We say it would never happen here. It could never happen to me.
But it did happen. It happened to us. It happens every day, on street corners, in homes, at workplaces, on Facebook. Hatred isn’t always seen. Homophobia isn’t always obvious. But they’re always intrusive and divisive.
We on the receiving end are accustomed to being wary of holding hands or kissing in public because we know someone could be watching and choose to target us. Fear builds. And builds. And builds until we hide our identities, even from ourselves, when we leave the safety of our homes or keyboards. Some of us can’t hide (or pass) because we look too masculine to be a woman, too feminine to be a man, too gay to be straight – too much “them” to be “us.”
Queer love and existence has always been more private out of necessity and out of fear. We are keenly aware and constantly reminded that there are people who hate us for who we love or how we identify. It could be anyone, so we tread lightly in public, many of us. And now we are pushed even further back into our homes, our bedrooms, our closets…because maybe these are the places we’ll be safe. The only places we can be safe, maybe.
I have ankylosing spondylitis and several mental health issues. I asked my mother some questions about them impacting my life. Here’s what she had to say:
What was I like as a child?
You were always physically active – as a baby, stretching and leaning toward what you liked/wanted. You enjoyed crawling, walking, later bicycling. I enjoyed watching you do backbends and cartwheels at about ages 6-10. You wanted to be scored – 1-10 – as though in the Olympics. You loved kittens and puppies. You enjoyed holding them and carrying them around. You were inquisitive. You were very shy as a toddler, often hiding behind my skirts or my legs so you would not have to talk to people who addressed you. You enjoyed spending time with people of all ages as you became an older child. You became friends with adults and enjoyed learning new things such as tennis and fishing from your grandparents. I had come to believe that “it takes a village to raise a child”, so I encouraged your independence in going alone by bicycle into our village and forming many relationships with nurturing adults there. I allowed and encouraged you to be outspoken to the point of some thinking you were “too sassy”, but I believed that as a female in this society, you would need to be able to speak up and take care of yourself as you grew up. There could easily be a book about how you were as a child, so this will have to be an incomplete capsule.
We haven’t met yet, or maybe we have and time wasn’t ready.
We need to talk. Now. Before I fall in love with you, before you fall in love with me.
Because I don’t want my disease to cause you to leave me.
Too often I see sad posts in online support communities for severe disease groups. Like this one:
“My spouse just asked for a divorce after 25 years of marriage. She said she could no longer handle being married to my condition. I work full time, I do chores, I am a great partner and parent. I just can’t hide when I’m having such bad pain. I feel so alone. Can someone share how they got through this? How can I be in another relationship if I know my disease could cause someone to leave?”
We’re now in the season of Lent. For my friends curious about the oddities of Episcopalians and many other Christians, Lent is the period of forty days (not counting Sundays) before Easter. It is the time Jesus spent fasting in the Judaean Desert, during which Satan tested him. Many Christians use this symbolic period of time each year, which begins on Ash Wednesday (“you are dust, and to dust you shall return” – a powerful reminder that we are all family), to give up or take on a practice that heightens spiritual introspection.
Lent isn’t just what precedes Easter; Easter couldn’t happen without Lent – the two events really go hand in hand. My interpretation is that Jesus’ time in the desert led to his most powerful, socially unacceptable actions – one of the reasons I love the guy so much. His time in solitude and introspection opened him in new ways to be a bold face of God, even – and especially – in situations that made others extremely uncomfortable and angry. He healed those who didn’t deserve to be healed, said things in synagogues that bothered people enough to drive him out of town, engaged in activities that weren’t appropriate for the Sabbath, and loved those who weren’t loved by anyone. And it was really tough on him; he spent a lot of time in the days leading up to his crucifixion in solitude and prayer. He did radical things in the name of God which led to his punishment of crucifixion.
I have often thought about how, as Episcopalians, we go through the same calendar – rituals and roller coasters of pain, hope, fear, miracles, grief, joy, death, and resurrection – every year. I like having a calendar, because no matter where I am in life I can go to an Episcopal service and find the familiar; and with the comfort of a liturgy that repeats itself in cycles I can come back to the same passages year after year and review my ‘christian growth chart.’ Continue reading I Might As Well Try This Jesus Guy→
In Oriental, Town N Country, in business over 40 years, held on as long as possible against the monopoly and sadly closed at the end of October, 2015, less than three months before news came that the Walmart neighborhood market would be closing. Oriental is a quaint fishing village with a lot of quirky retired people. We didn’t make national news, but now we’re left with no grocery store and no pharmacy in our village of 900 people. Our marriage with Walmart cannot be annulled and it came with no prenuptial agreements, so we are left to deal with the mess left on our doorstep. Continue reading Walmart’s Little Experiment Screwed My Hometown→
Why I am sticking with a church the Anglican Communion is afraid of:
I can be who I am, openly, and expect full inclusion in the life of the church – that means female or male or trans*, gay or straight or queer, black or white or tan, democrat or republican or libertarian, old or young or middle-aged, famous or not, etc.
I can be ordained as a deacon, priest, bishop, or presiding bishop as a female. And I can be ordained and have a husband or wife. And sex. And children.
I know I can find comfort in the liturgy at any Episcopal service I attend. It’s the same every week. I can follow the service in any language and know what’s being said. It’s predictable. Did someone say BCP?
We are adaptive to the changes of the modern world and take prayerful action to be part of today, not yesterday. We are constantly considering the scriptures as they relate to the world today so we can remain relevant.
We allow room for embracing beliefs and practices of different religions and cultures. My faith is stronger because of this. The Episcopal Church does not close its doors or punish and condemn its members for appreciating a range of beliefs and ideas. In fact, I think one of our strengths is our collaborative spirit.
I’m encouraged to question anything, knowing that chances are I’ll then be able to engage in a loving, powerful conversation where both I and my priest/friend/bishop/committee will learn more about our own faith journeys.
Our governing structure is largely democratic. Lay people’s votes carry the same weight as those by clergy, with one exception for bishops – but all political changes are debated and voted on by many committees as well as by both laypeople/clergy and bishops before becoming church law.
We don’t operate as a church that requires a middle-person between people and God. We don’t like hierarchy in that way. We trust people to have an open relationship with and to be able to communicate freely with God without an intermediary.
We’re a missionary church in everything we do, by definition and official corporate title. And our job is not to convert people to think like us – that’s not our interpretation of being evangelists. We show the love of Jesus with no strings attached because that’s what the gospel is. That’s what we are called to do – love.
We really know how to hug. Have you hugged an Episcopalian today?
With Rev. Megan Anderson and the Very Rev. Brian Baker
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