Dear brave Trans lady, I do not know your name.
Here is just a small sampling of some of the headlines I’ve picked out this week. Trust me, this is a small sample.
Bryan Fischer: ‘The Mark of the Beast Today is the Rainbow Flag’
‘Vatican Changes Actual Translation of Draft That ‘Welcomed’ Gays’
‘Top Vatican official tells parents to shun gay relatives’
‘Duck Dynasty’ Star: You Can’t Catch STDs from ‘Biblically Correct Sex’
Amongst these headlines, and the large amount of others just like it, can you guess how many I was able to find by religious people which did NOT promote hatred of another group? That’s right, none. Not a one, Zero. Zilch. Nada. Are you getting the point?
Don’t get me wrong, there have been some headlines that include acceptance from some smaller church bodies, such as:
‘Hillsong Church Pastors Won’t Speak Out On Gays Because Jesus Didn’t Either’
And the blogs released over the last few weeks, one from a Christian pastor and one from a rabbi explaining what they would do if they found out one (or more) of their kids came out. (Spoiler: They’d accept, and continue loving their children, no matter what.)
For the longest time, I’ve been attempting to get people who tell me “Not all (insert religion of choice here) are like that. There are many of us who don’t feel that way.” Whether it’s about gay rights, marriage equality, a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices, any number of issues, it seems that the right-wing fundamentalist minority are the only ones we hear from.
When are we going to see a headline that reads:
“Vatican Opens Up to Gay Congregants.”
“Muslim Leadership Accept Women as Leaders.”
“Mormon Tabernacle Hosts Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony.”
I don’t expect the world’s religions to change overnight, but I would like just a bit of proof that not all people of faith are as hate filled as their extremists are. If you’re going to tell me that you’re ”not all like that,” do me a favour, put your money where your mouth is. Get together with your friends who are of the same mind as your, and start to make some noise. Hold very public rallies, telling the world that your particular faith group is truly one of love, that accepts ALL people, regardless of race, colour, gender, sexual identity… and get yourself in the headlines.
Start a Facebook page that shows you ARE affirming.
We live in a world in which you can be a complete stranger to the world one day, and the next have innumerable people knowing your opinion, knowing where you stand, and from those, you can grow your base of people who “are not like that.” Telling me that since you’re not the pope, or some self-styled celebrity, or the head of an internationally known group is NOT a good enough excuse. Just look at my friends list for proof. I have the honour of being friends with incredible voices for rights, equality, and life. Five to ten years ago, nobody had heard these people’s names, and now they are known internationally. How? By standing up, and raising their voices.
This is my challenge to you, my family and friends of faith who are “not like the others.”:
Take a stand. Raise your voice, shout out to the world that not all people of faith are like the hate mongers that we keep hearing from. Prove to me that you believe in a religion of love. Give me at least a bit of hope that there is some love left in the world.
The Art of Letting Go
It is hard to believe that this year has only three months left. This year has flown by so fast, but it has been a very productive and worthwhile time in my life for many reasons. It had a lot to do with letting go of a lot of things in my life that were weighing me down both physically and mentally. It started, with coming out as being gay. Ever since the beginning of this year, the world had been revealed through a different set of eyes then last year. I thought I was hopeless, and a lost cause. I felt like a monster. Somehow I felt as if I were broken and could never be fixed. Everything bottled up inside was almost too hard to contain, so hard, that I almost committed suicide. If it wasn’t for a wonderful, loving, straight man named David Stevens showing just an inch of kindness, just an inch of love and understanding, I would not be alive today. David is married to his wonderful wife and has two daughters, and he’s really like the big brother I’ve never had. I was very impressed with how he was able to forgive a Baptist preacher for speaking ill of his younger brother who happens to be gay and married, and for cutting off their friendship. It inspired me so much that I began to think about all the hate and anger I had bottled up inside me. I was able to release that anger and pain, and forgive those who simply miss understand.
I felt inspired to share two women who I have come to greatly admire in the last few months. One is fictional, and the other one is an author. Both of them have greatly influenced me, and each of them had a beloved friend like David Steven’s, who helped to bring them out of despair.
Elsa of Arendelle is my most favorite and beloved Disney character ever, and I honestly don’t think there will be any others who could top her. I liked her so much because at the time, I suddenly found myself able to relate to her every feeling of mental pain and heart ache that was brought upon her. I had never felt that way before in my life. I had never at all come across a character in a movie or television show that I could actually relate to. I found tears were trickling down my cheeks during the whole movie. I wanted to crawl into the screen and hug her, and tell her everything was going to be okay. The surprising thing is the feeling I had as I left the theater that night. She had done it. She had found happiness and she found peace. That began to inspire me to do the same. Eventually, I ended up using the song (Let it Go) as my way of coming out to all my family and friends. Since I met the fictional character Elsa, I began to do some thinking. Her younger sister Anna often came to mind just the same. Suddenly, I realized if it hadn’t of been for Anna, Elsa would be lost forever. It was Anna who came to her door every morning when she was confined to living only in her room. It was Anna who traveled miles and miles to the North Mountain to tell her sister everything was going to be okay. In the end, Anna did the most beloved thing ever. She sacrificed herself to save her sister. It had me thinking every day about the friends and family I have in my life right now in the present that believe in love and equality. Every day they are, in a way, sacrificing themselves on my behalf. When someone threatens me, my friends are the ones who are on the front lines. Those being pro-gay is no small thing. They get trampled on, and beaten down just as much as the LGBT who are born the way that they are, and are brave enough to stand in the spot light.
The next woman that I admire greatly, is the author of that old, classic Disney movie we all know and fell in love with. She flew in the air with an umbrella and had the most exquisite singing voice ever. Mary Poppins. Thanks to the beloved writer, P.L. Travers, (Walt-Disney) turned her book into a movie icon and master piece. P.L. Travers book was not so easy for her to “let go.” The book was very dear to her, and it was the story about her life as a little girl and the love she had for her father despite him being and alcoholic, and eventually he died of Tuberculosis when she was only a child. Walt-Disney loved the book, and saw the potential of what Mary Poppins could create for families and children for generations. P.L. Travers saw the book as a painful reminder of what her life was like as a child. She and Walt-Disney’s inspirations for the book were on a totally different level. Despite her repeated refusals, he didn’t give up. Finally she agreed to make it a movie, but it was like pulling teeth. She didn’t like any of the ideas, nor would she approve them, and above all she wanted no animation of any kind in her movie. It came to the point where she gave up, closed the movie production and went home. Walt-Disney himself traveled to London where she lived, and he paid her an unexpected visit. This special moment brought about the wonderful movie we all know and love. If it weren’t for Walt-Disney’s interest, P.L. Travers might not ever have leaped out of the dark hole she had dug. She ended up loving the movie, and turning her book over to Walt-Disney was a decision she never regretted.
Through my life experiences and the examples of the two, wonderful women I have come to admire, I have learned the greatest gift I could get is something only I could have given. That is learning how to forgive myself. Learning that the way I came out of my mother’s womb is something that can’t be taught, it can’t be given. Being gay is something I had to come to terms with. It is something I had to learn to embrace in order to be set free. It would have never happened, if it weren’t for my friends and family who support, and for my big brother at heart, David Stevens. I feel grateful and blessed to have Anna’s and Walt-Disney’s in my life.
The art of letting go is instilled inside every one of us, and my greatest hope is for those who are brave enough to let it happen.
Last week the Indiana state affiliate of The Family Research Council, The Indiana Family Institute, awarded IN Senator, Tea Party (R) Mike Delph it’s ‘Legislator of the Year’ award. Indiana Chief Hetero-Supremacist, Indiana Governor (R) Mike Pence and friend of the Koch brothers was also present as the keynote speaker for the 25th Friend of the Family Gay Bashing Banquet.
In February Delph had a twitter meltdown over same-sex marriage. For two days the Senator made headlines as he raged and frothed at the mouth about homosexual ‘sin” and “biblical truth” Delph was disciplined by the Senate President for criticizing Senate leaders on gay marriage. Not the first time controversy has swirled around the tea party Senator. Mike Delph has also been accused of hiring ghost employees, participating in illegal Ponzi schemes, and planting military officers at political events. Mike Delph contends he “supports” his gay brother. I support you bro, just don’t expect any human rights?
The Indiana Family Institute advocates for and props up the Family Research Council which is a designated Christian hate group of conservative lobbyist. By taking such award Mike Delph ties himself to hate and exclusion, the very opposite of what his Jesus stood for. All major professional mental health organizations have gone on record to affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, including the American Psychiatry Association. The Family Research Council uses biased and debunked social science that asserts gay men are dangerous pedophiles and calls for dangerous gay repairative therapy that leads so many gay teens to self hate and suicide. The Family Research Council has also called for the jailing of all gay men and has claimed school shootings are caused by same sex marriage.
In a happy, feel good release About Mike Delph, The Indiana Family Institute wrote “We value and respect Senator Delph’s unswerving commitment to faith, family and freedom” Yet they do just the opposite. Up is down and down is up as they work trying to deny human rights and freedoms to LGBT Hoosiers and their families and to incorporate the bible into civil law. Despite multiple pro-gay court rulings in the past year, including Indiana. And Despite the fact 500 Mayors have signed up nationwide for an equality coalition under the Freedom to Marry pledge. The Indiana Family Institute also attacks women’s reproductive health choices at Planned Parenthood. They don’t care that a Woman’s choice about family is central to her life, because – god. Mike Delph is anti-immigration, voted against mass transit in Indiana. Voted for required drug testing for welfare recipients and voted for forced invasive ultrasounds for women seeking first-trimester abortions. In a statement to WTHR13 Mike Delph stated: ” I see identity politics and entitlement not to mention evil marching us down to roman ruin”
Thanks to the internet and access of information, more and more people are turning away from religion and dangerous politicians like Mike Delph who claim to work on the ‘side of god’ Atheism is on the rise in the United States. Last taken in 2012 the Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism found that 5% of Americans are now atheist. In 2005 73% of Americans said they were “religious” In 2012 that number had dropped to 60%. Many LGBT people are also atheists and that includes Hoosier families. Many gay atheists view religion as the central cause of homophobia in a socially constructed society. We refuse to accept the teachings of any book or sky god that does not accept us as we are. We reject the silly notion of ‘sin’ We refuse to accept any god that threatens people with burning them with fire, Revelations 21:8. We refuse talking snakes that are banned to roam the earth on their bellies, Genesis Ch31, We refuse dangerous rhetoric like spare the rod, spoil the child Proverbs 13:24, We refuse that a large group of gay men sought to gang rape two angels Gen 19. We refuse the belief that Jesus walked on water, Matthew 14:22-33 And we refuse a book that supports and regulates slavery, Leviticus 25:44-46 and Exodus 21:1-7. and ultimately we refuse to believe in virgin births, Matthew 1:18 – the beginning of the entire Jesus story. Atheist and LGBT people and their families aren’t the only ones not represented when Mike Delph or the Indiana Family Institute speaks. Many religions and beliefs reside within Indiana. By shutting out people whom are not Christian and working to implement Christian, biblical law the IFI and Mike Delph disenfranchise many groups of political power in Indiana that are not conservative christian. But that is what organized religions, especially Christianity is all about. I’m in and your out. I am special because of how I believe. I am saved and you are not. From the eyes of an atheist, religion is all about fear, fear of death, the fear of god, fear fear, fear. Religion forces believers to partake in a dangerous mental fantasy that divides humanity into good VS evil. Politicians claiming to work for god are dangerous because whom they work for never has to make an appearance. The politician can claim to ‘speak for god’ with his votes. By using feel good, warm fuzzy words like faith, family and freedom Mike Delph and IFI are pandering to patriotic, god fearing, tea party voters. People whom likely work too hard for too little but fall for the conservative Koch brothers agenda and vote against their own interests.
Whom we love and form bonds and families with is central to a person’s life. Thank goodness for a candidate like J.D. Ford. Ford is a self described progressive Democrat looking to unseat Senator Delph this November in Indiana’s 29th district. JD is gay, and supports equal marriage, equal pay for equal work, jobs for veterans, and is big on student safety and bullying prevention. He even supports bans on nuts in schools for the safety of allergic students and advocates school buses have seat belts. JD Supports required (AEDs) Automated External Defibrillators in all public schools. Mr. Ford is also looking to start a dialogue about fracking in Indiana. JD Ford is what Indiana is craving right now. Leadership that cares about the little guy and takes progressive steps to implement real policy change in this lifetime and not the next.
Sometimes there are stories in the media that aren’t just stories for me. Sometimes soul smashing details are revealed, drowning me in the victim’s pain, driving me to act, sometimes to the point of obsession.
In the year 1993 Fox, television network, released its first- real life action super hero show called (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers). The show centered around five high school students Zack, Kimberly, Billy, Trini and Jason who lived in the small, mythical town of Angel Grove. Two evil sorcerers Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd, invade the earth with the soul intent of taking it over and making the earthlings their slaves. The five high school friends are given special powers by an ancient sorcerer of the light named Zordon, who is trapped inside a time-wharf, gives them special ancient powers which will allow them to transform into mighty super heroes in order to defend earth from the evil monsters Rita and Lord Zedd sent. The show was an instant hit and classic, right from its very first episode debut. The unique, and wonderful thing about the show was that each actor who was a power ranger were all from different races. The shows unique approach attracted kids and teens from around the world, myself included. I think the number one reason I fell in love with the show is because before its arrival, I really had no one I looked up to in my life. Kimberly Hart was my favorite, and the first person I really ever looked up to. She was everything I strived to be, and I have to admit I did have a crush on Jason. I was six at the time it first aired, and my friends today sometimes crack jokes about me watching power rangers, and trying to perform Kimberly’s flips and kicks in my back yard of which I must say, I was not good at.
Looking back on that one highlight of my life today, I have to say I have faced some disappointment in it. Not because of the fact I’m embarrassed that I watched the show, but because I had to suddenly embrace the harsh, troubling truth that went on behind the morphing cameras. When you are a kid you are pure of heart. The world seen through a fortunate six year olds eyes is perfect. There is no evil, everything his candy hearts and rainbows. It was that way for me. The Power Rangers weren’t actors, they were real. I could sleep better at night with the idea that the power rangers were somehow watching over me, and were protecting me from the evil in the world.
Just a few weeks ago the candy hearts and rainbows disappeared, and I will never view the show I watched as a kid the same ever again. It started with an interview I found on YouTube that featured the actor David Yost, who played Billy the blue power ranger. Three minutes into the interview, and my eyes brightened, the actor was gay. I couldn’t believe it… One of my childhood super heroes was someone who was just like me. I was immediately ready to find the directors and producers mailing addresses and thank them all for showing love for equality during the 90’s. Which was a horrible time for the LGBT’s. In that moment the tornado struck. The actor went into detail about what it was like working on set. He told of how he was humiliated and bullied by the producers and directors. They constantly yelled gay slurs in his direction. They even went as far as to humiliate him on camera, making his mighty, triceratops dinosaur battle robot, known as a Zord, into a unicorn for the soul purpose to make a mockery of him. Later on I did some research for myself, and found that not just he, but some of the other actors also experienced discrimination on set. The actor Walter Jones who play the Black Power Ranger was also horribly mistreated, and was suddenly axed out of the show with no explanation, along with actors Austin St John (Red Ranger) and Thuy Trang (Yellow Ranger).
The directors and producers were proud to present their international cast, but behind the cameras they were bullies, whose only desires were to make money off of something that turned out to be a big hit. I believe that the international team was something unexpected, but I think that was the most thrilling part of the show for me, was that you could experience other cultures. I just couldn’t believe the truth, I didn’t want to believe it. I refused to for a while.
One afternoon, for the first time in almost 18 years I decided to return and watch the show I loved growing up. It only took the first episode I watched to see the discrimination. The fact that the two bullies featured in the show were named Bulk because he was heavier set, and the other one Skull, and he was seen as being dumb and was always very clumsy. I witnessed the unicorn robot zord David Yost talked about. The more I watched, the more I realized how much prejudice behavior I grew up around. Being only six years old at the time, there was no way I could have noticed it, but it was there. I realize now that I should have paid more attention to Billy the blue ranger. To me, he is a true hero for going to work every day knowing he would face hate and humiliation. I am proud to call him a worthy ally in this fight for love and equality that we face today, and praise him for his courage to make himself known to his fans who grew up watching him as the blue ranger. Kimberly Hart will always be one I will remember as being meek and warmhearted, and now I can add a new role model to my collection. Billy the Blue Ranger. He was brave and very clever, and the actor who played him is also brave and a true hero.
If I had a chance to meet the producers of the show, I would tell them this:
In front of the audience you displayed equality and peace, and that anyone no matter their race or gender, can make a difference in the world. Behind the cameras, you were not the wonderful, loving hearted creators I thought you were. You can try to hide the truth all you want, but the proof is there for those of us who look back on it and wonder how we could laugh at a heavy set guy named Bulk, who was always being humiliated by having pies, smoothies, and mud tossed his way. Your unicorn zord that spits out rainbows doesn’t just make a mockery of David Yost, but for other LGBT’s as a whole. That rainbow you poke fun of means something more to me then you will ever comprehend. It resembles strength and hope, and that rainbow gives the LGBT’s, like me, a sense of honor. We can look at the rainbow and remember despite what people say we do matter and we deserve our spot in this world. Just like it happened with me, the show will be passed on to our younger generation of today, and when they get older the truth will happen and they will consider you a major disappointment. Your creativity and talent is not what made the show so special for me, it was the actors you placed in it. You created something very wonderful without even knowing it. You covered it all. You created nationality and you even had an LGBT member of whom you should have been proud to have on your show. No doubt I will pass your show onto kids like my baby cousin if I ever get the chance. I will show him that the power rangers are supposed to fight the encroachment of hate in the world. I won’t point out that you were hypocrites.
For representing equality, I will say thank you. I only hope one day you hear the message of your own show, learn to walk its talk, and live it.
It is what the Blue Ranger would do.
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Normally I’m not a morning person, but that day was different. I busied myself preparing to spend time with my best friend Robby, and I always love hanging out with him. He picked me up about mid-day and we went to a Mexican restaurant, and watched the saddest feature at the movie theater. I went home afterwards and posted my delightful, events of the day on Facebook, and I decided to post it as well, in a place that is supposed to be a support group for people who have struggled with discrimination from religion. Well, the next time I logged in, I got what I thought was going to be a friendly comment from the support group page. That’s when it all began. The comment was this. “Who is this fat, pasty, pecker wood?” I thought it was a bunch of silliness at first, and I shrugged off being called fat and pasty, thinking well, people can joke hard sometimes, but mean well. So I posted back with a silly remark. Just about everyone knows I’m gay on the page, considering I’m very open now about my orientation. Just then he reposted and called me a faggot and a b**ch. That’s when I realized this is not going to go well. I was hurt , and I logged off and went about my day. When I came back a few hours later, trolls had flooded the post. The insult ring leader had apparently recruited people since I was away. I was called faggot over and over, among other things. It went on into the evening, and they were still at it. By then, pictures had been added that were grotesque and vile. It was at that moment I started to panic. It was really happening. I was a fly caught in the spider’s web. I was living my worst fear. My nightmare had come true. I was alone to face all the worst discrimination, the worst harassment I had ever witnessed.
Tears began to swell in my eyes. My hands were trembling, and my heart was beating a mile a minute. I started feeling sick, so I closed my eyes and leaned back, and began to breathe slow breaths. While I was slumped in my chair, with my eyes shut tight, my mind began to wonder. Then I remembered a quote I had heard several timesgrowing up. I do not recall where or who said it, but somehow it registered in my head. “There are times when the warrior must stand alone, when no one else can be by his side. When facing his foes, he doesn’t quiver, he doesn’t fade, and he comes out swinging. Whether dead or alive, he will fight until the end.” That moment, something strange happened. I opened my eyes, and I gave it a word. (“Bully- A blistery, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller and weaker people.)”
One of the trolls proudly posted. “We’ve got him, the victim is here. He is so going to play the victim.” At that moment, I realized how ignorant these random people really were. They all continued with their pictures and insults. Finally I wrote back. “Do you guys even know the difference between a victim and being courageous?” There was a quick pause, then someone wrote back. “Why are you playing the victim, faggot?” I took a deep breath, counted to ten, and then replied. “I am not your victim. You do not have that power. I choose whether or not I wish to play the victim. Speaking out for oneself, and taking a stand is not being the victim. You all are not the first and certainly won’t be the last bullies I will face. “Faggot and sissy”, I have heard and been called those names before. Do you even take the time of day to realize you couldn’t last a minute in my shoes?”
At that moment one individual asked a question I didn’t expect. “Wait a minute.” There was a pause, and then the question. “You actually have gotten bullied?” I quickly replied, “Yes, of course.” “How often?,” he went on to ask. I took a minute to respond while I gathered my thoughts, and responded with this answer. “I wake up in the morning and the hate and discrimination is there… I lay down at night, and it is still there. I have faced rejection, and have truly known the feeling of total isolation and loneliness. Something I hope you will never have to face.” Then the person seemed to shout at me. “Why aren’t you angry? You should be angry, you should hate us. Still, you ache and hope we don’t feel what you feel.” I took a deep breath, and paused for a while.
“I don’t hate you. I’m not angry at you. I care about each and every one of you. I just hate that you feel so compelled to hurl such hateful, hurtful, things.”
Before I knew it, another person joined the conversation. “You said before you felt rejection and loneliness, how did you ever make it through? How could you live with the pain?” The original troll again began to hurl his pictures and comments, urging his fellow supporters not to fall for my tricks. Still, I answered the individual’s question. “It hurt, boy did it hurt. I nearly took my own life. Until someone showed me love, and I didn’t feel the pain as bad. It is still there, and the scars will never fade, but I overcame the dark days.” I couldn’t believe it. What started as a hateful trolling panel, turned into an emotional conversation. Then I received an apology. “I’m sorry, we didn’t know. It was all for fun.” I raised my eyebrows at the person’s weak apology, and I forgave him with this comment. “I forgive you, but do you really think it was all fun for me?” Before I knew it, the picture and comments began to be deleted.
The original troll became angry and began to harass his own peers. Next thing I knew, one of them posted a comment. “Operation defend Alan Digges.” Next thing I knew, the original troll was banned from. The rest of the individuals stayed for a while, and we had a nice talk. I have actually become friends with some of these people. I discovered for myself that because I reached out in love, I now have the chance to help heal open wounds. It seemed like hardly any of these people had an idea on how to overcome pain, or what it even felt like.
It was 4:00 in the morning by the time this was all over with. I was too restless to sleep, my brain was running ramped. First, I thought of how I couldn’t believe I overcame my worst fear, which was being left alone against persecution. I began to think about the individuals who had changed in such a short time.
The original troll who thought I would be an easy target also came to mind. I knew their views were wrong, and they were not just in their actions but they are people will feeling just as I am. Often a bully often faces the exact same kind of treatment, and in return bullies someone weaker, carrying out their anger to feel strong. It got me to thinking. I am no different than the bully who thought I would be an easy target. I have never said thingsbut there were times I thought of saying some pretty vile things. I have been so quick to find the weakest anti-gay and tear them down. By then, my eyes were tearing up. I was a bully. A quiet bully, who secretly hated and wished harmful things. I was a hypocrite. A characteristic I detest was something I had become. I have wanted vengeance against the church-going people who caused me unbearable heart ache.
I also reflected on a hate torch I was carrying against my uncle, who condemns me to hell, and no longer considers me family, and won’t allow me to associate with his son. That night, I forgave the troll and my uncle. I released that bitter anger and knew I had to. I have learned from this that anti-gays, many who are “Christians”, when it comes down to it, use their religion as a defense weapon. The true reason is that they are scared. They’re scared of something they couldn’t possibly ever understand. To them, the LGBT might as well be species from a different planet. That is how much they are out of touch.
I have no doubt my uncle will pass down his hateful views onto my baby cousin. If he ever sees me retaliate in anger, and scream in my uncle’s face, what will that teach him? That I am an alien with green blood. I and anyone like me must be wicked and stopped. If I ever hope to teach my cousin, and be the example of true, unconditional love, I have a Hail Mary of a shot if I react with love and care. Treating my uncle with kindness even when he doesn’t deserve it, will at least let my cousin know I am human just like he is. I am no different, and I have the same red blood. The next time someone opens up a Bible to quote how I will burn for eternity in a lake of never-ending fire, blocks me from Facebook, or says I can no longer associate with their child, I will not react the way I use to. Instead I will show an interest in the person and get to know them.
Who knows, they too might realize that loving is not an alien concept after all.
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