jesus of Nazareth, understand that we live in a beautiful, challenging, paradigm-shifting era. Humanity is in the midst of an arduous and exciting journey to more fully understand what it means to be human. People around the world are doing the hard and faithful work of shedding misconceptions and limitations imposed by religiosity that is meant to control rather than love. More and more people, regardless of tradition, find delight in the wild diversity of God’s good creation.
Unfortunately, there are still many people who deny the divine spark in every corner of creation and use their religion to draw lines of demarcation around race, nationality, ability, gender identity or sexuality. It is now commonplace among theologically uninformed Christians to use the Bible as a weapon, especially when it comes to their unfortunate idolatry of one collection of texts written by humans thousands of yeas ago. In their limited understanding, they are wronging convinced that they alone, clearly and for all time, hold the single truth of God’s design and desire.
This spirit of misinterpreting and enforcing scripture has always brought with it great challenges for Christians. From historical sanctions of slavery, subjugation of women, segregation, nationalism and xenophobia, the church has frequently lost site of the radical message of love and grace made known in the Incarnation of Christ who was eventually executed by the state at the urgings of the religious elite.
If the church is to genuinely live into the message and example of Jesus’ life, it must make a bold and prophetic proclamation of the love of God from which nothing, nothing, nothing on earth can separate humans.
We affirm that humanity is created out of and for the purpose of love. We deny that the gift of love and marriage is limited only to people who identify as heterosexual, cis-gendered, and seeking to conceive.
We affirm that humans are created as sexual beings in kaleidoscope variety. We deny that the only sexual expression that is sacred is between legally, church-married, cis-gendered, heterosexual couples.
We affirm that all humans are created Imago Dei – in the image of God – and that God is all genders and no gender. We deny that human bodies, hearts and minds are limited by any one religion’s faltering attempt to understand the holy mystery of the Divine.
We affirm the diversity of gender and sexual expression is a reflection of the divinely creative diversity of all of creation. We deny that such diversity is in any way a result of one religion’s interpretation of a falling away from God.
We affirm that humans continuing to evolve in their understanding of what it means to be embodied is good and holy. We deny that gender is unalterably linked with biology.
We affirm that all humans, regardless of their biological birth and development are image-bearers of the divine. We deny that variations of embodiment limits anyone from thriving in faith, love and society.
We affirm that compassion, love and liberation are at the heart of God’s holy purposes in creation as revealed in Christian scripture AND the shared texts of the world’s religious traditions. We deny that any one tradition has figured out once and for all what it means for humans to live into loving relationships.
We affirm that people who experience same-sex attraction may live an abundant life that honors God and is evidence of faith in Jesus. We deny that same-sex attraction in any way alienates a person from the love of God or the hope of the Gospel.
We affirm that sin is a trifold separation from self, others and God that distorts the beauty of creation. We deny that sin is avoided by adhering to any specific doctrine or litany of purity laws.
We affirm that the church lives in sin when LGBT people are told to deny how God created them, are cast out of families, excommunicated by congregations and denied basic civil and human rights. We deny that it is sinful to be loving allies to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children of God.
We affirm that it is our human duty to stand on the side of justice in the name of love in all times and for all people. We deny the false dichotomy of being either gay or Christian.
We affirm that the unconditional love of the Divine has the power to transform self-loathing (as taught by many in the church and society) into true and lasting self-acceptance and wholeness. We deny that same-sex attraction is a sin or illness for which to be forgiven or healed.
We affirm that Grace invites uninformed, prejudiced or bigoted people to evolve and recognize that human understanding as limited and we will only ever see through the glass darkly. We deny assertions of any one person, church, denomination or religion that they hold pure and absolute knowledge of the Divine.
We affirm that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice and that we are called to partner with the Divine in that bending. We deny any anthropomorphization of God.
If you would like to add your name to this statement, please indicate so and enter your information in the comments below. And if you are in the neighborhood and so inclined, please join us next Thursday, January 17th at Galerie Café Leidse Lente in Leiden from 5:30-7 p.m. for Pub Theology where we can talk about all these things and more.
All the energy and time spentby some “conservative Christians” focusing on “homosexual practice” is antithetical to the life, death and resurrection of the One we call Christ.
There are many things Jesus asks of us as Kingdom builders, but sexual policing is not one.I sincerely hope everyone who is called to the life of Christian witness and service can direct their passion for God by talking and doing what Jesus explicitly asks of us such as clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned and welcoming the stranger.
It is a challenging message to hear, and an even harder message to live. In revealing the true nature of God – love – unearned, unqualified, unending love – our Jesus brought down the deadly wrath of the sanctimonious, legalistic religious elite who plotted with powers of the state to execute what they feared the most, Love. What’s so scary about Love? Those who lust after power use fear to control. And as we’ve heard, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” 1 John 4:18
Let us have compassion for those who are obsessed with the sexuality of other people, for in their obsession, there is deep fear masquerading as faith. Behind that fear is a complex and disturbed psychology about sex – often about one’s own sexuality – in the shadow of the church’s longstanding, perverse need to control people through fear. My heart aches for those bound by this fear and whatever in their personal journey has festered into egregiously negative obsession andabout what other people do with their bodies. I pray that all who are enslaved by fear may truly hear the message of the One who came to show us God’s radical love and preferential option for Freedom.
So too, let those of us who can, work tirelessly to be a balm for those wounded by misrepresentations of the Good News of Jesus. Let us speak of God’s love in which there is there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.
In a culture that is
In love with fear
And afraid of love
Be not afraid
With closed minds
and plugged ears
Shouting “Be afraid!”
Be not afraid
With hardened hearts
And clenched fists
Spitting “Be very afraid.”
Be not afraid
with open wounds
and tear-streaked souls
Crying “I am afraid.”
Be not afraid
For God has
Freed us from fear
And opened us to a love
That leads to abundant life
birth, life, teaching,
death and redeeming love
of Jesus who said;
Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give to you.
I do not give to you
as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled;
do not be afraid.
2. To not worship Mammon, The Constitution, The Bible, culture or technology (sorry Facebook).
3. To only speak God’s name when I am either talking to or about God. Ecstasy counts since it could be argued I am expressing gratitude.
4. To take at least one day out of seven completely off. There are jobs to do, bills to pay, groceries to buy, stinky dogs to be washed, sidewalks to be swept and laundry to be cleaned. Without allowing my body, mind, heart and soul to rest I can only bring a fraction of myself to the many roles I am called to play – mom, partner, daughter, sister, digital strategist, blogger, friend and big ole lesbian responsible for all that is wrong in America (that last one is exhausting). Instead of ticking off a task list in the fleeting hours of the weekend, I will clock out for at least one full day and just laze around with the kids playing games or watching tv, eating good food, rolling around on the floor with the pups. When I am done with that I will to switch to a rigorous session of sitting too long by the backyard fire and drinking a good beer. Throw in some praying, reading and singing with friends at church and you can stick a fork in it and call it sabbath.
5. To honor the memories of my mamma by not forgetting the good or the bad and learning to live into the better. To honor the lessons of hard work, determination and loyalty taught by my daddy. I will choose to love my mamma and daddy, not in spite of our long history, but because of it. For who they are is why I am who I am. I will honor my parents by being a good parent – offering my own kids the best of what my they gave me (little things breakfast every morning, badly sewn on Girl Scout patches, trips to the store when I am bone tired and oh yeah, a marriage that lasted until the day my mamma died). I will honor my parents by making plenty of my own mistakes and not repeating theirs (deep insecurity, co-dependance, fear of the new/other/unknown, judging my daughters before trying to understand them or projecting all my crazy onto my kids). I will honor my parents by keeping within me all the good and bad – reveling in the grace and refusing to repeat the sins.
6. To be consistent about the whole no-killing bit. Yeah, the assault rifle part is gonna be a breeze for me, but the not-participating in the suffering and slaughter of the food industrial complex is gonna take a little more effort. No chicken wings and no 5 Guys burgers, no crackling in my cornbread and no B in my LT.
7. To be faithful to my wife in all my thoughts and deeds.
8. To not steal – someone else’s punchline, the credit for someone else’s job well done, another’s joy by trumping them with mine, my daughter’s time with her father no matter how desperately I want to hog all of her days or even so much as an extra bite of fried tofu from Whole Foods before weighing the plate. Oh, and I will become a better, more prolific photographer so I stop using Googled images I did not pay for.
9. To speak the truth as I understand it – every day – no matter the consequences. But I can use my inside voice.
10. To be content with the life God has given me to live. To truly understand and be grateful that I have so much more than millions of people in the world – clean water, warm clothes, soft beds, healthy and thriving children, a committed and faithful partner, a fan-freakin-tastic job that I love and where I am respected, strong bones and a willing heart. I will not covet the latest iPhone, that convertible Mini-Cooper, that new pair of kickin’ cowboy boots, perky little boobs that I will never have again, wrinkle-free skin, or gray-free hair. I will know that: the body I have is enough, the relationship I have is enough, the money I have is enough, the food on my plate is enough, the clothes on my back are enough, the time I have on this earth is enough and all the gifts God has given me are abundant beyond my comprehension.
I am going to try like the dickens to live up to all of it, so help me God.
On March 11, 2017, I married the love of my life in sight of God, family and friends, but it was not a great gay wedding.
Let me tell you what happened…
The day before the wedding, as our friends and family began arriving in sunny Florida, we headed over to a local nail salon with our brides’ maids to treat our gals to pedicures and manicures before the big day. When we arrived, we were shocked to encounter not only a sign on the door, but an environment inside that will not soon be forgotten. Apparently, knowing that two brides were on their way, someone had taped to the door a banner proudly sporting, of all things, pink hearts and our names surrounded by the flourish of a hand-drawn, hot-pink heart. As it turns out, Betsy’s sister had arrived before us to surprise us with a full take-over of the salon, complete with decorations, a sumptuous table of wine and tapas and silly party tunes. From that moment forward, our family, friends and even complete strangers were a constant source of joy!
My daughter arrived Friday morning, fresh off an early flight (after a late night doing whatever it is college kids do into the wee small hours) and she jumped into maid of honor with effusive commitment and care. She was by my side every moment leading up to the ceremony, taking good care of her mama with so much love and even a bit of much needed sternness. She encouraged me in the ways of clean eating and hydration, occasionally taking the Prosecco out of my hand and replacing it with water or fresh food. She was my roommate the night before the nuptials and early on the morning of the wedding led me in a meditation that made me weep and gentle yoga that relaxed my anxious mind and body. Applying my makeup, running interference when I was stressed and when the time came, standing by my side in the sunset on that Venice beach, my daughter was a constant vision of elegance and grace. She beamed as Betsy and I stepped into the light of our love and offered an authentic and tender toast at the reception and made sure I sat down to eat amidst the swirl of dancing and laughter into the night.
Betsy’s best man was both wise and wily, attending to his best friend by offering advice from his own married with child life AND goading Bets into doing bachelorette shots of Becherovka and Jaegermeister (shudder) in the late hours of her bachelorette evening. On the day of the wedding, he sweated his arse off assembling our chuppa-inspired wedding arch and made sure my beloved scarfed down some greasy hot dogs in the fleeting hours of her single life! And from the moment I stepped into the sand of our aisle, I saw him beaming with love and pride for his best friend’s new life. And to top it all off, he made me laugh and cry with his perfect toast as we stepped over the threshold into life as a married couple.
Betsy’s mom, well, she has been amazing for months! From the day she insisted that B propose with her great grandmother’s ring, to cooking and baking and sewing into the wee small hours before the wedding, she was the rock on which much of our wedding was built. She served our wedding party home-made meatballs and hand crafted pierogies to sustain us through our wonky little, pool-side rehearsal and celebrated every loving moment of the days before and after our wedding.
Betsy’s father held her hand, squeezing with love and excitement, as they walked down the aisle, sandals filling with warm sand, and left his daughter at the altar after a fatherly kiss, eyes brimming with pride and love.
My cousin, standing in for my departed father, and well, pretty much my whole family, drove 10 hours from Raleigh, NC (making the return trip the next morning) so he could escort me to the spot where I would take my beloved’s hand. My gratefulness for his presence, full of love and faithfulness, is beyond my capacity to express in mere words.
My pastor Susannah, coming in from Atlanta after barely settling in from her trip to Israel, deftly wrangled our motley crew the night before and the day of our wedding. From pre-marital counseling to her scripture choice and perfectly poised homily, she was a constant source of strength, faith and hopefulness as we stepped into the sacred space of our marriage.
Betsy’s dear friend Rob, a person she reveres as a good and holy man, was perhaps the most gentle spirit holding us all in the light from the moment he arrived in Florida. Opening and closing our sacred ceremony with the sounding of the singing bowl, his words of affirmation, reminding us how to be married AND honor our individuality were gifts second only to the delicate silk Buddhist khatas he placed around our necks before we took our first walking on air steps as newlyweds.
And our family and friends! Wow Deeply meaningful readings lifted our collective consciousness while those gathered around us vowed to support us in the hard work of a lifetime of living into our vows. Children threw rose petals and crafted art in the sand celebrating our love. And strangers strolling by along the shore waved and smiled, swept away for just a moment by our celebration of love.
At the reception, catered with out-of-this-world food by Betsy’s brother, our meal was blessed by a dear old friend, a catholic priest who loves to mercilessly taunt my Bets during football season. Then we ate, drank, danced until we were dizzy and hugged what felt like a hundred happy necks.
And as the sunset turned into twinkling stars on that breezy beach, and as the dining and dancing rushed by, and in the days following the celebration, not once have we heard, “what a great gay wedding that was!”
Instead, what we HAVE heard over and over again is…
“What a great wedding!”
“The readings and vows were so beautiful!”
“I cried nearly the whole time!”
“The sermon was just perfect.”
“You have such wonderful family and friends!”
“Holy cow, that food was amazing!”
and…even from a handful of our otherwise conservative family and friends…”that was quite possibly the best wedding I have ever been to!”
So you see, it was not a great gay wedding. It was an amazing wedding joining two people who have chosen to live as one in this life, ’til death do us part. It was a shining moment in time where Betsy and Kimberly came together to pledge love and commitment to one another asking only from our friends and family that they hold on tight and remind us of our love, vows and spirit of hopefulness they helped co-create on that day.
Friends, I would like to introduce you to my partner Betsy. She has a great story to share with us today and I am immensely grateful that she agreed to be a guest blogger on my crazy little blog.
On my way home from school this afternoon I stopped to collect the tic-tac, our nickname for Kim’s little, white car. The secretary, a soft, smiling woman I see every 3,000 miles but whose name I’ve yet to learn, handed me the bill. “Your car’s ready.” I smile, “thanks, it’s actually my…”
hesitating seeing the “Make America Great Again” sticker on the wall behind her…it was the type of pause, a movie pause where everything slows down “make America HATE again” is the joke in our home…
“partner’s, my fiancé’s car,” finishing the statement.
She asked if I’d sold our other car. “No” I said, “the VW almost sold, but it fell through.”She looked confused, then asked if my partner was a flight attendant. “Nope, she works in Sarasota.” Now I looked confused.
“You look familiar” she said. She explained, there was another customer whose partner is a flight attendant. I joked “lesbians – we all look alike.”
It turned out that I looked familiar, not from the dozens of oil changes, but rather her daughter was in my photography class a few years back. She remembered me from parents’ evening.
“I pulled her out of school” she explained, “she fell in with the wrong crowd; she fell in with the rednecks.”
A second slow motion moment…a Trump gal critical of rednecks? I stand corrected. Before she could continue, I offered “Bo Potter? Henry Black?”
Her smile broadened; I teach at a very small collegiate high school where rednecks are a rarity.
I explained, these guys were harmless. They just smoked too much dope.She told me they used to “go mudding’, shoot rabbits and eat ‘em!”
“Yeah” I replied, “harmless. Henry used his wild rabbit reciepe for a photo project. His classmates loved it!”
It was time to get home and with my hand on the door handle, she asked me when I was getting married.
My hand slipped from the handle.
“In March, in Venice,” I said.
“Florida?” she asked. “You can get married down here?”
I explained that gay marriage was made legal nationwide over a year ago.
“Oh,” she smiled.
“Welp, I gotta go,” hand back on handle. Smile…
Then, the all too familiar – “How did you know… you were gay? I’m sorry, is that okay to ask?”
Hand OFF handle. Thinking at this point we’ve covered rednecks, gay flight attendants and basic car maintenance – sure it’s okay. I explained that I didn’t come out until I was 30. I explained that I dated guys, really nice guys, funny, talented, kind men. And we had fun. We played pool, drank beer, cooked dinners, watched movies, and it was really…nice.
They were all very nice.
My friends would talk about their boyfriends with voices spilling over with longing and love and I’d think, they must have nice boyfriends too. I told her that it wasn’t until I was a million miles away teaching in Asia, away from the familiar, the family and the faith, that I fell in love, unexpectedly, with a woman. And just like that, I knew what was missing from all those nice guys…love. I knew in an instant and my whole life sharpened.
My individual universe made sense to me. Life’s curtain was lifted.
Duh. Honestly, duh. How had I not noticed before.
I explained to her, all I had seen were models of straight love on TV, in life, at school and at church; I had no words or images to understand who or what I might be when I was growing up.
She was fascinated.
Me, standing in a car garage office, FOX news muted on the wall. She, sitting behind a grimy desk, Trump sticker peeking over her shoulder, and she still had questions. “Why did your partner move down here, why didn’t you move?”
“Well” I explained, “ couldn’t sell my house in time, and my folks live in Venice.” I explained that Kim’s parents had both passed. She looked sad. I shared that when Kim came out to them, they rejected her. She looked even sadder. I explained the best I could; she wanted to know more.
She began to share “my aunt is gay; she was married for 20 years, two kids, and then she just left him…for a woman.”
I wondered if her pause was longer to her than it was to me. She wanted to understand and was asking questions OF me but FOR herself. And for that moment, we were simply two people trying to understand.
As teachers, we are trained to recognize “teachable moments,” so I will resist turning this into the cliche that “we both left that day with a little more faith in humanity…”
But, it was a moment where the politics and politeness and appointments fell aside for a few moments to let two curious strangers, who have known each other for years, trust one another a little more.
The next oil change, I’ll be sure to get her name.
Betsy has been teaching English and photography for 23 years in the States and abroad. In her “spare time”, she rescues beer and liquor bottles, giving them a second chance at life so people can adopt them at local farmer’s markets. She’s comfortable changing her mind as often as her oil.