Archives for August 2011

Podcast: Nicole Garcia

My guest today is Nicole Garcia. She is a Latina transgender woman who works with Lutherans Concerned/North America. In this podcast she shares her story and more about the work she does.

nicole garcia

For Further Reading:
Lutherans Concerned/North America

Latino/a Roundtable – Pacific School of Religion, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Ministry and Religion

TransFaith Online

You can also reach Nicole on Twitter.

Keep An Eye On This

There is a new development in the ex-gay movement rhetoric: To compare treatments for trans* people to ex-gay therapy. Glen Retief writes an article about why this comparison is false and should be debunked. I completely agree with Glen and think that this is going to be something to keep an eye on. As gay and lesbian people continue to win rights the rhetoric (which is already heated and violent) towards trans* people is going to get worse.

Podcast: A Strange Baptism

The podcast returns! Today’s podcast is an audio recording of the sermon I preached on the Ethiopian Eunuch. If you’d like to read the text of the sermon you can do so by reading this post.

astrangebaptism

Guest Post: Christians for Justice Action

This post is part of the Queer Theology Synchroblog. It was written on the occasion of the United Church of Christ’s 28th annual synod. It is a guest post written by Christians for Justice Action.

Imagine What’s Really Possible…
A Vision of the Next Four Years in the United Church of Christ

“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
- Revelation 3:16

Here at the 28th Synod, we’ve been asked to imagine what’s possible. We’ve been asked to go beyond figuring out how to grow, and to ask what are we growing for? In the years ahead, we face difficult challenges if we are to survive, and though the questions are easy, the answers are not. Leonard Pitts challenges us “to make headlines for social justice,” and indeed, if we are to be faithful to the Gospel, remain viable in the marketplace of ideas, and provide bold spiritual leadership to future generations of believers, Christians for Justice Action suggests that a radical new self-definition is called for.

So in the spirit of imagining bold new futures, we ask all of you: what if we became leaner, smaller, but more excited, and more awake? What if we framed an even deeper theology of prophetic witness, and true justice action? Specifically (let’s say, over the next four years) we see a future…

…in which all our churches are Open & Affirming. [The statement in UCC churches that says that all people are welcome regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. ed.]

…in which we focus our attention on churches that will and do give to the
OCWM.

…in which “God is Still Speaking,” in all our communities of faith.

Why? Because we believe that we’re the one church that actually gets the Biblical mandate of hospitality right. Because we believe we need to feed energy to where we are strong and vital and growing. Because we believe we can no longer afford to be lukewarm.

So what if we faced the future unafraid, without compromising who we are and what we stand for? What if we were willing to face our death head-on in order to find real life? What if all of us who quietly agree with this kind of future, no longer buried it with our doubts and fears, but lifted it up with our greatest hopes?

We’d love to know what you think. Reflect on it, pray on it, and to any or all of you who are moved by this vision, please to reach out to us at justiceaction@live.com, or on the CJA Facebook page. We’ll be back to you with your reactions within the next two months.

In faith,
Christians for Justice Action (CJA)

Here are the list of participants:

Shay writes Queer Theology Synchroblog home.

Brian writes “Why Queer Liberation Must Be Queer Led”

Cindi writes Queer Theology From a Reluctantly Queer Theologian

Gabe writes The Queerness of Christ: And over Or

Christians for Justice Action write “Imagine the Possibilities Four Years From Now”.

Darrel writes “Queer Theology: Outside the Box” at the Blog of the Grateful Bear.

Ken writes Queer Theology.

Peterson writes Lazarus Come Out!

Mike writes Queer Theology Synchroblog #SCEP.

Cindy writes Creative Differences in the Image of God (this link opens a PDF)

Jules writes Being Queerly Forward

Vince writes Loving Promiscuously: A Queer Theology of Doing It

Alison writes Why I’m Queer Too

Sonnie writes God Made Me Queer

Ellen writes Through A Glass Queerly

Queer Theology Synchroblog

Welcome to the Sanctuary Collective Empowerment Project Queer Theology Synchroblog! The original call and idea for this project is here. The full list of participants is below! More will be added throughout the day as their links come in. There’s still time to get in on this, if you’d like to be included, just leave a link with your blog post here.

Growing up my encounter with the Scriptures was fraught with a feeling of failure. I didn’t read the Bible enough. I didn’t follow it well enough. It came down to feeling like I was just never enough. Then, when I realized my first feelings of queerness, even before I could name them, the not-enoughness became more than just a behaviour or an action, it became me. I was the deeply flawed failure. I was the broken one. (Some would later use words like depraved, sick, disgusting to describe me and my body). The Bible wasn’t a comfort, it was a weapon formed against me. It was a measuring stick that always said I wasn’t enough. I remember vividly sitting in a systematic theology class, doing the homework, and thinking this doesn’t make sense.

So I walked away. Put the Bible on the shelf. Sure, I went to church. I even preached occasionally, but the Bible was disconnected from my life. Then I came out to myself and I had to grapple with the Bible. I had to deal with those clobber texts. So I approached the Bible with intellect. I sought to master it and to understand it. I studied and read, and I understood with my head but it never touched my heart.

But even in all of my walking away from the Bible, God pursued me. I found flashes of the holy in the songs of Antje Duvekot, in the love and conversation of Ember Swift and Miranda Stone. I read Jeanette Winterson’s “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” and felt understood. I sat in silent sanctuaries and felt God whispering to me.

I went to seminary. Another vivid memory: I am sitting in the classroom reading the story of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel. And I realize that the resurrection talked about in the passage is physical. Those bodies were brought back to life with flesh and sinew. And I saw myself in the text; dancing with those bodies brought back to life. Suddenly my head and my heart united and there I was in this Scripture text.

I realize the power of queer theology because it saved my faith. My queerness keeps me coming back to the Scripture and it keeps the text alive and changing. But my faith also keeps me queer. I could easily “assimilate”. Marry a woman, never tell anyone that I’m trans* and those would be completely valid decisions. And yet the spirit of God keeps whispering to me saying, “Be queer.” Because the way I understand queerness, as a verb meaning to challenge and to change; that’s the call I get from my faith. To challenge the status quo, to call out the Empire, to work to root out oppression and bring in the year of Jubilee.

Queer theology isn’t just about queer people. It’s about giving all of us permission to see ourselves in the text. It’s about wresting away control over these texts from the powerful, from the privileged, from the rich and putting them back in the hands of the oppressed, the poor, the marginalized because we were the people who wrote those texts in the first place.

The kingdom of heaven is among us rabble rousers, among us queer folks, among us poor and put out. It’s for all of us who feel like we don’t measure up: People who don’t look like magazine models, men who like to sew and women who like sports, bodies that work differently, bodies that love queerly. This message is for all of us because we all feel like sometimes we don’t measure up.

Reading this text queerly can save your faith. It certainly saved mine.

Here are the list of participants:

Shay writes Queer Theology Synchroblog home.

Brian writes “Why Queer Liberation Must Be Queer Led”

Cindi writes Queer Theology From a Reluctantly Queer Theologian

Gabe writes The Queerness of Christ: And over Or

Christians for Justice Action write “Imagine the Possibilities Four Years From Now”.

Darrel writes “Queer Theology: Outside the Box” at the Blog of the Grateful Bear.

Ken writes Queer Theology.

Peterson writes Lazarus Come Out!

Mike writes Queer Theology Synchroblog #SCEP.

Cindy writes Creative Differences in the Image of God (this link opens a PDF)

Jules writes Being Queerly Forward

Vince writes Loving Promiscuously: A Queer Theology of Doing It

Alison writes Why I’m Queer Too

Sonnie writes God Made Me Queer

Ellen writes Through A Glass Queerly

Steve writes In Solidarity

Matt writes A Love That Goes Beyond Welcome

Dirty Sexy Ministry writes Baptized In Dirty Water

Celebrating Queerness

Do you ever have something that bugs you but you can’t quite explain why, or put your finger on what’s really going on? I hate it when that happens. But just a couple of minutes ago as I was chopping garlic to make some pasta sauce for dinner I had a moment of clarity on one of those “bugging me” things and I thought I would share it.

When I have conversations with people about gender identity or queer issues I have been trying to get better about letting people know that I’m not really interested in doing “here’s why I think it’s okay to be queer” conversations anymore. I talk about how I don’t want to just be “the trans* guy”; that I want to be seen as a whole person. They nod along and agree with me. They affirm that we should all get to be seen as whole people. And then there is this insinuation that I should stop talking about being trans*. There’s this unspoken response that says, “Well, if you don’t want to be the poster child, why do you keep bringing it up?”

That idea kept catching me off guard. Why do I keep bringing it up? Maybe I should stop talking about it. Maybe I talk about it too much. Maybe it’s my fault that we keep having these conversations.

But then…Epiphany

Just because I don’t want to have the “why it’s okay” conversation doesn’t mean that I don’t want to talk about being trans*! See, I am trans*. I’m queer. It’s part of my life. It’s a huge part of my identity. It’s been a wonderful gift in my life; one I am still learning to embrace. Why shouldn’t I talk about it?

Why shouldn’t I celebrate it?!

My queerness deeply influences my politics and my theology. It influences the way I enjoy pop culture. It influences how I feel about the world around me. My history sometimes comes up; from the sports that I played to the clothing I was forced to wear as a pre-teen. To ask me to not talk about those experiences is to ask me to be less than whole. Those stories come up in casual conversation. When people ask me what I do and I need to explain that I am a queer theologian and that I started a camp for queer youth. It comes up when I talk about the person I used to be married to. It comes up when I talk about why I left the church of my youth. My queerness permeates my life and it’s a beautiful thing.

I want my queerness to be seen as a thing of beauty. Not as an issue or as something I need to hide or keep silent about. I spent the first 20 years of my life hiding; hiding my body, hiding who I loved, hiding my doubts and my fears. I don’t want to hide anymore. I want to be able to be whole and that wholeness includes my queerness.

*As a slight caveat: This doesn’t mean that I always want to talk about being trans* or queer, or that it is always safe for me to do so. There are certain situations where I don’t want to talk about the fact that I am trans* whether because I am around people who I don’t think will understand or because I am in a place where I don’t feel safe either physically or emotionally. That’s the hazard of being queer. And that’s why it’s also really important for folks to not out someone without their permission; even if they are out to you doesn’t mean they want to be out to everyone.


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The Last Supper Read Aloud

The following is a video of me reading my piece “The Last Supper” while at Camp Osiris. After I read I lead the group into communion. The lighting is a little funky, but you get the idea. After reading this piece aloud I realized how much it means to me. I hope that you find it meaningful as well.

Reminder: Queer Theology Synchroblog

Just a reminder that the synchroblog is happening THIS WEDNESDAY, 10 August. If you are planning on participating (and really, why wouldn’t you??) please go back to the original post and post a link to the entry you are submitting.

If you need a reminder about what this is all about, head over to this post. In this post, Cindi talks about why she is participating and also offers her blog as a space for you to post if you don’t have a blog, wish to post anonymously, and for other reasons. Really, there is no excuse! It’s going to be exciting.

I will get the post up as soon as I can on the morning of the 10th. The earlier people get their links in, the better I can be about making sure the main post is ready to go. If your post is late, don’t worry, I’ll still include it, but earlier is better!

If you already said you were in, don’t forget to go back and put a link to the post you want included! I’m really excited and I hope you are, too.

Things I Need From Allies

I’ve been getting emails lately asking what people can do to be better allies. I’ve also been observing behaviour online in various circles from people claiming to be allies. I also spend time with other queer folks talking about what we need and want from people who are working in solidarity with us and so I thought I would share some suggestions here. I’m not gonna lie; some of this is gonna be tough love. But we’re all adults here and if you want to be in solidarity with me then I’m hoping you care enough to take some criticism. Here we go:

* First, can we please stop using the term “ally”? It’s messed up for several reasons. The best and clearest response I’ve seen as to why we should stop using the word is in this post. But I’ve also seen a lot of people claiming this term for themselves who are not at all working in solidarity with me. In fact, some of them still think I’m a “sinner” for being queer. Here’s the thing: You don’t get to call yourself an ally. The community with which you are trying to be in solidarity gets to call you an ally. They get to decide if the work you are doing is helpful or harmful.

* Listen. I need you to listen. Listen when I tell you that what you’re doing isn’t helpful. Listen when I tell you what I actually need. Listen when someone gets upset with you. I know it can be tough, but this is the best thing you can do as an ally.

* This work is not about you. So stop trying to make it about you. Being in solidarity with people can be hard work, I get that. But the thing is, you have a choice at any time to walk away.

* Get involved in work that is being led by queer people. Work alongside us. This way you can be sure that the work you are doing is something that will actually benefit queer people.

* Stop expecting queer people to educate you. Do some research and reading. I even set up a page to get you started.

* Stop apologizing. Stop raising money to make tshirts that apologize to queer people. Stop showing up at OUR pride events to apologize. We don’t need your apology. We need you to be working with us to enact change. Apologies are cheap unless they are backed by concrete action. Also, your apology makes it all about you and again, this work is not about you. (And raising money off of the oppression of queer folks without giving that money back to organizations that aid the most vulnerable like queer youth homeless shelters is really shady.)

* Having queer people on your board or having a queer friend or two doesn’t give you a pass to do whatever you want so long as that person signs off on it. There is a multiplicity of understandings in the queer community. What might be helpful to one person is not helpful to another. Don’t discount criticism just because one or two people have signed off on your actions.

* Stop feeling sorry for me. While there is oppression in the world and while we need to name oppression, that doesn’t mean that I am a victim. Yes, I face challenges because I’m trans* but I also have a fierce life. I have amazing friends. I have been blessed by my queerness in ways that are too manifold to count. But even if I hadn’t been, feeling sorry for me doesn’t help to change the structures that cause oppression.

* When someone calls you out for something, take it to heart and move on. You will make mistakes. It’s okay. It happens. So take the criticism, change your behaviour, and get back to work.

I am thankful for people who truly want to be in solidarity with me. But I am getting tired of having people who claim they are on my side do work that harms my community, work that disempowers queer folks, and then getting bent out of shape when queer people call them out on it.

Privilege is tricky. Different privileges overlap with one another and interplay with each other. One can be privileged in one area and oppressed in another. Privilege is something that needs to be examined every day throughout the day. For instance, since I transitioned I have gained privilege. I get male privilege. I get white privilege. But at the same time as a trans* person there is oppression that I face. These things live in tension and I need to be aware of them. I need to be aware of the ways in which I am oppressing other people even as I am oppressed. I need to be aware of how the privilege I hold just by virtue of being a white man plays into systems of oppression. By being aware of these things I can work to change the systems. It does me no good to feel bad about my privilege. Instead I need to use that privilege in healthy ways and change the systems.

There is a lot of work to be done. I want us to be working with one another to get it done.


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Camp Osiris update #1

Hello! I want to write more but I am totally fried right now. Got back from yesterday afternoon and was right back to the day job early this morning. Rest assured I will update with more soon.

It was a wonderful weekend, though. Powerful and moving. I cannot even explain how excited I am about the future.

If you are 18-23 and want a powerful retreat experience to explore queerness and spirituality, please plan on attending next year. I’ll put up dates as soon as I get them.

If you know someone in this age range who could benefit from this experience, please pass the information along.

If you want to see photos and video (with more coming soon) you can “like” us on facebook. Feel free to pass the page around as well.

We definitely could use more people getting involved. Here are our immediate needs: Helping to spread the word. Contacts at colleges, Queer organizations, etc. who can help get the word out. Financial donors to provide scholarships for youth as well as to help offset operating costs (like the website, supplies for camp, gas money to and from camp, printing, etc.). If you’d like to get involved, please contact me.